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I bought this 2007 Prius, my first Hybrid ever, because it was in my price range after my Saturn totaled last year on black ice, and I wanted a Toyota. I still want a Toyota. The dealer said the car was fine even with 137,000 miles on it, but a private mechanic (friend's reccomendation to go to Mechanic 1 whom I'll call M1) said there was a head gasket leak, which I could probably drive for a year or so before needing to repair. So when M1 said the gasket would run me about $2,000 plus labor, and I told the dealer, the dealer lowered the car price by $500 and I bought this (my Prius) from the dealer at just under $8,000. Later I found out the old owner had put a "bra" over the front to conceal some cosmetic but deep dings.

So now a year has gone by. I see no coolant leaks, no loss of power, no white smoke, but I am a total novice in the car field (I'm front line nursing.) COVID is a problem, meaning I have to make my savings (not much there) to cover our family until the country gets vaccinated. Basically, I have to be very careful with resources, or we join the tent people prematurely.
I called M1 and he said: if money was a concern, he could get a LESS used head gasket than the leaking one in my car from a scrapped younger car,
and put that in instead of a new head gasket, and that would mean instead of 5 days to repair the 'leaking head gasket' he'd found on my "to buy or not" inspection last year, then would only take 3-4 days, and the cost of the whole thing would be $3,500. The mechanic also said if I was trying to put off the repair in favor of paying rent for my family, he could take a look at it and see if it would be safe to delay several months.

Here's my question: I didn't feel right about the way M1 was talking. So I got a recommendation on a "great one man shop mechanic" - I'll call him M2.
M2 said "You NEVER reuse any gasket" and
"there is no head gasket anywhere that costs $2,000" and
"most head gaskets would run $300-$500" and
"there is no way to know how much the car would take to fix because the gasket shouldn't have gone out in the first place, and most likely it did because the original owner overheated the engine, cracking the gasket and very likely warping the head, which would require repair in that case, and if resurfacing the head if it were warped didn't fix it, I could end up looking at $5,000 for the repair" and most importantly
"I (M2) don't service Hybrids, as I (M2) hasn't the know how or tools to do so, and has no recommendations on who to take it to."

So I totally lost faith in the first mechanic (M1). And I trust M2 but it doesn't matter as he doesn't service Hybrids. I'm not sure if I trust the dealer as he did have a car that was lightly front crunched and probably has a leaking head gasket he was trying to sell (and did, to me) at a really elevated price. Its a pretty hairy repair, and bound to be way overpriced, and I'll spend my days in prayer they don't break something else frail while doing it, IF I have them do it.
I'm literally sick about all this.

The used car market here is terrible. Last year the reason I got such a high mileage car was that I was about to go crazy going from lot to lot and having people pulling obvious scams ("yes mam, I see the engine won't start, I'll just charge it up and that'll clear the windshield so you can see out and everything will be fine - by the way don't drink the water here, its toxic") etc.
Horrible street front rip off joints, and very little choice at that. I started shaking from nerves every time we'd drive in to shop a car I'd thought looked OK on the Car (info) sites. I started having nightmares about it, and my rental car bill was growing by leaps and bounds.

So I'm almost leaning towards taking my car back to the (Toyota) dealer I bought it from, accepting I may have to pay $5,000 our family totally doesn't have, to (hopefully) fix a car that might or might not need it right now, and if it doesn't need it now, it could potentially abruptly need it, at which time it could cascade failures into making it a paperweight, leaving me no way to get to work or medical care, and making the value that of scrap.
I know I am new and way under-educated on cars, but I could really use any advice. Thank you.
 

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Wow that is some story:oops:. So if I understand you correctly, there are no symptoms of a leaking head gasket at this time. If that is the case, how did mechanic M1 diagnosis a leaking head gasket last year? Did mechanic M2 look at the car and recently diagnosis a leaking head gasket? If M2 did not find a leaking head gasket, perhaps you don't have anything to worry about:)

I would agree with M2 and say that you never install a used head gasket. Is it possible that M1 was referring to a used engine rather than a used gasket?
 

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So, you don't SEE any leaks. Do you have to keep adding coolant to the car? Do you have to keep adding oil to the car? When you check the oil does it look alright (i.e. not light creamy brown, normal oil will usually look sort of translucent when new and turn blackish as it is used due to wear on engine parts). If you are constantly having to add coolant or oil or if the oil is a creamy brown color (creamy brown color is due to coolant and/or water mixing with the oil and is bad), then I would recommend getting it fixed. But if you're not having to add any fluids (other than gas) and the engine is still running fine and with no loss in power, I would, personally, just keep running it. I am curious how M1 determined that the head gasket is bad in the first place. If you don't see fluid seeping down from where the engine head meets the engine block, the oil isn't discolored by the coolant and you don't have to keep adding fluids, the only other way you could tell that the head gasket was definitely blown is to remove the head in the first place. If he took a compression test that would only tell him that there may be a problem with either the head gasket or the piston rings, or valve seats are bad (or a gouged piston sleeve), but a compression test won't tell you which one. And that is true on any gas engine. I would even question that prognosis from M1. It sounds to me like he just picked something that he knew you would not be able to tell was actually bad or not so that he can get some extra cash. Now, I'm not saying he actually was doing that but it sound suspicious to me if there are no visual signs of fluids running down the side of the engine from where the heads meets the block. And if it was because of him finding coolant in the cylinder it would have fouled the spark plug and you would have noticed the loss of 1/4th the power of the engine.

And, just to let you know, I am not a professional car mechanic, but I have been working on my own cars and motorcycles since I was 16 and I am now 70. And that includes a few engine rebuilds on cars and on one of my motorcycles.
 
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