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2001 Toyota Corolla runs rough, has exhaust smell

Right after buying gas a couple of weeks ago, our car started running rough, losing power up hills, etc. Car has had a slight exhaust odor inside for a while, which mechanic said was due to a minor issue he fixed, but the odor continues. The check engine light, which was on for a long time, which mechanic said to ignore, is now off. Mechanic said exhaust valve on one cylinder failed. Another mechanic said he is not sure it is the valve. What is your best guess on this? We need to get this fixed, but want to fix the right thing and not the wrong thing. First mechanic quoted us about $1500’ second one said at least a $1,000, if it is the valve. We are senior citizens and just don’t want to get taken, either in error or deliberately. Thanks.

If I read this correctly the check engine light is off but still not running smooth . As for the exhaust smell find an independent muffler shop to check for leaks. But if it is running OK I might not do anything to a 17 year old vehicle until it really became a problem.

As for being taken just because you are seniors has no bearing because some repairs are just not cut and dried. Many times it takes some work to find the real problem.

I would worry about this. could be an indication of CO leaking in, could be hazardous.