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I have a 2007 Pontiac Grand Prix. It has 127,000 miles and has been regularly maintained. It is the regular base model with the 3800 engine. It developed a coolant leak which allows you to hear a sloshing noise when driving. My mechanic says that it is the Timing cover gasket is slipping and needs replaced. The quote is $79 for the gasket and $550 for labor. I was told by another mechanic (Who has not looked at the car) that it may actually be some plastic elbows failing which is a significantly cheaper repair. If it is indeed the gasket, is the quoted price reasonable? If it is only the elbows, can that repair be done independent of replacing the whole gasket? By the way, if you were paid at that hourly rate in a normal job it is about $200K per year.

If this is the required repair and book says 5hrs labor than so be it. I am sure a 1/2 hr repair is easier on your wallet. Sounds like you are doubting repair diagnosis?

If a mechanic said a gasket is slipping, I’d go somewhere else.

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+1 for @Bing. The mechanic is no mechanic at all.

IF the mechanic actually said that the gasket is, “slipping”, I agree.
But…what if he actually said that the gasket is, “seeping”, and the OP misheard him?

There you go again @VDCdriver…putting logic into an answer. OK…seeping = mechanic. Slipping = not a mechanic.

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Regardless, now the OP knows why most here are into fixing their own vehicles.

I’m still wondering how a seeping (or slipping) timing cover gasket can cause a sloshing noise…
But if there’s coolant seeping from the timing cover gasket, expect to replace the water pump also.

The terminology the mechanic reportedly used seems sort of unusual, but let’s put that aside, and assume the diagnosis is correct, and mechanics who’ve done it before say it will take 5.5 hours of labor, so at $550 for the labor, this shop is charging $100 an hour. Is that a fair per hour rate for a shop to charge? The OP is correct I think, if an office worker was paid that amount per hour in a normal job, he’d earn $200K per year.

I think it is a fair rate for the shop to charge. First off, it must not be far off. As most good shops charge around that rate. If a shop could charge significantly less, they would, as they’d get more business. It’s going to be difficult to find a well recommended shop in most urban areas charging significantly less than that. In my area, it wouldn’t be hard to find a shop charging more than $100/hour.

Secondly, the $200K comparison? It’s comparing apples to oranges. An office worker is paid his hourly rate the entire time he’s on the job. If he’s there 8 hours, he’s paid for 8 hours. A shop doesn’t charge for a lot of the stuff it does. The time it takes to talk to the customer about the problem, for example, before the customer says “ok”, and the work actually starts. The shop doesn’t charge to order, and obtain the parts from the parts vendor. The shop doesn’t charge to clean the shop floor of spilled oil & grease. The shop doesn’t charge the customer if it needs a new tool for the job, like a $50,000 manufacturer’s scan tool.

And an office doesn’t pay the rent and utilities on the building where he works.

So if you take all that into account, $100/hour for the work actually done to fix the car, that seems quite reasonable to me. In fact, to me, it seems like a very fair deal.

I think there is some misinterpretation; both over the problem and the amount charged.

A gasket could pooch out so maybe that is what is meant by slipping.
It’s also possible that on top of a low engine coolant level the A/C evaporator case may be clogged up and the slosh sound is coming from that instead of the cooling system.

Neither the mechanic nor the shop pockets 550 on labor. There’s a lot of slicing and dicing done on that money before anyone clears anything.

Personally, I think it’s misguided to rip apart the timing cover on a transverse V-6 and not figure in the cost of a new timing chain set and oil change due to engine oil dilution along with any accessory belts that may be needed.

The OP also doesn’t take into account the things the office worker doesn’t have to pay, Building rent, utilities, licensing fees, the employers half of SS and Medicare taxes, workers comp, unemployment insurance and maybe health insurance, vacations and holidays. Then there is all the time not being paid for. Billing, collecting and paying taxes, banking, giving people free estimates, building and shop maintenance, and just plain dead time due to lack of work or people who don’t show up for their appointments.

Yup, ‘overhead’ clearly is over the OP’s head.

Here’s a 2009 link to the average automotive labor rate for each state in the US.
One can assume the rates have inched up since then.

It’s easy to see that charging $550 labor for a 5 hour job is not necessarily out of line.

I’ll bet it’s the water pump.

And just so you know - even the charge for office workers is $100 an hour. Most of it goes to the company for overhead, desks, and other things to support the worker - just like for the mechanic. The guy actually doing the labor (the mechanic or the office worker) gets a mere fraction of that!

You might have someone check to see if the plastic elbow fittings that run from the engine into the tensioner bracket are leaking.

This is such a common problem that you can get replacements that are made of metal.


The “sloshing” sound may be the result of an air pocket in the cooling system. Some might interpret it more as a gurgling sound but who’s to say which is right. Regardless, when an air pocket forms, the pump occasionally overcomes it and you can hear the resultant rush of coolant through the system (heater core).

As a small business owner, I get really frosted at those with attitudes like the OP.

As previously stated, a mechanic gets an hourly rate (a lot less than $100) PER BILLABLE HOUR. An “hourly employee” gets paid for EVERY SINGLE SECOND SPENT ON THE JOB, even stuff like smoking or drinking coffee!

These aren’t even CLOSE to the same thing.

My favorite, though, involves capital. As a capitalist, I believe that one should be able to realize a return on a capital investment…whether that capital be real estate, mutual funds, or several thousand dollars’ worth of tools. (OP, are you a capitalist? If so, the mechanic deserves a profit, over and above his hourly wage, unless you are willing to provide him with every single tool he needs to fix your car.)

I do lawncare in the warm months, and it’s something seeing how quickly a right-wing Dittohead can morph into and “insta-commie”, morally opposed to paying for the use of capital.

Sometimes I consider the investment in tools a necessary expense and I do think that some of the businesses should provide the large speciality tools(think of it as a “loss leader”) but I have seen some captains of companies require everyone to have most all of their own tools(which does make sense) but that being said if you have to furnish all your own tools,why not work for yourself?
BTW,what are these enviromental disposal fees for?Around you can pay pretty handsomely to get shafted,and strangely enough one of the dealerships with the most reliable cars,has the cheapest shop rate and on top of that, they seem eager to work on your vehicle(any make) and do good work.I also have seen the pennypinching right wingers at work,that cant understand the concept of something like a mobilization fee or why its necessary to charge for idle equipment thats tied up on their job.
But on the other hand,an idle shop or equipment is generating nothing-Kevin

If you disagree with the diagnosis, take the car somewhere else for a second opinion, plain and simple. A shop is not a non-profit organization, though some people expect them to be. If the timing cover gasket is indeed leaking, it sounds like a pretty labor-intensive job to get at it. On some cars it may mean removing the radiator, all the accessories on the engine, and possibly even partially pulling the engine to access it.


Apparently the discussion of the cost of business and fair labor rates and overhead have scared off the original poster.