Is that $129 engine flushing service really necessary?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 2000

Dear Tom and Ray:

While having my 1996 Toyota Camry (45,000 miles) serviced recently, the service technician handed me a brochure and told me it was time to have my engine flushed (to the tune of $129) by something called the Bilstein R-2000 Engine Flush System. I politely declined, saying I would consider it next time. The brochure says it should be done every 12,000 miles. In my 30 years (and my husband's 30-plus years) of driving, neither of us has ever heard of such a recommendation. Is this the latest attempt by dealers to "extort" more money from we unsuspecting drivers? Is such an engine cleansing REALLY necessary? I would appreciate your comments, please. --

TOM: I suspect this device is known around the dealership as the Bilstein R-2000 Wallet Flush System. And, in fact, my brother has already called Bilstein about leasing

RAY: What this thing does is pump a heated solvent through your engine, presumably to wash away any sludge that's built up on the valves, rings or other engine

TOM: And it's really quite unnecessary. Particularly for a car with only 45,000 miles on it. Changing the oil serves the same purpose -- de-sludgification, if you will --
and if you change the oil every 5,000 or 7,500 miles, you shouldn't HAVE any significant sludge that needs to be washed out.

RAY: While it's possible that such cleaning may help the engine last longer, the engine on a Toyota Camry should easily last 150,000 miles without flushing. And if you
followed the advice in the brochure and flushed the engine every 12,000 miles, you'd spend $1,600 on engine flushes in 150,000 miles. That's almost enough to buy a
rebuilt engine!

TOM: This is what's known in the business as a "profit center." Something the garage can use to beef up the amount each person spends per visit. So unless you've got a
very old car, and are trying to solve a specific, sludge- or carbon-related-problem, I'd skip the R-2000.

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