Of course they will want to see it. Your dentist can't tell what's wrong over the phone. Your doctor isn't psychic. Based on your description it is likely a $4.00 spring broke in one of the inner cv joints, but it is also possible you heard a clunking noise for a long time, ignored it and a lower ball joint separated allowing the spindle to squat out and pull the joint out of the transmission. If that's the case you are very lucky it didn't break at highway speed. I'm leaning toward the spring since you were still able to push it off the road, but no one is going to commit to my diagnosis without seeing it. You are wrong about costing a fortune to "look it over". That's what everyone does to come up with an estimate, and this type of problem is going to take about ten minutes to diagnose. At $100.00 per hour, that's about twenty bucks. If you can't afford that for a professional opinion you can't afford to put gas in the tank. Many shops will send someone out to the parking lot to take a quick peek at no charge but once you agree to let them bring it inside, they are going to inspect all the steering and suspension parts, and look for any other damage. If they do not take the time to do a thorough inspection, they do not have your best interest at heart and you need to find another shop.
Also, we read here every day about people misdiagnosing things and wasting a lot of money trying random parts. The attempts were commendable but the results cost a lot more than if they had just gotten a trained mechanic involved.
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Monday, March 25th, 2013 AT 8:09 PM