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The timing belt in my -cylinder Toyota Camry was replaced...

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Dear Tom and Ray:



The timing belt in my 1988 4-cylinder Toyota Camry was
replaced at 60,000 miles at a foreign-car repair shop. Upon
a free complete auto inspection at the Toyota dealership a
little over a year later, it was discovered that the timing
belt seal was leaking. It obviously was no longer under
warranty, and I don't know if it started leaking during the
warranty period. What damage can it cause if it is not
fixed? The car now has 75,000 miles. -- Gene

RAY: My guess is that they're talking about a crankshaft
seal, Gene. And to put your mind at ease, it probably
started leaking after your timing belt change, and almost
certainly had nothing to do with it.

TOM: How much damage you'll do by not fixing it depends on
how serious a leak it is.

RAY: If it's leaking a significant amount of oil (if you
run it on your driveway for half an hour and see a spot
bigger than a quarter), then you should get it fixed. The
dripping oil itself won't cause any further damage. But
running low on -- or out of -- oil could destroy the
engine.

TOM: If it's just leaking a drop here and a drop there, you
could leave it alone. But I wouldn't recommend that.
Because then, you're basically deciding that the car is no
longer worth taking care of, and you're putting it on the
"highway to heapdom."

RAY: Right. You'll begin to put off other repairs and
maintenance, because in your mind you'll have decided that
the car is "on its way out." And you'll always drive around
afraid of running low on oil, and wondering if the leak is
getting worse. And a Camry with 75,000 miles is too young
to give up on.

TOM: So I'd start by confirming the diagnosis. Ask another
mechanic to look at the car. If he says the crankshaft seal
leak is at all significant, then I'd fix it. This is what's
known in the business as a "second opinion."

RAY: Right. Whenever my brother asks for a second opinion
on his '63 Dodge Dart, his mechanic says, "Yeah, it's
broken AND it's ugly."
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