CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

2001 Altima noises in front

Hi all!

I’ve been experiencing some noisiness in front in my 2001 Nissan Altima, mostly when going over bumps. The full list of problems is:

-Rattling/clunking sound out of the front of the car when going on a bumpy road (hard to explain exactly)
-Car occasionally lurches forward when applying accelerator from a stop/low speed, and similarly lurches when applying the brake
-When driving straight, steering wheel points slightly to the left

I’ve taken it to three mechanics at this point, and I don’t know who to trust. Here’s what they have recommended:

Mechanic A: Left inner tie rod, two lower control arms. $892
Mechanic B: Front sway bar links and bushings, front struts. $567
Mechanic C: Front struts, strut mounts, air filter. $756

I called back mechanic B after getting the quote from C and asked why he didn’t recommend replacing the front strut mounts - he said that he will only know if they need to be replaced after taking apart the strut. I asked what the price would be after replacing the mounts, and also after performing an alignment, and he said $690.

I’m leaning towards mechanic B because he would replace more parts for less money than mechanic C (and I’m pretty confident I can replace an air filter myself anyway), but the huge differences between the prescribed remedies is making me nervous. Any advice would be appreciated!

I’m inclined toward mechanic B as well, but has anyone considered the motor mounts? I would also have mechanic B look at that left inner tie rod, that is kind of an odd diagnosis so I am wondering what he saw, though I do not agree with the lower control arms, that sounds like bill padding to me.

It is hard to diagnose the upper strut mounts without removing the struts.

Thank you for the help! I ended up going with Mechanic B on Friday and replacing the front sway bar links, bushings, front struts and strut mounts. Unfortunately, the noise did not go away. I brought the car back in on yesterday, and the mechanic found that the right front lower control arm bushing was worn, so he replaced the entire control arm. He didn’t call me before doing the work, which was a bit annoying, although he did only charge for parts ($180). It seems like all the noises are gone now.

My last question is this: is it normal to only replace one control arm? If the mechanic had called me before replacing the right control arm, I would have probably asked about replacing both. Would there be any reason to replace the left control arm? Right now, it seems like the car has a very slight tendency to go left, and that turning the steering wheel left takes slightly less force than turning it right, but that might all be in my head…