Dealer scam or real repair needed?

I took my 2007 Corolla to the dealer for an oil change and tire rotation and state inspection. This car has only 34,000 miles on it. I’ve had trouble with the dealer in the past, recommending repairs that were clearly not needed.

This time the service agent came to see me with that melancholy look on his face, so sorry, your car needs these pricey repairs. One was an oil leak at the oil pan, the other was something about the timing belt tensioner. I did not believe him, since the oil pan leak repair was recommended two years ago, and I didn’t get it then. I check my oil regularly and have never had it go down in the slightest, that I can tell. So I declined the repairs.

But since I really don’t know, do these sound legitimate? It seems strange to me that the timing belt would need work at this low mileage. Thanks for any advice.

Forget the oil pan gasket, you’re doing right just checking the oil, keep doing that. As for the timing belt, what, exactly, does your owners manual say? There’s usually a miles AND a time limit, you may be at your time limit. If so, find a good independent mechanic, no need to use the dealer.

If the oil leak isn’t great enough to be a concern to you then don’t have it repaired. Understand oil leaks need to be documented because customers will return 3 days after and oil change an blame the shop for causing oil leaks.

There is some confusion about your other recommendation, a problem with the timing chain tensioner? Or was it the drive belt? Check your inspection report or invoice.

If they see one drop of oil hanging off the oil pan they’ll tell you you need to have it fixed. If you’re not consuming any oil I wouldn’t worry about it.

At eight years old you may be due for a timing belt, tensioner and water pump if this hasn’t already been done. There’s not only a milage limit on this but also a time limit. Check your owners manual.

Thanks! It’s the tensioner on the timing belt they were talking about.

Could I ask why the timing belt, tensioner, and water pump need replacement by time, not by mileage?

They do recommend replacing the timing belt at 90,000 or 9 years.

I used to have a mechanic I trusted, but sadly he is no longer with us…

If the dealership has been dishonest with you in the past, why do you keep rewarding it with your continued business?

The timing belt is made of rubber. Rubber degrades over time. Even rubber that has never been used will be junk if it sits for enough time. When you’re talking about the thing that keeps your engine working properly, that gets important. :wink:

The tensioner and water pump get replaced with the belt not because they absolutely need to be replaced at that time, but because odds are they will need to be replaced before the next timing belt replacement. Most of the labor cost in the job is just doing the surgery to get down to the timing belt, which has to come off in order to replace the tensioner and water pump. In other words, if you don’t replace them now while you’re already paying for the expensive surgery, you’re probably gonna have to pay for that surgery again sooner than you would otherwise have to.

Now, all that said, your car doesn’t have a timing belt, but a chain, so… Are you sure they told you the BELT needs replacement?

A 2007 Corolla doesn’t have a timing belt, the engine uses a chain.

I doubt the water pump and tensioner need replacement at 36K. Considering you’ll get your second belt at about 80K you can replace them then.

@atalanta - it looks like you don’t have a timing belt - where did you get the ‘90,000 miles or 9 years’ recommendation? As far as I can tell, the last Corolla with a timing belt was in 1997.

Things are even if they don’t do much work. I never did any work–just had an expensive hobby called teaching–and I’ve aged. Your car doesn’t have many .miles, but timing belts deteriorate with age. So do water pump seals. Tensioner springs lose their strength. You are close to the 9 years, so be a sport and replace the timing belt. Since it runs the water pump, replace the pump while you are in there. A new tensioner will round out the maintenance. As for me, I can’t be renewed with a new timing belt, so Mrs. Triedaq nurses me along with Geritol®. There isn’t a medicine for aging timing belts, so replace it.

Looking closer at the scheduled maintenance guide, I see that the “replace timing belt” is for the Camry Solara – so I don’t see a recommendation for the Corolla.

Sorry, what’s the difference between a timing belt and chain?

@nevada545 Yes, the engine is the same as mine, a 2008. I would stop using this dealer for service. My Toyota dealer also tried the “leaking oil pan” fix for $545! My regular service mechanic simply noted that the oil pan was sweating, but made no recommendations.

It could be that your serpentine belt and tensioner need replacing; my belt showed cracks and was replaced this spring. Cost was $46. The tensioner was fine.

It could be that the Toyota service advisor (scare monger) simply does not know the difference between a timing belt and an accessory drive belt.

Timing belts are replaced periodically, timing chains are replaced only if they develop a mechanical problem. Is your engine making any unusual noise that would lead the dealer to recommend replacing the timing chain tensioner? You can see that part in the diagram above.

A chain is metal and doesn’t need to be replaced unless it becomes noisy. A belt is a rubber compound and deteriorates with age. Think about a rubber band as it gets old.

No, the car runs smoothly and quietly. I haven’t noticed any noises. Is it easy to check the tensioner, if I take it somewhere else?

How much is this belt repair?

Sorry, I don’t remember what he said about the cost.

I just read more on Cartalk about timing chains, and about sludge that can be a problem. My car has been used almost exclusively for city driving the last few months, maybe on the highway a few times, but not for long. Should I take it for a longish drive to prevent the sludge problem?

I remember sometime on their radio show Click & Clack advising someone to take their car out on the highway at least 10 miles a week. I haven’t been doing that.

How often do you change your oil?

twice a year, only drive it 4-5,000 miles per year

I very much doubt you have a sludge problem, then. But a weekly highway drive is a good idea. I don’t know how the dealer would have diagnosed a bad/worn timing chain tensioner if it wasn’t making noise.

You should find another good independent mechanic. I found mine using the ‘mechanics files’ link at the top of this page. Click it, then click the ‘zip code’ tab, enter your zip code, and see what ones are near you.