2005 Dodge Caravan

2005 Dodge Caravan

How much does it cost to replace the water pump?
Do you
have the same problem?
Thursday, December 3rd, 2009 AT 1:26 PM

1 Reply

Depends on the engine, (you didn't say which one you have). Depends on the shop's hourly rate, (we have no way of knowing), and on how many other related things they want to replace to insure a quality repair. You didn't specify how many miles are on the engine.

The pump on the domestic 3.3 / 3.8L engine is very easy to access. Replacement takes about 15 minutes for just the pump and o-ring gasket, but you must also include time to drain the coolant and refill it. I changed these at the dealership where we dealt with cars too new to have rusty and corroded bolts. If the mechanic doesn't run into any unforeseen problems, I'd expect the job to take less than an hour. If the engine has high mileage, it's a good idea to request new antifreeze and a cooling system flush. Old coolant builds up acids from combustion gases seeping in that will corrode heater cores, radiators, and head gaskets. When you get an estimate, they will likely tell you if they think a flush should be included. They might also recommend a new serpentine drive belt rather than risk you being angry when the old one breaks a month or two from now.

If you have the Mitsubishi-built 3.0L V-6, the allotted time to replace the pump is 4.0 hours on my '88 Grand Caravan, but I'm sure it will be considerably more on a 2005 model due to much less accessibility. Your mechanic will surely also advise you to purchase a new timing belt too. These pumps don't leak very often, but when they do, they have usually been sloppy for a while. The back of the timing belt runs around the pump pulley, and any misaligned pulley will cause wear to the belt. Assuming the pump is a 5 hour job, and the belt alone is a 4 hour job, doing both at the same time will only take 5 hours and reduce the chances you will need to do the job all over a second time to replace the belt later.

Can't help you if you have a 4 cylinder engine. Never replaced a pump on one of those, but I'm guessing the difficulty is somewhere between the 3.0L and 3.3L If your shop is a "flat rate" shop, they will quote you a time from a "flat rate guide" multiplied by their hourly rate.

There are a number of advantages to flat rate. First of all, you will receive the same quote from every shop. Only their hourly rates and additional parts and services will vary.

Second, if they quote you 4 hours, for example, and the mechanic runs into a problem such as waiting for parts to be delivered, can't get a rusty bolt loose, etc, you still pay for only four hours. If the mechanic invests in expensive specialty tools or additional training, or if he just has a lot of experience and works efficiently, he might get the job done in three hours. He will still be paid for four hours and you are still charged for four hours.

Third, there are checks and balances. If he hurries too much and messes something up that is his fault, he has to do it over for free. He doesn't get paid a second time and you don't get charged a second time. It's in the mechanic's best interest to get the job done as quickly as possible, and to do the job correctly the first time. Both of those things are in the customer's best interest too.

Flat rate shops often have a higher hourly rate, but shops that simply charge by the hour have no incentive to get the job done quickly. You might pay a lower hourly rate, but for more hours. Also, the service writers at most flat rate shops won't mind showing you the labor guide they're using if they aren't busy with a lot of other customers. Using my Caravan as an example, I got 3.5 hours to replace the water pump, an additional half hour because it had air conditioning, (more stuff to remove), and an additional.2 hours to replace the timing belt. That's 4.2 hours times the hourly labor charge, plus the cost of the water pump. You should also be aware there might be two times listed for most jobs. A job that pays two hours might also be listed at 1.7 hours. That shorter time is for vehicles in warranty or very new. Manufacturers reimburse dealers at a lower rate because they know repetition makes mechanics faster, the cars won't have rusty parts, and they are very specific about what work must be done. There is no time spent discussing or arguing with a customer. Plus, the dealer can request reimbursement for additional problems, such as drilling out a broken bolt, that would normally be included when you're paying the bill.

Another way to look at flat rate is to compare your neighbor's kid mowing your lawn for ten bucks. If it takes him all day because he's using a scissors, he earned ten bucks per day. If he uses a mover and gets done in half a day, he can mow two lawns and earn 20 bucks per day. You don't pay any more, and what do you care how long it takes him as long as it's done properly? If he invests in a riding lawn mower, he might be able to mow four lawns per day. That's where investments in tools, and experience, pays off.

Most independent shops in mid sized towns are charging around $90.00 - 100.00 per hour. That sounds like a lot, but if you could see all the test equipment they have to buy every year to stay up-to-date, the outrageous cost of aftermarket service manuals, and the cost of the constant retraining, you'd wonder how they can stay in business. Add to that all the taxes, insurances, free coffee and cable tv in the waiting room, and you'd start to realize that you're actually getting a good deal.

Sometimes it's more advantageous taking your van to the dealership. They will have the pump in stock, and they mechanics are experienced in working on your vehicle. You'll usually get the fastest repair there. Independent repair shops can't possibly stock all the parts for a lot of different brands and models, so they will call the parts stores and wait for delivery, usually less than an hour. They likely won't start on the repairs until the parts have arrived to be sure they have the right parts. They don't want to leave your car undriveable if it turns out parts aren't immediately available. Also, they might save you some money by installing a rebuilt pump. They're usually just as good as a new one but cost a lot less. The trade-off for lower cost of repair is generally that it takes longer to get your car back.

Sorry I didn't exactly answer your question, but as you can see, there are just too many variables to consider. No two shops will charge you the exact same amount or do the job exactly the same way, but that doesn't mean any one of them is doing anything incorrectly.

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Friday, December 4th, 2009 AT 3:20 AM

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