And you guys always think you're getting ripped off at the repair shop

Just wanted to share something with all those Dopers who always assume that auto mechanics are overcharging them.

I was cruising thru our shop yesterday and saw a car being worked on that looked almost completely gutted. Asked the tech working on it what happened to it. It seems like the heat exchanger for the air conditioner needed replacing.

Well, this sounds like a simple job; the exchanger costs a little over $100, so it shouldn’t be to expensive to put in a new one. Yeh, right.

These are the steps required:
Remove dashboard. This requires that the center console (where the gear shift stuff is located) be removed. This requires that both front seats and the floor carpet be removed.

The following two photos show what the car looked like after these steps were completed. Looks like a grenade went off in the car.

The poor guy is going to pay well over a thousand to get his air conditioner working again.

The modern auto designer is the auto repair shop’s best friend.

Ugghhhh. I had to go through something pretty bad to replace a leaking heater core.

After I got it all put back together the NEW core leaked too:mad:

The average person doesn’t believe they’re being ripped off so much as every time they go to the shop for one thing the mechanic finds three other things. Every year I have to get my car inspected and emissions tested, so I’m into the mechanic for $75 before he even tells me what’s wrong. It is rare indeed that something isn’t wrong, so there’s more money out the door, almost always for a control arm or ball joint or some $20 part that costs another $200 to install. None of this is helped by the infamous mechanics who actually do rip you off.

In the end, people need to consider the cost of maintenance when they buy a car, including both regular and irregular things that come up. For some cars the cost can be absurd, such as the fix for timing chain issues on Audi V-8s (about $8000, not joking). As for your guy, $1000 is a good price for that job. If he didn’t want to pay it he could have gone without air indefinitely.

Looks about like most cars these days. The AC evaporator and/or heater core (they usually live inside the same box) is very deeply buried and requires an ungodly amount of disassembly to reach.

Having to pull the seats is a bit more than usual but taking out the steering wheel and dash is normal. Replacing the blend doors in my pickup was billed as something like nine hours book labor.

You’re certainly right. A few makes (those folks who made the Zero during WWII being a prime example) have a really bad reputation for expensive maintenance.

And did you maybe notice those six jillion wires dangling down where the dashboard once was. Each of those had to be disconnected before the dash even came out. And then, hopefully all reconnected to the right gauges and controls when things are finally put back together.

BTW, book labor on this repair was nine hours. At a little over $100 per hour that builds up fast.

Reading comments on heater cores and wiring harnesses reminds me of a theory I developed as a kid working on cars. I figured out that the auto manufacturers tossed the heater core and wiring harness in the air and spot welded the body around them. Sure seemed that way to me at the time.
Makes me wonder how Han and Chewy were able to wrench on the Millennium Falcon so easily all the time.

Mitsubishi, in case anyone doesn’t know.

This is part of why I bought a new car. I drove my previous car into the dust, a $3000 vehicle that lasted over 10 years and consumed very little maintenance (Corolla). But it was obviously a clunker by the end. The total cost for the new one seems almost outrageous at first, but then you consider that 1) I am the only person to ever drive this car (except at the lot I guess, 21 miles on the odometer when I test-drove it), 2) for some extra $$$, I got the extended warranty- eight years! It doesn’t cover every little thing, but it covers pretty much every big thing. And it is a beautiful, comfortable car.

So. I have transportation for 8 more years, and who knows how long after that? Problem solved. Next!

Duhhh…they had plenty of space!

In my experience, it won’t cover anything that’s likely to happen. Anything that does happen will somehow be excluded from the warranty.

no, what it is is that cars are increasingly put together via sub-assemblies. one sub-supplier takes the heater core and A/C evaporator and installs it into the HVAC box/manifold. Then they ship those HVAC manifolds to the supplier who builds the instrument panel (dashboard.) The supplier assembles the entire dashboard and ships that to the automaker’s assembly plant, where they just pull the completed dashboard off of the carrier and bolt it into the car.

unless you’re a premium brand, making cars is a low-margin business. cars are designed to be rapidly and efficiently assembled.

if it’s a factory extended warranty (i.e. it came from Toyota) it’s probably pretty good. If it’s a third party service plan, those can be a minefield of gotchas.

I know enough about cars to understand when a shop is being honest. And by honest I mean an attempt to accurately diagnose a problem. I’m no certified mechanical but I’d worked on the normal shade tree stuff up to and including engine swaps.

I can give an example of a bad shop. Years ago I had a steering issue. It was stiff at set turning points. I didn’t ask them to look at the brakes or any other part of the car. Some of the estimate was for work I just did and were functioning just fine. What I experienced was outright deception. The estimate I got was for work not requested and the bill exceeded the value of the car. I may have actually laughed out loud reading it. Don’t remember.

It turned out to be something simple. The connecting rod between the steering wheel and rack and pinion had a u-joint in it and one of the joints failed. $9 from a junk yard and 10 minutes of work. Not being a mechanic I found this out the hard way by removing the rack and pinion and setting it on the ground. It worked just fine. I was not amused at the time I wasted because of the fraudulent repair estimate.

That was years ago when cars were simple to work on. A modern car is more complex and thus harder to diagnose. Front wheel drive cars with variable timed twin-cam V6’s jammed in there sideways is a guaranteed nightmare. This means a shop has to be on it’s game to deal with it. So now they are measured against another criteria beyond honesty and that is competency.

Good car shops are a godsend. It takes experienced mechanics to diagnose a car today. It takes a lot of expensive tools to back that up. I personally hold a good mechanic in high esteem and I see a good shop as a pillar in the community.

So to the op, people have a lot to fear from a bad shop. Fewer and fewer people know enough about cars to make any kind of judgement so that fosters an atmosphere of distrust. I know of a number of great shops in my area and I have the stories to back them up. They diagnosed and repaired stuff that dealers couldn’t fix. They are really good at what they do. But how does the vast majority of people know that? All they know is a modern car is expensive when it breaks down.

I don’t actually see how your OP makes me, as a consumer, not believe I was ripped off.

Since I’m not allowed in the shop, your bill for 9 hours of work for a $100 part just screams ripoff. Without being able to see the level of disassembly required, I would grumble about the bill and never come back to your shop for any other work.

It’s because I don’t trust any shops that I do as much of my own repair as possible. But sometimes you do need a professional.

I had a noise coming from my Jeep that sounded exactly like rod knock, but it never got worse and the engine never blew up. The best minds I could have listen to it could not figure out what it was.

I took it to a large chain shop for diagnosis, and they said, yet it was rod knock, and the engine needed a complete rebuild, and oh by the way, your belts, shocks, hoses, brakes are all bad. We can fix it all for (something like) $6K. Since I knew it wasn’t rod knock, I thanks them through clenched teeth and paid the disgnostic bill.

Took it to another shop, they found it was simply a loose torque converter bolt. Tightened it up and sent me on my way with just the labor charge ($60 IIRC). NONE of the other “repairs” were required, especially a total engine rebuild!

So THAT is why we’re all afraid of ripoff mechancs!

Research before and after you get a quote. There’s a youtube video for just about every make/model car and repair out there.

I’ve worked on enough cars to know how much of a pain changing things can be.

Had a van where to change out the spark plugs you had to remove the dash, the front passenger tire, and part of the floor board.

Had another car where you had to change the battery by taking off the rear drivers tire.

Had a car where to change out the water pump you had to disassemble the front wheel assembly down to the axle.

As for heater cores; fuck them. Most of them can easily be accessed through the dash without removing the dash if engineers had simply designed the dash with a freaking door to access it. The last time I replaced one I simply cut a hole out of the dash and pulled the heater core that way.

Modern vehicles are not designed with an eye towards preventive maintenance or repair, they just aren’t. The high level of fuckery involved with even basic repairs with components like starters or alternators attests to this. While spark plug changes are no longer a yearly basic tuneup item - being routinely good for 100k miles or longer - they can be a complete nightmare to change and costing thousands of $$ if they break off and/or launch themselves from the cylinder heads as in the case of some Ford trucks. It used to be a relaxing ritual, suitable for a sunny afternoon and a cold beer. Not anymore. Brake bleeding requiring a proprietary scanner, battery replacement necessitating a trip to the dealer to have the air conditioning re-booted, the list is getting longer all the time.

I reserve the right to firmly believe I am being ripped off at the repair shop.

Your are right. And along with experienced mechanics it takes a ton of software to keep up with all the new manuals and changes in manuals and whatever the manufacture just found out.

And about the tools used by the mechanics - except for the big stuff - lifts, pumps, jacks, etc., all of the each mechanic’s tools are owned by the mechanics. Our guys each have between $30,000 and $70,000 personally invested in their tools.

Side fact. Each of them also has to hire a CPA to do their income taxes to take care of the nightmare of depreciation on hundreds of items, all costing different amounts and most purchased at differing times.

Amusing story of a customer “ripoff” that our shop was involved in.

A little, rather ancient, Japanese lady (with minimal language skills, at least in English) brought her car in to us because it wouldn’t start - no electricity to the starter or anywhere else.

We checked it out and found that her brand new battery had failed and had to be replaced.

I was up in the front office when the shop owner was attempting to explain to the lady why she had to purchase a new battery.

The conversation went something like this. (Paraphrased a bit for brevity.)

“Well, we found the problem - your battery is bad and you have to get another one and take the bad one back to where you bought it”


“I know, mam, but it has failed. The only thing you can count on about a new part is that nobody has used it yet. It can be bad out of the box.”

“NO! BATTERY GOOD!”…and so on for for quite a while.

I know that lady went away with a firm conviction that we had taken her to the cleaners.

I often tell the owner that he should write a book about the adventures of owning an auto shop.

When I test drove the Expedition I ended up buying there was a noise whenever the HVAC came on, obviously the blend door actuator, which is a dirt cheap part but incredibly difficult to replace due to having to remove a good bit of the instrument panel, etc.

Consequently the dealership sold it to me dirt cheap and provided a due bill for the repair (really, Pre-Owned Cars should have communicated with Service before agreeing to this!). It was a $1000 repair according to the invoice.