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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just had some work done on my 2001 PT Cruiser Limited. I took it to a garage for assessment of what it needed after my A/C compressor blew up and I needed A/C and power steering fixed. They told me I needed a new wheel and wheel bearings on front right, replace front strut assemblies and also to replace rear shocks, sway bar links and lateral arm. So I had them do all this work, totaling $4000. When I picked it up at 6pm on a Friday, the steering wheel was no longer centered, it was rotated about 45 degrees counterclockwise. I mentioned this to the garage and they said I needed to get an alignment and that would be straightened out. They said they did not have time to take the car for an alignment, gave me $100 off and told me to take it myself.

As soon as I got the car I noticed that it would make a clunking sound when I hit a bump or when turning and wanted to take it back but decided I would get the alignment done first and see if that made any difference. I had to work all day Mon-Wed so today (Thurs) I took it to Meineke and paid $90 for the alignment. There they told me that my control arm with ball joint and front suspension were a little loose and I should probably have it taken care of soon (they quoted me $900 for them to do it) but also said it was nothing to worry about and should not be a problem but that was the cause of the noise in the front.

I left for home and almost made it when my wheel came off, came right off the ball joint. The bolt holding it on was gone. I had been driving on the highway all day, thank god this happened when I was going slowly around a corner after a red light so barely moving. I called Meineke and sent them pictures. They said the other guy would have had to have that off to do the work that had been done. When I had it towed back to the garage that did the work the owner first blamed Meineke, saying it might have been from something they did while doing alignment. He also said they never had taken it off that ball joint to do the work they did.

In addition, the A/C does not blow cold

This is going to cost me a bunch more money, including having to rent a car to get back and forth from work for the next few days. Any advice, ideas, questions? Are either of these guys being honest with me? Help! Thank you anyone in advance if you have any helpful words!
 

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And this is sadly why I feel compelled to do everything (I can) myself. FWIW I think they're both full of it.

Piece of advice #1 is to henceforth avoid both of these places and find someone competent.

Concur with the assessment Shop #1 is likely responsible. While it's technically possible to replace the wheel bearings with the knuckle on the car, it's generally easier to pull the knuckle and use a proper shop press to remove and install the hub & bearing. Take a look at the outer tie rod end on the passenger side. Does the mounting location on the knuckle look like it's been disturbed? Look like the nut has been off and on? If so, you can probably assume the first shop pulled the whole knuckle and subsequently left the pinch bolt off.

During the course of a standard alignment, there would be no reason to pull the pinch bolt. But there's a lesson learned for using places like Meineke as well.

There they told me that my control arm with ball joint and front suspension were a little loose and I should probably have it taken care of soon (they quoted me $900 for them to do it) but also said it was nothing to worry about and should not be a problem but that was the cause of the noise in the front.
Do you think a competent technician would have noticed a missing pinch bolt during the course of his/her inspection? "Hey boss...this here arm-thing is loose as a goose, but I can't see why..." The control arm has three mounting locations (two bushings and a ball joint. Somebody should have noticed the missing bolt. And $900.00 for replacement? Good God. You can pick up a quality replacement part for less than 75 bucks.

I'm sorry this happened to your car and I'm equally sorry you'll have trouble "proving" fault. Thank God it came off during a low-speed maneuver. That's a beautifully clean first-year cruiser, so hope you find someone to make it right. Looks like you have a slight fender crinkle as well.

Make sure you replace the grease boot on that ball joint before re-installing!
 

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Having worked on cars all my life, and having once owned my own shop, it clearly looks like the 1st shop was negligent in making sure the work was done completely and safely. From your story, on a Friday afternoon, it sounds like they got to the point of being close to closing time, and someone was in an awful hurry and didn't complete all of the work, as noted by the off center steering wheel and no alignment done. It also sounds like they had a very incompetent "tech?" do the work, as also noted by the failed A/C repairs.

While the 2nd shop most likely did not have a hand in loosening or removing any of the front end hardware that caused this, they are negligent in not discovering the source or extent of how badly, and what was causing, your front end to be that loose and making that loud of a noise and sending you back out on the road. If ball joint bolts/hardware were loose or missing, that should have been blatantly obvious to even a shade-tree mechanic, let alone someone who calls themselves a " professional tech". In my shop, if a customer came in with any issue that was deemed to be a major safety issue, but refused repair after being advised, I had them sign a waiver, and either tow it or drive at their own risk. We saw a lot of bad/shady work that people came in with from other shops. It gives a bad name to those that are reputable and competent.

If I were you, I would look into getting an attorney who specializes in auto repair cases, and/or take this to small claims court if either repair shop refuses responsibility. I would also report both to BBB, and your state's attorney general for possible legal action. As you mentioned, you were just earlier driving at highway speeds, and this could have not ended well not just for you, but the countless other motorists who may have been injured or killed as a result.
 

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I'd agree Shop #1 is the main culprit in this case, not that Meineke did you any favors. Finding a good mech does take some work, but it's more than worth the effort. I cannot work on my own cars anymore, but I've never had to take my car back to my mech once ever. I think he over charges me for parts, but he never gives the car back till it is fixed and fixed right, so I don't mind.
 

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No matter how you replace that wheel bearing the axle shaft needs to come out. If you use a hub tamer (the tool that allows you to do it on car) you still have to separate the knuckle from somewhere to get the axle shaft out. The advantage for the hub tamer is you don't separate the knuckle at the strut so camber should not change during the repair. That means you have to separate it at the lower ball joint to get the axle out of the way to get the tool in to press the bearing out and back in. Shop one is either lying of they found a magical way of making axle shafts dissappear. They probably change spark plugs through the exhaust tailpipe also.
 

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Wow , that car is only worth $1,800.00 at most . Wow.
While his car may only be worth $1,800, if it was in overall good condition, with average to low mileage, sinking $4K into repairs still makes a LOT of economical sense to some, as opposed to trying to come up with thousand$$$ down, and taking on a 6 or 7 year payment. That's ASSUMING you can even FIND a new car at a reasonable price. Low mileage, newer used models are priced through the stratosphere right now, if you can even find one of those, and often at or above cost of some new. Trust me, just bought a new 2021 DD GT Plus at the end of May after doing a LOT of shopping. I couldn't believe how much, and how quickly, they wanted my 15+ y/o car in trade.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks, I appreciate your response. Yeah, that fender crinkle happened just a few weeks ago. Someone decided they wanted into my lane as if I wasn't there, then tried to flee after hitting me. Their insurance company wants to declare my car a total loss due to that and give me only KBB value for my car. Not even enough to get it fixed. 20 years no dings and now this!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks, I appreciate your response. Yes, I was very lucky, could have ended in fatalities. I am trying to get the garage to at least supply me with a vehicle while waiting to get my car back, he says maybe Wed. Will talk to an atty today, good idea.
 

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I think we're at the point where all service needs to be conducted under video surveillance by law. Bad shops need to be held accountable. It's not just about the money there are people's lives at play.

Seen enough of this stuff in my years there's no way any shop is touching my car without me hovering over them. I don't care how long you've been at it or what paper title you have.
 

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Looks like they left the pinch bolt out or broke it during installation. That's the ball joist separated from the knuckle.
 

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If I were you, I would look into getting an attorney who specializes in auto repair cases, and/or take this to small claims court if either repair shop refuses responsibility. I would also report both to BBB, and your state's attorney general for possible legal action. As you mentioned, you were just earlier driving at highway speeds, and this could have not ended well not just for you, but the countless other motorists who may have been injured or killed as a result.
I would add two things.

First, BBB is a con job in some states. They report cases closed if the business owner pays their fees and says it was closed, and they won't reopen it. In short BBB is just one option.

Consumer Affairs departments are strong in some states, weak in others. They're not in GMG's list so I added them.

Finally, if it's within the 90 days (or is it 60?), you can also dispute the charge with your credit card company. This is a little risky since every state has a mechanic's lien, but you can argue they did not actually provide any services, and therefore should not be paid. The one time I had to resort to this, they disputed my dispute, but I had another mechanic sign a sheet of paper saying timing belts were supposed to last longer than ten days, and the card people agreed.
 

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Wow that sucks!

I guess focus on getting it fixed and back on road, first shop sounds at fault.

Sounds like alignment place noticed issue, however wasn't trying to high pressure you into fixing right now, and thought it was not as bad as it was.

I think the first shop should refund the labor for all work, and getting this fixed should be on the house.

But they are not going to, they are going to say it's a 20 year old car and it's just a chance thing that happened.

You need to find a competent shop, there has to be one out there.
 

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I wouldn't use either place anymore. First they totally fleeced you. If they are rebuilding that much of your front suspension, there is no way you will require that much labor. Total cost of parts is maybe $1500 if sourced from Mopar. Doubt they sourced Mopar.
The nuts may not have been torqued before giving the vehicle back and the nut may have come off during driving. You torque down the suspension when it's on the ground. The lower ball joint can be difficult.
The alignment was a disaster if they claimed to have aligned the vehicle when the lower control arm was loose or not attached and they didn't notice.
 

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Had the exact item happen to a 2006. Exact! But, there are still good, qualified independent shops. I am a 90 percent-er in that I do most repairs, even major.

But in this instance, the control arm was replaced for time and it went to my favorite shop.
A few days later, I was in a different state, came off the interstate, slammed into a water-filled chuckhole and BAM. My pictures could have been your pictures... pinch bolt gone.

AAA got the tow and my shop reviewed the pics and called in a CC to the new place for repairs. $1800 later and I was rolling and I am still friends with my mechanic.
Better luck next time and always vet the local names first.
 
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