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Overheated Neon

I’m basically in a city where I know nobody, including a good mechanic, and had my 1996 Neon overheat on me yesterday.

I took it to an NTB. Chains seem to overcharge, but I have no real choice because I need to get to and from work this summer.

The car overheated after I got off the highway. I got it to the NTB, and they said it’s the water pump. They also said I shoudl change the thermostat at the same time. On top of that, they said they’re inside already and could change the timing belt (an extra $40 part that they won’t charge for labor). All said, it’s costing me $660 for 3.3 hours of labor (at $84 an hour) on the water pump, .5 hours of labor on the thermostat and a $105 water pump, $20 thermostat and $40 timing belt.

I just feel sort of ripped off right now. I think it needs to happen, but does this sound high to anyone else? Is it stupid to change the timing belt now when I changed it about 40,000 miles ago?

If the waterpump diagnosis is correct, then yes, you should have the timing belt changed at the same time even though it’s not technically due. Having coolant on the belt may damage it, and as they have noted, the labor is already being done with the waterpump change. Cheap insurance at $40.

That being said, these cars had a problem with their headgaskets. If you drove any length of time with the car overheated, be prepared for another, even larger repair bill. Or a blown headgasket may have been what caused the overheating in the first place.

The price seems fair for the work they did, but I doubt they fixed the problem. Was the pump leaking? Have you been changing your coolant at the recommended interval? Water pumps don’t stop pumping unless the coolant got so funky it ate away the impeller. That would also attack the radiator and the engine. The thermostat is a little more believable. Was it more than 4 years old? I’d be more suspicious of the cooling fan system. Was the fan running when it overheated? Did the temp gauge swing up to the red zone or did it just leak a lot of coolant? If the later it could just be a bad radiator cap that won’t hold pressure.

I’m not a big fan of NTB (I’ve had issues with them in the past), but in this case they seem to be doing the right thing.

The ONLY thing I’d worry about is the fact that the Neon’s have had head gasket problems almost from day one. It could be a head gasket and they are changing parts that won’t fix the problem.

While it is early for the replacement of the timing belt, the fact that you are supposedly paying only for the part and not for the labor makes this a good idea–IF you plan on keeping the car for another few years. Since the car is now ~12 years old, my guess is that you are not going to keep it much longer, but in any event, at least you should have some assurance that the timing belt will not give you any problems for the next few years.

That being said, the figures that you mentioned don’t seem to add up to that total of $660.! Are they doing any other work for that price, or are they really charging you for labor to install the timing belt? Even with the cost of new coolant/antifreeze and tax added in, I come up with a total of less than $500., based on the figures that you mentioned.

Sorry. Tax, a $20 oil change and a $90 coolant flush are included.

The head gasket was replaced four years ago in September. I got the car stopped before I hit the red zone, so I don’t think it was entirely overheated. Just hot as all heck, so I’m hoping it didnt damage the head gasket.

I guess I should note we had a really hot day here yesterday. More than usual, anyway.

I know this is water under the bridge, but next time a timing belt needs replace, do the water pump at the same time. What were the odds of the water pump lasting 200K to the next scheduled timing belt replacement? Thats good practice for all cars with timing belts that drive the water pump.