Sorry that I overlooked one of your replies. 900 dollars for a diesel engine cylinder head gasket would be a fair price here in the U.S. But it depends on what is included. I already mentioned the oil change and replacing any coolant that gets spilled. If you're concerned, call a different repair shop for a second opinion, but don't ask them if 600 pounds is a fair price, and don't tell them which shop gave you that estimate. Let the second shop come up with their own estimate without being swayed by the first one.
If the second shop is friends with the first one, they could be tempted to give you a higher estimate to make their friends look good. If they're not on friendly terms, the second shop can give you a lower estimate to make the first one look bad. Once you get the second estimate, compare the two of them to see if both are including the same parts and services. It is common for two mechanics to approach a job in a different way, especially for a job this big.
Also be aware that there are books most shops use that spell out how long each procedure should take. That allows them to give you a fair estimate and to charge you a fair amount. The book will list this job for your specific engine in your specific car model and year, then it will list small additional fractions of an hour for things that make the job take longer, like air conditioning that gets in the way, and things like that. The book may also specify to deduct a few tenths of an hour when two related procedures are being done at the same time since they both might involve taking some of the same things apart.
This is called "flat rate". It means you will be charged, for example, 8.6 hours for this job. The mechanic is going to be paid his hourly wage times 8.6 hours regardless of how long the job actually takes him. If he's inexperienced, it might take him 10.0 hours, but you still only pay for 8.6 hours. If he is very experienced and knows exactly which tools to grab, knows exactly what needs to be disassembled, has invested in expensive specialty tools and advanced training, he might get the job done in 7.0 hours. He still gets paid for 8.6 hours and that's still what you get charged for.
This is the same as if you hired your neighbor's kid to mow your lawn for ten dollars, ... Ah, ... Ten pounds! If he uses a scissors and takes a week, he earns ten pounds. If he uses a lawn mower and takes one afternoon, he earns ten pounds. If he invests in a riding lawn mower and gets done in an hour, he earns ten pounds, but he can do more jobs each day. No matter how long it takes, you pay the same amount.
Flat rate encourages the mechanic to be fast and efficient, but the checks and balances is if he makes a mistake and has to do the job over, you don't get charged again and he doesn't get paid again. His boss will see to it that the mistake gets taken care of since that mechanic won't be allowed to move on to the next customer's car until yours is done right.
The second shop shouldn't be expected to give you an opinion on the first estimate because they don't know what will be included. Some mechanics' first goal is to save you money so they may not include some things like that timing chain I mentioned. If they find later that the chain or a tensioner is in need of replacement once they get it apart and see the wear, they have to tell you more parts are needed than were expected. Normally we hate having to do that so we give estimates that are high enough to cover those unexpected extras. In that case the lower estimate wasn't the best value.
Some mechanics are more worried about their reputation AND your satisfaction so they aren't going to risk reusing a few inexpensive parts. They're going to include all related parts to insure the quality of the repair. They know, as I do, that you'll soon forget the cost of the repair, but you can be sure you'll remember if one of those used parts fails a short time later and part of the job has to be done over again.
Thursday, March 12th, 2015 AT 2:58 AM