I'm crossing my fingers you were quoted this amount from an independent repair shop. If so, head to a Toyota dealer for a second opinion. They have a vested interest in keeping you happy so you'll buy another vehicle from them. There might be something they can do to bring the cost down. Also, I don't know if this applies, but when I worked for a really nice family-owned Chrysler dealer, they had a fund provided by Chrysler for the dealer to use at their discretion to pay for out-of-warranty repairs. They reserved those bucks for their regular customers and for certain hardship cases, but I can also share that people who were screaming or angry usually didn't get that help.
If you were already at the dealership, don't be afraid to try a different one. I read stories all the time about people getting their problem handled at a different shop. That happened to my mother many years ago. The dealer wanted to charge her $125.00 for a Chrysler engine computer, (that was in 1980). I was in the process of buying a new car from a different dealer. He said there was still 10,000 miles left on the computer's warranty and if the first dealer wouldn't take care of it, he would.
By the way, I wouldn't exactly call this a defect, but, when it affects the Check Engine light and emissions, the government watches really closely. If this is a known and common problem, there may be a government-mandated recall. If there is no formal recall for the specific issue, that would suggest it is not real common, or at least it doesn't happen in a very high percentage of vehicles. Unless it has changed in the last few years, the government mandates everything emissions-related be warrantied for 50,000 miles. If Toyota is going to 80,000 miles, they are helping out a lot more customers than they would have to. Still, $1600.00 seems like an awful lot for a computer. I won't buy a new car because I don't want to risk having to buy a $700.00 computer!
One last comment I like to share whenever I have the chance, (please don't read anything into this), is to approach the dealer or independent repair shops as your partner in solving this problem. Too many people consider them the adversary when in reality, the sorry fellow behind the desk is bound by his supervisor's policies. When they see you are not satisfied, but not angry, they will be more eager to walk you to the next person up the chain of command. Typically that will be the service manager who will listen to your story, then likely consult with the person who handles the warranty claims. Between the two of them, they will figure out what they can do. It is in their best interest too if they can get Toyota to cover at least part of the cost of repairs, but they are stuck in the middle if they know that won't happen.
The next step up is the business owner although he usually relies on his service manager to make the right decision, otherwise he wouldn't need him. The owner might even know less than the service manager about warranty issues. His job is to surround himself with knowledgeable people so he doesn't have to be the expert. He WOULD be the likely person though to set up a meeting with the district manager. In Chrysler's case, they have one for each state, and they visit each dealership about once per month. Their purpose is to help customers by ignoring policies the dealer can not. Here again, threats and anger, I'm guessing, won't be as effective as pointing out you are a loyal customer, as are most Toyota owners, and you will buy your next vehicle from a company that at least tries to help you out. On the flip side, I guess it goes without saying the computer lasted for many miles and many years without a problem so maybe there won't be anything they can do, but it sure doesn't hurt to ask.
To shift gears for a second, there is still the possibility the computer isn't actually causing the problem. Perhaps the catalytic converter is not working properly or one of the oxygen sensors is defective. To base a diagnosis, especially such an expensive one, solely on a technical bulletin might be jumping the gun. How will the mechanic explain it if the fault code comes back after buying a new computer? I'd want to be awfully sure before I asked a customer to pay that kind of bucks.
Sunday, April 4th, 2010 AT 8:08 PM