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Serpentine belt replacement?

How much do you mark up the price for the customer?

I would have the customer order the parts and have them delivered to the shop.

So no mark up.


I don’t think the OP has that option, a new belt and tensioner would cost the OP $350.

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I had a tensioner go out a few years after the serpantine belt replacement, guess my mechanics are not salty enough, The tensioner gave enough warning before failing, thought my engine was having valve problems, cold start crazy noises, here is a link

If C33 is worried about the belt, he or she could replace it on a DIY basis for minimum cost. While the original one is off, turn and feel the pulleys it drives. If they are OK, put on the new belt. Keep the old one in a plastic bag in the car, available in the extremely rare case of a failed belt somewhere in the boonies.

If the pulleys and their bearings are not OK, C33 has seen and felt the evidence, and doesn’t have to rely on mechanics of whom s/he is skeptical.

I expect the rare cases of broken or thrown belts are mostly caused by a problem with the pulleys and the components they drive, and not a simple case of a belt wearing out.

in DIY model, I’m simply repacking grease into idlers before they fail

quite easy to find instruction on Youtube:

OP: “It seems as if every time I take my car to the shop, I am nailed with a new item replacement recommendation…I am starting to feel fear taking my car in as I am certain every visit is going to knock me with a bill… I am a novice to cars … limited funds.”

If you aren’t equipped to do something yourself, you have no choice but to rely on an expert who is. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, same principle applies for your physician, tax accountant or your lawyer. One person can’t know everything. So if you aren’t satisfied with your shop, have a sit down with them and explain your concerns. They might be able to come up with a plan that suits you better. If not, ask friends, relatives etc who they use to repair their cars, and visit some of those shops. You might find somebody who better meets your needs.

Owning a car is an expensive proposition. Besides maintenance and repair, you got car ayments, insurance, gas, state and dmv licensing fees, emissions testing fees, traffic tickets, a whole slew of costs. But if you can’t get where you need to go on public transport, you gotta have one. In which case you have to adjust your budget in order to be prepared for all the costs. For a 2012 Camry, suggest to set aside $100-200 per month for maintenance and repair.


Based on my ownership of Toyotas and other vehicles, 60K is where the repairs and maintenance really begins and it never ends. I have an "07 Highlander and I keep it in perfect condition. It is a constant battle keeping up with things like belts, brakes, wheel bearings, bulbs, fluid changes, and the like. That said, I love it, and it has never let me down. My biggest relief was finding a great local mechanic who cut my costs by about 30% and is always happy to give me good info on where I stand and what my options are. I have done many things now twice. For example rear brakes and two wheel bearings. His prices were dramatically lower and the “non OEM” parts worked great and cost much less. I usually keep cars till about 60K and then trade to reduce my hassles, but that Highlander is a gem and I plan to keep it forever, or until my sons use it up. The manilla folder with all my receipts is now about an inch and half thick and growing. I plan to open it up and do a story about all the repairs someday.

There’s a lot of years between my '03 Camry and the OPs but when mine was due I discovered it was not your typical belt job. Lots of stuff to remove to gain access. $200 seems high but it may be reasonable due to the labor involved…

Yeah, just depends on the car. My Buicks were about a 5 minute job that you could even do on the road. My Olds was about an hour if you followed the procedure in the factory manual to weave the old belt off and weave the new belt on. The room on my Pontiac and Acura is so restrictive, you can’t hardly get your hands in there or see where the belt goes. So I just pay the $35 to have an expert do it on a lift or however he does it.

Get a second opinion. I agree that $200 is too expensive. It just takes a few minutes to remove the old on and replace it. Even if the belt costs $50, the $150 for labor is quite high.

If your shop is a Toyota dealer, find another shop. Dealers and some other shops accelerate maintenance sometimes. The real tell is the condition of the belt. I replaced mine on my Accord at 7 years and 105,000 miles. Not because it needed it, but because it came off to replace the timing belt. The labor was sunk anyway and all I needed to do was buy a new serpentine belt.

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Errr, you seem to be the resident expert here, but I wouldn’t want to buy a belt tensioner just because I’m replacing the belt. I’ve run vehicles beyond 200k and never replaced the tensioner. Is there a gauge for the tensioner to determine if it needs replacing also? Or some sort of resistance spec?

Look if the tensioner has a wear indicator.

Not all tensioners do.


is it now a BELT wear indicator (rather a TENSIONER wear indicator) ?

No matter if it’s an old belt or a new belt, the spring in the tensioner should apply the proper tension to the belt.


inspecting how the mechanism works, the deflection will be proportional not to the tension, but rather to the belt length, which increases as belt stretches

here is my 2012 Altima:


it says “possible use range” and “belt replacement” mark for the belt, not "replace tensioner when out of range :slight_smile:

The mechanic took 10 minutes to replace the serpentine belt on my Corolla and charged me 1 hour labor. They make a lot of money on labor

If you are going to your local dealer for service, some will try to sell you everything including a kitchen sink whether you need it or not. Dealer service departments are more worried about the bottom line on their balance sheet than watching out for your wallet. I learned this years ago when very aggressive service writers assumed that none of their customers know anything and they know everything. Some will definitely take advantage of customers that are not knowledgeable about cars and depend on the dealer to treat them right. I have seen little old ladies get raked over the coals for stuff I know they didn’t need. It pays to find a good independent mechanic. Also, read the maintenance schedule in your owners manual. If the manufacturer doesn’t recommend it, it probably doesn’t need it except in certain and rare circumstances. Maybe you have a friend or relative that is more knowledgeable that could go with you to ask questions and look at the parts they say need replacing. I’m not saying the things you mentioned didn’t need replacing but to me, it sounds a bit fishy. I had a 07 Camry and my dealer tried to tell me it needed all this stuff that wasn’t in the manual like carbon cleaning, flushing brake fluid, some other expensive brake service, coolant, needed additives to prevent whatever. This was all at very significant cost. The car had about 40K miles, ran great but they argued with me that I needed this stuff per the manufacturer. I said show me the documentation from Toyota and I will consider it. He couldn’t. They lost my business after that and talking to a mechanic that has his own business for many years. Also, under normal circumstances, a serpentine belt will last a lot longer than 58K and, unless you do an unusual amount of braking, they won’t need replacement that soon either. I had 75K on mine and the brakes were still in very good condition when I sold it.

Toyota usually uses Hydraulic tensioners. Mine have never gone bad. I had a Dodge minivan with the spring loaded type which was a whole different story.
On my 2005 Camry with the 4 cylinder engine, the change was not that difficult, just tight spots. Making a hook with a wire hanger was very handy. If you know what you are doing it takes 15 minutes. Nothing to be taken off other than the old belt.

Your mechanic may just be trying to intercept problems, but I’m skeptical about whether they are over-diagnosing your car. I suggest a second opinion by another mechanic.
You can get online info on items like serpentine belts (a serpentine belt transfers engine power to other mechanical parts, and if it fails, these parts stop working, including the water pump, and if the water pump fails your car can catastrophically overheat quickly so safely get your car off the road ASAP and call a tow). If the belt stops working, your dashboard warning lights will suddenly come on and the water temp may suddenly go up. Belts are tough and durable with a generally low probability of failure at your mileage and visual assessment is usually inaccurate so good shops will use a tool (ask your shop for the readings). Parts that are connected by the belt usually fail before the belt, and if this happens you often hear a persistent, unusual noise before they fail. It does make some sense to replace the belt at high mileage, and you can find all sorts of opinions on when to do this – I would suggest replacing it if/when some other connected part fails.
You can find maintenance intervals in your owner’s manual (accessible online), but consider how you drive. A quick check shows Camry belts should be inspected at 60,000 miles and every 15,000 thereafter. Some cars require plenty of costly scheduled maintenance, but the Camry is famous for not being among them.
Maybe your mechanic is used to working on German cars (if you want some amusement read the maintenance schedules and costs for something like a Porsche Boxster or BMW).
Preventive maintenance is good but too much is unnecessary, just like taking unnecessary vitamins won’t make you healthier and may even do some damage.
BTW did you buy the car used, and what was the general condition?
Bottom line: 1.) A second opinion is warranted; 2.) Investigate any sudden odd noises that arise; 3.) preventive maintenance is good but overdoing it won’t necessarily make your car last longer; 4.) This shows the value of keeping all your maintenance records so you know when certain parts have been replaced.