This is about a 1995 Nissan Pathfinder SE. About 6 months ago, I took it to a mechanic because of alignment problems (front tires are worn out on the inside). At that time, I was told that the alignment was way out of spec due to lower ball joints and inner tie-rod ends problems. Estimated repair was $769+tax. I only had them do a temporary fix of the alignment. I just went back to have the alignment checked again, and this time I was told that the problem could be solved by re-clocking the torsion (apparently the left front of the car is down by 2" and the right front by 3"). That solution is supposed to cost $135+tax. They also suggested that packing the bearings might help (~$300). I have several questions:
- Given these different solutions to fix the alignment problem, which one is the most likely to solve the issue?
- If I go with the cheaper solution (torsion) now, will I still have to fix the more expensive one later?
- Is it time to get a new car?
If it was my vehicle…I would replace the lower ball joints and the tie rod ends immediately. If one of them fails while going down the interstate…you might not have the opportunity to ever have another problem for eternity. It’s one thing to try and save money but always put safety first.
Are you using exactly the same wheels and same size tires that came with the vehicle when it was new? Sometimes putting on a different wheel or changing the size of tire can cause this problem.
#3 is the OK option here. #2 is good but ask them about the #1 which could have been guesswork by the first people. Some people without enough training will just guess and charge you for the new parts which they change without reason.
If the car is otherwise good, ie, the engine runs well, body and interior reasonably good with no rust, and it serves you well, then a fix is appropriate. …and urgently needed. If the car is a beater, dump it - with full disclosure about the problem.
So if you decide to keep it, I’d strongly suggest you go to an alignment & suspension specialty shop for a competent diagnosis of your issue. (drive s-l-o-w-l-y). Choose a locally owned independent shop, not a national chain like Pep Boys etc. If your conflicting diagnoses thus far came from national chain stores or tire stores, then that explains WHY you got conflicting information. You need a more experienced mechanic.
Please heed the advice by @Missileman. If the first shop was right, you are putting yourself, your passengers, and others on the road, in grave danger. (Yes, you can read that two ways.)
Wear on the inner edges of the tires is due to excessive toe-out or too much negative camber which could be caused by any one of a number of things; or more than one.
This vehicle really does not need to be driven at speed until the cause of the problem is determined and just my 2 cents, but packing wheel bearings or clocking the torsion bars is not a cure for anything.
The ball joint thing is a real concern because that can be lethal to you or anyone around you when and if one decides to let go.
Not too many years ago I saw the right front ball joint on a Dodge pickup in front of me give way at about 65 MPH. This guy was lucky because after the entire right front suspension along with the wheel snapped off and went flying, his truck dug in and cut a 125 foot gouge in the asphalt before ending up on the shoulder in a cloud of dust and weeds.
He came to a stop but his wheel and suspension kept going and after hitting the barbed wire fence on his side of the road the wire catapulted the entire mass into the fence on the opposite side of the roadway. Luckily there was no one occupying the other lane at the time and it’s just sheer luck that his truck stayed upright.