Trusting your repair shop is something that is critical. I think the fact that you are even questioning the integrity is not a good sign. I will say that working as a mechanic is a very tough job. There is an old saying that mechanics use to say to help customers understand the cost of labor. "The human body has not changed in thousands of years, but no one questions a Dr. that charges $100 to just get you in the door. The Vehicle Industry changes drastically and the special tools are paid for by the tech. and they must constantly study manufacturers from around the world and the changes, recalls and hidden issues that are constantly changing....and then all they here is $50 for just telling me whats' wrong?"
I am by no means justifying repair shops that rip people off or do a, "hack job" repairing your car.
Most places pay flat rate. This means they have a book that states the hours it should take to do a certain repair. If a mechanic get 3.5 hours to remove and replace your transmission, they will try to do it in less time. This is not something that is necessarily unethical on the technicians apart as they will undoubtedly get a job where a broken bolt makes a 1 hour job a 3 hour job.
With all of that said, there are things to look for in a good repair shop;
A clean and tidy environment, not that it won't be reasonably dirty. Look for piles of parts that have dust on them as if they have been left there for years, the appearance of tools and diagnostic equipment, (do the mechanics have their tools organized in a good box or are they haphazardly laying around and dirty. Do the diagnostic tools look relatively new? Do they make an effort to have there reception area and bathroom reasonably clean?
Finally one of the best things, this is not as rare as you would think, that the mechanics are paid by SALARY. They may also get some of the flat rate, but I have 1 mechanic that I will let touch my car if it is something that I do not have the diagnostic equipment for....I think I have talked to him more and hung around his shop as much as he has diagnosed stuff on my car.
This shop has the latest Snap-On diagnostic Electrical, Hazardous Fluid Flush and Refill, and New On the Market tool there are. He is very busy, but when it is your time, at delivery but mostly upon pick-up, you should not feel rushed, a bother or intimidated to ask questions, he takes time so you understand what was found, how it was repaired, other things that might come up in the near future, etc.
If you are feeling that you are bothering your mechanic, that is not good. Chain shops can be bad, but they are franchised, but still not the best thing. The best shops are word of mouth. The guy I use for diagnosis and A/C service, does not advertise and you could not find his shop without specific directions.
With that small novel, I hope to get across a few things. Diagnosing is really an art and that is why places like 2CarPros exist. I pay my mechanic mostly to diagnose things that I simply do not have the tools or time for. That is really worth a lot. Diagnosis can be most of the labor in many occasions and it is hard to sell because it may take 1 hour or 4 hours to find the same problem on different cars because there are different paths of failure. Meaning, Transmission, "A" failed dues 2 a problem contained in the transmission. Transmission, "B" failed due to an electrical sensor failure which caused a solenoid failure that lead to the transmission failing.
The diagnosis leads to the same issue but the, "B" car will costs mush more for diagnosis as well as repair. But, the shortcut would be to just replace the transmission and hope it lasts long enough for liability to fall off. So, the more expensive repair is actually worth the money as it will repair the causes of failure which leads to the tranny being replaced again.
So, I am trying to say that thorough diagnostics is really worth its weight in gold. It is really hard to sell to customers because it is hard to explain that it involved electrical, mechanical and research, (service bulletins and other industry sources) to really give you a good idea of what you are in need of repairing. The other old saying, "$100 in maintenance will save $1000 in repair" is another hard to sell but very true saying.
I am sorry for the long winded explanation, but I know the position you are in, money vs. value of car vs. need of car.
With all the above, what is your first instinct about your mechanic?
Before you started thinking about all I have said or your concerns, you have an instinctual answer that immediately pops in your head as to whether things are legitimate. Generally, we as humans do mot like the answer as it involves spending money.
Beyond that, he is a link that does a pretty good estimate on car repair. It should give you the hours of labor, I used a zip code in Maryland but should not be much difference, and got $2100 to DIY and $2900ish at a shop with 10.5 hours and 6.5 hours for DIY and shop, with the tranny @ $2100. So, I do not think the price is unrealistic, but do take it with a grain of salt because the extra parts for the shop are special tools and other fees while the extra 4 hours to do it yourself is to struggle with not having special tools and taking the old tranny fluid to dump....does not take into account another huge liability.
Something is bound to break during repair. A stripped thread or broken bolt will add to the shop cost but they are less likely to break something and if they do, they cannot charge you for it. However, if they call and tell you that something should be replaced while it is apart, do not immediately dismiss it. There are not a lot of things that cannot be serviced unless the tranny is out, but the repair costs while it is out can be pulled into the labor and you will just pay for the part.
Generally, used transmissions are fine as they will faill in the first month or 1000 miles. If you get either tranny, do not baby it. Especially with the used tranny, drive it a little hard and keep an eye on the condition of the tranny fluid.
As far as rebuilds go a 1 year guarantee is average.
The things I would ask are;
Will you know how many miles the used transmission has on it?
A good junkyard keeps this stuff on database, but not always and he is using the warranty the salvage yard offers, which is generally inspection or start-up, (works when installed), so not so bad. But, another 100,000 mile transmission is not going to do you too much good. Unless you were not servicing your transmission by flushing and repacing the fluid every 30,000 and new filter if it has one, another tranny might see the same fate in 2 months and the $1000 will be worth it. However, ask if he ever uses JDM used parts. These are from cars sold in Japan. They have a law that at 30,000 mile the engine must be replaced or you pay a huge tax. Usually the car is junked and you can get tannys with an average $30,000 mile on them for around $1000, but it depends on his willingness as they generally do not have more than a delivery inspection warranty and you will have to check the internet as I only know a Honda guy. Do not use TIGER JDM in Canada.
Ask if there are any parts that could have lead to the tranny failure that he is replacing?
The on-line quote tool uses $59 something an hour, that is unrealistic. I think at least $75 an hour is fair for a good shop. You also have to tack on 1-2 hours for the diagnosis, that is fair, and if you bring that kind of stuff up, you will be one of those, Special Customers" that understands the problem as well as educated to recognize BS.
The last and most important thing is that the warranty covers the removal and replacement of the transmission if it fails in the warranty period. There might be a small fee for fluids and waste disposal, ask him that as well to re-affirm the fact that you know the costs to operate that he has to pay, as if it does not cover labor, you can find someone who will as that makes the warranty sort of worthless. The labor is on his end for liability as warranties form manufacturers do not cover labor in most cases. But this is something he may not do for used tranny but will do for rebuild since that is all him. This is reasonable and not a selling tactic, if he covers labor for used...he has a good used parts guy and the gamble for a Grand is up to you.
I think he sounds okay as the information is legitimate and he gave you the trouble codes. You might call around and see how much someone will charge to read all the Check Angine Light (CEL) and DIAGNOSTIC TROUBLE CODES (DTC) as I listed in previous reply as a second opinion. You can purchase a code reder at Advance or AutoZone for around $100. You will probably get quoted $50 or so to read codes, so investing in one, they usually read OBD1 and OBD which covers 1996- present and just plugs in and tells you whets you what is going on even if there is not a light on dash.
Personally, I would look at the time period you need tranny to work well, if you want to sell it, or at least last.
2 years for a tranny with unknown or near 100,000 miles is a big gamble even if you service it.
$1000 over 2 years is not bad. I would get a list of what is being replaced. Is it just a patch or do you het all new solenoids, friction and driven clutch packs, springs and detent bals, and what about things found damaged once itis torn down, for example the shift shaft?
He may be getting a rebuilt from company that does them for a living and keeps them on the shelves, which is not bad but can go either way. Ask who the company is, they will have an internet site and you can see there general rebuild kit. Look into this yourself and you will find companies that sell rebuilt transmissions that are ready to go. They will list out the services done and parts replaced and parts replaced upon inspection. You can also see the warranty offered and price. Remeber the shop has to make some money of the pat and big tibket items costs shops about the same as anyone.
I hope that this helps and does not confuse as I rambled on too much.
I know the feeling of the position you are in and that is what lead me to fix my own cars...ha ha.
Please let me know what I can condense and clarify or if you have any questions along the way.
$2800 will certainly get you a tranny that will last 2 years, but you must service it properly and if it is going to break or have an issue, it will happen in the first year.
Keep the link for the Auto Repair Estimator as it is really good if you consider things that add on like, diagnosis, etc. as it is only to remove and replace. A good shop will use more than tranny fluid as other wear items, e.g. on time use clips and washers, etc, are not in estimarte. It is best for the hours to repair and ballpark parts.
The site has links to find repautable repair shipos near you if yours does not work out.
Truly research getting a trouble code scanner. Get one for OBD1 and OBD 2 and also find the connector , should be unbder dash left of steering wheel. Some cars have to have a connector put in for OBD 1, but is very easy.
I will keep an eye on this postfor your reply.
Below is the link with completed estimate in Maryland. Look at the links to further investigate and note it gives you repair shops in your area. I cannot vouch for any of those. I do know that the repair shops linked to 2CarPros are reputable.
Keep the link for later use as it is great tool.
Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 AT 7:38 AM