A happy ending for my control arm/bushings problem!! I finally got a second opinion from an honest mechanic (one user-recommended on Car Talk website). He inspected and drove my 97 Camry and found NOTHING WRONG! I could hardly believe my ears, but he put the car up and showed me everything. (The diagram & explanations you bloggers supplied helped a lot because I knew better what I was looking at.)
He demonstrated that the control arm is tight as can be; the bushings show some cracking but nothing deep; no play in the front wheels. He was too nice to say the other outfit was scamming me big time – they wanted nearly $1K for the job – but now I’m wondering how many other good parts I’ve replaced at Duxler over the years.
He also examined the rear swaying. Rear struts are original and show some rust, but no need to replace immediately. Take another look with next oil change.
Thank you to all who offered advice. In one way I’m sorry my cynicism was warranted, but thrilled to find a trustworthy mechanic, who didn’t even charge for the thorough inspection, though I offered to pay him for his time. Whoopee!