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Are these problems safety issues?

2005 PT Cruiser 28,000 miles

The dealership offers free oil changes for life and recently every time I take "Pete" in for an oil change they find what they call a red flag. This time the say the "front control arm bushings are pushed out, $1100" and "Drive shaft CV boots are torn, $503." The CV boots problem showed up on the previous report, too. Are either of these safety issues or are they just trying to scare me into spending money--either on repairs or a new vehicle?

Thanks for your help!

At what point in the oil change process do they examine the front control arm bushings or the drive shaft CV boots? Never go back to this place again.

Free oil changes for life is a very nice perk, but this largesse on the part of the dealership does not mean that you need to have repairs done by them.

However–their inspections, while undoubtedly self-serving, may provide some useful insight into current or developing problems with your car. Case in point would be your torn CV boots. Since this is apparently not a new problem (you were previously told about this condition), you really need to get the car to a competent mechanic for inspection of that area of the car.

When a CV boot is torn, it allows water and road grit to get into the CV joint. After awhile, enough damage has been done to significantly shorten the life of the CV joint.
At this point, if you simply replace the CV boots, you will most likely still wind up with broken CV joints in the near future, thus stranding you somewhere.

Have a well-reputed independent mechanic replace both front axles (this includes the CV joint and the boot), and take comfort in the reality that this won’t cost that much more than merely replacing the boot. While he is underneath the car, have him check the control arm bushings also. If they are bad, it may be possible to replace just the bushings, rather than the entire control arm(s).

In the future, I strongly suggest that you take the dealership’s “red flag” list to an indy mechanic a.s.a.p., in order for him to check those items. Maintenance and repairs that are deferred are invariably more expensive in the long run.

“At what point in the oil change process do they examine the front control arm bushings or the drive shaft CV boots?”

Many dealerships provide “seasonal inspections” free-of-charge when doing even basic servicing. Yes, this is a self-serving gesture in order to generate more repair business, but it can also alert a car owner to problems that he might not have otherwise been aware of.

99% of the time, when I get one of these complimentary seasonal inspection reports from the dealership, they note no problems, simply because I am very proactive with maintaining my cars. I’m sure that it gives them no joy to report that everything is in good working order, but I am glad to see confirmation that the car continues to be in good shape.

Yes, these “red flags” could be bogus, but they can also serve a useful purpose if they are valid. Taking these inspection reports to a trusted indy mechanic is a good idea. If the indy guy is honest, he will tell you if the “red flags” are bogus, or exaggerated, or valid. And, his repair costs will undoubtedly be less expensive than what the dealer would charge for those repairs.

The “front control arm bushings are pushed out, $1100” is very suspect to me. I have never seen control arm bushings that are not the captive type, so they cannot “push out”. They do bulge a bit, but that is normal. In a few years, they will be telling you that they are “cracked”, again, this is normal and only affects the part that has bulged, the rest of the bushing is good.

Now if Chrysler designed a control arm bushing that was not held captive, then that would be a major safety problem. Chrysler should be forced to recall any and all vehicles with a design like this and redesign and repair them or give a 100% refund to anyone with one of these vehicles. That would really put them out of business.

The CV boots could be valid. Your vehicle is about the right age for them to fail. If you have gone through a complete oil change cycle with torn boots, you should be hearing a clicking sound every time you take a corner. By now it should be getting very loud. $503 sounds about right for a reboot, but for about the same money, an independent mechanic can install brand new aftermarket axles. EMPI makes very good replacement axles for about $100 ea.

You can get remans for a little less, but I have never had very good luck with them. The new aftermarket ones are only a few bucks more and are well worth it.

Nothing is free. Lifetime free oil changes are offered to keep you going back in so they can keep finding some way to clean your wallet out.

Find a reputable independently owned and operated shop and begin going there for your oil changes. Tell them what the dealer said and have them check to see if the problems are real.

Get a second opinion. Which CV boots did they flag? There can be 4: 1 each at the engine side of the drive shafts and 1 each at the wheels. They should have identified the location(s).

I agree that oil changes are never free. With so much of their profit from parts and service, any reason, even even a free oil change makes a good return if they get one extra service out of you every year or two. I agree that you should take their assessment somewhere else. But, everyone is after your money so always ask them to show you problem when possible. My dealer service department rep. walks me into the bay and we examine car and talk to mechanic when ever I ask on issues they find. I never agree with the price, but we should at least have a chance to asses their findings.

I would not automatically write this off as the dealer gouging someone. There appears to be a number of control arm bushing problems caused by the inner sleeve separating from the rubber with the problem being much worse in areas with heavy concentrations of road salt.
The mileage is low but the vehicles is also 7 years old and rust can do a number on things like this.

As to CV boots that should not be hard to spot either. If the boots are torn there should be some CV grease thrown out onto suspension parts, cross-members, etc.
If the boots are torn this can be caused by road debris, etc and if they’re split from dry rot that is generally caused by age, heat from the exhaust, etc. Again, at 7 years of age dry rot is a possibility.
Seven year old tires and belts dry rot; why not rubber CV boots.

Just like every debit/credit machine I’ve used so far… “Is the price OK”

Heck no! It’s not OK…Far too much for the measly amount of things I’m buying…

It may be CORRECT, but it’s NOT OK.


OK4450, I will not disagree with you on the control arm bushings, though I have never seen it or even heard of it before, but the OP asked if it was a safety issue. Unless Chrysler did something really stupid, it should not be a safety issue because the bushing should be held captive, its not going anywhere. All the pivoting should still be between the inner sleeve and the mounting bolt.

If the rubber did separate from either the inner or outer sleeve, the ride quality would certainly diminish.

I would look at it as being a safety issue because this can affect handling and chew up tires.

Something similar to this happened with a Mitsubishi my daughter owned a few years ago but in this case it was on the rear.
She stated the car had been handling funny at times and when I drove it the car did appear normal, at least until I would hit a small bump or pothole. At that point it felt like the rear end was trying to change lanes.

The inner sleeve had separated from the rubber bushing on both sides on the rear steering knuckles. (No idea why Mitsu calls them steering knuckles on the rear.)
They were dealer only items, high priced, special order only, and my assumption was that parts from the salvage yard would be in a similar or close to it condition, so this led to my machining some solid bushings out of aircraft aluminum and curing the problem permanently.

Her car also had to have 2 new rear tires as both rears were scrubbed down to nothing on the inner edges.
Those are the reasons why I would consider this a safety factor.

I still think it’s prudent to get a second opiinion from a reputable independent shop. If the writeups are legit, they’ll be easy to verify. Frankly, I get queasy whenever any tells me they’ve found something rather than shows me. Torn boots and squashed out bushings are easy to show me. Even if the tear is in the inner convolution, which is usually the first place that tears. Siomply open the fold and point the worklight at it.

And I still believe the free oil changes are come-ons.

OK4450, I am not familiar with the setup you describe on her Mitsubishi, neither of the Mitsubushi’s I owned had an independent rear suspension, but mine were 79 and 90 models.

Chewed up tires would be a safety issue in my book, but I’m still not buying it in the OP’s case. I do like like mountainbike’s answer though, get a second set of eyes on it.