Your car is not that old, and we do not "replace an entire steering system". You did not list the right engine size or mileage so I can't use that to tailor my answer, but it is possible a worn part got overlooked, and we have ways of handling that. I was the suspension and alignment specialist at a very nice family-owned Chrysler dealership through the 1990's. Sometimes other guys identified and replaced worn parts, then sent the car to me for the alignment, and sometimes they missed things that would prevent the alignment from holding. I had to tell the service writer that more parts were needed, and more labor time and dollars. We all really hate having to tell customers that, but in reality, you simply were not quoted enough to start with. This happens in a lot of professions, but it's only auto mechanics who are assumed to be dishonest.
Some less-than-ethical mechanics will purposely overlook things that are not safety-related in hopes you wont notice why their estimate for repairs is lower than that from the shop down the street. I encourage people to get two or three estimates when possible, but you have to be careful to verify all of them are including the same parts and services.
My first question is what else was done besides tie rod ends? If the inner tie rod ends were replaced, that is a pretty involved task and could potentially cost $550.00 including the alignment. Outer tie rod ends are very easy to replace and would not cost that much.
There is no way to know what is needed now or what a reasonable cost would be until we know exactly what happened. If possible, get a second opinion from another shop. If you cannot do that, get a written list of the exact parts that are needed, and why. I mentioned we have ways of handling things like this. If I had not tightened the stud nut to the correct "torque", meaning tightness, it would eventually work loose and could cause a clunking noise and loose feel. That would damage the stud on the new outer tie rod end and the mating tapered hole in the steering spindle. The dealership would pay for a new spindle, a new tie rod end, and the second alignment. The cost of that repair is covered by the profit we make on the parts we sell, just like at any other retail store. The service manager would apologize on my behalf, and neither he nor the dealership owner would be angry with me because they know this is a rare occurrence. There have been times when this happens on a regular basis to a mechanic, and it is not long before he is invited to find a job at some other shop.
Part of working on "flat rate" means that all of this repair work is being done by me for free because it was my fault. The dealer is not going to pay me for correcting my mistake, but he is not going to make me pay for it either. He also knows you cannot be expected to pay for my mistake.
The mistrust comes from when something else happens that wasn't my fault and it was not your fault. There is no reason the shop should be expected to work for free just because they repaired some other problem previously, but they do realize that is hard for car owners to accept, especially when the new problem is in the same system, in this case, the steering system. Typically we would charge for the additional needed parts, possibly a reduced labor charge, and if another alignment was needed, we would do that at no charge. Car owners do not realize how much shops lose in those situations, but we do it for good will, and for appreciation that you came back to let us check our previous work and you trust us to fix the problem this time. I am working on your car for free, so I am not making any money, the dealership is not making any money, and we had to turn away a paying job because I am tied up on your car.
The bottom line is I need to know exactly what is wrong and what the repair recommendation is. Do not settle for "entire steering system". We replace worn and broken parts, not systems. Also, in most states you have a right to have your old parts returned to you unless they're being returned for "core", meaning to be rebuilt and sold again. Even then, you have the right to inspect the parts.
Thursday, November 3rd, 2016 AT 6:17 PM