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Have I been had by a mechanic?

I have a 2001 Camry with 200k miles on it. It’s a great car, was babied by prior owner (a mechanic), and has been a Godsend to me until lately. In NC, we have to have a inspection pass before we can renew registration. Check engine light was on, so I had 2 diff. shops pull the codes. Both said bad EGR valve. One quoted $400 to repair and another quoted $250 so naturally I chose the latter. I signed night drop slip to fix EGR valve per failed inspection. The next day, mechanic calls my boyfriend (not the car owner) and tells him it wasn’t the EGR valve but a clogged hose and he fixed it. Still charged $250. When I picked car up, it ran so rough and shook that I was scared to drive it. Bf takes it back to shop and mechanic opens Hood and finds another clog he “missed” the day before and unclogs it. Car won’t start when I go to leave. I’m in tears at this point. Mechanic reinspected car and now it’s throwing 3 codes instead of just the EGR valve. Now it’s throwing P0115( coolant temp sensor), P0300 (random misfire/ spark plug), and P0401 (the freakin’ EGR valve that I paid him to fix to begin with). Receipt is shady with no itemization, just one $235 charger for cleaning hose and EGR sensor. Car randomly won’t start now. I love this car but am scared to drive it. It’s our only car and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know much about the inner workings of vehicles but I KNOW the car was throwing 1 code when I took it to the shop, only authorized the EGR valve repair, and now it shaking and sputtering and throwing 2 additional codes. Please help me understand a) what’s going on with my car and b) is there any recourse for mechanic ripping me off? Sincerely, Low on Dough in Raleigh

Sadly, you found out that good mechanics are not cheap, cheap mechanics are no good.

Your mechanic isn’t ripping you off so much as incompetent. More money with him is money down the drain. Take the car to another shop, bite the bullet and pay to have it fixed properly. I’d guess this guy created a leak that is causing the other codes.

You could sue in small claims court to get your money back but even if you do win, you may have difficulty collecting.


That’s pretty much what I figured but thank you for elaborating/explaining the possible new issues. We’re talking the car to my mom’s mechanic (been in business for like 3 generations) this week for proper repair estimates. Such a shame that people take advantage of others. Small claims court is an option, but probably not worth the hassle in this case. Thank you mustangman.

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The hoses are cheap and should have been replaced. It costs more for the mechanics time to clean them. The EGR hose has hot exhaust gasses going through it so by now it should be pretty brittle.

There is also a vacuum hose that opens the valve. Your problems with starting are most likely due to this hose leaking and agian it is probably getting brittle at least at the EGR end.

The EGR valve has to be removed even if a new one is not being installed so that the port it attaches to can be cleaned. There are two ports, one in hte exhaust manifold and one in the intake. Both have to be cleaned out, the EGR valve attaches to one and the hose attaches to the other.

Once this is properly cleaned, you wont have anymore trouble with it for many years.

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Oh, Keith, you have filled my lil heart with hope today so thank you. Thank you for sharing the knowledge and explaining. Thank God for the good guys/gals out there. I’m actually considering taking a basic class at the community college so I can understand car mechanics a lil better. You made me smile and I hope some good karma comes your way my friend.

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Never heard of anyone cleaning or unclogging hoses usually you replace them. My dad was a mechanic and sadly being a girl he would not teach me anything but lucky my father in law was a different story. There are things you could learn in a class and others take experience. One thing I would suggest is getting a shop manual and when you want to do something to the car you have a good source of information to fall back on. Start doing things like change your own oil, then the brakes and belts then hoses. There are alot of things on a car that are easy to fix with the proper tools the hardest part to learn is diagnose the problem. Hope you get you car straight it sounds like you love the car like I do my old dodge neon.


You do realize there’s a difference between dishonesty and incompetence . . . ?

Sounds like the mechanic was incompetent, not dishonest . . . at least in my opinion

But if you want to characterize that as being taken advantage of . . .

Excellent advice and thank you. Yes, I do love my old car, and it would be so wonderful to have a better understanding of how it works. My Dad was in the autobody industry for many years and I used to love visiting the body shops with him as a child. Thanks for your kind and wise advice. I am going to get that manual stat!

db4690 sadly, and while I hate to say it when it comes to cars women do get taken advantage of more at the shop because alot of us dont know the first thing about working on cars, heck I have come across those that will treat you like you are stupid even when you know what is going on with the car.


I live in the mechanical world and incompetence is the normal mode. Its more of a SNAFU if you ask me.

Stupidity doesn’t help either…and many incorrect diagnosis can be traced back to a lack of mental power as well. So I guess its a dual diagnosis.

Don’t even get me started on some guys superstitions… “Mechanics” are a funky bunch indeed.

Glad you got it sorted.


Thank you. Yes, dual diagnosis indeed.

It is unfortunate. But I’m so grateful for the benevolent souls on here sharing their knowledge and guidance with me. I feel a million times better and can’t wait to order that manual and begin tinkering with some basic maintenance and knowledge of mechanics. It’s going to be so empowering. #imSoAmpedToLearnAboutMyCar #thankYou​:ok_hand::purple_heart::nerd_face::books::oncoming_automobile:

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EGR systems are very complicated in newer cars, even in a 2001. So it isn’t overly surprising the shop wasn’t able to fix the problem the first time. EGR codes don’t necessarily mean the EGR valve is faulty. The computer uses sensors to constantly monitor the amount of EGR flow compared to how much EGR flow it has programmed, and if the amount programmed doesn’t match the actual amount, that is what causes the EGR code to appear. The EPA requires this be done b/c the correct EGR flow is required to suppress nitrogen-type air pollutants, which are very harmful for people to breath. An EGR code can be caused by a problem with the sensors, a wire or connector problem to the sensors, or the part that figures out how to open the EGR valve the amount the computer specifies. It could be the EGR valve has malfunctioned too, or the ports it uses to deliver the EGR flow in the engine are clogged, but suggest not to replace the valve until it the other stuff is checked first.

The coolant temp sensor problem, that’s a frustration, but I’m guessing that’s b/c the shop forgot to connect it back up. They probably had to disconnect it to get access to the EGR valve and its hoses.

EGR systems are complicated enough that the common advice to use an inde shop for cars out of warranty may not apply. Special diagnostic tools may be required, and it may require someone with experience fixing EGR systems on this car. So OP may need to use a dealership.

He should have been honest enough to admit he didnt know.

I’ll mention something else . . . and some of these guys have been at it for decades. All the times they’ve gotten something wrong, all the comebacks, rechecks, backflagging, etc. They just can’t see the big picture . . . that they’re absolutely terrible at their job.

A lot of people literally don’t know what they don’t know . . . or to be really blunt, a lot of people don’t know they’re incompetent, or that what they think is just plain wrong

I know plenty of guys that are completely unaware that they’re hopeless incompetent at their chosen profession . . .

I’m not making excuses for anybody . . . I’m just pointing out a sad reality


Welcome to America lol

I’ve read a study before where the strong direct correlation was found between the level of general knowledge and how much self-doubt people have… so, the more one knows, the less confidence they have in what they know enough…

I worked at a trucking company that had 9 mechanics at our terminal. The best mechanic in the bunch, acknowledged by everyone as such, was the only one who would admit that he did not know the answer to a car question you asked. The guy they made shop foreman could not read and had a toolbox with crescent wrenches, hammers and pliers.

I guess it was one way to get him off the floor. I liked and respected most of our mechanics, they made about 10% more than the hourly rate for drivers but their work was much harder. It is a lot easier to break a truck than to fix it.

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Hope you got it fixed by now. Basically, the EGR system acts like a “valve” between the exhaust and the intake sides of your car. In this Toyota, I am assuming this is a 4 cylinder Camry if not let me know - the V6 is slightly different. In these cars you will find an EGR valve mounted on the back of the intake with a metal pipe going to an exhaust pipe port, a VSV ( a solenoid valve controlled by the ECM ) and an EGR vacuum modulator. Keep in mind that the EGR modulator and the VSV are connected to the intake with vacuum hoses. The idea is to mix exhaust gases, that has very small amount of oxygen or nothing, with the intake air, so it can not be burn. This will slow down combustion , reducing the the combustion temperature and NOX emissions. When the VSV is turned on by the ECM, the EGR receives no vacuum, so it closes, no exhaust gas will pass. This is ideal when the engine is not fully warmed up, during deceleration, under light load, when idling, over high RPM or high engine load. So in your case, to set that code: engine is warmed up and the intake pressure does not drop when the EGR is suppose to be open. The ECM uses a MAP (manifold absolute pressure sensor) to check it out. So in order to find the problem with your car, this needs to be checked: vacuum or EGR hose disconnected; open or short in VSV electrical circuit; non working VSV; bad EGR modulator; EGR valve stuck open or clogged; faulty MAP sensor or bad ECM. Hope this will help you understand the EGR system in your car. Glad you are curious to know more about your car.

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