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Loose driver's seat requires pricey repair

Question: I own a 2006 Honda Element. It has 86,000 miles, and I have enjoyed it from day one.

Question: I own a 2006 Honda Element. It has 86,000 miles, and I have enjoyed it from day one.

About a year ago I noticed my driver's seat would rock back and forth as I braked or moved forward after coming to a complete stop. My mechanic informed me that I should replace the bushings and that Honda submitted a technical service bulletin (TSB No. 03-032) concerning this problem.

I checked online and was surprised by how many other drivers were complaining about the same problem.

A dealership service adviser, after checking my problem, told me my seat bushings were deteriorated and causing my seat frame brackets to be worn out. He also said Honda would replace the seat frame, costing me over $2,000 in repairs. This is something I cannot afford. The problem seems to be getting worse and I am worried that serious injury could happen if I am in an accident and the seat breaks loose.

- D.M., Chicago
Answer: This is a problem common to the Element and CR-V. At the front of the seat there is a link between the seat rail and seat frame where two bushings wear out. At the rear of the seat, there is another bushing. That makes six bushings for both sides. Replacing the bushings and installing new nuts is straightforward. But if you have been driving with worn bushings for a long time, the holes in the seat frame may have become elongated or "hogged out." Instead of replacing the frame, perhaps a welder could repair the damage.

Q: If Fix-A-Flat and similar products are a temporary repair to allow the motorist to get home safely, what does the motorist then do if he doesn't have a spare? It would seem that it might be more sensible to drive to the nearest service station. I feel rather strongly that spare tires, even temporary spare tires, should definitely be provided, either instead of, or in addition to, the tire sealant and inflator.

- R.B., Wilmette, Ill.
A: Yes, it makes more sense to drive to the nearest service station or tire store after a flat has been inflated. But driving the car home is still an option. Emergency inflation usually works for at least several days. Some motorists even forget that the tire should be serviced. In efforts to trim the weight of vehicles, carmakers are removing spares. Unfortunately, the spare tire is going the way of the inner tube.

Q: I have tried several different compasses in my car. They work fine outside, but once inside they do not work. The dealership offered to install a factory compass for $250, but they could not explain the problem with the others. I have an automatic light system, electric driver seat, and the usual electronics. Can you help?

- L.L., Chicago
A: Traditional compasses rely on the magnetic field generated at the North Pole. The magnet of the compass is drawn toward this field and always points north. Put another magnetic field, or enough iron, between the compass and the North Pole and the compass will not work.

Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic, and certified master automobile technician. Send questions along with name and town to Motormouth, Rides, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Fifth Floor, Chicago IL 60611 or