'96 Pontiac Firebird misfiring code, plugs + wires + fuel filter = $450, reasonable?!

My baby is a ‘96 pontiac firebird with the good o’ GM 3800 series II V6. It started misfiring about late Feb, a code read at advanced auto showed a misfire in piston #6.

I took it to a shop recommended by a friend. They came back to me with a quote of $450 to change out the spark plugs/wires/fuel filter. They want 3.5 hours of labor, and $150 for the parts.

I think that’s highway robbery. I took the car to the shop to make sure it wasn’t something more serious, but it seems the shop didn’t do much other than pop the hood and read the code. If I don’t let them do the work, they want to charge $40+ for this check, which I’ve already done.

I actually provided them with a detailed description, including the specific code from the OBD scanner. Prob not a good idea thinking back.

I need some inputs. I think I’ll do this myself and bite the bullet on their fees.

Hey, if you can do it yourself by all means go for it.

The diagnostic fee is cheap. Most shops here charge $100+/- minimum fee. You’re tying up there shop time to have it done.

Additionally, I doubt that any shop will do a repair based on a code that the customer brngs in. They have no idea if it was done right and any respectable shop would want to check the codes themselves before starting. That’s only prudent.

Is there a guarantee that (I want to say no more codes but that would not be correct) you problem is fixed? What I think is going on is they are doing standard misfire work, be prepared for further work.

Offhand, the figure may seem high but you did not state the location where you live. In some parts of the country (San Francisco for one) labor rates can be 150 a flat rate hour.
That’s not gouging; it’s what the local economy demands. Operate a repair shop and you’ll see that this “highway robbery” is often not what it appears to be.

Keep in mind that you’ve been driving a misfiring car since “late Feb”. This means roughly 2 months of a crummy running car. What may have started out as a bad spark plug may have now killed the plug wires (common problem fault on the 3.8) and is also taking out the ignition coil. Eventually the ignition module will also go.
Along with killing the O2 sensors, clogging the converters and EGR circuits, etc.

You can certainly do this job yourself but I’ll tell you right now; changing those spark plugs is a pain in the neck. My son has a 96 Camaro 3.8 and only 1 plug out of the 6 is easy to get to. Another is fairly easy. The other 4 have to be done from underneath and even then it’s a royal aggravation. Profanity, bleeding knuckles, an assortment of wobbles and rubber hose, are all likely to be involved.

The thing is, the SES light went off twice, the second time on the day before I took her in to the shop. So when they first called me, the light was still off. I asked them if they did any more diagnostic work, or even rev the engine a little (it caused it to come back the other times). They replied that they can’t afford to have people driving “50 miles” around to try to see if the SES light will come back on. Later a friend told me that the OBD code sometimes would be stored even if the light is off.

My main purpose of taking the car to a shop is to make sure this is not something more serious than basic wear & tear. I knew wires & plugs are usually where you start with misfire. Maybe I was just expecting too much for an “engine check” service.

On a follow up call to them, they said the mechanic said this is a “95%” fix. When I inquired about $450 for plugs/wires/fuel filter, they said this is a high level maintenance job. When I asked for a breakdown of the charge, it was $150 for the parts (plugs/wires/fuel filter) and $300 for labor.

SO, basically, no guarantee.

I live in the Durham, NC area. Sure, it’s in the Research Triangle, but I think we’re still not quite up to San Fran.

I have two cars. This car gets max 3000 miles per year. The odometer currently reads a little over 62000. Since Feb 28 (sorry, I meant VERY late), I put about 200 miles on the car. And that’s mainly because I was trying to run through a new tank of gas to see if it would help.

Appreciate the warning… Yeah I know the plugs are a bitch to get to. Had to help my buddy with his 01 Camaro a while back. I think I had that initial reaction because another shop that I called can do it for $100 for labor. I specifically mentioned that the firebird’s plugs are tricky to get at, and they said they can do it in 1.5 hours. I can provide them with parts or they can get it for probably another $100 or so.

So, roughly $200 versus $450. At that price, I would gladly let them do it instead of the bloody knuckles you mentioned. I am a little wary that it’s too cheap, but it’s got decent reviews on here and I’ll definitely check out the place beforehand.

On some engines, which sit crosswise, the repair manual will instruct in removing the intake manifold to gain access to the rear plugs. If one does this, it’s quite a bit of work, and there is the chance that something (wire, etc.) will become trapped under the reinstalled manifold and it will leak, and cause more problems.
I can gain fair access from the (fender) side by removing the alternator and bracket, on some engines, One may have to remove another accessory; but, that can make it much easier. Look and determine which component is in your way the most from the side approach.