There's something missing in your story. That could be the second shop found and installed used parts or something like that. It is very unlikely you will find any pulley with a bearing in it for less than $50.00, so that means they charged you nothing for labor. If that modification required using a different belt, that would add to the cost. To me, the first estimate sounds about right.
If the replacement pulley was indeed new, it will have a warranty and you should go back to the shop that installed it. The auto parts store they got it from will supply a replacement at no charge, and the shop will cover the labor. If the mechanic didn't do anything wrong, he deserves to be paid again, but that comes out of the profit the shop makes. You would not be charged for labor again.
To shift gears for a minute, you can't use the "I'm a female" excuse around here. In nine years, three of my top students were girls, and the guys had a lot of respect for them. We have at least one really good female mechanic in my town who was before my time as an instructor but she was a product of my Automotive program.
Also, we used to offer a night class called "Automotive Fundamentals for Women", but that got changed to "Automotive Fundamentals for Consumers" because there are just as many guys out there who are clueless about the machines they trust to get them back home. If you assume a repair shop is going to rip you off, it is just as likely a guy is going to feel the same way today because cars have gotten so insanely complicated with unnecessary, unreliable electronics. The service advisers I used to work with didn't try to take advantage of women because they knew they were likely to run into some who were very knowledgeable, and trying to take advantage of anyone leads to a bad reputation. The worst shops are those that pay employees a commission on the parts and services they sell, and in my town, those are always the large national chain exhaust shops and GM dealerships.
As for that bearing, most of the time you can only get it with the pulley. The bearing is the more expensive part of the assembly, and it is already pressed in with the right tools to prevent damaging it. What you CAN do is look for a replacement bearing at a shop that sells just bearings. In my town we have one called "Wisconsin Bearing". They simply go by physical dimensions and type of bearing. My friend found one there for the drive line on his all-wheel-drive minivan a few years ago. That bearing from the dealer goes through extensive testing, certification, packaging, and individual delivery, and retails for $90.00. The same bearing from the same manufacturer, with the same quality controls, but without the testing, and with bulk packaging cost ten bucks. For ten dollars and a few hours labor, we had his very high-mileage van back on the road.
You could potentially find the same deal on a bearing but you first have to take the old one out and measure it to know what you need. Before I would go any further if I was working on your van, I would want to see if a bearing really is bad and if it is the one that was just installed. I'd also want to see if your AC compressor was removed to perform this modification. If it was, the refrigerant had to be recovered. That requires expensive equipment, advanced training, and additional time, all things shops have to charge for. It would not be possible to do all of that in an hour. Also, no reputable shop can stay in business by charging only $50.00 per hour. Back in 2004 I compiled a list of all the taxes, insurances, government regulations, and other expenses a repair shop has to take care of. That covered an entire page of two columns with very small type. Anyone considering starting a business would not be able to figure out how a shop can afford to stay in business by charging as little as $100.00 per hour. Really high-level, experienced mechanics rarely go home with 20 of those dollars.
That's why I'm questioning your estimate from the second shop and it's why the first shop sounds like they were the one I would trust. The second shop had to cut corners somewhere. There's a big difference between cutting corners to save you money and cutting corners that degrade the quality of the repair.
Sunday, February 22nd, 2015 AT 5:15 PM