What if shop is unable to loosen wheel alignment bolts?

The owner asks a shop for a wheel alignment. The shop later calls back and says they are not able to loosen the necessary bolts, rusted & stuck. What happens next? Do they inform the owner that it is not possible to perform the alignment and to either live w/the existing alignment or find another shop who is willing to try again or sell the car? Or do they inform the owner it should still be possible, but there will be an add’l fee?


Also yes. And replace those parts that are damaged or too rusted to use.
It becomes the customer’s choice if they want to do the work or live with it.

Usually not.

This has been my personal experience with rusty Ohio based cars.


I grew up in a town north of the snowiest city (it’s size or bigger) in the country and currently live in one of the snowiest regions in the country. We don’t get central NY level snow because we don’t have lake effect snow from the great lakes, but we still average about 60"/yr. It’s extremely rare for those parts to rust on that bad. If they are rusted on, usually a little heat takes care of it. I have seen places that will try to tell you the parts are very rusted and you need them replaced, but in actuality they aren’t.

If heat doesn’t help then soak everything in question down with penetrating oil and tell the customer to come back in a week and try again… If it still doesn’t loosen, then either live with it or replace it…


Back when I was driving mid-70’s cars with eccentrics to adjust camber or toe, rust was a serious issue. The bolts rusted and the inside metal sleeve in the bushing rusted together so the eccentric could not be turned. Especially if the car had not had regular alignments. Corrosion protection was pretty poor for those parts. There was always a risk of melting the bushings trying to get the bolts to turn if really rusted.

1 Like

I don’t know about rusted parts but I have had an alignment refused until the ball joints were
Replaced. Just common practice, if they can’t do the work they send you home and up to you.

I had a car wash refused too because the rear end was too low. Another learning experience.

Rust is not a problem here (southern AZ) so there is no such thing as a car which cannot be properly aligned. Of course, it might be necessary to replace a lot of damaged or worn-out parts, such as control arms, struts, etc. in order to complete an alignment, so the customer would be told of the costs, and asked if they wish to proceed.

I had the ball joint scam pulled on me trying to get an alignment. They were fine, I did not go back. It concinced me to learn how to do my own alignments at home.

I have a couple of friends I worked with that also were shock absorber engineers that had the “you need new shocks before we can do an alignment” pulled on them. Total BS


I also had the ball joint scam tried on me by a local tire chain when they first got alignment. The mechanic was bigger than me… zhe weny about 6’ %" 280 and was using a very big pry bar to show me the movement. but no matter how hard he tried, I could not see any movement. That was on a 92 Plymouth minivan that was 8 years old with about 80,000 miles.

My mechanic later confirmed the ball joints were fine. I greased them every second 3000 mile oil change and that van was junked with 140000 miles at 14 years because of rust with the original ball joints.

I have never had any trouble getting a car aligned, the good shops around here are of necessity quite skilled at dealing with rust.

When I sold my Town and country to my granddaughter to move to Florida, my son there had to do all the repairs because the shops in Floridajust claimed the could not repair a car where they could not remove the bolts.

1 Like

Florida mechanics just haven’t had to deal much with rust so they never learned the tricks!

My Florida shop quoted a very high price to replace the fuel lines on my truck… a hint that they did not want to do the job. I also think they would have done it “by the book”. They remarked at all the rust!

I installed the lines by clipping off the ends and ty-wrapping the new line to the old. It ran on top of the transmission and there was no way to use the factory clips without lowering the trans!

Whooboy is that the truth. There’s nothing more frustrating than those nearly interference fit sleeves inside rubber bushings. Where I have lived, we just go right to cutting. No sense fighting those once you realize they are rusted solid. It’s a guarantee the bushings will melt :wink:

It’s part of the collateral damage when doing those kind of repairs in an area subject to significant rusting. To answer George’s question, mechanics aren’t stymied by any stuck fastener, they just cut them off by whatever means necessary and replace what has to be replaced.


I had to cut off some rusty hardware right next to a full fuel tank this morning

I used a nut splitter and it took but a few minutes

1 Like