Visual Inspection


What good is “visual inspection” of hoses, belts, and distributor caps and wires?

Despite having my 1990 Toyota serviced since day one by Toyota dealers, and despite having had all required major “tune up” services faithfully done by Toyota dealers, I recently learned, in unfortunate circumstances, that my original distributor cap and attached wires had NEVER been replaced with a new one. Yes, folks, 155,000 miles and Seventeen years later, I still had the 1990 rubber piece in place.

And, finally, it failed, just when it shouldn’t have. A non-Toyota mechanic told me the bad news, and my Toyota dealer confirmed that he had never replaced the original part. Because it “looked” OK. There was no recommended time for replacement, they told me, and as long as the car was running well, and the part looked good on the exterior, they made no preventive maintenance recommendations. Despite the fact that I always made it clear that preventive maintenance was important to me.

Upon further questioning, I learned that my belts and hoses had also never been changed, because they “looked OK”. A phone call to Toyota Customer Relations, the national office, confirmed that there was no recommended time or mileage when rubber parts should be replaced, and that after 100,000 miles there were no manufacturer recommendations for replacing parts. Period.

And they weren’t even nice in talking about it.

Isn’t it common sense–if not Toyota sense–that rubber parts will eventually fail, and that that failure may be on the interior and not visible from the exterior? And isn’t it common sense every couple of years, to replace belts, hoses, and rubber parts to prevent failure on the highway?

I’m frankly appalled to think I’ve been paying Toyota nearly $500 for major service every couple of years, and that they have been paying no attention to common sense replacement of parts with lives that can’t be considered eternal.

Am I out of some kind of loop here? Are other dealers “inspecting” cars in this cavalier way?



You’re correct in your assumptions for the most part.

It sounds like these clowns have been letting things slide for some goofy reason. In the interest of profitability, they should have been soaking you for new hoses, belts, and wires for years! (just teasing)
A decent mechanic who drives a car into the shop to perform a maintenance service should be saying a prayer all the way onto the rack that the car is a worn out heap and needs everything. It increases his pay also! :slight_smile:

Seriously, an inspection means a visual exam and sometimes a visual may not reveal anything. At a certain age and mileage things like hoses and plug wires should be replaced.
I don’t know that you would have to necessarily do this every couple of years though.
Distributor caps can often last as long as the car, BUT that depends on any rough running symptoms that have occurred, any corrosion in the dist. cap terminals that might exist, carbon tracking, etc. The dist. cap CAN be visually inspected with no doubts at all.

I would not lump all dealers into the cavalier category. There are going to be a few bad ones to the core and other good ones who may have a few bad people. With the latter the bad may get weeded out and replaced with other bad people so it’s possible to make repeated trips in and due to the luck of the draw - get bad ones each time.

Generally one can figure on replacing rubber parts about every 5 years, give or take, plug wires about every 100k (that varies, depending), and possibly never replacing a dist. cap.
If this car has an automatic transmission I would hope that fluid changes were done. If not, ouch.
Hope that helps.


Find a good shop that specializes in toyotas and have them give your car a good inspection. Let them know that you intend to keep the car for a while and are willing to go what’s required to keep it reliable. Dealer are not usually the best folks to work on older cars, they mostly see cars that are still under warrantee.


To OK4450

Yeah, I’m feeling pretty dumb about this. Have been driving a lot of years, and “in the day”, a good tune-up by a careful mechanic included a routine change of belts, hoses, wires and such, and I just assumed this was still being done. WRONG! Since “mechanics” have been replaced by “technicians”, guess I’d better review all my previous assumptions.

My car is not an automatic, so transmission fluid is one thing I don’t have to worry about. And in my model, the distributor cap and wires are all one piece, so if one goes, they all go, so to speak.

Thanks for the comments, now I have to track down a REAL mechanic, not a Toyota tech, who can’t even understand what I’m upset about.

Loismp, still “a stitch in time saves nine” kind of car owner


HMPH. You’d think dealers would be glad to have the oldies around, to display their brand’s staying power to the other customers. There is a Toyota “private” shop here, and I’ll follow your advice. And ask them to change all the soft parts. Maybe I can make some kind of “found art” collage out of my 17 year old belts and hoses, but I know where I’d rather be wrapping them.



I’m amazed that the belts were never changed. The tensioning system stretches them every second of the day. I’ve found that they should be changed about every 40,000 miles or so just so that I can get them off. With a 50,000 mile stretch, I can’t remove them without a ratchet wrench. And I don’t think you can use a ratchet on a belt tensioner. Hoses may look OK, but they get soft over time as the rubber ages. You might also see lumps on the hoses as they get older and soften up. While you should give p on that dealer, there might be other dealer shops around that are better trained.

Dealers are no better (or worse) than independent mechanics for almost anything you might need done on your car.  They will almost always charge more per hour and often more for parts and supplies.  They also tend to look at repairs a little different than the independent. 

A dealer may well recommend work that strictly may not be needed, but could be connected to the problem or maybe replace a part when a little repair would fix it ALMOST as good a new.  

There is no need to bring your car to the dealer for any service other than service that is going to be paid for by a recall or original warrantee. 

I suggest that most people would be better off finding a good independent (Not working for a chain) mechanic.


Not surprised about the hoses. Some of those Honda ones have outlasted the car.