Which of these car repairs can I put off?

I’m going to be driving a thousand miles back home to Michigan next week, and I’m wondering what car problems I’ve been having could handle that long of a drive. (I’m waiting for student loans to come in and don’t have the money to pay for them all right now.)

I have a 2001 Honda Civic, and I need to have the front struts replaced, and the tires need to be aligned and balanced. The struts have needed to be replaced for several months now, but in all honesty, the car only hops badly when I’m driving it over the crappy streets here in New Orleans, or on the spillway for the first 20 or so miles going out of the city. The car shimmies a little between 50 and 60 MPH, which leads me to believe I should at least have the tires balanced.

Bear in mind that although I’ll be driving a thousand miles, it’ll be smooth highway driving in nice weather. Also, the car will be in storage for three months in Michigan while I’m out of the country, and I don’t want to pay for any unnecessary repairs right now.

Thanks for your advice.

I believe that the struts and alignment are going to come as a package. Can’t align it with bad struts, and if you get new struts, you will automatically get an alignment.

Balancing the tires/wheels is pretty much a matter of course on this type of job, and will the the cheapist part of it.

I’m sure another doper will be along soon that knows the 01 Civic.

Luck, be safe.

The shimmy is the worst of what you have there. A tie rod or other part in the steering could be ready to fail. The tires may be seperating and not just need balancing. The items you are talking about need to be repaired in the following order because of the areas affected by the repairs.

Replace struts.
Replace tires.
Do allignment on front end with the new struts and tires in place.

Any other order of repair will require redoing something again, although a day or two with new tires first doesn’t do any measurable wear damage.

I agree with you if you are going to do all 3, but if not (which looks like the case) then I would replace tires - yes they will wear faster but they are the most important safty factor. So…

Replace struts.
Replace tires.
Do allignment on front end with the new struts and tires in place.


Replace tires
Replace tires
Replace tires

Something else you might try: rotate the tires front-to-back (and make sure your inflation pressures are OK) - if you have an out-of-balance tire on a corner with a bad strut, then it will bounce more - and if it’s on the front, possibly shimmy as well at the resonance speed.

Are the tires otherwise in good shape (and is your spare aired-up)? How about your AAA? :slight_smile:

Ultimately it’s your call - what do you feel safe with. But it would seem to me that struts are something that can be postponed if all you’re doing is highway miles. If the shimmy goes away after tire rotation, then I’d deal with that later, too.

Good luck, and please have a safe trip.

I did have the tires rotated when I got my oil changed last week, and the shimmy and the hopping is still there, although to a lesser degree. But since it only shimmies between 50 and 60, and I’ll driving faster than 60 (God willing!), is it still a safety concern?

I do have Honda roadside assistance, so if all else fails there’s that. :slight_smile: I just really can’t pay for repairs right now.

A shimmy that shows up at roughly 60 mph and goes away at higher speed is the classic symptom of wheel imbalance - certainly sounds like what you’ve got. I’d be inclined to do that before the trip because a) it’s relatively inexpensive, b) you may find there are times when you have to drive in the 50-60 mph range, and c) it could cause aggravated wear on some steering and suspension parts.

Struts that are significantly weak can be a safety concern. Steering and braking control can be compromised, especially on rough roads and aggressive curves. Chances are you’ll be okay on your trip, but it’s a bit of a calculated risk.

Alignment in and of itself is not a concern for the trip so long as the car doesn’t pull badly. Assuming that’s the case, it makes sense to do it when or after the struts are replaced.

Struts and shocks are what keep your wheels on the road. This can be quite useful for stopping and turning. :slight_smile:

I agree that not replacing them is a calculated risk, not one I’d be prepared to take if I were doing a 1000 mile road trip especially if I knew they needed to be replaced for months.

Yeah, it really depends upon how bad they are, which we don’t know.

On the one hand, struts are often oversold, especially by chain operations.

On the other hand, she’s got some hopping, which suggests they might be in sorry shape.

On the third hand, tire rotation reduced the hopping, which strikes me as unusual - bad strut operation wouldn’t normally be ameliorated by a rotation. It raises the possibility of a tire problem, which might be improved by balancing.

A thousand miles on smooth roads with gentle curves isn’t particularly demanding on struts, but then again having to brake vigorously at highway speed could be a problem.

Hard to know. An evaluation by a competent mechanic who can personally observe their condition would be more helpful than the partly-informed guesses I can offer.

Your struts do several things for you:

  1. They are structural suspension components - they locate the wheel and keep that corner of the car from dragging on the ground.
  2. They provide damping of wheel/body relative motions - usually “strut failure” is lack of damping which will cause hopping (if a wheel is out-of-balance), bobbing/bouncing when going over bumps, and excessive dive/squat under braking/acceleration.
  3. They support the (in this case) coil spring which establishes your ride height and supports the vertical load on that corner.

If your shimmy/hopping are caused by tire imbalance, then balancing the tires should help this. This is also why rotating the tires sometimes helps - it moves an imbalanced tire to a corner with better strut damping. If there is compliance in the front suspension that is exaserbating (sic?) the shimmy, then you’ll want to get that checked in addition to the other items that you’ve listed.

As long as the strut problems that you have are related to damping (like, if you bounce that corner of the car, it bobs more than once before settling) only, then I don’t see a big reason that the car shouldn’t drive alright on the highway, since this is steady-state driving. As pointed out, your emergency avoidance/braking performance will suffer - but it would do that if you were trying to eat a Big Mac while driving, too. Good luck.

Most tire shops will check the balance for free if you bought the tires there… That is the first, and probably only thing I would do.
What makes you think the struts are bad? And alignment doesn’t typically go out randomly…

Sounds to me like somone has tried to lighten your wallet.

Super bad struts, can alloe the car to bottom out in the following two ways.

  1. You hit a pot hole and the bumper hits the asphalt, instead of clearing it.
  2. The highway is concrete and made in sections that are not prefectly level any longer. Every time you drive over a section boundry it adds more energy to a bounce, that hasn’t been stopped from the last boundry ridge.