Should I pay for cam and oil pump seals?
June 15, 2011 6:42 AM   Subscribe

My 2001 4-cylinder Toyota Camry with a little less than 200K miles is at the dealer to have its timing belt and water pump replaced as "preventative maintenance". They haven't even started the work yet and a service writer is recommending that I also have the cam shaft seal and oil pump seals replaced for an additional $150. And of course he's say they could leak but won't tell me what the odds are. My car is in excellent condition and I hope to get another 50K miles out of it in the next 3 years or so. Is this something I should have them do or are they just trying to scare some more money out of me?

BTW, the front cover oil seal is being replaced with the timing belt.
posted by someonesomewhere to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you ever had the timing belt replaced before?
posted by smokingmonkey at 6:48 AM on June 15, 2011

It's unlikely that he can tell you what the odds are. That aside, this doesn't sound unreasonable to me. Keep in mind that most of the cost of the timing belt & water pump work is labor getting access to them, and you'd have to pay for that labor again if the seal fails in 20k miles.

A $150 sale (and considerably less profit) wouldn't be worth alienating a customer over anyhow. If you can afford it, do it.
posted by jon1270 at 6:56 AM on June 15, 2011 [5 favorites]

Who is "they?" Did you take it to the dealership or an independent shop? Do you know these guys? Go in and talk to them. Do they seem like straight shooters to you? I'd recommend going in and using your best intuition about whether or not you are getting ripped off.
posted by TheBones at 7:01 AM on June 15, 2011

I think jon1270 nails it. Getting to those parts is the PITA and major cost issue.

smokingmonkey's comment is also important.. "Generally" the belt should be changed every 100k miles. They do the waterpump at the same time "just because" .. Because once you've taken it all apart, might as well replace it. (if the timing belt breaks, depending on your engine, the entire engine may die a horrible death)
posted by k5.user at 7:08 AM on June 15, 2011

I had the timing belt replaced at the same dealership at about 90K. Toyota recommends doing it every 90K miles. It's the only Toyota Dealership near me and I stopped using them after they surprised me by replacing some lug nuts for $30 and they couldn't show me what was wrong with the old ones.
posted by someonesomewhere at 7:27 AM on June 15, 2011

I am with jon1270... the engine is half apart. good time to do this and the odds, while small, are in favor of problems. 200k is up there.
posted by FauxScot at 7:32 AM on June 15, 2011

Why did you go back to the dealership? Timing belts are something that any even remotely competent shop can do.

You're overdue for your timing belt. Don not fuck around with that. The water pump is incidental - it's like flying around the world to see Manhattan and then not bothering to see Liberty Island. So you go ahead and do that. Seals, yeah, I'd probably do them, if they're a maintenance part.
posted by notsnot at 7:33 AM on June 15, 2011

Having just owned two cars with just over 200K: watch out. They get more expenisve to run than starting over with a more expensive [to buy] car [that needs less].
posted by Murray M at 7:34 AM on June 15, 2011

Definitely do the timing belt and water pump. $150 feels like cheap insurance on the seals to me, so I would absolutely do it.

If you are worried about the cost of the seals, ask the mechanic how to inspect your car so that you can identify if the seals are starting to leak. Then take the car to get the seals replaced immediately.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:38 AM on June 15, 2011

You've had experience with the shop replacing parts unnecessarily already. The timing belt probably ought to be replaced, but water pump as preventative maintenance? I'd take it to an independent shop and have them give a look.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:02 AM on June 15, 2011

Having just owned two cars with just over 200K: watch out. They get more expenisve to run than starting over with a more expensive [to buy] car [that needs less].

This is a derail, but the above statement is almost certainly not true. A new Camry costs ~20k. A conservative estimate would put the monthly payment at around $500, and the yearly price around 6k. This means, in very simple math, that if repairs on your old car cost less that 6k for the year it is less costly to run than getting a new car.

There are other variables, of course, not least reliability, but 6k/year is a lot of money.
posted by OmieWise at 8:42 AM on June 15, 2011

This means, in very simple math, that if repairs on your old car cost less that 6k for the year it is less costly to run than getting a new car.

This is not simple, it's oversimplifcation. To make a meaningful comparison you need to look at full life-cycle costs (11 years and counting in this case), not just the costs during the loan payoff period (~4 years?). It becomes economical to replace a car long before the point where monthly maintenance costs equal a new car payment.
posted by jon1270 at 8:48 AM on June 15, 2011

Count me in the "$150 is cheap insurance" camp. If your oil pump seal fails dramatically, your engine is toast very very quickly. Are the seals the original ones that came with the car? If so, they're 10 years old.... Can't hurt to change them out.
posted by Sublimity at 9:38 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I decided to let them replace the seals. For the person who was wondering , I didn't take it to an independent shop because I haven't been able to find one anywhere near me that friends and neighbors have been able to recommend. The one that did my last tune-up couldn't even put the air filter cover back on correctly. Luckily I'm able to do most of my own maintenance and the car has been almost completely trouble-free in the 130K miles I've owned it.
posted by someonesomewhere at 10:51 AM on June 15, 2011

And provided you keep replacing stuff at the recommended intervals, it should long continue to be so. Japanese cars are good like that.

You will generally find that for some preventative maintenance items, the major cost involved is the labour involved in getting to them rather than the parts cost itself. If your mechanic can show you why it's easier to replace part B once they've already done the stripping-down necessary for replacing part A, and part A is an infrequently-replaced part, and replacing part B as well is only going to cost you a couple hundred dollars extra, then provided you're not replacing part B stupidly early, you will save money overall by doing them together.

For example, if you blew a head gasket and the head needed removal and refitting, it would be madness not to hone the valve seats and replace the valve stem seals at the same time.
posted by flabdablet at 6:18 PM on June 15, 2011

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