Strut/Axle Question

Tiny
LIONO1966
  • MEMBER
  • 2002 HYUNDAI ELANTRA
  • 136,000 MILES
I have a 2002 Hyundai Elantra, 136000 miles. As I was driving the other day (Monday) it was making a horrific popping noise as I turn (right and left). From all accounts we concluded it was the cv joints. I took the car to a local shop on Wed, they call said it was both cvs and axles. Both were replaced and I picked up the car today. After I left the shop I drove about 2 miles and as I was coming to a stop I heard a pop from the drivers side wheel. This happened 3 more times, as I was driving back to the shop. Also, I was going down a steep hill bearing right, the steering slipped as if I let go of the wheel, this happened once more before I got back to the shop.

I left the car there for today, they called tonight to tell me that the strut and strut mounting are breaking (he mentioned this is what was causing my break problem (note: I never had a break problem). They want an additional $800+ to fix the strut problem and $200+ to fix the break problem I never had.

I'm just wondering if this sounds right, I never had a problem with the steering slipping before today. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
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Saturday, May 28th, 2011 AT 12:10 AM

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Tiny
AAP34798
  • MEMBER
Those lying *******s forgot to tighten the bolts on the mounting area and also wrecked the strut because of their ignorant behavior... Brake problem? If your control arm had a broken arm then you would get a terrifying thump and you would would not drive it... They're incompetent.
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Saturday, May 28th, 2011 AT 1:56 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Oh my, my, my, aap34798. That is exactly the ignorant attitude many uninformed people have that gives all mechanics a bad name. I have personally had brake problems and suspension problems show up immediately after I did other related repairs to my own vehicles. One in particular was surprising that I had no symptoms whatsoever until I performed a simple maintenance alignment. So don't be so quick to judge the mechanic when you don't have a clue to the other half of the story.

I've also been involved with many problems that owners didn't even know they had. Most owners today are really stupid when it comes to their cars and it's getting worse real fast because of all the complicated, unreliable, unnecessary technology in use today. I've seen brake pedals that go to the floor after the brakes have been grinding for two weeks. The piston fell out, the car was still stopping with only two of the four brakes working, the warning light had been on most of those two weeks, and the owner thought the problem went away because it wasn't grinding any more. When she took the car in for an oil change, they told her about the brakes that had fallen apart and the high cost of repair due to her neglect. She became angry that they would try to rip her off and called them every name in the book. The mechanic didn't do anything wrong except try to look out for the owner's best interest. In return she is spreading false rumors about that shop. You are doing the same thing, aap34798, when you don't have a clue as to what happened.

Liono1966, the first thing to do is take the car back to the first shop and allow them to inspect their work and correct any mistakes. Next, ask for a written estimate for any additional repairs they are recommending. Reputable shops will often allow the mechanic to show you what's wrong and explain why the repairs are needed. The problem with that is very often mechanics are not good at putting things into terms owners can understand. Service advisors are good at talking with owners but often get confused when talking with the mechanic so things can get lost in translation. That is not an intent to defraud. It's just what happens when people talk about subjects in which they are not educated.

The first mistake was self-diagnosing the popping noise. Worn cv joints will often make a noticeable clicking noise when you turn and accelerate forward or backward. They rarely make noise when driving straight ahead unless they are about to fall apart after months or years of neglect. They don't get that bad in a short period of time. This may not have happened in YOUR case, but something that happens too often is owners bring their car in for service and say "my cv joints are making noise; please fix it". Good service advisers know to not put that on the repair order. Rather, you should explain there is a noise, and let the mechanic diagnose it. In the first scenario, they are going to repair or replace what you diagnosed which might be right or wrong. Too often they will perform the requested service and fail to look further for any other problems. The more in-depth inspection takes place after you return when the service didn't solve the problem. That's when they find worn brake pads that will start grinding metal on metal very soon. That's when they find other worn steering or suspension parts; and that's when they check for the less common, low-failure items.

Add to this the cars that are only repaired by do-it-yourselfers. As a former instructor, I have nothing but admiration for people who try to do their own repairs, ... As long as they understand what to look for, what is good enough and what is serious, and what they can accidentally do to compromise safety or parts reliability. Every day on this site I read about problems people caused to their own cars that could have easily been avoided if they knew the proper procedures to follow. I also read about stories from people who understand when it's time to call in the professionals. Those are the cars that usually have a lot of problems, some potentially serious, that have been ignored or undiagnosed, so of course there is going to be a huge list of recommendations when they do finally end up in the shop. Cars that make regular trips to a mechanic usually have these problems noticed and taken care of before they become bigger problems.

Here's one common example: Eventually your brake pads will wear down and the metal backing plates will grind on the steel rotors and ruin them. New rotors add to the cost beyond that of a standard brake job. Instead of changing your own oil, if you take it to a shop or one of those Speedy Lube places, they might recommend you have the brake system inspected soon BEFORE that additional damage occurs. They never looked at your brakes so how did they know to recommend that? They might not even do brake work there, but they had your best interest at heart when they made the recommendation.

The secret is when they changed the oil, they topped off or checked the other fluids. Conscientious mechanics will never fill the brake fluid if it is low. They understand the fluid level went down because the front pads are worn excessively.

Tire wear is another thing professionals look at when your car is in their shop. There are a lot of clues to worn parts and alignment problems that owners aren't aware of or know how to check. No one can fault someone for trying to save money by doing their own repairs, but sometimes it's less expensive and less aggravating in the long run for people who always run to the mechanic. You can have the best of both worlds by visiting this site whenever there is a new symptom or problem. There are a lot of experts who can point out common fixes or when it's time to see the professionals.

Remember too that mechanics are held to much higher standards than doctors. Aap34798's comments are proof of that. Mechanics are expected to learn every system of every brand and model of car even though they change every year. Doctors only have to learn two models in varying sizes for their entire career. Why do we call mechanics names when they don t solve the problem on the first visit, but we run from one doctor to another until we find one who can help? And doctors don t test you for things that haven t happened yet. They let you wait for the problems to occur. If mechanics would let that happen to your car, you d be screaming that they should have warned you so further damage could have been avoided.

Getting back to the car in question, this is a good time to get a second opinion after the first shop has had a chance to correct any mistakes that were their fault. At the second shop, ask for a brake system inspection and a suspension and steering system inspection because you were told there was a problem. Don t hand over the written estimate from the first shop for a number of reasons. First, if the second shop is really busy, they might be tempted to just copy the recommendations and provide you with their estimate for the same work. That doesn t address the problem. Second, some shops will do anything to discredit a competitor. That could be as easy as saying nothing bad about them, but quoting used, rebuilt, or lower cost new parts than what the first shop quoted. They could quote fewer hours to get you hooked, then find other things later once the car is apart. That happens enough legitimately; no need to do it on purpose. To prevent that, some shops will quote a total that is higher than expected, then they surprise you with a lower bill after the service is completed. That gives them a cushion in case they really do find some additional part that s needed. Third, some shops are so desperate to make themselves look better than their competitors that they will not replace marginal parts. That lets them give you a lower estimate, and it makes it look like the first shop was trying to sell you unneeded items. That s not fair to the first shop since they can t defend their reasoning. As an example, when one brake caliper is sticking, you need to replace that one, but it s customary to replace both so you ll have even braking. When one strut or shock absorber is leaking oil, you need one new one but we always replace them in pairs. When you have a hole in one of your socks, you buy a new PAIR of socks even though one was still good. Also, there are many cars with very high-failure parts, especially Fords, and some shops will quote repairs that include those parts even though they are technically still usable. I m not aware of any parts on Hyundais with that history but that can be a reason for different estimates from different shops. Another one is the extras they provide. Some places like Midas advertise a really low priced brake job but then tell you that other stuff, (LOTS of other stuff), is required for you to get that lifetime warranty . When I worked for a very nice Chrysler dealership, we were always providing second opinions for customers from Midas across the street, and we were always very much less expensive for the same quality of service.

Most competitors are also friends who share a common interest, and they often cooperate and help each other. Those are the ones that will not run someone down to make themselves look better. If you just tell them you want a second opinion but they don t know which shop you were at previously, that will remove any bias one way or the other, and you are likely to get a more accurate diagnosis and estimate. That second shop will also be more likely to give an honest opinion as to any damage or lack of damage caused by the first shop. You can share the name of the first shop, and their written estimate, AFTER you get the second one. The second shop will be more confident about standing behind their diagnosis, especially if it is lower. Either way, give them the opportunity to defend their estimate. There are times when used parts are perfectly fine. There are times when almost all you can get are rebuilt or remanufactured parts. And there are times when you only want new ones. The people at the shop will help you decide. Some parts like rack and pinion steering assemblies can only be purchased new from the dealer and are only used when the car is still under warranty. At all other times rebuilt assemblies are used because new ones cost four to five times as much.

Most shops use a flat rate guide when pricing repairs. That insures they all quote the same number of hours for the same work. Some shops will give a discount however when two or more related parts are replaced since they know they will only be doing parts of the two procedures once. Other shops forgo the discount and use the saved time to provide little extras, or they charge a lower hourly shop rate. It s a balancing act. The highest priced shops aren t always the best and the lowest priced shops aren t always the worst. They have a lot of bills to cover and that varies a lot in different states and cities. In general, the higher priced shops invest in more newer equipment and continuing training for their mechanics.

To address your specific concerns, it would be nice if you could post the exact description of the intended repairs from the first shop. In an effort to make cars lighter and more fuel efficient, manufacturers are using thinner sheet metal that rusts out faster. This has been a real concern on the inner fenders of a lot of cars where the upper strut mounts bolt to. I recently learned from a former student that the local Ford dealer is quoting $3000.00 to repair that rusted sheet metal on minivans. This has been a huge problem with Escort and Honda rear struts too. Open the hood and look around the three or four bolts sticking up just inside of the hood hinges. If you see bubbling under the paint, or rust, that might be what they were referring to for the strut mounts. If I m right, $800.00 seems too low for that repair. Also, that is a body shop repair. If they are simply referring to the upper strut mounts, $800.00 is way too much. Two front struts, two coil springs, (not normally needed unless one is broken or sagged), two upper mounts, and a four-wheel alignment should not cost $800.00. By the way, it s common for worn upper mounts to bind and create a horrendous banging sound when you turn the steering wheel. That problem goes away while you re driving because road bumps help them break free and turn.

$200.00 sounds about right for a normal maintenance front brake job. If the pads are worn almost to the end of their life, that can be the brake problem you didn t know you had . Be happy they caught that before they started grinding. That grinding always starts when you just don t have the time to get to the shop. Also, by the time you hear the grinding, the rotors will have been damaged and will need to be replaced too. Most rotors today are so thin already that they have to be replaced at every brake job. It is illegal for a mechanic to reinstall rotors that are below the published minimum thickness. The good news is new rotors are very inexpensive compared to 20 years ago when they typically lasted the life of the car.

Hope that gives you some ideas. Don t be so quick to fault the first shop until we have more details. As a former instructor, I was often asked to review coworkers repair bills and listen to their side of the story. Later, when visiting with the mechanics in various training classes, I got their side of the story, and I don t ever recall hearing what could be interpreted as fraud or deception. What WAS involved was poor communication between the mechanic, service advisor, and customer. Most of the mechanics have the same frustrations as owners. They don t like overlooking additional problems the first time, and they want to solve all of the problems on your first visit. No one is intentionally going to do something that makes you turn around on your way home and come back with another complaint. They want you to come back for your next repair because you were satisfied the first time.
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Saturday, May 28th, 2011 AT 7:12 AM
Tiny
LIONO1966
  • MEMBER
Thanks for responding. I was not trying to discredit the first shop. I am not to happy with the customer service, but I am not really questioning their work. I am only trying to get some additional answers.

When I first went to the shop I did not tell them to "fix" the cv joints. I explained about the noises, thought it might be the cv's, but told them to please check to see exactly what the problem is. They called me and said that the cv joints and axle needed replacing.

Unfortunately the only description that the first shop gave me was that they needed to fix the brake problem (the brakes on this car are not that old, they have been replaced by a mechanic less than a year ago)which would cost about $200. Then the struct mount and strut mounting needs to be replaced. This was as detailed as he got.

My car has never been worked on by anyone other than a mechanic. I understand that my car is aging, and I am completely understanding of items that need to be fixed. I am having a friend (and licensed mechanic) take a look at it for a second opinion.

Thanks again for responding.
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Saturday, May 28th, 2011 AT 8:07 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Dandy. To go into a little more detail on those strut mounts, I have not heard of a common rust / structural problem with your car so I'm hoping it's just the mounts that were recommended.

Struts are just giant shock absorbers but they also hold the wheel straight up and down. The coil spring around the strut is what holds the weight up for that corner of the car. Because all of that assembly turns with the steering system, there is a ball bearing assembly between the spring and the car body. That's what makes it easy to turn and it's what often starts binding and has to be replaced. The two main pieces are the bearing assembly and the plate it sits in. That plate has a large hole in the center where the shaft of the strut peeks through. (You can see the top of it and the large nut under the hood). Sometimes that hole gets bigger due to rust. That allows the strut to tip in and out a little. It can cause a gentle knocking sound, tire wear, and an intermittent alignment pull to one side. Because of the car's weight on it, that can be almost impossible to diagnose until it is taken apart to replace the struts. Many shops now include new mounts in their estimates for new struts in case they are needed.

It is also fairly common for the bearings to bind. The typical symptom is a banging noise when standing still and turning the steering wheel. That in itself is not real serious but it can prevent the steering wheel from coming back to center by itself. You can verify the binding by holding your fingertips on the top of the spring, over the top of the tire, while a helper slowly turns the steering wheel. If the bearing is binding, you'll feel the spring wind up, then suddenly pop free and turn. A little roughness is normal but they are supposed to turn fairly freely.

Keep me updated on how things turn out.
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Saturday, May 28th, 2011 AT 10:42 PM
Tiny
LIONO1966
  • MEMBER
New Update: I took the car for a second opinion (from a mechanic that was recommended by several people), he drove the car, inspected it, etc. Called back - needs two back tires. Nothing wrong with axles, struts, etc. He said he did have an undetermined rattling, but it would take a little longer to figure that out.

I have still had the problem with the steering slipping and a popping noise every once and a while. Now last night, as I go to turn right the steering wheel turned, but the wheel did not. (The car did not go completely straight, but was bearing slightly right, as if one wheel was turning but not the other.) After a second or two there was a loud, car shaking pop (came from driver's side), then the car turned. I only had one more turn into my driveway and have not, nor do I plan to venture out with it doing that.

Any ideas. The plan is currently to get it to yet another mechanic. This one also recommended, but a lot closer to my house. Thanks mfor any suggestions.
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Saturday, June 11th, 2011 AT 5:51 PM
Tiny
LIONO1966
  • MEMBER
FYI: The popping noise sounds like when you turn a spring on a wind-up toy way to tight, then it pops over and releases.
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Saturday, June 11th, 2011 AT 5:55 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
That sounds like more than just binding upper strut mounts. Three things come to mind. None of these are common but they are things I have run into on more than one occasion.

The first is a loose rack and pinion steering gear where it bolts to the car body or cross member. It takes a lot of force to turn the tires so if the rack is loose, it will slide sideways first, then turn the tires. You can identify that by standing beside the car while you reach in and turn the steering wheel left and right rapidly about a half turn each way. Watch the left tire to see if it turns as soon as you turn the steering wheel. If you hear a banging noise at the same time, it will usually occur only once in each direction. This test will be easier to do if the engine is running so it runs the power steering pump. Even if it isn't making a banging sound, there will be some type of rumbling or crunching sound, ... More than just the sound of the tires turning on the pavement.

A less-common problem is a worn pinion gear inside the rack and pinion assembly. That can allow the teeth to jump over the rack rather than forcing the tires to turn. The clue is that once that happens, the steering wheel will no longer be straight when you're driving on a straight road. Other things in the steering gear could be coming apart too, but if the car has power steering, there will almost always be a severe fluid leak too.

The third thing is worn lower control arm bushings. While those upper strut mounts basically hold the top of the wheel in position, the lower control arm holds the bottom of the wheel in position. They include rubber bushings to isolate road shock, and they pivot to let the car go up and down over bumps. Often the rubber wears out, but it's also possible for the mounting holes to rust out or just become elongated. That is what happened on my car that I mentioned in my first reply. That problem had to take months to develop but there was not a single symptom until after I performed a maintenance alignment. THEN the symptoms showed up. When turning right, it felt like the left front corner of the car fell onto the ground. When turning left, that corner picked itself back up. It was extremely dangerous to drive like that but again, there was absolutely no clue there was a problem before the alignment. Had that been a customer's car, I would have been blamed for causing that problem.

Lower control arm bushing problems can be a little harder to find. The car must be jacked up a certain way so those bushings are free to move if something is worn. The mechanic will use a pry bar to try to force them to move.

I'm pretty sure the cause of the problem should be relatively easy to locate given your description. If you can get to the second shop, they have already checked and ruled out the common stuff. A third shop will have to start out all over again from the beginning. With the third shop being closer to home, that will be more convenient if you have to leave the car. Sometimes it can take multiple test drives and repeated inspections to find elusive problems.
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Saturday, June 11th, 2011 AT 9:28 PM

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