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Minor Problems Needn't Lead to Major Headaches--or Big Bills

June 10, 1997|RALPH VARTABEDIAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Question: I have a depressing problem with my 1991 Honda Accord DX. The bracket that attaches the glove compartment to the dashboard has broken off, causing the glove compartment to slip down a half inch. The dealer came back with an estimate of $1,400 to fix the problem, saying the entire dashboard has to be replaced. I know of another Accord owner with this same problem. I'm hoping Honda is devising a simple and inexpensive repair.--E.K.

Answer: The first step is to tell your dealer to shove it. To even suggest that you pay $1,400 to fix a glove compartment door is among the most outrageous rip-offs I have heard in the years I've been writing this column. What does he charge for an oil change, a million bucks?

I am often asked by depressed motorists why seemingly minor problems turn into astronomical repair bills.

A large part of the reason is that manufacturers have little incentive to design cars for low cost repairs and dealerships have even less incentive for finding ways to keep costs down.

Although you think Honda makes flimsy glove compartments, the company thinks its design is swell. A Honda rep suggested to me that maybe you abused the glove compartment, perhaps allowing your children to put their feet into it. Even if true, I think a glove compartment should stand up to routine abuse.

Forget what the dealer says. You should be able to fix this for next to nothing. The Accord glove compartment has two hinges that are screwed into a metal bar, which in turn is screwed into the plastic body of the dashboard.

If you have an electric drill, you can probably drill new holes in the metal bar and a new guide hole in the dashboard to reattach the whole thing. Or possibly, you can use a pop rivet gun to attach the metal bar to its original hole.

Another possibility is to fashion a new support bar out of strong wood. Almost any woodworker, handy person or creative mechanic can fix this problem.

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Vartabedian cannot answer mail personally but will attempt to respond in this column to automotive questions of general interest. Do not telephone. Write to Your Wheels, 1875 I St. N.W. #1100, Washington, D.C. 20006 or e-mail to Ralph.Vartabedian@latimes.com.

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