Do Most Mechanics Do This? (Fix Parts ISO Replacing)

I was watching an episode of “Wheeler Dealers” on Youtube. They had a BMW that had a noisy alternator. The mechanic (Dave China) removed the alternator, and replaced the bearings (took him about 30 minutes). This cost about $32.00 in parts, vs, a new alternator for $600.00. Now, the impression i get is that most garages will not do such repairs-they prefer to replace parts (the garage sells you an alternator and marks it up 30-50%). They save time, because instead of a 1-2 hour job, they can do it in 30 minutes. So the garage makes larger profits by replacing components.
How do you find an old time shop which will actually do such a repair, instead of just replacing parts?

His name is Edd China and he can fix virtually anything on a car. What he usually demonstrates is how the home mechanic could repair a car, not what to expect at a repair shop. Much of what he does requires tools that most home mechanics don’t have, but it’s always educational to see how one could repair something if they had the time, money or tools, and know-how. So that excludes most of us. Always fun to watch, though. It’s my favorite show on Velocity.

Unknown. This is why I stopped taking any of my cars to have anybody else work on them unless absolutely necessary. I do it myself or it doesn’t get done.

I’ve been screwed over by “part swappers” too many times. (Well, like twice. That’s too many for me!) They cure symptoms for a little while but never fix the problem. That and their shitty attitudes. I tell them, “I’ve got this 1988 Ford F-250…” and they butt in with, “Gee! That’s too old! Why don’t you get a newer truck?”

:rolleyes: Fuck off, Jr.

The second time I had to replace my alternator in my F-350, I decided to take it apart. I found that the diode bridge had bad solder joints, so I cleaned it up and used stronger silver-bearing solder to re-solder the joints. It never failed again.

My friend has this Vespa that was getting harder and harder to start. New starter was $180. I spent about 20-30 minutes removing the starter, another hour or so to take it apart, fiddle around inside of it to clean and repair the contacts, and put it back together, and then about 10 minutes to slap it back in the scooter. Total cost, $0 and the starter works great now.

Except my labor is free, a mechanic would charge, what, $120/hr in these parts? And he’s got no way of knowing what he’s going to find inside that starter when he cracks it open. It could just need a good scrub, or it could be a melted mass of copper.

This hypothetical mechanic would have 2 pitches for the customer. Pitch 1, the shop buys a new starter and the mechanic bills an hour of labor to remove and replace, total cost, maybe $320 after a 10% markup on the part. Pitch 2, the mechanic bills 2.5 hours of labor to do everything that I did, with absolutely no guarantee that it will work, total cost $300 and the customer might still need to replace the starter in the near future.

What customer wouldn’t choose pitch 1, paying an extra $20 for a new starter with a warranty?

The only place you’ll find mechanics rebuilding parts is where the labor rate is low.

Recently retired truck mechanic ( shop foreman). I worked for a large leasing company whose policy was to change parts with factory authorized rebuilt or new parts. I used to fix them or overhaul them anyway. A few days ago my ex wife came by with some electrical problems, it all traced back to a bad dash module in her explorer. I pulled out the dash module and found about 10 bad solder joints which only took a few minutes to fix.

Yes, and also, don’t newer cars have a lot more integration of parts, that are more specialized, especially with the computerized parts? I get the impression that, in the end, a lot of problems are going to require some part replacement anyway, no matter how resourceful the mechanic may be, simply because of the car’s design.

I can see both sides. If the mechanic changes the bearings for $150.00, how does he know if the diode bridge is ready to fail? Putting in a new alternator at least gives the customer a warranty. What is a gray area is the use of rebuilt stuff-a rebuilt alternator can be just as good as new (or it may not be). In a late model BMW, the access is so difficult, it may be wise to replace (and avoid the pain of fixing twice).

Carburetors, starters, alternators, and and brake cylinders (master and wheel) are things I have had success either rebuilding or getting rebuilt by someone else. Most of these were on older cars where the rebuild kits were easily available, but the whole thing was too expensive or hard to get.

Sometimes I think there is a disparity between what is the correct thing to do at the professional level and what one can do when working on there own stuff. When you do the work yourself, on your own car if something has a 90% chance of working satisfactorily, then you might do it. For the professional repair shop, 90% odds of success may be considered abysmal; so if replacing a part will give 99.9% assurance of success vs the 90% success rate of the repair alternative they will offer the alternative with acceptable odds.

The reason they did it on the show was because that series was all about do-it-yourself and saving every penny. Plus a BMW alternator is going to be a lot more than one for a Sentra*!* Shops used to do more of this back in the day, but the flood of cheap and reasonably reliable Chinese replacement parts in the last 10-20 years has made it less economical to. Most shops don’t even cut brake rotors or drums anymore, replacement ones are so cheap…

Rebuilding alternators, starters, and many other parts was the norm decades ago. Things have changed over the years, and now auto parts stores typically don’t even carry the parts needed to do the rebuild. So it’s not that the shop chooses not to fix rather than replace, but that the market makes it unfeasible if not impossible.

This came about for the reasons ralph124c and Mr. Nylock mentioned. Not every part is routinely replaced in the typical rebuild, and sometimes a part that tested fine at the time of the rebuild goes out a few months later. Now the customer is disappointed and upset, and the shop looks incompetent or dishonest.

The rebuilt units supplied by parts stores are produced in rebuilding facilities by people who specialize in rebuilding and who have specialized test equipment not available to repair shops. A high quality rebuilt unit will typically last for years, effecting a good repair value.

So between the unavailability of parts and the impossibility of predicting the lifespan of various components, I doubt you’re going to find and old time shop to do a rebuild in the field.

What you (the OP) is stating is done, just on another level. A lot of those parts on the aftermarket level are rebuilds and require a core deposit, meaning they get your old alternator (and rebuild it to resell).

The mechanic wants to be able to repair cars quickly, this makes the customer happy and allows him/her to service more customers. It also allows him to specialize on working on the car. The rebuild is done by another business with those specialized in that and with the tools for that.

Furthermore the way the customers work is if I put bearings in their alternator, and two months later a diode shorts they are going to expect you to fix it for free as “You just fixed it!” and “You must have done something wrong!”
It’s much better for customer satisfaction and my blood pressure to install a rebuilt unit.

Just to be more clear: The old parts aren’t ending up in a landfill. They all get sent to jobbers and get remanufactured (and if they can’t be refurbished they get sold for scrap metal). These reman’ed parts are what you get at a mechanic’s shop (or a parts store if you DIY). The only real place to buy an actual 100% new starter, alternator etc. is from a new car dealership. And they are ridiculously expensive.

This was true in the past, but more recently the aftermarket has been offering brand new units for some vehicles, often not much more expensive than the rebuilts.

Nitpick: Just for the record, “ISO” means “in search of” not “instead of”.

Carry on.

Careful, when talking about technical things ISO can also mean International Organization for Standardization. (I know the letters don’t match up, see the link…)

I’m well aware of that but I didn’t think it was germane to this conversation.

Bolding mine.