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Broken Struts on a '99 Integra: can I trust my mechanic?

Hi all! So, I’m new around here, but I’d love any opinions on a little problem I’ve been having with my local Acura dealership.

I’ve got a '99 Integra, and I’m concerned that my dealership may have actually damaged the vehicle during a routine check, and are now asking me to foot the bill.

So here’s the whole story: I brought the vehicle in the other day for routine maintenance, including their standard “27-point check.” In the course of that maintenance, they did the following: battery replacement, oil change, power steering fluid flush, and brake fluid flush. They also managed to miss the fact that one of the rear reverse lights is out, which seemed like a relatively minor mistake. I didn’t much mind that. The real problem came when I was driving the vehicle home. At first it just seemed as thought the suspension was suddenly very, very spongy, and I wondered if they had just adjusted it for some reason. Then I discovered a nasty surprise: whenever I went over 35mph, any major bump in the road would cause the front end of my car to buck up and down VERY wildly, to the point that the front would scrape the road at the bottom of every oscillation (SCRAPE-scrape-scrape-scrape-scrape scraaape). I would have to slow WAY down to get this bucking to stop, as it seemed to actually get worse and worse after I hit a bump, rather than diminishing. Something was clearly VERY, VERY wrong, and I could barely drive the vehicle. I called The dealership but was only able to leave a message for the guy responsible for my vehicle, and never received any call back. I called again the next day and agreed to bring it in; the car seemed even worse on the way back to the dealership.

I brought the car in for the second time early on a Saturday, and was told I would get a call back when they pinpointed the problem, but heard nothing back at any point. I finally called back this morning (Tuesday) to see what was going on, and while I still couldn’t reach the mechanic, I finally reached someone in the office. I was told that they had called and left a voicemail for me (which boggled me, because I have received no voicemails, missed no calls from them, etc.) detailing the situation. They told me that the driver’s-side-front struts are unresponsive and need to be replaced, citing a ~$1k parts bill. They also finally caught that the reverse light, and when I pointed out that they missed it the first time around they said that they would take care of THIS part of the bill. But that’s hardly a comfort…

So now I’m wondering: why did this problem with the car develop only the moment I drove it off the lot following maintenance? There is no way I could have missed it being there before, as I drove 60+mph on the highway to the dealership, which would have been literally impossible had the car been bucking as it did once I left the dealer and drove home. Could they have caused this damage in their work on the car? I’m definitely suspicious, and I really, really don’t need another thousand dollar bill on my hands, especially after the bill they just handed me for flushing the fluids. They’ve asked me to call back and confirm that they should go ahead with replacing the struts, so that they can “get the parts here by tomorrow,” but I don’t feel right about this at all. I’ve been with this dealership for six years as a very loyal customer, and they’ve been pretty good, but they’re behaving very strangely about this whole case (mechanics unreachable, no calls back, claiming to have left a voicemail that I can’t find, etc. etc. etc.).

What do you all think? What should I do? What are the odds that they created the damage that they’re now asking me to pay to fix? Is there anything else I can do about this?

Thanks so much!

B.W. from NC

If the struts on this 11 year old car are the originals, they were already overdue for replacement, and–at best–were living on borrowed time.

What probably happened was that when the car was put on a chassis lift for servicing, the struts “overextended”, which can definitely happen on old struts. When they overextend, they usually do not recover, and the car will ride like a truck afterward.

Technically, the proximate cause of the strut failure was being put on a chassis lift, but since that was likely unavoidable for the service procedures that were being done, the problem was really unavoidable. While you don’t need to take the car to the dealership for strut replacement, you do need to get the struts replaced. Consider yourself lucky if the struts actually lasted for 11 years!

Thanks for the input!

That definitely makes sense. I’m not sure offhand whether or not the struts are originals, as the car was inherited; I’ll definitely try to find out.

The only thing I’d add to VDC’s comments is that you don’t need a dealer to fix this, see if there’s a good Honda/Acura shop in your area (use the mechanic finder under ‘Actual Car Info’). You could call them to get a price on replacing the 2 struts (4 may be needed).

VDCdriver is correct. Sometimes the act of raising an aged vehicle/strut off the ground can ruin a strut or shock.

Several years ago this happened with my old Lincoln Mark VIII. I had the car raised for an oil change, transmission fluid change, and various other ho-hum maintenance items and when driven after lowering it back down the car bounced like a ping-pong ball while going down the road.
Since the car had air ride this made the oil/transmission fluid change a somewhat pricy one. :frowning:

First thing you should do is tell them that their price is extreme, and unless they give you a better price, you are going to take the car someplace else to have them replaced.

I can guarantee that they will give you a better price.
More like $500.