Sometimes New Parts Don’t Fit Right, as My $600 Hyundai Taught Me the Hard Way

Sometimes new parts don't fit, and replacing little pieces is harder than an engine swap.

Buying a non-running car is always a gamble. Believe it or not, replacing an engine or transmission is often the easiest part. The most frustrating problems tend to show up after you get the car driving again – moving parts that you can’t always test while the car’s sitting static.

In my quest to get my $600 Tiburon ready for primetime (and resale) I repaired a wheel bearing, parking brake cable, fixed the previously non-operational trunk, and swapped the aftermarket door handles for OEM color-matched ones. I’d also been slowly chipping away at the Plasti Dip’d wheels (they already look a lot better, even with a few flecks remaining).

Sometimes New Parts Don’t Fit Right, as My $600 Hyundai Taught Me the Hard Way
Eventually, I got more of it off, but the wheels still have a few black flecks on them. Oh well. – Image: Kevin Williams

Since the motor was replaced from the bottom (the mechanic removed the subframe to remove the engine), I also opted to have him throw on new front control arms whilst the engine was out. So, the whole front suspension geometry got all goofy and out of alignment, thus necessitating a trip to a different shop.

After replacing the driver-side rear wheel bearing, I limped the Tiburon about 10 miles to a an alignment place where I had an appointment to get a cheap Groupon alignment.

I thought the car was great, right? I dropped the car off the night before my appointment. I was woken up by a phone call – they refused to align my car. Why? They said the wheel bearing, the one I replaced, was loose.

Horseshit. I picked up my car, and drove it home, and examined the bearing myself… to discover the shop was right. Also, the rear struts were pretty tired, too. The rear end was incredibly floaty over bumps, and made a noise that came from a rear strut basketball-ing over bumps. Dammit.

The Groupon auto shop, although desperate for that sweet, sweet upsold work, was right. My recently replaced wheel bearing was loose. Turns out the closeout $24 wheel bearing I bought online was completely out of spec, as it was too short, had wiggled its way backward, and didn’t fit flush to the stub axle. Thus, the whole brake/hub assembly would rock back and forth with near-zero effort. I was able to get my money back, but its name-brand (Timken) replacement was more than double the cost. No rocking on the stub axle now, though.

Sometimes New Parts Don’t Fit Right, as My $600 Hyundai Taught Me the Hard Way
Image: Kevin Williams

The floaty, noisy rear end pointed to tired rear struts. Luckily, a decent-quality quick strut (spring/shock already assembled) was only $44 per side. The replacement was straightforward, only about five bolts hold the strut to the car. I replaced both sides in about an hour and a half, even outside in 26-degree F weather. The ride and handling are vastly improved – after the alignment this car tracks straight and true, with no rattles or wobbles even at 75 mph. 

Sometimes New Parts Don’t Fit Right, as My $600 Hyundai Taught Me the Hard Way
Image: Kevin Williams
Sometimes New Parts Don’t Fit Right, as My $600 Hyundai Taught Me the Hard Way
Image: Kevin Williams
Sometimes New Parts Don’t Fit Right, as My $600 Hyundai Taught Me the Hard Way
Image: Kevin Williams

At this point I feel pretty good about the car, most everything important is done but, yes, I’m over-budget. I knew this would happen, but it still sucks. 

The rear end was making a soft clunk over bumps, which are either the suspension end links or the swaybar bushings. Replacements for both parts were pretty easy and quick, and I’d estimate it took me about an hour and a half to do both.

Sometimes New Parts Don’t Fit Right, as My $600 Hyundai Taught Me the Hard Way
Replacing the swaybar endlinks was cake. – Image: Kevin Williams
Sometimes New Parts Don’t Fit Right, as My $600 Hyundai Taught Me the Hard Way
The new bushing was a bit annoying to get in it’s rusty home, but I got it eventually. – Image: Kevin Williams

The airbag light was on still, too. My insistence of relying on internet message boards instead of using my brain, had me thinking the fix was a seatbelt buckle, rather than the seatbelt pretensioner. Luckily, it was just dirty connectors, 10 minutes removing and cleaning the electrical connector, and good as new.

Then, the speedometer broke. Sometimes it’ll read zero, and sometimes it’ll jump between 5 mph and 140 mph like a Geiger counter in front of a piece of Uranium-235. Apparently, this is somewhat common for Tiburons; the fix is a replacement vehicle speed sensor. This is the sensor that is mounted inside the transmission. Once again, not hard to replace – took me about 20 minutes or so.

Sometimes New Parts Don’t Fit Right, as My $600 Hyundai Taught Me the Hard Way
I’m actually completely stationary in this photo. – Image: Kevin Williams

The dent in the door still exists. My initial plan was to pay to get it fixed, but I’m over budget, so I’ll just have to nix that. Sigh.

The keyfob I’ve purchased is unprogrammable due to, well, reasons (you can read about that here).

I’ve spent a whole two days detailing the interior, but I think it needs to be done again, albeit quickly this time.

With that in mind, here’s the updated budget for my Tiburon project:

  • Purchase Price: $600
  • Tax/title/registration :$49.50
  • Engine: $450 (including tax)
  • Delnite DH2: $253.66
  • Tire Labor/Disposal: $106.42 
  • Front Rotor and Brake Pad Kit, Timing Belt and Water Pump Kit, Control Arm (X2): $218.55 (including shipping)
  • Engine replacement labor: $900
  • Keyfob: $16
  • Hyundai Genuine key: $2.55
  • Driver’s white door handle: $20
  • Pass side white door handle: $55
  • Alignment: $89
  • Struts: $44 x2
  • Wheel bearing: $60
  • Vehicle Speed Sensor, suspension endlinks, swaybar bushings: $60 (including shipping)

Total Invested: $2,872.68


Hoo boy. My goal is to not cross that $3,000 threshold. I’m already in this more than $800 more than I initially projected, but I still do think it’s worth it. My end goal is still $4000, which I admit is somewhat optimistic, but after all the work I’ve put in this car, it’s now probably the nicest Hyundai Tiburon in the tri-state area. 

Wish me luck!

Kevin Williams

Kevin WilliamsKevin's been into cars his entire life, anything from the tiny kei cars in Japan, to the maybe not-so-good American barges of the 1980s. He's flipped more than 25 cars, only lost money twice, and has known how to make his dollar stretch as far as it can. If he ain't talking about cars, he's probably snacking on something sweet and cakey. Contact the author here.