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Engine overheated


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2003 Camry - 161,000 Original miles / well maintained and regular services. 

Bottomline Question:   Is this a real thing or am I being jerked around?

My wife inherited her father's 2003 Camry. I took it into Pep Boys (we have been a customer for over 15 years at the one location and the "master mechanic" has been on board for over 25 years)   with a puddling issue under the car.  I couldn't tell for sure if it was coolant or power steering fluid.  The car had a little smoke / steam coming from the engine compartment.


New Power Steering unit and associated hoses ($1600) and a new Radiator with upper / lower hoses ($960)

Had the work done - less than three days later wife calling  me that she has steam blowing out of engine compartment. Engine Lite - ON - Temp gauge: at HOT -   I Had the vehicle towed from that location back to Pep Boys.   Tow Truck driver popped the cap on the radiator - empty  - Overflow Reservoir - full to the top UPPER & LOWER HOSES : mushy no resistance and appeared empty

Found out they did not replace the Thermostat when they put in the new radiator.

They have had the car for 7 solid days and are now telling me the issue is the head gasket and warped heads per their Master Tech

I am waiting on them to give me a price.  From what I have researched while i am waiting I am looking at $2500 - $3500 at best vs a new engine (no $$ idea)  

There is no water showing in the oil and they said they did a compression test that seemed fine but when they acelorate then the engine temp gauge runs hot.  They are saying there is a blockage, but they have no idea where or why.  Odd. 

I am feeling like I am being ripped off at this point but perhaps that's my disappointment with my expectations with this car.

 I am not comfortable that at 161,000 this vehicle has met its fate.  It seems to me that the issue might have been they didn't change out that thermostat with the radiator.  I am also asking them to verify that the "new" radiator they put in doesn't have a bad core.  Even new parts are subject to defective units.  I get it.

Is there any other insights you folks might suggest?

3 Answers

You got screwed.  Obviously, the "master mechanic" was not. 

Thanks Doc. That's my thoughts too but I don't deal with this often, so it's good to get feedback from the community.


Your "master mechanic" might be a good soul, but he may have been the only one, and having to deal with shop full of ne'er-do-wells.

Generally speaking Pep Boys should be avoided.

Ask around for some recommendations, and take your car to a trusted independent mechanic. Tell him your story.


If any damage to the cooling system occurred as a result of their work, you shouldn't be paying for anything. If it overheated because they didn't change the thermostat or top the coolant off properly, that's on them, not you.


Stop with this chain store nonsense. They will hire almost anyone and slap the "Tech" name on them, and the "techs" don't care about your car. Find an actual, independent mechanic in your area who does good work and take it to them. Send Pep Boys the bill if they did indeed cause the head gasket to blow. Pep Boys will end up destroying your car if they haven't already. Good mechanics don't guess.

This post was modified 6 days ago by Justin Shepherd

Thanks Justin. I appreciate your feedback. Now to find a mechanic in the area or give the Camry up as a donation.