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Car Care & Repair Tips - March 21, 2003

What Your Mechanic Doesn't Want You to Know


Reader Question: I have been experiencing a slight thump/clunk accompanied by a jolt towards the very end of the braking process and upon release of the brake on acceleration. I have noticed that it happens only from time to time but the occurrences are becoming more frequent and pronounced. I have taken the car to three repair shops and have received three different diagnoses. The gas station couldn't find anything wrong with it.

One Nissan dealer quoted $763.54 for upper and lower lateral links and $633.18 for front struts and links. Another Nissan dealer said I needed to replace four suspension links at a price of $959.00. How do I know what's really wrong with the car? Are suspension links and lateral links the same thing? Are these prices realistic for this type of work?

Thanks, Alexandra

Dear Alexandra,

Hi and thanks for your email. It sounds like this car might have some high mileage? What's probably happening is that the rubber bushings that surround the links have deteriorated, and the metal links are rubbing on the metal frame of the car causing this thumping noise you are describing.

The links the two Nissan dealers are referring to are the same thing. The front struts quoted by the first dealer are an extra item they probably noticed needed replacing, but wouldn't necessarily be connected to your noise problem. Did the Exxon shop drive the car with you and hear the noise? I would like to get their opinion on the status of these links, and if they feel they are the cause of the noise. It sounds like the two dealerships are in agreement as to what the problem is but vary in price, which is somewhat normal. Sometimes you can call the same repair shop a week later and get a totally different estimate. The service advisor may be guessing at the price of the parts instead of actually checking the list price, or you might encounter two different people giving estimates based on different approaches to tackling the repair.

I am assuming the first dealer wants to replace the struts because they are old and are due to be replaced as a maintenance item--not because they are the source of the noise. If this is so, you might be able to get them to lower their price because there is probably some "combination labor" involved in doing both jobs at the same time. For example, it might be easier to replace the links if the struts are removed, thus saving the dealer labor time and you some money. If the dealer doesn't quote you a combination labor rate, or not enough of a savings to warrant replacing the struts, then I would recommend the first dealership with the lower price. Funny how there was no mention as to the condition of the brakes? It might also be a good idea to have them inspect the brakes while doing the link repair since this noise is only present upon brake application.

So in conclusion, yes in my opinion these lateral links can cause the type of noise complaint you are experiencing, and if the rubber bushings are worn out or missing I would recommend the repair. A front end alignment is probably recommended after this type of repair, so you might make sure that price has been added to the estimate.

Sincerely,

Austin C Davis

Austin C Davis


Interested in an e-book about everything your mechanic doesn't want you to know? Sound advice from Austin Davis. Click Here!


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