Paying for Automobile Repair – It is Never Satisfying

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I can fix a car. There are a few things I don’t mess with. Replacing windshields and such just doesn’t make any sense. Actually, any repair that takes expensive specialty tools, that don’t need to be done very often, are the ones I don’t do. Front end work falls into this category most of the time.

And paying someone to do front end work is a repair that you rarely get much satisfaction out of. The few times I’ve had it done, it doesn’t fix the problem much and it seems to cost way too much. Actually, all car repair seems to cost too much relatively.

I’m not sure when it happened, but I think it was sometime around when the on-board computer started recording misfires, etc., but somewhere down the line automobile repairs seemed to skyrocket. The repair shops, dealers, etc. would say the devices to read the check engine light, whatever, were so expensive that they had to charge more. It was total fabrication. An OBD2 scanner now doesn’t cost hardly anything. It tells you nearly exactly what is going on with your automobile. You can go down to Autozone, and probably other parts stores, and they will scan your car for free.

Anyway, a few months ago I took my van to get aligned. My front tires were wearing uneven and there was a shutter in the steering wheel. I was driving out to Colorado later in the day and needed the van back. The guy called and said I needed new ball joints and it was going to be $900. I can do ball joints myself, but still would have had to take it back to the alignment shop so I told them to go ahead and fix it. They did and it didn’t do anything. I was gone for a month or so and when I went back, they looked at the van again and said it needed another $1500 worth of work. New bushings, springs, shocks, etc. Nearly everything. Anyway, I didn’t want to put on the new tires I got until I got the front end straight and wasn’t ever going to have those guys touch my van again.

I’d planned on just replacing everything on the front end myself, but with this separated shoulder, I’m pretty much unless in that regard, so I took it over to East Topeka to another alignment shop. The shop was immaculately clean and the guys seemed honest. They said I needed new swaybar, stutrod bushings, a tie rod end and that was it. Around $800 including the alignment. So, they have it. I haven’t gotten it back yet, but I am crossing my fingers.

I’m not sure why the industry of auto repair has a bad rap as a place to get ripped off. It probably is more to do with ineptness than with dishonesty. Fixing cars isn’t an easy thing. There aren’t enough smart guys in the industry to handle the volume of business. So, we all end up with work that doesn’t satisfy our expectations. Even if the work doesn’t repair the car, the costs involved usually are so absurd that you can never leave with a good taste in your mouth.

Finding a competent auto mechanic seems to be nearly as important as having a good doctor nowadays. If I had another lifetime, I wouldn’t mind being a fulltime auto mechanic. I’m really a blue collar type of guy anyway. It takes lots of mental concentration, plus it is very physical. But, that isn’t happening in this lifetime. I have my hands full just fixin’ my own cars.

I took my wheels over to a tire place to have the new ones put on the aluminum wheels. It is amazing what the weight difference is between the steel and aluminum wheels. I wonder if that makes a difference in fuel economy?

Even though my van is diesel, it rarely gets over 20 mpg. My insight get way better mileage, but is very, very small.

Someone pissed someone off big time here. I rode by this car a couple days ago. It made me daydream all ride about the circumstances involved. I decided there was probably a woman involved. This was only the tip of the iceberg here. The tires were flat and the roof was pretty scratched up.

8 thoughts on “Paying for Automobile Repair – It is Never Satisfying

  1. Joe Orender

    Lighter wheels do make a difference in fuel economy because they’re rotating mass. That’s why we put light wheels on bicycles, because they use less energy. Of course, the savings only take place during acceleration, ie, speed changes.

  2. channel_zero

    The auto repair business gets a bad rap because it sounds like you went back and said, “Guys, you didn’t fix a thing.” and then they wanted to charge you full pop to do the job right.

    I had another shop tell me that I needed my brake fluid changed because it’s just like oil, “it gets old” and then mention how bad it would be for brakes to fail because I didn’t get new fluid.

    The incentive to hustle customers is too high. Meanwhile the honest shop is not rewarded for their fair dealing.

  3. Rich R

    Brake flluid does need to be changed as it absorbs water and corrodes the internal parts. It would be far cheaper to change fluid than replace the parts. They make test strips for brake fluid.
    A scanner that is needed for most repairs and will actually give useful info is about$3500 and a monthly subscription to a web site for info is $150 a month. Most shops have 2.

  4. kenny79

    um,i havent had a car since 1971,that lets me spends heaps on bike stuff ,keeps me fit ,yeah i race too,and for out of town and large moving stuff i RENT a vehicle ,works for me(single now no kids tho!!!)

  5. Blake Barrilleaux

    Remember Steve, in any repair business, there are true mechanics and then there are parts changers. Sheldon Brown was a mechanic. I’ve run across many parts changers over time in LBS’s and I fall into the latter category so I can’t point too many fingers.


    I just went to Les Schwab to get a tire fixed; the “mechanic” offered me a set of lightly used 8 ply off roaders for $30 each rather than repair what I had. No brainer.
    I have given lightly used tires etc to countless bicycle customers, (mostly the broke young kid types) but rarely do you see this at an auto shop. maybe because of liability. It was awesome, I always go there first. They also put new ball joints, etc in my E350 van for under $500 last year. And then they waived the alignment charge because it was an easy fix.
    Schwab is all over the west coast (7 here in Reno) but I don’t remember seeing any in the Midwest.
    At Sunnyside Sports in Bend we would give free tubes to homeless types if they would pick up trash from the area outside or rake up the pinecones. Made everyone involved feel good.

  7. DavidA

    A whiskey glass and a womans ass….probably why my car windshield is crushed…

  8. devin

    Fixing cars drives me nuts,,, It is all in the tools,, Blue-Collar appliance repair is where it is at.. I think..


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