Author Topic: Auto Mechanic Fustration  (Read 7341 times)

Bea

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Auto Mechanic Fustration
« on: November 06, 2013, 02:37:39 PM »
I wanted to share my recent experience at the auto mechanic. I'm sure many people can relate the helpless feeling of bringing your vehicle in for a noise then getting the estimate phone call with a huge list of recommended repairs. In the past I always just went a long with whatever was recommended. I did the whole "oh I don't know anything about cars, just fix it!" This time I decided would be different. When I got the call I wrote down exactly what they recommended and did some internet research about what the cost should be then called some other local shops trying to get some estimates from them. The original shop recommended $600 worth of repairs and a second shop said they would do the same ones for around $500 the first shop was not willing to negotiate so I took the car to the second shop.  But after the second shop had the car they gave me an official estimate which was only $15 bucks less then what the original shop said. Since I had to pay the original shop $20 for an inspection I'm now behind what I would have been had I stayed at the first shop! I thought I was going to save $100 which would have been so worth the work, but that's not what happened. I'm frustrated that I tried to combat this helpless situation and ended up with it costing slightly more and lots of driving between the two and trying to figure out what to do. What would others have done in this situation for a better outcome? what could I have done differently?

Exflyboy

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2013, 03:01:02 PM »
Easy.. Just know everything about cars and never take it to a shop under any circumstances.. My cars have never been to an auto mechanic.

OK that sounds demeaning but it really isn't meant to be. If you want to know about cars you can figure it out. You can get books from the library. You can look up the symptoms for almost any car on the web. There are forums on the web for almost any make of vehicle with expert self taught mechanics only too happy to share their knowledge.

Of course to actually fix cars will take an investment of time and money so you may not consider that to be worth the effort so the best you can do is to get a good deal.

What did the shops tell you was wrong with it anyway?

Frank

daverobev

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2013, 03:42:05 PM »
Can you list out what is needed?

Bea

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2013, 03:51:38 PM »
Since two people have asked I will list what was recommended. Though it won't do me much good since I already gave the shop the go ahead! I guess what I'm asking is next time I'm facing a repair situation what could I do to get a better price? Considering my starting point learning everything about cars and buying the tools etc isn't really an option. How do I go in and not give the impression that my wallet is open for them to mine? How do I negotiate, or is that even possible? Do auto mechanics really charge women more is that an outdated stereotype?
1) Valve Cover gasket Replacement
2) Exhaust gasket replacement
3) Three new tires and alignment
4) Oil Change

Eric

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2013, 04:32:19 PM »
As someone who doesn't have the tools, space, or current knowledge to fix my own car, I choose my mechanic based on trust rather than on price.  To me, it's better to pay "full price" to someone I trust will only perform the work needed and will do it right the first time.  There are too many places that seem cheap, then they use crappy parts or try to fix stuff that's unnecessary.  I found my local mechanic by asking around and by looking at reviews on Yelp.

But of course, the best solution to mechanic issues is to ride your bike.  :)

Mrs.FamilyFinances

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2013, 04:32:54 PM »
Since two people have asked I will list what was recommended. Though it won't do me much good since I already gave the shop the go ahead! I guess what I'm asking is next time I'm facing a repair situation what could I do to get a better price? Considering my starting point learning everything about cars and buying the tools etc isn't really an option. How do I go in and not give the impression that my wallet is open for them to mine? How do I negotiate, or is that even possible? Do auto mechanics really charge women more is that an outdated stereotype?
1) Valve Cover gasket Replacement
2) Exhaust gasket replacement
3) Three new tires and alignment
4) Oil Change

As the wife of a mechanic, I can say emphatically that women are not charged more or less than men. Also, the prices are not set by the mechanic, unless you are at a 1 man shop. An oil change is a reasonable mantence expectation. The tires are probably somewhere you could do better though. We do not purchase our tires at his dealership. His dealership offers 20% off for customers having work done in the evening. It might be worth asking if there is any type of discount like that.

Bea

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2013, 04:46:13 PM »
Thanks for the replies! Yes, trust is huge. Since moving to a new location I haven't found a mechanic that I really trust. Yes, driving less is the best way to reduce cost and I've been for sure working on this.  Good to know that at least some mechanics don't charge women more, it's hard to shake the feeling that it's happening though.

Mrs. Foutch- Can you go into more detail about the tire thing? How would I go about asking for this discount?

daverobev

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2013, 05:54:25 PM »
Three tyres? That's an odd number (unless one is the spare!). Normally you change in pairs, at a minimum - so those on opposite sides of the car have the same grip (ie change front pair together, back pair together).

Tyres and oil are not "problems" per se - they are wear items. Tires are routinely $100 each (at least in Canada), so 3 of them plus an oil change is (or at least isn't a rip off) for $400.

Gasket replacements I'm not sure but honestly I wouldn't fret at $100. The parts are probably only a few dollars, but it's all about the labour!

So - IMHO - not so bad. If you've worn the tires out you've worn the tires out.

Bea

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2013, 06:05:48 PM »
We had one tire blow out a while back so that one is less worn then the other three. The tires and alignment they are charging around $300 for so I guess that isn't bad? Everything else is adding up to about another $300. Maybe I just need to relax about it and trust that it's an ok price for the work etc we did budget for this but it's still hard having no idea what I'm paying for and just taking someone elses word for it.

StarswirlTheMustached

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2013, 06:10:03 PM »
As someone who doesn't have the tools, space, or current knowledge to fix my own car, I choose my mechanic based on trust rather than on price.  To me, it's better to pay "full price" to someone I trust will only perform the work needed and will do it right the first time.  There are too many places that seem cheap, then they use crappy parts or try to fix stuff that's unnecessary.  I found my local mechanic by asking around and by looking at reviews on Yelp.

But of course, the best solution to mechanic issues is to ride your bike.  :)
Everything here. Especially the last bit.

Also-- just because it's too late to DIY this time doesn't mean you cannot do some learning for the next job. Pretty sure they don't charge women more, though (how 1950s!) -- if you're at a chain, prices are set at head office, and that sort of discrimination would come out as a very costly set of lawsuits sooner or later. That doesn't fly with a mom-and-pop operation, but I can't see it. Those guys will gouge equally, men and women, if they think the customer will let them get away with it. (Dealers too, for that matter-- if they can't adjust the price, they can still charge you for work that doesn't need doing, and you don't know enough to refuse.)

For the record, 300 for the gasket job sounds reasonable to me. Think of this as a teachable moment! You don't want to feel this helpless next time? If you aren't comfortable learning enough to DIY, you can at least learn enough to know what they're doing for you and why.

StarryC

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2013, 08:49:20 PM »
Knowing everything probably isn't reasonable.  I find knowing two subsets of things helpful.

1) Knowing what is routine, even if expensive maintenance.  I look at my car manual for this, mostly.  Oil changes ever 5,000 miles.  Tires every 50,000 miles (ish) and certainly every 6ish years.  Radiator fluid at X miles, Spark plugs at Y, etc.  You might still wait until you have a problem to fix something, but if you know that "it's about time" then you are less likely to be taken advantage of.  It sounds like your oil change and tire issues should be routine maintenance that you have a budget for. 

2) Knowing how cars work, generally, is helpful.  http://auto.howstuffworks.com/engine2.htm
You can also ask questions, but knowing the 101 will help.  So your "valve cover gasket" is the probably rubber-ish ring that keeps air in/out of the valve to get the right mix of air and fuel.  The exhaust gasket is a similar part that controls the air going out. 
 

Greg

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2013, 09:21:10 PM »
I'm a big DIY mechanic and would like to comment. 

A valve cover gasket is a cheap, easy-to-replace part.  It's literally the gasket beneath the top cover of the engine.  Usually one thin outline of rubber or cork.  Anywhere from 2 to 10 bolts/screws to loosen, replace, tighten.  About a 10 minute job to replace a $15 part.

Tires, alignment; go to a tire store.

The exhaust gasket could be difficult, but first how do you know it's needed?  Does yours make noise or have some other sign of leakage?

Oil change put it off or go to an oil change place.

Exflyboy

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2013, 07:58:38 AM »
The best thing for tires (or tyres, UK,Canada, Australia) is to go to the discount chain stores.. NEVER the dealer, at least compare prices.. Choose a discount chain store that will do lifetime alignments.. This will cost $150 by itself but then they will re-align all 4 wheels every 6000 miles for free for as long as you own the car and whether you buy the tires from them in the future or not.

My alignment moves very slightly each 6000 miles.

Firestone .. if you buy their tires will also rebalance the wheels each time free as well.

Thats a pretty good deal and will maximise the life of your tires.

Frank

imbros

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2013, 08:55:17 AM »
Since two people have asked I will list what was recommended. Though it won't do me much good since I already gave the shop the go ahead! I guess what I'm asking is next time I'm facing a repair situation what could I do to get a better price? Considering my starting point learning everything about cars and buying the tools etc isn't really an option. How do I go in and not give the impression that my wallet is open for them to mine? How do I negotiate, or is that even possible? Do auto mechanics really charge women more is that an outdated stereotype?
1) Valve Cover gasket Replacement
2) Exhaust gasket replacement
3) Three new tires and alignment
4) Oil Change

It obviously depends on what make the car is, but $600 for all these is not a rip-off. If you go to a garage, you pay for it. They have lots of overhead and labor they need to pay for.

Bea

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #14 on: November 07, 2013, 10:08:55 AM »
The shop is now calling me saying that the timing belt is very worn. To replace that and the pullies and water pump at the same time would be an additional $692. This is starting to make me a little worried since the car is only worth about $1500 blue book. Any immediate advice highly appreciated!

Greg

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #15 on: November 07, 2013, 11:03:32 AM »
Timing belt replacement should be done according to the mileage interval in the owner's manual, for instance every 60K.  If the belt is exposed, it will wear faster, and oil leaks will soften the belt.

It would help to know the year, make and model of your car.  Some engine are interference engines, and can be internally damaged if the belt breaks or strips, others it's not damaging just inconvenient.

Be wary of add-on jobs, they may be trying to get more work out of you while/if they can.  Sadly it's not uncommon in this profession.

daverobev

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #16 on: November 07, 2013, 11:10:09 AM »
The best thing for tires (or tyres, UK,Canada, Australia) is to go to the discount chain stores.. NEVER the dealer, at least compare prices.. Choose a discount chain store that will do lifetime alignments.. This will cost $150 by itself but then they will re-align all 4 wheels every 6000 miles for free for as long as you own the car and whether you buy the tires from them in the future or not.

My alignment moves very slightly each 6000 miles.

Firestone .. if you buy their tires will also rebalance the wheels each time free as well.

Thats a pretty good deal and will maximise the life of your tires.

Frank

That's tires in Canada ;) I'm actually coming around to 'tire' from 'tyre'.. kinda prefer it (unlike most of Webster's, ahem, slight modifications!)

Bea

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #17 on: November 07, 2013, 11:29:04 AM »
Thanks Greg! it's a 2001 Mazada Protege. I asked them to save out the parts for me so I could see the wear on the old parts, that may keep them from adding stuff on? I don't know. A website recommended I ask for that so I did. Is that even a good idea? I think my next project is going to be to make a spread sheet with all the routine maintenance so next time something comes up I'm not caught being like "the timing what? ok I guess" Thanks for all the replies!

exranger06

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #18 on: November 07, 2013, 11:55:27 AM »
How many miles are on the car? Do you know if the timing belt has ever been changed before and if so, how many years/miles ago? Like others have said, you NEED to change that belt every so often according to Mazda's recommended interval. If it breaks when you're driving down the road, you will cause major engine damage. So you need to replace it BEFORE it breaks, even if the car is running perfectly fine.

That being said, if it was recently replaced or it's not due for a change for a while according to Mazda's interval, then you shouldn't have to replace it just yet.

Greg

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #19 on: November 07, 2013, 12:09:42 PM »
A Google search reveals the '01 Protegé has an interference engine, so timing belt replacements are very important.  Every 60K according to search results.  At the same time do the water pump, tensioner pulley and idler pulley.  It's about $300 in parts.  It's a very involved job on your car, so the cost sounds about right.  If I were doing this myself I would also change the cam and crank seals to prevent future oil leaks that could ruin the belt.  You may want to ask about that.

If you know it's been done more recently than that, then don't have them do it.

the fixer

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #20 on: November 07, 2013, 03:05:23 PM »
This is also a good time to learn that not all cars have timing belts. Most Japanese cars and at least some American cars use timing chains with a MUCH longer life. Replacing a timing belt is expensive and very difficult to DIY, at least on the models of cars I've researched it usually requires highly specialized, expensive tools.

It's probably something you have to take care of, but file this bit of info away for the next car you buy. Find out before you buy if the car has a timing belt, if so (and if you're still interested in buying it) when was it last replaced.

Your idea to start recording maintenance for your car is a very good one. I first started doing this for precisely the same reason, so I could make an educated decision about what mechanics were doing to my car. It can also help you notice issues. A previous car of mine got its power steering fluid changed at an oil change place because "it was dirty," so I just said "okay." Then maybe two oil changes later I was told the fluid was dirty again. I had the records to determine there was a problem because the fluid was supposed to last a lot longer than that, and if I hadn't been recording this stuff I might not have even remembered I had this done before.

Exflyboy

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #21 on: November 07, 2013, 05:45:05 PM »
Do you know somebody who is a good backyard mechanic who likes working on cars?

My Wife has a 1994 Protege and its a pretty simple job.. Providing you have changed a timing belt before. Its about $150 to 200 in parts, make sure you do the waterpump, crank and cam seals at the same time.

The 94 model is a NON interference model.. i.e if it breaks it wont hurt anything, but the later models could be interference.

You have to get it done if has used up its milage.

Wish you lived closer I'd give you a discount over that $694

the fixer

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #22 on: November 07, 2013, 10:15:31 PM »
frankh, for my own edification, does a Protege timing belt change require something to lock the two pulleys in place while you change the belt? Isn't that usually a custom tool? I only know about timing belt changes on diesel VWs from when I was researching buying one, and that looks like a nightmare.

Greg

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #23 on: November 08, 2013, 09:13:08 AM »
You can do it without a special tool.  As long as the timing marks on the cam sprockets are aligned.  You can also use a rubber wine cork to help hold them in proper time while you work. 

There might be other special tools you need.  As long as the timing marks are all correct upon new belt installation, and rechecked after a few by-hand engine rotations, it should be fine.

Exflyboy

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #24 on: November 08, 2013, 11:00:09 AM »
No special tools needed on the 94 at least, nor on my 97 and 99 model Neons (97 is a SOHC and the 99 a DOHC)/

Now of course there are some tools needed.. the sprocket pully puller (for the Neons at least) and the 250 ft lb torque wrench can be rented for free from Autozone with a deposit.

About the the one tool the makes life so much easier is a decent ( Harbor Freight "Earthquake" model is awesome) impact wrench to undo the crank pulley bolt.. I have done it without on the Protgege by jambing a long wrench on the floor and cranking the engine on the starter motor..:)

In fact I have so many tools I really could do peoples timing belts as a side business/hobby..:)

Frank

Greg

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Re: Auto Mechanic Fustration
« Reply #25 on: November 08, 2013, 05:06:32 PM »
I also use a HF 1/2" drive electric impact wrench, priceless tool for the DIYer.