Struts, bushings, this is all foreign to me

My 2016 Toyota Highlander (60,000 miles) started making creaking noises when I went over speed bumps. I took it to the the car shop next to my office and they said I needed new struts, but they couldn’t buy them. So I took it to the dealer and they also so I needed new struts. Got it back on Tuesday, new struts in place and it still makes the creaking sound.
My contact at the dealer is now saying the car has a defective bushing (or bushings??) and they’ve ordered that part and will replace next week.
My question for you people who know what all this means… Should I ask for a refund for the $1100 I already paid for the struts? He has said a couple times that the strut mounts were broken. But since that didn’t fix anything, I’m dubious. And this is not my comfort area so I really hate relying entirely on what one person is saying.

Thanks in advance, y’all, for sharing your wisdom and knowledge!

Well I think you got taken . Struts normally won’t wear out in 65000 miles unless Toyota has gone to installing garbage shocks and struts on their cars . Hopefully at least they actually did change them . They wont give you your money back if they actually did change them and they wont admit otherwise . Strut mounts were broken ? That sounds shakey also . Actually bushings sound like it could be more of a problem . Dont think I would go back to that dealer for anything else . The fact that they changed them and didnt even check to see if it fixed the problem and soaked you for $1100 which is ridiculous price wise too for struts and shocks . Ask around your office and see if they know of any good mechanics or garages . Anybody should be able to work on a Highlander specially suspension wise . Good luck and keep us informed, hate to see anyone get fleeced for that much .

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It sounds like the dealer had a boat payment to make.

You don’t start replacing parts unless you know what’s causing the creaking noise.

And now they want to replace even more parts without knowing what’s causing the noise?

Don’t go back there.

You need to find an honest independent shop.


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It is likely the struts were OK, unless you hit speed humps or potholes fast enough to damage the suspension. If you don’t notice the SUV pulling lelft or right, that may not be a problem, either. BTW, did you tell the dealer what the other shop said? Don’t do that. It gives them something to charge you for.

Creaking when the suspension is exercised does sound like bushings. Talk to everyone you know and ask for shop recommendations. Eventually, a few will be mentioned a lot, and you can pick one of those. Just describe the creaking noise and when it happens, then let them tell you what is wrong. Ask to see the bad bushings. A bushing I see a thick rubber gasket around suspension parts at joints.

Somewhere on this site they have listings of reputable dealers , take a look at that and see if you can find one . Look at the top of this page under mechanics files .

The real problem may very well have been sway bar bushings . . . which are usually not that expensive to replace

No idea why you’d be having this problem at only 60K miles, but what that stuff does is allow the wheel to move up and down when you go over a bump but still hold it aligned in the correct plane. A circle (the shape of the wheel) defines a mathematical plane, and that plane has to be properly aligned w/respect to the body of the vehicle, even as it goes over bumps. If you remember back in high school math, 3 points determines a plane. So there has to be three reference points referencing the wheel ass’y to the body/chassis. On a front wheel those three points are usually

1 the strut
2 control arm
3 tie rod

At the top of the strut there’s a sort of bushing-like arrangement, often referred to a bearing, but that usually isn’t the source of squeaks on newer vehicles. The tie rod connects via a ball joint (similar to a trailer hitch) and probably isn’t the source of squeaks. The control arm also connects to the wheel ass’y via a ball joint, but the other end of the control arm connects to the chassis via a bushing. There’s often another part called the sway bar that helps hold the plane in the correct orientation during turns, and that part also uses bushings. So either the control arm or the sway bar is probably where the squeak is coming from. A bushing is just a piece of rubber or plastic in the shape of a cylinder that fits over a metal rod and inside the hole the rod goes through. It’s purpose is to prevent the two metal parts (rod and inner surface of the hole) from rubbing directly together.

btw, there’s a service bulletin for squeaks from the rear suspension, caused by a trailing arm bushing. A trailing arm is similar to a control arm. T-SB 0211-17. There’s no strut on the rear suspension though.

This maybe the only time i will have disagreed with Tester “kind of” but I would certainly go back to the the Toyota dealer with my fur bristling and insist they fix the problem you brought it in for. No charge… “go up the ladder if you need to”… after all they went ahead and replaced your struts without a fix… you may get lucky and they will take pitty on you and correct the issue … if not nothing lost.
On a side note …In my experience with Toyota’s the creaking noise your hearing is usually the the strut bearings.

This is the best advice. You brought the Highlander in and asked them to fix the noise. You didn’t tell them to “replace the struts”, you told them to diagnose the problem and repair/replace whatever was causing it. You paid $1100 for them to replace the struts based on their technician’s diagnosis. If the struts were not the actual problem (or not the only problem) they owe you proper repair at no additional cost.

hey everybody, thank you, thank you. All this feedback is helpful.

I’m taking the car back to the dealer on Tuesday… they say they are going to replace the defective bushing. My understanding at this point is since it’s defective, no more payment required on my end. We shall see. I’m ready to go in with fur bristling :slight_smile:

I’ll report back once I meet with the dealer Tuesday. Thank you!

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Just got a call from the dealer. They admitted that the struts were fine and are going to give me a full refund (SHOCKED FACE).

Also said that the “lower control arm bushings” are bad and it’ll be $2500 to replace. I suspect what you all will say is take the refund, then take it somewhere local, small and trusted for further evaluation. Right?

Right unless it is warranty work always find a trusted independent shop.

Sounds like two boat payments are due.

RockAuto sells the complete lower control arms with bushings for $73.00 each. And they’re just unbolt/bolt in parts.


12 hours labor to replace both lower control arms on a Highlander, plus wheel alignment.

I’m not at the level of knowledge base of Tester or some others in here but am learning and have benefited from the advice of many car talk regulars.
But I did learn and took some good advice some 30 years ago.
First, look up the price of a part that the repair shop is telling you need. Just type the part into google with the year and make of the car. For labor figure $95 an hr (is that about right guys?).
A better way for you might be
Using that I found your front strut/shock absorber replacement $537 - $731 (my zip code, it will vary by zip code.
Second, always get a second opinion.
Third, and the most valuable lesson my Dad taught me when I was 17, NEVER, EVER go to the dealer for a repair (unless you bought a new/used from them and it’s under warranty).
Hope this helps.

I highly doubt the bushings are bad enough to justify replacement just yet

Take the money and get a second opinion

If you could post pictures, that would be great . . . but I suspect when you get a second opinion, the other shop will tell you to drive on

One business I frequently visit has very aggressive speed bumps in the parking lot. They produce such a jolt to my poor Corolla I park on the street instead of the parking lot. As I walk along the sidewalk to enter the building there’s usually several vehicles going by, each of them running over those speed bumps as I walk by. More than half of them make some sort of a weird sound going over the bump, squishing noises, squeaking, scraping, creaking, clattering, loud thumps, even loud bangs. If the sound is your only problem, and everything else tests as structurally sound, I’d be inclined to just be happy to have a couple of free struts installed on my vehicle, and otherwise just live with the creaking.

After having been to the dealer at least five different times - and all of the time that entails, the squeak definitely doesn’t seem that bad. I’ll take it to a local place eventually, but am going to spend a couple weeks just enjoying getting to work on time and not waiting in that endless line to catch the shuttle from/to the dealer.

Thank you all, again, for your feedback. It really helped me negotiate with the dealer about how to move forward. Speaking of which, I’d been feeling pretty good about the fact that they gave a full refund, but I put 2+2 together today… I received a survey email on 4/13 asking about my experience with service. Didn’t think much of it, but two different service people, on three occasions, mentioned that I was randomly selected by Toyota to be surveyed and to please give them a good report. My cynical side sure thinks they were more likely to refund their work, knowing big brother was looking over their shoulder. Maybe not, but…

I think you should give those guys a good survey report. Sure, it was an inconvenience to keep going there, having to leave your car, etc. But after all they told you the truth for the most part, right? And you got something in return for your troubles: free struts. That’s not insignificant compensation. Glad you and your car are back on the road again and shop-free for a while, good for you. Be sure to keep all that routine maintenance done on schedule and you should be good to go.

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