Dealership Charge for Thermostat Replacement Reasonable?

The “Check Engine” light came on in my 2004 Ford Focus (131,000 miles) 2 days ago and I just dropped it off at the dealership. Mechanic called me back and said the problem is the thermostat - it’s not allowing engine to attain optimum operating temp - where computer reaches “closed loop” and takes control to get optimum engine performance. They are charging me $396 to replace the thermostat. I asked why it’s so expensive and was told it’s a 2-3 hour job. Mechanic offered 10% off my whole bill (also getting an oil change, new fuel filter and fuel injectors serviced). My question is, is that a reasonable charge for the thermostat work (bearing in mind it’s being provided by a dealership)?

That Depends. Keep In Mind That You Are Possibly Paying For The Diagnosis Performed To Isolate The Problem, Coolant, A Flush, Etcetera. Get All The Details, First And Then Call One Or Two Other Places And Get Estimates And Compare.

Does this include coolant ?
Does it include a cooling system flush ?

Some vehicles have easy to service thermostats and some vehicles have more difficult ones.

Be sure and ask if there is any related maintenance that should be / could be done while the thermostat is being replaced . . . timing belt . . . water pump . . . cooling system flush . . . ?

Often it’s a money saver to change other things that have “overlapping” labor.
Find out exactly what is included besides just a thermostat replacement.


Its way too high. But, there has already been a significant investment by the dealership in troubleshooting the problem, up to $100 or possibly more. But that still leaves $296 for the actual replacement and that is still too high. Coolant and a new thermostat, at dealer prices could go $100, but the labor should be $100 or less.

Have you noticed the temp gauge not getting up to normal temperature? Even if it is getting up there, but not quite as high as it used to, or takes longer to get there, you can get a check engine light. I had this in my Saturn for the temp only being a couple of degrees low, but it was not getting up to temp fast enough that set off the light. I cleared the code and it never came back.

I did change the thermostat a few months later when I did my regular cooling system service.

It could be a justifiable expense but I’ve never changed a thermostat on this particular model of car.
At one time most T-stat changes were a 5 minute job but many of them are far more complicated now. The thermostat on my Lincoln is a bit of a pain in the neck as it’s located underneath the car and can easily consumer an hour or two.

The locale also makes a huge difference. Dealer labor rates around here are about 75 an hour. On the east and west coasts and major metro areas like Chicago they may be in the 140-200 dollar a flat rate hour range. It can add up very quickly when you’re talking that kind of money.

The labor charge is way too high. The labor time to change a thermostat is either 1.0 or 1.4 hours depending on what engine it has.

Get a second opinion.

Thanks for your input, all. I will check to see if other things had to be done - but I’m virtually certain the dealership guy would’ve told me - especially since we talked about my having done a coolant flush at 122,000. The dealership location is Kalamazoo, MI - I will ask what labor rates are. Engine is 4 cyl 2.3 litre automatic. Is diagnosis that difficult? Don’t they just plug the car into a computer, get a code, and know from that what the issue is? I’m really, really hoping this car can get to 200,000 miles at least, but this has been a hugely expensive year (new tires ($400) new alternator ($700-!), new ignition switch ($400ish), mileage suggested maintenance ($400ish). Today will be >$600. Maybe I’ll be “good to go” for all of 2012! :slight_smile:

My GOD…further evidence that I dont charge enough for my services. I guess that is the point of my existence with my shop…I try to save people money…and I do.

That is rather high for a thermostat replacement…no matter what they say. The thermo costs about $20 and takes less than an hour to properly install…

To answer your question about plugging in the computer. It is usually not that simple. The code gives the mechanic a starting point to start troubleshooting. The factory service manual gives a series of instructions to be performed depending on the code or codes given. Sometimes it can take and hour or more to go through all the test procedures. Sometimes the code will point to only one thing.

If you get the code for coolant temperature too low or did not reach proper temperature in time, the troubleshooting procedures usually call for removing the thermostat and testing it in a pot of water. That would cost more than just replacing the thermostat.