My 1993 Volvo 240 recently overheated. We got off the highway immediately when we realized what was going on (smoking under hood, gauge up). We pulled over to find the coolant had exploded all over the front right tire. When it became clear that no other options were apparent, we let the car cool down, filled up the coolant tank with water, and drove home at 25 mph without incident.

When I got home, I took it to a mechanic who said he thought the thermostat needed replacing, but the engine wasn’t fried. In addition to the thermostat, he replaced the upper and lower radiator parts. The bill came to about $60 for parts and $90 for labor.

I took the car out for a spin and the same day it was overheating again. I took it back to the mechanic and haven’t heard anything from him in 2 weeks since – he said he might try a different thermostat (in case that one malfunctioned). He hasn’t called me asking for permission to move forward with any fixes or spending. I called him once, but don’t have an urgent need for the car and have been out of town, so I haven’t pestered him. I wonder though……

1. Did I get screwed on the cost of labor/parts for the thermostat and hose replacements?
2. Since it didn’t work, do I still have to pay for the thermostat fix? Can I ask for all or part of the money back?
3. If he’s done work without asking, what’s protocol? Am I obligated to pay? I have called and haven’t heard anything back.

Thank you for your help! I am unfamiliar with protocol and don’t want to rip him off. I don’t want to get ripped off, either!

vovlo 240


Hi Lizzy,

Here’s what I think:

There are numerous possibilities for why the Volvo is still overheating, could be blown head gasket or even a cracked head (worse case scenario), neither of these could he figure out immediately, the head would usually need to come out and checked for cracks and this is more involved then just eyeballing it. The initial problem could have been the thermostat or the hoses but when you drove it that extra distance more damage could have been done. Of course it could just be a clogged or cracked radiator as well, but I’m assuming he checked that. My guess would be that he’s discovered the worse case is the issue and he’s already tried another thermostat yet for some reason he hasn’t bothered to inform you. I can’t guess why he wouldn’t, I would NEVER, EVER keep someone waiting unless there was no other choice and even then I’d be in continual contact with them. As far as getting any money back goes, I’m sorry to say that no, you’re not due any. The work he did is common for the issue that you’ve had, we would have done the same thing. I would probably credit some of the labor towards any future work we did to repair the issue.

As far as getting something new goes, I always say the same thing. IF you can afford to move up to a newer car, then by all means do so. If not then spend as little as possible to keep it going as long as you can.

I’d call him immediately and get some answers.


P.S. NO he cannot do any further work and charge you for it without asking unless he fixed it relatively cheaply. Normally in a situation like this I call and explain it all, ask if they’d like to me to do more investigative work and lay out what the possible charges would be.

About dontgetwrenched

Elayne Kling, was the owner of a downtown Manhattan auto repair shop for 25 years and recently in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Elayne knows the particular ins and outs of the auto repair world and keeps up her blog because people will always need help navigating the potential pitfalls of that world. Due to the crazy NYC real estate market she has since closed down her shop and started a new business called Projects Unlimited Inc., helping other small businesses.
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