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Dealer or No Dealer

I have a 2000 VW Passat, manual transmission, 111,111 miles as of yesterday. It has been an easy, trouble-free car, and I have always taken it to the dealer for regular maintenance because the dealer was close to where I work, and it was the path of least resistance. But, now that it is going on 12 years old, and my daughter is learning to drive on it, I started getting rattles and leaks… I took it to the dealer in January who recommended replacing two tie rods, two upper control arm bushings, alignment for above repairs, repair leaking engine mount, repair valve cover gaskets ad camshaft tensioner seals, replace 3 drive belts, and replace belly cover (missing!). Grand total estimated at $4070.

Since I imagine that I will need a new clutch in the near future (have original 2000 clutch and learning driver), I thought I should look around for a good mechanic instead of the dealer who could do this big stuff and not cost as much. I polled friends who remarkably all had mechanics they “loved”, chose the one closest to me, and took the car to him. I showed him the rattling and the list from the dealer (without the prices) and he replaced the front upper arms, the front struts and shocks, and rear shocks, alignment, front and rear brake pads, and various other leaks… for $2300.

Now the rattle is gone, but it feels like the car idles more noisily, there is a rev of the engine whenever I shift, and it smells like gas. Even with the rattle, the car did not seem old, and now it seems like an old car - sounds loud and I think the mileage is worse. I took it back to that mechanic who said that was the way it was supposed to sound. I took it to another one of the mechanics recommended, and he adjusted the clutch, but it did not make a difference.

It has been a good car, and I think it will be a good car for my daughter - boring sedan, low center of gravity, enough metal but not too much, relatively good mileage - so I want to keep it. But, I don’t like the way it feels now.

So, I am wondering whether I should take it back to the dealer to have them clean up whatever the other guys did? I was always happy with it when I got it back from them. Or could this rev when clutching be a sign of the clutch going and I should work on that? Is the belly cover important? I would appreciate any input the more expert in this field could provide.

I thought I would ask you about a couple of things and suggest a couple of things; You said there was various other leaks, pertaining to what on this vw? You might want to have a VW dealer just give you an estimate on the leak issues if there is gas or exaust leaks. If you have a exaust leak , they would be able to tell what part of the exaust leaks. The engine rev issue could be easily fixed with the dealer pointing out what that problem is exactly. You really don’t want to use the vehicle much until those leaks are fixed. With the dealer estimate you could thank the dealer for the estimate and use a private mechanic to do the repairs.