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#1
Old 07-16-2009, 08:53 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
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Car Advice Needed - Leaking Struts?

I just took my car to a tire place to fix a slowly leaking tire.

They say that I have 4 leaking struts that need to be replaced. It will cost me about $1500. I have called around and other places seem to be quoting about the same amount (I live in DC, everything is expensive!).

I drive a 95 Corolla with about 75,000 miles on it. I realize that that is not a lot of miles for a Toyota, but the parts are almost 15 years old, and are starting to wear out. The car is probably worth $1900-$2500.

So here is the question, is it worth it? I have spoken with one friend that said the struts mostly provide suspension and comfort. If they are sub-optimal, they are not going to get me into a wreck or cause any safety problems. If that is the case, I would never pay 75% of the car’s worth to fix this. I will ride it for two years and get something newer.

Mods, I put this in GD because I am mostly looking for informed opinions instead of blanket statements of “you should always fix your car” or “go by a Kia, I love it.” Feel free to move it.

Thanks a ton guys.
#2
Old 07-16-2009, 09:53 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Farmington, MI
Posts: 3,079
Struts dampen the effects of motion on your car, so they definitely do have an effect on the net safety of the vehicle. Quick maneuvers which result in massive shifts in momentum in a short period are more likely to result in a skid or loss of control if your struts are not in proper form.
#3
Old 07-16-2009, 10:06 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: KCMO
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Leakage, in and of itself, is not a compelling reason to replace struts (or shocks). However, they are not just a comfort item, they have significant bearing on handling as well. The real concern is how well they are functioning.

If they're noticeably weak they should be replaced. One indication of this is failing a bounce test: press the bumper well down then let go, and it should return to the rest position with no bouncing. Another indication is cupped tire wear, which is evidence that the tire is not making constant contact with the road. If either of these symptoms is evident, the struts are past due for replacement.

Leakage can result in loss of enough fluid to keep the struts from working properly. The question is, how much of the fluid has been lost? Some leaks (seepage, really) are so slow that it could be years before performance is affected. If leakage is seen, evalutation is certainly appropriate, but need for replacement is not a given.

The difficulty here is that most struts are somewhere between perfect and shot, and it's hard to tell just where they fall on the spectrum. An experienced mechanic can usually give a well-informed opinion. The thing to do is find a shop that isn't trying to sell everything they can even remotely justify, and that doesn't condemn struts on leakage alone. Whether this applies to the tire place you went to is not something I can determine. A second opinion from a reputable shop would make sense.
#4
Old 07-16-2009, 11:02 AM
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Those struts are about 75 dollars apiece. I've changed 'em before, in a couple of hours.

Twelve hundred dollars is an insane amount of money for a couple of hours of labor. So in terms of how important it is to have functional struts I cannot say, but in terms of whether it's worth it to have someone do the work for that price, absolutely not.
#5
Old 07-16-2009, 11:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wheeljack View Post
Those struts are about 75 dollars apiece. I've changed 'em before, in a couple of hours.

Twelve hundred dollars is an insane amount of money for a couple of hours of labor. So in terms of how important it is to have functional struts I cannot say, but in terms of whether it's worth it to have someone do the work for that price, absolutely not.
I'm sure you mean well, Wheeljack, but this is not really helpful.

The price you can buy many auto parts for is often about the same as what repair shops pay for them. Repair shops are business, and you don't stay in business by selling stuff for the same price you pay for it. So they're going to mark it up to their retail price.

I find it hard to believe you (or anyone) can properly change all four struts on most cars in "a couple of hours." Regardless, automotive labor pricing is not by the clock, but by the job.

It's necessary to have a suitable spring compressor to do this job. It's not the sort of thing most do-it-yourselfers have lying around. The tone of your post suggests it's a simple thing anyone can do with common home hand tools, but it's not.

And then there's the variation in the amount of work involved, as well as the cost of parts, for different vehicles. Not every car out there is the same as the one you have experience with.

Bottom line, the contention that they're charging $1200 dollars for 2 hours labor is egregiously ridiculous. Astoundingly so.
#6
Old 07-16-2009, 12:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary T View Post
I'm sure you mean well, Wheeljack, but this is not really helpful.

The price you can buy many auto parts for is often about the same as what repair shops pay for them. Repair shops are business, and you don't stay in business by selling stuff for the same price you pay for it. So they're going to mark it up to their retail price.

I find it hard to believe you (or anyone) can properly change all four struts on most cars in "a couple of hours." Regardless, automotive labor pricing is not by the clock, but by the job.

It's necessary to have a suitable spring compressor to do this job. It's not the sort of thing most do-it-yourselfers have lying around. The tone of your post suggests it's a simple thing anyone can do with common home hand tools, but it's not.

And then there's the variation in the amount of work involved, as well as the cost of parts, for different vehicles. Not every car out there is the same as the one you have experience with.

Bottom line, the contention that they're charging $1200 dollars for 2 hours labor is egregiously ridiculous. Astoundingly so.
The car I have experience with is this very model, which is why I felt it appropriate to chime in. It's a '94, actually, and although I wouldn't say they took thirty minutes apiece, the second always goes smoother than the first and it totalled about two hours. It was, in fact, done with common hand tools, plus a spring compressor borrowed from the parts store and a cheater bar (which I did have to buy for the job.)

I'm not suggesting that the OP do the job, just that the difference between what the shop is charging versus parts plus a six pack is rather huge. Doing it at home or having a mechanically inclined friend or relative take care of it is definitely an option worth exploring in this case.
#7
Old 07-16-2009, 12:40 PM
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: Florida
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I would replace the struts regardless of leakage if I were you, unless you're absolutely sure you'll get rid of it soon. Incidentally, the '95 was an all new model so Wheeljack's experience may not be relevant.

Hermitian- is your car a 7th or 8th generation model?

Last edited by Really Not All That Bright; 07-16-2009 at 12:40 PM.
#8
Old 07-16-2009, 12:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
I would replace the struts regardless of leakage if I were you, unless you're absolutely sure you'll get rid of it soon. Incidentally, the '95 was an all new model so Wheeljack's experience may not be relevant.

Hermitian- is your car a 7th or 8th generation model?
In the United States it was pretty much the same car. It was redesigned in Japan for '95, but that model didn't come to the States until a few years later.

Last edited by Wheeljack; 07-16-2009 at 12:51 PM.
#9
Old 07-16-2009, 01:00 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions guys.

I feel like I can now make more of an informed opinion.

I drive the car primarily in slower city traffic for about 8-10 miles a day. If I needed anything more than drive-in-a-straight-line or take-a-left-at-the-light, I might consider it, but "handling" just doesn't come into play much for this car.

I am also planning on trading it in in about a year and half, and I just got a $1000 timing belt change, so that is also part of it.

Thanks again.
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