This review is quite long
. However, I'm not your typical whining customer. I have a case to state, and I have research and evidence to back it up. Walt's failed to fully resolve my problem and tried to convince me of the need for unnecessary work.
Unnecessary, as in replacing a head gasket (and necessary engine machining that comes with such a job) without any of the following:
- Oil in the coolant
- Coolant in the oil
- White steam out the exhaust
- Coolant leak
- Confirmed exhaust gas (and not just plain air) bubbles in the coolant
- Reduced fuel economy
- Loss of engine power
- Engine overheating
- Cooling system pressure with transient spikes coincident with the powerstroke of a cylinder
- Reduced compression in one or more cylinders
The only test of the head gasket function was observing bubbles in the coolant
. That's not a specific test, for it fails to consider the possibility that the gas in the system is actually air (not exhaust gas) from elsewhere, including perhaps air introduced during a poorly done drain and fill.
Noting the YouTube user wallyspeeds
who made this comment
on this video
from a different YouTube user WaltsAutoServicePlus
, I'm suspicious as to why Walt's needs two YouTube user accounts (or a friend) to post about this, with one commenting on the other. I wonder if there's a lot of reviewer spam on Google
, too, similar to what I've found with this YouTube stuff - they've got someone (who is not me, but Big E is me) posing that possibility!
I would have been more convinced with a combustion gas leak test
or a cooling system pressure test
, but those were never offered. When I even suggested
the possibility of air in the system from elsewhere, I felt that Walt essentially lamented the fact that people do his job
However, the only credentials his shop has are Chamber of Commerce membership
(which any business can join, regardless of what they do) and experience. He's active in the community, which is good for PR but doesn't help fix customer cars. Things not clearly displayed at the shop, on the website, or in advertising: ASE certified techs or automotive tech school diplomas.
Nor is the shop's grade with the Better Business Bureau
ever mentioned. I don't blame them - I wouldn't flaunt an F, either.
Wow, all that and I didn't even get to the original problem that brought me to a shop in the first place
! I came in for thumping in the rear
, which was in the front before I rotated the tires, and which happened after a short stop on the interstate. Tires replaced, and the problem was almost fixed, except that being the daily driver of my car, I heard the thump every now and then. With a passenger, and not even a mile down the road, I heard it loud and clear.
A second opinion led to a diagnosis of a bad wheel bearing. Walt's noticed a dent in the wheel itself...but the wheel bearing replacement (at the other shop) fixed my problem! The mechanic there was outraged at how much I was overcharged after I showed him my bill for the tires and estimate for engine work. He confidently said no engine work was necessary. He and his crew pointed out the possibility of even being able to drive with a bad head gasket for a while in some cases just by adding coolant.
Not only that, but this coolant gas test
shows bubbles in both the good and the bad cases!
Walt has an analogy for thorough car checkups being like going to the doctor's office.
While I appreciate the sentiment behind the traditional checkup, it's not worth it if it results in recommendations that can be judged as unwarranted by both research and a second opinion. Not only that, but people go through unnecessary medical procedures and surgeries because their doctor said it would help. Furthermore, unnecessary medical procedures and prescriptions are big drivers of increasing healthcare cost, which unless you're lucky, you've noticed.
I can describe my experience at Walt's with a medical analogy, too: Let's assume that though you don't run marathons, you're in good shape but have your problems every now and then. The arches of your feet hurt, and so do your ankles, despite your best efforts at exercising and stretching. He says you have plantar fasciitis, and due to your history, he recommends surgery. He gives you general anesthesia and proceeds with the surgery.
When you wake up, he tells you that he listened to your heart and found a murmur that is definitely a mitral valve prolapse, and he recommends a heart valve replacement. After your health insurance went through the bill, the general anesthesia was deemed medically unnecessary, and you were stuck with a larger bill from the doctor than your friend paid for the same surgery earlier.
As you recover from minor surgery, you feel very nervous about needing major surgery. Not only that, but once your surgical pain is gone, your right ankle still hurts, but half as much as it used to. Being curious, you go out and get more information about mitral valve prolapse. Come to find out, the standard of care isn't to correct all mitral valve prolapses with surgery - only a few of them. Most of them are innocent, especially for someone like you who has never felt anything wrong with your heart despite an active lifestyle.
You complain to the doctor, and he says to come by the next day to have that ankle checked out. You ask if he only listened to your heart or took some imaging of it, but he says that he only needed to listen to it to know that you need surgery, and it's pretty bad, yet there's no telling definitively how long you'd live without the surgery. He also mentioned that your ankle cartilage was fairly whittled, and he'd suggest a total ankle replacement to fix the remnants of your ankle pain. Furthermore, he lamented the fact that you read Wikipedia
, especially the Prognosis section, and were therefore trying to play doctor.
You talk to your friends to calm your nerves, and one of them gives you the name and phone number of another doctor who has seen her and her son and always treated their ailments right, the first time, and without excess.
Upon seeing another doctor, he treats the tendinitis in your ankle, and you feel a lot better. He said that he didn't even hear the heart murmur but suggested an echocardiogram if it would offer you reassurance. He also noted that mitral valve prolapse actually has a good prognosis if you actually have it, and people without symptoms don't need surgery. In fact, he said that in your state, you'd most likely live a full and unaffected life. Furthermore, getting the surgery carries the risk of death, infection, heart failure, bleeding, and for the mechanical heart valves typically used in a patient as young as you, you need lifelong warfarin treatment, which requires at least monthly lab visits to keep your treatment optimal but not toxic. You could get a pig's valve, but that would last only 10-15 years, and you need anti-rejection immunosuppressant medication in that case.
He further said that your first doctor was a quack for wanting to rush to surgery without an echocardiogram, CT, MRI, or even X-ray, and people don't pay so much for plantar fasciitis surgery because the anesthesia was unnecessary.
If you followed the analogy, here's the translation:
- Feet: rear tires/wheels
- Plantar fasciitis surgery: tire replacement, mount, and balance
- Total ankle replacement: a new wheel
- Tendinitis treatment: a new wheel bearing
- Mitral valve prolapse: bad head gasket
- Heart valve replacement: replacing the head gasket and engine cylinder machining as necessary
- Risks of surgery: risks of engine machining, at least a little will be necessary - cylinder cracking, overheating, seizing, actual head gasket seal failure, reduced fuel economy
- I went to Walt's for thumping noise in the rear.
- I left with replaced tires, some thumping, and an estimate for a head gasket replacement and related engine work.
- Walt's thought the remaining thumping could be fixed with a new wheel.
- A second opinion failed to substantiate the need for engine work but found the need for a new wheel bearing. That fixed all the thumping.
- The medical analogy: What good is a thorough checkup when it leads to unnecessary, life-changing surgery with a greater risk than benefit?