Automobile Maintenance

My Pathfinder has 283,000 miles and for once we decided to have some work done proactively, instead of waiting until something broke.

I have been experiencing a few problems. The most pressing issue was the rocking back and forth when I drove on a curved road, or if I hit a bumpy section on the freeway (unfortunately a regular occurrence).   For some reason I just couldn’t bring myself to take my vehicle in and have it checked out.   I have a place that I like to go for suspension and steering issues, and I knew they could give me a diagnosis but I just didn’t want to hear it. So I asked Mr. A if he would make arrangements to have my vehicle looked at.  This takes some scheduling, since I drive my vehicle 50 miles away from home four days a week, and his business has been really busy.

I’ve also had an oil leak that has been getting progressively worse. The place that did the timing belt on my vehicle said they thought the oil leak was a rear main seal, and quoted $650 for the repair.

Mr. A and AJ have thought my transmission was beginning to slip, and since it’s been 283,000 miles, Mr. A suggested we have it looked at. I’m the main driver of my Pathfinder, and I’ve driven a car that had a transmission going bad, and I did not think the transmission was having problems, aside from an occasional hard shifting.  But I agreed it had a lot of miles, and what would be the harm to check it out.  I thought we’d get it R&R (repaired and restored) and it would be good for another couple hundred thousand miles.  Sure, I’d like to keep my Pathfinder until it gets to 500,000.

2002 Nissan Pathfinder photographed in Fort Wa...
2002 Nissan Pathfinder photographed in Fort Washington, Maryland, USA. Category:Nissan Pathfinder R50 Category:White SUVs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mr. A got a quote from a tranny shop we’d used before.  $450 for the tranny R&R AND that cost included replacing the rear main seal.  The other shop wanted $650 JUST to replace the rear main seal, and here we were going to save $200 and get two birds killed with one stone.

The front desk guy said it shouldn’t be more than a day or two. We took it in on Thursday evening (the 19th) after I got home from work.  We thought we’d have it back on Friday or Saturday.

We didn’t hear back from them on Friday, or Saturday.  Or Monday.  Finally on Tuesday, Mr. A gave them a call.  They apologized and said they had just put my vehicle up on the rack to check it out. Ack. Well, luckily my employer has me babysitting one of the company vehicles and doesn’t mind if I drive it occasionally. In fact, the battery keeps going dead, so it’s probably a good thing that I drive it in to work at least a couple times a month.

Yesterday, Wednesday, the shop called Mr. A and told him it wasn’t the rear main seal, it was the valve cover gaskets.  Mr. A gave them permission to do the work, knowing full well how difficult it is to work on that Pathfinder.  The repair would cost $220.  They also told Mr. A my vehicle would be completed by 5pm, so AJ and I headed to the shop after work.  Apparently the front desk guy assumed the mechanic would be done when he talked to Mr. A earlier in the day because when we got there, it was nowhere being finished. No problem. We would just pick it up today after work.

The wind was blowing really hard on the way home, and the stretch of freeway I had to drive at 75mph was really windy so instead of going straight to the shop, AJ and I headed home, where Mr. A was waiting so that he and I could leave to get my Pathfinder back home. We called before we left to make sure it was ready!

We got there, and the guy explained the repairs and the bill. He’d already quoted Mr. A $765, and said they replaced the lower ball joints (that is what was causing the rocking), and my brakes and rotors. I was glad to hear that they’d done my brakes because that was another thing I had been meaning to mention to Mr. A, that my brakes were kind of funky sometimes, you know with that weird grinding noise occasionally? The kind of noise that usually means your brake pads are ruining your rotors?  But it only does it once in a while, so I hadn’t paid much attention.  After we’d paid, Mr. A was looking over the bill, and asked about the transmission R&R.  The front desk guy looked bewildered, and said they didn’t have that on the list of things to check.

Hmmm… that was the FIRST thing on our list of issues!

I was really kind of annoyed that they didn’t even look at the transmission, when that was one of the main reasons we chose their shop.  What annoyed me was I thought the work that was done and the charges, included rebuilding the transmission.  And I thought I wouldn’t need to worry about the transmission for another couple hundred thousand miles.

When I got home I decided to check Repair Pal and see if we were charged competitively.  Here’s the prices:

Lower ball joints… we paid $57.18… RepairPal estimate: $278-$484

Valve cover gaskets… we paid $221.49… RepairPal estimate: $314-$453

Wheel bearings… we paid $356.18… RepairPal estimate: $629-$1115

Brake Pads and rotor replacement… we paid $110 RepairPal estimate: $315-$488

Whew. I guess we got a screaming deal. The low end estimate through RepairPal would have been $1536.  The high end, $2540.  I’m not exactly sure of why, but they didn’t charge us any labor for replacing the lower ball joints.  I think it is was because they replaced them before asking for our permission.

My vehicle is driving much nicer. I even made a point to drive over the bumpy parts of the rural roads on the way home, and it never rocked at all.  The steering feels tighter, and the brakes are more sensitive – no more grinding.

I asked the guy how many miles did he think I could get out of my transmission – he did say the mechanic would have noticed if it was having any problems – and he said they don’t do many Toyota transmissions.  The times they have it’s been because the transmission was leaking and ran too low on fluids, or some piece broke.  So I guess I still have to think about my transmission having a problem some day.  The nice thing is, I know the estimate for R&R will be under $500.  I should start a savings account for that, when it becomes an issue.

Have a lovely evening.

Mrs. Accountability

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