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98 Es300 - Serious Inside Front Tire Wear


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ES300 175K miles engine and body in good to excellent shape

My daughter's ES300 has excessive tire wear on the front tires. It's worse on the driver's side than the passenger's. Car pulls fairly heavily to the left.. much more than a drift but not a turn! Toyota (not Lexus) dealership says car can't be aligned until these things are done (they tried but the alignment wouldn't "stay"): 1) Replace front struts & mounts worn ($1000+); 2) Rear struts and mounts worn ($1300+); 3) Rear sway bar bushings and alignment ($200+). 4) Valve cover gaskets are leaking ($400-ish).

Rear tires are fine. Just had the tires rotated back-to-front and front-to-back so "bad" tires are now on the rear. She was charged $60 for the review. Nothing was done at the Toyota dealership nor has anything been done yet as she doesn't have the $3000 necessary for 'all' the repairs.

I'm hoping that a local repair shop can replace or repair the struts.

A) Here's my question: WILL replacing the front struts (both sides) with non-Lexus struts and then align SOLVE the excessive inside front tire wear issue or is it something else she should consider? I'm looking at not replacing the springs on the struts so Monroe's general price is $110-ish for each strut via the $225-ish to include the spring on each.

B) Second issue: I've smelled coolant when I have the heater on but it's not a strong smell. Ideas here on what to do? Use a coolant/antifreeze sealant?

TIA for ALL the suggestions/advice!

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Definitely get a second opinion from an independent garage, using NAPA or PEP BOYS parts or similar. For sure, an alignment is a waste of money unless the foundation is sound. Also check out the ball joints, etc. You may be able to correct her problem for half of what was quoted.

As for the valve cover gaskets, unless there is a substantial leak, requiring the addition of two quarts of oil or more between oil changes, it would be cheaper to just live with the problem. This would require the driver to faithfully check the oil frequently, perhaps each day, or several times a day during a long trip. After all, it is a 13 year old car. The other side may be that she has to park on your interlocking brick driveway, and you would rather not see the car claim its territory. Good Luck!

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Definitely get a second opinion from an independent garage, using NAPA or PEP BOYS parts or similar. For sure, an alignment is a waste of money unless the foundation is sound. Also check out the ball joints, etc. You may be able to correct her problem for half of what was quoted.

As for the valve cover gaskets, unless there is a substantial leak, requiring the addition of two quarts of oil or more between oil changes, it would be cheaper to just live with the problem. This would require the driver to faithfully check the oil frequently, perhaps each day, or several times a day during a long trip. After all, it is a 13 year old car. The other side may be that she has to park on your interlocking brick driveway, and you would rather not see the car claim its territory. Good Luck!

Thanks for the response.

Relating to the oil issue we use Mobil One Extended Performance. She needs to add about a half quart around 10K+ on a 'bad' oil change interval. So.. not much concern there. The oil looks great at 5-10K and minimal impact at 12K+. Not bad for 173K miles when we've used M1EP since around 120K-ish.

On the other aspect of the alignment I'll get it checked out. So, is it your experience or perspective that struts DON'T cause/affect alignment? Thanks for your input again!

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Shocks/struts that have bad mounts, are bent, have lost their rebound, etc. will absolutely affect your alignment, not to mention the safety of the car to respond in emergency situations.

I have a 35 000 mile 1990 Nissan 300zx that's just a toy and started wearing the inside tread on the rear tires. No adjustments could be made to change the wheel geometry to fix the wear, because adjustments were at limits, and the springs had sagged over the years, causing the problem. Nissan factory springs on all 4 corners were astronomical price wise. By buying aftermarket I was able to replace all 4 struts, all four springs, as well as add adjustable camber segments at all four corners of the car, for a little over half of the cost of the factory springs alone. I was able to do the work myself, which helped for sure. After an alignment, my wear problems were gone.

As I suggested, have the car checked out by a reputable independent garage. They'll be able to supply a good, better, best level of parts that'll reflect the same in cost, low, medium, expensive. Have the ball joints and tie rods checked as well. When all of those are up to snuff, then get a good shop to do the alignment. Its a 13 year old car, and the number of years it has left should be one determining factor as to how much to spend to correct the problem as to good, better, best.

By the way, the best tires should be on the rear of the car, so that the rear doesn't break free in an emergency stop and swap ends with the front of the car.

As for the coolant smell, get that checked out and traced down. If its the heater core (inside the car) you will see the windshield fog up when the defroster is put on, or coolant on the passenger floor. If its in the engine compartment, it could be a leaking hose that needs tightening, or replacing if cracked and aged. It could be that radiator needs to be recored. Or it could be an external leak of the head gasket. Any one of those could spell doom for the engine if left unattended, and if they let go and overheat, you could blow the engine. Good Luck!

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