Oil leak

Dear Tom and Ray,

Don’t know much about cars but I love your show!I have a 2004 Toyota Camry with 111,000 miles on it. I recently took for a routine service at 110,000 miles to my local Toyota dealer and they told me there was an oil leak in the front timing cover. I do not see any oil dripping. They offered me coffee and donuts and even a loaner car! They told me it would cost over $700/-, so I took it to a local mechanic who had good reviews on the net. He told me there was no leakage at all! Not knowing who to believe,I took it on an impulse to a third mechanic who told me there was a small leakage but it needed to be fixed and he would do it for $450/-. Who do I believe? The car is running fine and I have serviced it regularly all these years.Thanks!

Tom & Ray don’t post here, but what is missing from you is info like: how much make up oil are you putting in to accommodate this leak? Does the oil puddle on the floor? Many small leaks can be accomodated by “watchful waiting”, until it gets bad enough to warranty a repair.

If this car has a timing belt, and you have not changed it recently, combining that repair with fixing this leakage might make sense.

the most likey case here is that the front oil seal on the harmonic balancer is worn, or has worn a groove in the surface of the ballancer. The cure is a new seal, about 6 bucks in parts, and possibly a metal boot for the ballancer. But, there is a good deal of labor and knowhow to pay for, but my bet is 250 bucks is a more likely price. by the way, if there is a skid plate under the front of the engine, there may not be any leakage on the floor. And yes, if oil loss is minimal then you can get away with letting it leak a little. This is not the kind of leak that leads to catastrophic failure.

If the oil isn’t dripping on the ground and not getting on the timing belt and you don’t have to add oil between changes then leave it be.

Free coffee and donuts? Plus a rental? I can’t believe you didn’t take them up on it??? Actually I’m thinking that you might be paying for the coffee and donuts (out of that 700?) Really, I concur with everyone above. If you have extra cash laying around burning a hole in your pocket, you can share it with your mechanic, or buy that new flat panel tv you’ve always wanted. But a minor leak like suggested, is something I would watch and wait. Even if it is getting on your garage floor, throw down a piece of cardboard and let it catch the drips. If your oil level ins’t going down between oil changes, you can “milk” this out for many years.

My 1989 Accord has leaked oil since 1995, cardboard is all i’ve used. Definitely let it ride unless your leakage becomes too severe (mine leaks about half a quart in 3000 miles).