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Struts of wrong size causing damage to lower control arms?

Had after market front struts installed by a non-dealer shop on 2006 Toyota Sienna. Dealer service dept diagnosed two months later that the struts were one inch too long and caused damage to the lower control arms. A director for training for the other shop (one of 80 + shops) completely discredits the dealer shop’s theory about the relationship between the size of the struts and the damage to the control arms, while admitting the error with the struts. Both sounded credible as I have very limited mechanical background. Anyone cares to weigh in?

If this were Mechanic Court, the evidence would weigh in favor of the dealer. If the non-dealer is admitting that the struts are the wrong part number as well as the wrong part for the car, I would tell him to pay up. This isn’t a great way to assign blame, but how many mistakes does it take for a shop owner to decide to try to make the customer happy? Denial isn’t always the best company policy. A good reputation and the ability to attract new customers CAN be earned if somebody is willing to try.

In what way are the lower control arms damaged?

Who provided struts? Why did u decide to use non-stock struts? Did u tell mechanic to install struts?

If the struts were too long then the front of the car would sit that much higher after they were installed. How was that not noticed?

Can you tell us what caused you to bring the car to the dealer?

Get the actual specifications for the shocks. The aftermarket manufacturer will probably have them on his webpage, and the dealer’s parts guy should be able to look them up for you and print them. Only with this data will you know who’s right. And if you should go to small claims court, that should be proof enough.

If the aftermarket shocks really are too long and the manufacturer advertises those shocks for your vehicle, you may also have a claim against them… although it they’re 1,000 miles away it could get complicated beyond the worth of the shocks.

"while admitting the error with the struts"
It sounds like the shop that installed the struts is really responsible. They should foot the cost of getting the damage properly corrected. Did you ask?

If the independent shop installed struts of the wrong length I would imagine there might be some wear or noise from the lower control arm bushings or ball joints. Or not. That’s why I was wondering why the car went to the dealer. Was there noise? Steering issues?

While the independent shop may claim that the struts aren’t related to whatever is wrong with the control arms, the time and energy spent arguing over it is stupid. The indy shop would have less time and energy invested by installing a pair of salvage yard control arms. They’re going to be in there anyway redoing the strut job. The labor involved will be minimal. And the cost for a pair of used control arms will be minimal as well.

One good measure of a shop is not whether they ever make mistakes, it’s how they deal with them when they happen.

Was this struts only or redi-struts or whatever you call the complete assembly? If this were struts only and the original springs and top mounts were re-used, I don’t see where the extra length would have any effect unless you bottomed the suspension a few times. It would be a little easier to bottom the suspension too with longer struts.

If these were complete assemblies with struts, springs and top mounts, then all the other issues would come into play, and then some. But just to install the longer struts, complete or not, the mechanic would have to pull the lower control arm down an extra inch, and on some vehicles, this would take considerable force, so an experienced mechanic should have known that something was wrong. If any damage were done, that is probably when it would have occurred.

There’s too much unexplained here to understand the situation. Was it a loaded strut? How did the 1" added length damage the control arm?

All I can imagine is that the extended length of the strut was long enough that the lower ball joint would become bound up some way with the steering knuckle.

It all depends on where on the strut the extra length was increased. If the distance between the bolt holes where the strut mounts to the knuckle and the lower spring seat were increased, then yes, the height of the vehicle would increase.

If the length was added to the portion of the strut above the spring seat then there would be no increase of the height of the vehicle. This is assuming the original springs were used.

Appreciate all the comments so far. Attaching two pictures the dealer provided to prove that the struts incorrectly installed were one inch too long. Can anything meaningful be derived from these photos? Also adding the following to fill in some of the factual gaps in my original post:

The control arms were “spliting from above” (at the ball joint I suppose) as opposed to “from below in normal wear and tear” and this was the key factor the dealer personnel considered in making the connection to the size of the struts. Here’s the dealer’s diagnosis in original text: "“THE CURRENT STRUTS ARE AFTERMARKET AND 1” LONGER THAN THE FACTORY TOYOTA STRUTS ON THE BODY, CAUSING EXCESSIVE STRESS ON TIE RODS AND LOWER CONTROL ARMS. THEY ARE BINDING AS WELL.”

The front of the car was not noticeably higher after the struts were installed. But the car had increasing vibration from the tires at high way speed (you’d feel it mostly from the steering wheel), and the non-dealer shop offered the obvious answer: tire rebalance. Tires rebalanced and vibration still there. . . There was another unrelated reason before I decided to bring the car to the dealer shop.

I may have naively assumed that since I have both struts to show the small claims court, it would be a no-brainer. I wrote a demand letter to the 1st shop in preparation for filing a small claims court complaint. Then they responded. . .

I’m not sure if it was “full assembly” or without the springs. I will try to find out.

I can on theorize that the tie rod ends and ball joints are binding as they are at their limit of movement due to the increased strut length.
The “splitting” I take to mean the dust boots on the ball joints cracked due to stressed and aged rubber.

That vibration could certainly be caused by the incorrect struts so I would not automatically assume it’s a wheel balance issue.

It’s a bonehead move to install the incorrect struts so they need to make it good no matter what it takes. How hard is it during the process to lay the new next to the old and make sure they’re the same…

I cleaned my bifocals and studied the photographs carefully and I don’t see the same component being measured.

@“Rod Knox”

“I don’t see the same component being measured”

That’s the whole idea :wink:

The old and new struts are being measured, from the end of the strut, to the mounting hole for the sway bar link

IMO, it’s clear that the one on the right is 1" longer

the one on the left measures 8" from sway bar link mounting hole to the end of the strut

the one on the left measures 9" from sway bar link mounting hole to the end of the strut

It looks to me like the new strut from Toyota is the longer one, if the black one is the Toyota one and the blue one is the aftermarket one. Whatever the case the first step should be to install the correct parts on the car and see if the vibration is gone.

At any rate, you’ve already stated that the indy shop admitted to installing the incorrect struts. Would they not install the correct ones and remedy any incurred wear or damage? Seems to be a fairly simple solution.

Another good point to clarify on: The indy shop is willing to foot the cost of the replacing the struts with factory parts, but not the cost of repairing the damaged control arms. The dealer charged $1,500 for the control arms and I’m deciding whether to continue with small claims court over that remaining amount. Thanks!

I didn’t pay attention to the order of the pictures uploaded. The shorter one is definitely the factory parts from the dealer.

The update further confuses things. The aftermarket strut is 1" shorter than the OEM strut. Changing the ride height can cause axle shaft vibrations but the control arm damage is still a mystery. Did you not take pictures of the damage? Replacing the lower control arms is a 10-12 hours labor on that vehicle.

The black strut on the stool with the Toyota part #48520-AE031 appears to measure 1" longer that the blue strut on the vehicle.

No, the aftermarket is 1" longer. Don’t go by the order of the pictures. Sorry for the confusion. Unfortunately I didn’t have a good picture for the damaged control arms.