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Hi Everyone ! smile.gif

I have been visiting your forum from time to time over the past couple
of years as I find it very helpful and interesting. I don't know a lot
about cars in depth, however I do like to keep myself as informed as
possible on matters relating to my current car that I have had since
2005. I have learnt this from past experience during the days when I was
a single mother getting caught out with all sorts of problems with
previous cars as I was completely clueless about the mechanics of them.
Due to the lack of funds I have had some real “bombs” to drive and
have on a couple of occasions been led up the garden path with incorrect
diagnosis on car problems and on other occasions not done the needful
in basic maintenance causing problems as well redface.gif.

I have finally plucked up the courage to join your forum as I am need
of advice on what I consider a distressing “catastrophe” with my once
upon a time till a week ago, 1999 Toyota Camry V6 Automatic Station
Wagon. It is my pride and joy and I have had her since 2005. Since
then she has never once missed a beat and I have been careful to keep
her in peak performance with a regular service and anything else needing
to be replaced. Very recently, my husband and I shifted to the country
and after about a couple of weeks in we noticed a lot of white smoke
coming out of the car exhaust. This would happen in the mornings when
the car was started up but it would then subside once we moved on. At
first, we thought this could be condensation in the exhaust due to the
weather being so cold now - especially where we are in country Victoria.
However, after awhile we felt that perhaps we should have it checked
in case we were wrong. Someone even suggested it might be a head gasket
problem, which really concerned us. So much so, we decided to try a
local mechanic (M1), as we were nervous about driving to our regular
mechanic who is terrific, because of the distance factor. It now takes
around an hour to get to his garage. M1 came highly recommended and as
we were anxious about causing any major damage by driving it too far to
have it checked, we decided to run with him.

When I had bought the car in 2005, it had done 142000kms and now it is
up to 218000kms. It has had only one owner before me who had provided
me with its service history showing the care taken in its maintenance.

There were a few other issues observed before the decision to use M1 and we filled him in on our concerns
  • Oil level seemed to need a constant top up which was unusual
    and yet no leak found on the ground. As the car was running very
    smoothly we did not worry too much as we were due for a service and
    planned to have our regular service guy check it out when we took
    it in. This was to happen very shortly.
  • We also noticed the power steering fluid level being very low at
    one point and we topped that up but my husband was very surprised
    when this happened as he had never had to do this before.
  • Coolant levels also seemed to be constantly going down. Another unusual occurrence
  • Finally, there has been an ongoing squeaking noise coming out
    of the car every time one would back out from a parked spot with the
    steering wheel turned hard.
All this while the car was running so well that although one knew
these matters needed to be addressed it did not sound or feel in any
way that these “issues “ were getting to an urgent stage.

On the first visit to M1 his observations after around 40 minutes were
that all the car needed was a change of radiator cap and that would
prevent any further loss of water. According to him on the face of it,
the rest seemed fine. Our bill for that was $46.75 for 30 minutes of
labour and $8.90 for a cap. They were also unable to see any white
smoke coming out of the rear of the car even on waiting for it to cool

We persisted with expressing our concerns as we were worried about the
possibility of something being missed and ending up with a disaster
situation. It became apparent from that conversation that they had not
really done a proper in depth check of the car and suggested this could
be better accomplished if we brought the car for a day allowing them the
time to go through it thoroughly ----perhaps when we brought it in for a
service or such. They explained that during the service they would put
the car on a hoist enabling an easier inspection of the whole car
engine and for this a longer timeslot was essential. Since we were due
for a service we booked in with them and a couple of days later this was
done. When it was ready by the end of the day the feedback was that
there was nothing dramatically wrong with it. According to them, they
had done a pressure test in addition to a complete and “thorough” check.

His invoice was as follows –

Service and safety check, squeal on reverse

Service check details are

Oil - $45.00

Oil filter - $11.25

Air filter - $28.07

EPA Waste $6.00

Efi Cleaner -$18.00

Washer - $2.00

Battery terminal protector - $1.00

Wiper Blades X 2 - $12.00

SPW X 1 - $1.00

Labour – 1.4 - $119.00

Total cost with GST - $ $267.65

Checked all Brakes, H/Brakes, Tyres, Tyre Pressures, Lights, Fluid Levels, Battery, Safety Belts and good check over


Front brakes @ 60% - Rear Brakes @ 40%

Loose power steering belt was making loud noise on reverse turning

Further works required:

Rack is leaking badly requires replacement

Spark plugs platinum, manifold needs to be removed to do these –

Valve stem seals needs replacement, which is causing the smoke problem.

The “needing to be done list” was also presented to us as in estimate form. They were -

S/F Spark plugs platinum - $490.

S/F Rack $910.

S/F Valve stem seals /Rocket cover gaskets $690.

Total cost – 2299.11

With a further note at the bottom saying

We recommend to change the spark plugs and Stem seals at the same
time as the inlet manifold will also be off, this will also give you a
saving of $170.00.

M1 suggested we go through his proforma invoice and in the near future
get the recommendations addressed. He also told us that, at this point
the things he recommended doing were not in any way going to impair the
internals of the car if we took a little time to work out when they
should be done. Presumably if we kept an eye on the power steering
fluid. He assured us we were good to drive the car around in the
meantime and we would have no immediate problems.

The following day we drove to a neighbouring country town which is
about 40 kms away. During the drive it started to rain and after a
while my husband noticed the “new” wiper attached to the wiper blade was
beginning to slide off. Someone had forgotten clamp it down with its
metal stop which sits on the top end. This rather surprised us and we
wrapped it with a rubber band to keep the blade attached to the shaft
while it did its job in wiping the rain off the windscreen. My husband
who was doing the driving also thought he heard a strange sound and we
both instantly looked at the temperature gauge and it had not budged
from staying on the “middle“ area thereby show no rise in temperature.
When we got there and parked the car there was a whole lot of smoke
coming out of the bonnet and my husband quickly opened the bonnet steam
was erupting out of the radiator at an alarming rate eek.gif.
We called for roadside assistance and they came and towed the car to
the garage of the only other mechanic in the town (M2). I did not want
to have the car dropped off at M1’s garage as I felt it was important to
get an independent opinion and in any case, I also felt I could not
trust M1 given his reassurance of the “car being good to go” and then it
breaks down the next day.

We have had to change the radiator as we were told it had “blown” in 3
places and also in order for M2 to do some further testing they needed
to have the radiator replaced. Further down the track after replacing
the radiator M2 told us that the engine had blown and needed replacing.
According to him this was as a result of there being no water in the
radiator. But we had just had it serviced and tested! He had done a
pressure check and found that the water was not circulating. At this
point, even though the engine would start there was no pressure coming
from the engine. This was because the engine had blown. He has gave us
an estimate of $2200 all up to have the engine replaced and fitted.

With this information we went back to M1 to let him know what had
happened to the car. He was completely un cooperative and would not
accept any responsibility for what had happened and claimed that this
could have happened due to the age of the car. He claimed he has no idea
why this happened. I asked M1 what were the various reasons for a
radiator to blow up the way it did. He responded with suggestions like
“due to no water” and “age” cool.gif.
He asked us why we were there at his shop at all and what did we want
from him. At this point, my husband brought up the up the business of
the loose wiper, and interestingly enough suddenly his face fell and he
expressed his annoyance over the fact someone in his garage could have
made such a careless mistake. I suggested to him that in that given
this obvious oversight could there perhaps been a possibility that
either something else may have also been missed when putting things back
together after the check or that perhaps the check was not done
properly. Given our car did run so smoothly someone may not have felt
it necessary to complete the “thorough going over” that they professed
to have done on the car. This was brushed aside as being impossible mad.gif. As far as he was concerned, this could never have happened even though he admitted he had not done the job himself.

So now, what do we do? I am very upset by what has happened. I still
don’t know for sure what was the problem in the first place, after we
handed in the car for a thorough check and service I got no feedback
on any “major” issue needing urgent attention and no answers to any of
the earlier unusual issues observed by my husband. M2 says he is unable
to establish what could have been wrong in the first place to cause such
damage that led to the engine failing. I suspect, as this is a small
town it may be difficult for him to divulge any theories in case it
stirs up any trouble.

Does anyone know what could be wrong with the car? If it is negligence
on the part of the M1 and can anything be done? What do we do confused.gif?
We have been greatly inconvenienced by this unfortunate situation as
we are now pretty much house bound. Where we are living at the moment,
there is no public transport for another 10kms and this of course means
we cannot event get around to deal with the necessities of daily living
let alone other pressing matters.,.

Thanks in advance
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