|Yes. Here in Canada we don't say 'aircraft airworthy' anymore when we sign a release. Heck, you can sign a release for just about anything, as long as anything outstanding is referenced in the release or the limits of the release are self-evident (an extensive sheet metal repair on a removed wing or the overhaul of a hydraulic pump for example). I don't have any problem writing 'blah blah problem, owner advised, no action taken'
WRT the problems that Cessna has, yes, play in elevator hinges is a no no. In fact, I don't think I've ever come across a bad elevator bearing on a 172 without removing the elevator first (lots on Cherokees owing to the centralized and highly stressed location of the bearings).
Elevator re and re should only be a couple hours and the same for the bearings. They are oilite bearings IIRC so replacement shouldn't be too much. The needle bearings I just put on the rudders for our Skymaster were over $40 each.
With aileron push-pull rods, it is tough to deduce anything by rotating it. About all it tells you is that the bearings are free (good thing), but it doesn't really give an indication of wear.
I grab the trailing edge and gently move it up and down while I have my finger on the rod or bearing, listening and feeling for play. This is what we are most concerned about.
Cessna only gives free-play figures for the trim-tab in the maintenance manual, but IIRC AC43.13 gives you a formula where you divide the chord of the control by a figure and you arrive at the allowable free-play. Don't quote me on this but I believe it winds up being about 1/4" total for a 172 aileron (which translates into a very small amount of play in the bearings).
Aileron control-rod bearings are around $40-$50 each (should do all four at the same time to get the desired fix..... at least it isn't a Mooney where there are zillions! ) and shouldn't take very long to re and re and rig, because you aren't disturbing the system (just set the ailerons to the flaps like they were before or count turns).