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Auto Repair

Ask A Mechanic: Wading Through The Mess Of Car Repair Prices And Auto Repair Estimates

Ask A Mechanic: Wading Through The Mess Of Car Repair Prices And Auto Repair Estimates

If you were handed an estimate to replace a water pump on your car, would you know if the price was fair? Could you trust the price? How about for a tie rod end, mass air flow sensor, or an evaporative emissions sensor?

Most of us don’t know what these are, never mind the price. Yet it is components such as these that are commonly used to over charge you, the car repair customer.

We no longer live in an age of trust, so how do we ensure that our auto repair costs are legitimate.

How many times have you suspected that you paid too much, but couldn’t prove it? How many times did the price seem exorbitant for even simple repairs?

To illustrate just how “At Risk” the everyday auto repair customer is to excessive car repair prices, here’s a recent real life example from a “reputable…?” dealer.

A client brought her Audi to an authorized Audi dealership for a standard timing belt maintenance service.

The price for this service averages $1575 at the dealership level, (including pulleys, water pump…etc) and about $1275 at the independent repair shop level.

Yet the woman left the dealer with a bill for $2025.68.

What happened?

According to the repair order, there were no abnormal circumstances, no problems noted by the technician such as rust or any other extenuating circumstances that would have perhaps increased the labor, or added additional parts.

In short, it was a straight forward service, but the bill was $450.68 higher than it should have been. There is simply no legitimate reason to have “that much” discrepancy.

How’d they get away with it?

The answer is very simple, and it’s a point that I don’t want anyone to miss:

They get away with it because they can!

Think about it. The average person doesn’t know how much auto parts cost. And who knows how much labor time a repair should take? To what sources does one turn to find out this information? Who even has the time to investigate!

Upon examination of this woman’s repair order, it was found that she was charged a full 4 hours “more” than the standard labor time. At $100 per hour, this added an additional $400. The remaining $50.68 came from the parts, which were billed higher than MSRP.

She was quoted $2,025 for a repair that tops out at $1575. The woman didn’t know. She just paid the bill and left.

How many times do folks just pay the bill and leave? Pretty much that’s all one can do given that there is no accessible information for the car repair customer to adequately question a repair bill. Furthermore, very few even know what questions to ask!

The auto repair industry has been over-charging for decades—sometimes subtly, sometimes boldly, definitely frequently. The evidence for this is overwhelming; yet, there are no easy solutions available for the car repair customer.

Government agencies can’t help. The Better Business Bureau can’t do anything. Even supposed “car repair experts or advocates” lack the understanding of the breadth and insidiousness of the car repair business at all its levels.

A dealership operates differently than an independent repair shop, and a franchise, like Midas, is totally unique. Who really knows what goes on in the underground of such a diverse and complex industry?

The Solution?

First and foremost, car repair customers need access to information on car repair prices. Without this, they’ve got nothing tangible in which to determine fair charges. They also need to be able to navigate the maze of parts and labor charges for car repairs and maintenance.

Like everything else, information is the key to ensure fair treatment. Without it, the car repair customer will continue to “swim with the sharks” without any protection.

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Auto Repair

Car Repair Advice: What To Do With A Broke Down Car

TIP! Get referrals to find a great auto mechanic. Ask the people you know and trust who they take their vehicles to.

Do you wish you could deal with auto issues better? Have you thought about doing auto repairs and maintenance yourself? Maybe you hope to become better at picking a solid auto shop in your area. Keep reading to learn more about these choices.

TIP! Familiarize yourself with your car’s manual. This will help you speak intelligently to a technician about your car when it is time to take it in.

Be sure that you have an A.S.E. certified mechanic before they are allowed to work on your vehicle. This certification confirms the the mechanic has a lot of experience working on cars. This also means that you have an experience, knowledgeable repair person working on your car.

TIP! Before you pay the mechanic, test drive the car to be sure that it is actually fixed. If you don’t do this, it’s possible that the problem isn’t even fixed.

An emergency kit is a must for your car. A battery charger, tire changing tools and an extra can of gas are just a few of the items to have on hand. A few blankets, flashlights and spare batteries are also great to have.

TIP! Look out for signs that your mechanic isn’t very good. If they are talking in circles and avoiding your questions, you should take your business elsewhere.

Ask any questions you have. Be sure the questions involve the problems you are having with your car and what you can do to prevent it from happening again. If you prevent issues from happening, you can save money on repairs.

TIP! Find a technician knowledgeable in your kind of car. There are certain specifics which he needs to know before doing any repairs.

Make sure that you do not neglect the radiator in your car. Run your car for a bit, turn off the engine and then open the hood. Do not open the radiator if the car is running. Check your radiator fluid and remember to mix water with coolant before filling your radiator.

Test out your car before paying for its repairs. If you don’t do this, you may not have the appropriate problem repaired.

TIP! There are many “backyard” mechanics out there that preform excellent auto repairs. They may have learned through experience but still be competent, and are likely to have a lower labor rate.

Beware mechanics who charge you for repairs which are unnecessary. All reputable mechanics will notify you before doing any repairs and will inform you of any parts that could require repairs in the immediate future. Don’t trust a mechanic who has done repairs without asking.

TIP! Your car key should not have tons of fluffy keychains on it. The weight of your keychain can cause problems for your ignition.

Don’t stress yourself over your car repairs. Make a point to learn how you can do it by reading the information in this article. Now, you should see how you’re able to do these things quickly so you’re not without a vehicle for too long.

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Auto Repair

Auto Repair Estimates And Car Repair Prices – The Real Information To Avoid Car Repair Scams

Auto Repair Estimates And Car Repair Prices – The Real Information To Avoid Car Repair Scams

Worrying whether or not you were overcharged for your car repair is an awful feeling. There’s tons of advice on how to avoid getting ripped-off, but few discuss the actual car repair prices. We really need to look at the charges on a car repair estimate or auto repair invoice to determine if we’re paying too much.

The focus needs to shift from giving outdated and ineffective advice to addressing the “actual” and “specific” charges. Are they legitimate charges? Can they be justified by industry guidelines?

Now car repair estimates can be confusing. So let’s break it down to get a better idea if your auto repair shop is billing you appropriately.

First, a glossary of terms is in order, as the auto industry has a language of its own…

Aftermarket Parts: parts not made by the manufacturer.

MSRP: Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price

OEM: Original Equipment Manufacturer. Manufacturer approved parts designed specifically for your vehicle.

TSBs: Technical Service Bulletins. Notes and instructions provided by the manufacturer for known and specific concerns(they are not recalls).

Flat Fees: services such as alignments that don’t get broken down into parts, tax, labor

Miscellaneous Charges: these can include, but are not limited to shop supplies – rags, chemicals, hazardous waste disposal fees, waste oil …etc.

Labor Rate: a repair center’s hourly charge to service your vehicle

Labor Time: the amount of time or hours determined that it will take to fix your vehicle

Labor Description: the step-by-step written details of repairs and/or services

Ok, let’s look at the Anatomy of an Auto Repair Estimate:

There are six basic components to a car repair estimate

1) Customer/Vehicle Information
2) Parts
3) Labor
4) Miscellaneous Charges
5) Flat Fees
6) Summary of Charges

Customer and Vehicle Information

Using a generic “top down” style estimate, the top portion simply contains your personal information and your vehicle’s specifics: year, make, model, mileage…etc, as well as your request or concern.

We also want find the shop’s labor rate. The labor rate is critical in determining if you paid too much. Most repair centers don’t list the labor rate. We’ll discuss why shortly.

Auto Parts

Parts are listed usually with a brief description, as well as the quantity, and the price. There are three types of parts: OEM (parts made by or for a manufacturer). These are the parts installed by a dealer, although many local shops use OEM parts too.

Aftermarket parts are non OEM parts, and there are various degrees of quality, depending on the brand and where they’re made – China versus USA, for example.

Then there are Used parts purchased from a salvage yard.

To determine if you paid too much for parts, first find out what type of parts are being used. With OEM parts, you don’t want to pay more than MSRP, although most people do without realizing it. Premium aftermarket parts are similarly priced across brands, although beware not to pay more than MSRP, which again, many folks do. Used part prices are all over the place, so pick the price in the middle.

Auto Repair Labor

Labor is billed in tenths. So 1.0 equals 1 hour. 1.5 equals an hour and a half.

Labor rates range from $60 to $100 per hour at local repair shops and $80 to $140 per hour at the dealer level. Labor times are based off established industry guidelines, which are frequently abused.

If you don’t see the shop’s labor rate posted on the car repair invoice, ask your service center for the rate. Repair shops can manipulate the labor rate (among other things) with a labor matrix. Matrix pricing is a complicated and ethically questionable practice discussed at length in RepairTrust literature. What you need to know is that you can pay as high as $150 per hour rather than the posted labor rate of $105 per hour.

To ensure that you’re being charged properly, you’ll want to multiply the number of hours billed (which is also often not posted) by the shop’s labor rate.

Most labor descriptions are poorly written and difficult to understand. So ask questions.

Here’s a “clear” labor description for a 30,000 mile service on a Toyota Camry.

Performed 30,000 mile service per customer request, and in accordance with manufacturer guidelines. Changed oil and filter, installed new air filter, cabin filter and performed all necessary tests, checks, and procedures, including road test (miles 30,123 – 30,125). Performed lubrication services and confirmed proper vehicle operation. Set tire pressures, and checked fluids, belts and hoses. Note: vehicle is pulling slightly left. Needs alignment

Miscellaneous Charges

The bulk of your car repair invoice will be parts and labor, but we can’t forget about Miscellaneous Charges. These charges can include, but are not limited to, shop supplies – rags, chemicals, hazardous waste, disposal fees, waste oil …etc. The latter of these may be billed out separately in a summary at the bottom of your repair invoice.

Very few of these “extras” are actually used during regular repairs. Miscellaneous charges are calculated off the amount of labor hours billed, not the amount of miscellaneous items used.

Flat Fees

Flat fees can be another very tricky area. Flat fees are services, such as an alignment, which don’t get broken down into parts, tax and labor. This makes it difficult to determine the real and fair price. On the plus side, most flat fees are competitively priced.

Be warned however, another term for Flat Fee is called Menu Selling. In other words, you might see Tune Up: $99.99 or Transmission Flush: $89.99. Follow your manufacturer’s recommendations only, not a dealer’s or repair shop’s menu.

Summary of Charges

The last part of an auto repair estimate is the summary of charges. It’s usually found in the bottom right hand corner of the invoice. Check it against the charges above to ensure that it all adds up mathematically, as well as logically.

This basic estimate outline may differ from your particular invoice, which may have other categories such as “Sublet” or “HazMat.”

A sublet charge is added when your auto repair shop uses another vender to fix or repair your car, such as a glass company that replaces your windshield.

A HazMat charge may include waste oil or other disposal fees. Just make sure that the charges are warranted, as again, they too are often calculated off the labor time rather than actual need.

In sum, understanding the “actual” charges, asking the right questions, and breaking down your auto repair costs is the best way to avoid paying excessive car repair prices.

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Auto Repair

Fix Your Car Quickly And Easily With Simple Tips For Success

TIP! Keep a good battery charger in your car. Dead batteries are a common problem, and you should always have a charger or cables on you at all times.

Repairing your own car may seem overwhelming initially, but isn’t nearly as hard as you might imagine. Learning all you can now will come in handy in the future. The article below is a collection of auto repair tips and tricks just for you.

TIP! It is important for your car to have an emergency kit. A battery charger, tire changing tools and an extra can of gas are just a few of the items to have on hand.

Be sure that you have an A.S.E. certified mechanic before they are allowed to work on your vehicle. This certification guarantees that the mechanic has been tested and has more than two years of experience. You will then know that you are dealing with a trained professional.

TIP! Keep an eye on your radiator levels. Let the car run briefly, shut the engine, then open the hood.

Your radiator needs to be looked over regularly. Warm up your car a little, shut if back off and pop the hood. Never open your radiator if your vehicle is running. Check the amount of fluid in your radiator with your dipstick and remember to mix the coolant with some water.

TIP! You should keep your car’s records in a handy location. You may want to store them in the glove compartment for easy access.

If you have issues with your car, you can fix it yourself. There are a few things that you can fix easily yourself. Try troubleshooting the issue on the Internet or talk to your friends to see if they have an idea of what could be wrong with your vehicle. If it is a simple fix, you can usually do it yourself.

TIP! Whenever your car undergoes repairs, make sure you have the written record of what was done. If further issues develop later, the mechanic may want to see the historical documentation of what has already been done.

There is no better way to find an auto mechanic than to get a referral. Talk to your relatives, friends and co-workers to get some recommendations. You can inquire about price, work quality and overall satisfaction. You can learn first-hand experiences about the honesty and skill of the mechanic.

Car Trouble

TIP! Consider using OEM parts. These parts are issued by the manufacturer of your vehicle.

Car trouble does not have to be as scary or time consuming as it was in the past, if you know how to fix basic things. You will be able to rely on your skills so that you’re able to save some cash. Use this article to educate yourself in case you have car trouble in the future.

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Auto Repair

Tools Women Can Use to Impress Their Auto Technician

Tools Women Can Use to Impress Their Auto Technician

Trust, reliability and good communication are not just key ingredients to a healthy and successful relationship with your significant other. They are also instrumental to a balanced and sound relationship with your automobile and its technician.

At some point in a vehicle’s life, most women will have to take their automobile to a repair shop because it has, unfortunately, let them down.

AAA, North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, is helping women motorists jump-start their awareness in automotive maintenance with a checklist they can use to boost their car care confidence and automotive self-reliance.

“If women put off visiting an auto repair shop because of fear, it could be a recipe for disaster,” said John Nielson, director of AAA’s Approved Auto Repair program. “The more you know about your vehicle and how it operates, the better.”

AAA offers the following tips for women:

* Become familiar with your automobile’s maintenance schedule. This information is provided in the owner’s manual of your vehicle.

* Don’t wait for your car to break down to identify a repair shop. Be proactive and research where you want to take your vehicle when it’s time to be serviced.

* Gather recommendations and opinions from friends and family about auto repair shops. This will help streamline the decision-making process.

* Check with local consumer agencies to identify if the repair shop in question has any unresolved disputes.

* Find out if the shop employs ASE certified automotive technicians that are experienced working on the type of car you own.

* Select an AAA Approved Auto Repair facility. These shops undergo an extensive investigation before being allowed to enter the program and AAA is confident that they will provide competent and professional repairs.

* Communicate your vehicle’s symptoms effectively by using simple everyday language or demonstrating the problem during a test drive with the technician.

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Auto Repair

Which Auto Parts to Use for Repairs

Which Auto Parts to Use for Repairs

There are many options to choose from when it comes to a car that doesn’t work anymore: it can be junked, a new car can be purchased, the car can be fixed, a rental car can be used for the time being, or a family member’s can can also be used for the time being. There are a plethora of ideas that can be chosen from if one has a failing car, though, the best thing to do would just repair the car that doesn’t work any longer. This may also be harder than it looks, though, because of the fact that auto parts are expensive nowadays, labor is expensive when getting repairs done at an auto repair shop, and there are many choices to make as to what kind of repairs need to be made anyway.

One issue that many people deal with when fixing their car by themselves or having an auto repair shop fix their car is what type of auto parts they’ll be using. There are basically two types of auto parts that can be used to fix a car, and they both will be explained, as well as the pros and cons of using each type of auto part.

The first type of auto part that comes to mind when repairing one’s car is OEM auto parts. The term “OEM” stands for “original equipment manufacturer,” and this means that OEM auto parts come directly from the company that made the car in the first place. In other words, if a person’s Chevrolet Cavalier were to fail because of the alternator or starter then an OEM alternator or starter could be purchased in order to repair the car. The benefit of buying original equipment manufacturer auto parts is the fact that there will generally be a warranty on the part that is bought. In addition, one is usually guaranteed that the part will work and fit the car on the first try.

A downside to ordering OEM auto parts is the fact that they are generally much more expensive that other types of auto parts. Whereas other auto parts may be around $50, the same auto parts that are bought from the OEM may be as much as $150. The price makes all the difference, too, when repairing your car, so it may not necessarily behoove you to purchase OEM auto parts.

On the other hand, the other type of auto parts that can be purchased when repairing a car is after-market auto parts, or auto parts that are made for the same automobile by third-parties. These automobile parts are generally much easier to run into, and more auto repair shops and retail stores generally carry after-market auto parts as opposed to OEM auto parts. That is one of the big advantages to buying those types of auto parts, but another is that they are much less expensive than OEM auto parts. This was touched on in the last paragraph about OEM parts, but after-market automobile parts are generally 50% or more less than the original manufacturer’s auto parts.

All things considered, it is really up to the person and the situation when the car is being repaired. Many people choose OEM auto parts just because they are the safest type of parts to go with, but arguments for third-party auto parts are because they are much cheaper are more accessible. All in all, though, there are all sorts of options and decisions to make when looking for auto parts to fix your car!

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Auto Repair

Where to Find Auto Parts in Your City

Where to Find Auto Parts in Your City

If your car needs repairs then chances are that you have taken it to one of the main auto repair shops around your city or state before. In fact, there are probably more auto repair shops in one city than their are auto parts stores. This is all par for the course, however, if one needs to make their own car repairs or wants to, auto parts definitely need to be found. If you are having a hard time trying to find the auto parts that you need then there should be plenty of stores in your area that will allow you to get the repairs that need to be done on your car. Here are some suggestions of retail stores to try if you are trying to find some auto parts:

NAPA

The NAPA store has long been a popular auto parts store that people have been able to visit in order to buy the auto parts that they need. There are plenty of these types of stores around. In fact, this is a chain auto parts store that is located not only in each State, but also outside of the United States as well. While at NAPA, one is able to get the exact auto parts that is needed in order to make the repairs to an automobile. Furthermore, the NAPA Company also has auto repair shops sprinkled throughout the country as well. For example, there is a NAPA AutoCare Center, NAPA Collision Center, as well as a NAPA Truck Center. There is usually a NAPA auto parts store wherever there is a NAPA store of any kind, but one cal always call just in case. Furthermore, NAPA also has an online store where one can purchase auto parts from them and have them shipped immediately through a UPS service.

AutoZone

Another chain auto parts store that is very popular is AutoZone. AutoZone is also a store that has an auto parts retail store in virtually every place around the United States, but they do differ from NAPA in a slightly different way. Whereas NAPA traditionally stocks auto parts for many cars and that’s about it, AutoZone has a whole selection of other different automobile products in their stores. For example, self-contained batteries can be purchased, heavy-duty flashlights, along with a whole plethora of other products made for automobiles. AutoZone is one of those household names that is always spoken of and can be trusted to obtain the correct and best auto parts from.

Auto Repair Shops

One place that you may not have thought to ask is an auto repair shop. Believe it or not, auto repair shops do have connections when they want to purchase auto parts for various repair projects. They are usually more than willing to extend this service to the customers, but there is usually a service-fee that goes along with it.

All of these ideas are great if you are looking for auto parts in your area. Chances are that you should be able to find the correct auto parts that you’re looking for and should have no trouble by using some of the retail stores and suggestions listed above!

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Auto Repair

The Danger of Buying Used Auto Parts

The Danger of Buying Used Auto Parts

When it comes to looking for automobile parts, there are plenty of ways in which a person can arrive at the parts that they need. However, some of the ways are authentic and clean cut. But on the other hand, some of the ways that auto parts are obtained are downright dangerous. One example of this is buying used auto parts from a junk yard, salvage yard, or auto repair shop. All of these places usually sell used auto parts that can be used for various things when repairing your car. What’s even more scary, though, is the fact that automobile shops generally put used auto parts in a car that’s going to be repaired, too, just in order to save the auto repair place a little bit of money. But here are some of the dangers of buying used auto parts if you aren’t familiar with them.

1. The History

When buying anything that’s used you rarely know the history of the product. The same holds true for auto parts, unfortunately. Consider that when you purchase auto parts from a junk yard you rarely know if that part has been through an auto accident and is a good enough piece to put on your car. Even though most of the auto parts that can be obtained through a junk or salvage yard are purchased at your own risk and without a warranty, there are some major risks associated with doing so.

2. Too Unreliable

As mentioned, used auto parts can also be purchased from auto repair shops. The reality at most auto repair shops is that the used auto parts that are there are usually kept in one large pile in the back of the repair shop. If you buy a used alternator from the repair shop then how would you know if it’ll last? It is very possible that the auto parts that are purchased from a repair shop are no good, or else if they are halfway decent auto parts they may just break down the next week. The auto parts that can be obtained through an auto repair shop or a salvage yard are just too unreliable to justify buying. Of course, you may very well be offered a refund or exchange if this were to happen, but the best thing would be to stay away from used auto parts altogether.

3. Getting Ripped Off

Another possibility, and perhaps the greatest one, is the fact that you are always able to be ripped off when buying used auto parts. Even if you don’t buy the used auto parts through a repair shop or a junk yard, if you do buy used auto parts through a private dealer then you always run the risk of getting downright ripped off. What is even more discomforting is the fact that you may never even be able to get a hold of the person ever again, too.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter whether or not the part really does work or not. The fact of the matter is that buying used auto parts is just downright risky and dangerous. Even though millions of people engage in this practice daily, used auto parts should be discouraged!

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Auto Repair

The Auto Parts You Need for a Bumper Repair

The Auto Parts You Need for a Bumper Repair

Auto repairs can definitely be costly when going to an auto repair shop. First, the auto parts are the things that will be accounted for first, but the labor of auto repair shops has not only definitely increased in recent years, but some repair shops charge outrageous prices for the services that they offer. One example of the services that auto repair shops typically do is a bumper repair job, and this job alone can cost upwards of $1,000 for the labor side of the job alone! It is much more beneficial to your finances and your car if one is able to complete the bumper repair job him or herself. If you are bound and determined to do it yourself, but have no idea where to start, this article will show you some of the much-needed auto parts to get started with a bumper repair for an automobile.

The first thing that is needed that may seem obvious is the actual bumper for the automobile itself. Chances are that, if repairing a bumper for an automobile, then only the front or rear bumper will need to be replaced. For the purpose of this article we will focus on the front bumper of an automobile. A couple of the most important auto parts for the bumper repair job, though, is the actual bumper itself, as well as the bumper grille. The prices for these kinds of auto parts can vary from place to place, but the actual bumper of an automobile will usually cost around $200 and the bumper grille will usually cost about half of that amount.

A couple of the other bumper auto parts that one will need to purchase is the bumper bracket and the bumper reinforcements. Depending on where one buys these auto parts they may not be all that expensive, but it is estimated that they will cost much less than the first two auto parts, the bumper and grille, cost. The purpose of both of these auto parts is to reinforce the bumper so that it will have some extra ‘padding’ if the automobile ever gets into a car accident.

One of the other important auto parts that one should never forget about is the emblem that usually goes on the front of the grille for the automobile. Depending on what kind of car you are repairing the emblem may or may not be on the front grille, but chances are that it is. These auto parts are very inexpensive, though, and usually only cost around $7 to $10. That is the cost of a typical Chevrolet emblem and many of their manufactured cars, such as the Chevy Cobalt, does have the emblem on the front grille of the car.

All of these auto parts are very crucial to performing your own bumper repair on the car that you own. Even though the auto parts that you buy are considerably expensive, one must take comfort in the fact that he or she is not paying for any of the labor associated with repairing the bumper. After all, do-it-yourself projects are just as good as those done by auto repair professionals at times. Furthermore, something that one should do is have the help of a trusted friend just in case anything does go wrong, but chances are that the bumper repair will be as easy as riding a bike.

There are also auto repair manuals that one can purchase that will explain the process and show the different auto parts that are needed for a bumper repair. These repair manuals, along with advice from a friend, should all help in the long run when making crucial auto repairs!