When mechanics break parts

So I started to replace my struts on my 2005’ mercury mountaineer with quick struts, pretty straightforward right? Well I only got to the first strut and found that the bottom mount was seized in the bushing of the drivers front. Crap. So after three days of fighting with it I bit the bullet and towed it to a shop. Towed because I manage to melt a hole in my drivers side cv boot when I heated the lower bolt with a propane torch in a failed attempt at removal. The shop initially quoted me 185 and have it done by Friday afternoon. (I dropped it off Friday morning.) I get a call Friday at 530 telling me not only are they keeping my truck until Monday, they broke my front two sway bar links and are charging me for parts and replacement which has increased my quote to just under three hundred. My question is this; how much am I responsible for? Do the sway bar links even need to be messed with in a strut removal? Do I pay for the links even though they were fine when I brought it in?

Btw I realize that I’m responsible for the cv boot but the sway bar links? In not sure on that one.

I would guess the shop got into more than they anticipated. Their first mistake was quoting a price over the phone without seeing the work. You did tell them that you had seized or rusted fasteners that would require additional work, right?

Anyway, if things are that tough to remove my guess is they may have had to remove some other parts to gain access to use a tool or removed the control arm assembly to get the whole thing in a shop press to disassemble. This would probably require removal of the sway bar links, and if they were as seized as your strut mounts they would have broken upon disassembly as well.

Just ask for your old parts back and have them explain what happened. Generally sway bar links don’t need to be removed for strut service, but generally bolts aren’t seized and require torching either.

I did tell them that the boots were completely locked up. So do I offer to pay for the links and ask him to eat the labor for them? I’m sympathetic to his position but I don’t want to pay more than necessary for parts they took out but didn’t need to. I’m unsure of the right course of action. The cv boot and labor, the labor for the struts themselves I obviously pay for, but the rest?

Bolts not boots

You owe for the whole thing. The sway bar links do not need to come out for the strut, but they may need to be removed to get the axle out to replace the CV joint boot. With the issues you had with the strut mount, I would guess they had similar issues with the sway bar links.

But shouldn’t they have contacted me before they took them out? Just to let me know what they were going to do and the chances of that part breaking? I feel like they just hit me with it at the end of the business day.

I agree with @keith

You can’t remove the CV joint AND the strut without removing other components for access

At least the shop called you to tell you the bill would be higher

Some shops don’t even do that

And then the customer shows up with a check for $185, but the new total is suddenly $300

BTW . . . $300 sounds quite reasonable for all that work, considering that labor rates usually hover close to $100 per billed hour, if not more

Here’s what the sway bar links look like on your on your vehicle.


As you can see these are just thin bolts, nuts, tubes, and rubber bushings. If these parts are rusted, it takes nothing to snap the bolts trying to remove the nuts. And you can’t use heat to remove the nuts as this would burn the rubber bushings.

Sometimes there’s no avoiding destroying some parts in order to replace other parts.


“But shouldn’t they have contacted me before they took them out? Just to let me know what they were going to do and the chances of that part breaking?”

Oh, maybe a courtesy call would have been nice but the end result would have been the same, you owe for whatever parts and labor are needed to install the struts. For the shop and for you, the point at which the car had to be towed because of seized bolts was the point that nothing about this repair would be ordinary.

If the CV joint boots were included in the original estimate, they would not have to contact you before trying to remove the links as long as that was necessary. They should have contacted you before replacing them though, but unless you wanted to drive around without sway bar links, it would end up costing you the same.

You can’t expect the mechanic to be on the phone with you for every nut and bolt he has to remove to perform the repairs and a nut or bolt can break at anytime, it just happens, especially when rust is present.

You would expect them to call you if they uncovered a problem while performing the repair that needed additional parts, but is not part of the repair authorized, for example they find a bad seal. It is not necessary to replace the seal, it could be left alone and done later, but they give you a call because it could save you money in the long run.

I agree with every one here.

I’m sure you’ve learned from your own experience that on older vehicles things aren’t always clean and easy. Stuff sometimes breaks. Colleges that offer automotive programs welcome the cars of faculty, staff, and sometimes the public specifically so the students get to learn real world maintenance rather than working on only new cars.