Am I being taken advantage of?

I drive a 2002 Honda Odyssey. I took the car in to be checked before a long trip. They told me they found “transmission leaking heavily, replace transmission, estimate $4750”. I had a second opinion where they found “ATF fill plug adaptor for oil jet not tight”. They tightened this connection, adjusted the ATF level, and I took a long trip in the Odyssey with no mechanical problems. My odometer is at approx 98,000. At 105,000 my regular Honda dealer recommends $1400 worth of work including timing belt, water pump and spark plug replacement, valve admustment with valve core gasket replacement, tire rotating drivebelt replacement, engine coolant replacement, all safety checks, oil and filter change. This is estimated to cost $1375 plus tax. The second opinion dealership recommends only the timing belt replacement. However, they are saying it should be done before the start of cold weather, not at 105,000. It would cost much less. I don’t know who to believe. Is all that work really necessary or are they taking an elderly woman alone to the cleaners? I have dealt with the first dealership for 20 years and felt I could trust them. Now I’m not so sure. On the other hand, would the second dealership simply be setting me up to replace each thing one by one, making me risk breakdowns and having to wait for maintenance work over and over again. My friends say don’t trust the first dealership. I don’t know what to do.

The first dealer has the right idea on the preventive maintenance; but, the wrong price. Oh, the price would be about the same at another dealer (for the same work); but, you can get it done for hundreds less at a quality independent shop,
Ask friends and aquaint for shops they recommend.

By the end of your first paragraph you should have realized that dealer # 1 wants to take you for an expensive ride .

Well, if the spark plugs, timing belt, valve adjustment, coolant change, etc, etc. have not ever been done then you’re on borrowed time. This should have been done long ago and a water pump, along with the belt tensioner, is always changed along with the timing belt (assuming you want it done correctly).

Regarding the valve adjustment that is something that Honda recommends at 100k miles plus, but their recommendation is dead wrong. They are recommending this extended interval only to make their vehicles appear to be more maintenance-free.
The smart money says a valve adjustment should be done every 30k miles at the most since it is possible to suffer cylinder head valve damage, and more, from excessively tight valve lash.

If none of these items have been done in the past then dealer No. 1 is correct.

(And I would point out that your “friends” are not mechanically inclined and are basing their opinions on nothing more than a dollar figure rather than what is good for your car.)

$1375 isn’t a terrible price for the scheduled maintenance. And it’s true that cold weather can sometimes trigger problems earlier. Hondas are pretty bulletproof in my experience so you could try stretching things a bit if money is tight. I would not necessarily replace the water pump for exmample, unless other work being done made it easy to do so (in other words, doing it now would be much cheaper than doing only the water pump later).

You certainly would never replace the whole transmission for oil leaks!

The transmission could need to be replaced/rebuilt if the fluid level was too low due to the leaks. Low fluid level can damage clutch packs, bushings, bearings, etc.
Once the tranmission starts slipping a bit it’s damaged goods and the transmission life is dramatically shortened.

Do you have the factory maintenance manual? Make a list of what it says needs to be done. Don’t take the dealer’s word for it, either one’s.

The owners manual should not be the final arbiter in what should be done with a vehicle maintenance wise.
There are a number of areas that should be addressed far more often than what any owners manual states. Trans fluid changes, fuel filter changes, etc. and the real nasty one about extending valve lash checks for over a 100k miles or eternity; whichever comes first.

Most people will luck out and others will not be so lucky. Failure to inspect valve lash on a regular basis could put someone into this category very easily.

As someone who has had to repair numerous vehicles due to lack of or faulty valve lash inspection procedures, and also having had to listen to the accompanying cursing from the vehicle owners who were facing a large repair bill, I strongly disagree with the premise the owners manual is always correct.
Honda used to recommend 15k mile lash inspections, but just like Nissan, Subaru, and others, would prefer to make their cars appear to “need less” maintenance so hang the proper procedure because what the heck; by the time a problem crops up the car will be out of warranty and it’s the customer’s headache then.

The maintenance items that were suggested for 105k are essentially those that are specified in the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule that should be sitting (likely never opened, in its original plastic wrapping) in the glove compartment. All the OP has to do is to read this little booklet in order to see that she is not being set up for robbery and to see that her friends are woefully ignorant on the topic of auto maintenance.

The replacement of the water pump at the same time as the timing belt is probably not listed in the maintenance schedule, but anyone who suggests that it be done along with the timing belt is actually doing the owner a favor, as this is very possibly going to save labor costs in the long run. Valve adjustment is also likely not listed by the manufacturer, but as ok4450 correctly notes, this is something that is very desirable–IF the owner intends to keep the vehicle for the long term.

To amplify what ok4450 stated, the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule is not necessarily correct regardiing vehicle maintenance, but it should be considered to be the absolute MINIMUM of what needs to be done in order to keep a vehicle running economically and safely. Going beyond what is recommended by the manufacturer is frequently beneficial for the owner who intends to keep his/her vehicle for many years. On the other hands, if one is going to trade in or sell a vehicle every 3 years or so, then just the minimum maintenance recommendations in the maintenance schedule will be sufficient for that original owner.

I strongly recommend the following for the OP:

*Study the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, which is contained either in the Owner’s Manual, or in a separate booklet with an appropriate title. In either case, you should find the desired publication in the glove compartment. It is not written in a technical manner, and it is very easy to understand if you focus on it for a few minutes.

*Note exactly what maintenance procedures are listed for 105k, and plan on having at least these specified procedures done–either at a dealership or at a well-reputed independent mechanic.
(DO NOT go to Jiffy Lube or any of its clones, or to a chain operation like Meineke, Midas, Monro, Sears, Discount Tire, etc.) Be aware that Hondas require special fluids for things like the transmission and the power steering, some non-dealer service facilities will not use the correct fluid, and this failure to use the correct fluid can result in serious mechanical problems in fairly short order, so be sure that any independent mechanic to whom you may choose to go is one that has a reputation for honesty as well as good workmanship.

*If you plan on keeping this vehicle for more than another year or two, give consideration to having the “extra” services like water pump replacement and valve adjustment done.

It sounds like your transmission problem was solved by simply tightening the plug that was loose, and that is a good thing. Hopefully, you will not have any further issues of this type with the vehicle. But, overall, you really need to maintain the vehicle properly. The first dealership was correct with their maintenance list, but was either not competent or was dishonest regarding the source of the transmission problem. The second dealership seems to be more honest, but is likely catering to those who don’t want to be proactive in maintaining their vehicle. As you correctly surmised, this can cost more in the long run.

If I was in your situation, I would avoid the first dealership, but I would use their list of recommended maintenance procedures–in conjunction with the Honda maintenance schedule–and have the services done either by the second dealership or by an independent mechanic who has been in business for at least 3 years, and who has earned a reputation for honesty and competence.

And, remember that no vehicle has ever suffered from being maintained better than the minimum requirements.