Head gasket coolant leak???

93 Corolla DX wagon 1.8 L.
I just had a mechanic who was doing an oil change and trans oil change for me, tell me that we have a coolant leak from the head gasket and it could
cost $2100 to fix it. Huh?
Is this for real or should I get a second opinion?
That would be more than the car is worth.
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Sarah Houston wrote:

Did the mechanic say why he thought there was a leak?
Has the car had overheated, had lots of white exhaust or steam coming out of the tail pipe or a sweet smell coming out of the tail pipe?
Are there any symptoms or problems with the car?
Jeff
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He claims they saw it around the back of the engine and "it's leaking pretty good".
Only we see nothing in the driveway or anywhere else we park.
And I noticed that while one place was too booked up to do my oil & tranny oil change yesterday, this place was not busy, they got me right in and did it right away. Lookin' for expensive work?

No. The coolant has looked low though.

Slightly longer time before the heat starts coming up in this cold weather. But the coolant being low can do that.
It may be a very slow pinhole leak, maybe a drop a day?
The bottom line is, we can't afford $2200 to fix it, the car is simply not worth that much anymore, and we could buy a lot of coolant for that money anyway. If it gets much worse, we may just have to get another car.
But I asked him why the head gasket would suddenly start leaking and he said maybe they dry out over the years.
But did they still use cork gaskets in the 93 models? I though everything was going to synthetic rubber by then.
This has been the most reliable car we've ever owned, I just hope that something as silly as a $30 gasket doesn't kill it for us.
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wrote :

I don't know. Usually, when a head gasket goes, the water leakes either into the oil or into the cylinders.
I think I would start by taking it to a different mechanic and get a second opinion. And fill the coolant resevoir, too, and make sure it doesn't go down too low.

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As Jeff mentioned, when coolant leaks due to a bad head gasket usually gives symptoms. Another is that the engine oil will look like a coffee milkshake.
Head gasket leaks on your vintage Corolla are not that common, unless the engine has been overheated. If the engine has never been overheated, get a second opinion.
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Ray O
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"Ray O" <rokigawaATtristarassociatesDOTcom> wrote :

Ok, thanks.
No it hasn't been overheated, it's been fine.
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In another post, you mentioned that your mechanic suggested that the head gasket may have "dried out." Head gaskets do not dry out, and a suggestion like that is an indication that the mechanic is not knowledgeable about motors or a liar. In either case, I definitely recommend that you take it to another shop for another opinion.
As I mentioned, head gasket leaks in your vintage Corolla are not very common, and since the car has not been overheated, and you have not mentioned any of the most common symptoms of a head gasket leak other than some seepage, I would look for another source for the leak, like a heater hose, which is much simpler and less expensive to fix.
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"Ray O" <rokigawaATtristarassociatesDOTcom> wrote :

Thanks.

One time, an oil change shop left the radiator cap off when they checked the fluids. This was in summer. We weren't driving much at the time. Then by December, the heater wasn't working so well, it needed until the engine was all the way warmed up, to heat the car. It was freezing us until the engine was up to temp.
So I looked under the hood and found the cap loose and it was low on coolant. It wasn't overheating, it was just low enough to where it was freezing us until the engine came up to temp. I filled it and replaced the cap and it was fine ever after.
I'm wondering if these places that do oil changes AND repairs, are playing that trick, then telling people the head gasket is leaking coolant, to make work for themselves?
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Sarah Houston wrote:

Hint: Don't go to an oil change shop. Go to a real mechanic.

Or it could have been just an honest mistake.
That's not to say that there aren't some shops that do crap like this.
Jeff
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On Sat, 26 Jan 2008 05:50:36 +0000, Jeff wrote:

$2100 for a BHG is an "Honest Mistake"?!?!?!?!
I got some prime beach front in Florida I'll sell you cheap!!! ;)
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Hachiroku wrote: <...>

There's an old adage: "Don't blame on malice what you can explain by stupidity."
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On Sat, 26 Jan 2008 13:58:50 +0000, Jeff wrote:

Thanks! I'll remember that one!
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I am not a fan of quick oil change places because many do not hire competent auto technicians. Check your local Toyota dealer for their regular oil change prices - you may be pleasantly surprised. The one closest to my house in suburban Chicago charges $21.95. Of course, their prices for other services are higher than the oil change places, but you are free to chose which services are performed at which location.
I wouldn't be in a rush to start pricing head gasket or engine replacements. Top off the coolant in the radiator and fill the overflow bottle to the "hot" mark and monitor the coolant level in the overflow bottle, topping off as necessary. As the air is purged from the system, the coolant level in the overflow bottle will drop a little and then stabilize. If it keeps dropping, you have a coolant leak but if it stays stable, then your mechanic's diagnosis was incorrect and you do not need a head gasket replacement.
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"Ray O" <rokigawaATtristarassociatesDOTcom> wrote :

By the same token, how many competent auto techs want to be doing oil changes for a living?

None of them are within a few miles of me. I think both of the closest are about 12 miles away.

Absolutely agree, and thank you.
It may just be the "we see a woman coming" syndrome. Know what I mean?
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Let us know what you find, we'll steer you in the right direction!
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On Fri, 25 Jan 2008 23:58:01 -0600, Ray O wrote:

Hey, remember me? I was hired by a Toyota dealer and was doing oil changes on Saturdays!
Boy, was I SCARED!!!! I have been changing my own oil for 22 years now! But, this was NOT my car! Did I put the filter on tight enough? Too tight? Enough oil? Too much oil? Did I put the drain plug on properly? Is it tight enough?
Funny, in my case, I was scared enough to do it the correct way!
And I have to admit, I like whoever took over designing the oil system on modern Toyotas. The filter isn't under the exhaust manifold any more, or behind the intake plenum on the rear of a transverse-mounted engine. You lift the car, the plug is here, and the filter is about 3 inches from it, upside-down so when you remove it all the oil stays in it, in an easy place to grab. Thanks, guys!!!!
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I suspect that some of the folks changing oil at those quick places think just the opposite... "It's not my car so I'm not worried if it come out right or not."

For the most part, changing the oil on a Toyota is not rocket science, even on the first generation van and Previa!
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On Sat, 26 Jan 2008 09:46:19 -0600, Ray O wrote:

Yeah, but they sure put the filters in awkward places!!
My 1974 Corolla had the filter right up front, right in view, easy to grasp...and 'right-side up', so when you spun it off the oil went all over the place.
But that was 1974...who cared?
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Ray O wrote: <...>

Even if there is a coolant leak, it does not mean that you need a new head gasket (although you may). It only means there is a leak. The leak may be elsewhere like the water pump.
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$2100 sounds way too steep for a head gasket. Should be in the $700-800 range assuming no other damage to the engine.
There are three common failure modes for the coolant path at the head gasket.
1. coolant can leak from the coolant passages directly to the outside (this is what your mechanic is suggesting) 2. to oil passages - this results in milky oil when you check the oil dipstick 3. or to a cylinder - then you have white smoke coming out of the exhaust.
(of course, bad things go both ways, so oil and gas can get into the radiator, etc)
#1, in minor cases also called seepage, is common even on later Toyota V6 engines. Some defective V6 head gaskets during those years have been recalled. But I don't think that's the case with the 1.8L.
See head gasket, Fig 19, on Autozone's online repair guide: http://www.autozone.com/az/cds/en_us/0900823d/80/16/9d/49/0900823d80169d49/repairInfoPages.htm

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