“Design for serviceability” was the name of the class Chrysler encouraged its engineers to take. A long-haired union technician who has clearly dealt with far, far too much bullshit with engineers like us kindly, but firmly, described how to design cars so they can be easily repaired. This is important not just to customers, who want their vehicles fixed quickly and cheaply, but to Chrysler’s own technicians, who are tired of going through hell just to change a damn spark plug. With this concept in mind, and with me having recently described having gone through wrenching hell to unsuccessfully replace subframe bolts, I’d like to know: What’s the most painfully annoying repair job you’ve attempted?
Last night was just awful. Trying to remove the rear lower control bolts from my HHR has been awful, as I described yesterday. Here’s a diagram describing the problem:
Today my right elbow is absolutely killing me from all the vibrations of that sawzall, which — despite wielding the most expensive saw blade one can buy a Home Depot — was unable to slice through the subframe bolt quickly. It was able to slice off the two aluminum control arms quite nicely:
This exposed the aforementioned subframe bolt:
Unfortunately, this sent aluminum all over my face.
Since the sawzall couldn’t handle that big subframe bolt, I did what any desperate man does: I broke out the Death Wheel — a six-inch cutoff wheel that was able to reach past the control arm brackets in the subframe, and cut the bushing sleeve and the bolt seized inside it. Here’s the big-ass cutoff wheel and the angle grinder that literally stopped working after about seven or eight minutes of cutting:
The sawzall was able to handle the tiny amount of cutting still needed to get through the bolt and sleeve, leaving me with this:
The sleeve is still stuck to the bolt, and though I tried using a dremel to slice the sleeve off (see the diagonal cut in the sleeve above), it started raining last night, and I was uninterested in being electrocuted using power tools in a downpour. So I gave up, and had to cancel my trip to New York. I still have no answer to removing these bolts, but will likely end up buying a pancake-style air compressor and air chisel; hopefully that will solve my issue. I’m tired of screwing around with cutting tools that don’t really fit into the limited space I have.
Anyway, my trip to New York to see Andrew Collins, my friend Bobby’s mom, and Matt Hardigree is officially postponed due to this awful bit of serviceability. [Ed note: Nah, gonna make him come anyway! You’re not getting out of this trip that easily – MH] But this isn’t the only example of an automaker’s poor engineering for serviceability (and to be clear, I consider GM the company with the greatest automotive engineering capability of any company ever, for reasons that I don’t have time to explain. Also, I’ll note that the design here is not specific to GM: Subarus have similar subframe bolt issues. Also worth mentioning is that calling this an engineering flaw is a bit of a stretch, given that it’s only a problem for older cars with over 100,000 miles on them; yes, an engineer should have known that corrosion would cause issues here, but it wasn’t her/his priority when developing the car, and that’s fair enough).
The union tech teaching “Design for Serviceability” at Chrysler mentioned that third-generation (?) Dodge Rams didn’t have crush cans at the front of their frames, meaning a small fender bender would cause catastrophic damage to the frame. Can you imagine that? You bump into a car at a few miles per hour, and your frame is all messed up, requiring a fairly involved (and expensive) repair? I’ve been receiving messages overnight from people who followed my plight on Instagram last night, many consoling me for my struggles, and even more talking about how they had to remove an engine mount to replace an alternator (for example) or how they basically had to bathe in gasoline because their fuel pump removal procedure is such a pain in the arse (and because the pump went out twice within a short span).
Now I’d like to hear from you: What was the worst wrenching experience you ever had to deal with that was a result of poor engineering design for serviceability? Write it up in the comments, and send us diagrams/photos/videos at firstname.lastname@example.org describing the shitshow in detail. We’ll write a follow-up post so the rest of our readers can enjoy learning about your perils.