Buying the parts and replacing them yourself is probably the most expensive way to go. First of all, you don't even know what is causing the problem, (that's part of what you pay the mechanic, doctor, or plumber for; their knowledge and experience). Second, you will likely buy random parts and throw it at the problem hoping to solve it. You'll do that multiple times until you hit the right part. The mechanic will only sell you what you need. Third, there are a lot of little things mechanics do to prevent future problems and they don't do that could cause additional problems. Simply knowing when to leave a control arm bushing loose will prevent early failure of the new part. Fourth, as Docfixit said, it could be the struts. Are you willing to buy the $700.00 spring compressor the mechanic invested in or do you want to risk death or injury by using the $30.00 toys designed for do-it-yourselfers? You'll likely never use that tool again but you have to consider it part of the repair expense that you thought you were going to save. Fifth, as one Chrysler trainer once said, "we not only sell you parts, we sell them to you pre-broken". New parts have a warranty. That would not be necessary if they didn't fail occasionally. The shop that sells them to you marks the price up a little, just like every other business, to help cover the cost if they have to do the job a second time at no charge to you. No one I know likes working for free but they know they can't expect you to pay for the same service a second time when it's the fault of the part. If you have to do it again yourself, how will you know if the new part was defective or if the problem was caused by your procedures? Sixth, replacing some parts requires an alignment afterward. Most alignment technicians will want to know the recent history so they'll know why you want that alignment. If it's just annual maintenance and you have no complaints or concerns, they are not going to take the time to perform an unnecessary thorough inspection, just like your doctor wouldn't order all kinds of expensive tests for your annual checkup. But, if you tell them you just replaced some parts, they are going to look over your work to identify potential problems and correct them. (They have a hard time sleeping at night too). They typically don't charge extra for the inspection part of the alignment but knowing what you did can help them know right away what will need to be adjusted. They will also "read" the tire wear patterns. If there is bad wear on one tire and you just replaced some parts a day or two ago, they know it takes a lot longer than that for that wear to develop so they need to find the cause and correct it if your new parts wouldn't. Some alignment shops charge less if they only have to straighten the steering wheel. The $20,000 alignment computer is still needed to do that accurately for proper tire wear and handling, but if they know you only replaced parts in the steering system, no other adjustments should be needed. Now, understand there are some inexperienced mechanics who can run into the same problems, and there are some do-it-yourselfers who are pretty sharp and knowledgeable, but in general if you have to ask basic questions about brake, suspension, or steering systems, you would probably be wiser to leave it to the professionals. (That's a lesson I haven't learned yet with the plumbing in my house). No one can fault you for wanting to save money but sometimes the way to do that is to start with visiting the professionals. If that isn't appealing to you, I have another suggestion. Look for a nearby community college with an automotive program. We were always looking for live work so our students could get real-world hands-on experience. They were well supervised and conscientious but the school will only take in cars that fit what they are currently studying, otherwise they would be in competition with the employers who might hire the graduates. It could take up to a week or two to get your car back but the cost will be quite low.
Thursday, March 17th, 2011 AT 8:26 PM