So a part fell off my car... should I fix it right away?

I have a 1992 Plymouth Acclaim. About 1500km ago (1000 miles or so) my muffler went and I think that was about the time that I started hearing the occasional rattle. I still heard the rattle after I got a new muffler.

No one saw anything loose except possibly my tailpipe, so I was told not to worry.

I was driving home today and I heard dragging, then screeching. Thankfully I was only a block from my house and in a safe place to stop.

So I stopped and a pipe that was inbetween my back wheels was half off. With my dad’s gentle touch, it fell all the way off.

It’s a pipe that was between the back wheels and parallel to the wheel axle. It’s about an inch in diameter and hollow.

It’s quite rusted on the side it broke off, so things haven’t been right with it for a long time. In the 1500km since the rattling started I haven’t had any problems.
So my questions are:

  1. What does this mystery pipe do?
  2. Can I drive a bit (under 100km) without it?

Without being able to see the car, I’m just guessing. From your description, my first thought is that it’s a reinforcement tube that’s part of the rear beam axle. If that’s the case, then the remaining axle might not be stiff enough to resist bending, which could cause potentially treacherous handling in some conditions. One would have to assume that it hasn’t been providing much support recently. As to driving it as is, further problems probably depend more on the particular stresses involved (e.g., turning force, going over big bumps) than on the number of miles driven.

That sounds like what’s wrong! Thank you very much for your help!

I will try to avoid driving until I can fix it. It’s already been described as “the worst-handling car that I’ve ever driven” by one source.

I posted this a month ago and finally got to the mechanic after being away for some weeks.

I took it in and they said that I would have to get my entire back suspension (?) replaced (450$CDN with used parts) to put in a new pipe, but the mechanic told me that it probably really didn’t need replacing. He said it was most likely there to give the car a smoother ride.

There is a picture of my dad ‘gently touching’ the pipe just before it fell completely off here:

I would be happier and richer if it didn’t need replacing, but I want to be sure that it’s safe.

If anyone else can offer their advice, I would really appreciate it. Right now my score is 1:1 for replace vs. don’t replace.

It looks to me like a sway bar. Actually, it functions as an anti-sway bar, so the name sounds backwards. Anyway, one end attached to the frame (or unibody in your case,) and the other end to the axle on the opposite side. It serves to limit the tail-wagging the back end of the car does (relative to the axle) in turns. Some cars don’t even have them, so you can probably do without it. If you replaced it, your car’s handling would be somewhat less sloppy. If the car makes graunching noises in bumpy turns, maybe you need it. Most of the Chrysler cars of that era had struts in the rear, and the sway bar is not vital.

One more thing, though. If the swaybar mount on the body tore loose or rusted out, you might have a hole in the body, where exhaust can get in. Check it out, and if you have a hole, shlop some Bondo on it.

The only difference I’ve noticed in the last 1500km since it came loose (and started rattling) is that once in a while I swerve more than normal.
Since it fell completely off it hasn’t been any different than when it was half off.