I ran over some ice and my car ecksploded!
January 6, 2009 11:48 PM   Subscribe

Need some car help! It snowed. The snow eventually turned into ice. Snow and ice piled up on the roads. I drove over the snow and ice. Now, some part of my car broke and its hanging from underneath the car, and when I drive, it is getting dragged around. What to do? More details and pictures inside.

My car is a 2008 Honda Civic Coupe. I got the car in February of 2008.

So here's the gist of the story:
I live in Vancouver, and we have had a particularly cold and snow-filled winter this season. If I recall correctly, there was about 60cm of snow this December. Eventually, it rained, and then a lot of the snow turned into ice. I went around during the holidays to see my family, and a lot of places that I had to go had poorly shoveled roads and driveways. At one point, there was this road that had big chunks of ice/snow in the middle of the road, and, like the genius that I am, drove over it, probably scraping and scratching the underside of my car.

And then it got worse. I drove to Vancouver from Surrey on January 4th, and it snowed again. I went to pick up my girlfriend, and thinking that I was driving over fresh snow, drove over chunks of ice.

I don't really know when it happened, but when I drove out the next day, I heard a bad sound, as if something was being dragged by my car. Looking under the car, I discovered a large piece of broken plastic that was still attached to the car.

Here are the pictures that I took:

From the front
From the back

The damage is located at the rear-left side of the vehicle. It looks to me as if its just a plastic cover for something, but I am hoping for a second opinion.

I have since roped it up and I am planning on taking it in for service.

In summary, my questions are:

1 - Is this an important/expensive part?

2 - Is the damage serious enough that I should not be driving?

3 - Is it a good idea to tie it up with some rope and drive (which I am planning on doing)?

Any comments/suggestions are appreciated!
posted by veol to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It looks like a piece of plastic to protect the [doohickey whose name I forget, A-arm or something like that] from scrapes and dings form rocks thrown up from the road.

You should not tie it back up with rope. Having the rope up next to the wheel is going to be a bigger risk than a piece of plastic shielding not being there. If you can find a way of reattaching it without adding loose ends to the assembly, by all means go for it. I might consider epoxy.

But, all things considered, I'd just tear it off and be done with it. It almost certainly would cost you more than it's worth to replace.
posted by Netzapper at 12:22 AM on January 7, 2009

Actually, belay that. Reattach it with a ziptie, and cut the end off close. Make sure that the ziptie is not someplace that it will interfere with the mechanicals.
posted by Netzapper at 12:28 AM on January 7, 2009

ziptie it up tight or rip/cut it off.
Epoxy is not your friend in this instance, and neither is rope.

This is not a part that was destined to last forever in Canada.
Remember to look at that area once in a while and check for rust/dents, but most cars on the road do not have this plastic doohickey, and they don't really need it.
posted by Acari at 12:39 AM on January 7, 2009

do you mean undercarriage?
posted by violetk at 12:56 AM on January 7, 2009

This is one of those cases where duct tape could actually be a reasonable answer.
When you take it in for service get a quote for replacing it then decide if you want to pay what they ask, rip it off, or just leave the zip tie or duct tape and forget about it.
posted by yetanother at 1:00 AM on January 7, 2009

ditto netzapper. (doohickey name = rear lower control arm, btw). i've never seen a plastic guard on one before, and can't think of why it might be there. i'm sure there's some reason honda put it there, but having worked fairly closely with their engineers in the last year, i wouldn't put it past them to do something like that for some lunatic reason. maybe it's some kind of meager corrosion barrier.

what an unfortunate place to put ABS plastic.

anyway, yeah. ziptie it back up. next time you're at the dealer, ask them if there's a service bulletin that covers it. if not, complain. driving over lumpy snow shouldn't tear up your car's underbelly like that.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 1:02 AM on January 7, 2009

Given that its a 2008, I assume your car is still under warranty. I'd take it to my dealer and ask them to look at it. Yes, its road damage, but they still should be willing to tell you "that's crucial you need to replace it" or "just rip it off, you'll be fine" for free or a minimal charge.
posted by anastasiav at 5:13 AM on January 7, 2009

i've never seen a plastic guard on one before, and can't think of why it might be there.

Yeah, ditto Sgt. Sandwich. That's a really weird place to put a guard, but who knows... maybe their engineers figured they could shave 2mm of steel from the control arm and replace it with a plastic cover to save themselves $0.02 / car. As long as your car isn't sitting in the snow, you should be alright.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:38 AM on January 7, 2009

It's hard to tell from the pics, but it looks as if the plastic part is mounted inside the A-arm, and not surrounding the A-arm. Could it be intended to shield some critical lines running along the A-arm to the wheel area? Maybe brake lines or ABS electrical connections?

I'd take it to the dealer and have them look at it. While it may be road damage, an argument could be made that such a part would reasonably be expected not to fail like this, since it is intended to be directly exposed to harsh road conditions. Thus, replacement should be covered by warranty.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:28 AM on January 7, 2009

In general.

Car companies do *not* put pieces on the car that you can't see unless there's a very good reason for them. What that piece of plastic was in front of is part of the suspension that holds the rear wheel on.

Honda, for some reason, decided that that part of the suspension (that holds the wheel on) needed protection. My guess -- that rocks, etc. are being thrown from the front wheels into it, and they decided that it needs protection.

Thus. It should really be there. I'd carefully zip tie it up until I could have the dealer look at it.
posted by eriko at 6:31 AM on January 7, 2009

Yeah, there are no pointless parts on modern cars. Well, except for the pointless pieces of steel and plastic that Ford attaches to it's perfectly good grille badges in the US, anyway...

It's a cover for the control arm. It is most likely to prevent stone chips to the arm that will, over time, remove the corrosion-resisting coating (most likely something fancy and exotic like 'paint'!). It is unlikely to cause you any problems whatsoever during your time with the car if it fell off completely (by judicious applications of your hand or foot). However, over extended time, it may reduce the life of the control arm. It was most likely introduced because it was cheaper to protect teh arm than it would be to use a more resilient corrosion protection on it than paint (like powder coating or the like).

I'd agree to go to a dealership and complain that "it just started dragging while driving in snow" and leave it at that, and approach it with "why isn't my car suitable for purpose? I was on the regular highway the whole time" and they may replace it for free. If not, it's up to you if you want to preserve the long term integrity of your suspension arms. My guess would be yes.
posted by Brockles at 6:55 AM on January 7, 2009

If it's cheap to fix or they'll do it free, cool, replace it. If not... I doubt the protection it offers is worth the price.
posted by PFL at 9:00 AM on January 7, 2009

Yeah, there are no pointless parts on modern cars.

Apologies for the off-topicness, but this is just not true.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:14 PM on January 10, 2009

No, they have a purpose - they are by no means pointless. It's a combination of marketing and 'stopping the idiots poking things they don't understand'. A clean, smooth engine bay looks extremely efficient and magical to the uninitiated. Instead of making all the various wires and pipes underneath look neat (and wasting money doing so) shoving a big cover over the top does a much cheaper and more efficient job.

Perhaps you are confusing 'directly functional' with 'pointless'? Aesthetics, in the modern day, are not at all pointless. Everything on a modern care does something of value.
posted by Brockles at 7:19 PM on January 10, 2009

So it all has value because... well, because its sheer existence means someone had to think of it, design it, get the bean counters to approve it... ergo sum ergo. How very meta.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:03 PM on January 11, 2009

Er. no. You're kind of missing the point. Possibly deliberately.

Unless, of course, you don't think anything relating to aethetics is to be considered as value adding? Especially if it is a cheaper solution to an aesthetic issue?
posted by Brockles at 12:13 PM on January 11, 2009

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