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Toyota dealer vs my mechanic

I was driving out of state in my 98 Sienna when I broke down. I restarted three times and went a short distance, but each time broke down again and had to be towed to a Toyota dealer.

The dealer claimed it was jumping time and needed a new timing belt. If that didn’t fix it he would need to put on a crank sensor. He also said the water pump was leaking.

I called my home mechanic who said the belts weren’t that old and, if jumping time, it wouldn’t have restarted. It needed only the sensor, he said. But the Toyota dealer insisted.

After the fact (a thousand dollars later) I showed my mechanic the belt, which was in perfect condition (except where they cut it to remove it), and he adamantly proclaimed it was an unnecessary repair. He said the only way it could jump time without damaging the belt was if the tensioner was broken, but they didn’t replace the tensioner (nor the idler to my mechanic’s distress). He also said the water pump showed no signs of leakage.

I called the manager at the dealership and he just as adamantly proclaimed it was necessary, that the belt on the outer bank was out one or two teeth, and that the belt wouldn’t necessarily be damaged as a result. He also insisted the water pump showed signs of leakage. The two error codes they were getting were PO 340 (cam position) and PO 335 (crank position sensor), the two things my home mechanic had said to try even without knowing the codes.

The dealer also maintained that had they not replaced the belt and pump I might have had further problems down the road.

Whom do I believe? Both sure sound sincere and convincing.

Sounds like a crank sensor was bad. What they were doing was getting it all at once with the shotgun approach. Which is easy for them, costly for you. When you replace the timing belt, you might as well replace the pump, especially if there was signs of leakage. If it was leaking, they saved you a costly repair. The radiator fluid will ruin the timing belt.

Your mechanic sounds like he’s dead on with what he’s telling you and the dealer is on shaky ground mechanically speaking.

A jumped timing belt is not going to be a hit and miss affair, the tensioner should have been replaced, the water pump should have been replaced leakage or not, and to make things sound even worse; they resorted to cutting the old belt off?

Offhand, I might say that the mechanic at the dealership was doing a shortcut belt job by weaseling the belt partially onto the sprockets and next to the old belt to keep everything in time. The old belt would be cut off and the new belt shoved on over into it’s proper position.

How old was the belt (miles and years). While it might not have caused the problem, it might have been time to replace it, anyway.

If you are following the service recommendations in your owners manual faithfully, then I believe you should have replaced the belt in 2004 and again in 2010, so the belt would have been 3 years old. If that is the case, the dealer was wrong.

In defense of the dealer, you brought in a vehicle that he did not know the service history on, unless you kept all the receipts or had the major services like the timing belt service done at a Toyota dealer. If he does not know the history of the vehicle, he will want to make sure that you don’t come back a week later with a non running engine because the timing belt broke and blame him for the problem.

To keep something like this from happening in the future, record all maintenances in your owners manual. There is a place in it for doing this. Your mechanic would do this for you if you request it. There are even a couple of blank pages for recording non routine (preventative) maintenance actions on. This way, when you are caught in a strange land, you have this information to present to the repair facility of your choosing.

The dealer claimed it was jumping time and needed a new timing belt.

I question this statement. “Jumping Time”. Maybe jumped time…since it’s IMPOSSIBLE to keep doing it. And if the timing belt jumped time caused it to NOT start…they don’t go back in correct position and fix themselves. This sounds like a totally bogus answer.

Sounds like your mechanic is knowledgeable and trustworthy. Stick with him.

I probably agree on the belt but if the pump was leaking, you really have to do it all while you are at it. Again, I’m sensing that Toyota dealer shops are having some issues and don’t know if I would trust them unless I found a good one.

Dealers will do repairs that make them money. Just the statement " it may have problems down the road " tells you everything. That can be said for any part. Be aware, you must be savy. When looking for repairs away from home, do only what you think is necessary to return to those you can trust. That’s easier said then done. I bet even some of the most knowledgable of us have been taken.

IMHO, most dealers can be trusted, after they have been convinced you are fairly knowledgable and skeptical enough to hurt their reputation with the locals and the factory. That can be said for most businesses and puts travelers at a disadvantage. Overall though, I still would go to a dealer first when tripping then just any garage.

Like hamburger joints and healthcare providers, many shops insist on selling package deals. You got the Supersized Timing Belt with water pump and sensors. Isn’t that a Number 13 on the menu?

Let me try this again. I posted earlier and it hasn’t popped up.

Thank you all for your answers. I keep all my receipts but I’ve learned now to keep them in the van, not in my file cabinet.

The timing belt did have over 60,000 miles, but I can’t even say oh well I’m good now for 90,000, because they didn’t replace the tensioner and idler.

Two of you verified nicely what my mechanic had said. I especially like the distinction “jumped” time vs. “jumping” time. Now I just have to decide whether to file a complaint with Toyota. Thanks again.

The site has been having some problems for me the last couple of days; at least from my end.

Even if the point about the belt needing replacement is perfectly valid, their methodogy is not; nor is the bit about jumping time.

Not meaning to discourage you, but filing a complaint with Toyota is likely to go nowhere. You will receive a canned response at best and the odds of Toyota forcing the dealer (even if they could) to do anything as far as a refund are very, very slim. The dealer and Toyota are separate business entities and the dealer can call a lot of the shots.

However, it’s worth a try. Just keep it firmly polite in explaining why they erred.

@JonVa, you don’t have to settle for the first response from Toyota. When they turn down your complaint, contact them again and find out who the next person up the food chain is and write them a letter. Attach all correspondence up to that point. Keep doing this until you tire of it or get a positive response. Iknowsomeone that did this with Jaguar and got a new car from them.

Yes, I have no great expectations but figure if enough people complain over time, and post complaints on the web, maybe mechanics will think twice before taking advantage. (I’m a dreamer.) By the way, my mechanic gave the same explanation for the cut belt as you. Thanks for that confirmation.

" many shops insist on selling package deals"

Exactly, the last thing they need from a potential customer is a little skepticism and knowledge.

Perhaps. But, I have gotten good results in the past and besides, it makes you feel good that you told someone of consequence about feeling you are getting ripped off. Complaints do add up.

If it was time for the timing belt to be changed-out, that the owner’s manual maintenance schedule said it was time, then there is no issue. Doing that was the right thing for the dealer shop to do with these symptoms. Better to be safe than risk having the valves crunched.

Or at the very least, visually check the timing marks and all the parts of the belt pathway for the existing belt. The dealer shop that did the repair should have been able to easily verify – once the timing belt covers were removed – whether or not the timing belt was properly aligned. It’s just a matter of hand-rotating the engine a couple of times and looking at some dots. If the dots showed it wasn’t aligned per the spec, replacing it would make sense, as that could be an indication it had slipped. A proper visual inspection of the old belt to determine it’s condition would require making some precise measurements, which I doubt was done, so whether the old belt was still in good condition is ambiguous at best.

The only other possibility if the dots were off would be that the existing belt wasn’t aligned properly when it was installed, and there is no way for the dealer to know that. And replacing the water pump is a common practice when the timing belt is replaced, whether or not the water pump is showing signs of failing or not. At least you know you have a new timing belt and water pump.

It’s a valid concern that the idler/tensioner wasn’t replaced, but the dealer shop could have determined from their experience – after all they do this every day – those components were in good condition. They may simply have been trying to save you some money. If you want those items replaced, I think that can be done without involving the engine mounts, so the fee wouldn’t be exorbitant. Suggest to ask your own mechanic if it is a good idea.

George, replacing the water pump whether it needs it or not, may or may not be common practice. My 2002 Sienna, manufacturer specifically says “inspect” water pump when replacing timing belt. The first time they inspected it and said it did not need replacing.

The second time, 180,000 miles, they inspected it and recommended replacement.

Some things which are common practice may not be correct practice. However, this is only true when the manufacturer specifically says so. I am prejudiced enough that on the Big Three I would replace the water pump every time, which may be why I do not own one.

Recommended interval on these vans is 90,000 miles, so it really wasn’t close. I have the belt and it’s in great condition–as my mechanic and some of you have said, that could be determined before removing the belt.

To me the bottom line is the van would not have restarted had the timing jumped. And they surely knew that. Also I’ve read that timing belts don’t stretch, which is what they told me. (And if stretched, why did they cut it off?)

Thanks again for all the contributions.

I can’t figure out why they cut it in the first place. There is no reason to do that. I thought that the first time you wrote that, it was just a figurative remark. The timing jumping sounds like usual service writer BS.

@keith wrote “I can’t figure out why they cut it in the first place. There is no reason to do that.”

ok4550 wrote “I might say that the mechanic at the dealership was doing a shortcut belt job by weaseling the belt partially onto the sprockets and next to the old belt to keep everything in time. The old belt would be cut off and the new belt shoved on over into it’s proper position.”

That sounds like the hard way to me.