CarTalk.com Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Dealer Rate to Change Spark Plugs

What is the dealer rate one should expect from a Honda dealer to change spark plugs on a 2004 Honda Pilot?

I don’t know how hard these are to get to on your car, but usually I’d think it would be an hour of labor and parts. (at the dealer’s inflated rates) A maintenance item like this doesn’t have to be done by the dealership.

The shop sets the rates but they tend to be similar in a given area. Some shops charge, for example, $80 an hour but drop the hourly rate to $55 for simple jobs like plugs. You may ask your shop but don’t expect them to do it. If they would be sure and tell them you appreciate it. It’s easier to catch flies with honey then with vinegar.

When the engine is a V6 (or, V8), and it sits sideways in the engine bay, and it’s stuffed under the cowl, the price goes WAY up because the rear plugs are so hard to get to, and other parts may have to be removed to facilitate removing the spark plugs.
I know this isn’t the simple, direct, answer you expected. It’s just to forewarn you that the price may be high.
Seek this service from an independent garage for a lower price.

WHY would anyone go to a dealer to have spark-plugs changed?? Makes no sense to me. Their rates are going to be a LOT higher then any independent. This is usually a simple job.

Find a good independent…Make sure they use NGK plugs (the OEM plugs for Honda).

The rate varies by a country mile. The east and west coasts genererally have a much higher flat rate hourly charge. It may run 70 dollars an hour in the midsection and as much as a couple of hundred per hour in San Francisco.

Dealer rates are higher than independent shops because the dealer has far more expenses to cover than an independent.
Call and ask tomorrow.

You might want to consider having the plug change done with a scheduled part of the ‘regular maintenance’ suggested by your owner’s manual.

Spark plugs shouldn’t need changing outside of the normal recommended maintenance for a vehicle on a 5 yr old car.

So, the answer is - the rate will be higher if you only have them change plugs rather than have a scheduled ‘tune up’ that would also include other necessary checks, maybe an oil change, tire rotation and other things.

The immediate price might be higher, but the value would also be higher - that’s assuming you aren’t a ‘do it yourself’ kinda person and prefer to pay others to do your vehicle’s minor maintenance.

This past week I had the 60,000 mile service done on a Toyota 4Runner V-6 which included replacing the spark plugs. The labor charge was $63.00 for changing the plugs. The plugs themselves cost $46.80. This work was performed at an independent garage in a mid sized midwestern city.

Thanks to all of you for your prompt replies. I was quoted $350 by a dealer and refused. I’m going to do it myself I think. It just doesn’t look that hard.

$46.80 for the plugs seems really high.

I was quoted $350 by a dealer and refused.

Holy cow…you were wise to walk, good call.

The price may have been high, but this independent shop has done my work for more than a dozen years. I had a real problem with the Toyota dealer when the 4Runner was on warranty. The serpentine belt kept squeaking. The belt was changed three times and one of the times it was not installed correctly and the belt pulled out the crankshaft oil seal. The problem turned out to be the belt tensioner which the dealer should have diagnosed correctly from the start. After six trips to the dealer to get things right, I never went back. My independent shop gets things right the first time and that means more to me at my age than price. I could almost picture this dealer stripping the threads installing the plugs since the engine is aluminum.

Changing plugs on my 1978 Olds is easier. I buy a box of 8 spark plugs for under $10 and spend a half hour changing them. However, I don’t even know where the spark plugs make their home in the 4Runner and I don’t want to run the risk of messing up the job. I’m very good at rounding bolt heads and stripping threads.

The overall price is fine…The price for the plugs is VERY high. Should be no more then $24 for good NGK plugs.

For me, it’s the overall price that counts. I liked the old days better when I was growing up. The two cars my parents owned–a 1954 Buick and a 1952 Dodge could both run on Champion J-8 spark plugs as did our roto-tiller with a Lauson 4 cycle engine, our LawnBoy 2 cycle lawnmower, and even the Evinrude 3 horsepower outboard motor. We would buy a bunch of the J-8 spark plugs and gap them accordingly for whatever engine needed plugs.

This past spring I was using my tiller in the garden and it quit running. I determined that the spark plug was bad. I couldn’t lay my hands on the owner’s manual and couldn’t read the type of plug off the porcelain. I went to the nearest home center and my tiller wasn’t listed in the spark plug manual. I decided that the spark plug in my tiller looked like a Champion CJ-8. I put it in and the tiller works perfectly. I like the idea of a universal spark plug–one size fits all. Then there wouldn’t be any question as to the price of spark plugs.

I look at it as 2hrs at $110.00 plus 6 $8.00 plugs getting close to 300.00. You don’t tie up your driveability guys doing 1hr plug changes. You do want the best doing your work don’t you?

The fact the price is high and you do not like the price does not mean for one second that you’re being ripped off.

The dealer, and an independent shop also, must have a fixed shop flat rate labor rate and work by a flat rate manual.
They have a large number of expenses to cover and if they do not have a flat rate hourly labor charge that is in line with the local economy and/or they start discounting the flat rate labor time then neither of them will remain in business.
At that point, everyone will be changing their own plugs whether they want to or not.

Again, I thank everyone for the interest and the comments. Since posting the question, I looked into some “how to” advise on the Internet, got the plug specs from the owner’s manual, and took a trip to the local discount auto parts store. The spec was for NGK PZFR5F-11 platinum plugs. They didn’t have them but had the Iridium version of the same spec. Six plugs at $6.99 at Auto Zone and a new 5/8" magnetic socket (apparently the rubber insert is pass?)for $7.50 and I came home to get after it. The last plugs I changed you could actually see to put a wrench on them. The individual coils I would never have recognized without the video Internet tutorial. I found that I had to loosen 4 bolts on the fan shroud to move it for clearance to extract the coils in front. Socket with extension had the 3 front plugs out in about 30 minutes, including the shroud loosening routine. I’m not real tall so I had to do a belly flop on the engine to reach the back ones. Clearance on one was close, but they all came out and were replaced in about 30 minutes as well. One hour and $53.00 (including tax) spent and I was done. Hands weren’t even very dirty.

I do understand the comments re overhead of the dealer/independent. I just object to $350 for what turns out to be a simple operation. Part of the fault lies with the manufacturer when they make things so hard to get at. Part of it is with the technology that has become more complicated in the interest of better and longer running cars. BUT…really! $300/hr is just plain high. It is also probably fair to blame the average owner who won’t get their hands dirty and learn something useful now and then.

A couple of years ago I had a water pump go out on a Mercedes 300E. The quote was $680. I decided to fix it myself. It was a bit complicated and I had to buy a couple of tools I didn’t already own. I have since done the operation a couple of times on two 300E’s and it just isn’t that bad a job when you consider that you are saving $600 in labor.

I am getting older than dirt and I long ago established a list of things a man should only do once in his life. The list is pretty long by now. These car repair rates have forced me to violate my rule several times.

I appreciate the interest in this old man’s question. Problem is resolved for now. Thanks

My wife’s Legacy GT (turbo flat 4) wagon has a price of $350 for spark plug change at dealer. I had an independent versed with the engine perform it for $150. He stated it was still a 1.5hr -2 hr job and a bear removing all sorts of parts(air box and working with delicate coil packs etc).

He said usually the non-turbo 2.5L for Subaru is a 15-20 min job changing plugs.

Andrew,
I think there are those of us who aren’t afraid to do easy maintenance jobs on our cars and those who simply can’t or don’t want to get into it. I disagree with a couple of comments above that attempt to justify the flat rate pricing of dealerships. It’s true that we shouldn’t expect to penalize an experienced mechanic for knowing how to do something fast that would take an inexperienced person much longer to do. As a photographer, I don’t feel bad about charging a fair price for my expertise. I admitedly can do some operations in Photoshop quickly that used to take me much longer. Experience pays me dividends in time. I still don’t ask unfair prices. I charged the same fair prices even when I had to invest much longer in learning the operation. The customer has to feel that they can justify what they are paying for the results they receive. At a time when everyone who falls into Best Buy and purchases a digital camera becomes a “photographer” upon exit of the store, there is still real demand for expertise. The key is FAIR pricing. I would have no problem with a shop that charged 1.5 hour for changing spark plugs on my Pilot. It took me an hour to do it the first time, but it’s believable that 1.5 hours would be a fair average with room for small problems. The problem comes when a flat rate book inflates the actual time and difficulty of a simple operation for people who don’t have the option of doing the job for themselves. If you have to over-charge to cover the overhead and to therefore keep your shop open, you need to become smaller and more efficient, not bigger and more expensive for each operation requested. $300/hr. is unfair and unrealistic. Brain surgeons might be able to justify it, but not a car repair shop. That’s my beef…we need to keep it FAIR.

Thanks

Part of the fault lies with the manufacturer when they make things so hard to get at.

Worse vehicle I ever worked on was my 84 S-15. They designed the engine and engine compartment independent of each other. Then they decided to put the engine in and see if it fits. It wasn’t thought out at all. There was plenty of room to make some design changes that would have made some jobs a LOT easier.