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Clunking noise on 2007 Honda Fit; dealer says struts are "locked"

This January I had new front brake pads and rotors installed as well as an oil change and new battery for my 2007 Honda Fit Sport. Sometime after that I noticed clunking in the front end; particularly on the driver’s side and mostly when taking a turn or travelling at fairly low (below 30) speeds. I thought it might be a swaybar problem since that is an issue I had with my old Honda Civic.

I brought it back to the dealership to be looked at and per the tech the clunking is due to the struts being “locked.” The actual wording on my work order is “both front struts are binding.” Apparently in this model; the struts/swaybar/bushings some as a full assembly; so to repair the struts would run around $1,000 (more than I want to spend on a 10 year old car after putting almost $700 into it only a few months ago). They said that replacing it will not really affect its ability to pass inspection unless there is a leak, which there was not currently. So I have not done anything for the moment, though the clunking is really getting annoying.

I basically know nothing about cars so I am looking for any information or advice about this problem. The car has over 120k miles and I live in New England which really beats cars up (yay, salt brine). As far as I know, most components are original (I bought the car in 2010 with 45k miles).

Is anyone familiar with this issue? Does this seem reasonable for a car of this age?
If I don’t get the struts replaced will this damage my car or affect drivability?
What issues could this potentially cause?
Is there a way to get the struts unstuck?
Can I get out of this without spending $1,000 :-/?
Is this something they should have noticed back in January?

why are you taking your 10 year old car that you don’t want to spend money on to the dealership? Find a reputable, local, independent mechanic and get a second opinion.

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Assuming the struts are original, they’re ten years old. It isn’t unheard of that when a vehicle is lifted off the ground, like yours was when the brakes were done, and the vehicle has some wear on it, the weight of the wheels and suspension will extend the dampers beyond where they normally go and the dampers will bind. Once that happens, the only solution is new struts.

Never hesitate to get a second opinion from an independently owned and operated shop with a good reputation, but I think the dealership is being honest with you.

I’ve been pretty happy with their service center (thus far) in terms of being reasonably priced and not pushing unnecessary repairs. I’ve been burned by a few local garages in the past and have been hesitant try someone unknown. Any suggestions to find a good one?

Sounds like you already have. An honest dealership deserves your patronage just as much as an honest independent would. They may be a bit more costly at times, but it’s well worth the premium.

Check the Mechanics Files here at this website. Check Yelp. Ask Friends. I’m nowhere near NH, so I have no idea.

Dealerships have more overhead, and fancy coffee and drinks that they have to make up the money for. Part of this is made up in hourly labor rates, which will be higher than a local, independent shop. Parts will also cost more, because the box says “Honda” instead of “Monroe.”

I had a 2007 Fit Sport with a very similar problem. After several trips back and forth to the dealer… it turned out one of the front struts just needed to be replaced. It was done under warranty, so I’m not sure of the cost.

For what it’s worth… those Honda Fits are great little cars. If I still had mine, I’d have put $1000 into it.

Good luck.

Struts for this car are $85 each at Rockauto for KYB’s. A strut kit with everything except the springs from Monroe is $245 for the entire front end of the car. that’s 2 struts, mount assemblies, jounce bumpers and dust boots.

This doesn’t have to be a $1000 install unless the car is in very good condition. I.e. no rust, good interior ect. The Honda engine should go well beyond 200,000 miles

Yep, agree with Mustangman. Just looked at Rockauto and the struts are the same as any other car.
I think you need to go somewhere else. It sounds like they wanted to overhaul the whole front end. OK if it needs it but second opinion time.

A lot of work is involved in changing struts, and we all know that the vehicle needs to be aligned after. And then there’s the incidentals, the rubbery bits, like mounts and dust boots.

I would argue that it’s unrealistic to compare the prices of the struts from an online source with installed struts. It can be very misleading. I think it’s unrealistic for the OP to go price shopping if he has a shop that he trusts that’s been good to him, even if it’s a dealership and a premium is paid for the confidence and honesty.

Except he was told that the struts, sway bar, and bushings come as a complete set and that’s why the price is so high. This appears to be pure hooey.

I missed that “sway bar” detail.
I agree, this sounds like “hooey”, but only because of the sway bar. It would not surprise me to find out that a 10 year old vehicle needs strut bushings and links in addition to struts, and for that work $1,000 would not be that unrealistic. I don’t know about the Honda Fit, but in my car the front strut mount bushings are terrible to replace. They’re on top of the transverse engine/tranny support frame. Can’t remember Toyota’s nomenclature for it, but that’s sort of academic. The engine needs to be supported and the frame dropped to access the strut bushings.

Honestly, just front strut replacements in my area go upwards of $700 installed. I still think the OP would not be unwise to use the shop he trusts that’s been good to him.

OEM struts and strut mounts can cost much more than aftermarket parts, the dealer is not to blame for this. The manufacture sets the retail prices for the parts and there are more parts to warehouse. The OEM replacement struts have different part numbers for manual and automatic transmissions, aftermarket strut fit more applications.

Shop around, you might be able to save $200.

I had found some discussion of this happening due to being on a lift. Was this something they screwed up or was it inevitably going to happen when it was lifted to do the brake work? My old 2000 Civic had similar brake work around the same mileage but never had this issue, though it did need swaybar links/bushings sometime after.

So it’s sounding like I am going to have to get the struts replaced regardless. Would it cause further damage to my car to just drive on it as is until they need to be replaced to pass inspection? The mechanic thought the main issue would be a clunkier ride, but honestly this car was never exactly a smooth ride anyway. I was hoping to keep this thing going for another 50-75k miles (at least) but I am starting to deal with the wrath of 10 New England winters (there is some body rust I need to take care of now as well).

The lift had nothing to do with your strut problem, they are just failing due to time and miles. If you put off replacement you run the risk of one breaking at a very bad time ( in heavy traffic-crossing a railroad track-on a high speed curve-at night in a really bad neighborhood ).

No to the first half of the sentence and yes to the second half.
It’s part of life. Stuff happens.
Having the car up on the lift could have extended the struts beyond their wear patterns and have brought the wear to light as stuck dampers, but that is not the shop’s fault. It’s simply a result of normal wear & tear.

I’ll disagree that using a lift can cause problems with worn struts. I had work done on my Riviera and it was on the lift and afterward the rear shocks became stiff and required replacing. Whether they were over-extended I don’t know but they wouldn’t hardly move at all and the guys at the shop never did anything wrong. Problem was they were air shocks with an inoperative compressor but that’s another story. The perils of driving an old car. Yeah, you’ll need to replace the struts and its no ones fault.

“Locked struts”?..well, if you push down on a corner of the car, does it move? I had a rear locked strut once and it almost made the car undriveable.

You cannot do brakes on a car without lifting the wheels off the ground. If your struts overextended and “locked” when the car was lifted it is because they were worn out.

Should they have caught it when they did the brakes? What difference does it make, the price would have been the same.