Rip Off?

I just had a 1999 Lexus 3000 ES with 14,000 miles inspected and was told that I needed an oil change, timing belt and water pump replacement, and the spark plugs replaced. The cost: $3200. I was told the reason it was too high was that the engine had to be completely removed from the car to get to the timing belt. I have found a do-it-yourself video on youtube showing how to replace the timing belt. They did not take out the engine and it took about 10 minutes. Also AutoMD estimates that all these repairs should cost $1,087 in the zip code of the Lexus dealer. Is this a rip-off?

I wouldn’t regard it as a ‘rip-off’. They are pricing it based on the recommended shop method from thier manuals for replacing the timing belt. I did find a video on Youtube that shows the timing belt removal. However, I’d caution on the ‘10 minute’ remark, since they obviously edited out a lot of part removals to get to the timing belt. My estimate was closer to an hour to get to that point. But, they do show a good technique to avoid removing the engine for the timing belt. Unless you are going to try and convince them to price based on this technique, time to look at some shops and get other quotes. See if you can find a shop that will give you a much better deal. A shop that specializes in Toyota and Lexus will probably quote you a better price, since they may know this technique to avoid removing the engine and probably have done a few more of these 3.0L’s than other shops. You can start with the ‘Mechanic’s Files’ tab on this site.

Are you sure the video was for a timing belt, not a serpentine belt? Time wise, this should be the second timing belt replacement. If not, consider yourself fortunate. I would get a second opinion from a good independent shop. Ask friends, relative, or neighbor for a recommendation.

Ed B.

Pretty sure there’s no need to pull the engine on an ES, which is no different than a Camry in that respect. Find another shop. I used the ‘Mechanics files’ button above with good success.

I know they did not remove my ES engine to do my timing belt.

It sounds like your Lexus has been neglected. When were the timing belt and water pump last changed?

Get a second, and maybe a third, opinion, but be careful not be taken in by a price that seems too good to be true. You’re driving a neglected luxury car, and those tend to be the most expensive cars to maintain.

How long have you owned car? Original owner? Why didn’t you have the timing belt changed at 5-7 yrs age?

Reiterating edb1961’s point about those “10 minute” videos – make sure you are seeing the TIMING belt replaced, not the serpentine belt (sometimes Toyota calls it the drive belt).

Serpentine belt is fairly easy (although it was more than 10 minutes on my 2000 Camry). Timing belt is way more complicated. Once you get to the belt it’s easy to change, but you have to take off a lot of stuff to get to it, and then put that stuff back on.

BTW, even if your car has only 14,000 miles (did you mean 140,000?) you are, in fact, about double the interval for replacing the timing belt.

Replacing the water pump concurrently is a good idea. You have to remove/replace the same stuff as for the timing belt. At the normal mileage interval for timing belt replacement, it’s not worth risking that the water pump will last another interval. (If you do, indeed, have only 14K miles, then MAYBE it pays to risk needing to have the work re-done if the water pump fails.)

And I think there is an idler pulley (or assembly) that should be replaced for the same reasons. Please, some of the experts here chime in.

Is $3200 a ripoff? Seems pretty high to me. Sounds like a dealership price, including a massage and mani-pedi in their customer lounge and spa while they needlessly remove your engine to do the job. You should follow the rest of edb1961’s advice to get a second opinion from a reliable independent mechanic.

The $3200 is high, but remember, its an estimate. That is why it is good business practice to get several estimates. When you compare estimates, make sure that they all include exactly the same things. The $3200 estimate might include some things that you have not listed.

I am a little curious though, was this a dealer? You kind of hint that it is in your reference to zip code. Also, was this some sort of free inspection or were you getting other work done? Offers for free inspections usually turn out to not be so free in the end.

BTW, per the maintenance schedule, you car is due for these services, I assume it was done on schedule seven years ago and it is due again. Also, get an estimate form a Toyota dealer, same parts, same procedures, same training, no latte’s or other espresso drinks in the waiting area, but you could always stop in at Starbucks on the way in.

Its also about a 2 to 3 hour job.

Your ES300 is a really nice Toyota Camry which is beyond popular and most any mechanic has seen in there shop.

With a car that old and likely only worth about twice what you list call around for estimates. I honestly would have a hard time spending the money on a (running) vehicle that old even at $1500. If the engine is interference than it is an imminent item. Folks will chime in if interference which means your engine is junk when the timing belt snaps. If not interference basically your timing belt “may” snap which means you loose engine power and coast to the side the road or simply stall if not moving.

My guess is this can be done for $1200 at a small time garage.

The labor for a timing belt and water pump is only 3.5 hours. Toyota 3.0L and 3.3L timing belt replacement is routine and straightforward, under $1,000. Removing the engine would make valve seal replacement easier. If this car only has 14,000 miles on it that shouldn’t be necessary.
Perhaps they charge $2,000 for the oil change.

I really think that you need to take a deep breath and break down the estimate as to the individual labor operations and parts pricing.

There is no way on Earth a timing belt is a 10 minute job on anything and if you have misinterpreted something like this based on a Youtube video it’s quite possible there is some more misinterpretation involved or something is being left out of the story.

The car and its sum total of parts may only have 14k miles on it but they’re also 15 years old. This means the belts are about 9 years overdue.

Guys, no Toyota or Lexus dealer is going to recommend engine removal to do the timing belt on OP’s car.

2 possibilities, as far as I’m concerned

OP is being charged for engine removal, when in fact the shop is NOT removing the engine

The shop is removing the engine because they aren’t confident in their abilities