Reader Question: $800 Shocks for ’03 Accord?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply! 

Ben asks: I was told it would cost $800 for Firestone to replace my rear shocks. Since the car is old, but other than a slightly bumpy ride, runs like a top, is there any danger to me or the car if I don’t get the shocks replaced? Thanks for your input.

My reply: And they ask my why I drink!

Many – most – modern cars do not have shocks. They have McPherson struts, which combine what used to be the separate (and life-of-the-car) coil spring with a shock absorber which got replaced roughly once every 40,000 miles or so for not even close to $800 for all four of them.

Struts are much more expensive to replace. The quote you got is high but not out of reason, in terms of what shops charge (parts and labor) to replace a pair of struts. Consider it one of the hidden costs of owning a modern car.

Now, some good news. If you know how to replace shocks yourself you can probably tackle this job yourself and save a a lot of money. You may need some specialized tools, such as a spring compressor – but these can often be borrowed for your favorite price (free) at the parts store where you buy the new struts.

If you don’t want to DIY, I recommend finding a local repair shop (not a chain tire store) and see what they would charge to do the job… my bet is it’ll be less.

Hope this helps!

PS: If the struts are badly worn, your car’s handling/braking characteristics could become erratic and possibly dangerous. It’s not a good idea to drive the car in that case, obviously.

. . .

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  1. Another good idea is go on a Honda/Accord forum, go to the regional section and ask who they recommend.

    Trust me, saves you $$$ and you get someone enthusiasts trust

  2. I just looked at parts prices and I fix cars for money at times. Strut assy. are less than $70 a side. Don’t even bother with the spring compressor just buy 2 assy for ~$140 + shipping. No more than 3 hrs labor.
    I would charge <$300 for the job (buddy price). a shop has overhead to consider.

  3. When I did the wife’s Cutlass I found GM struts online from some place like Cheap parts r us or similar. I bought several things from them that were all GM. They were cheap too.

  4. For an accord you should be able to pick up a pair of rear struts for $200 or less for something comparable to what is sold at a Firestone. I didn’t look it up, it’s just a ball park figure for an ordinary car and getting ordinary aftermarket pieces. However. Once you are in there if you live in a rust state you may find the upper seat has rusted and needs to be replaced as well. These are pretty cheap too in the aftermarket.

    The only skill thing involved is transferring the spring and upper mount if you aren’t replacing it. A compressed spring is very dangerous and takes care to deal with. In a shop they have a special press for this. For the home gamer you’ll use a mechanical struct spring compressor. And you need one specifically for struts and with safeties. First prepare the new strut. Then transfer compress and transfer the spring and the cushions (if not buying new). Once assembled on the new strut, slowly release the compression and then it can be put on the car.

  5. I changed the front struts in our car a few years ago and it was pretty dead simple, but I bought the spring/strut combo. The only mistake I made was not cleaning the threads thoroughly on the sway bar link so the nut got stuck and the stud started turning. The most work was jacking up and taking off the wheel. The back axle were regular shocks and they were simple also. Did it all from the wheel well.

    • Just gotta be careful to avoid the cheap mostly Chinese strut-spring combos…they’re so bad, the car’ll ride worse with them than it did with the old bad ones.

      • I bought the cheap autozone shocks for my frontier – under $90 for a set of 4.
        Laughed in the guy’s face when he said they have a lifetime warranty.
        FWIW they were worth the money….

      • Concur w/Nunzio: Unfortunately I did exactly this on my Subaru and the ride is much harsher. So, now I’ll have to spend big $$ to get the OEM springs, or good aftermarket cartridges. (Say Monroe brand) The new tires I put on at the same time too, wore out very fast. Argghh.

  6. Ben, Firestone is one of THE biggest rip-off joints on the face of the earth! Avoid their services at all costs! Find a good independent mechanic- Look for ones who are just a one-person shop, or who may have only one other employee- those types of shops are the best bet for finding someone who is competent, conscientious and honest; or someone who works out of his house.

    A good place to ask for recommendations of mechanic is, believe it or not, is a junkyard! If there’s a junkyard near you- one that is owned by just a local guy…..they know a lot of mechanics that you might not otherwise find. Like Eric says….avoid the chain places….they charge top dollar, usually do inferior work, and are almost always crooks. Good (and honest) mechanics won’t even work for those places.


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