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2002 Toyota Camry--Clunking Suspension?

My 2002 Toyota Camry started making a clunking sound near the front left of the car (and I could barely feel it, too) at low speed over slight bumps. My mechanic, who I trust, said I had two broken engine mounts. He replaced them at a cost of $600. Sound continued. He said I needed new struts. He replaced them at a cost of $684. Sound continued. Decided to take it to a Toyota dealer. They said I needed new lower control arm bushings (at a cost of $918 plus tax)…but couldn’t guarantee that was the source of the sound and they would just have to see. I opted to ask yet another mechanic, who said the control arm bushings are NOT the problem, but he would have to spend some time (could be several hours) exploring to find out what the problem is…at $70+ per hour. The car only has 86,000 miles on it, but I’m getting concerned that I might end up paying for a new car without the new car smell if I keep spending money on “possible” causes. Any suggestions? Time to spend money on a new car instead of this one?

No, it’s not time to spend money on a new car.

It’s a bushing, probabbly the sway bar bushing. In that car those are a real PITA to get at,as they’re located above the engine cradle. That’s probably why they didn;t confirm the source. Most just look at what they can see up on the rack, and those bushings are hidden.

You any good with your hands? The sway bar is attached to two long links that are attached to the lower control arm. If you can get your hand in to grab the end of the sway bar, try shaking it up & down. I’ll bet you get a thinking sound.

The hole in the sway bar bushings through which the bar passes tends to wear larger, because th bar twists in the hole with every bump. And they clunk.

Thanks for the advice. I’m not very good with my hands, but I’ll see what I can do. At least it gives me something to inquire about even if I can’t get to it myself.

The assembly looks very much like P4 of the attached document. You can see whay nobody wants to mess with getting at those bushings.

http://tijil.org/Scion_Docs/05_tC_Shop_Manuals/Repair%20Info/Repair%20Manual/Front%20Suspension/Front%20Suspension/conponen.pdf

@JohnInDallas from your symptoms I’d say there are two likely possibilities

Front sway bar links
Front strut mounts

I’m fairly certain that the strut mounts were not replaced when you got new struts, right?

The sway bar links are fairly easy to replace and are cheaper than the strut mounts.
I’d seriously consider starting with the sway bar links.
Sway bar links can make horrendous clunking noises over bumps.

Whoa! It looks like someone would have to dig through the Himalayas to get to those things, mountainbike! Thanks very much for the info…I think! db4690, supposedly the strut mounts were replaced. So they told me.

My first thought was like db; front strut mounts.

Another more serious and possibly lethal consideration is a failing ball joint.

The ball joint isn’t load bearing on FWD cars.

@JohnInDallas look at your receipts. If the strut mounts aren’t listed separately, they weren’t replaced.
How many miles?

Why isn’t it?

@ok4450 This article can explain it better than I can.

FWD cars typically have McPherson struts. So the front ball joints could theoretically last the lifetime of the car.

I have replaced many worn lower ball joints on conventional upper and lower A-arm type suspensions.

I took the car back to another place; they said the left front strut mount was improperly seated, but suggested I take it back to the people who installed it to get it repaired. I’ll try that Monday. DB, they did replace the strut mounts when they put in new struts.

I have to respectfully disagree that non-load bearing joints are not wear prone and dangerous on FWD cars. My opinion is based on changing a number of worn joints and in some cases repairing additional damage caused by the joint when it broke.

One glaring example could be the left lower joint on my daughter’s former car; a FWD Mitsubishi Galant. In her case, she was lucky that it snapped at very slow speed as she was rounding a corner to her house. That dropped the suspension immediately, gashed a tire, gashed the wheel, broke a sway bar link, and led to a tow truck to haul it to me for repair.
This car is under a Recall for ball joints. It had just been inspected and pronounced fine just a few short months earlier.

@JohnInDallas glad to hear you did get new strut mounts, at least.

When you go back to the first shop, ask to go on a road test with the technician or service manager so that they hear the noise while you are present. You should drive the car yourself on that road test. If you let them drive, they may be tempted to drive on smooth roads, so that there aren’t any noises.
If the service manager does hear the noise, ask them to recheck their work again. If they do “reposition” it and the noise is gone, you’re not paying for the second repair. You need to make that clear.