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Is this auto repair shop trying to rip me off?

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Postby Winston » Mon Jan 27, 2014 6:57 pm

I just went to Auto Zone this morning, which is an auto supply store, to buy some coolant to refill my coolant tank since it's low. While there, I asked the guy about my timing belt. He said that if the car runs fine then you don't really have to worry about the timing belt, and that the auto repair shops are just trying to scare you to get money off you.

I guess that makes sense. I've never heard of anyone whose timing belt snapped. And I'll bet most Americans don't even bother with the timing belt, unless someone brings it up to them.

Either way, the risk of the timing belt snapping is probably very low in terms of probability.
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Postby ?????? » Mon Jan 27, 2014 8:49 pm

"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? As I mentioned before, a timing belt may never break. But if it does it can be a catastrophic failure?"

Yes, if a timing belt breaks while driving it can cause internal engine damage from what I was told. The timing belt broke on a friend's 2004 Chevy pickup when we were returning home from sprint car racing a few years ago. Luckily he knew right away what had happened and pulled over immediately. We pulled over and gave him a ride home the rest of the way. We also left the truck on the side of the road. He came back the next day after work with the timing belt and replaced it himself. He only had to buy the timing belt since he has experience fixing vehicles and working on his own engines, so he didn't need to go to a repair shop. This is the only time in my life that I have ever heard or seen a timing belt break before. This is a rare.

Going off topic here:

I wish I lived a little closer to you so I could show you how to change the oil in your vehicle yourself and other basic maintenance like batteries, brake pads, headlights, taillights, ect. I could describe it to you, but it wouldn't be as helpful as being there and actually showing you how to do this. I may not know the more advanced repairs like engines and transmissions yet (going to tech school this fall for that.) but I do the basic maintenance on my vehicle myself. You would have to invest in a set of metric wrenches, a plastic or metal pan container to catch used oil in, jack and jack stands, and the replacement parts and oil from the auto parts store. (for example: For example, when go to the auto parts store. to buy the part you need, just say you need an oil filter for a (insert year here) Toyota Avalon.) Keep track of the mileage too, so you know when to change. Ask an auto mechanic shop about a place where you can go to dump the used oil. It wouldn't cost as much as an auto repair shop in the future after you have the tools and the knowledge. You would still need to go to a repair shop for more difficult repairs, but you would be able to save yourself some money.

The newer vehicles are a different story. They are more of a pain to fix and most of the parts are more expensive. I don't know if they are trying to make these newer vehicles harder for people to fix intentionally or what. I don't understand why these manufacturers have made a once simple replacement more complicated.
For example, to replace a headlight on a 2008 Chevy HHR I had to
1. turn the wheel all the way to the left or right depending on what side needed to have the bulb replaced. I had to pull out these plastic rivets on the wheel fender to get to the bulb.
2.Then reach in there, not being able to see due to the fender obstructing my view, grab the the thing that plugs into the bulb and rotate the bulb 1/4 counterclockwise to get it loose.
3.Then unplug the old burnt out bulb (it wasn't easy getting it out) and replace it with the new one.
4.Put everything back together the way it was.

With my 99 Chevy S10, all I needed was a Phillips screwdriver to unscrew a few screws to get to the burnt out bulb and replace it. I just don't get why they had to make that more complicated. The newer vehicles are already complicated enough with all the computer code and electronics in them.

On the older vehicles, the oil filters were below the engine pan. You could unscrew them by hand or filter wrench. The first time I changed the oil in the HHR, I was wondering where the filter was because it wasn't under the engine. I found out from the owners manual that the rubber and paper filter goes inside the engine on the top front part. It needed a big wrench to open the cap to place the filter inside the engine and there is no space since all the parts and hoses are jammed in there. So I just used a short Crescent wrench with a wide head to unscrew the plastic cap. I don't understand why they use more and more plastic on what use to be metal parts, either.

Also, having to read the owners manual to electronically reset the "change oil soon" back to 0 once I have finished changing the oil. Other people like it, but I just still like keeping track of the mileage. I'm kind of old fashioned that way I guess.
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Postby MatureDJ » Sun Feb 16, 2014 4:43 pm

WWu, the timing belt is extraordinarily important. If that breaks, the engine basically dies and must be replaced with another engine. On my VW Jetta Wagon, the belt must be changed every 105K miles. It is about a 4 hr job, if I recall, as a whole lot of shit must be taken out (and then put back on, of course.) It's a such a big job that typically the water pump is replaced as well, as the cost of that part is insignificant to the cost in taking apart everything.

Are you now spending so much time back in the USA that you need to concern yourself with keeping a car running?
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Postby Devil Dog » Sun Feb 16, 2014 5:13 pm

MatureDJ wrote:WWu, the timing belt is extraordinarily important. If that breaks, the engine basically dies and must be replaced with another engine. On my VW Jetta Wagon, the belt must be changed every 105K miles. It is about a 4 hr job, if I recall, as a whole lot of shit must be taken out (and then put back on, of course.) It's a such a big job that typically the water pump is replaced as well, as the cost of that part is insignificant to the cost in taking apart everything.


Winston has determined that his Avalon has a non-interference engine so this is not correct. If the timing belt breaks in a non-interference engine then the engine stops running. That's all.
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Postby Winston » Mon Feb 17, 2014 4:08 pm

?????? wrote:Yes, if a timing belt breaks while driving it can cause internal engine damage from what I was told. The timing belt broke on a friend's 2004 Chevy pickup when we were returning home from sprint car racing a few years ago. Luckily he knew right away what had happened and pulled over immediately. We pulled over and gave him a ride home the rest of the way. We also left the truck on the side of the road. He came back the next day after work with the timing belt and replaced it himself. He only had to buy the timing belt since he has experience fixing vehicles and working on his own engines, so he didn't need to go to a repair shop. This is the only time in my life that I have ever heard or seen a timing belt break before. This is a rare.


When it broke, did you hear a sound? If so, what kind? Did the car slowly stop, like when it gets a flat tire?

What if you can't pull over? There are a lot of highways in California with no shoulder and a concrete wall next to the right and left lanes. What if the car breaks down when you are next to the cement walls? Wouldn't you be f***ed? If the car stopped in the middle of the highway with no place to pull over, wouldn't you have to get out and push the car from the rear, with oncoming traffic behind you? That would be very dangerous!

Why do California highways suck so bad now? They are in bad shape and quality, especially in the right lane. Too many bumps, holes, and unevenness. In some parts of the freeway, the car will jolt to the left or right suddenly, which will scare the shit out of you! Wtf? Why don't they fix that? A car going real fast with a sudden jolt to the left or right can cause the driver to panic.

Wtf is wrong with the Dept of Transportation? I thought California is supposed to be the richest state. Why can't it fix its own roads?
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Postby ?????? » Mon Feb 17, 2014 10:07 pm

Winston wrote:
?????? wrote:Yes, if a timing belt breaks while driving it can cause internal engine damage from what I was told. The timing belt broke on a friend's 2004 Chevy pickup when we were returning home from sprint car racing a few years ago. Luckily he knew right away what had happened and pulled over immediately. We pulled over and gave him a ride home the rest of the way. We also left the truck on the side of the road. He came back the next day after work with the timing belt and replaced it himself. He only had to buy the timing belt since he has experience fixing vehicles and working on his own engines, so he didn't need to go to a repair shop. This is the only time in my life that I have ever heard or seen a timing belt break before. This is a rare.


When it broke, did you hear a sound? If so, what kind? Did the car slowly stop, like when it gets a flat tire?

What if you can't pull over? There are a lot of highways in California with no shoulder and a concrete wall next to the right and left lanes. What if the car breaks down when you are next to the cement walls? Wouldn't you be f***ed? If the car stopped in the middle of the highway with no place to pull over, wouldn't you have to get out and push the car from the rear, with oncoming traffic behind you? That would be very dangerous!

Why do California highways suck so bad now? They are in bad shape and quality, especially in the right lane. Too many bumps, holes, and unevenness. In some parts of the freeway, the car will jolt to the left or right suddenly, which will scare the shit out of you! Wtf? Why don't they fix that? A car going real fast with a sudden jolt to the left or right can cause the driver to panic.

Wtf is wrong with the Dept of Transportation? I thought California is supposed to be the richest state. Why can't it fix its own roads?


Like Devil Dog said your engine is a non-interference engine. If the timing belt breaks in a non-interference engine the pistons and valves will not touch and bang into each other. The engine will just stop running. The higher performance engines are interference engines and if the timing belt breaks the valves and pistons will touch and bang into each other and cause damage to valves and pistons. (maybe even the block and heads.)

About 1:50 in this mechanic (or technician as they are called now.) explains the difference between interference and non-interference engines:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vd5y9teII9E[/youtube]

More information on timing belts: http://info.autoworksmn.com/auto-repair ... iming-Belt

This is all new information to me, too. Since I only do basic maintenance on my vehicle. I don't have the knowledge or tools to take the engine apart or work on transmissions, drive lines, ect.


Off topic.

I know diesel engines are different from gas, but I'm still excited to learn how to repair them. From Goliath monster sized construction equipment engines to diesel trucks and generators. So many domestic and foreign makes and models. I am excited to become a diesel technician since in a way I will be following in my grandfathers footsteps since he did all repairs in his 1950 Caterpillar bulldozer and the semi himself.
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Postby momopi » Tue Feb 18, 2014 8:01 pm

Winston wrote:What if you can't pull over? There are a lot of highways in California with no shoulder and a concrete wall next to the right and left lanes. What if the car breaks down when you are next to the cement walls? Wouldn't you be f***ed? If the car stopped in the middle of the highway with no place to pull over, wouldn't you have to get out and push the car from the rear, with oncoming traffic behind you? That would be very dangerous!
Why do California highways suck so bad now? They are in bad shape and quality, especially in the right lane. Too many bumps, holes, and unevenness. In some parts of the freeway, the car will jolt to the left or right suddenly, which will scare the shit out of you! Wtf? Why don't they fix that? A car going real fast with a sudden jolt to the left or right can cause the driver to panic.
Wtf is wrong with the Dept of Transportation? I thought California is supposed to be the richest state. Why can't it fix its own roads?



California State Government is about $850 billion to $1.1 trillion in debt.

And, don't get out of your car in the middle of the freeway lanes to push. Call 911 or something.
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Postby tom » Fri Apr 25, 2014 11:20 pm

Almost all of the big "reputable" chains in the USA are going to have an element of quasi scam. Some are quite bad like Jiffy Lube and there are others too. They are not really mechanics in the classical sense. This is not their business model. They perform services. There goal is to perform as many services as possible whether truly needed or not. Their goal is to extract as much money as possible performing justifiable service. So if the manufacture says replace at 90,000 they may say 60,000 because xyz recommends that so they can justify more service. And this can be taken to extremes.

Hear is an example to clarify this:
So it is quite possible to have a malfunctioning car pay thousands for all sorts of service and the car still not run right. After going back and forth to Big-O to fix a mystery problem that just does not seem to go away. Your driving your car in South Central LA and you think Jesus I'm not going make it home. The car is screwing up again. Out of desperation you pull into Rudy Gonzales garage, certainly not a reputable chain but ya feel you got no choice. There are cars all over the place being worked on, almost no one speaks too much English and they are very greasy. A guy says whats aaa wrong with your car señor? You tell him your story. He gets into your car and revs up it up a few times and then tells your to park it over there it will be fixed in three hours. You come back and he charges you 75 bucks and says he cleans out some part. The car runs great. You feel like a dope as you paid Big-O 5 grand and still the car did not run right.

To find a true mechanic is not so easy as there are not so many good ones around. And all mechanics may not always get it right. Good ones don't work for free. The problem with the big chains is they a set up to provide justifiable service to make the maximum profit, repairing your car is not the primary goal. In other countries like the Philippines there pitfalls and scams but will done in a very different way.

Yes a timing belt can break if it gets enough running time on it. Seen it happen. The pistons continue to move but the valve train stops and an open valve may get hit by piston and bent. It depends on the specific engine, engine speed and position of the cam shaft as to what will happen when the belt breaks. Most likely require pulling the head to asses the damage and fix.
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Postby Halwick » Sat Apr 26, 2014 12:58 am

There was a time when cars were straightforward, easy to diagnose, components easily accessible and easily repairable or replaced. Not since the late 1960s were cars designed that way.

Nowadays they are designed and engineered to make repairs more difficult and expensive than they need to be. Cars are so heavily electronic and computerized that it takes a very specialized auto shop (read dealer) to have the right equipment (which are expensive) to make the proper diagnosis. Then the "technician" has to be properly trained to be able to interpret those computer codes. It's now about as bad as black magic.

I once saw a late model BMW up on the hoist and the engine lowered for removal. Anytime you have to remove the engine it going to be a very, very expensive job. Turns out they had remove the serpentine belt and the only way to remove the belt was to remove the engine as there was no clearance to insert a wrench or screwdriver. That's the procedure described in the factory service manual.

Ever thought of getting a 1960s vintage Volkswagen Beetle? They're simple, practically bulletproof and trouble-free. They don't have a radiator so you don't have to worry about the cooling system. You can run them in the hot desert and they won't overheat; you can run them in Siberia winter conditions and they won't freeze up. And they're easily repairable. (Of course they lack a lot of comfort amenities, but it will get you to where you want to go...just not in luxurious style.)
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Postby Winston » Sat Apr 26, 2014 8:39 am

Devil Dog,
When I took the car in for a smog check certificate, the guy at the shop reminded me about the timing belt. He said that they could replace it for $400 total. That's half of what the other places wanted. What do you think? Should I get it replaced for that amount?
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Postby Devil Dog » Mon Apr 28, 2014 1:37 am

That is a good price. If you plan to keep the car, go ahead and do it.
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Postby Winston » Fri May 02, 2014 8:03 am

Devil Dog,
I just had the timing belt replaced. It took about 3 hours. Afterward, when they gave me the timing belt they replaced, it looked pristine, almost new. When I mentioned this, they said that there are stretch marks on it. I asked "Where?" He pointed to the bottom of it but I saw no stretch marks. It looked very sturdy and strong, almost as good as new.

Does that mean that the timing belt never really needed to be replaced? Why didn't they just open the part that covers it to examine it first?

They put a sticker about the replacement on the side of a part that contains it. Were they supposed to do that or put the sticker under the hood? How did they know that the timing belt wasn't changed?
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Postby Halwick » Fri May 02, 2014 8:42 am

Winston wrote:Devil Dog,
I just had the timing belt replaced. It took about 3 hours. Afterward, when they gave me the timing belt they replaced, it looked pristine, almost new. When I mentioned this, they said that there are stretch marks on it. I asked "Where?" He pointed to the bottom of it but I saw no stretch marks. It looked very sturdy and strong, almost as good as new.

Does that mean that the timing belt never really needed to be replaced? Why didn't they just open the part that covers it to examine it first?

They put a sticker about the replacement on the side of a part that contains it. Were they supposed to do that or put the sticker under the hood? How did they know that the timing belt wasn't changed?


Sounds like they just replaced the belt, rather than replace the belt AND water pump. That's why it was about half the price.

They probably put the sticker on the timing belt cover. That sticker is just a reminder that the timing belt was replaced at a particular mileage. According to Toyota, those timing belts have to replaced every 60,000 miles. That's the factory recommendation. Of course it could last longer.

I had a Toyota Camry with a V-6....same engine used on a Avalon....and I ran it to 90,000 miles. By then the belt had some cracks and stretch marks clearly visible. The mechanic said I was lucky it didn't break.

In your case, they could have just opened it up and examined it and put the belt back in. But that $400 is mostly labor charge to open it up and put it back together. That belt probably cost around $20-$25. But let's say the existing belt was examined to be just as good as new and they put it back in. When that belt does break, you're going to have to pay another $400 to replace it, not to mention the cost to fix valve/piston damage (probably around $2000).

Why take the risk?

By the way, have you ever replaced the water pump? They tend to need replacing around 60,000 miles. It runs off the same timing belt and is accessible at the same time when the timing belt cover is removed. That's why they recommend replacing it at the same time when replacing the timing belt. When that pump fails, you're going to have to pay another $400+ to open everything up again.

How do you know when the pump fails? The water pump circulates the water from the radiator into the engine and out back into the radiator. The pump has bearings that enables to pump to rotate freely. When those bearings seizes and the pump no longer is able to rotate freely, then the water no longer circulates and your engine starts to overheat as indicated by the temperature gauge needle running into "H".

Yeah, I know having the pump run off the same belt as the timing belt and making it as difficult to access is lousy engineering, but that's how cars are designed nowadays. Everything is designed to make replacing a part as difficult and expensive as possible.
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Postby Winston » Fri May 02, 2014 10:50 am

Yes of course they replaced the water pump. It's standard procedure to do both. They also did a radiator flush.

They didn't put the sticker on the timing belt cover until I asked them to. They forgot. I had to remind them.

You thought $400 was too low for a timing belt change? Well the car is 90,000 miles and the belt looks in pristine condition. Maybe cause I don't speed or handle the car badly.
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Postby Halwick » Sat May 03, 2014 1:28 am

Winston wrote:Yes of course they replaced the water pump. It's standard procedure to do both. They also did a radiator flush.

They didn't put the sticker on the timing belt cover until I asked them to. They forgot. I had to remind them.

You thought $400 was too low for a timing belt change? Well the car is 90,000 miles and the belt looks in pristine condition. Maybe cause I don't speed or handle the car badly.


Wasn't clear the $400 included water pump replacement and cooling system flush.

Replacing water pump when changing timing belt is not always standard procedure. I remember a Toyota dealer quoted something $400, but when pressed for details, the service writer admitted it didn't include the water pump replacement and cooling system flush. Even the Toyota service manual doesn't mention replacing the water pump at the same time as replacing the timing belt.

Sounds like you did good and your auto repair shop did a good job for a very reasonable price. Your due dilligence paid off. Congrats.
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