Friday, December 16, 2011

The importance of second opinions

I had my tires replaced a couple weeks ago at Royal Tire in St. Cloud. Halfway through the work, they came out and told me my cam seals were leaking, getting oil on the timing belt. Once that happens, you need to replace the timing belt. The whole job would cost $1200 and change:

  • 2 cam seal sets @ $16.95 each
  • an a/c belt @ $28.95
  • an "alt p/s belt" (alternator/power steering, I assume) @ $28.95
  • a timing belt component kit with water pump @ $749.95
  • labor totaling $332.50
  • environmental fees @ $39.73
All said and done, they wanted $1276.07. And they also quoted me another $306.19 for a valve cover gasket and labor to install.
This morning, I dropped the Outback off at R&L Repair just down the road from my work. They got back to me in short order, telling me the seals are fine. There's a small amount of oil that had spilled during an oil change (the Subies have a narrow neck where you fill up the engine oil, so you have to fill it slowly, lest it spill). No bad seals. No leaking oil on the timing belt. I do have a torn CV joint boot, however, which Dad and I have fixed several times on various cars. It's about $75 and maybe an hour or two.

Perhaps I'm being a bit cynical, but this leads me to the conclusion that the guys at Royal Tire are either [a] completely incompetent (they didn't find the torn boot) or, more likely, [b] the stereotypical auto mechanics that screw over their customers at every chance. Maybe I'm wrong; maybe the guys at R&L missed something. But when I asked R&L how much their assessment would cost me, they waved me off and said not to worry about it. A mechanic that doesn't charge for a half hour of their expertise seems more believable.

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