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Old 08-06-2018, 12:43 PM
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Automotive/mechanical work



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Automotive woes óó-doís & doníts, will & wonít , can & canít.

What will you do and what you wonít do?

Iím a small business/fleet owner and with labor rates from $120 to $190 and hour, just how far will you go to try and save a few dollars?
An alternator is $180 dollars plus parts and any where from 1 to 1 1/2 hours book labor charge for 30 minutes of work. Makes the $180 alternator $360-$390 dollars u.s. and I just canít pay that.

Kenworth wanted $390 for an a/c compressor that at best is $180 including clutch. System was already empty so no reclamation needed but was going to be charged that anyways plus the charging total was just south of $1,000.
Belts are about a 10th of the cost of you have a shop change them.
Break shoes and drums for my trucks all the way around is about $500 in parts but to have a ship do it the parts skyrocket to about $900 plus labor another $500.
If you donít do a lot of the work yourself you can quickly become bankrupt plus doing the work myself keeps my down time limited to my two days off most of the time instead of all week waiting for the said shop to get around to starting the work.

This July right as we went into a long stretch of 100*+ weather in had in a 7 day spread 2 a/c compressor failures.

Ouch!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Even though if changed near every line/seal/expansion valve, I continue to have seal leak issues or hose failures ďbad crimpsĒ .

After I pull a 28-30 inch pound negative pressure ďvacuumĒ and the following leak test everything passes. Charge the system and walla snowballs out the vents and a very happy driver. About 1 1/2 weeks later I get a call óóó- driver says the a/c isnít blowing cold any more.

I have learned a few things.

1 - I now know I never want to work on a/c at all anymore much less as a career choice.
2- this is where used equipment stinks.
3- nothing ever breaks when the temperatures are nice outside.

I do 98.9% of my mechanical work only calling in or taking my repairs to an outside party when the repair is beyond my scope of knowledge or I donít have the tools to do the job ď some tools are just way to expensive to buy for the 1-3 times Iíll use them. As I get older Iím starting to think about a change in my position on moonlighting as a mechanic.

This also includes my personal vehicles.

Soooooooo........ do you do all your own work or outsource all your repairs?


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Old 08-06-2018, 01:04 PM
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Up here many of us have been forced to learn to do our own work. Refrigeration has saved me a ton of money, but it wasn't cheap for the tools, and was a pain to get the certificate.

Up here it was a 45k quote to blast below the waterline, we bought a second hand compressor and blast pot. Even the the price of media it was only 11k to do ourselves. Easily the worst job ever was sandblasting the water tank inside. Respirator lenses didn't last long, would pay just about any price to not do that.

Every winter my goal is to learn a new boat related trade, have fiberglass laminating (a miserable one). After that proficiency in diesel rebuilding would be my next big thing.

Over the years the specialized tools do a pretty good job filling a storage unit, but it's really nice to have.
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Old 08-06-2018, 01:10 PM
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I use to do all of my own automotive repairs , but now I take almost everything to the shop these days. Its painful to do that kind of work any more.
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Old 08-06-2018, 01:28 PM
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Automotive/mechanical work

Usually the next day Iím a bit sore and real stifffffffffff.....

Currently charging a/c for the third time.

I needed to be gone by 9 this morning but now Iíll be driving all night.


"The biggest communication problem is we don't listen to understand, we listen to reply"

Last edited by PEASHOOTER67; 08-06-2018 at 01:31 PM.
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Old 08-06-2018, 02:02 PM
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When I lived in Ohio I found a great mechanic that did good work, charged a fair hourly rate and let me supply the parts. For example, he changed the clutch in my Acura for $400 labor and I got the clutch kit and new flywheel for $200. The lowest quote for the job was over twice that.

But I moved away and haven't found a good mechanic out here yet. I'm back to doing as much as I can myself.
Now all 4 of my ball joints are worn and I don't know if I can do the lowers myself. I think I'll change the control arms (uppers) myself and pay someone to do the lowers and alignment.

I'm 66 and hate working on cars anymore, it's been 50+ years.
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Old 08-06-2018, 02:14 PM
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I don't work on AC systems but I do most of my own maintenance including plugs and such. I'm having woes with a 7.5 liter 90s Ford that won't pass smog but has no engine light. We keep it around for heavy duty jobs when my Ranger just won't do. O2 sensor was bad, intake manifold was dirty with oil picked up from the PCV valve, EGR took 3 days to unstick the big egr pipe nut soaking with penetrant, then broke egr stud on manifold after I thought I was home free. Had to remove the manifold to get the stud out, egr was still good, passages in intake manifold were clear. After several days of using penetrating oil and wrenching on the broken stud I took it to a machine shop to have it removed. Radiator was full of rust, found out that will cause high cylinder temperatures which makes high NOX. Using Radiator flush in the truck now to loosen the rust and will have to flush it again and fill with 50/50. Mechanics were suggesting a $1000 catalytic converter might be needed. I'm not so sure. I find most mechanics will propose the most expensive fix first and overlook the cheap repairs. My dad had supposedly changed the catalytic converter before he passed 10 years ago. Mom still has the bill but the O2 sensor was still original to the truck. Cat looks original too. A good mechanic would have addressed that at the same time as the CAT. I don't trust mechanics and if I need a new engine, it's time for a new car. Frustrating thing is the truck seems to run pretty well for nearly 30 years old. When I pulled and replaced the plugs the ones I had put in it 10 years ago were still like new as it hasn't been driven a lot since dad passed but I changed them anyways. No oil in the cylinders, just a light brown film from running a bit rich. Also replaced cap and rotor which showed signs of contact wear trying to get the thing to pass. Have spent around $200 on parts so far and spent more hours than it makes sense to. Hoping the next trip to the smog place will bring good news. Crossing my fingers it won't need a new CAT. rc
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Old 08-06-2018, 03:12 PM
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You will see my name "mobilemechanic" is my part time retirement job. I worked all my life in the field of mechanics. I taught both my son and daughter about cars so they knew a little about how they worked. My son is a good mechanic when he needs to be and calls me if he thinks it is too much ! My daughter knows how to change a tire and check the oil etc. otherwise her husband or I take care of it . Around here service shops charge around $100/120 per hour so it can add up fast. I mostly do lawn mower repairs some light automotive and boats,I come and do the work right in your driveway . I currently charge $30.00 for the first half hour and $40.00 per hour after that, I also get $1.25 per mile one way to come out.(no charge for travel time) The furthest I travel is about 30 miles but most of my work is within 15 miles.I really don't make much money on the business but I did buy a new truck this year because I can write off the use of it so all is good. By the way around here it is very difficult for a service shop to hire a good mechanic,people are not going into the trades out of school.

Last edited by mobilemechanic; 08-06-2018 at 03:53 PM.
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Old 08-06-2018, 03:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Mr GAP View Post
I use to do all of my own automotive repairs , but now I take almost everything to the shop these days. Its painful to do that kind of work any more.

That's the stage I'm at. Still have the tools though. Luckily for me, I have two Japanese cars that almost never need repairs, other than PM.
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Old 08-06-2018, 06:39 PM
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When it comes to 14 liter Cummins or Detroitís there are tools you need and the shirt weight is prohibitive. I try to do as much as I can.


Yes your right that so called mechanics today just throw parts at it to see if it fixes the problem and seem to always start out with the most expensive part First and they donít seem to have any real diagnostic skills today.

I had a 2000 Yukon Denali with a 5.7 that had a bad enough misfire to trip a code and it would foul out a spark plug. At one point it started fouling two plugs and misfiring all the time like it had a dead cylinder.

Chevy dealer said fuel pressure regulator so o changed it to no avail, took it back in and they said the same thing and said they canít proceed forward with out changing all these parts that had nothing to do with one or two cylinders misfiring.

Turns out it was the lower intake manifold gasket and was the last thing any of them would have fixed/changed, it took an old school mechanic and a vacuum gauge to figure it out.


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Old 08-06-2018, 07:01 PM
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Yeh, critical thinking is not a requirement to be a mechanic. All you have to do is go to a trade school and be able to follow steps in the service manual. Sometimes they do know better but are just straight up dishonest.

mobelmechanic, people are lucky to have you at a reasonable rate. Most of the time you get minimum wage Johnny wrenching on your car and the shop is making over $100 for providing the space while maybe having someone qualified doing the job.
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Old 08-06-2018, 08:45 PM
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I really enjoy doing mechanical work on vehicles that I don't immediately need. For example, my 1964 Honda CB77 that's still in about 20 boxes and might get done someday but life keeps interfering. But that's rare.

Just in the last two days I have:

- replaced an AC hose to fix a refrigerant leak on the wife's Saab
- replaced cracked vacuum hoses to fix a noise in her turbo boost controller
- replaced the left rear window regulator (the new one is wired backwards, so you press UP to lower the window...)
- fixed her car stereo

all in the Saab. They are great cars to drive when running right, but you cry when you have to work on them. Actually, this week's work was not so bad. A few months ago I had to replace the water pump. That was a miserable task.

Also this week replaced the harmonic balancer on my Ranger, and tomorrow will do a new fuel filter. Ford dealer told me the book labor on the balancer job was four hours (at over $100 per). Did the whole thing in about 45 minutes. A month ago I gave it a new AC compressor, which took about an hour. Local shop had estimated $500 for that job But when it needed a new clutch, I paid $1400 to the dealer. The thought of lying in the driveway with the entire transmission resting on my stomach was not appealing.

Still have to replace ball joints, tie rod ends, and upper control arms on the Ranger. Am waiting for delivery of the right wrench to complete that job. Still drives ok but will be better when this work is done.

I've rebuilt car and motorcycle engines. It's fun under the right circumstances.

I must disagree with rc above. Critical thinking is essential to making a correct diagnosis of the machine's problem.

Some tasks that simply require a lift and special tools I won't do. I've become afraid of working underneath a vehicle that is merely supported by jack stands.
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Old 08-06-2018, 09:07 PM
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Automotive/mechanical work

Automotive transmissions for rear wheel drive and 4x4 I have no problems and balljoints are a breeze with air tools óóoh boyó and u-joints also are a breeze.

The donít so much mind doing it especially when itís recreational. Whatís recreational mechanicín you say?

Thatís doing a drum break to disk break conversion on your classic car........ or truck.

How ever I donít like to do it under the ďI have no choice but to do it right this moment or elseĒ I prefer to do my repairs on a schedule when I can do this with weather co-operating.

I finished up the a/c this afternoon it was 100* and 80% humidity. To say I was nasty would be an understatement and sun burned ta boot.
Of course if the a/c went out in September I wouldnít fix it till next June probably so it is what it is right

This thread is enjoyable.

"The biggest communication problem is we don't listen to understand, we listen to reply"

Last edited by PEASHOOTER67; 08-06-2018 at 09:12 PM.
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Old 08-06-2018, 10:07 PM
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I do most all repair work and mods on my personal vehicles mainly for cost and quality control reasons.

I know it's done right if I do it myself and no steps were skipped and all torque specs/tolerances are right. I also get to source my own parts.

Not sure I'd want to maintain a fleet of vehicles, but if it were my business I'd have to look for alternatives to being at the mercy, and expense, of outside labor and the cost of downtime.

The cost of doing business is sometimes high enough to close a business.

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Old 08-06-2018, 10:45 PM
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Trucks get expensive quick. I rarely work on them cept when the boss feels sorry for somebody then I get stuck with it. If you really want to start writing some big checks be a farmer. The transmission for the tractor I have split apart now, replacement cost is more than about everything I own. And I have another one to do the same to as soon I can clear out a bay.
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Old 08-06-2018, 10:51 PM
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Growing up on the farm in the 50's & 60's we did just about everything, but as things got bigger & more complicated we didn't have the tools to perform the major items. A tractor loader and a chain hoist did a lot of the lifting for us.

I was a mechanic in the Army 66-68 working on both wheel vehicles & tracks along with generators, chain saws, and anything else mechanical. We didn't overhaul any engines as that was 2nd echelon work so we just swapped them out and we didn't have any AC to worry about. Lots of brake-work, radiator repair, oil changes, drivelines, rebuilding of magnetos, belts, and wiring harnesses.

Did everything I could on my own personal cars, trucks, & motorcycles early on into the 70's & 80's but as more and more computer chips took over I just didn't have the equipment to troubleshoot.

I do buy extended warranties for our vehicles - some are ok (some are really bad) which covers the major items. Our vehicles are 11 & 8 years old but both are still under 75K miles.

I do minor items whenever possible - brakes, lights . . . etc. I am thinking about replacement of the springs, struts, and shocks on my truck as they want over $1,100 at a Brakes Plus to do that work and their parts are barely OEM equivalents.

I do not change my own oil any more as it's very hard to get rid of the oil and I usually have a coupon and/or military discount to get it done and they do all the checks, top off the fluid levels, and rotate the tires for me so I feel $40-45 is worth it on the truck - the car is a bit more, but they also wash and hand dry it so $50 ever 5000 isn't to bad.

There used to be some places around that would rent out a bay in a service station for $10/20, but those have disappeared around here as well. Facilities, tools, plus my age, and lack of knowledge . . . now force me to pay for more repairs than I care too.
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