Cars

Was I quoted a fair price to replace a water pump?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader who needs a new water pump for a 14-year-old SUV.

AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File

Q. I was told the water pump on my 2008 Toyota Highlander needs to be replaced. The mechanic said it would be a five-hour job and cost $1,100. Is that true and if so, is there anything else that should be changed at that time, since a lot of parts have to be removed to get to the water pump? The car is otherwise running fine.

A. Your shop is correct that the labor to replace the water pump is about five hours. Today we are seeing shop labor rates from $100-$175 per hour, so costs escalate quickly. I would replace the drive belts and perhaps the belt tensioners while replacing the water pump. 

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Q. My 2013 Honda CR-V (AWD) is starting to shimmy/vibrate when I accelerate between 25 and 30 miles per hour. Looking up this issue on the Honda Forums it appears to be quite common. Honda service is unaware of the issue. My CR-V has 55,000 miles, and I drive very carefully. Any idea what I should do next?

A. Honda has had a problem with this transmission, and many times it can be repaired with a software update and fluid change. Honda describes it as a surge, vibration, or judder, that may be felt while driving under light acceleration. Like many cars today, it is critical that manufacturer-specific fluid is used when the transmission is serviced. 

Q. I just got a brake job done on my 2002 Honda Accord. When doing a brake job, do you recommend resurfacing rotors in addition to installing new pads? Or is it sometimes just okay to install new pads only? Also, is there a break-in procedure for new brake pads?

A. When I first started repairing cars many years ago, brake drums and rotors were always resurfaced. Later I attended the General Motors training center and was told if the brake rotors are smooth, free of rust, and there is no brake vibration, it is perfectly acceptable and preferred to just replace the brake pads. Part of the reason is that brake rotors are thinner than ever, and resurfacing takes away metal, making the rotors more prone to distortion and vibration. In many cases to keep brakes performance optimally, pads and rotors are replaced together. New brake pads do require a break in. Depending on the manufacturer this can be accomplished in less than 10 minutes. This usually includes four or five aggressive stops in fairly rapid succession not letting the brakes cool down. Then drive for about five minutes at a moderate speed, not using the brakes, to allow the brakes to cool completely. This procedure is performed before the vehicle is returned to the customer. 

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Q. I’m in the market for a new SUV — maybe a Toyota 4Runner, a Ford Explorer, or a Ford Expedition. I cannot find anything in stock. Everything has to be ordered and the dealer wants $5,000 above the sticker. How can I find vehicles that are in stock? What does this lack of inventory and  price-hike situation look like from your perspective? Will we see more vehicles before the end of the year?

A. A year ago, I would have said new car inventories would have been back to normal by now. That unfortunately isn’t the case. I’m not sure we may ever see “normal” again. Of the vehicles you mentioned, you may have the best luck with the 4Runner. I recently evaluated a 4Runner and a neighbor saw it and loved it. I heard from his daughter that he found one in stock at a local dealer at a price he was happy with. The Explorer is popular and may be harder to find, and Expedition inventories were always on the low side at Ford dealers. I would just go online to specific dealer sites or use Cargurus, Iseecars, or AAA’s car buying service to check inventory and prices.

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John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to [email protected] Listen to the Car Doctor podcast at johnfpaul.podbean.com.

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