Is the dealer taking me for a ride by recommending new ball joints?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 1997

Dear Tom and Ray:

When I took my 1988 blue Honda Accord into the dealer last month for a new
battery, they called me to say that I needed new "front lower ball joints."
Suspecting that they may just have had a boat payment due, I asked why they
thought I needed these new ball joints. They said mine were old, worn and
loose. "Yeah," I said, "and what about the ball joints?" They said the ball
joints were part of my suspension, so it was a possible safety issue. I
frankly didn't go for it. So now I'm wondering, will my engine fall out
onto the road while I'm driving? I hate that. -- Amy

TOM: Rest assured, Amy, bad ball joints will not make your engine fall out
while you're driving. So you can completely erase that worry from your

RAY: Bad ball joints can, however, make the wheels fall off. So if that
concerns you at all, you might want to get them replaced.

TOM: This is actually a very common problem on Accords, so if I had to
guess, I'd guess that the dealer is telling you the truth. And he's right -
- it is a safety issue -- assuming you consider your front wheels "safety

RAY: Actually, I must say that I find it sad that we mechanics have such
lousy reputations, that even when we tell someone like Amy the truth and
try to warn her about impending doom, her response is "Yeah, sure, buddy!"

TOM: Well, after all those "dipstick polishing specials" we've sold over
the years, you can't really blame Amy, can you?

RAY: I guess not. Get a second opinion if you want to, Amy, but I'd get the
work done soon. And while you're at it, have the rear ball joints looked
at, too, promise?

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