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Advice on tactful way to deal with local mechanic


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kzilla
Novice

Mar 4, 2015, 8:43 PM

Post #1 of 18 (1108 views)
  post locked   Advice on tactful way to deal with local mechanic  

I thought I would give this forum a try since I felt I might be able to speak to some people that would be able to give me advice from the perspective of the Auto Repair shop. I apologize for the longwinded post, just thought I would provide all of the details for clarity.

I have a 2007 Toyota Tundra SR5 single cab short bed 4x4 with the 5.7l v8. Has 58k miles on it.

I recently replaced the Battery and afterwards started noticing that the voltmeter on the dash wasn't reading where it should. Put a multimeter on the battery and ran a few tests, i.e. engine off/key out, engine idle, all accessories on etc. and found that the Alternator was not charging the battery correctly. There was some noise on initial startup, and the following day the battery light actually came on. So Alternator is probably in need of attention/replacement.

On the recommendation of a friend, I called a local repair shop to see about having the Alternator replaced, along with the serpentine belt since it's coming off anyway. Guy over the phone said that the labor to replace the Alternator "might be like $90 bucks" plus the cost of the Alternator itself which could vary in price and would be determined later.

OK, fine. Brought it in, and barely made it because the alternator had completely failed and the Truck was noticeably running off of battery power alone, (lights dimming, dahs indicator lights turning on, yadda yadda). Obviously the Alternator is fried. So they tell me it would be $45 to diagnose the problem, even though we all agreed it was pretty obviously the alternator was boned. I made the mistake of not asking if the $45 was going to go towards the repair if I had it done there, it was an assumption I made that later proved incorrect. My bad.

So truck is there, and I'm not likely to take it anywhere else since it would need to be towed, so they kind of have me by the shorthairs. I figured that the "might be like $90 bucks" was probably going to be low, but I wasn't aware just how low. They call me back and say that, yes, it is in fact the Alternator that's bad, and the cost to replace it plus labor would be $850 plus "like $50 bucks" for the serpentine belt. Good god.

At this point I'm regretting having not done more research, and with the truck out of commission and already in their bay I give them the verbal go ahead.

I come back the next day, and the total bill to replace the belt and the Alternator is $960. I feel like this was a PREMIUM amount of money and would likely have only been equaled by the dealer.

Invoice reads as follows:

Parts
Alternator: 11352 $319.00
Serp Belt: 5080950 $$85.00
Shop supplies: $25

Labor
R an R ALT $450
DIAG $45


Having a bit of sticker shock, and with several people behind me in line, I pay before looking over the ticket real close, and go home.

I open the hood, and look at my new belt and alternator, and everything seems to be in order. I can't tell how they got the alternator out exactly, so I start looking around. Well I find where they went in from, because when looking through my passenger side wheel well, they have the whole thing torn apart with stuff hanging down and clearly not put back together. Not exactly premium workmanship.

So after finding this, I go to investigate the seemingly overpriced parts. Keep in mind, I understand there is markup on parts. But when the belt Lists for $35+/- and the Alternator, which was a rebuild, lists for $180+\-, I feel a bit taken advantage of. Then, to top it off, I realize that the $45 that they charged me to diagnose what I had essentially already diagnosed was applied ON TOP OF the removal and replacement, and not applied towards it like every other repair place I've ever been to.

My questions are as follows:

~Am I being unreasonable in thinking that I shouldn't have to put things back together after having paid someone $450 labor to do it?
~Is it normal for this truck, albeit with an alternator in a more difficult than normal place to get to, to cost $450 in labor to replace said alternator?
~Am I being unreasonable in thinking that $320 for a rebuilt alternator and $85 for a belt is a bit excessive?
~Am I wrong in wanting to bring up these concerns with them?

Part of the way I'm feeling about this is my fault. I didn't do my due diligence and I didn't ask enough questions. I just can't help but feel a bit taken advantage of.

Just looking for some advice or maybe a smack on the head if I'm way off base. Either way, any words of wisdom are appreciated. Thanks in advance...


Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Mar 5, 2015, 12:48 AM

Post #2 of 18 (1090 views)
  post locked   Re: Advice on tactful way to deal with local mechanic  

OK - YOU agreed to the $850 + their cost of belt not stated at that time and gave the go ahead. The "shop supplies" should have been mentioned and unknown whether any taxes were included in the final cost not itemized here or missed that.


The end point is you found sloppy work having gone thru the wheel well. That isn't acceptable to me. You could talk to manager of shop about costs above the quote and without much ado probably get it both fixed up neater and that amount back.


In short YOU agreed to this cost and had the chance as you said to pay the $45 diagnostic charge and tow it out of there. That charge applied to the job or not should have been discussed or posted somewhere the policy on that.


Doesn't really matter what the prices are except amounts over the price if it were only to wash your windshield you agreed to it so the discussion on that much is over.


Ask nicely about amounts over what you expected and fix up the wheel well work not right is on them IMO no arguments on that and if the parts removed were in impossible shape not noticed to put back together neatly that should generate a call to you of "unseen" issues then and there and give you choices of approach not just give it back to you to find it not looking right.
The time to negotiate a cost of any work on anything vehicles or not is BEFORE you give the go ahead not after. I suggest getting a final total price of a job up front and avoid surprises in the future,


T



kzilla
Novice

Mar 5, 2015, 1:57 AM

Post #3 of 18 (1085 views)
  post locked   Re: Advice on tactful way to deal with local mechanic  

Tom,

Thanks for your reply. You're right. Ultimately, the dissatisfaction with the price is on me, as I didn't do enough research prior to giving the go ahead over the phone. I wasn't really expecting to haggle afterwards, and get more money taken off anyway, just wanting an opinion on the charges from other knowledgeable people. Either reassurance that they aren't totally off base, or that yes, they seem steep. These people are folks that my friend has been taking his vehicles to for a good number of years, and in trusting my friend, and I suppose in part due to my laziness in not doing my due diligence, I trusted to get a fair deal from this shop. Now, with what limited info that I have, it doesn't appear that I did, and I was just looking for confirmation one way or the other. I didn't have the part numbers that they intended on using for the vehicle until after the work was done, and without sitting there with a stopwatch, I have no idea if it should take a shop four and a half hours to remove and replace or not, or if there is a book value that says four and a half hours, as I don't have access to this information. That's why I was asking. Not so that I could retroactively get money taken off. I should have been more clear. What I wanted to bring up to the shop was the sneaky nature, imo, in regards to the $45 diagnostic charge, the mystery $25 shop supplies, and the sloppy workmanship. The wheel well is just not put back together. It wasn't and isn't something that is impossible to put back due to unforeseen circumstances etc. they just didn't do it. I could probably go out to an auto parts place, get the plastic push-button fasteners that are now missing that I would need to put it back together myself, but feel like that's not something I should have to do, especially for the amount of money I paid.

As far as the workmanship concerns, I'll give them the opportunity to fix the wheel well without making a big deal about it because people make mistakes, but unless anyone here or otherwise can give me insight on the fairness of the costs, I'll likely just not use this particular establishment in the future. I don't want to make a big deal about something that ultimately I had the power to avoid, and I don't want to cause a problem with this shop and my Buddy. It just appears as though this is the sort of business that one cannot simply trust to give a fair deal without watching them like a hawk, or to complete a job as it should be, and that's not the sort of establishment I'd like to continue doing business with in the future. Lesson learned.

Thank you again for your input Tom.


Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Hammer Time profile image

Mar 5, 2015, 3:52 AM

Post #4 of 18 (1076 views)
  post locked   Re: Advice on tactful way to deal with local mechanic  

Most of the time I don't agree with the complaints we see here concerning billing but in this case you definitely were gouged.

The diagnostic charge and the shop supplies are probably the only things on this bill that are legitimate. They have every right to charge those and most shops do, however the labor seems to be outrageous.
The flat rate time on this job is 2.3 hours so even at a fairly high rate of $100 per hour, that is only $230. Although the specifics of the part like the brand aren't listed and there are probably a large range of prices available, that price seems on the high side for the part.



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We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



Discretesignals
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Discretesignals profile image

Mar 5, 2015, 5:42 AM

Post #5 of 18 (1066 views)
  post locked   Re: Advice on tactful way to deal with local mechanic  

I question the labor they charged you too. Is this thing a rust bucket or did they have a problem with fasteners while getting the alternator out? I wonder if they didn't overlap some of the the belt labor with the alternator. The belt is 1.4hr to change. There is no excuse whatsoever for doing sloppy work and leaving stuff not put back.

Is this a licensed and insured repair shop? What is the shop's labor rate?





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(This post was edited by Discretesignals on Mar 5, 2015, 5:43 AM)


kzilla
Novice

Mar 5, 2015, 5:48 AM

Post #6 of 18 (1063 views)
  post locked   Re: Advice on tactful way to deal with local mechanic  

HT,

Thanks for your reply. That's more or less what I was thinking.

Unfortunately, as Tom said, I was the one that agreed to it, so I have nobody to really blame but myself. I just needed the truck fixed, didn't have anywhere to do it myself, and had a truck essentially broken down already at a repair shop.

The parts are as follows:

Quality-Built 11352 150A Alternator

Dayco 5080950 Serpentine Belt

As far as I can tell, they charged about double what those parts list for, and they likely paid less than that. I get parts markups, I really do. I wouldn't expect to pay their cost. But as I said, the markup seems pretty crazy for the labor being so high. It's usually one or the other, not both and then some. And then to leave the job unfinished on top of it is kind of insulting.

Just disappointed in myself for not being more careful. I wont likely repeat my error.

Thanks for your input. It's really appreciated.


Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Mar 5, 2015, 5:53 AM

Post #7 of 18 (1061 views)
  post locked   Re: Advice on tactful way to deal with local mechanic  

I didn't say but will now that I thought it was way too high for that job without the time book HT just posted that I never went by and did or didn't add for so called shop supplies on a job by job thing.


For listed times that are already on the books just a guide to me as not alone but rusty area here and some silly work requires tons more time just to avoid breaking items in the way such as exhaust parts if requiring removal no real telling but let folks know up front what is at risk for a job.


The "speedy-dry" for absorbing oil, shop rags, and a few things I don't consider out of ordinary. If your inner fender required a ton of new clips per chance (many are similar and cheap by the 100s) OK add something for that but said the first time YOU should expect the vehicle back without much evidence of it being worked on or aware of something found while working.


Soooo, yes it was too much for what you had done to me too. I see the assorted costs added by places even now people show me bills from assorted places tossing in "hazmat" or disposal charges and some others. That too should be posted or mentioned when you ask for a price for a job.


On this specific job and bill I would be pissed at sloppy work. That you aren't supposed to have to negotiate no matter what work car or home type stuff you get done.


Do communicate better up front anytime in doubt,


T



kzilla
Novice

Mar 5, 2015, 5:55 AM

Post #8 of 18 (1059 views)
  post locked   Re: Advice on tactful way to deal with local mechanic  

Discrete,

This is no rust bucket. I barely even drive it. They don't salt our roads here or anything and I keep my vehicles cleaned.

To be honest, I don't even know what the labor rate is, but when we talked on the phone he said that "The book says it takes 4.5 hours" So I just assumed that it must be $100 an hour since they charged me $450, but you could be right, they may be overlapping labor. But I mean come on, you're removing the belt to replace the alternator already.

This is a licensed and insured "Christian Values" shop, in business since '92. Just my first encounter with them.


Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Mar 5, 2015, 6:09 AM

Post #9 of 18 (1054 views)
  post locked   Re: Advice on tactful way to deal with local mechanic  

"Doubling up" as posts came fast when I posted. If and IMO parts being replaced are taken off anyway for the primary job whatever it is I don't find it fair to charge as if that was the job alone on top - period on that bit.


No rust now you said - then why was this job so hard?


T



Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Hammer Time profile image

Mar 5, 2015, 6:14 AM

Post #10 of 18 (1051 views)
  post locked   Re: Advice on tactful way to deal with local mechanic  

You're a little bit wrong about the belt though. Just because the belt was loosened and slipped off the alternator pulley does not mean it is removed. Sometimes it is around a motor mount or second belt that first has to be removed the completely remove the belt. I'm not saying that is the case here but it is possible. They are allowing a lot of time on that belt for some reason.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



kzilla
Novice

Mar 5, 2015, 6:25 AM

Post #11 of 18 (1046 views)
  post locked   Re: Advice on tactful way to deal with local mechanic  


In Reply To
"Doubling up" as posts came fast when I posted. If and IMO parts being replaced are taken off anyway for the primary job whatever it is I don't find it fair to charge as if that was the job alone on top - period on that bit.


No rust now you said - then why was this job so hard?


T


I suppose hard is relative, but in looking at it, as far as I can tell, they had to remove the wheel, go through the wheel well panel, and likely had to unbolt but not entirely remove the power steering pump in order to get the alternator out. So it's not as straight forward as a lot of them. As near as I can tell I was charged a flat rate and for all I know it took only two hours. They didn't specify actual time worked on the vehicle.


Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Hammer Time profile image

Mar 5, 2015, 6:28 AM

Post #12 of 18 (1044 views)
  post locked   Re: Advice on tactful way to deal with local mechanic  


Quote
As near as I can tell I was charged a flat rate and for all I know it took only two hours. They didn't specify actual time worked on the vehicle.


Nor do they have to. How long it actually took him doesn't matter at all. The flat rate is the charge, regardless.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



kzilla
Novice

Mar 5, 2015, 6:34 AM

Post #13 of 18 (1043 views)
  post locked   Re: Advice on tactful way to deal with local mechanic  

Understood. The belt seemed like a pretty easy job once loosened off. Maybe I'm wrong, but it looked like just a matter of rerouting the new one and once the alternator is back on, put it back together again. Even if they charged for the belt replacement labor alongside the alternator it still seemed excessive.


kzilla
Novice

Mar 5, 2015, 6:39 AM

Post #14 of 18 (1041 views)
  post locked   Re: Advice on tactful way to deal with local mechanic  


In Reply To

Quote
As near as I can tell I was charged a flat rate and for all I know it took only two hours. They didn't specify actual time worked on the vehicle.


Nor do they have to. How long it actually took him doesn't matter at all. The flat rate is the charge, regardless.


I didn't expect them to tell me how long they worked on it, since I realize it's essentially piecework. I was just trying to answer the other fellow's question as to the job being hard. I'm not sure it was hard because I don't know how long they took to fix it was all I was really trying to say.


Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Mar 5, 2015, 6:48 AM

Post #15 of 18 (1037 views)
  post locked   Re: Advice on tactful way to deal with local mechanic  

You can and I would - look at the belt. Does it require more work to replace it vs just loosen it for alternator? Some do and wrap around other things (motor mounts for example) that wouldn't be an extra hassle. Can't know each engine and vehicle configuration and never did.


Said - rusty here so certain things folks wanted to know an exact price/cost is real difficult. Still at a glance should know if potential trouble lurks or clear about how charged,


T



GC
User
GC profile image

Mar 5, 2015, 8:08 AM

Post #16 of 18 (1023 views)
  post locked   Re: Advice on tactful way to deal with local mechanic  

It seems a bit steep, but maybe we're missing something. The best thing to do would be to go there and discuss it reasonably with them. You agreed to the price, so they dont owe you anything, but if they are an honest and quality shop, they should be able to explain the price. Make sure to ask what their labor rate is. I would mention to them that at $100/hr rate, you would expect a premium job, and show them the items not reinstalled correctly.

If someone comes to me and discusses an issue like an adult, I will do everything I can to help them. If someone comes in pissed off and bad attitude, I'll send them down the road since they are not the type of customer I want back.

Id be curious to hear what they say. Ill give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that things went terrible on the job, took way too long, and the tech had a bad day and missed a couple things, but they should make that right.

Also just because the alternator is not charging does not mean that no diagnosis is required. Cant count how many no charge issues ive seen that the alternator was just fine. And diag charge is usually separate from repair as quite often you dont have to pull too much apart to diag. If disassembly is required for diag, the diag charge will be higher and I usually explain that to customer.


____________________________________________________
Willing to help, willing to learn... Rob


kzilla
Novice

Mar 5, 2015, 8:35 PM

Post #17 of 18 (1003 views)
  post locked   Re: Advice on tactful way to deal with local mechanic  

OK, so I thought I would give an update since I went back to the shop this afternoon after work.

I called the shop up and asked to speak with Stan, the guy that owns the shop/ initially helped me. I asked if he would be around so that I could bring the truck by. Brought the truck over and first showed him the broken body clips and hanging wheel well flap etc. He was apologetic, had his lead tech that worked on the vehicle come out to take a look, who was also apologetic, and they took the truck into the garage right there to remedy the issues. Great. They were always courteous and friendly, and to be honest, I didn't expect much of an issue with getting this part handled.

While his guy was dealing with that, we went inside and I told him that I would be lying if I said I wasn't really disappointed with the lack of thought that went into completing the job, and explained that even though ultimately it was a trivial thing, especially when paying a lot of money to have something fixed, you expect more. I told him that when simple things like this get missed, it casts doubts as to how the rest of the job was performed, i.e. what else was forgotten or missed?

He reassured me that this was likely just an over-site, and that the guy that he had working on it is his best employee and has been with him a very long time and is not prone to these sorts of things. Again, he was apologetic and didn't make excuses, and was attempting to be reassuring. Great.

So after this, I asked for some clarification on the invoice. I told him that some of the numbers didn't jive with what I had found in doing some research, and I just wanted to know a bit more detail in how figures were calculated. I mentioned the discrepancy in the amount of time that it says the job should take. His answer was that according to the book that they go by, the Alternator is a four hour job, and the Belt is a one hour job, and they charge $90 and hour. So that's how they arrived at that number. Without giving me any specifics as far as the amount of time spent, he did say that it is a much more difficult job to do than most Alternators.

In response to questions about the parts, He said that his cost on the Alternator is $215, and $54 on the belt, and that the markups on the parts are what they are. They have some sort of tiered set of figures that they go by for parts and that's just what they charge. He did say that he would be more than happy to install parts that I supply if they were the correct part for the vehicle, and that his hourly doesn't change.

I didn't ask about the shop materials fee or the diagnostic fee, since the consensus here is that those are pretty standard, so I left it alone.

I feel slightly better, but still feel like I got ripped, because the markup on the parts, and the length of time that his book supposedly said it takes are not in line with most in the industry, but as was stated already, that ship had already sailed since I said do the work.

I think in the future I will be much more diligent about shopping around for services that I feel more comfortable with dollar wise, and if not, try and do them myself, if it's a more or less straight forward bolt on type of repair. I'm not a complete idiot, in spite of how it looks for having paid nearly a grand to have an alternator and belt replaced Mad

I want to again thank everyone for their input and advice. Hopefully someday I can return the favor. I wish I had some of you around town that I could have brought my repair to instead. I halfway wanted you to tell me "yeah that's the going rate" just so I didn't feel like such a fool.

(This post was edited by kzilla on Mar 5, 2015, 8:41 PM)


Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Hammer Time profile image

Mar 6, 2015, 3:10 AM

Post #18 of 18 (997 views)
  post locked   Re: Advice on tactful way to deal with local mechanic  

Sounds like everything has been brought to a conclusion so I will close this now. You can get it opened back up if needed by contacting a Mod.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



(This post was edited by Hammer Time on Mar 6, 2015, 3:10 AM)






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