Did my 82 year old mother get ripped off?

My mother replaced the water pump on her ‘05 Buick LeSabre, and a few days later while driving the belt came off and the tensioner was destroyed (see pic.) The belt, in perfect condition, was hanging out the bottom of the engine compartment. It was towed back to the garage and they then replaced the belt tensioner at an additional cost of $650.

Does this sound reasonable - do belt tensioners just catastrophically fail? Or did the shop do something wrong on the first fix?

Belt tensioners can fail and break off.

However, moms water pump pulley fell off, did she neglect to tighten the bolts?


And it locked up the pulley and pulled the belt tensioner until it broke off right?

Oh dear, sorry for the confusion - it wasn’t my mom that replaced the water pump - it was the same shop that fixed it 3 days later. But the water pump pulley was loose from the pump, as shown in the pic.

Just kidding about mom leaving the bolts loose.

The part with the exposed coil spring is the belt tensioner, bill shows $336.99 (MSRP $280.)


Is the water pump pulley broke? Looks like the bolts fell out, I’d like to see the mounting hub.


:rofl: my mom the mechanic

Let me upload a few more pics

That’s all the pics I have. It happened back in April.

So would I be correct to assume that the water pump pulley was not secured correctly after pump replacement, leading to the belt coming off a unsecure pully and resulting in the tensioner breaking?

That seems correct. Below is the pulley mounting flange on the water pump, no bolt in the hole, no broken pieces of pulley.

3 months have passed, don’t expect a confession from the mechanic.

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$97.99 for a belt, and $336.99 for a tensioner??! Yes, I realize that a professional shop is in business to make money, but these prices are beyond absurd. The Gates kit, which includes the belt and tensioner costs $103.89 on Rock Auto, which means it might be reasonable for a professional shop to charge $250 to $300 for the parts themselves, but nearly $435? GTFOH. That’s insane. A fair price for this repair, including parts and labor, should be around $450-500 tops.


3 days later

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Yes, the two repairs were 3 days apart. But they occurred 3 months ago.


Guess I should have looked closer at the receipt.

I’m not sure that a water pump pulley coming off would cause a tensioner to fail, but I can believe that an inexperienced tech that would leave water pump pully bolts loose would over crank the tensioner when installing the belt and cause it to fail 3 days later.

in my opinion, the second repair should have been free- including the parts.
But yeah, not sure you have much recourse now 3 months later.

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They probably finger tightened the bolts and forgot to go back and snug them down. The pulley is re-used, not part of the water pump in this application and it shouldn’t have come loose like this.

Some shops are just crooked. Overall most are decent in my town but I learned the hard way with one. Two others in addition to the one that screwed me have been pointed out by others.


I must agree with @bcohen2010 on this one. The price is absurd.

Yeah I think the price is very high. I’m not sure how a loose pulley on the water pump could cause a problem with the tensioner but I’ll defer to the experts. A pulley though even slightly off can cause the belt to come off. In my experience the belt just walks off and no further damage. Year I think the pulley bolts were not installed or tightened and they made up the loss by selling the tensioner. On the positive side, replacing the tensioner is not a bad idea though, even if unnecessary. But yeah, find a new shop.

I just had my car in for an antifreeze change and I almost begged the guy to put a new water pump in at th3 same time. He didn’t want to do it because it wasn’t necessary. I told my wife you could trust him with your life. So find a new shop.

You can not compare Rock Auto prices to what a shop sells them for, no real shop is going to use Rock Auto and wait days or longer for parts that the local parts house can have to them in 30 minutes…
Rock Auto is for the DIYer, not a repair shop…
Call around to different shops and give them the vehicle information and ask for a quote for the same job, you will be surprised at the prices…

That being said, the mechanic DID NOT tighten the water pump pulley bolts, that is on the shop… But if a tensioner has not been messed with in years and it is old, I have seen many loose tension after moving them to R&R a belt, some come apart… But I also see newer updated coolant elbows, so there is that…
I have seen many belts come off without damaging the tensioner, I even had my water pump hub/pulley fall off during a 6K rpm shift and it didn’t the tensioner… So the tensioner could have been close to end of life and this was sped up the failure a few day/months…

But given the circumstances, I would have just repaired it for free due to improper repair the 1st time and charged the labor back to the mechanic or made him do the labor for free, and right it off as the cost of doing business…

Most shops, around here anyway, charge a markup over the MSRP, $336.99 is between 15% to 20% mark up on the part… At 15% it would be $329.41, at 20% it would be $350.00…

Sorry your Mom had to go through this, Mine is 87 and I know it had to be very confusing for her…