Costs to Repair a Car’s Suspension
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So you’ve been noticing your steering wheel constantly tugging to one side. Or maybe you’ve felt the front end of your vehicle taking a nosedive every time you put your foot on the brake. Maybe every bump in the road is jostling you as if you’re traveling in a horse-drawn buggy instead of a modern automobile.
While these symptoms could mean any number of things, maybe even something as simple as uneven tire pressure or the need for a front-end realignment, they could also indicate (particularly if you’re experiencing many symptoms all at once) your car’s suspension system is in need of repair.
“Any change in steering, especially the feeling that your steering has become more difficult, is a sure sign of new suspension issues,” explained Jake McKenzie, content manager for Auto Accessories Garage in Frankfort, Ill.
“Another huge indicator is the roads have started feeling bumpier,” added McKenzie. “Chances are it’s not the roads but your suspension system that has changed. This most likely means your shock absorbers have worn out, but it could also point to other suspension components like your leaf springs.”
What is a car suspension system?
Your suspension system is made up of all the components that keep your car connected to the road while absorbing vibrations as well as gravitational and impact forces from the road. Those component parts include:
- Leaf, coil and air springs
- Shocks; struts
- Control arms
- Torsion or sway bars
- Steering rack and pinion
- Bushings and ball joints
Pretty much every modern vehicle rolling off the factory floor features independent suspension, which basically means that if you hit a big bump in the road that momentarily puts a tire off the ground, your other three tires are going to stay connected to the road.
A suspension system in working order not only keeps you comfortable in your car, but it also keeps you safe. A good suspension system will allow you to take corners at accelerated speeds without your car going into a somersault.
Over time, however, regular vehicle use and assault from the road (think potholes, road debris, severe weather and rough driving surfaces) can take a toll on your car’s suspension. If you aren’t carefully monitoring how your vehicle handles over time or following a fender bender or other minor scrape, you could be looking at high-cost repairs down the road.
Cost to repair your car’s suspension
There are many factors that come into play when estimating the costs to repair and maintain a car. In 2018, AAA estimated that the annual cost to own and operate the typical car amounted to $8,849.
The biggest impact on costs for maintenance and repairs are the vehicle’s make and model. Parts for a Mercedes-Benz are generally going to be more expensive than for a Kia, for example. But your driving habits can also play a role. Your style of driving and where you drive can lead to parts wearing out more quickly.
These factors also come into play in estimating costs to repair your car’s suspension, but here are some costs associated with parts that typically wear out or fail when one is looking at vehicle suspension problems.
As numerous elements will affect pricing for service, you may be able to better estimate repair costs for your individual vehicle using Consumer Reports’ Car Repair Estimator. But the following could be a baseline to consider.
|Part and/or labor||Replacement cost (low)||Replacement cost (high)|
|Tires||$50 per tire||$1,000 per tire|
|Steering rack and pinion||$1,122||$1,528|
|Data sourced from RepairPal.com, TireBuyer.com, AngiesList.com, AutoServiceCosts.com and our interview with Jake McKenzie.|
How to compare auto repair shops
Once you know you’re having suspension issues, it’s time to find a mechanic to make a specific diagnosis and repair. But how do you choose the right mechanic for you? There are many considerations, including whether or not to take your vehicle to a dealership or an independent mechanic.
While the dealership is the obvious choice if your vehicle and its repair issue are still under warranty, know that a dealership is likely to charge you more for the same service than an independent mechanic will. That being said, the dealership also has mechanics that are specifically trained to diagnose and repair your make and model of car. However, that doesn’t necessarily outweigh the advantage of working with an independent mechanic with whom you can interact directly, who will likely charge you less and who may already know you and your vehicle well.
If you don’t already have a trusted relationship with a mechanic or dealership, here are some tips to help you find a reliable and conscientious repair person:
- Ask for referrals from friends and colleagues who have had positive experiences with a particular repair shop.
- Visit repair shops near you, and ask the technicians about their familiarity with your vehicle. Check to see if they are displaying Automotive Service Excellence certification.
- Use online tools and review sites like AAA and Angie’s List to learn about other automobile owners’ experience with shops near you.
Of course, we’ve all heard the horror stories about unreliable and disreputable auto mechanics, just like we’ve heard about aggressivelu used car salespeople. If a mechanic can’t show their certification from the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence, isn’t willing to offer a warranty on services provided, uses high-pressure tactics, tries to upsell you on services or has made repair mistakes in the past, you should probably steer clear.
How to pay for new or repaired suspension
With the average car repair bill running between $500 and $600, repairing your suspension could put a dent in your financial well-being. According to AAA, a third of American automobile owners can’t afford auto repairs or services using cash on hand. While it’s important to pay for repairs with cash if it’s available, you also don’t want to defer critical maintenance or repairs that could land you by the side of the road or lead to bigger, more expensive problems.
If your vehicle’s suspension needs fixing and you don’t have cash on hand to pay the bill, here are some options for meeting necessary costs and getting back on the road:
A traditional personal loan is a form of unsecured debt borrowers may use to afford unexpected expenses. While you don’t have to have collateral to back a personal loan, you generally do need a solid credit history and credit score demonstrating your ability to repay.
Consumers use personal loans for all kinds of things, from purchasing or repairing a car to paying for a wedding or consolidating debt. Borrowers with good credit may receive rates that are lower than credit card rates, making them a more affordable alternative. However, borrowers with poor credit may find they only qualify for high rates, if at all.
Many auto repair facilities will work with you to get your vehicle repaired even if you’re short on cash. Get a repair estimate from the shop, and don’t be afraid to ask if they’d be willing to set up a payment plan where you pay a set amount per month (including interest) to cover the costs of a needed repair. And consider asking if the shop offers discounts, too, whether it’s for holding a AAA membership or being active or retired military.
This option may be particularly attractive if you lack credit history and can’t easily qualify for a personal loan or other short-term credit.
Credit cards are revolving lines of credit on which you can borrow up to the amount of the credit limit your lender sets. So if your available credit is $5,000, you can spend as much as $5,000 on that card. Essentially, a credit card offers a continual loan as long as you pay the required monthly minimum payments.
While general consumer advice typically cautions against using credit cards to pay bills given how easy it is to get into unmanageable credit card debt, if you have a critical automobile repair need and no cash to pay for it, a credit card may be the way to go, especially if your personal safety and the long-term health of an auto you need are on the line. Plus, with credit cards, there’s the added advantage of having more protection in the event of a dispute about a charge, say for a bogus repair or fraud of some kind.
If you’re going to use a credit card, choose one with a low interest rate (or take advantage of introductory 0% interest offers) and pay it off as quickly as you can, preferably in full each month.
The bottom line: Don’t ignore the symptoms of a potential car suspension issue. Doing so could lead to much bigger expenses down the road and also impact your personal safety while driving. Deferring maintenance and repairs may seem like one way to save money, especially if you’re short on cash, but doing so could also risk personal injury and/or a vehicle repair bill much larger than one to replace tires or get a front-end realigned.