Q: I took my 2007 Lexus LS 460 to the dealer when the "check engine" light came on. They diagnosed it as a misfire on cylinder No. 4 that they attributed to a wire that had been chewed by a mouse. I was told a new wiring harness would cost $1,200 but they could repair the wire for $400. I authorized the repair. They fixed the problem, and the charge was $1,650 (including tax). The charge was all labor, not a penny for parts. My question is whether this seems reasonable.
A: Heck no. If they quoted you $400, they should be held to that quote. If the work was expected to exceed that amount, you should have been contacted for your approval. Incidentally, if you have comprehensive insurance coverage, contact your agent. Rodent damage might be covered.
Flush no scam
Q: A relative says brake fluid flushes are a scam, that since it's a closed system there is no need for that service. Everything I've seen in internet searches recommends a flush being performed at various time or mileage intervals. Can you give me your thoughts or recommendations on this matter?
A: I would wager that most people do not have their brake fluid flushed. And in the past, if problems arose, it usually wasn't a big deal. But with the advent of antilock brake systems, it could cost $1,000 to replace the ABS control module. Follow the schedule in your owner's manual.
Q: I have a 2009 Toyota RAV4, which has red coolant in the radiator reservoir. I need to top it off and am reading conflicting articles regarding mixing different colored coolants. Reading labels on the latest technology of new coolants on the market, which claim to be compatible with all colors, gives me the impression that they are safe. Are there coolants that are truly all right to use with all colors of antifreeze?
A: You can buy one brand of coolant to cover most cars. European cars, however, are often the exception. They require coolants that are phosphate-free.
A better way
Q: I have noticed lately that when I go to the Valvoline oil change garage they do not drain the oil out the drain plug. Instead, they insert a tiny hose through the dipstick tube. Doesn't this leave dirt, sludge and metal shavings in the oil pan?
A: Vacuuming the oil out of the oil pan is becoming the favored method. Pulling the drain plug does an adequate job, but some material sitting in the bottom of the pan can remain behind. Sucking out the oil actually is more effective. Vacuuming also precludes getting a stripped drain plug, damaged gasket or, worst of all, an untightened drain plug.
Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic and ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician. His writing has appeared in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest. Send automotive questions along with name and town to email@example.com.