My Poor Car...
September 3, 2009 12:21 PM   Subscribe

How badly am I getting ripped off? By poor, poor car, a '02 VW 1.8T with ~168,000 kms on it, needs a lot of work. $2600 worth.

The dealership just called me -- it'll be about $2600 total, taxes (12%) in. I've known my car has needed some structural work for a while -- every time I drive over so much as a crack in the pavement, it creaks and squeaks and otherwise sounds horrible. My ebrake only half works. And my rear brakes are almost done.

What's being done, parts & labour (pardon my lack of car technical knowledge)
* rear breaks replaced (~$400)
* rear calipers replaced (the e-break problem) (~$800)
* new rear shocks and some other big-ass joint thing thats almost totally cracked (sorry... forgot this part) being taken care of. (~$1200)
* regular service, including oil change and inspection, yadda yadda
* they're replacing a burnt out bulb in the back for free. Gee, thanks.

Anyone know how badly I'm getting fleeced here? I know I could go to anywhere else other than a stealership and get this done cheaper, but I like these guys, they've been good to me in the past, and they're close by. I'm willing to pay for the convenience... but how much am I paying? Anyone have any clue? I realize this is one of those overly technical questions that are hard to answer, but hey, it's only a week until my next question! :)

Other than this, I haven't had a lot of problems with this car to date. Had my clutch replaced, one minor little electrical thing, a couple things under warranty and/or recall, and the rest is the usual service. The brakes have only been replaced once previously. It's been good to me, it's getting beat up cosmetically, and its killing me to put this much money is a car thats not worth much anymore... but I do really love my car. Usually.
posted by cgg to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: errr... that's a VW 1.8T GTI... forgot those crucial three letters. Ooops.
posted by cgg at 12:22 PM on September 3, 2009

Best answer: Do you have an itemized list of how many hours they quoted?
It sounds like they're quoting 2 hours plus parts for the brakes, another 2 hours plus parts for the calipers (which will require the system to be bled).
I bet that "big ass joint" is a control arm bushing or something that requires the whole arm that houses that bushing to be replaced, right? Did they say that repair also required an alignment?
That's probably another hour or two plus however expensive that control arm is. Then the shocks are probably about 1.5 per side, plus the cost of shocks.
Am I close?
Honestly, that's not that much, considering how much is being replaced. All new brake hardware in the rear, two new shocks, new big suspension components (and possible alignment) and a service for $2600 on a high milage car? If you plan on keeping this car, that's not too much money.

I work at a dealership and make up estimates for repairs as part of my job. If you can itemize it for me and be more specific, like what's their labor rate, how many hours of labor they're charging, and the cost of parts, I'd be totally happy to let you know if you're a) being ripped off or b) you just happen to need a lot of expensive work done.
posted by Jon-o at 12:35 PM on September 3, 2009

Best answer: You are not particularly being fleeced with those kind of quotes beyond than the unfathomable reason you are choosing to go through the factory dealer for a car out of warranty, There are countless VW specialists that would give you a better quote (lower labour rates at least) and may even use genuine parts if you ask them.

For dealer prices, that sounds reasonable for that much work. For a 7 year old car, that's WAY too much money. Take it to a non-factory specialist.

I suspect that 'bag ass joint thing' = Rear trailing beam bushes.
posted by Brockles at 12:35 PM on September 3, 2009

Also, I see you're in Vancouver, BC. When doing suspension or brake work on a high-mileage car that's spent its life in snow, ice, and salt, I always overestimate labor due to the extremely likely possibility that parts will be rusted and vastly more difficult to remove or manipulate than those from a friendlier climate. After 170kms in Canada, I bet every single nut and bolt under your car has nearly fused under a thick layer of corrosion and I wouldn't begruge any tech overestimating their labor by a reasonable margin to take that into account.

On preview: Brockles, as usual, is on the money with the trailing-beam bushing. I can see the whole thing in my head, now. That's a pretty big job...
posted by Jon-o at 12:46 PM on September 3, 2009

Yes, you are being fleeced. Find a local VW/German mechanic

* new rear shocks and some other big-ass joint thing thats almost totally cracked (sorry... forgot this part) being taken care of. (~$1200)

WUT? The rear end service is what I'm most suspicious about. The rear suspension on your GTI is very simple, it consists of a steel beam with a stub axle on each end, connected with rear trailing arms where the shocks and springs live.
posted by limited slip at 12:51 PM on September 3, 2009

Youre paying dealer prices. You could probably get 20-40% off by going to an independent garage. Im not sure why people take non-warranty cars to dealers.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:56 PM on September 3, 2009

Best answer: It looks simple, but warranty pays 1.3 hours to remove that beam. The labor, by the VW book, includes coil springs r+i, shocks r+i, wheel speed sensors r+i, brake lines r+i, and calipers r+i.
Maybe you could convince them to cut you a break because most of the labor to remove that trailing beam overlaps with the other stuff they quoted you on. If they have to take the shocks out to get the beam out, they should reduce your labor charge.
I've got the repair manual pulled up now and I'm going to retract my original post. Most of your labor overlaps and they're estimating this job like they're doing it all individually.
posted by Jon-o at 1:05 PM on September 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

Unless the pads are made of fuckin' kryptonite, the price of the rear brakes, on top of the caliper time and parts, shouldn't be anywhere near what they're quoting.
posted by notsnot at 1:20 PM on September 3, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks guys -- much appreciated. I was pretty sure I was getting fleeced, but now I'm sure of it. I've put a hold on the work for now, I'll get an itemized list of what they're proposing, and I'll at least get a quote from another VW mechanic or two before I get everything done. The only reason I still go to the dealership is because I've always gone to the dealership; I have a hard time accepting my baby's not shiny and new anymore :(
posted by cgg at 1:22 PM on September 3, 2009

As notsnot points out, the charges for the brakes just don't add up (if they are just replacing pads and not the rotors, then there shouldn't be any labour at all on top of the caliper work and even if they are replacing the rotors, there shouldn't be much labour there). If they are charging too much for the brakes, then they are probably charging too much for the rest of the work. Just for reference, if I went down to the local auto parts store and bought rear calipers, pads, rotors, and some brake fluid (none of them VW parts, of course) I'd expect to pay $350 CAD. Even with a few hours of labour, you could get away with far less than $1200.

Here are a few mechanics recommended on (a site dedicated to the diesel version of your car):

Andes Auto Service
255 7th Avenue East
Vancouver, BC V5T 1M7
(604) 879-3800

VW Petrolero
Vancouver BC

JS Performance #5 -
30508 Great Northern Ave
Abbotsford, BC, Canada V2T 6H4
(877) 557-7900

Duane's German Autohaus
105-19640 Landmark Way
Langley, BC V3A 7Z5
(604) 533-4502
posted by ssg at 3:09 PM on September 3, 2009

Response by poster: Just got the breakdown in writing from the dealership:

Operation 1:
* Checked ebrake; performed technical diag.
* need 2 rear calipers
* rear brakes worn (4.5mm)
* estimate: $1101+ tax, includes parts and labour

Operation 2:
* Checked rear suspension
* swaybar bushings worn
* control arm bushings torn
* rear shocks leaking
* estimate: $1210+tax, includes parts and labour.

posted by cgg at 6:10 PM on September 3, 2009

Just nth'ing the 'avoid the dealerships' current here.

Used to own a VW; dealership failed to fix "engine stops for no reason problem" after having tried 4 times; took car to non-dealer they fixed it in one visit - nothing to do with what dealership had been fiddling with - and charged less than one of the dealer attempts.
posted by southof40 at 6:34 PM on September 3, 2009

4.5mm on rear pads is fine. 3mm or less is when you should start considering replacement. To put it in perspective, they're 8-10mm new.
Don't replace the pads just because they're 4.5mm. But, while the caliper is off, it wouldn't hurt to throw a set of new pads on, just for the cost of pads since it'd be no extra labor.
The handbrake is important and I would recommend getting that repaired. It's one of those safety things. On that model, the handbrake cable actuates a lever that applies pressure to a mechanism inside the caliper. When released, a spring on that lever returns the cable to its rest position. That whole set up is integrated into the caliper and, having replaced something very similar on a late 90s A6 recently, I found that I couldn't order those parts separately. I had to get new whole new calipers.

Unless the bushings are resulting in a noise or vibration, don't worry about them. The shocks are the priority in that case. Leaky, worn shocks can cause poor handling and, since they don't stop the spring from reciprocating, you'll chew through your tires really fast.

However, none of that work needs to get done at a dealer. Just find yourself a shop with a good reputation and you'll do fine. I bet you can get two new calipers and new rear shocks installed for about a grand, parts and labor. Calipers can be a couple hundred bucks, unfortunately.
Sway-bar bushings should be less than $20 for a pair of them and the labor is cake. If my memory is correct, they're pretty easy to get to.
posted by Jon-o at 6:58 PM on September 3, 2009

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