Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Is this a repair shop honest mistake or did they just want my money?

I have a 2007 Acura TSX with 70,000 miles. When taking it in for a routine oil change, I was told that the front shock(s) were leaking. I was told this was a typical mileage to start having problems and that I could have the front shocks replaces for $450 or all four shocks replaced for $850.

As I have an extended warranty with Acura, I took it to my Acura dealer. They told me that there was some dirt and debris on the front shock and if someone was not familiar with the brand it could appear that it was leaking. The service writer said he did not think the other repairshop was trying to take advantage of me but they probably mistook the dirt and debris for leaking. He told me also that he had never had to replace a shock on a TSX. I do not know how long he has worked for Acura.

My question: Is it really likely the 1st shop could not tell the difference between dirt/debris and a leaking shock? I could see the Acura service writer saying this as they probably did not want to become involved in a dispute with the other repair shop. I have been taking my TSX in to the first shop for all non-warranty work - oil changes, snow tires, wheels W/ tirepressure sensers for the snowtires, etc and wonder if they see me as having deep pockets and easily willing to part with $850 for the shocks or if they could honestly have made a mistake.

Any thoughts on this? Thanks!

"Is it really likely the 1st shop could not tell the difference between dirt/debris and a leaking shock?"
Perhaps, but the “your shocks are leaking” scenario is a well-known scam used by some unscrupulous shops.

"I could see the Acura service writer saying this as they probably did not want to become involved in a dispute with the other repair shop."
Or–more likely–the Acura dealership doesn’t want to have to do this type of work via the extended warranty, with the low reimbursement that the manufacturer pays for warranty-related labor.

The bottom line is that, from afar, nobody can tell you what the situation really is.
If I were you, I would go to a third shop, and ask them for an opinion regarding the condition of your shocks. While 70k miles is early for this problem, it is not impossible.

Oil on a shock absorber or strut would suggest the device is leaking and should be replaced, however the vehicle manufactures in an effort to reduce warranty expense (and waste) have determined how much leakage is acceptable.

Below is a chart showing one manufactures criteria on shock replacement.

Are you sure the struts/shocks are covered by the extended warranty? That would be unusual, they’re more of a ‘wear item’.

But yeah, the ‘you’re leaking oil, gotta replace them’ is an old scam, pulled on my wife (before we met), soaked her for $$ on a 2-year-old car.

And some of the unscrupulous shops will even squirt a little oil around the struts/shocks.

75k miles is pretty low for the struts to need replacing. But a lot depends on the roads you drive on and how aggressive a driver you are.

The presence of dirt and debris stuck to the shock/strut assembly suggests that oil is leaking from the shock/strut. This is the only way dirt and debris can stick to it. I do like Nevada_545’s chart and would use that as a guide for when they are leaking sufficiently to require replacement. The other test is the rebound test, in which you get a corner of the car bouncing using your body weight, then step away and watch how many times the car rebounds before the motion is stopped by the shock/strut. If it keeps bouncing more than twice, they should be replaced. Other signs of shocks/struts needing replacement are a degrade in ride quality or uncontrollable cupping of the tires. I would speculate at this age and mileage, your struts are just fine, but I wouldn’t be too quick to label the shop as unscrupulous scumbags. They may simply be indoctrinated by Monroe dealers, who recommend replacing shocks at 25k miles and struts at 50k miles (Monroe is one of the largest makers of shocks and struts for the aftermarket). Even when I was in the repair business and stood to make good money by selling at these intervals, I thought it was overkill and didn’t do it.

Hard to say if 1st shop is dishonest, or just overzealous. Shocks and struts “leak” as a part of normal wear. A real leak will pump out fluid all over the shock (or strut) and without fluid the unit will no longer function. Therefore you need to perform the old fashioned “bounce” test to see if the shock/strut is working properly. If the wheel in question has little resistance, compared to other wheels, and keeps bouncing up and down when you release pressure then it is bad. They are best replaced in pairs on the same axle.

A dishonest shop will squirt oil on a shock and then claim it is bad. A strut can fail on a 70K mile car, but it is not common anymore. I’d look for a 3rd opinion in this case since the dealer could be trying to avoid the job too.

To answer your question, they are either after your money or not competent to work on your car. In either case, I suggest that you find another shop. But good for you for getting a second opinion, that’s just good business sense.