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Concerned about dealership estimate to repair

I’m not comfortable with the answers I’m getting from our local GM deal about repairing the head gasket on my 2003 Pontiac Aztek. This repair job went from $450 to $1,600 once they “found more damage” and that’s using an “after market” head gasket. Now they say the head gasket they got in “wasn’t correct”. Was it broke? Do they need to modify it? They’re sending it somewhere- why?

My Aztek has 95,000. This is the first problem I’ve had. I want it to last as long as possible. I’d like to get a second opinion- $1,600 sounds high and I’m not comfortable with the vague answers I’m getting. At this point I’d have to have it towed to another dealer or a mechanic. Is it worth it? Any ideas or suggestions would be appreciated.

Is It Possible For You To Get More Information?

Details pertaining to the “found more damage” would be helpful in helping you. It’s possible that there was more damage. You don’t want to necessarily sink $1600 into it if the bearings suffered damage, for instance, and that is not going to be addressed during the repair work. More damage could indicate the need for a remanufactured engine.

Was the engine oil contaminated with coolant and / or did the engine suffer from severe over-heating? These are important details that we don’t have.

What are they sending “somewhere else”? Is it the cylinder head?

I can’t figure out why a dealer would want to use an after market head gasket. The savings would be small, as most of the repair cost is in labor.


I wonder where they came up with the $450 figure, as that would be extraordinarily inexpensive for a head gasket job. $1600 actually sound like a fair price considering you’re having it done at a dealer. An independent shop would probably be in the $1000-$1200 range.

When you work with a dealer you are talking to a “service writer” and not the mechanic. Lot’s of critical information is getting lost in the process.

You are entitled to know what is going on with your car, and the costs of repair. If you tell them to give you all the details in writing because you want to get other estimates and will have the car towed if necessary I think you will have their attention.

CSA brought up some good points. Ir is doubtful they would send the gasket anywhere for modification. Perhaps they are sending the head itself out to a machine shop for some reason. I suggest you get the mechanic working on the car and the service writer and yourself all at the same table and discuss what is going on with your car.

It sounds like the original quote was to replace the head gasket. And after the head was removed it was discovered the head itself was defective.

The aftermarket part may be a re manufactured head that the mechanic found a issue with and is having it fixed at a machine shop. That is my best guess.

This is very helpful. Let me clarify- the $450 was to repair one piston. Apparently the rocker arm broke. I had pulled over immediately upon hearing and feeling the engine act up and turned off the car. This dealer suggested I try to drive it to their shop about a mile away, but I didn’t want to chance it. I arranged for a tow through AAA at no charge because it was less than 5 miles from where I broke down.

Once they started to repair the piston, they noticed the damage to the head gasket which needed to be replaced. I don’t think it had time to over heat. They didn’t say anything about contaminates, but I didn’t think to ask either. If there would have been a defective head gasket it seems I would have discovered that sooner.

I wonder if this engine is known for problems. Any reason it shouldn’t last another 50K miles? I don’t know which engine it has as the owners manual is 8 feet off the ground at the dealership and they’re closed.

I bought it new and I’ve kept records of every maintenance and service call, even every oil change. I’ve had the front brakes re-done and bought new tires, but that’s it. I know everyone thinks the Aztek is ugly, but I love this car and it’s been a great vehicle.

How do I keep the repair costs reasonable and keep it running for years to come?