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2004 4Runner 80K miles alignment/suspension question
November 8, 2008
Brought this into a Big O tires today. Wanted an oil change. Was talked into an alignment test and was showed the result. All of the measurements were in range except 1. On the fron left the "Toe" measurement was 0.16 and the range was -0.04 to 0.13. Every other one was just right. So I paid $74.99 for an alignment and that column now reads 0.04. Did I need an alignment?
Next I received a phone call from the mechanic saying my front brakes "Read 0" and I needed new brake Pads. I was charged 120.16 for Brake Pads and 125.00 for Labor, 5.00 for brake fluid disposal, 12.98 for Brake Hardware Kit.
Now I'm up to 395.12 and next I'm told my Struts and shocks are leaking and need to be replaced. The front would be $600 and the rear $400.00. I asked why I would need those and he said "well you have 80,000 miles on the car". I left without buying the shocks and struts and wonder if anyone in this forum could make me understand if and why I need shocks and strust on a vehicle I thought was good for 250,000 miles.

November 10, 2008#1
Sorry to hear about your experience. Unfortunantly, events like these, I've heard too often. Problem with chain stores like these - they can get expensive fast. Some go in for an $20 oil change, come out with a $1500 bill and scratching their head. As for the alignment - the tow was only slghtly off - if there was noticeable uneven tire wear or pulling to one side - then I would have gone for it. Otherwise, I would have skipped that.

If the front brakes were OEM and you have 80K miles on the clock - then probably due for a change. Do you know if they resurfaced the rotors as well or how thick the rotors were? Brake hardware kit?? There is nothing to replace, hardware wise, on the brakes unless they did not use the factory shims. You should have been noted before and the shims returned to you.

What bothers me is that they charged you for an alignment and then noted that the struts are leaking. Struts are part of the suspension - if any parts shows damage or fault - it would render the alignment a wash. The tech that did the alignment should have seen the "leaky" strut and refused to do the alignment until the suspension was recitified. There is no definite lifespan on struts and shocks on a vehicle. Some can go hundreds of thousands of miles - some can go bad as quickly as 30K miles or less, especially if there is a physical damage, like a leaking seal or if you tow a trailer, haul heavy loads, or run in driving environments that tax the struts 0 on and off the road.

To recap:
From what you noted above - the only thing that is halfway believeable for your mileage is the front brakes. But they should have given you some warning (screeching noise) from the pad indicators that the pads are getting thin. Even so - this being a critical safety part, I dont mind changing earlier than needed. Alignment is suspect, only if you didnt notice any abnormal tire wear, vehicle pulling or excessive tire noise (tire brand dependant). Struts replacement is very suspect, unless they showed you a leaky strut before they took it off the vehicle. The 4Runner is pretty heavy, Toyota has a reputation for installing "softer" struts than normal to keep a compliant ride. What make this worse is that they did the alignment job without checking the struts first = equals basically a CON job.

Was noted before - but I hope that you got all the old parts back. Doesnt matter what they do - none of those parts needed a core return (ie. return to vendor for the purpose of rebuilding). Since they were one your vehicle and you bought new parts - you should have gotten all the original parts back. One - to protect yourself from shoddy work and Two - to verify that the repairs were necessary. Some aftermarket parts are generally not as good as OEM - especially ones that are as picky as Toyota (speak from experience here). Problem is - you must "ask" for your parts back. Some shops will automatically ask if you want the old parts back, others do not. You can guess which shops are generally more honest with their customers.

I would be pretty pissed off at this point if it was my truck - but since I wasnt there and I dont see the original parts - I cant say for sure if these repairs are justified or not. Only thing I can offer - is if you
go in for something simple and they inundate you with tons of work, especially in the middle of working on other items, i.e. "... We changed the brakes and noticed that the struts are leaking - since the wheels are off, we can change them right now...." That is a sure fire sign of unnecessary repairs. You are under no obligation to have the work done there - just have they fill out their recommendations and you can always come back.

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