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Did the Dealership Damage My Car?

My wife hit a curb several months ago, damaging the front passenger tire on a one-a-half year old car. It was replaced the same day by an auto shop (not my dealership). Two months later, going into the dealership for a regular oil change and tire rotation, I was told the car was out of alignment and the two front tires had bad thread issues and would need to be replaced. In addition, the CV boot axle would need to be replaced, but would be covered by warranty, but it wasn’t in stock. I signed off on the alignment and tire replacement work and waited there. Several hours later, I was told that while they were driving the car to test their alignment fixes, the guy driving the car hit the curb and damaged the same tire (weird, I know). So they said they’d replace the tire again and re-check the alignment. When I went to pay, they told me that the alignment numbers weren’t right, and that when I come back to get the boot axle replaced, they’d check again. Driving home and ever since, there’s a loud hump sound and feeling every time I brake (lasts half a second). I returned this past Saturday. Not sure if they re-tested the alignment, but I was told they couldn’t replace the boot axle because the lower control arm and ball joint were damaged and would need to be replaced. Well over $1000 (don’t have the total price yet). Plus, they talked about suspension issues. They also mentioned that the front passenger wheel was further to the back of the car, so there was definitely an alignment issue. None of this was brought up until after their driver had hit the curb and damaged the front passenger tire, and the braking issue definitely wasn’t there until after that point. My question is this: How does one know if these new symptoms/costs were a result of their driver hitting the curb? Should they be responsible for these repairs? They have the original alignment report, but I was told this morning that the second alignment report (after their driver hit the curb) didn’t print that day because they were getting the software changed or some such thing. They want me to come in tomorrow morning to put the car up and get another alignment readout. They say if the numbers are the same as what their initial readout was, then all the damage must be from my wife hitting the curb. But I’m thinking – the numbers have to be at least somewhat different now that their guy hit the curb? Thoughts? Oh, and thank you very much for reading!

Something stinks if I understand this correctly.

I signed off on the alignment and tire replacement work and waited there. Several hours later, I was told that while they were driving the car to test their alignment fixes, the guy driving the car hit the curb and damaged the same tire (weird, I know). So they said they’d replace the tire again and re-check the alignment.

By the time they took it off the rack, they had made any adjustments necessary and knew if it was OK or not by the numbers. I find it hard to believe that the lower control arm and ball joint could be bad and get it to pass an alignment well enough to take it off the rack and go for a test drive. Especially since now they claim - “the front passenger wheel was further to the back of the car, so there was definitely an alignment issue.”

The difficulty in getting a print out that day sounds a little too close to the “dog ate my homework” kind of excuse to me.

Agreed. They damaged your car.

They told you what was wrong with it. Then they drove it around, admitted they crashed it, and then suddenly all sorts of new damage is discovered. Doesn’t take a rocket surgeon, as our former president said, to figure this out. . .

There’s about a 99%+ chance the suspension and CV shaft was damaged due to the original curb strike. This is quite common and is something this auto shop you took it to originally should have taken into consideration and advised you of.
If they did not then they are uninformed or lax in their duty.

As to the CV shaft and warranty any damage due to a curb strike (or collision, road debris, etc.) is not a warrantable issue. The only issue here would be if the existing damage was made worse by the second curb strike.
If anything, this should have been an insurance company issue from the get-go.

Questions. When the dealer originally informed you of the tire wear/alignment issue did you inform them that your wife had curbed the car and of the other shop being involved in this?
You have this other shop inspect and replace the tire/wheel/whatever so why do you go to the dealer for the oil change?
Any symptoms at all during this 2 month interval between the curb strike and the oil change? (pulling, wandering, etc.)

(And for what it’s worth, it sounds like this car took a very solid whack. An inspection of the subframe and strut towers might be a good idea.)

Why did you tell them your wife hit a curb? Nothing like confusing the issue of them wrecking a tire and giving them an out for the damage. They should fix whatever damage there is unless they can demonstrate that it was prior damage, but good luck at this point.

Thanks for your reply (and to everyone else for their replies). To answer your questions:

  1. Yes, I informed the dealer that my wife has hit the curb, and that the other shop had replaced the tire.

  2. The only reason I went to the non-dealer shop (which is a big name shop) to have the car looked at and the new tire put on is that it’s much closer to me than the dealer and I wanted the car looked at quickly. Also, it was a weekend, and the dealer closed early before I could get out there. Otherwise, I’ve been going to this same dealer for regular and unexpected maintenance for the past ten years. I’ve trusted them, at least to this point, and maybe I should still trust them, but something doesn’t sit right with the whole way this thing has unfolded.

  3. There weren’t any symptoms whatsoever in the two month interval between the first curb strike and the oil change. I hadn’t a clue it was out of alignment. Took me by surprise. Since the oil change and second curb strike, there has been that weird sound underneath when I brake like something is brushing up against something else and causing a noticeable thump as it rubs past it, but that’s just what it sounds like. No idea what it is (but I’m going in to the dealer tomorrow morning to find that out too). Since it only showed up after they hit the curb, the cause and effect seems a bit easier to pin down here.

Should they have noticed that the lower control arm and ball joint were damaged at the same time they noticed that the CV boot was damaged? Why did I hear about this only after they hit the curb?

Also, do you take the car down off the rack to test the alignment out on a drive if you think everything is still out of whack and there are broken parts?

Finally, when they put the car up on the rack tomorrow morning and test the alignment, should I be suspicious if the report’s numbers are identical to those from the very first report? I would imagine that the second curb strike had to have messed with the various angles. I’m still super dubious about the post curb-strike report not being available because it didn’t print because they were “in the middle of a software upgrade” just then.

Thanks to you and the others for your input! I’ll check this forum later tonight and tomorrow morning to see if there’s any other thoughts/advice before I head into the shop early tomorrow.

I told them that my wife hit the curb before the dealer hit the curb.

So far, on the phone, nobody at the dealer seems to want to even come close to admitting that it was even possible that when they hit the curb it might have caused new damage and/or made the existing damage worse.

One more note: I agree that the first auto shop should have done much better. I told them my wife hit a curb and asked them to check the car out to make sure nothing was damaged, in addition to replacing the tire. They said I was good to go with the new tire. I don’t know if I’ll have any luck, but I’d also like to go after them for the new tires I had to buy as a result of them not diagnosing the car as being out of alignment. The tire I bought from them lasted all of two months due to their negligence. I’ve no problem sucking it up and paying for damage that I (or my wife) caused. But here I am paying for things that resulted from the first shop’s negligence, and potentially from the dealer striking the curb themselves.

A 10 MPH impact can cause some serious damage even though speed that low may seem pretty benign. Many times the damage is not visible to the naked and/or untrained eye.

I’ve been involved in the repair of quite a few curb strikes and my non-scientific estimate of the number of vehicles that had suspension damage after a curb strike would place the percentage at about 90%.
The lower control arm is the component most likely to become damaged although it can get much more serious than that; especially at speeds around 20-30 MPH.

It’s also possible, and quite likely, that a car can drive just fine in this condition. A preliminary check with a tape measure from some common datum points can reveal a problem. In less obvious ones it may require putting it on the alignment rack.

My feeling is that your car was seriously damaged goods from the wife’s curb strike and this is what led to the rapid tire wear problem over the next 2 months. The dealer states they hit a curb too but the most that would happen would be that they may have exacerbated any pre-existing damage.

As to test driving the car (off the rack) with known suspension flaws this may have been done to see if anything they did made any improvement. To me it’s actually pointless but I would probably have taken it out on a short hop just to see what it was like.

This is a pretty convoluted issue and I don’t have a definitive answer for you at this point. You might keep us informed and post any alignment specs back here for discussion.
(I had also referenced the strut towers in the event this was a pretty hard whack. They should be carefully examined for any small signs of cracked paint or undercoating. This often denotes a very serious problem that may require a body shop to repair.)