I’m willing and able to do some auto repairs and maintenance myself, but it would be great if I were able to do more!
Last weekend, my check engine light came on right after leaving the house to run errands. Because of the route and cold groceries, I planned on coming home between errands. I sometimes take a cooler to prevent that need, depending on the route. On the way to my first planned stop, I stopped at a car place to see if they charged for a diagnosis. They did, and it was quite expensive. So, I ran my first two errands (across the street from each other), and I went home.
I knew a couple of auto parts stores would check it for free, but that kind of diagnosis isn’t always detailed enough. I called five repair shops (all within a couple of miles of each other). The generic diagnosis (same type as parts stores) was usually free, but the full diagnosis varied in price. Some places would waive the diagnostic fee if repairs were done there.
I went to an auto parts store, and I found out it was my downstream oxygen (aka O2) sensor. I was pretty happy that it was so specific. If I bought the part, it would’ve been $48, but I don’t have the tools necessary to change it myself. I called one of the previously-called shops to see how much it would cost to replace. I figured I would use them since I’ve used them for something else. Wrong! Even though I knew the exact problem, they were going to charge me for a full diagnosis ($99), and it would not be waived with the repair. He gave me a ballpark price for the repair without a full diagnosis, but they wouldn’t warranty their work. Really?! Goodbye!
I went down the street to a place that would waive the diagnostic fee ($75) with a repair. I told them the repair that I needed, but they wasted their time and mine by doing a full diagnosis which had the same result as my free one. Then, they either charged me for that time (more than $75), or they have “set times” they charge for various services. Of course, it’s much more than the actual time spent or needed. They ordered the part from the store that gave me the free diagnosis. That was pretty funny. I knew there would be a markup, but I thought they doubled it until I found out I have four O2 sensors (two up and two down), and they replaced both downstream sensors as a precaution.
When they gave me the repair quote after the diagnosis, I said it was higher than I expected. The manager (who happened to be working the desk at that moment) reduced it a tiny bit to an even $325.
I don’t know if I could’ve had a better deal elsewhere. After all, I’m sure I would’ve been charged the higher end of the ballpark at the one place. On the plus side, I was able to run an errand on foot while the repair was being done.
I feel lucky that there is so much competition around here to hopefully keep prices down. It’s too bad I forgot to ask how much the places charged to replace sway bar inlinks. Oh well, I’ll get around to having them replaced eventually.