Dealership Repair Ethics & Decorum

So my 1999 Honda Accord had been acting up, trying and sometimes successfully stalling out. I was trying to figure out why…fuel pump, fuel injectors?..but then it stalled out on my completely one day and I ended up having it towed to the dealer. It was after hours so I dropped it off. Just got a call and they say it’s a bad front 02 sensor. That might be the only problem. The thing is, they want $350 to fix it…$200 for parts, and $150 for labor. And I can buy a Bosch 02 sensor for this car for $40 on Amazon, and I can install it in just a couple minutes. I’m grateful to them for diagnosing my car, but that’s a steep, steep price over DIY, and I don’t have cash to throw around right now. I’ve never told a mechanic “no” before though, and certainly haven’t then gone over and fixed my car in the parking lot…pretty awkward idea. What should I do?

Dealer prices are always very high. Personally I would use the Denso O2 sensor, but you can get it a lot less then $200. They’re probably charging you a minimum of an hour labor.

I don’t like the sound of this at all

Front O2 sensor causes stalling . . . ?!

Theoretically possible, but unlikely, in my opinion

I’d like to hear the explanation for this one . . .

I think the dealership guys may be grasping at straws . . . perhaps they couldn’t really figure out the stalling, but they retrieved a fault code and decided to run with it

Maybe I’ll eat my words later, but for right now I don’t like the sound of it


What @db4690 said. I’d try and find a good independent Honda mechanic (click on ‘mechanics files’ above for some that might be in your area) and have them diagnose it. But that’ll require a tow, and you’ll owe Honda for their time diagnosing your car. Have you had good luck with the dealer’s shop in the past?

I’ve actually never been to this dealership’s shop for repairs before, but my parents have had good experiences.

And it not working after the repair is one thing I’m afraid of. I could probably sneak over there and throw a sensor in real quick, but if it still doesn’t run…

I’ll go a little more in depth about the issue. The car would sometimes run for, could go for miles and miles with no problems, and other times it would shudder and try and stall out every mile. Sometimes it seemed like it got worse the longer I drove it. I drive this car infrequently, and the problem started maybe 5-6 weeks ago. I first thought it might be bad gas, so I added some of that HEET stuff to get the water out. And I tried some fuel injector cleaners as well, in case it was dirty injectors. I checked the fuses and relays too, they all looked good to me. I took out some gas and looked at it, it looked good.

Finally when I was out stuck I got a can of throttle body/air intake cleaner, and sprayed that into the throttle body. The engine eventually choked and died, and I couldn’t keep it running after that.

There’s an OBD II code, of course, 1491, an EGR flow problem. I told the dealership all of this and told them maybe the car was choked from the EGR valves being blocked up.

And thanks for the tip about the Denso’s…those are still only $40.

I’d scratch the O2 sensor as that is not likely the cause of the problem at all.
Some possibilities could be:
Fuel pump
Main relay
Ignition switch

Without knowing what is missing (spark, fuel pressure, etc) I can’t narrow it down any. All of the above are related like a line of dominos with one affecting the other. Some Hondas are under a recall for ignition switches but I don’t think that your car is. However, recall or not, many of the non-recalled cars suffer the same problems for the reason reason as the recalled ones.

As to the price, you cannot use the DIY vs Shop logic. That is a completely wrong way of looking at it. By the same token you can perform your own appendectomy on the kitchen table and save a lot that way also.

If you had car in hand you could spray some aerosol carb cleaner into the intake to see if the engine would run for a second or so. If it did that means the spark part of the equation is likely good.


Is your accord a V6 . . . ?

If so, this is interesting

If this is the cause of your problems, you’re way past the warranty extension period, and it’s going to be on your dime

But please keep us updated, either way

You are under no obligation to let anyone touch your car if you don’t want them to. Go get it. If it won’t move under its own power, have it towed elsewhere. Even if the diagnosis is free.

I once had my car “diagnosed for free” because the brakes were going soft. I knew what it was, but was too lazy to do the work myself so I drove it the couple of blocks to the neighborhood repair shop.

When they came back with a $600 quote to replace a $40 master cylinder (which takes all of half an hour) I decided that being ripped off was a great motivator to stop being lazy. I went and took the car back and did it myself. Didn’t give them a dime.

They tried to put a guilt trip on me that I had gotten the diagnosis for free and so I owed them the right to fix the car so they could make money. I told them I’d have been just fine with paying a reasonable price for the job, but I did not owe them the right to charge me 3 times what the job was worth.

Free estimate offers are a fishing expedition. They put the line in the water and hope they can lure some business in. Just as in real fishing, the “fish” is under no ethical obligation to get reeled in.

I agree, btw, with the others that the O2 sensor is very unlikely to be the cause.

Aren’t these era Hondas subject to a faulty fuel pump relay that can cause stalling, and is fairly cheap to fix?

Thanks for the all the replies, to answer a few questions:

-It’s a 4 cylinder.
-I didn’t use carb cleaner but I did use some starter fluid to get it started a couple times.

  • I understand honda fuel pumps very rarely go bad, but maybe the relay…I have a fuel pressure tester, but unfortunately couldn’t find an adapter for Hondas.

" . . . I did use some starter fluid to get it started a couple times."

you’re going to have to tee in, if you want to check fuel pressure. There’s banjo bolt adapters that might work

That’s the way Honda usually does things


The engine firing up on starter fluid should mean the distributor and ignition switch is good so those could possibly be ruled out. That starts leaning towards an intermittent fuel pump or main relay; possibly a combination of both since one affects the other.

The part that bothers me is a stalled car that was towed in and a O2 sensor is diagnosed. That sounds like a very shaky guess possibly based on an existing O2 code and which has nothing to do with why the engine stalled.

It might be a good idea to check every single fuse on the car as the engine management uses a number of them.

“The part that bothers me is a stalled car that was towed in and a O2 sensor is diagnosed. That sounds like a very shaky guess possibly based on an existing O2 code and which has nothing to do with why the engine stalled.”

Yeah. I’d bet a fuel delivery problem is the root cause, triggered a lean OBDII code as it lay there dying, and they got a code reader/parts thrower on the case.

OP’s money is better spent elsewhere…

After thinking about it, here’s what I really don’t like…they want $350 to try this fix, which they admit might not work. But they’re a dealership, I’m sure they have plenty of o2 sensors. And on this car, the o2 sensor is right in front, super easy to get to. Takes a minute to take it off. They could very easily plug in another sensor just to check and see if that’s what the actual problem is.

I’ll head over there when I can and see if it’ll drive off the lot, take it somewhere else.

There are tests they can run to tell if the O2 sensor is bad or if there’s another problem. I agree with everyone else who said that a bad O2 sensor doesn’t shut down the vehicle. I’m not convinced it’s the O2 sensor either.

Fuel pump relay would be a good start since you have spark.

Like others, I would want to hear some explanation of how the O2 could cause the problem and the fuel pressure readings and if they checked for spark. Sounds like they really didn’t do much for diagnosis except pull the codes. The fuel relays are under $100 and easy to put in if you can find it.

Dealership now says they’ve done some additional diagnosis and think its the ECU. Says the timing is off, definitely not a mechanical issue.

Oh, Boy. Did They Give You An ECU Estimate?

The only way I’d let this dealer replace the ECU is by having them agree that it that does not fix all problems then it comes back out and you pay no parts or labor charges on this latest guess assessment.

If they won’t agree, it makes you skeptical. Also, this could inspire them to put a little more effort into a proper diagnosis so they won’t eat this expensive guess solution.