Shocks or brakes?

My '98 toyota sienna has 133k miles and the original shocks. For about a year now whenever I apply the brakes and slow from about 20-30 mph to stopping I (and everyone else) hear a knocking/pounding noise that sounds like it’s coming from the rt rear and changes frequency with the speed of the van. I’ve had the dealer listen a few times and they tell me the only noise they hear is associated with the shocks - which seems odd to me, since it only happens when the brakes are applied and the sound seems to correlate with the revolutions of the tires. So, should I get a second opinion (hard to do due to lack of a second vehicle) or get new shocks for about $500 from the dealer?

I suggest you get another opinion. This time take it to a local independent shop, ideally a suspension/brake shop. Even if it turns out that new shocks are needed, you will likely find that they cost a lot less from the independent shop. Don’t go to a chain shop.

Dealers are no better and no worse than independents, they make mistakes or try to sell unneeded work just like independents, but the independents will almost always cost less, and lack the fancy coffee in the waiting area. Ask your friends for recommendations.

Are they saying that they know these cars have noisy raer shock mounts? I conclude that a wheels off brake inspection has been performed and the car passes.

First they told me they couldn’t hear the noise at all. The next time I brought it in (for scheduled maintenance) and mentioned that the noise was louder they said the only noise they heard was associated with the shocks. As they told me the % of break pads remaining front and back I’m assuming that they must’ve taken the wheels off?? I don’t know! I assumed it was the brakes and they keep telling me that the brakes are fine.

The noise you are describing sounds like it could be a combination of things. You could have a worn shock absorber bushing, or any other suspension bushing, in the rear that is making a rotational knocking sound, or it could be the brakes themselves. A knocking sound is very common with badly pitted rotors if you have rear disc brakes. If you have rear drums, warped drums can make noises like that due to the shifting of the hardware and shoes inside the drum. You need to find a good shop to inspect the van. See if they can schedule an appointment when you can wait for it. A comprehensive brake and suspension inspection should take less than an hour.

This is one of the problems with dealerships. The service advisor is the only person who deals with the customer or the technician, which results in a tremendous breakdown of communication. The service advisor doesn’t know what gets done, the customer doesn’t know what gets done, and the customer never speaks with the person who is supposed to be diagnosing and repairing the vehicle. If you go to an independent shop, you normally get to talk with a technician, which will make a world of difference in getting your car problems resolved. Sorry, that’s a different problem and it’s solution. The answer/suggestion you are really looking for is below.