Corner wrench: It’s a bad idea to replace these car parts

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Every home auto technician has faced this scenario more times than they would like: trying to complete a job and something is missing. Parts stores are closed and you need to get your vehicle back in working order. So you turn to the junk drawer of your toolbox and try to find something, anything that might work. Here are some substitutions that are sure to cause trouble.

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You’re scrambling to complete an electrical repair and you’re out of automotive-grade wire. You find household wiring in the junk drawer; should you use it? If it is a solid core yarn instead of a brush or strand type, the answer is no. Vehicles use the latter to avoid problems associated with constant vibrations and shocks. When an individual solid core wire breaks, the circuit is broken. The brush wire will continue to flow electricity if a few strands of its core break.

Missing a screw? Fastener substitution is probably the most common mix-and-match business in any store. If it’s a piece of trim or a non-structural part, you can probably get away with whatever works. But if you’re swapping screws and bolts with different heads, you need to be prepared to have to carry multiple wrenches each time you deal with them.

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When it comes to structural or weight-bearing parts such as shocks, hubs, bearings, control arms, etc., make sure anything you trade in has the correct hardness rating. Those little marks on the bolt heads aren’t just decorations. Use the wrong quality of bolt, for example, on a hub or bearing and you could see one of your wheels overshoot you on the highway. Also check the length of any fasteners you might consider using; anything too long could get into a fuel or brake line or wiring harness.

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Bad fluids can come back to haunt you. Oils, for example, are not created the same way. Try replacing mineral oil based brake fluid with traditional oil and you can easily damage all of the rubber seals in the hydraulic brake system. Most power steering systems can take automatic transmission fluid, but not all, especially if they use an electric pump. And it doesn’t take much gasoline mixed with ethanol to cause carburetor deposits and weaken the diaphragm of old-fashioned mechanical fuel pumps.

The wrong size battery can really trigger things. Yes, they all produce 12 volts of electricity, but they come in a variety of sizes for one reason: a good fit. Close the hood of a battery that’s just a little too high for clearance and you’re looking at a major electrical repair.

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