Before my mate left home for an extended business trip recently, her Subaru wagon (’99 150k) was running fine, no overheating, no problems. She had had a mechanic change the oil and generally check it out at home before she left, and he recommended doing the timing belt soon, but he found no other issues.
She had the timing belt done in the area where she was working. She picked it up before leaving for home, drove it about 20 miles when it overheated. Had it towed back to the shop.
The mechanic found that there was air in the cooling system. So they bled the system and took the car for a test drive around town, and told her that the car was running fine.
She asked them to do a compression test, but they said it wasn’t necessary. She then asked them to drive it some more, at highway speeds, to make sure it was okay. They did, and called her and said that when they drove it again, it did overheat. The temperature gauge went way up, and then back down. This happened a second time during the test drive. Back at the shop, the mechanic found exhaust gas in the cooling system which they said indicates that the head gasket is blown.
Since their last call with her, I’ve talked to two other mechanics, who have worked on our vehicles in our area. Both said it was too much to believe that it was coincidence that our head gasket blew within 20 miles of the shop—especially after they left air in the cooling system and caused the car to overheat. The consensus was that it was this overheating episode, caused by the shop, that caused the head gasket to blow.
They also said that if the head gasket was bad before the timing belt change, it would have shown up in the condition of the coolant before they did the belt. One of them said that he would never even have done the timing belt if that was the case. Instead, he would’ve called us to say that the car needed the head gasket before the timing belt got done.
Given all that, I think they owe us the work. They insist that it was a coincidence BUT are willing to split the labor cost with us…which I think is contradictory. I’m trying to decide what to say to the shop owner next. Any informed perspectives would be deeply appreciated!