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Check engine & vsc off lights on; $1900 to replace a gasket?

I have a 2009 Corolla with 48,000 miles. Yesterday night, the check engine and vsc off lights came on. Dealer says it will be $200 to diagnose that problem … and oh, by the way, a gasket is starting to leak (probably unrelated to the lights?) which will cost $1900 to fix!

  1. How urgent are the lights? Can I wait to get the car into an independent dealer next Tuesday?

  2. If a car is put together in such a way that you have to dismantle it to the tune of $1900 to replace what is probably a 50 cent part, on a car that hasn’t even hit 50,000 miles–to my mind, that’s a design defect, and should be covered under warranty!

Any idea, again, how serious this is and whether I can wait over the holiday weekend to take it to someone else?

I’m not blond but am female … is the dealer trying to “take me for a ride”?


2009 is a seven year old vehicle . . regardless of miles . . and TIME takes its toll. ( ask me about my '79 in my driveway . . be sure to check tires at this age too. )
1900 dollars to get to a 50 cent gasket . . is common these days , you should see a Ford diesel pickup disassembled for that . . it looks like a space shuttle job.
But what may not be common is that particular labor charge.

Do you have a second shop you could ask for their diagnosis too ? An idepentent shop ( Richard’s auto, etc. ask neighbors, coworkers, and friends ) may charge less of an overall hourly rate and may do the same job for less including the other diagnosis.
Did they tell you or show you which gasket ?
The ‘‘check engine’’ light is very vague and requires the investigation to see .

Other posters here are active mechanics and can advise you with more precision.
And the female aspect does not alter our respect for someone smart enough to reach out for advice.

If the engine lights are not flashing you should be able to drive for a short time. AutoZone and places like that will read codes for free (they can’t do so in California). Post them here.
Ken is correct, no opinion can be offered without knowing what gasket needs replaced.

Check engine light just says there’s something wrong with emissions. Places like Autozone will scan it for free. Depending on the code will determine how expensive it’ll be. Could as simple as a loose gas cap. BRW - I wouldn’t let Autozone fix it. Find a good independent.

As for the VSC off light. Toyota disables VSC when ever check engine light is lit. Fix check engine light problem and the VSC off light will go away also.

Yes you can wait till next week to see your mechanic. $1,900 sounds like a head gasket. I am surprised that your car would need this so soon. Toyota engines are very robust. Did the car overheat? Did you buy it used? If the engine overheated the head gasket and heads could have been damaged and the $ is about right to fix it. With the car cool, check the level of fluid in the radiator . If it is low you can add water, just let your mechanic know next week so he can add the proper antifreeze/coolant mix.

Dealers love to point to a little bit of oil seeping and suggest major surgery.
If the gasket leak isn’t dripping and leaving a spot on the ground leave it be.
A little seepage is normal as it gets up in age.
My guess for $1,900 is the timing chain cover gasket. Head gasket would be more.
The check engine light could be as simple as the gas cap not sealing.
I wonder how many people have paid out $2,100 for a loose gas cap thanks to greedy dealerships.

As @“VOLVO V70” wrote, if the check engine light isn’t flashing, you can continue to drive the car for a while. Does it seem to be running normally?

As far as the statement about a $1900 gasket replacement, how did they come to that conclusion if they didn’t do a full diagnosis?? Definitely take the car elsewhere. By the way, if it’s the headgasket they were referring to, the gasket set costs a lot more than 50¢.


BRW - I wouldn't let Autozone fix it.
We aren't permitted to do repairs beyond simple battery and light bulb replacement. We are also not allowed to clear error codes.

Mr. Green is correct. There are a lot of vehicles out there which require major surgery to replace the most insignificant of parts.

While it wasn’t common, early Subaru engines could allow engine coolant to mix with the oil which will in turn ruin the engine.
Sometimes this was caused by a rubber O-Ring fitted between the engine block halves at the coolant crossover port.

Fifty cent O-Ring; complete disassembly of the engine and rebuild of a good engine based on what was pretty much a random and wild guess as there is no test at all for this.

Complaints should be directed to the people who build them; and they’re all guilty of it. Every single one of them.

Isn’t it annoying when your car that you depend on day in and day out works fine for months, even years, without problems, then one day you start it up and this happens? Arggg!!! Life used to be so good, and now this! Why me?? !! …This happens to me too, I understand your pain. But things are probably not as dire as you may be thinking.

When the CEL comes on, that automatically turns on the VSC by Toyota’s design probably. So the VSC problem will be resolved once the CEL problem is fixed, and that might be as simple as replacing the gas cap. Suggest to not over-worry. Take care of it at your earliest convenience.

$200 is a reasonable price for checking and doing some preliminary diagnosis why there’s a CEL. That can take some time for the techs to figure out. There’s no need to use a dealership btw, especially true for a 7 year old car. You’ll likely get as good or better results and a less expensive invoice at a local inde shop. Ask friends, coworkers, relatives who they use to fix their cars, if you haven’t yet established a relationship with an inde shop that specializes in Toyotas or at least Asian cars.

If the CEL starts flashing however, stop driving asap, and tow the car to the repair place.

No harm asking for warranty coverage on the $1900 gasket problem … lol … but I don’t see it happening. The price of the actual gasket is pretty much unrelated to the cost to replace it. That’s true of any car. In fact your Corolla is probably considerably less expensive to replace that gasket than other cars. That’s an advantage of purchasing a Corolla. Gasket replacement is sort of like replacing a rotted sill plate on your house. That’s the piece of 2x4 at the bottom of the wall, which might cost $5 for a 16 foot length. But to replace it, there’s thousands of dollars of expense b/c the wall has to be somehow supported while the old one is removed and the new one installed, which could also damage the wall and require repainting. That’s where the expense is, the labor to do it.

Presuming you have the 1.8 L engine. There’s close to a dozen recalls, none for gaskets that I can see unfortunately. But if you go to a dealer, good idea to ask them to verify all have been done. One is related to the power brake booster, so that’s important from a safety point of view. If you have the other engine, 2.2 I think, ask the dealership to check if there’s a recall or customer interest bulletin for the gasket. Worth a shot anyway. Usually they’d volunteer than info if it applied, but sometimes they’ll not double check. Best of luck.

We need a lot more detail to form a meaningful opinion.
Can you quote exactly what the mechanic wrote on the shop order… or told you verbally? In addition, exactly what are the problems or symptoms that caused him to suggest that you need a gasket replaced for $1900?

Whenever you get an estimate for an expensive repair it’s always prudent to get a second opinion if possible, although when the car’s in the shop and not running it can be difficult to so. But if we can get more detail perhaps we can assess whether driving it to a different shop would endanger the engine.

$200 to diagnose a VSC off problem would be high in my area. It’s an hour’s shop time, and in my area that runs about $150 (it’s getting expensive!), but a diagnostic fee is standard now. Years ago a lot of people would go to a shop, get a problem diagnosed, and then fix it themselves and the shop would end up with zip. They wised up, and I don’t blame them. Their time and investment in facilities and equipment is valuable, and if they do a diagnosis they deserve to get paid. Usually if you have them proceed with the repair they roll the diagnostic fee in and it disappears. Unless, of course, it’s unusually complicated.

Many shops now pad their revenue with unnecessary gasket replacements. Especially dealer shops. Oil pan gaskets and valvecover gaskets seem to be the popular revenue-enhancers these days. I’d need more detail to guess whether this one is necessary, but I’d be wary of it.

I don’t think gender has anything to do with it. Crooked shops and shops that pad their bills are equal-opportunity crooks. Believe me when I say they do it to men too. I could write a book.

In summary, the diagnostic fee may be high, and the gasket issue sounds shady to me. I’d really like more detail.

ok4450: I determined decades ago that automotive engineers and manufacturers have no sympathy for those who someday have to work on their products.

Thank you all for your feedback.

A neighbor recommended a place she has used, who in turn sent me to Poway Accurate Automotive.

They read the code (for FREE), tested all four ignition coils (since that was the code) (for FREE), found no problems with any of the coils, and then swapped #2 and #4 (for FREE) so if the CEL comes on again, we can tell by which ignition coil it says, whether the problem is a particular coil or the computer.

AND–they checked the gasket and don’t think it’s leaking–but if it IS, it’ll be about five years before it’s bad enough to need replacing! (And yes, they did this for FREE too)

So, I have definitely found the garage I’ll be using from now on for all my car work!

What gasket please.
I would hope that you at least handed them a Five dollar bill for their donut fund.

Half of the engine is assembled with FPIG sealant (form in place gasket), not a specific gasket. Timing chain cover leaks sometimes occur and involve a lot of labor to reseal.

The common responses by customers after learning of their oil leak are;
Go ahead and repair it, I have an extended warranty.
No thank you, that oil leak does not bother me.

There are some that are unsure if they want the leak repaired.

Last year while I had my neighbors car in for maintenance I discovered one of the rear struts was leaking oil. He insisted that it be replaced ASAP for fear that it would drip on his garage floor, he paid thousands to have the decorative coating applied to the floor. I wanted to tell him that he was over reacting, it is unlikely to drip and if it did he could just wipe it up but knowing how particular he is about his garage floor, I just went ahead with the repair.