A shuddering van with over 300k miles? This is what mechanics are for.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jan 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am a middle-aged, non-mechanical female who drives a Chevrolet van with 307,000 miles on it (yes, THREE hundred and seven thousand!). It's been a good car. I even wrote Chevrolet and offered to trade a commercial endorsement for a new van. They wrote back and said they weren't interested. Five months later, a friend called to tell me my commercial was on the air. There it was, two people talking about their Chevy trucks with more than 300,000 miles on them. I guess all they wanted was a free oil change. Anyway, I haven't had the money to do much to it other than an oil and lube job every 3,000 miles and fixing whatever falls off. In fact, I've sort of figured it was in a state of mechanical homeostasis and if I added a new part, the other parts wouldn't know how to act. But a recent article of yours distressed me. It said that shuddering when braking could mean a wheel is getting ready to fall off. My van has been doing that for two years when going down steep inclines, and I just figured it was the weight of the van. I show dogs, and I routinely drive 500-600 interstate miles each way every weekend to dog shows. Does the wheel-falling-off-thing mean I should stop driving to Florida in the middle of the night?

TOM: The time of day doesn't matter, Jaimie. When that wheel falls off, it's going to be awfully hard to steer whether it's light out or not. In fact, it might be less scary if you CAN'T see.

RAY: You really should check it out right away. We can't say for sure that because the front end shudders, the wheel is going to fall off, but it's certainly one of the possibilities.

TOM: If you have bad ball joints, bad tie rod ends, or a bad idler arm, and the van's been shuddering for two years, you could be on borrowed time.

RAY: Of course, it could also just be warped brake rotors, which is not nearly as dangerous. But you won't know for sure until you do one of two things; either take it to your mechanic and have the front end thoroughly checked out...

TOM: Or wait until something falls off. Then, you--or more likely your heirs--can make the final determination as to whether it was something dangerous or not.

RAY: Hey, by the way, Jaimie. Since you're intimately familiar with dog behavior, is there anyway we can get our dog to play with my brother WITHOUT tying a pork chop around his neck?

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