Boy, you gotta wonder how someone can love a car that costs that much to repair. You've spent more just on labor than my mother and now I have spent on parts AND labor in the entire life of my '88 Grand Caravan since it was new, except maybe for gas. We all know GM, Volkswagen, and BMW are the three best companies in the world at finding ways to bleed money from unsuspecting owners after the sale, but I would be ashamed to hand you a repair bill like you got.
$700.00 for transmission fluid? A flush and filter change on a Caravan is less than $200.00. $1700.00 for a thermostat and oxygen sensor? Come on! That's enough to fix five or six cars.
I was the suspension and alignment specialist at a very nice family-owned Chrysler dealership and I replaced my share of half shafts. The average one cost around $150.00, but some were as much as $180.00. They still charge $44.95 for a four-wheel alignment, plus parts if needed. I hope you don't think you got a good deal at over $660.00, even if that included the 40 minutes of labor to change them, (if you work slowly).
I know that thanks to all the government regulations and advanced training repair shops have to pay for it's amazing they can stay in business charging only around $100.00 per hour for labor, but it looks to me like you got charged four times that; maybe more. I just had to butt into your conversation because there are a lot of really good shops out there and a lot of conscientious mechanics that never make the news. I don't think you got either. This is one reason so many former owners have said "never again" to their car brand and the manufacturers have to resort to short-sighted tricks to get new customers in. If I had to spend one quarter the amount you were charged for parts, my cars would be gone to the junkyard.
Also, the alignment has nothing to do with whether or not you just bought new tires. It has to do with the mechanic's and your observations. If the car pulls toward one side of the road consistently when you let go of the steering wheel, and / or if the steering wheel is off-center when driving straight ahead, you need an alignment. Those are things YOU would observe. The mechanics also "read" the tire wear patterns. I preferred aligning cars with the old tires so I could see how they were wearing, but most of the time people bought the tires first, then came to see me for the alignment. They got the same results. I just had to rely on and interpret the numbers on my computer screen, and if they were good, I had nothing else to go on. Most notably a car can be in good alignment but still have bad tire wear if it heavily-loaded often. THAT'S the kind of thing that will show up when looking at old tires. If you didn't notice a problem, the mechanic should have been willing to show you the tire wear he was looking at and he should have taken the time to explain what causes it and what he is going to do to fix it. You should also have gotten a printout showing "before" and "after" numbers. The "before" numbers would show what was wrong, and the "after" numbers would be what you got after the corrections were made. The three main alignment angles are "camber", "caster", and "toe". I can interpret the numbers for you for those angles. Caster is typically not adjustable on front-wheel-drive cars and doesn't need to be. Camber is critical to tire wear and that was not adjustable on most older Volkswagens. I think it is on your car. It's not adjustable on most Ford front-wheel-drive cars because they care more about building 'em cheap than to provide good service for their owners.
Sorry for sticking my nose in here but it's shops like the one you went to that give all of us an undeserved bad reputation. I know Volkswagens cost a whole lot more to repair than most other car brands but I had no idea they could get away with charging someone so much. At what dollar amount would you start to question the value you are getting for your money?
Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 AT 4:06 AM