Is this mechanic telling the truth?

I recently took my 1994 Saturn SW2 to a local mechanic for my state inspection. Although the car is old and has many miles on it, it was running fine when I brought it in.

The inspection, which included an emissions check, lasted almost 45 minutes. On two different occasions, I went out to check on what was taking so long, and found 2 mechanics under the hood of the car.

The first time, I questioned this, and was told that they were checking fluid levels and had to hook up a machine under the hood as part of the inspection.

When the inspection was completed, I drove off, but within a few miles, the car began to shudder and sputter. My husband reseated all the spark plugs, and the problem went away for about a week. Then it came back.

My husband cleaned the IAC valve, hoping this would help, but it didn’t. I took the car back to the mechanic, explained the situation, and asked if anything they’d done could have caused this; for example, a hose not properly hooked back up, etc.

The mechanic/shop owner assured me that the problem couldn’t possibly have resulted from the inspection, but said he’d do a full diagnosis for free if I left the car with him, which I did.

He called me later to tell me that injector #1 was completely dead, and that a lot of fuel had been dumped into the engine. He was afraid that the piston rings had been washed out.

He quoted me prices, but said that I should get a new car, because he was afraid I might be looking at an endless series of problems if I tried to fix the car. Since I don’t have the cash to buy a new car, I said that I’d like to pick up the Saturn and get a second opinion.

When I picked up the car and tried to drive off, I quickly discovered that I had almost no brakes. The brakes were fine when I dropped the car off. I pulled back into the shop and asked the mechanic/owner how diagnosing an engine problem could possibly have affected the brakes.

He said that I’d probably lost pressure in my brake booster (vacuum booster) as a result of the injector being out. I called another mechanic (the one I was trying to get to for a second opinion) and asked him if this sounded possible. He said no, not unless they left a vacuum hose off.

I asked the first mechanic to check the hoses. He told me that he already had, and that everything was connected. But then he told me that the hoses weren’t anywhere near where he was working to do the diagnoses. So why would he already have checked them?

This mechanic/owner is respected in my area as honest. He’s been there almost 30 years. I really want to believe him, but it just seems like too much of a coincidence without enough supporting evidence. I also need to know if it’s worth getting my car towed to another mechanic for a second opinion.

Could this mechanic/owner be telling the truth? Or did he see a woman alone and think, “Easy target”. ?

Thanks in advance for any light you can shed.

You certainly need to get a second opinion - have you checked the car talk mechanic finder for one near you, if you have any doubt about the second one?

Two things strike me as WRONG.

Yes a fuel injector can be bad and cause a piston cylinder wash situation. But if there was you’d be blowing blue smoke like crazy due to broken or worn rings or even scared piston walls.

Second…I have no idea how a bad injector could possibly cause a a lost in vacuum pressure.

Find another mechanic quickly. This just isn’t right.

Can’t say he’s lying; but, you could possibly save your car if you take it to mechanic B. Keep in touch.

Thanks so much for your replies!

The second mechanic was recommended to me highly by several different sources. Of course, so was the first one, but I guess I’ll get the car towed to mechanic B and keep my fingers (and toes) crossed.

Good idea. He should be able to easily test the injectors, and also test the compression to evaluate the other mechanic’s claims (they don’t sound right to me).

You could also try to reboot the computer by disconnecting the battery for a minute. If the problem goes away, the computer may be bad. It is old enough to have a problem. A Gateway that old would have been replaced long ago. The mechanic could be right about everything, especially if there are no codes coming from the computer. Protect your eyes when working with a car battery. Goggles at the very least and rubber gloves if possible.

I don’t understand much of what you’re being told by the shop or your husband.
Your husband “reseated the spark plugs”? What in the world does that mean?

The car was fine for a week AFTER your husband did this alleged “spark plug reseating” so it sounds to me like this car (which you state is old and has many miles") is having a performance problem that is intermittent in nature.

Since this occurred after this spark plug reseating business maybe what you have is a set of old spark plug wires breaking down. This can be intermittent in nature.
Just curious. How many miles on this car and have the plug wires ever been changed?
Or the plugs for that matter?

Thanks for the idea. We disconnected the battery for about 10 minutes, then hooked it up again and started the car. The engine is still shuddering. So at least the computer isn’t bad. :slight_smile:

Having said that, the “Service Engine” light has occassionally come on and gone back off at random times for years (though not very often), and mechanics can never figure out why. Also, last year, we had about a month of the door locks opening and closing occassionally without us, usually when the car had been sitting for a while.

The “reseating the spark plugs” comment was a result of my ignorance. I don’t know how to word these things. Sorry!

What he did was to check everything he could to make sure that it was all connected properly. If I understand correctly, one of the spark plugs wasn’t pushed all the way in. When he pushed it all the way in, the problem temporarily cleared up.

I believe I had the spark plug wires replaced in 1999, but I’m not positive. The spark plugs have been changed a number of times, though not in a few years now.

As for the mileage, the odometer stopped working about 7 years ago. At that time, it showed 109,000 miles. We both work from home, so there’s no daily commute. However, we’ve taken a couple of long trips in the car. I’m sure the mileage is easily over 200,000.

Back to rebooting the computer. It still may be in bad shape because that wasn’t a definite test. Recently, someone diagnosed his own problem by borrowing an ODD II tester from an Auto Zone type of store and seems to be happily driving. So far, it was hid computer that was at fault. Reading the codes is an important first step.