Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Reasonable pricing - Replace Struts, fix oil leak

I dropped my car off at the mechanic’s today to replace the struts and fix an oil leak on my 1998 Honda Civic. They just called back to say that it would be $900 to fix the leak because it was leaking in both the front and the back and they would have to remove the transmission. I have noticed the car leaking directly underneath the engine but not in the back of the car, unless they meant something else when they said the back. As for the struts, they want to charge $1000. Autozone charges $63 per front strut and $67 per back. For four struts, that would be $260. That would come out to about $740 in labor charges.

I’m hurting for cash right now so I was wondering what would happen if I put off changing the struts. The car is already making clunky noises over bumps. Also, can I get away with just topping off the oil in the car for a while? I paid less for the car than they’re trying to charge for the repairs so I’d rather just get rid of it than pay that. I need to make a trip soon that’ll be about 850 miles round trip, including up and down some hills. If my car can make it until then, I’d rather just wait.

I’m sure they meant the front and back of the engine. You have a rubber seal at each end of the crankshaft that keeps the oil from running out. At your car’s age they’ll often begin to leak. It’s normal wear.

The are some steps that you might take that might mitigate it. Check ir change the PCV valve, to reduce the likelihood that it is preventing pressure from being relieved. That would cause excess pressure to build in the crankcase and exascerbate the probllem by pushing oil past the seals.

Also, keep the oil level full.

That will leave the only real problem as being the damage that the oil might do to your timing belt. Having the front seal changed at your next timing belt changed would be prudent. You may also want to have your water pump changed then too.

At some point your engine will get to where it’ll have diffficulty maintaining oil pressure. We’ll deal with that when it happens.

Does the car bounce more than once if you hit a big bump? Do you have a heavy friend who can push each corner down (not at the same time of course) three times in rapid succession and then release? If it bounces up and down more than one time, that strut is bad. If not, you’re probably safe to run them quite a while longer. Rear struts usually last much longer than front ones, so I’d be surprised if all four have gone bad at one time.

As for the engine leaking “at both ends” , your Honda’s engine sits sideways in the engine compartment, between the wheels. It might be more correct to say it’s leaking on both sides, but that’s not how mechanics express it. If it is leaking at the “rear”, next to the transmission, then indeed the transmission must be pulled to fix it. HOW MUCH DOES IT LEAK? Are you talking about quarter sized spot on the concrete where you park it, or is it leaking a quart every day? You can buy a whole lot of oil for $900.

Check out the “Mechanic’s files” connected to this very website for a good shop near you. The link is at the top of this page as I type. Unless you are married to the guy who gave you those prices, you have every right and reason to seek another opinion.

Also, check this website for what struts should cost for your car in your area. $1000 is highway robbery.

PS…you can put off changing the struts, and the car will just keep clunking along. Honda’s original struts are pretty durable, so even if your car still has the original struts, it’s probably OK to keep driving on them for the time being.

Two hundred and fifty per strut, labor and all, does not sound out of line at all. The shop will mark the parts up some as they should and anyone who has actually changed a strut knows there can be an inherent amount of wrestling and/or danger involved in that process.

The thing to keep in mind about an oil leak is if by front they mean a crankshaft seal then this could point to a timing belt becoming oil saturated. This can cause belt failure even on a new belt.

What kind of transmission does it have?

I have out of warranty repairs done by independent mechanics that specialize in my make of car. Their overhead is less and this is reflected in their labor rates. I had my Mercedes in at the dealers for a problem with the instrumentation and they wanted to charge me $108 to pull the cluster which is a less than 5 minute procedure and they said they needed to do this to check the part number for my car to order the correct replacement cluster. Their “book” says to charge or X hours and then they add a minimum service charge and evidently this totaled $108.

An advantage to buying the struts yourself and having a local mechanic install them is that you can buy a higher quality shock that is going to last longer and or perform better than the OEM ones for no more money.

Get estimates for both jobs at other shops. As people you know for repair garage recommendations (good work and inexpensive). Eventually one or two will be mentioned a few times. Try those.

I would be stunned if an instrument cluster could be removed inside of 5 minutes.
What model of Benz is this?

There is not $740 in pure profit or labor with this strut job. The shop isn’t necessarily going to use the cheapest stuff Auto Zone has in stock for your car. They have to stand behind their work. Also, as ok4450 mentioned, replacing struts isn’t exactly a walk in the park or the safest repair job on a car. I have permanent damage in my left leg from getting hit by a coil spring that suddenly decided to leave the spring compressor while changing struts on a Volvo S60. That had me on the floor for a while, but I did finish the job that day since the customer was waiting for the car.

Hate to hear you have a permanent problem with your leg mark but I suppose it’s better than the alternative; a fatality.
I’ve never had a spring come loose on me (sweated a few though) but did see one come out of the compressor during a job a co-worker was doing. The spring went straight up, bounced off of a beam 20 something feet up, and then ricocheted across the shop where it hit a work bench on the other side.
Luckily, no one was hurt and no other cars were damaged.

Just a few months before I went to work at that dealer they actually had a fluke fatality occur there. Two young detail guys in the washroom were horsing around and sword fighting with long screwdrivers. The blade came out of the handle on one and struck one of the two in the head. He dropped to the floor and was dead before the EMTs got there.

@mark9207 I am just curious, were you using this type of spring comprerssor when you got hurt?? People have told me they are dangorus, and I have yet to use them. However I am going to need struts sooner then later and thought about doing the job myself… Your story has me thinking other wise.

I was told by some one that if I did use this type of compressor I should wrap a ratcheting tie down strap around the spring top to bottom, so if the compresser slipped I had a back up…

Just my 2 cents, but I own several compressors including one like shown in the picture. Yes, those things are a bit dangerous because what can happen is that one or the other may have a tendency to walk around the spiral of the spring; leaving both tools on one side and a bowed spring just waiting to pop loose.
This effect is worse on some springs than others.

The suggestion you were given about a backup on this type of compressor is a good one and should be followed.

In the incident I mentioned, the compressor in use on that one was a bench mounted, air operated scissors type and the spring came out anyway. The exact reason why was never determined but the guy who was doing this job was a good, careful mechanic and it’s hard to think of some way that this incident could have been his fault.

I just saw an “instructional” video of some guy compressing a suspension spring with a regular ratchet strap. I hope his health insurance is paid up.

Actually, the spring compressor I was using was exactly like this one, same brand and everything: I had to replace the coil springs in that Volvo as well, since one was broken, hence the strut/spring replacement. The new springs had a nice, glossy black paint job on them, which probably didn’t help any. The springs had to be compressed a seemingly ridiculous amount for installation, which had me sweating the whole time, until one spun out of the compressor, whacked me in the left inner thigh, then bounced across the shop. My inner thigh was black and blue for weeks, but had that spring hit a few inches higher I may not have a son today! Now, if I stand still for too long my left thigh starts to lose feeling and I get pins and needles in it, and my knee will randomly buckle for no apparent reason. I suspect nerve damage, but never did see a doctor about it or anything.

The price quoted seems about right for the amount of work involved. You are free to take the car to a couple different shops of course and price compare, but I doubt you’ll get a much better price than that. Discounts are possible to negotiate, but that is usually for returning customers who use the same shop year after year. I’m assuming you are a newbie at this shop, so that probably isn’t happening. It’s worth a try I guess.

You might be able to just ignore these problems for the time being. Putting in a higher weight of oil – but still within what is recommended by Honda – might help with the leaks. Keep the oil topped off each week in any event. And drive conservatively so you don’t stress the engine or the suspension. It’s not possible to tell via the internet discussion whether your suspension problem makes driving the car dangereous. What does you mechanic think about this? Ask him if it remains safely drivable in the current condition.