Author Topic: Skeptical Automotive Maintenance?  (Read 2394 times)

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Online Desert Fox

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Skeptical Automotive Maintenance?
« on: December 21, 2014, 08:41:59 PM »
I am curious about applying skepticism to automotive repairs and maybe maintenance in general.
Recently, the idle of my Mustang was sticking. I kind of am a DYI kind of person when it comes to at least minor / moderate car repairs and maintenance generally.

Now, I ended up removing the idle air control valve, cleaning it with throttle body cleaner (safer than carburetor cleaner), spraying the cleaner into the hole where the valve mounts, and replacing the gasket. I maybe could have reused the old gasket however was a bit old and brittle. Cost me about $20 total because I went ahead and replaced the air filter at the same time. Actual necessary cost would like $5 for a bottle of throttle body cleaner. Likely a couple of hours including going to the store. Never did it before and wanted to be extremely careful. Even if I had to replace the valve, it would have cost me $80 at Autozone.

Looking at discussions online and it looks like people have gone to the dealer with similar problems and cost several hundred dollars. Talked to my sister and had an issue with her brakes on her truck. The dealer charged her $800 according to her. If it is what I think it was and involved replacing brake pads and maybe rotors, they really took advantage of her.

Car repairs are a legitimate service but seems as if it is a real case where the buyer has to beware.
I am wonder how people here deal with such issues if they do not have basic knowledge? 
Also, should there be some kind of lesson in this sort of thing? It seems like you almost have to know what a mechanic is saying or you are in trouble.
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Online superdave

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Re: Skeptical Automotive Maintenance?
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2014, 08:52:35 PM »
its an issue that grows worse by the day as cars get more complicated.
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Online Desert Fox

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Re: Skeptical Automotive Maintenance?
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2014, 08:59:45 PM »
its an issue that grows worse by the day as cars get more complicated.

Not so sure actually. . . .I am afraid to work on carburetors and almost ready to pull my hair out working on brake drums. My new car has front and rear disks - rears need a special tool but are still far easier than drums. Talk to somebody with a really old car that does not have an ignition rotor (which now have been replaced by coil packs) but instead has ignition points. Older cars had their own issues.
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Offline Pusher Robot

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Re: Skeptical Automotive Maintenance?
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2014, 10:20:35 AM »
There are some bad mechanics out there, sure, that charge for services not performed or perform obviously unneeded work.  On the other hand, a lot of what you pay for is the expertise, the diagnostic capability, the willingness to get one's hands dirty, the possession of tools, the heated garage space, etc.  If you have these things, then, yeah, it seems a huge waste to pay for them.  If you don't, then you should reasonably expect to pay a premium.

At least as big a problem is automotive superstitions.  Things that "everyone knows" that aren't true or were true a long time ago but aren't any more, but that continue to be believed (or promoted by the self-interested.)  For example:

1. Change your oil every 3 months or 3000 miles.  Nope, if you have a modern car you change the oil when the maintenance indicator says to.

2. You should always warm up the car a few minutes before driving.  Nope, the best way to warm up the car is to drive it gently.  Sitting and idling it just wastes gas.

3. It's bad for the engine to turn it off if you're going to be starting up again shortly.  Nope, it wears the starter imperceptibly but idling just to avoid shutting the engine off only wastes gas.

4. Shift into neutral while coasting down a hill to reduce the engine RPM and save gas.  Nope, idling the engine still requires burning fuel to run the car's systems.  Letting the car tires push the engine permits the fuel to be almost entirely cut off while using the energy to run the car's systems.
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Online Desert Fox

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Re: Skeptical Automotive Maintenance?
« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2014, 12:42:27 PM »
There are some bad mechanics out there, sure, that charge for services not performed or perform obviously unneeded work.  On the other hand, a lot of what you pay for is the expertise, the diagnostic capability, the willingness to get one's hands dirty, the possession of tools, the heated garage space, etc.  If you have these things, then, yeah, it seems a huge waste to pay for them.  If you don't, then you should reasonably expect to pay a premium.

Err, I did the job in my drive way and used a set of tools I spend $10 for at Walmart years ago.  With Nitrile gloves, one does not even have to get one's hands dirty  ;D

I have been to more than one mechanic over issues and it has been mostly my experience that the issue is systematic. Not arguing that one should never go to a mechanic (I have had repairs where I needed to go to one) but that one needs to understand what they say enough to know what they say is bullshit or not.

1. Change your oil every 3 months or 3000 miles.  Nope, if you have a modern car you change the oil when the maintenance indicator says to.

Changing oil every 3,000 miles is not a bad thing however, it does no harm to the vehicle. It also depends on what you mean.
I don't consider a 2007 that old a car but Ford recommends with a 2007 or older and under certain conditions changing oil every 3,000 miles. Normal for a 2007 or earlier is every 5000 and with a 2008 or greater, every 7500 miles.
http://support.ford.com/maintenance/when-to-change-oil
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Offline fonebone

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Re: Skeptical Automotive Maintenance?
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2014, 01:11:04 PM »
Dealers have always charged a premium for repairs.  Theoretically you are getting mechanics that know specifically about your car and should therefor get the most informed servicing.  They also are going to use all OEM parts which tend to be WAYYYYYYYY more expensive than non OEM stuff.  It really shows up in things like brake services and the such that have several parts that need to be replaced.  Hourly rates are massively different from company shops to non company shops as well.  You are looking at probably $140 an hour for labor at a dealership while your local mechanic is probably more in the range of $60-$100.  Those rates at the dealership are also set by the job, so if a job calls for 3 hours of labor it doesnt matter how fast the mechanic can actually get it done in, you will be charged for 3 hours of labor.  Local shops are always hit or miss.  The best plan of action is to do research and ask around and find someone that people trust.  Finding a good mechanic that you trust is hitting the goldmine pretty much. 




Offline SnarlPatrick

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Re: Skeptical Automotive Maintenance?
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2014, 02:03:23 PM »
Welcome to my alternative auto repair where we not only take care of your car's mechanical needs, but the oft neglected spiritual side of the car. Autopuncture is 49.95. Herbal infused transmission/break fluid will cost $185. Aura cleansing will generally be  $150, extra for especially dark auras.
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Online Desert Fox

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Re: Skeptical Automotive Maintenance?
« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2014, 02:57:20 PM »
Dealers have always charged a premium for repairs.  Theoretically you are getting mechanics that know specifically about your car and should therefor get the most informed servicing.  They also are going to use all OEM parts which tend to be WAYYYYYYYY more expensive than non OEM stuff. It really shows up in things like brake services and the such that have several parts that need to be replaced.  Hourly rates are massively different from company shops to non company shops as well.  You are looking at probably $140 an hour for labor at a dealership while your local mechanic is probably more in the range of $60-$100.  Those rates at the dealership are also set by the job, so if a job calls for 3 hours of labor it doesnt matter how fast the mechanic can actually get it done in, you will be charged for 3 hours of labor.  Local shops are always hit or miss.  The best plan of action is to do research and ask around and find someone that people trust.  Finding a good mechanic that you trust is hitting the goldmine pretty much.

That at least is false. . . .I had a friend who was a parts delivery driver for Autozone. He delivered to new car dealers quite often. The dealers would usually also mark the price of parts up 200 to 300 percent from what Autozone charged. This is not to say that there were no OEM parts but that you should not assume dealer parts are OEM.   

I agree that finding a solid mechanic who you can trust is an important thing with regards to operating a motor vehicle. The one I use lets me buy my own parts for example and if he thinks it is a job that I can do, he just tells me. With the new car I have, he has done tie rods for me (because you need a special tool), replaced the fuel pump (it is in the gas tank), and replaced my plugs (you need to be really careful with an aluminum head.)
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Offline fonebone

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Re: Skeptical Automotive Maintenance?
« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2014, 04:58:21 PM »


That at least is false. . . .I had a friend who was a parts delivery driver for Autozone. He delivered to new car dealers quite often. The dealers would usually also mark the price of parts up 200 to 300 percent from what Autozone charged. This is not to say that there were no OEM parts but that you should not assume dealer parts are OEM.   

I agree that finding a solid mechanic who you can trust is an important thing with regards to operating a motor vehicle. The one I use lets me buy my own parts for example and if he thinks it is a job that I can do, he just tells me. With the new car I have, he has done tie rods for me (because you need a special tool), replaced the fuel pump (it is in the gas tank), and replaced my plugs (you need to be really careful with an aluminum head.)

I replaced my a fuel pump on my wifes (then girlfriends) Ford Taurus many a year ago.  I drank a good deal of gasoline that day.  For me at the time it was a pretty complex mechanical job.  Some kid pulled into her the next day and totalled the car.

Offline Gerbig

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Re: Skeptical Automotive Maintenance?
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2014, 05:01:38 PM »


2. You should always warm up the car a few minutes before driving.  Nope, the best way to warm up the car is to drive it gently.  Sitting and idling it just wastes gas.


As a Canadian, I am floored by this one, so much wasted gas....

Offline Random West

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Re: Skeptical Automotive Maintenance?
« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2015, 08:45:11 AM »
For the engine, the best is to drive off gently or use synthetic oil.
Not always possible to drive slowly after a cold start depending where you drive. 

I wish someone would invent a way to store yesterday's engine heat overnight
« Last Edit: January 06, 2015, 09:19:53 AM by Random West »

Online Desert Fox

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Re: Skeptical Automotive Maintenance?
« Reply #11 on: January 06, 2015, 08:55:35 AM »
The best way is to drive off gently of use synthetic oil. Not always possible depending where you drive.

Err, what?
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Offline The Latinist

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Re: Skeptical Automotive Maintenance?
« Reply #12 on: January 06, 2015, 12:29:31 PM »
I definitely support the use of synthetic oil and significant extension of service intervals.  Synthetics are so good that you can get away with tens of thousands of miles without harming your engine one bit—and it may even be better for your engine, since a large portion of wear actually happens in the period right after an oil change.
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Offline mindme

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Re: Skeptical Automotive Maintenance?
« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2015, 09:30:16 AM »
Taking your car to the mechanic for most is about the one time in our normal lives we apply the most skepticism. And usually we're completely at a disadvantage and maybe even wrong. My heuristic:

1) Avoid the dealership, major chains (Canadian Tire and Green and Ross in Canada). They will lie, break stuff, and not even do the job right in the first place.

2) Try different independent garages. Consult like hell CAA/AAA and BBB.

3) Take your car in for a small, simple job like an oil change, tire rotation, etc. Try and judge the owner.
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Offline DonA

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Re: Skeptical Automotive Maintenance?
« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2015, 09:45:19 AM »
I do a mix (home repair and mechanics).  Somethings on our cars I will tackle myself (i.e. oil changes, filter replacements, brakes, some other mechanical stuff that is just a straight swap out of parts).  For my older VW (I have an '83 Rabbit with a '92 2.0L engine) I take to a specialty shop here in Toronto for engine work beyond what I can figure out on my own.
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