Is there any recourse?

Well, it finnally happened to me. I just spent over $700 this past week on my 1999 Toyota Rav4. I’ve been hearing/feeling a knocking sound coming from the front, seems like the front right. So into the shop it went, and here’s the story:

I’ll make it short, but add details if needed

So first I bring it in, I say there is a knocking sound coming from the front. They say it is the rear suspension. I ask, could that make a noise / sensation that seems like it is coming from the front? They say it’s defiantly the rear suspension. I say ok


Go back, I say, it was not from the rear, it is most defiantly a knocking sound/sensation coming from the front, seems like the front right. They say it is the hub bearing. I say it’s not making a constant whining noise, a symptom of a hub bearing. They say it is a hub bearing, and if I don’t fix it the wheel will come flying off in a matter of weeks. I say ok.


I also really doubt that there was anything so wrong with the hub bearing that my wheel was actually going to come flying off in a matter of weeks. I don’t even know if you could diagnose such a thing without getting to the hub bearing, which I’ve been told is a lot of work. But the only problem I’ve had with the car is this sound/sensation. But if you tell me I’m going to die in a car accident within a week, I’m going to assume that you’re right.

Sigh, so first time this has happened to me. Any advice?

Find a new shop. Make an appointment. Drive in and ask: Could please check my front end for any worn parts, including the wheel bearings? If you find something, I would like you to show me the problem you have found…

Don’t drop your car off, wait for it. An inspection like this will take less than 1/2 hour. This is NOT rocket science…If your wheels are getting ready to fly off, there WILL BE noticeable play in the bearing, the wheel will be loose on it’s spindle… Also, a reputable repair shop should be willing to guarantee that their work will cure the problem. You don’t have to pay for amateur guesswork…

Caddyman has summed it up very well.
Don’t continue to deal with the original shop, as their diagnoses are suspect and you have clearly lost faith in them.

However, as to why your car is being “defiant”, I have no clue.
Inanimate objects don’t normally have this ability.
I definitely know that none of my cars has ever had the ability to be defiant!


Thanks Caddyman, I do know that the shop is ASE certified, I don’t know if they guarantee their work to cure the problem, but they do try very hard to be the most reputable shop in town. Certainly not a scary place to drop off your car. So I’m surprised.

If the shop is professional enough, should I push for some sort of satisfaction? Two repairs over 1 week, over $700 spent, problem not fixed. I ask this because, yeah, I’m low on the funds and this $700 was about all I had for a while.

VDCdrive - well, you’re the first person to make me laugh about this whole ordeal today.

We really need some clarification here!
Based on the original post, I assumed that no repairs had actually been done.
The way that your post was written made it sound like they gave you two different diagnoses, and you said NO to both of them.

You never told us exactly what parts were replaced, although I now infer that the wheel bearing was replaced on the right front. What repairs were done to the rear suspension?

If you paid these guys $700, got two different repairs for the same complaint, and the problem is still there, then I would suggest that you take it back to them and ask them to actually correct the problem which you paid them to fix.

ASE certification is a good thing, but in the long run it might only mean the ability to pass a multiple-choice test. The difference between passing that test and actually being a good diagnostician can be significant.

Ah, sorry about that. So to clarify:

edit Sorry for the very long post, I really appreciate everyone reading.

1st visit: I brought the car in because of a knocking sound and sensation coming from under the front of the car, seems like front right. The diagnosis I received was that it was the rear suspension. As I said, it seemed strange to me, and I asked if that could cause a sound to appear to come from the front of the car. I never noticed a problem with the back of the car, let alone any rear suspension. But they assured me it was the rear suspension. I didn’t know any better, assumed perhaps it was causing some sort of knocking that was traveling up the floor board to where my feet are, and that’s why it felt like it was coming from the front to me.

So they replaced the rear suspension.

I get the car back, give it a drive, and the knocking is still there.

So I return with the car (the day in between I put new tires on the car too. That didn’t make any change to the knocking sound, and I didn’t expect it to, just getting ready for winter. But it plays a part in the story in a moment)

I return and say that the knocking is still there, and I am positive now that it is coming from the front of the car, like I said before. I ask them to drive it up the road about 1/2 a mile. I know that the sound will present itself if they drive up there as it is part of my daily commute and the sound always happens there. I also ask them to drive it as much as they can to be sure they are hearing the sound. I ask this because of the entire rear suspension event on my prior visit.

The diagnosis I get at the end of the day, it is my hub bearing. One thing I have a concern about is that they say that they couldn’t hear the noise before because the old tires made so much road noise that it covered the sound up. I know, positively, that this is not the case. Old tires or new tires, the sound is so loud, and the sensation you feel is so strong, that it cannot be missed. I was assuming that this was his way of covering his butt over the mis-diagnosis of rear suspension. Now I’m wondering if they ever took the car for a drive, or have ever been working on what I am talking about. But I assure you, it is unmistakable. Drive the car for 5 minutes, and you will hear & feel it.

I’ve been told that a hub bearing would present itself with a constant grinding or whirring noise. I mention to them that it’s just a knocking sound, and that these typical noises are not happening. They assure me that it is the hub bearing, and that if I don’t fix it right now, in a matter of days the wheel could come flying off. I personally don’t know if you can make such a definite diagnosis of a hub bearing without taking the wheel off and getting to it to inspect it. Which they had not yet done. I don’t know how they came to this definitive diagnosis. But with the assurance that this is the problem, and the warning of eminent failure, I say go ahead.

So they replace the hub bearing. When my wife goes to pick up the keys they say it is definitely fixed, and I will be happy.

It is not. I am not :frowning:

Thank you all again.

This is a typical misunderstanding caused by a third party (who is also the first party) relating what a second party said. I see nothing postive happening unless the shop wishes to post what is going on, in their own words.

“So they replaced the rear suspension.”

They replaced the springs, the shocks/struts, the suspension arms, a couple of links, and the anti-sway bar? In that case, you got a real bargain, even if it did not solve the problem.

While I think it is more likely that just the rear shocks/struts were replaced, I would like you to look at the repair invoice so that we know exactly what was done. I can guarantee you that they did not replace the rear suspension plus a wheel bearing for ~$700.

Yes, it was just the rear shocks. Sorry, I am very car illiterate, don’t know the lingo very well. Yes, just the shocks. That one was $350 and the hub bearing was another $350.

It sounds like one misdiagnosis after another. Having been in a similar situation, where two shops misdiagnosed a problem, I sat down and wrote them letters. I explained, in a calm and respectful tone, that they misdiagnosed my problem. I told them unless I received a full refund, I would be (a) telling everyone I know about it, including the online community, and (b) sending letters to the local newspaper and television news affiliates. Within a matter of weeks, I received two refund checks in the mail.

My situation was a little different from yours. I paid for diagnoses, but didn’t let them do the work, so all they owed me was diagnostic fees. In your case, they would lose out on the cost of parts if they give you a full refund, so be prepared to compromise on a partial refund to help minimize their losses. After all, the parts they replaced were probably good parts, but they were aged parts that were replaced with new parts, and that is worth something to you.

I doubt very much I could get the shop to join the conversation. But I wish I could.

Today’s conversation was basically that the car is old and is making a lot of noises.

I don’t get that either. Yes, the car is old (1999) and sure it has it’s squeeks and whatnot. But this is a monster of a noise, not subtle at all, not hidden in a sea of other equally noticeable noises.

And while the car is old, that also means that if you look anywhere on the car you will find something that needs to be replaced. Which is what I feel like is happening, only that what is being repaired/replaced, while I’m sure is beneficial to the long run of the car, is not fixing the immediate obvious biggie problem that makes me afraid to drive the car for fear of further damage…to the car and myself.

So I’m leaving it in the driveway tomorrow. Saturday I’m going to head on over, go for a ride with them, and then have a conversation. I’m just no good at advocating for myself, and feel like I’m about to be bulldozed. I would love a happy ending where we both are satisfied, and we could continue our relationship we’ve had as mechanic/customer for the past 5 years. This is the first time I’ve taken in this car and needed some serious help. Prior to this it’s always been oil changes, inspections, heating coil, tire repairs, stuff like that, mostly for the wife’s Subaru.

During the test drive, your only comments should be “Hear that?” and “Hear that? Same noise” when the noise manifests itself. Then let the mechanic or service advisor discuss the noise and issue. If it is as obvious you believe, they should be able to at least acknowledge the noise’s existence.

If they can’t isolate it, time to get a second opinion. Once the issue is resolved, then you may need to write a letter noting any misdiagnosis and what you need economically to resolve the issue, keeping in mind what Whitey has stated.

Thank you again everyone. It really helps to have some insight as to what to expect when I head back this Saturday for round 3. I’m going to try the level headed approach. I don’t like to be, or to receive, the crazy angry customer approach. That and I’m not really capable of it. Squeaky wheel blah blah blah, I prefer the let’s just look at this logically. I hope they can appreciate and reciprocate.

If a shops diagnosis doesn’t sound right to you, don’t let them fix it, go someplace else for a second opinion. And don’t tell them right away what the first shop diagnosed.

You didn’t say if the knocking noise was affected by steering, but I’m going to suggest that you ask your (new, I hope) mechanic to check your CV joint in the right front.

CV joint (=constant velocity) enables you to drive a front wheel drive car while steering it at the same time. They tend to wear out. Hint: before you take it in this time look under the car where the half shaft on the right side is to see if the CV “boot” is torn. If it is my money is on the CV joint as a torn boot will allow lubricant to escape and bad things to enter.

It would seem that you have cause for distrusting that shop. At this point I would be looking for another shop if it were me. It would be of some help if you listed the parts, their cost and the labor to install them that totaled $700. It’s hard to believe that 2 shocks(struts) plus labor was $350.

Just some advice for the next time you have a situatiion similar to this. After the shop has told you what they think is wrong, tell them to go ahead and take th job apart, but don’t do anything else until they show you the parts to be replaced and explain what is the problem with the parts. You would be suprised at how having to actually show the customer the bad parts when the job is opened up creates a careful diagnostic effort. (don’t just ask to see the old parts after the job is done,a shop can either find a old part elsewhere or make a perfectly good part bad, a 10lb sledgehammer is a good start with this ploy).

So I went in yesterday to spend all the time needed to get this fixed. I was able to go for a ride with the mechanic. Once we drove past the lights near the shop (a lot of lights, some train track intersections, lotsa stop and go) and got to an area where you can really start to drive, thunk thunk. He was surprised to hear it, and admitted that he never drove the car far enough (as I had asked them to) to hear it.

Back at the shop, the culprit was a loose hanger for the exhaust up near the engine. They fixed it, didn’t charge ( I think I would have been a bit mad if they had.)

So what I learned:

  1. Never drop off a car and assume the mechanic will find the noise you are talking about, even when it’s VERY loud and obvious. They just might not even drive the car.

  2. When I think that the mechanic’s diagnosis is off (such as the 1st one of rear shocks) I need to be more emphatic with my opinion.

  3. Find another mechanic to at least get 2nd opinions for.

I didn’t make a stink after we found out what it was. I feel that I had some good but not necessary work done to the car, and I spent money I don’t have. But in the long run life of the car, it is beneficial to me.

Thank you all for your input. I felt a little more assure of myself heading into the shop yesterday. An expensive but good lesson I suppose.

Based on the cost, the symptoms, the age of the car, and your descriptions, it’s highly possible that your struts are worn out, they’ve replaced the rear ones, and the front ones are also knocking.

Struts are the modern version of shocks, and the Rav4 uses them. Unfortunately, because the entire shock and spring assembly needs to be removed, the spring removed from the assembly and reassembled onto the new shock assembly (called the strut assemmbly), and the whole assemblage reinstalled on the vehicle…and often requires realignment…it’s far more involved and expensive than replacing shocks.

And struts wear out, 11 years being a common age for them to do so. And when the do, they often knock going over bumps. The knocking can come from the shock portion of the assembly or from its rubber mounts or isolators.

It’ll also often manifest itself as choppy tire wear.

You seem to have lost faith in this shop, so you may want to go elsewhere, but I think a lot of the problem is misunderstanding.

By the way, I too need struts, rear ones. My rear end’s knocking and I’m developing choppy wear, the sure signs. I’m planning to replace mine in January. I may just go ahead and do all four, because once the rear ones go the front ones may not be far behind. I have 148,000 miles on my Scion, still on my original struts.