Quick Advice Needed when dealing with a mechanic

My 2000 saturn LS had 96K and the timing belt is good for 100k. So not wanting to break the belt I made an appointment with the saturn dealer for a new belt, new pulleys, and a new waterpump. It cost me about 1k. I picked the car up and drove 50 miles over 5 days before it seems my pump failed. Antifreeze splattered on the block.

My battery light came on and I lost power steering. About a half mile down the road my thermostat went into the red.

Am I wrong to expect the dealership to make all the necessary repairs for no additional cost? What are my options.

The dealer didn’t offer to do anything when I called him on the phone. He just said bring it in. I told him I needed towed and he said, okay well when you can bring it in.

I’d take it another mechanic but the labor to take the timing belt off is about $400.

If they dealer replaced the pump and it’s the pump that’s failing then yes…they should eat the cost and do everything RIGHT this time. They should pay for the tow also and a rental while your car is being fixed.

For future references…go to a good independent for any future repairs. It’ll cost a lot less then the dealer.

Listen to your dealer and take it in to them(better) or other if closer.

Usually all dealer repairs are covered 1yr/12,000 miles at least for parts & labor. Any incidental damage should get covered too. This warranty item is a benefit of using a dealer or quality independent shop.

My brother’s VW Passat broke its timing belt 3 months/4k after he had it changed at a VW dealership. A different (local to breakdown) VW dealership covered all damage to engine/belt which included replacing top end of motor due to interference design. The 2nd dealer stated the first never changed it based on condition of belt. Anyway VW of America covered it all.

Saturn should stand behind their work. As andrew mentioned, 1 year / 12,000 miles is a typical warranty interval.

In the future, that work would have only cost $500 - $600 at an independent garage.

You were probably talking to a service writer when you called. They are the ones who usually answer the phone when you call the dealer and ask the operator for the service department. What he should have told you is to bring it in and if it has anything to do with the repairs they made you would be covered under warranty. He sounds like he doesnt have much people skills in dealing with the customer. They need to look at it first and assess the problem. You’re kind of jumping the gun here. It might not have anything to do with the previous repair. For instance, a broken heater hose would spray engine coolant all over the motor, cause the motor to overheat, and if the coolant soaked the alternator belt it would cause the belt to slip so bad the alternator would stop charging. You see, when dealing with a 10 year old engine with 96k miles certain things start to go on it. Hoses are one of those things. When you upset a cooling system that old with that kind of miles with a major repair such as a water pump its possible other things will soon go. You will need to tow it there and get it looked at.


Your timing belt is not good for 100k miles. There is also a time factor involved and 6 years is about the limit.

At this point it’s difficult to even say what the problem is. “It seems the water pump failed” is not really telling us much. The odds of the pump failing are near zero. The odds of a faulty installation are higher or something else going wrong are higher.

When the battery light comes on and/or a temperature gauge starts going up then you are supposed to stop immediately. Continuing the operate the engine until the gauge is in the red is begging for trouble.

If the dealer screwed up then they should make it right; tow and all.
As to the mechanic who wants to charge you 400 bucks just to take a look, you should avoid that because price is just too high for that job. It could be that this shop senses trouble brewing and quoted a high price because they simply want no part of a he said, she said thing.

About all I can suggest is having someone mechanically knowledgeable (friend,relative?) take a look at the car and determine exactly what the problem is as a first step. If it points to a dealer error then discuss this with the dealer in advance about towing it in. Maybe they will be more receptive to covering the tow then.

I would refill the cooling system with 50-50 mix, drive the car to a second, independent mechanic and have them determine where the leak is. If it’s related to the dealer’s repair work, take it back to them armed with that knowledge…If it’s not related, don’t waste your time at the dealer, just repair whatever it is and drive on… A lot is going to depend on how far you drove with the temperature “in the red”…

Thanks. The odd thing is that when they were doing the install, they asked me if they could change a few things that looked old. I said sure.

So its weird for them to do all that work for me, and install a new water pump into a soft old hose. Right? A hose costs nothing to replace, and I had already paid for the labor.

Your bill should tell you exactly what parts they changed. It may very well be that the hose looked OK, but has since sprung a leak. Only after the examine the car can they start to establish cause and effect on what happened to you.

Wait until your get their assessment, and then evaluate their answers

Thanks. The manual, Saturn Hq’s(when there was one) and 2 dealerships told me 100K was right for my Kevlar timing belt.

I agree with you on all the other points. rebuilt pumps go more than new ones.

The $400 figure was from the bill from Saturn for the labor to replace the timing belt and water pump. I just was using it as a point of reference.

Before I had Saturn do the work I got 3 quotes and they were all within a $100 of each other. My mechanic told me since Saturns were such pain in the to work on…and the cost was the same I might as well let the dealer do the repair. Saturns mechanics are usually pretty good so word on the street goes.

Personally, I feel like now that I broke down I’d rather have my guy make an honest assessment of the problem. My Queen however thinks that the dealer should have to make it right.

The problem I have with you being fully compensated is you continued to drive with a warning light on.

If you tell the dealer that you continued to drive after the RED WARNING LIGHTS came on, they could legitimately refuse to repair any damage caused by that action.
A RED light means the same in a car, as it does at an intersection. It means…?

I pulled over as soon as I safely could.

The 100k miles figure is still not the final answer. Belts age and break and it’s quite possible to have an 8 year old belt with only 10k miles on it pop in a heartbeat. Around the 6 year mark you’re taking a chance.

Transman’s thinking the same thing. Maybe this is nothing more than a ruptured hose or a hose that popped off due to someone not tightening a clamp.
At least you clarified the part about the distance driven; pulling over as soon as it was safe. Which was hopefully not 20 miles down the road.

Look about the 100K figure. If its not true than when I called Saturn HQ and asked, after a dealer told me the same thing and they confirmed it. Am I wrong for believing the manufacturer? That being said…I tried to do the right thing and get the belt changed BEFORE 100K. I serviced this thing religiously. Including changing and flushing fluids regularly and replacing hoses.

When I sat with the service manager to drop off my car. I told him I loved it and I wanted to do anything that needed to be done to keep it from breaking down. I even asked about some additional things that might be done. When he called me and said the mechanic thought x,w, and z should be fixed with the timing belt I agreed. SO the fact that someone would go through all the trouble of calling out old items while removing the timing belt but than connect a NEW PUMP to a WEAK hose boggles the mind.

The only feedback I really wanted is IF SOMEONE did forget to clamp down a belt, or installed the waterpump incorrectly, shouldn’t they be responsible for fixing what broke.
I think the clear answer is yes. I’m not looking for a huge pay day here OR someone to pay for something that I may have done to my car. BUT, if they had installed things properly than the car would not have broken down or gone into the red.

If its coincidence than so be it…but I doubt it.

We’ll know tomorrow thats when I go in.

I looked up your water pump here http://www.autozone.com/autozone/catalog/parts/partsProduct.jsp?itemIdentifier=536560_135716_0_&skuDescription=Duralast+New+/+Water+Pump&brandName=Duralast+New&displayName=Water+Pump&categoryNValue=14399999&sortType=&store=1616&isSearchByPartNumber=false&fromWhere=&fromString=search&counter=0&itemId=95-0&navValue=14300095&filterByKeyWord=water+pump&productId=536560&searchText=water+pump&categoryDisplayName=Collision%2C+Body+Parts+%26+Hardware&parentId=43-0 And shows that your water pump runs off your timing belt. Does your car still start and run? If so I don’t think it’s your water pump and maybe a leak in a hose. I also think you have a serpentine belt broke. Crazy thing about all this is that when I went to the repair section it sounded like the water pump was mounted outside of the timing belt area. So I don’t know.

I am flat telling you that age is an equal factor when it comes to a belt replacement and anyone who says differently is equally flat wrong.

When you “talk” with the dealer the people that you are talking with are service writers or service managers. Very very few of these people have any mechanical apititude and instead of stammering around and looking uniformed to the customer they will blather pure garbage.
Now you have called Saturn HQ and odds are that you talked to an equally mechanically inept person there who is reciting the company mantra.

This is also true with every other car maker. They make many recommendations that are not “real world” so to speak; to the detriment of the car and the car owner of course.

Feel free to believe what you want, but I can assure you with 110% confidence that age is a factor when it comes to belts; no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

I appreciate your feedback first and foremost. I know what you mean about service writers…but when I ask the Parts and Service manager I expect an honest answer.
I asked two at two different dealerships…and they both told me I could wait.

Any other car I would have changed it at 60k or 6 years.

Thanks again to all who responded to me. I have never had this happen before.

Thank you skypilot! The service manual is equally confusing it shows one diagram of any belt fr my v6 and calls it a accesory drive belt. It looks like one big serpentine belt I can see that belt still in tact on the left side of my engine block.

The fluid spray seems to have come from the right rearish part of my engine block, and splattered in a diagnol across my battery, my brake reservoir, and my coolant reservoir.

I was able to drive for awhile after the noise got bad and than stopped and before the temp guage went to red. I had lights, and heat, and a radio. I did loose power steering though…which made my stop a little interesting.

Once I stopped after a few minutes I tried to turn it over and I had no power even my door locks wouldn’t work.

I had a big search light in my trunk. I could see all my front hoses, my cables.
There was no puddle under the car…after 2o minutes I looked under.

We’ll see tomorrow. I hope its just a hose and no other damage. Its just that the whine I heard was definetly a pump and than I heard a squeal like a loose belt.

Thanks again for your help.

I will add (other than the fact that almost every service writer/manager is mechanically inept) that car makers are frequently wrong, and much of this is by design.
They want the cars to appear to be maintenance free to the customer and make many recommendations that are fine from a PR standpoint, but from a mechanical well-being standpoint is dead wrong.

Take a look at this problem posted the other day.


Do you know what caused this 4 figure headache? Following the factory recommendations; and Subaru is not the only one guilty of this.

That particular problem will not apply to your car. It is just an example of where following factory recommendations can get you.