Thursday, September 4, 2008

Repair Price Shock and Searching For The Deal

You brought your car in for diagnosis and just got the repair estimate from the dealer. After you regained consciousness and the heart palpitations stopped you decided to do a little research and see if you could get a better deal. But how and where?

Well a deal is only a deal if you do in fact need the service. I'll relate a true story to make the point.

First let me state that we were never in the actual repair business and that our expertise has been in rebuilding compressors and fabricating custom components and systems, so when Shelton, one of the truckers who regularly picked up outbound freight at our warehouse asked me to look at his car I was a bit reluctant but agreed to do so only as a friend who would diagnose his problem and then send him back to his repair facility. I told him to bring the car by on Saturday when I would be supervising a crew working overtime to push out a large order of rebuilt compressors.

Saturday came and Shelton showed up with his relatively new Nissan Maxima at 9:00 AM as planned. He also brought a $1685.00, computer generated, detailed diagnosis and repair estimate from the Nissan Dealer for which he paid about $100.00 Of course, that fee would be deducted from the repair bill should he opt to have the dealer do the work.

I studied the estimate for a minute or two and saw he was being told he needed a new AC compressor, a new receiver drier, an evaporator and an expansion valve. Of course common sense kicked in and I thought "Why not just replace everything in the car. Then the AC will surely work." But, I said nothing. I went inside and got my manifold gauge set so I could see what was going on in the system. For those of you who do not know, there is absolutely no way you can effectively diagnose an AC system without high and low side gauge readings. For more on this subject, read this brief article:

INTERPRETATION OF GAUGE READINGS

But I digress ..... We allowed the car to cool down while we had a cup of coffee and chatted local politics and then I connected the gauges. Hmmmmm .... equalized pressure 125 psig (engine off and cool, ambient temperature about 70 degrees) .....original complaint....."AC not blowing cold".

"Shelton, do you mind if I tinker with this a bit?"

"No, please do."

"OK, sit in the car while I connect another machine to it.....start the engine.... turn on the AC and put your hand in front of the vents."

"Getting cold yet?"

"A little"

"OK"

"Now?"

"Yeah."

"Now?"

"Yeah! .... Wow, it's freezing. What did you do?".....

I did nothing more than remove a little bit of freon. The system was over charged. More is not always better, especially when charging an AC system. Once the optimal charge is reached there is a diminishing return on any added gas until it becomes so over charged the system simply won't work. For a brief tutorial on how to charge a system read this article:

CHARGING

So what really happened here?

Shelton brought his relatively new car into the dealer. A dealer trained technician with minimal real world experience diagnosed the car. After connecting it to a diagnostic computer which most probably told him the problem could be one or all of several things, he opted to err on the side of caution. Rather than under estimate the job, which we all know will infuriate the customer and backfire on the technician, he opted to "fix" all of it and insure a good out come.

Was this an attempt to scam or defraud Shelton? I doubt it. People with bad intentions rarely put their misdeeds on paper where it can come back to haunt them.

So what was my point here? I guess it is to emphasize that things are not always as they seem. Before you run out and purchase parts be certain your problem is correctly diagnosed. I cannot even venture to guess at how many "bad" compressors have been changed for want of a blown fuse.

We routinely get people who want to buy components and when asked why they need the part the answer we get is "Because it doesn't blow cold."

But that is fodder for another day.

-Joe

4 comments:

Mikes said...

Repairing is now a high price deal. You have to go through all local listings to make your repairing into a profitable deal.

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