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Hello, everyone -

It's my hope that this hasn't already been discussed (I did check the first few pages of this forum for similar topics), and that someone out there has had a similar experience working with a dealership.

I bought my 2012 RAV4 in 2016, certified and pre-owned from Prime Toyota in Boston. I've been very happy with it so far, and it hasn't cost me anything in the way of repairs. I just take it in about every 6 to 8 months for an oil change, per usual.



The other day, I turned on my car and saw three lights go on at once (CEL, "TRAC OFF", and "4WD") and stay on for the remainder of a 20-minute drive home. I called the dealership (I have a power-train warranty on my car, so I'm required to take the car back to the dealer for service if I want to take advantage of that warranty) to have service take a look at it. The guy behind the service desk said that these three lights go on all the time, and it shouldn't be anything too expensive--and was he ever wrong!

Two hours later, the guy at the dealership explains that there are pinholes in my exhaust pipe, so that needs to be replaced. Then he explains that this damage is causing my O2 sensor to fail, and now that needs to be replaced, too. An unrelated problem is that my battery is also failing; but the service rep said that all of this needs to be fixed before December. I pressed him to explain why there are pinholes in the exhaust pipe, and he told me that it's just something that happens because of salt and cold weather in New England--and that it's a fairly common problem for cars that are 5 years old and up.



It was discouraging to look at the estimate of costs for the dealership's suggested services. They're asking $1458.23 for replacing the exhaust pipe and another $394.25 for replacing the O2 sensor. I feel taken advantage of, to say the least. I originally purchased this car for just over $16,000, and I was really hoping not to have to spend another ~2K on repairs just after a year into my lease.

I took this to my friends who are all car savvy, who have given me three pieces of advice.

1. Check recalls for the car: I have. There are none that apply to these kinds of issues. The dealership has performed all other recalls on my car.

2. Argue the price: One friend in particular said that this is definitely not a common problem with cars in the Northeast. He was surprised that the service rep chalked it up to wear and tear from driving in New England, and that I should challenge them by arguing it's a manufacture issue that there are pinholes in my exhaust pipe after it being only 5 years old. Furthermore, the pinholes shouldn't cause the O2 sensor to fail. He's saying I should haggle the price down from these two talking points if I want to keep the power train warranty and get the repair done at the dealership.

3. Get an opinion of what repairs need to be done by a trustworthy mechanic: An obvious piece of sage advice, right? Many of my friends (and me, I might add) know that dealerships generally charge more for repairs and suggest unnecessary repairs. Many people have said just to get the repair done at a third-party mechanic because it's unlikely I'll need to use the dealership's power train warranty since Toyotas don't generally need any repairs or replacements done on that part of the vehicle until well after 100K miles. Getting the third-party opinion will be helpful no matter what, I'm sure.

Long story, short--Even though I'm relatively new to car stuff, I have the feeling that I'm being taken advantage of by my dealership. I'm not sure that the power train warranty is a good enough reason to get expensive replacements done at the dealership since it's unlikely that I'll use it. I'm sure I'm not getting the fairest price, and unsure if the advice I'm getting at the dealership is reliable.

Can some folks who know more than me weigh in? Have any of you had this experience before? What did you do? What was the outcome?

Much appreciated,

Grady
 

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First have the exhaust inspected by a muffler shop and confirm the pinholes. If it needs replacing Toyota does the entire system as it is all one piece including cat converter, muffler, resonator, etc.. A muffler shop can cut out the bad and weld in a new section.

Second which engine is this? It is well known that a less than optimal battery can cause all kinds of problems with the 3.5l V-6. A 3 year over the counter replacement battery would be around $100+ at any auto parts store and be far better than the Toyota brand which is a poor excuse for a battery. This is something you can do yourself for zero labor charge or the parts store may do it for you as a courtesy.

What codes are stored? The 02 sensor may or may not be bad.

I would replace the battery first and go from there. The next steps depend on what the muffler shop sees.
 

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Don't know if it applies to your year but I just had my '06 in for a recall where they were either going to replace the muffler if needed or put a shield under it. I got the shield. (Had previously, in 2010, gotten a free $1300 cat/muffler under another recall.) So I'd double check on those recalls maybe at another less greedy dealer. The only damage pinholes cause is a noise that'll keep getting louder. When you need one follow Tex's advice.

O2 sensors don't get damaged by a bad muffler. An air leak will throw off their reading likely setting a code but it won't damage them in any way. (I use two of them extensively with my motorcycle testing/tuning business.)

It is new battery time. I buy mine from Walmart & get one with a 36 month free replacement. Then have the codes cleared.
 

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The pin hole leak can be repaired by cutting the small section out and inserting a 6 inch one in between. Some exhaust/muffler shops can do this kind of work instead of replacing the entire pipe. I had that done on my previous vehicle just before I sold it. Take it to place that can do custom exhaust work.
 

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