Join Date: Dec 2007
Car: 2001 Legacy 2.5
Feedback Score: 0 reviews
I saw something similar, but it was by my own hand so there is no mystery about a dealership screwing me over (the beauty of doing your own work).
Situation was this - my mother-in-law's 2001 Forester had about 100k miles on it, original coolant. I changed the coolant, and when draining the old stuff out, noticed it was full of particles. This was either stop-leak (may have been Suby's coolant conditioner) or just silicates/phosphates that have "dropped out" of old antifreeze that should have been changed loooong ago.
Anyway, the car never used coolant. After this coolant change, the car started DRINKING coolant. If I had it done at a shop, and I didn't know better about how Subys have lousy head gaskets, I would totally be blaming the shop for this. Anyway, my theory is that the particles (whether they were stop-leak or silicates/phosphates) were acting as a "false seal" and when I drained the old coolant/particles out and put the new coolant in, that false seal was gone and the car probably had slightly compromised head gaskets all along for who knows how long.
My fix was pouring in a whole bottle of Bar's Leak Liquid Aluminum, stopped the consumption almost immediately.
By the way, $364 is awefully cheap for a timing belt job. I assume it was just the timing belt itself, and not the other items which should have been done at the same time - water pump, oil pump reseal, tensioner, idler pulleys, cams seal, crank seal, exterior v-belts if necessary. If that's the case, just changing the belt itself is a false sense of security...really should do the complete job.
The belt itself can be done without radiator removal, but it's a major pain in the butt due to the slim clearance. Usually water pump is done at the same time (see my paragraph above), so coolant draining is part of the job. But due to the price, doesn't sound like you got that.
If you're not comfortable with this dealership, you should just find a good trustworthy independent mechanic.