Motormouth: Dealing with repair bill sticker shock – Lowell Sun

Q: I took my 2007 Lexus LS 460 to the dealership when the “check engine” light came on. They diagnosed it as a misfire in cylinder number 4. After investigating, they attributed the misfire to a wire that had been chewed by a mouse. I was told a new wiring harness would cost $1200 but they could repair the wire for $400. I authorized the repair. Their work fixed the problem and the charge was $1650 (tax included). The charge was all labor, not a penny for parts. My question is does this seem reasonable.

PB, Glastonbury, Conn

To: hell no If you were quoted $400, they should be subject to that quote. If the work was expected to exceed this amount, you should have been contacted for your approval. Even if their labor rate is $200 per hour, you were charged for more than 8 hours. By the way, if you have comprehensive insurance, contact your agent. Rodent damage can be covered.

Q: A relative of mine, who is a bit of a biker himself, says that brake fluid flushes are a scam and that since it is a closed system there is no need for this service. Everything I’ve seen in internet searches recommends that the service be done at different time intervals or mileage. Can you give me your opinion or recommendations on this topic?

BB, Romeoville, Illinois

To: I’d bet most people don’t have their brake fluid flushed. And in the past, major problems rarely developed. But with the advent of anti-lock brake systems, damage could cost around $1,000 to replace the ABS control module. Follow the schedule in your owner’s manual.

Q: I have a 2009 Toyota RAV4, which currently has red coolant in the radiator reservoir. I need to complete it and I’m reading conflicting articles and opinions about mixing different colored coolants. Reading the labels of the latest technology of new coolants on the market, which claim to be compatible with all colors, gives me the impression that they are safe. Are there any coolants that are actually correct to use with all colors of antifreeze? I really don’t want to have to buy a different product for each of the cars I own and would rather buy just one to use on all of them.

JW, West Hartford, Connecticut

To: You can buy a single brand of coolant to cover domestic and most imported cars. European cars, however, are often the exception. They require phosphate-free coolants.

Q: Lately when I go to the local Valvoline oil change garage I have noticed that they do not drain the oil through the drain plug. Instead, they insert a small tube through the wand tube. Doesn’t that leave dirt, sludge and metal shavings in the oil pan? As an engine boss who changed my own oil for 45 years, this bothers me. I’m too old to change my own oil.

TT, Fort Myers, Florida

To: Vacuuming the oil from the oil pan is becoming the preferred method. Pulling the drain plug does an adequate job, but some junk sitting at the bottom of the pan can get left behind, especially with a cold engine. Sucking the oil can remove more stuff. Vacuuming also prevents having a dislodged drain plug, a damaged gasket, or worst of all, a loose drain plug. Once upon a time there were no oil drains. The engines had total loss lubrication.

Bob Weber is a writer and mechanic who became an ASE-certified Master Automotive Technician in 1976. Weber’s work has appeared in trade magazines and various consumer publications, including Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest. Send questions along with name and city to This column was distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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