Can a mechanic charge me for trial & error parts?
February 25, 2017 8:53 PM   Subscribe

My timing belt/chain system needed replacing, but the mechanic is charging me for parts he installed while figuring this out. Am I liable for these or is it reasonable to ask him to uninstall them without a large increase in labor cost?

A mechanic has been working on my 2006 Nissan Sentra for 2 weeks. He replaced the cam shaft sensor, crank shaft sensor and the ECM (computer). Finally he told me after all this it still wasn't running then came back and said the timing belt/chain system needed to be replaced because a tooth on the sprocket broke off. He is quoting me a total repair cost of $1200 ($500 labor and $700 parts) which seems unfair since from what i understood is that only the timing system needed replacing. Am I liable for all these other parts and labor during the diagnostic phase?
posted by isopropyl to Shopping (7 answers total)
Yes. Sometimes trial and error is the only way to find the true problem - he bought the parts and spent the time to fit them, he deserves to be paid for that work.

Whether he is doing bad diagnostic work to need to replace parts when he should have been able to diagnose this sooner is a different matter. I don't see why he would have needed to replace the ECM without being able to establish a timing chain problem beforehand, but.... that's a different issue and something you need to take up with him. I don't know the details on the error codes that sent him to the ECU, but it seems odd, but not impossible.
posted by Brockles at 9:38 PM on February 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yes. You're still getting the replacement parts, right?
posted by pompomtom at 11:08 PM on February 25, 2017

Do you not pay your doctor for diagnostic tests that come back negative when you're trying to pinpoint an ailment?
posted by hwyengr at 11:13 PM on February 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

If he's only charging you four or five hours labor for all that, you're getting a steal. The timing belt/chain labor can be monstrous, and those sensors can be a bitch to get to. He's probably got two days' actual labor in your car.

Looking at parts pricing, the timing set is over 400; the ECM list price is 700, and each of those sensors is 100.

You're getting a hell of a deal. Take it.
posted by notsnot at 7:34 AM on February 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

I agree; the price you quoted is pretty fair for the timing stuff alone, depending on your car.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:10 PM on February 26, 2017

This really depends on what was agreed upon for the diagnosis. Did the mechanic consult you along the way? I always like to agree on what it will cost to diagnose something, and agree on what happens if the initial investigation isn't conclusive.
posted by reeddavid at 4:01 PM on February 26, 2017

Timing belt repairs often push $2k, at least in my experience.
posted by concertedchaos at 4:56 PM on February 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

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