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Bad struts, bad dreams

I’m a 51 year old woman on my own for the first time in 25 years and driving a 2001 Toyota Corolla that my ex-husband recommended. A mechanic told me that it needed back and front struts replaced. The bill is supposed to come to $1600 bucks. I can’t swing it. Is it possible that is a high estimate? I can afford about $500. What do you think? Please help…

$500 will barely pay for the parts. But, before you do this, do this quick check to see how bad the struts are:

Press down as hard as you can on each corner of the car and let go quickly. The car should bounce up once, and settle back down to normal height. If you see a second bounce, the strut on that corner is totally shot and needs to be replaced. Look at the body of the strut where the strut shaft (shiny rod) extends out of the body. If you see evidence of an oil leak or seepage, the strut is going bad. If no 2nd bounce is detected, you can put this off, and save up for the repair. Also, you can replace struts in pairs and split the repair to fix the fronts or the rears at separate times. Do the worst end first. On these FWD cars, the fronts are more important to safety and ride comfort, and should be done first if both ends look about the same.

Also, shop around. See if you can find a less expensive shop to do the work. Don’t mention the first shop’s quote until they offer a price.

Make sure you get quality lifetime warranted struts. The warranty will help on the costs if you have to replace struts the second time around because the parts will be essentially free; you pay labor.

I would also recommend starting a mainenance fund so you can get repairs done in a timely fashion as the come up. No vehicle comes maintenance-cost free.

How many miles are on that car? Do you know what kind of roads it has seen over its lifetime?

You need a second opinion. “You need struts” is commonly heard both when people need struts and when shops need money.

I would also recommend starting a mainenance fund so you can get repairs done in a timely fashion as the come up. No vehicle comes maintenance-cost free.

A very good idea. Think of it as being your own insurance company. Put say half the amount you pay in fuel in every time you buy fuel. It will not seem so bad, but it will be there when you need it.

Do remember that the most expensive way of owning a car is to skip the recommended maintenance. The owner’s manual will list the proper maintenance schedule. I would add a transmission fluid change every 30 - 40,000 miles along with cleaning the filter, if you have an automatic transmission.

Those struts are 10 years old so it’s quite possible they’re in need of replacement. Failing struts are one of those things that can creep up on you due to your becoming acclimated to a softer ride as time goes on.

You might price this around for a better deal; unless you live in one those areas (west coast, northeast, etc.) where labor rates are generally higher. Something else to consider is whether the price of strut mounts are factored into this repair. These are often omitted but should be replaced at the same time as the struts. Murphy’s Law says if this is not done those mounts will fail 2 weeks after the strut replacement and the entire process will have to be repeated.

If you legitimately need struts front and rear then split them up and do the fronts first.