Justy Little Project Car: Long-Wearing Tires and Steering Fixes

Now that the Subaru Justy is taking on weekend recreational duties, I can continue sorting out the various small problems it had before I embarked on this engine rebuild.

It’s had super-sloppy steering all this time. The front strut mounts were cracked and worn out, as were the tie rod ends on both sides. These bits of slack in the steering combined with the wider tires I had on the thing, made the car move half a foot in either direction whenever I encountered bumps or wavy road surfaces. It tramlined, it wandered, it skittered, it danced.
When the parts arrived, I took the opportunity to work side-by-side with my daughter as she “fixed” her lawnmower. She has her own toolbox, but she borrows my tools too. She’s partial to the drill and hammer.

One of my tie rods ran into this classic problem: When I turned the castle nut, it only spun the tapered shaft inside the steering knuckle. I needed some way to hold the shaft still while I wrenched on the nut. Out comes the Dremel.

I cut a notch in the end of the shaft so I could hold it still with a flathead screwdriver. Just that little bit of holding power allowed me to spin the nut all the way off.

Fun fact: 555 (pronounced “three fives”) was the main sponsor for Subaru’s World Rally Championship Imprezas when the brand became a powerhouse in the series. State Express 555, the sponsor, is a brand of cigarettes popular in Asia. It’s not at all related to Sankei Industry 555, the Japanese auto parts maker responsible for my new tie rod ends, but it is a fun coincidence.

Front suspension work on the Justy is a job I despise. It’s simple, but nothing comes off or goes back together without a fair amount of coaxing, shoving, finagling and squeezing. Unfortunately, the new strut mounts—a parts store brand—are bulging and starting to tear after just 3,000 miles. I’ll have to replace these again before long. Name brands are available from online retailers, so I hope I won’t have to replace the strut mounts a third time.
While doing this job, I found out that the ball joints I ordered were the wrong size. An arm injury prevented me from replacing the ball joints myself, so I gladly took the car to a local shop when the correct replacements arrived.

One of the challenges with this Justy is finding tires. The OEM size, 165/65R13, is not available anywhere. Not Tire Rack, Wal-Mart, Discount Tire, or any of the other half-dozen tire retailers I searched. My Yokohama Advan A048s, which you can see in the top photo, are not long-wearing street tires. They look great, but they’re not suited to a tiny 4WD car. This thing isn’t a track monster (or even a track bug). It’s best at low speeds where grip is at a premium. It needed tires that at least somewhat matched it, and besides, the Yokos were already close to wearing out.
Where did I finally find the tiny tire stack above? Ebay. These are made in China. The brand isn’t important. None of the figures are. What matters is that they have tread depth and they’re cheap. A friend of mine refers to tires like these as “black-and-rounds.”

Being the original size, they fit the OE wheels. They’re narrow, so there’s no problems with tramlining and the unassisted steering is now much easier to deal with in parking lots.
This car now serves as my weekend bike-hauler. It’s summertime though, so the next imperative repair is to get the air conditioning working again. Florida summers are rough.
[Photos copyright 2017 Alan Cesar | Hooniverse]

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15 responses to “Justy Little Project Car: Long-Wearing Tires and Steering Fixes”

  1. discontinuuity Avatar

    Nice AW11!

    1. Alan Cesar Avatar
      Alan Cesar

      That one is a profit project.

  2. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

    But isn’t the main reason for wheels on a car to look cool?

    1. Alan Cesar Avatar
      Alan Cesar

      I’ve still got the white 13×8 Diamond Racing Wheels for when I want to show off, but they’re not practical for daily use. Lots of scrub, heavy steering, short life, loud, no grip on dirt or through standing water.

  3. nanoop Avatar

    I feel your pains:
    I like doing engine stuff because things are mostly like overly complicated Lego: it fits (sometimes you need a tool, though). Stuck bolts are a pain I don’t envy workshops for, and alignment is a bitch.
    Rare tire sizes suck, you have no selection, high prices and four weeks shipping – at best.

    1. Alan Cesar Avatar
      Alan Cesar

      Yes! Engine work requires cleanliness and precision, but it’s all straightforward. Things go together in a certain order, to spec, etc.
      Suspension though… Pull this bendy part and hold it there with one hand while you try to slip the bolt carefully through the hole, which you have to line up precisely while fighting spring tension. It can be satisfying when it goes well, but it can also be a huge headache.

  4. Zentropy Avatar

    Great post. Love the offspring involvement.

  5. Dabidoh_Sambone Avatar

    This is why I return to Hooniverse. Stories about crapcans and penalty boxes, I love them. Also, I had no idea that you’re a Floridian (man that looks weird typed out). Close to Tampa by any chance?
    I dig me some Subarus too, having penned this piece some months ago: http://davesanborn.blogspot.com/2016/09/the-infinite-subaru-wagons-of-jackson.html

    1. Vairship Avatar

      Clearly, people from Florida are called Floridans. Just like people from Canada are named Canadans. Which means that when they refer to themselves by any other name, one should correct them and consistently refer to them as “Dan”.

      1. nanoop Avatar

        I am always confused by the ranking of Dans: is first Dan the best, or ninth Dan?

    2. Alan Cesar Avatar
      Alan Cesar

      I’m on the opposite side. Daytona.

      1. Dabidoh_Sambone Avatar

        Ach zo. Say hello to my pals at Atlantic Sounds records and keep us properly Justy updated.

  6. dukeisduke Avatar

    It stinks that you can’t find decent tires in 13 inch sizes anymore. I had some great tires on my ’76 Vega GT – Continental Contact CH51s, in 185/70-13. Sure, they weren’t 90,000 mile tires (more like 30,000), but they had fantastic grip.

  7. nanoop Avatar

    Btw, the bike rack is an OEM, aftermarket, or homebrew?

    1. Alan Cesar Avatar
      Alan Cesar

      Oh it’s some aftermarket piece of junk that I got on Craigslist for too much money. I justify keeping it because it suits the look of the car.