So many things could be damaged by hitting a curb at 30 mph - but get that front end checked pronto.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 2001

Dear Tom and Ray:

Let's say a moron decided to take a shortcut through a parking lot at night. This moron might drive a well-seasoned '91 Dodge Dakota two-wheel-drive V-8 with an automatic transmission. To the moron's surprise, there was a curb in the middle of the parking lot, and he hit it going 25-30 mph. No obvious damage. He didn't hear metal strike the concrete. But there were a few changes he noticed:
1. The gear indicator is one gear off (it shows R when it's in Park, etc.). The linkage seems to move freely, and it shifts easily.
2. In the words of Road and Track, the engine seems to sound a little "throatier."
3. When braking and turning, the power steering seems to be a little sluggish.
4. The steering wheel seems about an inch off center, but the truck doesn't seem to pull a whole lot.
What could the moron have done to his truck? Hypothetically, of course. -- Steve

TOM: I love hypothetical questions. Hypothetically, the moron could have done any number of things.

RAY: First of all, I'm sure the moron knocked the front wheels way out of alignment. That would explain the slight difficulty in steering. If both wheels aren't pointed absolutely straight ahead, you end up "dragging" one wheel, and that's probably what the moron is feeling.

TOM: The gearshift indicator and the throatiness can probably be explained if the moron hit the "Y-pipe." The Y-pipe is a Y-shaped piece of the exhaust system that comes down from the engine and runs along the bottom of the truck. It comes fairly close to the ground on this truck, if memory serves. And my guess is that the curb hit the Y-pipe, crunching or perforating it, which explains the throatier exhaust noise.

RAY: And the sudden impact on the Y-pipe probably also sheared off a motor mount. The motor mounts hold the engine in place. And if you lose one, it would shift the entire engine a little bit and change the whole geometry of things under the hood. That's probably why the gearshift indicator still works but is off by one gear.

TOM: Finally, the moron really needs to get the whole front end checked out, because it's possible he bent his tie rods, and maybe a control arm or two. And that stuff can be dangerous.

RAY: So Steve, if you happen to see this moron -- like in the bathroom mirror while you're shaving tomorrow morning -- tell him to get the truck checked out, will ya?

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