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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi peeps, I need your input on a dilemma I'm dealing with this week. I bought a 1996 RAV4 this past summer that I was assured was in good condition by the seller. Up to this point, I had not driven it as I don't have a driver's license yet (working diligently on that issue). I decided to have it taken to the local Toyota dealership's service department to have a state inspection done and to address a bad leak from the engine compartment. I determined that the leak was coming from the power steering reservoir; I could see it dripping from the hose leading out from it.

The manager of the service department emailed me a short while later with bad news, informing me that it was badly rusted underneath, with both the engine and transmission leaking, "most likely from gaskets and seals that have aged out", etc., etc. I was emailed an estimate enumerating all the repairs that needed to be done to pass inspection, with a total *gasp* of over $4,000. I was devastated and cried all day long. I had NO idea things were that bad; it's very clean outside and the interior is almost immaculate with no stains, rips or tears. I posted to Facebook about it on my wall and most of my friends urged me to get a second opinion at an independent auto service shop, which I plan to do this week before making a final decision. I will state for the record that it spent most of its life originally in upstate NY, where heavy snowfalls are a given during the wintertime and road salt is spread on the roadways regularly--which I know is very corrosive to the undersides of vehicles. In that regard, I'm not surprised that it would have a rusty undercarriage. But $2k for an exhaust system alone?? Come on.

If you were in my situation and money was tight, what would you do? Would you have the repairs done, or walk away and look for another one in better condition? I do have a line on another one, a '99, at a dealership that just passed inspection, but it's more than what I paid originally for the '96, and I have other expenses coming up soon, including a move back to Kansas City this spring.

Your input would be MUCH appreciated! I'll let you folks have the floor now. Thanks and have a great evening!
 

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Definitely get a second opinion form an independent shop since a Toyota dealer will give you a make-it-new high price.

And have a muffler shop check the exhaust for the least expensive repair. Along that line I just sold a 2003 Chevy for a friend. It was a $1,600 car and the buyer was pleading poverty all the way. I'd heard an exhaust noise underneath but in the snow didn't check. The guy drives it away and calls me up two days later saying it got really loud all of a sudden wanting some money back. I told him something in the exhaust had probably just come apart an it shouldn't take too much to fix. He took it to a muffler shop who told him it would be $250 to fix. He must have plead poverty real well because it ended up costing him $60 to weld in a new piece of pipe. I split it with him and everybody's happy.
 
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you all so much for your input tonight. I'm going to settle the tow and state inspection bills with the Toyota dealership, then have it taken to this independent shop for a 2nd opinion. Most of my friends warned me that these dealerships aren't called "stealerships" for no reason, and I believe it now. I'll come back here and let you know what they have to say. Please keep your fingers crossed for a more favorable evaluation!
 

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As long as the rust is not structural and you just need a ride there's no reason to be concerned.
Depending on which gaskets are leaking in the engine (if its just the transmission and oil pans) its not an expensive repair at all.
And I guess you need a new PS pump from your post - again you can get a remanufactured pump to save a few dollars.
When I was in the same position many years ago I kept an old 82 280ZX around for an extra five years with remanufactured parts and parts off of junk cars until I had all my college loans paid off. My friends used to joke that the care was more than 50% used parts - and it ran fine to way over 150K miles.
Good luck!
 

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I agree with paul_da_prgmr, you can replace the valve cover, oil pan, front engine/oil pump, and transmission seals without too much effort, but it's that rear engine seal that requires a lot of work. A leaky rear engine seal requires you to drop the engine and tranny to get to it because it is between the engine and tranny. If you drop the engine to do the rear engine seal and if she is a manual tranny you should also consider replacing the clutch and pressure plate while you are there.

My 99 RAV4 had a rusted undercarriage, I got under there cleaned, wire brushed (with a drill and dremel tool), used rust arrestor, primed, and undercoated her front to back, a lot of work but worth it. I had to drop my engine and tranny due to a failed tranny so, while it was out I did corrosion control on the engine, engine bay, cross members, and control arms rebuilt the control arms while I was at it but I should have just bought new ones, it would have been about the same price. I found a lot of corrosion on my brake and gas line everywhere they passed through a retaining clip under the car, so I had to replace those. I did all the work myself, it would have been cost prohibitive to send it out. Most of the corrosion I found was superficial surface rust, except for those previously mentioned brake and fuel lines.

I don't know your mechanic skills, if you have a place to work on her, available tools, or how deep your pocketbook is, but I can tell you that other than the engine pull the rest of it is mostly simple manual labor. You can look up a lot of maintenance work on youtube and it will walk you through it step by step on video. Price parts at amazon.com and rockauto.com because genuine Toyota parts will eat a hole in your wallet quick. Parts at your local parts store is also usually way higher than online prices. Before ordering any part cross reference the part number through a couple of other sites to assure you get the right parts.

By the way if you are going to attempt any work under her, make sure you use jack stands and are on a firm surface. Wear a face shield and gloves while wire brushing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I agree with paul_da_prgmr, you can replace the valve cover, oil pan, front engine/oil pump, and transmission seals without too much effort, but it's that rear engine seal that requires a lot of work. A leaky rear engine seal requires you to drop the engine and tranny to get to it because it is between the engine and tranny. If you drop the engine to do the rear engine seal and if she is a manual tranny you should also consider replacing the clutch and pressure plate while you are there.

My 99 RAV4 had a rusted undercarriage, I got under there cleaned, wire brushed (with a drill and dremel tool), used rust arrestor, primed, and undercoated her front to back, a lot of work but worth it. I had to drop my engine and tranny due to a failed tranny so, while it was out I did corrosion control on the engine, engine bay, cross members, and control arms rebuilt the control arms while I was at it but I should have just bought new ones, it would have been about the same price. I found a lot of corrosion on my brake and gas line everywhere they passed through a retaining clip under the car, so I had to replace those. I did all the work myself, it would have been cost prohibitive to send it out. Most of the corrosion I found was superficial surface rust, except for those previously mentioned brake and fuel lines.

I don't know your mechanic skills, if you have a place to work on her, available tools, or how deep your pocketbook is, but I can tell you that other than the engine pull the rest of it is mostly simple manual labor. You can look up a lot of maintenance work on youtube and it will walk you through it step by step on video. Price parts at amazon.com and rockauto.com because genuine Toyota parts will eat a hole in your wallet quick. Parts at your local parts store is also usually way higher than online prices. Before ordering any part cross reference the part number through a couple of other sites to assure you get the right parts.

By the way if you are going to attempt any work under her, make sure you use jack stands and are on a firm surface. Wear a face shield and gloves while wire brushing.
Thank you SO much for your input as well as from everyone else. I feel much better now! I just got the official state inspection report today, and these are the components that failed and need attention:

-Power steering hose is leaking; (which I knew was happening)
-Exhaust: rear pipe flange is rusted and falling apart in front of the resonator;
-left rear tire has a nail in it;
-brake hydraulic system and discs need repair-- front brake hoses are cracked; front rotors are rusted and pads close to being low
-the light side marker is falling apart;
-headlights need adjustment;
-battery won't hold a charge;
-front wipers smear and the rear wiper is torn;
-windshield has two chips; and
-the driver inside door handle is not working properly

With regard to the windshield, it has two chips, which I NEVER saw. Can those be fixed, or does it necessitate replacing the entire windshield? I understand glass replacement can be $$$$. I unfortunately don't have any mechanical skills, so I will have to have an experienced mechanic do all the work on my behalf.....
 

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If it is the high pressure side of the power steering pump it is hard to get to but you can do it.

You can order a new pipe online and it is just 4 nuts and bolts. The old nuts and bolts are usually so rusted that you have to grind them off with an angle grinder.

Servicing disc brakes are easy and require few specialized tools, new rotors (the big round disks on the front brakes) are easy to replace as are the brake pads, see youtube. No specialized tools required. If the front brake hoses are shot you will need to do the rear ones too, they cannot be far behind. You must use something like b'laster several hours (a day is better) on the fittings or you will strip them. Also only use flare nut wrenches or you are likely to strip them out. Beware, brake fluid will damage your paint, don't get it on anything.

I ordered a new pair of rear side markers at a great price on amazon.com. They are held in place with 2 phillips head screws and an electrical connecter. See https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009DK64UI/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Headlight alignment - take it to a local shop when you get everything else fixed.

Replace the battery - You can move the size up to a 24F sized battery, just trim the tray a little. If you buy a battery at a parts store they will usually install it for free.

You can get wipers anywhere, you can usually get them cheaper online. If you buy them at a parts store they will usually install them for free.

You can take the car to a windshield replacement place and they can usually fix chips, if you leave them go they will often spread and require a replacement. If you have certain insurance coverages they will fix it or replace it for free if it needs it.

To repair the door handle you can take the door panel off and try lubricating it. If it needs more than that you will have to take a look and try to see what is wrong. A visit to a junkyard may get the part you need. Work in the door is not fun with a lot of sharp edges, tape those edges or suffer the consequences. While you have the door panel off lubricate the window track, lock, and all those rods. Oh, and make sure the drain holes aren't clogged.

I hope this helps... good luck with her.
 

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I unfortunately don't have any mechanical skills, so I will have to have an experienced mechanic do all the work on my behalf.....
In that case you'd be best to sell it and take your losses, the seller's "good condition" assurances aside.

As eodgator explains ALL of the issues except for the windshield may be low cost DIY repairs but if you're paying $100/hour for labor you could easily burn thru several thousand bucks just getting it to pass inspection. And even then you'd have a 20 year-old car with all the associated repairs it'll likely need before you get it to Kansas City.

With the interior in good shape you might find a DIY buyer who can give it the TLC eodgator and others have given theirs. Be honest and show them the repair list from the dealer. Someone may consider it a challenge.

And on your next car please pay a mechanic to check it out thoroughly BEFORE spending penny one on it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
In that case you'd be best to sell it and take your losses, the seller's "good condition" assurances aside.

As eodgator explains ALL of the issues except for the windshield may be low cost DIY repairs but if you're paying $100/hour for labor you could easily burn thru several thousand bucks just getting it to pass inspection. And even then you'd have a 20 year-old car with all the associated repairs it'll likely need before you get it to Kansas City.

With the interior in good shape you might find a DIY buyer who can give it the TLC eodgator and others have given theirs. Be honest and show them the repair list from the dealer. Someone may consider it a challenge.

And on your next car please pay a mechanic to check it out thoroughly BEFORE spending penny one on it.
Dr. Dyno, I intend to do just that if the cost of the repairs are going to be over a certain amount, but I may be able to save quite a bit as I have a friend who owns a body shop and who's looking to help me save $$$ on the repairs. We shall see what happens later this week, and again, thanks to all of you who chimed in. Please keep your fingers and toes crossed for a happy outcome!
 

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Dr. Dyno, I intend to do just that if the cost of the repairs are going to be over a certain amount, but I may be able to save quite a bit as I have a friend who owns a body shop and who's looking to help me save $$$ on the repairs.
Good deal! And if you're willing to get your hands dirty and learn you'll doubly benefit. Save some money now and pick up knowledge and confidence that'll serve you well for a lifetime.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Peeps, HAVE I got an update for you on the status of my '96 RAV4! I had it towed to my friend's shop yesterday and she took a look at the undercarriage today. It's an understatement when I state for the record that I was struck speechless when she told me that the floor pans and frame rails are in BEAUTIFUL condition with absolutely no rust; as a matter of fact, she said the factory undercoating is still intact! She couldn't even see anything wrong with the exhaust. I do know, and she mentioned this as well, that the power steering leak needs to be addressed, which could be as simple as replacing the hose or pump. To think that the dealership attempted to rip me off to the tune of $4,000 just burns me up. Lesson learned! I am contacting the local TV station about this in hopes they'll do a story and warn other car owners to stay away from them.

I'm so happy I'm getting my good ol' RAV4 back soon--HALLELOOOOOOJAH!!! :D :D :D
 

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That sounds real good since the underbody condition of a car is the first factor determining whether it's worth repairing.
 

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Not to insult any dealership mechanics out there but my experience and people that I know who have worked for them is that they have every incentive to run up the costs to owners of older cars to get you to purchase new or to make their profits by taking your dollars for repairs even if they are unnecessary. I never use stealerships unless there is no other option, so your experience just fuels my belief.

I'm glad you got such good news from a legit mechanic.
 

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The dealer's high prices may also be their way of saying, "We don't want to work on your old car and if you make us it'll cost you."
But I'd drop the TV angle. You'll just make enemies of people you may need some day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
The dealer's high prices may also be their way of saying, "We don't want to work on your old car and if you make us it'll cost you."
But I'd drop the TV angle. You'll just make enemies of people you may need some day.
Dr. Dyno, I'm not concerned about making enemies of those people. Besides that, why would I want to go back to them after they attempted to rip me off on unnecessary repairs? I truly feel that if they're not publicly exposed and shamed, they will just continue to try and rip off other unsuspecting car owners. If a TV story keeps just one customer from having the same experience as I did, then it's worth it. I got a ton of recommendations on independently owned garages in my area that folks vouched for, especially one above all that is a family-owned business and has been since the mid-1960's. Soooo, screw the dealership!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Here's the funny thing. Yesterday, BEFORE I talked to my friend and she told me my RAV4's undercarriage was in great condition, I got an email from the dealership stating they wanted to BUY my car. That really got me to thinking. WHY, if the service department told me it was in such terrible condition, would they want to buy it???" The more I thought about it, the more I believed that perhaps there wasn't really anything seriously wrong with it--and my conversation with my friend proved me right! What's more, as Eodgator pointed out, it was a tactic on the dealership's part to get me to get rid of it and buy a brand new one from them. Sorry, but this fish ain't biting!
 

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Here's the funny thing. Yesterday, BEFORE I talked to my friend and she told me my RAV4's undercarriage was in great condition, I got an email from the dealership stating they wanted to BUY my car. That really got me to thinking. WHY, if the service department told me it was in such terrible condition, would they want to buy it???" The more I thought about it, the more I believed that perhaps there wasn't really anything seriously wrong with it--and my conversation with my friend proved me right! What's more, as Eodgator pointed out, it was a tactic on the dealership's part to get me to get rid of it and buy a brand new one from them. Sorry, but this fish ain't biting!


That happens every time, no matter what car you bring in for service. My '03 gets 5k oil changes routinely and a week later I get a flyer in the mail to buy it or trade in towards a new Rav4. It's just an automated system the dealership uses to entice people into new cars. It's mutually exclusive from what they told you about fixing your car.


I've been told lies by the dealership before too, but nothing that extensive. I think you're better off contacting the manager there and giving him a piece of your mind. It may fair better for you than the outcome of the local news. Just my two cents.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
That happens every time, no matter what car you bring in for service. My '03 gets 5k oil changes routinely and a week later I get a flyer in the mail to buy it or trade in towards a new Rav4. It's just an automated system the dealership uses to entice people into new cars. It's mutually exclusive from what they told you about fixing your car.


I've been told lies by the dealership before too, but nothing that extensive. I think you're better off contacting the manager there and giving him a piece of your mind. It may fair better for you than the outcome of the local news. Just my two cents.
Not only do I intend to confront the manager directly, I also plan to leave a negative review on this particular dealership's Facebook page. That, hopefully, will serve as a warning to other Toyota owners considering having their vehicles serviced there, and save someone from being ripped off as I nearly was.
 
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