CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Dishonest dealer, or just a better car inspection? Who to trust?

My concern would be over the independent mechanic who is apparently brushing off a 10 year old timing belt on a car which is described as going to be used to carry a load of elderly relatives on a long trip.
He may be a bit misguided as to replacement intervals.

The replacement interval is 9 years, so it’s due now

If OP’s car has the 1MZ-FE, it’s a freewheeler, but an interrupted trip would not be much fun

“My concern would be over the independent mechanic who is apparently brushing off a 10 year old timing belt on a car which is described as going to be used to carry a load of elderly relatives on a long trip.”

+1
If this indy mechanic is ignoring the replacement interval for the timing belt, he just may be somebody who ignores other things that are fairly apparent. While I hate to give the OP additional expense, I think that she needs to have a different indy mechanic render his opinion on the alleged leaks.

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who commented on my post. One bit of info I neglected to mention in my original post was that I told my mechanic to go ahead and replace the water pump and timing belt while he had the car. So that repair, which all of you said was overdue and critical, has been done. Thank you all for your wisdom and help.

Glad to hear the timing belt and water pump are done

Now you can sleep a little better

And, you got it done for half the price the dealer wanted. Well played, sir, well played.

One thing that I did not see mentioned. Was the dealer’s advice for needed work to you verbal or was it in writing on the dealer’s stationery? If not in writing, ask for a written quote with prices next time and not just written on a scrap of paper with nothing substantial to identify it’s origin. If there is reluctance to make a written record of the dealer’s professional advice, then be very suspicious; you know what you need to know about the need for some or all of the work. There is nothing at all wrong about asking for a written quote; it’s how any business should work with a vendor. If the dealer asks why you need a written quote, you do not need to justify that request; just shrug and say, I dunno. He knows very well why, it’s to keep him honest regarding work needed and prices asked.

Dealer mechanics are trained to look for anything that doesn’t look to be in brand new condition and report it as needing repair without taking into account the age of the car, what kind of use it gets, or how long the owner plans on keeping it.
Cracked rubber suspension bushings don’t usually cause problems, A slightly wet oil pan gasket with no measurable loss of oil etc. After all why tighten loose pan bolts if you can charge an arm and a leg to replace the pan gasket. Why tell the customer about the dozen or so products to fix the oil drain bolt threads you just destroyed when you can sell him a new pan?
The list goes on, and on, and on ect. .

I went to a Jiffy Lube place locally to get an oil change and a state vehicle inspection. The young mechanic came in and told me I needed two new rear shocks. I asked how he knew that he said they were leaking oil, I said show me. The car was on the lift and on each rear shock about halfway down the shock there were two tiny smears of oil on each shock, in the exact same place on each shock and no indication of how they got there. If the shock was indeed leaking it would have had a line of oil running down to that position as it could not have gotten there without help. I told him to simply slack a rejected sticker on the car and took it next door to a Good Year store and had the car inspected, no problems. Since then I have googled Jiffy Lube and there seems to be quite a lot of stuff like this going on.

We have a chain of oil change places that do NY State inspections in our area that do no repairs except bulbs or wiper blades. They will fail a car for an obvious defect, but have no vested interest in selling you anythin but bulbs and wipers.
Make sure your wiper blades have no nicks in them and all your lights work and you are good to go. Unless you have a check engine light or or more than one I/M not ready to read. Those are determined by a phone hookup to the states computer and the shop has no say in the matter.

@Seventhson wrote: " there were two tiny smears of oil on each shock"

That’s an old trick. 60 Minutes did a sting on several shops back in the early '80s.

Speaking of state vehicle inspection, it is thankfully not done here in Wisconsin except for emission checks in some counties which are done every two years. Vehicle equipment inspection seems to be a cause for nitpicking and not much good as we seemingly survive nicely without it here.

I recall relatives in Indiana telling me some years ago that if you left a 20 dollar bill on the front seat your car could magically pass the equipment inspection with no problems found.

Guys, let’t not get too bent out of shape over those shocks

I see greasy and wet shocks everyday, and some of them don’t leave drops on the ground

And I’m not spraying them

I have had my car repair on my 2002 Sienna done in the dealer just east of McAllen. With no real problems. In McA. there are few good mechanics. They exist, but they are so busy they want you to leave your car for days, and with only one car that is not practical.

Also, the dealer has always fixed things right. Several years ago they said the parking brakes needed adjusted, $40. I looked them over and they were okay. I found out they are self-adjusting when you use them. So, I talked to Alex and he checked. Turns out they assume since almost no one uses the parking brakes they would need to be adjusted. In other words, they recommended something they didn’t even check.

Alas, I live in the mountains, and there are few places you do not need the parking brakes.

Since it was only $40 and I didn’t have it done, I let it go.

A year ago in June, I was ‘recommended’ around $1,000 of fluid changing. Most of it, including brake flush, I had done a couple years earlier.

They also recommended the transmission fluid was dirty and had to be changed. Well, I take care of the transmission myself. Every so often I drop 3 quarts and add 3 quarts. and, I have synthetic Mobil-1 in there. With 200,000 on it, it shifts nicely. I looked at the fluid and it looked perfectly clear.

I was a bit upset. I told Alex about it, and he said, “Well, he said it was STARTING to get dirty. And, it’s only $250.”

Yeah, like when you buy it new it is starting to get dirty. Anyway, I let him know he had a very unhappy customer.

They had also said the thermostat needed to be replaced, because it was in for timing belt (I think) and water pump, can’t remember exactly. (How the time passes when you are retired.)

That stuff was well within my preventive, high-rel maintenance plan anyway. But they wanted to charge me $250 to flush out clear synthetic transmission fluid and put in regular fluid? No, no, no.

Last October I had it in for something, maybe sate inspection, and I noticed with the same fluids as before, they didn’t find anything dirty. Maybe the fluids cleaned themselves over that 6 months, heh, heh.

In the case of the Toyota dealer IMO it was outright dishonesty.

If I could find a competent independent Toyota mechanic who would use new parts, and not try to sell me rebuilt junk, I’d change.

That’s why Minnesota dropped its emission testing, not because of the $20 but because the only ones benefitting were the inspection contractors. Just a waste of time, money, and energy, plus it was discovered, the problems corrected themselves as cars are normally turned over.

Timing belt is done at 120k on this model. Dealerships have high overhead and need to oversell repairs to meet profit requirements. Water pumps will always leak a small amount because there is a seal on a rotating shaft. Engines will always show a little oil leak for the same reason and from residual oil stains from oil filter replacement.

The dealer is probably technically correct that those items are in fact leaking and torn.

Your independent mechanic is probably also correct that they are unnecessary repairs.

I guess you have to take things with a grain of salt as us old-timers will say.

Deep down I think you already know the answers to your questions but are sickened by the total lack of ethics that has consumed the auto industry. Join the club.

Timing belt is done at 120k on this model. Dealerships have high overhead and need to oversell repairs to meet profit requirements.

Bull…There are MANY dealers who do NOT oversell repairs to meet profit requirements.

Many of these LARGE dealerships who have very high loans might do it. But there are many small (and some not so small) independents who do very nicely offering good honest repairs. There are still many small to large independent dealerships who’ve been around for years and know how to manage their money. They don’t take out loans for their inventory - thus keeping their overhead load.