Dealer Dilemma

Approximately 1 month ago, my 07 Camry’s water pump failed (for the 2nd time) and took out the belt tensioner with it on a long distance trip. The dealership in the nearest town did the emergency repair along with recall work, spark plug changes and transmission fluid change (it was time for it to be done). I left, and the steering was a bit tight and was rubbing, but I thought maybe this was something to do with the work that had been done.

2 weeks afterward, I have rough idle when starting that smooths out after about 30-45 seconds, and the check engine light comes on and the steering is worse… it was “Cylinder 3 misfire” according to an auto parts store. I made an appointment with the local dealership due to the recent work done, but the light went off the day before, so they told me nothing could be done for the check engine light, but they did move the spark plug to a different spot and the steering was the intermediate steering shaft that needed replacing which was done.

3 days later, the light comes back on so back to the dealership it goes. The rough idle does not ever go away. I am told that it is a leaking fuel injector. I thank them and advise that we typically do our own work when we can and take the car back with no work done.

We ask for a second opinion from an independent mechanic (has not seen the car) who does not believe it is a fuel injector because the symptoms don’t fit. Exactly 1 week later, the car dies on the side of the highway, and I’m being told by the independent mechanic that there is no compression and it appears as though the head gasket has been the problem this whole time and has been leaking fluid which indicates this should have been caught at a minimum by dealership number 2 if not by both dealerships.

Is there any culpability here? I just feel like someone is in the wrong here. I get that I’m going to have to pay for a new engine either way, but I feel like this wouldn’t have been as bad had they caught this sooner.

If you’re the one that was doing the water pump jobs and operated the car while it was overheating then this is all on you. If overheated, it could be that this weakened the head gasket and it just chose to give up at some point after the initial breakdown. There would have been no way to forecast this other than a warning that it may happen or it may not. It may have had good compression when the plugs were replaced but that does not guarantee good 2 weeks later.

For what it’s worth, constantly going to a shop (dealer or independent) for an opinion or a diagnosis, if free, and then doing the work yourself does not often reflect well upon a customer.
Most mechanics work on flat rate and see this quite often. This also means if you were not charged then their time was spent for zero dollars in their paycheck and this is generally not taken well even if nothing is said.

Wow. U take car to dealer for diagnosis, decline work, continue to drive car with obvious unrepaired issues and now want to blame dealer for your refusal to fix listed issues. You get what you deserve.

A check engine light, leaves a code in the computer even if it goes off on its own. Even a cylinder completely out of service, will not make a car go dead. A motor can run on 3 cylinders. You still don’t know what is going on with your car. Likely you have even more extensive damage, but I don’t think this the fault of the dealer(s).

A misfire most often is a bad plug or coil. However if changing them out doesn’t resolve the misfire, next suspect is a fuel injector not providing the charge of fuel or lack of compression. A compression check should have been done long before the car stopped dead on the side of the road. The rough idle is what a 4 cylinder will do running on 3 cylinders. A V6 running on 5 cylinders will also be rough but some drivers might not realize it.