Expensive repair: was I taken for a ride?

MollyB2June 6, 2005

This is embarrassing. I took my 1995 Lexus ES300 (93,000 miles) in to have my snow tires removed and an oil change and they told me there was a leak in the catalytic converter and that there was no aftermarket repair part. The part cost nearly $1400, the labor $75. Total bill with tax, about $1600. He kept talking about a "Y" joint and gaskets ---- what do I know?

It was Saturday, I'm in the middle of moving, I'm short on cash, crazed, couldn't deal with one more thing, especially buying a new car, so I had them do the repair. But now I can't help but wonder if I should have checked elsewhere on the price. I tried looking it up on the web and found that it (if it's the same "it") lists for over $1400, but the parts place sold it for around $400. Gulp. Any words of comfort? It's been a great car that has given me very little trouble over the years, so it's not as though it's been a money pit. I figured it would still be less to repair it, rather than assuming car payments over the next 6-8 months.

But did I get taken? How can I find out? Or should I just go to sleep and fuggetabouddit?

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My dad has a older Cadilac.He gets ripped off every time he takes it in for repairs also.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2005 at 11:48PM
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I would select option #3, fuggetabouttit.

The only thing you really did wrong if anything is make a purchase, in this case a repair, on impulse. Since the car was running fine there wasn't a reason to do anything right that second. Would have been worse if you just ran out and traded the car in on something on the spot based on this. You could have (maybe still can) check with Lexus and see if there's a warranty on that part. Do it fast in case there is and they want to see the old part. Ask the dealership how much to do that job for comparison. Life is too short to beat yourself up over this kind of thing for very long.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2005 at 11:55PM
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Did a little reading today on another forum and came across someone who sounds like he has a similar situation. Two differences is that he actually has a drivablity problem, and he said no to the first estimate. His car exhaust has a 'y' pipe coming off the engine manifolds with two pre catalysts built in. After that is another catalytic converter, another 'y' pipe that makes the car appear to have dual exhaust, with two mufflers. His problem is the pre catalysts in the front 'y' pipe are plugged. The price he was given to repair was $1600, $800 for each cat. Does that number sound familliar? He said no to the repair and went on to ask around. He found other options that will cost 1/2 of that. He may opt for an entire performance exhaust replacement which will cost more. We're talking corvettes now so the same out of the box options might not be available to you. Also, the shop you went to may not be able to legally do anything but keep it stock. Based on that, though we are comparing apples to oranges a bit, I'd say the shop didn't Cheat you or make $1000 gravey money off you. Take comfort in that. There may have been cheeper alternatives though, that I don't know.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2005 at 6:36PM
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Thanks all. This helps a bit. Also helps that I charged it and won't see the bill for a few weeks. Gary, thanks for info on the Corvette. I am woefully ignorant of how a car is put together and so at least there's some comfort in seeing that it can cost this much to repair. I was a bit under pressure because I have to make a trip to my son's graduation this weekend and needed to be confident the car would make it back and forth with the wee ones in it.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2005 at 9:03PM
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This Toyota/Lexus is no economy car; the $75 labor is, IMO, reasonable, as the Lexus dealer would probably charge twice as much ..
And this repair could have been deferred for a time,IMO..

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 12:31PM
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I had a leaking y-pipe on 90 Maxima that I ignored until it caused a couple of fuel injectors to fry, which cost me even more to replace. Apparently the y-pipe was giving off more heat or not shielding the heat, which burned out the injectors. That's what they told me anyway. So you may have headed off some additional costs in the future. Also, if left unfixed, could possibly affect passing the emissions test, if your state has one. I'm not an expert on this stuff, but that's my limited knowlege on this matter - for what it's worth.................

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 2:04PM
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Right -- my emissions test is indeed coming up (of course) and it would not have passed. Also, the "guy" told me that fumes were coming into the car. After hearing that, I was sure I was going to die from carbon monoxide. I could see the headlines: she had so much to live for, but was too cheap to fix the car.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 2:37PM
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MollyB2. Funny you mentioned the C.O. thing. you beat me to
it. There is also enough heat coming from a leaking cat.
to set fire to the under side of the car. How did everyone miss that ?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 4:20PM
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And this is why I read and post on this forum
Some very smart cookies here
So I must rethink at times
And my ride is now nine years old with 145K miles - these very same things can happen to me..

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 5:34PM
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I feel better, too. At this point, $1600 feels like a bargain, having saved me from replacing fuel injectors, the whole exhaust system, carbon monoxide poisoning (and certain death), and a car fire. Thanks, folks. It was just what I needed!!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 11:36PM
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Exhaust system repairs at 93,000 miles are to be expected. The system will last longer if the car is driven on trips longer than 20 miles, and if there is no road salt or ocean salt in the highway environment. If you have to drive mostly short trips, on salted roads, you can expect to replace exhaust parts sooner, rather than later.

To me, $1600 seems like a lot of money for a partial repair. I would have thought that kind of outlay would purchase an entire new exhaust system. But, I have never owned a Lexus.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2005 at 11:07AM
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HOW MUCH ! I wish I would have seen your post before you paid that. The guy @ the shop was full Of S*@%. Sorry for the language but I get very upset when I hear about an unscrupulious/ dishonest Mechanic. If your car came into my shop and we did the same work, You would be out of there for under $ 400.00 and @ that price I'm still making a few bucks. But when one of these so called Pros rips off an unsuspecting consumer, it just gives HONEST MECHANICS another black eye. I've attached a listing for a Catalytic converter ,that fits your car, from one of my suppliers. This is one of 4 suppliers that I can get these from. I am sorry that you where taken for a ride but hopefully it won't happen again. Good luck
1995 Lexus ES300 Catalytic Converter


Engine: IMZFE Engine
Year Range: 1994 - 1996
Brand: DEC

Notes: Direct Fit Catalytic Converter Unit

Shipping Options: Overnight, 2-Day or Ground

OEM Converters
View All Exhaust Catalogs

    Bookmark   June 11, 2005 at 9:41PM
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Be carefull before you make people think they're getting ripped off. You don't know what the shop did, what parts were used, and how much they cost them. I think she was talking about more than a catalytic converter R&R. She was talking y pipe. The y pipe could have two pre cats right there. Was the material paper thin mild steel or stainless steel? Custom made or prefab from the factory? If the former, it's cheep junk, if the latter, it's gold. You often get what you pay for. Without knowing for sure what she bought (she doesn't even seem to know that) I don't think it's fair to call the mechanic a crook and make a customer think they got ripped. I did enough research to find that exhaust parts are priced all over the place depending on a lot of factors.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2005 at 10:12PM
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A fairly quick search showed $375 for my car - includes piping and the flex connection; and about $275 for a Lexus for the converter by itself..

Many companies sell these, not to say that they have them when you need them - which is often right away...
And it does stand to reason the the Lexus dealer price will be much higher..
Maybe the after-market sells only the cat-conv and the Y pipe is dealer only for $$$$ !
I'm with Gary on this one...

    Bookmark   June 12, 2005 at 11:16PM
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My car for example, you can buy mufflers, there are two, for $65 each, or $265 each, or anywhere inbetween. Depends on what you want. If I posted the question 'did I get taken?' after paying a shop $550 for two mufflers installed, it would be way too easy for someone to look up discount bobs' $65 muffler sales on ebay and post that I got ripped. The fact of the matter is we'd be talking about completely different products. We don't know enough about what happened in this instance to be calling someone a crook. jmo

    Bookmark   June 13, 2005 at 1:08AM
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If that cat was built into the exhaust manifold--sometimes called a pre-cat---it's expensive.

The one for my '96 Ford Contour is about $600.

I was told by my mechanic whom I trust that he had a Lexus where that pre-cat was quoted as $1600 from the dealer. That's just for the part.

Any cat that only costs $150 is the main cat, which is usually available as an aftermarket part since it's not unique to each engine.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2005 at 1:28AM
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Hi folks,
Had to take the car back today because it was still sounding bad. Also, on a 2.5 hour ride, the radio/ac control unit got very hot -- escaping heat, perhaps? Turns out the gasket on this VERY EXPENSIVE PART was not good. They replaced it, wrapped the joint, and gave me back my car, which now is sounding more normal, which is to say, very quiet.

According to the mechanic, this is not a part available as an aftermarket part. So, Brian1703's mechanic's story seems to support my mechanic's.

Anyhow, here's to another 100,000 miles for this baby. I think she can do it.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2005 at 11:19PM
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Quite often it pays to spend the extra money and buy the expensive OEM item.
The Lexus is a good case in point, this vehicle may well last twenty years...
In the long run, I would have saved money by buying quality dealer OEM exhaust for the '85 VW Diesel, rather than the cheap ,poor quality aftermarket.
A buyer must be careful and knowledgeable..

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 11:33AM
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Perhaps there is someone with knowledge & expertise with this particular exhaust design, who can explain why the system is so expensive. I do not understand the need for a "pre-cat" built into the exhaust manifold. Does this design result in a quieter exhaust? Does this design feature result in lower emissions?

Since the "pre-cat" is located very close to the engine, it will heat up a bit faster in cold weather, and would therefore begin to function sooner than a remote catalytic converter. But this is speculation on my part. It would help if someone who has actually tested exhaust emissions on several vehicles, including running an emission test on a cold engine, would contribute an opinion.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 12:05PM
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My understanding is that pre-cats reduce startup emissions quite a bit because they do start functioning sooner.

I think most of the expense is simply due to the fact that it's integrated into the exhaust manifold, which (1) requires special tooling to make and (2) isn't a universal part, it must be designed for a particular make and model of engine.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2005 at 3:20PM
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A man must be prepared to pay the very high cost of near-zero emissions. An economy car is a thing of the past, to both buy and to maintain.

My Saab 900 Cat-converter is in one piece with the flex pipe , so it costs $375..

Maybe, a muffler shop can replace this separately and use a universal cat-converter, maybe...
True, the closer the converter is to the exhaust heat, the more effective and quicker its function.
Keeping the car in a good state of tune (injectors, plugs/wires) should assure a long life for the cat-converter - whatever that life is ???

    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 1:11PM
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