There are very few vehicle owners who at one time or another have not been shocked by a repair estimate they received from a facility. Many service agents are very good at breaking things down and explaining them in an easy-to-understand way without proving condescending.
But when things go quickly, many important details can be lost in the translation. Here is a humble attempt to explain why some repairs have hit the stratosphere in terms of cost.
First, understand that few automakers ever think about how easy or difficult it will be to fix certain things when it comes to the design, engineering, and construction of their products. And absolutely no new car buyer asks about maintenance and repair costs when sitting across from the seller.
Repairs that run hot and cold
HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) systems are rarely very easy to access and the dashboard may need to be taken apart. Any job that takes so much work just to access the system doesn’t come cheap. If your heater suddenly refuses to change the ventilation capacity or switch from full heat to cooling, it could result in a major sticker shock and the trip warranty has expired. Depending on the equipment, most auto and light truck strokes require at least eight man hours to remove and replace. With store prices at a conservative $ 150 an hour, the calculation can be painful.
As with anything else, there are exceptions to the rule. Some components of a vehicle’s HVAC box are accessible without major modifications as the technician only needs to remove one access panel. Seasoned technicians who have done this job many times have developed shortcuts – but don’t expect this to lower your bill as most stores still charge at a set price rather than the actual time.
Tip of the day: If your vehicle is removed from the dash for anything, make sure your drive home is completed with the radio off. Pay close attention to any new rattles or squeaks and report them to the store immediately. You don’t want to be dinged twice for one line removal.
There is a price to be paid for design
It’s hard to believe, but there are more than a few jobs on pickup engines that are much easier and cheaper with the entire cab removed. You’d think with all of that space under those massive hoods you should be able to do laps around an engine in a truck. However, if you take a closer look, you’ll see how far these engines have moved under the windshield in newer designs, and how much more fragile plastic surrounds them.
Quite a few stores have made it their business to remove the cabin for access and avoid damaging anything during major repairs like replacing the engine. But even with simple jobs, a lack of leeway can mean lifting the front part of the body to get the job done. The use of sidearm trains, proper tools, and experience can accomplish this major operation in less than an hour in many cases, but of course the customer is likely to pay far more.
Nothing drives a car owner further than learning that something as simple as replacing a lightbulb requires time-consuming access procedures like removing a bumper cover. But having more than a few models out there are just so frustrating. Remember, if it had been easy to sell and repair cars while the owners were happy, automakers would have done it years ago.