Cheated or troubled?



Hi, my fiancee’s 2003 Toyota Echo had a belt break, causing the power steering to go out. A mechanic fixed it at a decent price, but a day later her check engine light mysteriously went on. Then, the mechanic (shadily) called her and asked if the car was still “running okay”. I suspected something, but took it into him anyway. He charged $80 for an inspection, then said the car needed a 60K mile tuneup, the oxygen sensors, PCV valve, fuel filter, and ignition coil replaced. $1200 ($500 parts, $700 labor).

I knew this was a ripoff, and paid him the $80 and left. Now, the car is suddenly making a thumping sound when accelerating from 0-10 mph. I think he’s been sabotoging the car. What should I do?


I would get a second opinion from another mechanic.


I doubt very seriously he’s been sabotaging anything.
Some more car info might help; how many miles on the car, did your fiancee continue to operate the car after the belt broke, any overheating occur, is the car still being operated as is, etc. etc?

If you have an AutoZone, Checkers, etc. nearby (preferably real close by) you might drop by there and have them pull the codes. They will do this for you free. Post any results back here for further discussion.


Given you suspect something amiss.
first off, check for items disturbed for mo aparent reason and were not part of a belt repair.

a 2003 engine woudl have a fine layer of dust/oil mix on the engine, only disturbed if you meddle, or fix or pressure wash it.
Bolt heads and nuts will display recent pressure from a spanner. Clips will never go back exactly where they were, etc.
Air filter covers will either display paw prints or not. Same for plug leads.
So by examing every feature of the engine, even the bits that were changed and you will see evidance of a “disturbance” OR not.

It may indeed need a 60K tuneup, but cars do not generally dive over the edge on turning 599999.9 so in a week it should not go from normal to a disaster, though it not unheard of, just very remote. (my clutch went from operation to non-operational in about 48 hours.)

with 60K miles, it may or may not need an O2 sensor, they tend to die anywhere from 60K to 120K, My friends Camry just took 2 at 70K. So maybe, maybe not, hard to tell.
PCV, valve… Hmmmm. maybe, what’s wrong with the one on the car. usually it is the rubber grommett gives up not the valve itself.
Filter?..hhhhh been buying dirty gas?. then why?. starved for fuel, low fuel pressure…otherwise I’d vote NO.
Ignition coil? Was the car running rough to begin with, difficult to start, any signs of heistation?.
Given you say if is not “thumping” can I re-describe this as “bucking” ie engine stalling abruptly and restarting, ad infinatum.
Maybe yo might want to see if it was changed TO a known failed unit, you go in and have your original returned as new + labor. (i only mention this as you seem suspicious). Otherwise very odd.
I do not know where the (coil) is in this car, actually I expect this to have a very reliable coil, but a potential unrelaible Ignition Module, which is a little electronic iten and prone to failure in just about every modern car, typically they do not fail outright like a bulb, but tend to splutter out when warmed up, as in after 15~20 minutes of driving. Anyway, find both and check for tampering. ie the screws and wires to the Ignition module should not show any signs of contact.

Describe the “thumping” a little better. Meanwhile inspect the engine for tampering, ie anything not related to the belt changed should not be disturbed.
How was it runnign overall after the belt change?. JIC someone simply switched a few plug wires or loosened your gas cap to switch on the MIL lamp.