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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi All -

Looks like a great community, so thanks in advance. I have a 2005 Elantra GLS that has recently started needing pricey repairs. Please look at the attached estimate and let me know what I should do myself (I'm a bit of a tinkerer and have a mechanical engineering degree). I'd rather buy tools than lose it to labor. Also really skeptical of mechanics in general and this one in particular - i.e. they wanted to charge $100 to replace the cabin air filter (typical cost I think). I bought the filter online for $20 and did it myself in 15 minutes.

Two attachments:
  • Estimate for repairs: $1056
    Font Material property Parallel Document Pattern
    • Replace lower control arm bushings
    • Alignment
    • Upper and lower radiator hoses
    • Rear disk brake service (whatever that means)
    • Rear Brake Rotors
    • Oil change
  • Invoice from repairs 4 months ago: $1,446 (2 pages)

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    • Check brakes for squeal
    • Alignment
    • Belt adjustment
    • R&R Both rear struts and mounts
    • Front Brake Disk Pad Replacement
    • Front Brake Rotors
    • R/R ABS Sensor to be replaced
    • Two tires, inspection, emission, oil change

Specific questions:
  • Were they negligent 4 months ago in doing the check and not catching the things they did this time?
    • If they did front brakes/rotors last time, shouldn't they have seen the bushings were bad? I shouldn't have to pay for alignment twice!
    • If they did rear struts/mounts and were supposed to look at brakes 4 months ago (3,500 miles) - shouldn't they have caught the rear brake problems then?? Would it have saved the rotors?
  • $99 labor for replacing each lower control arm bushing? At $75/hr that's 1.5 hours. Does it really take that long for each one? 2 hours for radiator hoses? Seems way too high.
  • Of the invoice items, which do you recommend doing myself? How long would they take? i.e. bushings looks possible, but I'd rather have photos to work from.

Many thanks!
 

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Acountabilibuddy
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Stuff can happen in the span of 3,500 miles.
1.3 hours for the lower control arm bushing seams reasonable, though I haven't done them before. To remove the arm and press it out takes time.
How many miles do you have on the car?
 

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VIG
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The charge for the radiator hoses seems a bit excessive to me. That's something you probably could have done yourself. It can be a little messy though.

You can save yourself a few bucks by doing your own oil changes. It's pretty straight forward, and a good place to start, and build up your comfort level with the do-it-yourself kind of stuff.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks. I could try the hoses, and have the service manual. Replacing rotors should be straightforward with some jacks too, no?...
 

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Part of the value calculation you have to do is your time. Most of the service required can be done yourself, but it's time consuming.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
You're absolutely right. The cabin air filter I suppose is an extreme example of how much I can save ($80 for 15 minutes). If there are examples like that in the quote, it would be great to know. I guess I just don't trust that it will really take as long as his little book tells him it will. My grandfather has been replacing his own brake pads/shoes for a long time and has probably saved thousands. Even if I valued my time at $50/hr, spending 9 hours on it I come out even...

P.S. - Awesome avatar :)
 

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VIG
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Thanks. I could try the hoses, and have the service manual. Replacing rotors should be straightforward with some jacks too, no?...
The thing with rotors are the can be seized and be a real PITA if you don't have the right tools. I also wouldn't recommend messing with the brakes if you're just diving into DIY maintenance.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Good to know. So I won't jump into the DIY just yet. I have some good leads on getting a second mechanic opinion, and will let you know how it all turns out. Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
The short answer to the original question is: yes!

Thanks for all your input. we took it for a second opinion at a shop with good ratings in the Car Talk Mechanics File. They replaced the rear brake pads and resurfaced the rotors for $200. He said radiator hoses are fine, and bushings show some wear (after 90K miles) but by no means need immediate replacement.

So it saved $800 and we are better educated for the future. Our sincerest thanks :)
 

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2003 Elantra Owner
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They don't adjust the lower control arms in an alignment, so it's not like they where moving it around a lot and inspecting it. They are in a fixed position other than moving up and down and the wheel pivots on the control arm via the spindle. The alignment is done by adjusting the tie-rods.

Unless it was lose, obvious wear/weather rotting, or car vibrating; you wouldn't be able to notice it without inspecting it by removing it. And there is no reason to go through all that trouble.

If the mechanic and yourself test drove the car after the alignment and neither complained at that time, then it wasn't noticeable that there was any damage to the bushings.

You probably don't need a rear alignment again. They aren't replacing suspension parts back there this time. They might just only do 4 wheel alignments because by the time you put it on the machine and set it up, checking all 4 only takes a few seconds longer than 2.

Brakes are a good learning experience. With a mechanical engineering background, you should be fine. You can replace the bushings yourself also, but with the spring you might want to wait till you feel more comfortable working on the car.

Radiator hoses and oil changes anyone can do. Just dispose of the fluids properly.

Alignment should be done after any suspension change.

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I recently had an inpection and a shop recommended 2 things...brake fluid flush and battery corrosion package..both for 100$
Im thinking the battery corosion 'package' might just be a cleaning of the terminal and connections, and apply anti corrosion gel (2$ at auto parts)
Is a brake fluid flush simple enough?
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
You guys are great.
@ Smiley - thanks for the detail. They may not need work now (drives fine) but they probbaly will some day, and now I'll be ready.
@ Super - Everything always takes me twice as long to begin with, so I'll multiply by 8 ;)

Also, incase it's of interest I had cross-posted here at Car Talk and it opened a healthy can of worms about using chain shops. That's how I got the rec for that database.
 

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They may not need work now (drives fine) but they probbaly will some day, and now I'll be ready.
As long as there are no squeaks, vibrations, bouncing, etc.. Obvious signs of wear. I'd leave it alone. But if a suspension part wears out and is neglected to be replaced, it will begin to wear out other parts as well.

Recommendations are not the same as needs. That shop might picture you as someone that want's their car right no matter what it costs. You might come off to them has being concerned. That's how most people start off when asking about their car. They are concerned because they are not experts on cars, not knowing what their car needs. All they know is they want it to be like brand new again. The shop tries to give the customer peace of mind. The price is too high so they go somewhere else. The second shop doesn't see that "concerned" customer that the first shop seen. They see someone looking for a good deal on a specific part or service. So they give the customer a bargain, not piece of mind. Yea there are some people out there that will rip you off, but for the most part they are just trying to do what they feel will make you satisfied.

Whenever you get a quote, don't take it for what it is. Ask: Is this really necessary? How long will it last without being replaced? How will I know when it's completely shot?

Also bringing in a second opinion back to the first shop will make them swarm. They know you want to do business with them, and they know to gain that they need to outdo the competition.
 

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Teach
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As long as there are no squeaks, vibrations, bouncing, etc.. Obvious signs of wear. I'd leave it alone. But if a suspension part wears out and is neglected to be replaced, it will begin to wear out other parts as well.

Recommendations are not the same as needs. That shop might picture you as someone that want's their car right no matter what it costs. You might come off to them has being concerned. That's how most people start off when asking about their car. They are concerned because they are not experts on cars, not knowing what their car needs. All they know is they want it to be like brand new again. The shop tries to give the customer peace of mind. The price is too high so they go somewhere else. The second shop doesn't see that "concerned" customer that the first shop seen. They see someone looking for a good deal on a specific part or service. So they give the customer a bargain, not piece of mind. Yea there are some people out there that will rip you off, but for the most part they are just trying to do what they feel will make you satisfied.

Whenever you get a quote, don't take it for what it is. Ask: Is this really necessary? How long will it last without being replaced? How will I know when it's completely shot?

Also bringing in a second opinion back to the first shop will make them swarm. They know you want to do business with them, and they know to gain that they need to outdo the competition.
Sometimes shops do more than what is needed based on cost, and a likelihood of the parts failing after a single part is replaced. I will replace tensioner and idler wheels when I do timing belts, because the wheels may not turn as freely as they should and if they do fail, the timing belt breaks and that car owner is out an engine. It is often cheaper in the long run to do additional replacements while you are doing it than doing the same work twice, or more work later on.

Warranties are a big issue with some shops. I warranty what my shop has done, even if I lose some money, unless the customer demands I only replace certain parts. I don't want the customer coming back with the same type of repair I made, unless the part I installed was defective, and would be warrantable from the manufacturer.

If a customer comes to me for a timing belt service and I recommend replacing water pump (if it has to be removed), tensioner wheel and idler wheel as well as the timing belt and hydraulic tensioner, and the customer demands only the timing belt is replaced, I won't warranty the work because 9 out of 10 times, within 6 months that person comes back with a problem regarding something I had touched. That customer also can come back complaining that his engine is toast because the belt broke and the engine needs a top end or both top and bottom end major repair. I would rather replace the tensioner, wheels while I'm in there to be 100% sure that the belt is going to last. I generally buy a kit with everything included at a lower cost than separate parts because for the customer, they get a good repair and I get a piece of mind that I won't have to do it all over again.

If I replace a part, and the part did fail, as I had this week with a Honda Accord with a steering rack, I will do it again if the part did fail. On the Honda, the new rack had blown seals and boots. I did warranty the repair because the rack I put in, a new part, was defective. That one, I did lose money because those racks are a ***** to replace.
 

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I agree, If changing the timing belt, you will have good reasoning to explain to the customer why they should replace the tensioner as well. Customers should still ask if they don't know what it is. It will make them feel more comfortable know the shop is looking out for them and the shop will gain a repeat customer, if the shop can explain it in a way the customer will understand. I didn't mean that all recommendations should be thrown out, I meant the shop should be able to explain their reasoning and give you honest advice. A, I won't warranty the work or parts because I know without this part you will run into problems is a good strategy to inform the customer of the risks. If you always goto the same shop, there should be a good relationship. Say they notice something wearing out. They should say hey this part looks bad, but it will last you a while longer. It should be fine for a few more services, we'll check it next time you come in and let you know when it needs replacing. So that shop should have said this doesn't have to be done right now.

In Ephesian's case the shop didn't do anything to make his control arm bushings to go bad, or neglected changing them at a time when they needed changing. As a second opinion said they were fine to last a while longer. It wasn't anticipated that they would become a problem.

Also alignment is needed after any suspension work. It's not like their previous alignment work went bad. I'm sure you can talk to the salesman to get a pity discount. Salesman are humans, they can be influenced to drop the prices when they feel bad/sorry for someone.
 

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Teach
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In Ephesian's case the shop didn't do anything to make his control arm bushings to go bad, or neglected changing them at a time when they needed changing. As a second opinion said they were fine to last a while longer. It wasn't anticipated that they would become a problem.

Also alignment is needed after any suspension work. It's not like their previous alignment work went bad.
I do notice (from the date of the invoice) that the more expensive invoice included 2 tires and an alignment, but the second one, (the cheaper one) included the lower control arm bushings, which would require a second alignment, but since it was done in June the first time, that alignment fee should have been waived. I'm also wondering why the bushings were not adequately inspected the first time, usually when they fail, it is over a period of time, not a sudden failure.

I am also wondering if the same person did the inspection both times. It is also possible that the first person overlooked the condition of the bushings and the second time, the bushings were inspected more thoroughly.

The invoices are from the same shop, not a second opinion. One was from June 2010 and the later one was from October 2010.

With brake work, shops generally replace rotors with pads rather than machining the rotor. They are cheap, and it is often cheaper to replace the rotor than to machine it. Even I do that, and I explain to customers that with the rotors used on cars now, when you machine them, it takes enough material from the rotor to increase the chances of warpage than getting a new rotor. Rotors now are made in China and are made to mininimum specs and do not last as long as old school rotors.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Just to help clarify - the June invoice and the October quote are from the same shop. Instead of having them do the October work, I had a second shop provide an opinion and do less. In my case, having the original shop replace pads and rotors would have been $300, and the second shop resurfacing the rotors was $200. I also have those same questions about the inspection - though it was done by the same shop. Seems like they should have caught that stuff 4 months ago, and I would have asked them to waive the alignment fee if they did the work.
 
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