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Old 10-07-2014, 12:29 PM   #1
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Default front sway bar link, struts - diagnosis, parts+labor

Three times, three days in a row on my 80k 03 Bonneville I heard an alarming metallic POP when turning right up onto my driveway bump. The noise seemed to be on the right. All my steering and front suspension seems to work ok despite this driveway bump noise. Recently I've had a very good experience at Meineke (only half a mile away) for AC problems, so I went there. But the AC was strictly labor, no parts and no up-selling of parts.

So they looked, then showed me a broken "sway bar link" on the driver'* side. But then the guy said they discovered that both the cars front struts have "binding upper bearing plates". He said it'* usually about the same cost to install entire strut assemblies if available (low labor) as to put in new bearing plates (high labor). He said this is more dangerous than the sway bar link. He'd call me when he got a solid estimate worked up.

They've now quoted me $93 inclusive to fix the broken "sway bar link". As a no-nothing it seems ok. But the quote is another $706 to install 2 new strut assemblies. Meanwhile I'd priced strut assemblies at RockAuto, Amazon, and AutoZone. Rock has the Unity brand for $85 shipped each, Amazon has Monroe for around $75 shipped each, Zone a bit more. So I asked the guy how much for the strut labor. "Around $200", which means $250+ part cost for each strut. I questioned him about providing my own struts, nope, no can do, national policy, warranty issues.

I ask here to have some pro-types weigh in on what to do. I certainly don't want to pay about $800 when everything feels fine, seems to function fine, but I need to make the car safe.

Last edited by 03SLE-SteelBlue; 10-07-2014 at 12:33 PM.
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Old 10-07-2014, 02:18 PM   #2
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Fix the sway bar links and see if the problem goes away. When I did mine I paid $15 for the parts and it took 15 minutes to change them. Very easy to do.
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Old 10-07-2014, 02:31 PM   #3
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dont take anything to the national chains, they treat people like they work on commission. find a good locally owned shop to go to if you dont feel comfortable. sway bar end links is a nothing deal which is why they made up the needs every part of the struts nonsense
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Old 10-07-2014, 03:13 PM   #4
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find a good locally owned shop to go to
OK guys, I'll just fix the sway bar link(*) at a local shop and see if they find any other problems. I won't be surprised if they find a struts problem, though, as for many months there'* been a soft popping sound as I turn the wheel sharply at say 5mph in parking lots. It'* more pronounced in hot weather. Not at all the same loud sharp single pop in the driveway I've got now. My last car had that soft popping sounds and this other local shop thought it was strut bushings. I traded that car without doing anything.

By the time the local can take it in I bet you can advise me on whether to mention those soft popping sounds.
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Old 10-08-2014, 07:40 AM   #5
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if you can feel it in the wheel when you turn it may be, or lower ball joints
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Old 10-08-2014, 10:26 AM   #6
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if you can feel it in the wheel when you turn it may be, or lower ball joints
If you didn't mean the steering wheel but the actual wheels, back at Meineke when they showed me the broken link they also showed me how the right upper bearing plate was binding (mildly) on the lift when manually turning the right wheel. I like these guys, they actually take you into the garage and show you what they found instead of just telling you. If you meant the steering wheel I don't really remember feeling anything in it when the soft pops/clicks occur , old man memory, so I just went for a test run. No pops/clicks/sounds at all and of course nothing in the wheel.

So yesterday I called the only (still open for business) local indie garage I've ever actually used to see what they'd say. I only told them about the one broken sway bar link. They can "look at it" next week, then order parts(*), then have me return. So I made an appointment with them. Meanwhile, I just found out Meineke'* c$93 estimate for the link was actually installing a 2-pack, both sides makes sense, and they can do it tomorrow after the parts come in. So I made that appointment. I doubt there would be a lot of difference from 93 by going to the indie, meanwhile having several more days of nervous max 35mph driving. I may keep the indie appt but ask them instead to look at the struts.
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Old 10-08-2014, 10:30 AM   #7
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P.*. looking at Goog search results for GM broken sway bar links it seems a lot of the late 90s-early 00s GMs and OEMs had flimsy hollow easy-break links and the aftermarkets were often solid. I wonder if I should be looking for a specific brand.
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Old 10-08-2014, 12:47 PM   #8
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they almost always come in two because they get rusty then break and the other one is not that far behind. when they went on my bonnie i got two of the good napa ones for less than 20 bucks. driving the car without them isnt a big deal.
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Old 10-08-2014, 01:06 PM   #9
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they almost always come in two because they get rusty then break and the other one is not that far behind. when they went on my bonnie i got two of the good napa ones for less than 20 bucks. driving the car without them isnt a big deal.
for keeping up on this, and the advice. I figured 2 is sensible, your reason. Meineke uses Moog for this. I also wondered why not a whole new sway bar since it too may be ready to go. I'm also glad to hear no big deal.
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Old 10-08-2014, 10:06 PM   #10
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Never seen a sway bar break. And they usually don't go bad. Most people tend to upgrade to a bigger one for more sporty cornering.
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