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Is this auto repair shop trying to rip me off?

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Is this auto repair shop trying to rip me off?

Postby Winston » Thu Jan 23, 2014 5:17 pm

Hi all,
I just had the oil changed in my car at Big O Tires. Afterward, they gave me some papers suggesting replacements and repairs with price quotes totaling around $2,000. Holy shit. They claimed that the power steering fluid was dripping as well as some valve underneath the car. And they added timing belt replacement as well. They said that the drips could get worse if not fixed.

So my question is, how do you know if an auto shop is suggesting unnecessary repairs to rip you off?

And why would they try to rip someone off by that much? No one is going to just pay $2,000 for repairs and replacements just like that, without getting second opinions and researching them.

They sounded honest. But what got me suspicious is when I asked to see the drips they were talking about, they agreed, but didn't do it. They said they were going to rack up the car and show me, but didn't. Instead, they lifted the hood and with a flashlight showed me some parts that looked rusty. But I saw no leak, and they could not show me one. Did I catch them lying red handed?

This is Big O Tires though, a reputable chain. So I don't see why they would try to rip me off. Unless they have the Vegas hustle mentality.

Also, if they are trying to deceive me, how do I even know if they did the oil change? Can I pull the oil stick from under the hood to see if the oil is fresh? If so, what do I look for?

Should I take the car to another shop, like Meineke, to get another opinion?

What's dangerous is that if a shop is trying to scam you, they could purposely sabotage your car too.

Also, does the timing belt really have to be replaced every 60,000 miles? Should you replace it at all if it looks ok? Is it something that would snap if worn out, of would the wear and tear on it show up gradually?

And is it really necessary to change your oil every 3,000 miles as they recommend? It seems too quick. What do you think?

Thanks.
Last edited by Winston on Sun Jan 26, 2014 5:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby momopi » Thu Jan 23, 2014 6:07 pm

To better inspect fluid leaks, you need to have the engine steam cleaned first ($100-$200). Tell the cleaning crew that your mechanic is trying to diagnose fluid leaks so they won't just clean the top only. After it's cleaned, you can drive it to a mechanic and have them inspect it.
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Postby Devil Dog » Thu Jan 23, 2014 6:10 pm

Seriously, Winston, you need to spend a little more time learning about shit that matters in a man's life and a little less time worrying about whether the moon landing was a hoax / who killed JFK / whether Paul McCartney was replaced by a double.


What is the year / make / model / mileage of your car? That is relevant in determining what repairs are needed and reasonable.

Those chains are notorious for trying to give a scary list of "needed" repairs to almost every customer. Going to another chain will likely get you the same kind of BS repairs list because they have the same business model.

Rusty parts mean nothing. Are there spots of fluid under your car after it has been parked? Are you having to replenish fluids? If not, then don't worry about a small amount of seepage.

Take a look at the oil on the dipstick. If it looks like clean, new oil then they probably changed it. Oil change intervals for petroleum oil should be in the 6000 mile range IMO, check your owner's manual. I prefer slightly longer intervals but I only use full synthetic oil in my vehicles. Synthetic oil (full synthetic, not synthetic blend) is the best money you can spend on maintenance of a car.

Timing belt interval? Once again, look at your owner's manual. Typical recommended replacement interval is about 100,000 miles. Does that mean it won't last 300,000 miles? No, but in many cars (not all) a broken timing belt causes pistons and valves to try to be in the same space at the same time, which pretty much means engine replacement.
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Postby Rock » Thu Jan 23, 2014 6:15 pm

Common sense thing to do would be to visit 2 or 3 more shops (ones which will give your car a free diagnostic check-up and evaluation) to get their recommendations. If they don't mention the issues first shop brought up, ask them specifically about those issues and see what they say. That's a good way to get a better idea of what's going on with something you have no idea about. If you just go to one 'expert', you are at their mercy and basically have to take whatever they tell you at face value.
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Postby Winston » Thu Jan 23, 2014 6:27 pm

Devil Dog wrote:Seriously, Winston, you need to spend a little more time learning about shit that matters in a man's life and a little less time worrying about whether the moon landing was a hoax / who killed JFK / whether Paul McCartney was replaced by a double.


What is the year / make / model / mileage of your car? That is relevant in determining what repairs are needed and reasonable.

Those chains are notorious for trying to give a scary list of "needed" repairs to almost every customer. Going to another chain will likely get you the same kind of BS repairs list because they have the same business model.

Rusty parts mean nothing. Are there spots of fluid under your car after it has been parked? Are you having to replenish fluids? If not, then don't worry about a small amount of seepage.

Take a look at the oil on the dipstick. If it looks like clean, new oil then they probably changed it. Oil change intervals for petroleum oil should be in the 6000 mile range IMO, check your owner's manual. I prefer slightly longer intervals but I only use full synthetic oil in my vehicles. Synthetic oil (full synthetic, not synthetic blend) is the best money you can spend on maintenance of a car.

Timing belt interval? Once again, look at your owner's manual. Typical recommended replacement interval is about 100,000 miles. Does that mean it won't last 300,000 miles? No, but in many cars (not all) a broken timing belt causes pistons and valves to try to be in the same space at the same time, which pretty much means engine replacement.


Hey now. I'm a history and conspiracy buff. So you can't expect me not to be interested in such things.

The car is a 1998 Toyota Avalon. It's my parents' car. But it only has 88,000 miles on it because it hasn't been driven much and is a backup car. So it still looks new.

I don't notice any fluids on the garage floor where its parked. But are all fluids colored? Are some transparent?

No I'm not having to replenish fluids. But then again, I don't know how to check for all of them.

How do I know if there's enough coolant in the radiator? There is no fill level line to measure.

How do know if the oil on the dipstick looks fresh? What does fresh oil look like?

You mean it's ok to change your oil every 6,000 miles?

I noticed that the synthetic oils cost a lot more. Are they worth it? I heard that once you use synthetic oil, you can't use conventional oil again.

Thanks for your response and help.
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Postby Devil Dog » Thu Jan 23, 2014 7:05 pm

Winston wrote:
Devil Dog wrote:Seriously, Winston, you need to spend a little more time learning about shit that matters in a man's life and a little less time worrying about whether the moon landing was a hoax / who killed JFK / whether Paul McCartney was replaced by a double.


What is the year / make / model / mileage of your car? That is relevant in determining what repairs are needed and reasonable.

Those chains are notorious for trying to give a scary list of "needed" repairs to almost every customer. Going to another chain will likely get you the same kind of BS repairs list because they have the same business model.

Rusty parts mean nothing. Are there spots of fluid under your car after it has been parked? Are you having to replenish fluids? If not, then don't worry about a small amount of seepage.

Take a look at the oil on the dipstick. If it looks like clean, new oil then they probably changed it. Oil change intervals for petroleum oil should be in the 6000 mile range IMO, check your owner's manual. I prefer slightly longer intervals but I only use full synthetic oil in my vehicles. Synthetic oil (full synthetic, not synthetic blend) is the best money you can spend on maintenance of a car.

Timing belt interval? Once again, look at your owner's manual. Typical recommended replacement interval is about 100,000 miles. Does that mean it won't last 300,000 miles? No, but in many cars (not all) a broken timing belt causes pistons and valves to try to be in the same space at the same time, which pretty much means engine replacement.


Hey now. I'm a history and conspiracy buff. So you can't expect me not to be interested in such things.

The car is a 1998 Toyota Avalon. It's my parents' car. But it only has 88,000 miles on it because it hasn't been driven much and is a backup car. So it still looks new.

I don't notice any fluids on the garage floor where its parked. But are all fluids colored? Are some transparent?

No I'm not having to replenish fluids. But then again, I don't know how to check for all of them.

How do I know if there's enough coolant in the radiator? There is no fill level line to measure.

How do know if the oil on the dipstick looks fresh? What does fresh oil look like?

You mean it's ok to change your oil every 6,000 miles?

I noticed that the synthetic oils cost a lot more. Are they worth it? I heard that once you use synthetic oil, you can't use conventional oil again.

Thanks for your response and help.


Those Avalons are great cars so that one is worth spending some money on maintenance.

Recommended timing belt change interval on that vehicle is 60,000 miles. I would call around to independent shops and get prices for replacement of the belt and the water pump. Replace the water pump because it is easily accessible and will be exposed in the process of getting to the timing belt. The whole job should be $400ish. It is not a "hurry up and do it right now" job, but I would get it done.

All fluids are wet. Look on the garage floor. The oil on the dipstick should be a clear, slightly tan colored liquid if fresh. If there is no fluid on the floor then don't worry about fixing "leaks".

WHEN THE ENGINE IS COLD open the radiator cap and see if it is filled to the top. It should be. Also, that car has a white plastic coolant reservoir under the hood. If you are standing at the front of the car it is to the left of the engine. It has a black plastic cap and is connected by a black rubber tube to the radiator cap. This reservoir has high and low marks for fluid level.

Yes it is OK to change your oil and filter every 6000 miles, that is my opinion. Particularly if you use synthetic. Synthetic is a better product. It is worth it. Synthetic oil practically ends engine wear. I do not agree with the theory that you can not go back to petroleum oil after using synthetic. I have done it with no problems, and I do not find the argument to be logical. You should change the oil about once per year, even if it does not reach the mileage limit.

That particular engine sometimes has problems with internal channels gunking up (aka sludge). That can not happen with synthetic oil. I strongly recommend that you use only synthetic in that 3 liter Toyota engine. Auto Zone or Advance Auto Parts always has a special going on which discounts a package deal on synthetics, 5 quarts and a high quality filter. Use that. If you want a little more discount, go to Gift Card Granny and search for discounted gift cards. I just checked Auto Zone and you pay about 85% of face value for an Auto Zone card. They spend like money at the store. I always keep one on hand, it saves a few bucks for airfare. :)
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Postby momopi » Thu Jan 23, 2014 10:48 pm

Your owner's manual should tell you how and where to check fluid levels. If you don't have it anymore, go to your local auto parts store and ask for a Chilton's book for the car.
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Re: How do I know if an auto shop is trying to rip me off?

Postby Teal Lantern » Fri Jan 24, 2014 3:19 am

Winston wrote:Hi all,
I just had the oil changed in my car at Big O Tires. Afterward, they gave me some papers suggesting replacements and repairs with price quotes totaling around $2,000. Holy shit. They claimed that the power steering fluid was dripping as well as some valve underneath the car. And they added timing belt replacement as well. They said that the drips could get worse if not fixed.

So my question is, how do you know if an auto shop is suggesting unnecessary repairs to rip you off?

And why would they try to rip someone off by that much? No one is going to just pay $2,000 for repairs and replacements just like that, without getting second opinions and researching them.

....
Thanks.


Depends on how much money you have and how little you know about cars, especially if they can make you think it's unsafe to drive. They'll also happily mark up by 200% or more things you can go to the parts store and replace yourself (wiper blades, signal lights, air filters, etc).

Places that change oil and replace tires should only be used for those things.
Everything else, go to small "no-name" shops that only do a few things. Ask around for reco's.
Shops that play the Jack-of-all-trades game (even major chain ones) are usually a rip off.

Most of a car's essential fluids are a different color from each other.
Also, you'd be surprised how much info is in the owner's manual ... so RTFM. :D
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Postby Winston » Fri Jan 24, 2014 5:47 am

Devil Dog wrote:Those Avalons are great cars so that one is worth spending some money on maintenance.

Recommended timing belt change interval on that vehicle is 60,000 miles. I would call around to independent shops and get prices for replacement of the belt and the water pump. Replace the water pump because it is easily accessible and will be exposed in the process of getting to the timing belt. The whole job should be $400ish. It is not a "hurry up and do it right now" job, but I would get it done.

All fluids are wet. Look on the garage floor. The oil on the dipstick should be a clear, slightly tan colored liquid if fresh. If there is no fluid on the floor then don't worry about fixing "leaks".

WHEN THE ENGINE IS COLD open the radiator cap and see if it is filled to the top. It should be. Also, that car has a white plastic coolant reservoir under the hood. If you are standing at the front of the car it is to the left of the engine. It has a black plastic cap and is connected by a black rubber tube to the radiator cap. This reservoir has high and low marks for fluid level.

Yes it is OK to change your oil and filter every 6000 miles, that is my opinion. Particularly if you use synthetic. Synthetic is a better product. It is worth it. Synthetic oil practically ends engine wear. I do not agree with the theory that you can not go back to petroleum oil after using synthetic. I have done it with no problems, and I do not find the argument to be logical. You should change the oil about once per year, even if it does not reach the mileage limit.

That particular engine sometimes has problems with internal channels gunking up (aka sludge). That can not happen with synthetic oil. I strongly recommend that you use only synthetic in that 3 liter Toyota engine. Auto Zone or Advance Auto Parts always has a special going on which discounts a package deal on synthetics, 5 quarts and a high quality filter. Use that. If you want a little more discount, go to Gift Card Granny and search for discounted gift cards. I just checked Auto Zone and you pay about 85% of face value for an Auto Zone card. They spend like money at the store. I always keep one on hand, it saves a few bucks for airfare. :)


Yes the Avalon is spacious and rides smoothly. But they are harder to turn and park for some reason. They are like steering a boat. You can't smoothly glide into parking spaces like small cars can.

How do you know what the recommended timing belt interval change is? What are you looking up? Is there a website that tells you?

I guess the car is way overdue for a timing belt change then. How do I see the timing belt to inspect its quality? I can't seem to find it under the hood.

I looked at the dipstick and it looks clear.

I found the white plastic coolant reservoir you were talking about. The pink liquid inside is kind of low, but not far from the line. I went to AutoZone before and had them look at it. They said it didn't need to be filled.

How do you know so much about Toyota Avalons? Do you have one too?

Ok I just went to Meineke this morning to get a second opinion. They inspected the car and said that the engine oil pan at the bottom was leaking and the valve cover gasket as well. The quoted $600 to fix both leaks. Wow. Can't they just seal a leak with simple methods?

However, they did not show me the leak, and I forgot to ask them to. Should I call them and ask why they didn't show me the leaks?

When I mentioned that I don't see leaks on the garage floor, they said that the leak is not a drip. It just comes out when you are driving and goes behind the car. Wtf? Do you buy that? Does that make sense? If the leak isn't a drip, then how do they know it's a leak? I'm confused.

They also said that the manufacturer recommends replacing the timing belt every 90,000 miles or every ten years. The ten year mark was in 2008 so that obviously passed. How has the belt lasted this long?

But the price they quoted for changing the timing belt is $1,000. Not $400. That's a big difference. Why that much?

I guess I could call around and see what MarkLambo's mechanic has to say about it.
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Postby Devil Dog » Fri Jan 24, 2014 2:01 pm

Winston wrote:
Devil Dog wrote:Those Avalons are great cars so that one is worth spending some money on maintenance.

Recommended timing belt change interval on that vehicle is 60,000 miles. I would call around to independent shops and get prices for replacement of the belt and the water pump. Replace the water pump because it is easily accessible and will be exposed in the process of getting to the timing belt. The whole job should be $400ish. It is not a "hurry up and do it right now" job, but I would get it done.

All fluids are wet. Look on the garage floor. The oil on the dipstick should be a clear, slightly tan colored liquid if fresh. If there is no fluid on the floor then don't worry about fixing "leaks".

WHEN THE ENGINE IS COLD open the radiator cap and see if it is filled to the top. It should be. Also, that car has a white plastic coolant reservoir under the hood. If you are standing at the front of the car it is to the left of the engine. It has a black plastic cap and is connected by a black rubber tube to the radiator cap. This reservoir has high and low marks for fluid level.

Yes it is OK to change your oil and filter every 6000 miles, that is my opinion. Particularly if you use synthetic. Synthetic is a better product. It is worth it. Synthetic oil practically ends engine wear. I do not agree with the theory that you can not go back to petroleum oil after using synthetic. I have done it with no problems, and I do not find the argument to be logical. You should change the oil about once per year, even if it does not reach the mileage limit.

That particular engine sometimes has problems with internal channels gunking up (aka sludge). That can not happen with synthetic oil. I strongly recommend that you use only synthetic in that 3 liter Toyota engine. Auto Zone or Advance Auto Parts always has a special going on which discounts a package deal on synthetics, 5 quarts and a high quality filter. Use that. If you want a little more discount, go to Gift Card Granny and search for discounted gift cards. I just checked Auto Zone and you pay about 85% of face value for an Auto Zone card. They spend like money at the store. I always keep one on hand, it saves a few bucks for airfare. :)


Yes the Avalon is spacious and rides smoothly. But they are harder to turn and park for some reason. They are like steering a boat. You can't smoothly glide into parking spaces like small cars can.

How do you know what the recommended timing belt interval change is? What are you looking up? Is there a website that tells you?

I guess the car is way overdue for a timing belt change then. How do I see the timing belt to inspect its quality? I can't seem to find it under the hood.

I looked at the dipstick and it looks clear.

I found the white plastic coolant reservoir you were talking about. The pink liquid inside is kind of low, but not far from the line. I went to AutoZone before and had them look at it. They said it didn't need to be filled.

How do you know so much about Toyota Avalons? Do you have one too?

Ok I just went to Meineke this morning to get a second opinion. They inspected the car and said that the engine oil pan at the bottom was leaking and the valve cover gasket as well. The quoted $600 to fix both leaks. Wow. Can't they just seal a leak with simple methods?

However, they did not show me the leak, and I forgot to ask them to. Should I call them and ask why they didn't show me the leaks?

When I mentioned that I don't see leaks on the garage floor, they said that the leak is not a drip. It just comes out when you are driving and goes behind the car. Wtf? Do you buy that? Does that make sense? If the leak isn't a drip, then how do they know it's a leak? I'm confused.

They also said that the manufacturer recommends replacing the timing belt every 90,000 miles or every ten years. The ten year mark was in 2008 so that obviously passed. How has the belt lasted this long?

But the price they quoted for changing the timing belt is $1,000. Not $400. That's a big difference. Why that much?

I guess I could call around and see what MarkLambo's mechanic has to say about it.



Google Toyota Avalon timing belt change interval. Find relevant posts. I thought off the top of my head that the interval would be 100.000. I was wrong. The timing belt is not out in the open. As I mentioned before, a timing belt may never break. But if it does it can be a catastrophic failure.

I have never owned an Avalon but I own two other Toyotas now. I am familiar with that V-6 engine which the Avalon uses.

they said that the leak is not a drip. It just comes out when you are driving and goes behind the car. Wtf? Do you buy that? I don't buy that at all. You probably have a small amount of seepage at the two places mentioned. It is not a problem. Nothing bad will happen if you ignore it, and I am not convinced that you have any leak at all. Don't spend that money.

But the price they quoted for changing the timing belt is $1,000. Not $400. That's a big difference. Why that much? Because they have to pay their franchise fees, they have to pay that smooth talking guy wearing the tie to sell you the job, and they have to pay for their prime location. Shop around. $400 may be too cheap, but you can beat the hell out of that $1000 price.
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Postby Winston » Sat Jan 25, 2014 7:26 pm

Can I physically see the timing belt? Where do I look? I do seek something that looks like a belt to the side of the engine, but I don't know if it's the timing belt. It looks new and sturdy though.

I did some research on Google and found out from the Gates website that the engine in our Toyota Avalon is a non-interference engine.

http://www.gates.com/part_locator/index ... on_id=3002

This means that if the timing belt breaks, it will not ruin the engine, right?
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Postby Devil Dog » Sun Jan 26, 2014 5:26 am

Winston wrote:Can I physically see the timing belt? Where do I look? I do seek something that looks like a belt to the side of the engine, but I don't know if it's the timing belt. It looks new and sturdy though.

I did some research on Google and found out from the Gates website that the engine in our Toyota Avalon is a non-interference engine.

http://www.gates.com/part_locator/index ... on_id=3002

This means that if the timing belt breaks, it will not ruin the engine, right?


I'm pretty sure that the timing belt is covered and is on the left side of the engine as you are standing in front of the car looking into the engine compartment.

If it is a non-interference engine then I would be tempted to leave it as is, depending upon how much you would be charged to fix it. You are correct about what that means.
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Postby Winston » Sun Jan 26, 2014 5:40 am

I do see a belt on the left side, but the mechanic told me that it wasn't the timing belt. If the timing belt is so important, then why wouldn't they leave it exposed so one could easily inspect it. You'd think they would.

If they make a dipstick for you to check the oil, then why couldn't they leave part of the timing belt open for inspection. Strange.

I've never heard of anyone's car breaking down from the timing belt snapping. So maybe it's rare. The odds are probably highly against it regardless of how old it is.

I will try to get it done though if I can find a place that will do it at a reasonable price.

Have any of you guys ever had a timing belt replaced? If so, how much did it cost you and where did you get it done?

Btw, when you Google "do you need an oil change every 3,000 miles?" every single hit that comes up says that you don't and that that is outdated advice.
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Postby Devil Dog » Sun Jan 26, 2014 5:50 am

It is covered so you don't get dust, dirt, water, mud and grit on it. All that stuff accelerates wear. A visual inspection is not going to be meaningful in most cases.
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Postby momopi » Mon Jan 27, 2014 6:29 pm

Winston wrote:Btw, when you Google "do you need an oil change every 3,000 miles?" every single hit that comes up says that you don't and that that is outdated advice.


http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/UsedOil/OilChange/
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