The Lemon – today’s exciting adventure

Today The Lemon came home from its overnight stay in car-hospital.

Total bill for the cooling system repairs: $1100. Costs you less to have children.

It turns out that the water pump was busted, and the nice chap who did the repair sees a lot of this model for the same fix. At the same age, the water pumps all go. Apparently they are in such demand that the suppliers have them on back-order.

While they were at it, they replaced the special hard-to-get-at Y-shaped hose that the dealer service people had suggested might need replacing – it was leaking so it had to be done.

And in order to do the water pump, the timing belt needed to be replaced as well. You have to pull the timing belt to get the water pump off. But it was just as well, the timing belt was shot and pretty much ready to give up the ghost at any time. He kept it to show me the cracks in it, and questioned if it had ever been replaced.

Now on this car, the timing belt is supposed to be replaced every 60,000 km. the car has done 105,000 km. I just checked back through the service receipts – the 60,000 km service was a shocker – at that time they replaced the water pump also (so it’s now on #3), timing belt, and a bunch of other things. In other words, the timing belt was replaced when it was supposed to be, but the replacement may not have lasted the scheduled time. And getting under 60,000 km from water pumps?! What were these designers thinking?

Interesting though was the price for all this work:

Item Quoted Holden Dealer Price Price I paid
Y Shaped Hose $170 $121
Coolant $65 $50
Labour for Y shaped
hose replacement
2 hours 1 hour

If this is what a nice guy in the ‘burbs can charge – for genuine parts, then watch out – your friendly Holden dealer is most likely ripping you off.

The whole repair has been very expensive – but as the nice man said – had the timing belt gone, it would have been 3 times the price to fix it.

I can thoroughly recommend the chap who did the fix: McLean Automotive Services at Ridgehaven. They seem to be honest, they charge less than a dealer, and most impressively – the workshop is immaculately clean – a sign that they take a great deal of care. This is our second dealing with them now, and they’ll be getting more of our business in future.



ALWAYS request your mechanic to put any old parts in the boot of the car. Timing belts, filters (except oil), belts, etc.. It keeps the bastards honest.


Comment by Duncan Margetts | September 4th, 2009 7:00 am | Permalink

When Holden first released Astras and Barinas in Aus, the timing belt replacement interval was 120,000km. After a number of embarrassing failures resulting in junked engines, they reduced the replacement interval on all these cars to 60,000km. Terrible design, but… they’re not paying for it!

On many front wheel drive cars it’s prudent to do the timing belt and water pump at the same time, since, generally speaking, all the same bits need to come off to do either job.

Comment by Newman | September 4th, 2009 8:22 am | Permalink

Yeah – not only does the timing belt need replacing but the idlers, tensioners, etc all need doing as well.

These days they fit a “timing belt kit” which allows all the parts to be done in one go.

What’s so wrong with the old timing chains that OHC engines used to use? They lasted forever.

Comment by Wally | September 4th, 2009 10:14 am | Permalink

Timing chains are noisy and do need tensioners etc. Also they do need replacement but not so often as the rubber belts. I remember when the rubber belts came in. I think the first production car to have them was the Ford Cortina that came out in Germany in about 1976 or 1977. Certainly saw a lot of them on the roads in Germany when we were there in 1977. My father bought one the next year; his first ever new car when he was 79 years old. The argument then was that they were quieter than the chains but I think the most likely reason was then and still that they were cheaper to install and so made more profit for the car maker. They seem to be almost universal these days but I did recently notice that a new 4WD version of a popular make [but I forget which one] had gone back to the chain as it was more reliable.

Comment by Dad | September 4th, 2009 11:27 pm | Permalink

So I guess a bit of duct tape wouldn’t have done the job after all.

Comment by river | September 6th, 2009 7:45 pm | Permalink

Interestingly, a range of more modern cars are reverting to using timing chains rather than belts. It seems that the extra complication of the valve train that comes as a result of variable valve timing is the main reason for the change.

Comment by Newman | September 14th, 2009 9:11 am | Permalink

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