Dear Car Talk:
I was driving my 2008 Toyota Highlander recently when the car began to have a burning smell and a clicking sound coming from the engine. Turns out the oil coolant line had ruptured while I was driving, and all the oil drained out, causing damage to the engine. This happened without warning.
My dealer said Toyota is aware of this issue and is fixing it for free if the car is less than 10 years old. So the dealer rebuilt my engine at no cost. However, upon testing the car after the repair work was done, the dealer said that my transmission was damaged and needed to be repaired at a cost of $5,000.
The dealer says there's no relation between the engine seizing and the transmission problem. But I never had any transmission issues before this happened, and took my car in for regular service.
The car is now 10 years old with 102,000 miles. Is this a coincidence, or did the dealer lie to me? Thanks. -- Michelle
Well, if you really DO have a transmission problem, Michelle, it wasn't caused by the oil cooler line rupture.
The transmission in this car has its own cooling system, and that would have been unaffected by your other disaster. And while it'd be unusual for a Toyota with 102,000 miles to have transmission failure, it's not impossible.
So I think there are two possibilities. One is that it's a coincidence, and you didn't notice the transmission slipping a little bit before this whole incident. In that scenario, the dealer is being 100 percent honest.
The second possibility is that the dealer is not being honest. Dealerships get reimbursed for doing warranty work at a much lower rate than they charge their paying customers like you.
So if they were dissatisfied with the profit they made rebuilding your engine under warranty, they might try to prey on your gratitude for the free repair, and churn up some better paying business by rebuilding your transmission.
I hope not. That would be skullduggery. And not nice, too.
Without examining the car, I have no idea whether the dealer is being honest or not. So I'm going to strongly recommend you get a second opinion. Tell the dealership that $5,000 is a lot of money, and you're going to have to think about it.
Then either go to mechanicsfiles.com and search for a recommended mechanic near you, or ask your friends and neighbors for names of mechanics they really trust.
Then ask that mechanic to check your transmission. If it turns out there really is something wrong with it, then your dealer was telling the truth. And next time you go to confession, you can say a Hail Mary for thinking ill of him. But even if the dealer is being honest, you'll still want to shop around and compare prices, and think about whether you want to repair your transmission, have it rebuilt or buy a factory rebuilt one.
On the other hand, the second mechanic may tell you that there's nothing wrong with your transmission. Or that it just needs a fluid change.
For the sake our industry's reputation, I hope the dealer was being 100 percent honest. And to balance that out, for the sake of your financial health, I hope you win a $5,000 lottery ticket on the way home from your second opinion. Good luck, Michelle. Let us know what you learn.