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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
While driving my 2005 Chrysler Town & Country, I started getting a vibration in the front end. I decided to head for home, driving very slowly. I was going about 5 or 10 mph while making a left turn when the right front wheel came off the rotor and the van dropped to the pavement, scraping along for 2 or 3 feet. All of the studs that hold the lug nuts were sheared flush. The drop from suddenly losing the wheel damaged the right front fender, which now interferes with the front passenger door - it cannot be fully opened.

The van has 244,000 miles on it, has un-repaired collision damage on the right rear quarter panel, rocker panel rust, dog leg and rear wheel well rust, hood and right front fender rust. It also needs a new window regulator on the driver's side front, new blower motor for the front heater, and new rear shocks. I have just been using it as a vehicle to transport dogs, building materials, and yard waste. It is not my primary vehicle, but it does serve a purpose, even if it looks like an eyesore.

Prior to losing the wheel, I was planning on replacing the window regulator, blower motor, and rear shocks. But losing a wheel and dropping to the pavement and scraping for a few feet had to cause some damage. If I were to assess whether the van can be made safely drive-able, and at what cost, what kind of front end/suspension damage should I be looking for?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I am going to take a look at it tomorrow and will take some photos. Forgot to mention that the van was dragged up on to a flat bed tow truck to get it off the street. That probably could not have helped, either. I am capable of doing brake work, but have have never done suspension or steering component work. If it's just a rotor replacement, then I may give it a shot. Still have the issue with the damaged fender preventing the passenger door from completely opening.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
thanks for all the suggestions. I looked at the online manual for my vehicle on alldata.com. The technique they describe for replacing the studs might not work for me since the studs were sheared off flush with the rotor. Based on the responses that the van is likely repairable, I might just have the car towed from the impound lot to a nearby shop to have new studs installed, and also to have a mechanic inspect the steering and suspension.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
Thanks again for the ideas. I had it towed to a shop to have the suspension and steering inspected. If the damage is not too severe, I may just fix it and keep driving it. I've burned myself in the past by hanging on/repairing something long after it should have been recycled or junked. I don't want to repeat that behavior with this van, when it might be more prudent just to move on to another vehicle. As I mentioned in the first post, the van is not in the best shape, but it is still useful as a vehicle for hauling dogs, building supplies, firewood, etc. What is interesting is in 2013 it was accident free and still in pretty good shape. I even had body work done to keep it looking good, and would never have considered it a utility vehicle. But a couple of crunches to rear quarter panel, the relentless march of rust, and all of a sudden the van is beater.

Here are some photos:

Wheel Well
Wheel Well Closer view
Control Arm - Tie Rod
Rotor Close-Up
Behind The Rotor
Behind The Rotor 2
Control Arm 2
Control Arm 3
Control Arm - Stabilizer Bar
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I did have the van towed to a shop. After reading everyone's comments about the potential for damage to the bearing, I wish I had told them to just replace the hub. Here is what they did: replaced the lower ball joint and wheel studs. They also said the front right brake pads were wearing unevenly. His guess was they were not sliding on the caliper correctly. So the front rotors were turned and new pads installed. That cost me $340. Since I was barely moving when the wheel came off, he said there was minimal damage, and thought the hub bearings would be OK. I guess I will find out. Many miles ago I had purchased a lifetime alignment from Tires Plus, so that will be my next stop. The van pulls to the right now.

I had replaced brake lines and rotated the tires in February, so if anyone botched the lug nut tightening, it was me. I use a torque wrench and go to 100 ft lbs. I have no idea how I screwed up the lug nuts on this wheel.

Still will have to massage the fender to get the passenger door to open all the way, or just go looking the junkyards for a replacement fender in the same color. It seems like it would be something easy to swap out.

Thanks again for all the advice - I was just going to have the vehicle hauled to the boneyard until all of you suggested it could still be road worthy. It does not look very pretty, but for what I use it for, it is the perfect vehicle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Took the van in for an alignment. Looks like it needs more work (not related to the wheel coming off) They recommend the following parts be replaced:

Rack and pinion (leaking): 763.19
Right front tie rod end (included with new rack and pinion unit)
Control arm bushing: 103.59

Is this vehicle safe to operate with the existing parts? The van has 243,000 miles, so I suppose it is not unreasonable that these parts are worn. But with the mileage, collision damage, and rust, I am reluctant to put large amounts of money into the vehicle. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
Jeepman - I thought the same as you: why didn't the shop that did the suspension work a couple of days ago mention any of these issues. I don't lose much fluid at all, so I don't know how bad a leak this could be. About 100,000 miles ago I had the car at the dealer's shop, and they mentioned the steering gear needed to be replaced. The next time the vehicle was at my usual mechanic, I asked him about it and he thought the steering gear was fine. That same unit is still in the vehicle.

You're right about being over a barrel. The last couple of times I took it in for an alignment, there was always some reason why the vehicle could not be aligned. I don't think I will be purchasing a lifetime alignment again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
I am going to have to look for leakage on rack and pinion unit - do they always leak around the boot as shown in waynefoutz's picture? And if I am understanding correctly, once the worn tie rods are replaced, the vehicle will be able to be aligned. The leaking rack and pinion is a problem, but a leaking rack and pinion unit would not prevent the front end from being aligned.

Is that correct?

I will get a second opinion, too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #37 · (Edited)
At this point, I now committed to the car. I replaced the rear shocks, bought a fender for $65 to replace the one the got crushed when the van fell to the pavement, and am going to replace the inner and outer tie rod ends. It would be easy to walk away from the van if it wasn't reliable or ran poorly, but it still runs great - I took it on a 1000 mile round trip this past weekend with no problems.

I'll do the tie rods myself, but not the rack and pinion (I read the write-up someone did on this forum. Sounds like a real undertaking). The cost of a shop to do the rack and pinion is more than I want to spend, so for now I will just watch the fluid, and probably add sealer as was suggested. I really do not lose that much fluid now, anyway. I guess if the leak becomes severe, then it will be time to make a decision.

Rust, road salt, and unrepaired collision damage have taken their toll on the body, but mechanically the van is still pretty sound. Two years ago I could not get the car to pass emissions - the check engine light was lit, and it was going to take what was estimated at an almost $1000 catalytic converter and some other parts to get the van to pass. I was not going to put $1000 into a high mileage body damaged van, so we bought a replacement low-mileage 2007 and figured the 2005 van was finished. Two days before the plates were due to expire, the check engine light in the 2005 van, which had been lit on for almost a year, suddenly turns off with no intervention on my part. I go directly to the emission testing center, the van passes, and 20 miles later the light comes back on (the code again indicating the catalytic converter needs to be replaced). I drive the van with the check engine light on for two more years. This past June, when the van is again due for emission testing, I figure the time has finally come where we will part ways, because I am not going buy a replacement catalytic converter. But just like two years ago, a couple of days before the plates expire, the check engine light goes out, I take it to the testing center and it passes. If only it could self-repair its rust and body damage!
 

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Discussion Starter · #41 ·
Good job keeping it upright. That looks pretty scary.
Yes, absolutely a good job staying right side up at that speed. When I lost my wheel I was turning through an intersection, so pretty slow compared to your adventure. My wheel rolled through the intersection and fortunately missed a motorcyclist waiting for a green light. I got the van repaired and continued driving it. Some time later, a rear leaf spring broke. It caused the front strut on that side to get bent and ripped up brake lines. It had 261000 miles on it at the time. It was pretty rusty, so I sent it to the recycling yard.
 
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