At the insistence of my daughter, the 20 year old friend of hers that bought my mom’s car called and asked my opinion on the cost of some maintenance that was recommended by a repair shop…..
The problem was “the car runs badly, but only when I’m in a parking lot or stopped at a traffic light. The rest of the time, it’s OK.”
The shop recommended
- Replacing the spark plugs $240 labor, $60 parts.
- Replacing the spark plug wires, $240 labor and $70 parts.
- Replacing the weak battery, $50 labor and $300 parts.
The shop also recommended some optional preventative maintenance items.
- A transmission system “flush”, $200
- A power steering system “flush”, $100.
- A cooling system flush, $100.
- A fuel system flush, $100.
The lady said she gave my maintenance records to the shop. I made those records and they show that
- The battery was replaced four months ago.
- The transmission was serviced four months ago.
- The power steering system was flushed four months ago.
- I had to replace the radiator in July 2017, and I flushed out the cooling system at that time.
- The fuel system was checked and the fuel filter was replaced ‘just because’ in July 2017.
I told her to drive away from that repair shop, to never set foot in there again and to bring the car over to my house.
I went ahead a replaced the spark plugs and wires. Since the back three spark plugs and wires are difficult to access (requires removing a bunch of hoses, components and wires), I went ahead and used the more expensive platinum electrode spark plug wires and very high quality spark plug wires so this won’t need to be done again for many years.
Once all the stuff to access the spark plugs is removed, putting in new spark plug wires only added 10 minutes of time when compared to reusing the old wires. My guess is they quoted her a price to, “take it apart, replace the spark plugs, put it all back together, take the same stuff apart again, replace the spark plug wires and then put it all back together again.” That is something only an idiot would do.
In reality, the spark plug wires and spark plugs were in decent (but not perfect) condition and this could have been deferred for another few years.
I checked the battery under full load and it is as good as a new battery. It was not “weak”.
Oh, yes. The poor idle problem. It was none of the stuff they recommended. It was a cracked PCV (emission) hose. The PCV hose for a 1994 Buick is a weird custom “thing” that is not easily replaceable with generic components. However, General Motors used that same part in many different cars, over many different years, and the part is both easily available and very cheap. The first auto parts place I called had one in stock for under $9.00. Since the “rubber” sections in that part had degraded, I went ahead and replaced all the other “rubber” parts in the other vacuum lines. It took just 15 minutes to do this and considering the low cost of vacuum lines, it’s worth the time to do this to prevent future vacuum leaks.
So, here is what it cost:
- Slightly more than 3 leisurely hours, including getting the parts.
- $29 for the spark plugs. I used the more expensive platinum ones that should last “forever”
- $31 for the spark plug wires.
- $9 for the PCV hose.
- $3 for some vacuum hose
Since she had given the shop person the maintenance records, my guess is that they saw a 20 year old college girl with a 24 year old car and went from there. That annoys me and I called the repair shop to let them know this. I was not rude, nor did I talk loudly, but I was very clear in expressing my annoyance.
This is why I insisted my daughter understand how to do the work and what it takes to do it. Even though she doesn’t have the tools (or the room) to do the work, she still knows when “something isn’t right”.