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updated: 3/5/2012 1:41 PM

Doug McAllister/Under the Hood: Rust complicates many repairs

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It's true that current model vehicles are lasting much longer than they used to. It is not uncommon for us to be working on a 12-year-old vehicle with 150,000 to 200,000 miles on the odometer.

Most vehicles will last this long or longer with a little care and maintenance. Not only will they work well mechanically, but in most cases they look pretty good. The body and paint hold up pretty well on today's cars.

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What we are starting to see is rust underneath, complicating some of the normal repairs that might otherwise be pretty simple. What I'm talking about are rusted and seized nuts and bolts and also brake and fuel lines that rust and start to leak.

It's not that these things can't be repaired, it's just that it may take a little longer and a little bit of creativity on the technician's part. I think the technician in the aftermarket is probably better equipped and experienced in dealing with these types of situations.

If you think about it, the aftermarket starts seeing the car when the warranty runs out, usually about three years after the car was made, and there certainly shouldn't be any rust issues during that time.

Recently we had to replace some bushings on the lower control arms of a Chrysler PT Cruiser. Normally this would be a fairly straightforward job, requiring a couple of bolts to be removed from the sub frame. However, these bolts would not come loose from nuts welded to the inside of the frame rail; in fact they broke loose.

Big bummer! Not to fear though, my technician was comfortable enough to open the side of the frame rail, get the nuts off the bolt, proceed with the repair, then weld the frame rail closed. All in all it looked as if nothing ever happened and it was a successful repair.

Another fairly common repair we make these days is to replace brake and fuel lines that run from the front of the car to the rear. These metal lines are exposed to the salt and weather and, after a while, they rust to the point they can spring a leak. This requires us to have to make new lines to replace the rusted old ones.

We remove the old lines as intact as we can and bend some new tube up to match the old shape. Once installed, the lines are as good as new again.

We've also had to replace some engine oil pans because they've become porous with rust and the oil starts to seep through. In a situation like this the oil pan will come off easily but we could have some fun getting the exhaust to come loose or anything else that is blocking the oil pan from coming off.

I still believe in most cases it's a great investment to keep your older car running. It just may require a little more time on some repairs and an estimate may have to be amended once the technician starts work on a car if he encounters some of these rust issues.

• Douglas Automotive is at 312 S. Hager Ave., Barrington, (847) 381-0454, and 123 Virginia Road, Crystal Lake, (815) 356-0440. For information, visit douglasautomotive.com. Send questions to underthehood@dailyherald.com.

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