Whenever I’m driving on anything other than freshly paved road, the floorboards on the passenger side of my '99 9-3 SE sounds like they’re about to fall off/apart any second. I had it inspected and it appears I need new front struts. I have received differing estimates between $800 and $450, from an independent shop that specializes in Swedish cars to Sears Auto, respectively. Given the fairly wide price quote range, would I be remiss to go with the less expensive option? I assume the price difference is because of differing labor costs? Also, should I replace the back and front at the same time or just wait until they begin to become noisy?
You would be remiss, in this case, to go with the less expensive option because it’s Sears Auto, and you don’t want to let Sears Auto anywhere near your car.
If you have an independent shop specializing in Swedish cars in your area, and if they have a good reputation, I suggest you take your business to them and pay whatever they charge.
They will probably use better parts, and they probably won’t try to sell you hundreds of dollars worth of things you don’t need.
Struts and/or shocks should be replaced in pairs; front or rear.
If you need new front struts, replace them both.
If you don’t need rear shocks, don’t replace them.
When they need replacement, replace both of them, left and right.
mcparadise does not leave much to add. Follow his advice and you will not go wrong.
The price difference may be largely in the source of the parts. I would expect that the independent shop is using genuine Saab parts, which are likely to be very expensive. They need not be any better than other well-respected brands such as Monroe, which are less costly.
I do not know much about Saab cars nor anything about the Sears mechanics in your neighborhood center. Yet replacing struts is simple enough (I’ve done it myself on my own cars) that I cannot support the objection to using Sears for this work.
My own experiences with Sears have been sketchy, ranging from improperly done work (on my mom’s car) to them giving me the wrong parts…twice…they simply could not give me the right shocks…when doing my own work. I ended up at VIP to get my replacement shocks. And I know that Sears has had class-action suits against their automotive services division which they lost in past years.
I support everything McP said, including he advice to avoid sears.
You did not state the year or mileage but I would strongly recommend having the lower ball joints inspected also. High mileage combined with badly worn struts can literally beat the ball joints to death.
If and when a worn ball joint decides to break it will do it in a nano-second and can possibly lead to a crash.