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98 Lumina - Ball Joint

I went to a national chain repair place for a brake inspection. I need front brakes, no shock there, it’s about that time.But they also said I have a bad front left ball joint. I read up a bit on them. My car doesn’t seem to have any of the symptoms associated with a bad ball joint. The car isn’t shaky, turns fine, I can’t hear any unusual noise. That said, is it possible the mechanic wants to change it pre-emptively since it’s going to start getting very bad later, or am I being hosed?

For background on this auto chain, all the natives to the city I live in have told me I made a big mistake going to that place since they’re really sneaky about pricing. Those that actually quote repair work, for reference this place already charged me over $900 for an A/C pump, belt tensioner, and surpentine belt. Does that sound high? When they inspected my brakes and ball joint they quoted almost $500 for the brakes and ball joint replacement (this would also include an alignment). Others in town I’ve talked to have told me that’s way too much, and I’m already considering looking elsewhere for a second opinion.

How long is it ok to drive on a bad ball joint?

"How long is it ok to drive on a bad ball joint? "

Without being on the scene, nobody can answer that question authoritatively.
It is possible that you might be able to drive w/o incident for many months, or it is possible that you could have a wheel come off tomorrow.

Whenever there is any doubt about the condition of one’s front end components or brakes, it is important to get them checked immediately. I strongly suggest that you go to a well-reputed independent (not a chain) shop, and ask them to inspect your front end.

Yes, my girlfriend and I have already decided to take her car for our upcoming trip instead of mine just because I’d rather not risk it.

I live in Bloomington, IN. Could anyone recommend a place they know that specializes in brake/tire work?

@ptohara‌

Actually, the prices you quoted seem reasonable, for a big name franchised chain

I suspect their labor rate is probably around $100/hr. By law, they have to post their labor rate.

Anyways, those big name shops are often big operations, with significant overhead. And the labor rate often reflects that. I would expect a smaller, reputable independent shop to have a slightly lower labor rate.

Thanks. I’ll keep going to the chain place for oil changes but I’m already considering one or two other places that were in the mechanic profile section of Cartalk.com. These places were also recommended by people in town.

@ptohara‌

If you’re going to keep frequenting that chain shop, I recommend double checking their work

Check that the oil drain plug was reinstalled, but not TOO tight to crack the pan or strip threads

Make sure they actually filled the engine with oil, and not over- or underfilled

Make sure they didn’t drain your transmission by mistake

My daughter had a ball joint break on her '95 Cavalier with no warning. Luckily, she was going just 10 mph. If yours are original, I’d have both replaced if you plan on keeping the car.

Ball joints can be defective and cause no obvious symptoms.
The prices you have been charged in the past and currently quoted are fair.

I agree with insightful about replacing both sides if you’re going to keep driving the car. A ball joint can snap in a nano-second and possibly leave you as a fatality statistic.

If I was told by several people that XYZ shop was to be avoided I would avoid that shop period.

The prices you were quoted are very fair. Those who told you that it’s too high are more than likely of the ill-informed and everything is too high crowd.

When you find an independent shop. Why continue to take the car for oil changes to the chain shop. Why only use the independent when it’s major work.

That’s like telling your doctor that you go to him for serious problems, but don’t trust him to do the you’re yearly check-ups.

A shop will be more likely to give you a break now and then if you’re a regular , not just show up when the flunkys can’t figure the problem out.

Yosemite

Just so you can all sleep better I had the ball joint replaced just a few days after this discussion.