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Widely differing costs for repair

Hi all, I thought I would relate a strange sequence of events that led to a problem being fixed.

Recently my check engine light went on, so I bought an OBD2 scanner and found it was a catalytic converter problem.
I went to three different places, which made hugely different diagnoses.

  1. Toyota dealer. They charged me $80 to tell me what I already knew: Something was
    wrong with the 1st catalytic converter. (I’m out of warranty at 130k miles).
    Then they said it would cost up to $3000 to fix because there are two cats and
    it’s quite possible the second one was bad, and suggested I go elsewhere. I later complained
    and got $40 back.

  2. I went to Midas. They charged me nothing to look at it, but estimated $1200
    to replace the 1st cat. They said it definitely needed it, the 2nd probably did not,
    and oh that’s to put in a generic cat, not the Toyota part. Another customer who was there
    warned me though, a cat problem can be caused by lots of different factors.

  3. I called my local shop and they asked an obvious question that neither
    of the other two places did: Had I cleared the code? No, I had not, so I did.
    After 500 miles the engine light did not come back on.

  4. Finally I went to my local shop. They immediately pointed out the problem: The gasket
    that held the oxygen sensor was rusted through, and the two bolts that held it in
    place where entirely gone. He showed me the gasket. Air was getting in, leading to the cat code.
    Note however that 8 months earlier the Toyota dealer had replaced that exact O2 sensor.
    He fixed it and I’ve had no problems since. Total for that work, less than $50.

There are a few lessons learned here.

  1. Always on big ticket items, get a 2nd & 3rd opinion.
  2. Don’t be dazzled by brand names like Toyota when it comes to repairs.
  3. And of course if you find a good mechanic, stick with him (or her).

I agree with this add on, though you may be saying the same thing. ALL repairs cannot be placed in the same repair category. There are some things a dealer can do more efficiently. There are some things a transmission shop can do better. If I have an air conditioning problem, I first go to a specialist.

There is an excellent shop nearby that can fabricate suspension parts for many cars that even the local dealers use. Why go through the middle man and why make general statements as to whom is the best to deal with. There are too many different systems on cars, that once you have a handle on what is wrong, final repair is a matter of matching the repair to the best provider.

You learned a good lesson. The first being to always find the actual problem before you begin repairs. I believe half the catalytic converters sold did not need to be replaced at all.

You’ve also learned why so many people have anxiety attacks when they have to take their vehicle in for repair, Unfortunately, far too often the original diagnosis is inaccurate and lots of cash ends up being spent before the problem is actually corrected.

By the way, the $80 diagnostic fee is probably less than is average. In my area $100 is more typical.

Yet another ‘cat code is NOT a bad cat’ story…

The check engine light on my Pontiac came on. I called Onstar who told me it was a code 420 cat issue. They said could be bad cat or a manifold leak. Take it to dealer to confirm bad cat. I took it to the dealer who checked for leaks, cleared the code which came back again, and confirmed bad cat. Installed new cat at no cost. Maybe there’s something wrong with Toyota dealers.

The reason I liked the original post was because it pointed out the importance of a visual inspection of the exhaust system. We don’t know if the dealer mechanic looked at it because of the 500 miles of code free driving, but it is good to have a look.