A new definition for “sick”

Posted by: ST on January 4, 2008 at 5:22 pm

Sick: The feeling you get when you take your car in to get its rear passenger brake light and turn signal fixed, and also to get the mechanic to investigate a slight on and off burning scent you sometimes smell when you’ve been driving your car for more than thirty minutes, only to find out later the repair for it all – including the new timing belt you need – will cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $900.

Not only that, but the timing belt has a part that it attaches to that was “rough” and the mechanic suggested it be replaced. It’s a part they had to order, and when it came in this afternoon come to find out it was the wrong part. The car manufacturer has supposedly changed the part number so many times, and the right part number led to the mechanic finding out that the new part number included a new kit that came with the part, which costs around $600, and would mean the mechanic had to undo everything already done to my car in order to install it, which would have cost another $400 in labor.

They can use the old part, but can’t give me a time frame on how long they think it will last, and there’s a possibility the new timing belt could break without the new part (or maybe it’s the old part may not work long with the new timing belt. I can’t remember).

I told him I’d cross that bridge when/if it came to it. If I were to go with everything they are asking me to do today, it would cost me $1900.

My car is almost 8 years old – I’ve had it for 7. It’s been a good car, and I haven’t had to have any major repairs done to it, outside of the usual brake and tire replacements, so I figured it was due. But to have it hit me all at once? I don’t want a new car, either. I have no car payments on this one, which is the way I want – and, frankly need – it right now. But I also don’t want to keep sinking $$ into it if it continues to act up.

I’m suspicious about this part that supposedly has the new kit attached to it. The car manufacturer stopped making cars like mine in 2005. Why would they “update” a part for a car they no longer make? It seems like it would make more sense just to use the existing parts rather than make a new one for it. Something about the whole thing doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t know much of anything about the inside of a car (other than how to drive it) but the whole story just sounds fishy.

Dad’s coming to get me from the 8-5 and is going to talk to the mechanic in about 30 minutes. Should be an interesting grilling.

I’ll be back later tonight to update.

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21 Responses to “A new definition for “sick””


  1. Tango says:

    I can’t imagine a timing belt for a Neon costing anything CLOSE to $900. I’d seek a second opinion…$-)

  2. Baylor24 says:

    Definitely get a second opinion. Or at the very least, tell them they should be on the hook for the labor costs associated with undoing their previous work. That was their fault for ordering the wrong part.

    Dealing with mechanics is such a pain. I had my dealership tell me I needed new brake pads. “They won’t pass state inspection. We really shouldn’t even let you drive off with them like that.” I took it to another mechanic. He said my pads were fine, and probably had another year left in them. Oh, and the car passed its state inspection just one month later.

  3. steveegg says:

    I hate to tell you that timing belts go (typically, they’re recommended to be replaced every 60,000 miles). Once, it snapped on one of my dad’s cars (a diesel, no less), and it really caused havoc.

    That having been said, I agree with Tango; it’s time to go mechanic-shopping.

  4. Proof says:

    Why would they “update” a part for a car they no longer make?

    Can’t speak for this specific part, but when a product is in production, the manufacturer generally orders lots of every part to have on hand. When production ceases, they order smaller quantities. Sometimes their vendors will stop making certain parts. When the manufacturers shop for new vendors for “old” parts, sometimes the replacement parts are not exactly identical to the originals and need to be adapted to the usage.
    The alternative might have been no part available at any price.
    FWIW, I’ve seen it happen in several different industries.

  5. Severian says:

    Time for a 2nd opinion from someone who knows Neons I think.

    They may use the engine in other vehicles, probably do, which might explain the new part despite the fact the car is no longer made. Engines tend to have long lives in different cars.

    Of course, if the timing belt does break, prepare yourself for a major expense. Depending on the engine design, a lot of modern engines have no piston to valve clearance, so if the belt breaks and the pistons and valves get out of sync, there’s not enough room, and you wind up jamming valves thru the tops of the pistons, breaking valves, etc. which usually translates into major rebuild or new motor time. :(

  6. benning says:

    You could also check the manufacturer’s web site. They might shine some light on the part. The do a search for it.

    $1900? I’d look for a new used car soon, Sis.

  7. Thanks for the tips, ya’ll – just checking in real quick before I have to step out for a few again.

    The issue wasn’t just the timing belt, it was related to the radiator and coolant (?) and also something called a “torque”(?). That’s why it costed so much. Even without the timing belt and the torque stuff, it still woulda cost me around $600 just for the coolant/radiator issue, which was the main issue I wanted dealt with (that was what I was smelling when I would turn off the car).

    My dad had been telling me to have my timing belt checked for a few months now so I was cool with having to replace it, because he told me that if the timing belt broke it’d be a huge problem. But the other stuff (esp. the “updated” part) is what bothered me. Dad came to my rescue and gave the mechanic a grilling, but in the end I still had to pay up. Dad thinks I didn’t need the torque stuff done at all (I hope I’m getting the terminology right) which added roughly $200 with the parts and labor.

    I need to do one of two things (or both) in the near future: Take a Mechanics 101 class, and/or find me a husband to do this stuff :D

  8. Proof says:

    torque converter, perhaps?

  9. steveegg says:

    All I can say is proper maintenance tends to prevent the sticker-shock repair bills (and yes, I do speak from experience). Wish I could say I was mechanically-inclined, but I’m lucky if I don’t burn myself when I change the oil.

  10. steveegg says:

    Doubtful it’s a torque converter; that’s part of an automatic transmission (and another reason why I tend to stick with manuals). I suspect that it’s a belt tensioner based on what it cost.

  11. I’m looking at the receipt now – they replaced the upper and lower engine torque strut(s) (this was in additon to the other stuff they did). The tensioner bearing is the item that would have cost me $600 for the “kit.” I declined that and told them to just use the existing one.

    As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had the car for seven years, and this is the first major repair I’ve had to have done. I’ve been good about the maintenance on it (oil changes, tune ups, etc) – and expected I’d have to have some stuff done to it sooner or later, I just didn’t expect it to hit me all at once. The car is just old and needed some updates, I guess. I take care of my baby – trust me :)

  12. Great White Rat says:

    I need to do one of two things (or both) in the near future: Take a Mechanics 101 class, and/or find me a husband to do this stuff :d

    Are you interviewing, ST? And I don’t mean for a Mechanics instructor… :))

  13. Tango says:

    Glad your baby is well again, mistress. And that your dad was there to help evaluate things… ;)

  14. Mwalimu Daudi says:

    I need to do one of two things (or both) in the near future: Take a Mechanics 101 class, and/or find me a husband to do this stuff

    My son might be able to help you on both fronts (the mechanical and husband), since the ladies love him and he loves cars.

    However, since he just turned two years old you might have to wait a bit…. :-"

  15. steveegg says:

    I like how the mechanics rename stuff like “engine mounts” every so often so that they can get away with charging more and confusing everybody </sarcasm>.

    I know, I know, they’re not your father’s engine mounts because they also contain rubber to isolate the engine vibrations from the body, but unless they’re actually broken or rusted through, they didn’t need replacing.

    As for the maintenance, I’m talking about much of the stuff that they say to do every 30,000 and 60,000 miles, not just the oil and the plugs and the tire rotations.

  16. That’s the thing, though, steve – I’ve babied that car, which is why it’s been as good to me as it has. Not one time has anyone I’ve ever taken my car to suggested I had any problems with the radiator or timing belt or torque struts (which were broken) or anything like that.

    I usually follow up on most of the recommendations that are made when I do the regular oil changes, tune ups, maintenance checks (I think I missed one of the 30,000 mile checks but made up for it later), etc – maybe not right at the time they are recommended, but over time. I made some bad mistakes with my first car (not taking care of it) and did not want to repeat those mistakes with my last two.

    The car has just seen it’s better days. I need it to have another good year, though, at least.

    And give yourself some credit – you know a lot about cars, it sounds like :)

    MD: Is little MD a Dallas fan? <):)

    GWR: After all I went through today, I’m seriously considering it ;) Every once in a while I’m reminded that I need a better half, and today was one of those days.

  17. Ryan says:

    I just had my timing belt replaced not too long ago – $330. Different cars have different specs as to when to replace that (my 1999 Pathfinder was 105,000 miles).

  18. Mwalimu Daudi says:

    ST: My wife hates football, but our son loves basketball. He started tossing balls through lamps like they were basketball hoops, so we got him a small basketball hoop of his own to avoid any more lamp breakage.

    And he once managed to turn on our computer by starting up the UPS, switching on the power strip, opened Microsoft Word when Windows XP started, and was having a ball typing when we found him. Don’t ask me how he managed it! Now the computer room is baby-gated, but what technological aptitude!

    He is wide awake right now – at 1:19 AM CST. Toddlers don’t know sleeptime – only playtime. He is sitting with meui hm bvbv vxytt hhb,m,yk and just typed a little message to you.

  19. Tom TB says:

    ST, I spent a large part of my life working as an auto mechanic, first at a Jeep dealership, then self-employed, then public sector (Port Authority of NY&NJ). Where did you take your car? Everywhere I worked we were so busy that if someone just needed simple electrical work done, we weren’t looking for a more complicated job.

  20. 2hotel9 says:

    Sis, I feel your pain! Our 4Runner just had a major mechanical right before Christmas and we had to get another vehicle. Found a good deal on a 2007 Jeep Liberty, used with 23,000 miles from in house rental at the dealership. Wiped out the savings, but we bought it outright, no payments.

    Old Smoky is a ’96 and has 174,000 miles, with only $200 we can keep running it for me to work from. It will not be doing the long interstate trips anymore. Going to keep running it local. Sometimes no matter how well you maintain, shat happens.

  21. PCD says:


    I’m not up on the Neon engine. Is that a 2.2L 4 banger? In any case, it is possible that Chrysler HAD to redesign the timing belt tensioner assembly due to many failures over time. I’m not saying this is the case, but may be.

    I’d have to patrol the Neon clubs to find out. The engine in my TBird is no longer made, but there are engineering changes all the time. Fel-Pro has redesigned the gaskets to this engine several times to address chronic failures.

    If I ever get the money, I’m building this engine from scratch and getting a built transmission for it.

    You have to think things over when you own an “old” car.