Niagara Gazette — Here’s a few answers to reader questions:
MARY, OKLAHOMA: I am planning to buy a timing belt from an auto parts store and get it installed in my 2000 Toyota Camry (4 cylinder) by a mechanic. I am getting price quotes ranging from $200-$400. Why so much spread? What do you think is a reasonable price for this installation?
TOM: According to the book, the labor rate to do this job is 3.9 hours. Remember, you are bringing your own parts to install so the shop will not make the profit on the parts, thus they will probably charge a higher labor rate to cover the lost profit on the parts, plus you will be met with a cool reception. In addition, they will not warranty the job because you provided the parts. At a labor rate of $84 per hour, that job calculates out to $327.60. I would say that the quotes closer to $350 are in the right ballpark. They probably vary because of different labor rates of each shop. Some are quoting high because they don’t even want the job and are trying to politely discourage you from coming to them.
JOE FROM LONG ISLAND: I read your article at AOL Autos on oil changes. I noticed that there wasn’t any information about changing transmission fluid. A lot of automotive shops only want to change the transmission fluid and not the filter. Is this a good thing?
TOM: This is a good question. Transmission fluid is usually changed at 35-40K miles with a filter change. A lot of shops today use a flush machine. This device sucks out the old fluid and pumps new fluid in without taking the pan off. I do not recommend this method. As a matter of fact, flush machines ‘reverse flush’ the trans fluid, which results in dislodging dirt and wear particles back into the transmission. If you have it done, follow the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual and change the filter along with the fluid. Best to you.