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2010 Prius timing cover leak

I took my 2010 Prius in to the Toyota dealer for routine maintenance (75K miles) yesterday and they let me know that oil was starting to ooze out from under the timing cover. They said it would be okay for a while but to keep an eye on it. They quoted the repair as $4K+ !!! The service manager said it was that high because there was a lot of labor involved. That amount of money is a good head start on a new car!

Is this something the dealer needs to do, or can I have it done somewhere else? The design of the engine must be bad if something as routine as a gasket costs that much to swap out! or is this just Toyota’s idea of how to entice the customer into the new car showroom?

That’s NUTS! Is there any sign of a leak on the floor? How many miles between adding a quart?

I see many timing chain cover leaks on late model cars, people with powertrain warranties or extended warranties want the leaks repaired, others generally don’t. The repair involves a lot of labor for little reward, few people are concerned about how clean the bottom of their engine is.

From what I can see, it is a very big job. 16 hours labor to replace the timing cover. Presumably it’s the same number of hours if you just want to replace the gasket between it and the block to stop an oil leak leak. Still, $4,000 seems too much even so. 16 hours labor would ring out to more like $1000-$2000, not $4000. I wonder if there’s other stuff they think needs doing? It is sort of unusual to take that many hours to replace a timing cover gasket, but I guess that’s just how the engine was designed, presumably the engineers figured a leak was unlikely so few customers would ever face it.

Any inde shop that works on the Prius should be able to do this. No need to use a dealership.

Other than just replacing the gasket, here’s a couple of ideas

  • ask your shop if re-torqueing the bolts that hold the timing cover might stop the leak.

  • the leak may not be coming from where the shop thinks it is from. There’s washers for example under the hold-down bolts, and those could be leaking. It should be possible to clean all the oil off, then monitor were the leak is actually coming from. There are UV dyes added to the oil that can help with tracing oil leaks too…

  • just live with the leak, have the engine cleaned once in a while, and put an oil catch pan on the garage floor.

Thanks for confirming that $4K is a little out of line. If and when it really starts leaking, as opposed to oozing, I will do some calling around to find a better price from a reputable repair shop.

The re-torqueing sounds like a good idea, and if possible I’ll have them show me the area the next time the car is in.

Thanks so much!

If you’re going to call around to find a repair shop, don’t call the shops. Call your friends, co-workers, fellow church goers, fellow bar hoppers etc, ask them which shop they use.

Vehicle repair is expensive no matter the brand , some more than others. The first rule is always get a second opinion , watch your fluid levels and place cardboard under the engine to see how much it leaks.


A couple of years before I bought my 2005 Prius, I was driving a 1995 Ford Contour V6. Oil was seeping from one of the valve covers. The (independent) garage said they would have to charge me (as I recall) $250 to replace the gasket. The owner of the shop recommended that I keep a close look at my oil level and add oil when needed. He pointed out that was a lot cheaper and would work just as well. That’s generally one of the advantages of an independent garage.

To their credit they were being honest with you. It is really not possible, without seeing it, to tell whether this is just evidence of oil seepage or “weeping” (a damp area on the engine metal) or an actual leak.

There is a chance that at some point it could require repairs. However, there’s also a chance it may never become problematic.

One can look at the bottom sides of most vehicles that are 8 or 9 years old and find some evidence of oil or fluid seepage. That is fairly normal.

I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. Take a look yourself the next trip into the shop (look for oil drips getting ready to fall from engine) and follow suggestions given above about monitoring your engine oil level and parking over a surface (clean driveway, cardboard, etcetera) and casually notice any oil drips.

Really, as long as the engine never runs too low on oil then a leak is only messy, not a mechanical problem. Engines must have adequate oil… period. Prudent car owners add “make-up” oil between oil changes to maintain a “full” oil level.

Half the vehicles going down the road at any given time are dripping fluids. I’d bet that yours doesn’t even drip. Dealers sell service and have an obligation to keep you informed in case you would like to purchase some service.
CSA :slight_smile:


Dealers will recommend repairs that maybe minor for two reasons. 1. They really don’t make that much money on new vehicle sales and need to keep the shop busy. 2. They don’t want someone coming back in and complaining ( My engine ran out of oil because you did not tell me I had a leak ).

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Reason 3.
When I worked at car dealers this was the main reason!

Mechanics are people, too. They have families. They have mortgage payments, boat payments, car payments, Snap-On payments, wives, kids, and they like to eat.

Doing oil changes and sitting on a tool box doesn’t cut it.
CSA :wink:


I was a professor of computer science at a university, top of the pay scale. Ph.D. in electrical engineering from UC Berkeley with a couple of decades of industry experience. One day I was sitting in the quad, talking with our head grounds keeper. We were both in out late 50s. His son was in his middle 20s and was a mechanic at the Ford dealer where I took my Ford Contour. He had just done his son’s taxes. The son made about 25% more money than I did.

The guy who lives across the street from me is a mechanic at the local Toyota dealer. He has worked on my Prius. They have much more upscale house, a boat, etc., etc. Definitely live a much more upscale lifestyle than we do.

My dad was a mechanic. I was always told to go to college so I wouldn’t grow up to be a “poor” mechanic like my father. Turns out mechanics make more money than college professors. BTW, I’m okay with that. I have great respect for anyone who does a good job. Regardless of what that job is, I think they should be paid well.

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Hard working mechanics definitely deserve decent pay. It’s a tough profession, requires brains, comes with some risks, requires education, an investment in tools, and one that is not easy on aging mechanics.

Oil changes are lucrative, not for professional mechanics (unless they can up-sell additional work with it), but they are for these Fast-Lube places where they run cars in one door and out another and pay “lube technicians” a relatively small wage.

Same thing with the muffler shops that were once on every corner (before stainless steels exhaust systems).

We can discuss this all day, but to me the giveaway in the original question was that the Prius is 7 years old, the owner is still going to a dealer for maintenance, and I’m guessing she’s fairly conscientious about her car. The service writer who spoke with her is certainly encouraged to make sure she starts thinking about big expenses on her current car, so the dealer can sell her a new one. I’ll bet that writer has some sort of financial interest in a new sale.

That may suit this person perfectly, and she may be happy with the outcome, but she should know that the service writer is not entirely concerned with her welfare.

Is that diplomatic enough?

First thing to do is get a second opinion.

I’ve seen too many dealers and independents try to sell unneeded service…especially to people they deem are SUCKERS.

I know a Nissan dealer in NH that does that. Total scum business…I drove 20 miles past that dealer to another Nissan dealer when I bought my new 98 Pathfinder.

Wow, I wonder if you’re doing something wrong? I live on a lake in a resort area. I have a college professor neighbor who owns a “second home” (or third?) 3 houses from me. The place is nicer than mine, boats too, and that air conditioned hobby shop with 14 stationary power tools above the garage, and he has time off enough to be there probably half of the time.

He’s got a retro T-Bird in one of the garages, next to a sailboat. I know he travels to Europe on school business, too.

I could be wrong I guess… How much do you think those mechanics make?

The average college professor salary is about $120k/yr. I don’t know too many mechanics that make that kind of money. I understand if you were part time (which most college teachers are), but not a full time professor. My daughter teaches part time at a couple local colleges, and yes the pay is outrageous. But the full time professors in her field (chemistry) at the state schools make well over $130k/yr. CS teachers are right up there. I have one that works for me right now. He left academia because he couldn’t get tenure. He left a mid-size college assistant professor job at $120k.

This was some 25 years ago. I was making in the middle $60,000s and his
son’s income was in the middle $70,000s. His son’s income included some
overtime pay, but I didn’t get paid for my overtime work. I worked for a
public university in California. Many other states pay their faculty much
more. We lost a faculty member at that time who took a position in Vermont.
They paid him considerably more money, and housing costs were about half of
what they are here. Trust me, if I had known then what I know now, I never
would have gone into teaching. Oh well, water under the bridge. At least I
have a comfortable pension.

Someone with that level of education and experience (assuming you really knew your stuff and could execute) would be at least a Principal level EE in industry. Around here, that means $20k-$30k MORE than the numbers you cited…considering the tuition $$ being raked in, professors are getting the shaft…

No offense, but I find it hard to believe that 25 years ago a 25 year-old auto mechanic would make $70+ a year.

That would be approximately $116K in today’s money. The nationwide average annual salary for an auto mechanic is around $42K today. That does not include o/t and other incentives.