Firestone Woes

Okay, so the check engine light lite up on my wife’s truck, and so, knowing that they did financing and that engine issues are typically not cheap, we took it to Firestone. They promptly did a $100 diagnostic on the truck and then turned around and quoted us $1600 worth of repairs we should get. Some of these are outright outrageous, which got me looking through this, and I thought it might be good to get a second (or third) opinion before I storm in to give them a piece of my mind. The following were quoted to me:

Remove and replace distributor cap: $72 ($41 labor, $31 part)

Ignition Wire Set: $65

Remove and replace spark plugs: $121.79!! ($6.99 part, $114.8 labor)

F999G Rotor: $14.65

Fuel System Cleaning Service: $90 ($40 bottle of fuel injector cleaner, $50 labor)

Manifold Intake Set Replacement: $411.6 ($83.6 part , $328 labor)

Thermostat replacement: $116.39 ($18 part, $100 labor)

2 galons antifreeze $11 each (Ha!) + an additional $70 worth of coolant system cleaning

And, the piece de resistance: Replace front right wheel hub: $445.58 ($65.60 labor + $379.98 part)

Obviously they are going to be getting a piece of my mind about the $100 can of fuel injector cleaner, $120 spark plugs, and $100 jug of antifreeze, not to mention the $250 markup on that hub assembly, but I was wondering about the intake manifold. I looked up the part, and It only costs around $30; is the $328 in labor fair? I’m inclined to doubt their word due to the

$800 worth of “a woman came into an auto shop” tax, but on the other hand, I’ve heard that this isn’t a quick job.

Places like Firestone assume no maintenance done on a vehicle and recommend everything.

Sorry the part prices are mostly reasonable I see especially with a shops markup. $11/gallon of antifreeze is not out of line.

Realize looking up a part on the internet is vastly different from the price the shop gets it from a local parts supplier who delivers the part on the day of need. Shops also mark it up to keep afloat.

That all being said I would get another opinion to fix the issue at hand.

Btw what was the diagnostic?

I’m not sure exactly what the diagnostic said. My wife was the one who went in to have it checked out, since I was at work at the time. We’re swinging by this morning to pick up a copy of the diagnostic report before we take the truck elsewhere. The part price I’m mostly objecting to is the $372 wheel hub that I can go pick up at autozone right now for $125; my wife called both autozones in town to check availability. I’m not particularly surprised about the antifreeze prices; it’s about the same as gas stations selling quarts of oil for $3, a convenience tax and one I don’t particularly intend to pay.

To top off the prices, the manager was apparently trying to convince my wife that without, say, the fuel injector cleaning service, her truck wouldn’t be drivable.

If we can get them to agree to it, I might agree to pay the $70 labor to put on a hub assembly I pick up. If not, I’ll find someone who will.

It may not be as nuts as you think in terms of prices/rates. A place like that normally has very standard rates/repair times/parts prices, and some of that stuff (like spark plugs) is a lot harder than you’d think on many engines.

That said, it is obvious that they are taking out the scatter gun and just shooting for everything. This is probably partly to sell more stuff (like an injector cleaning), and partly b/c you likely have multiple trouble codes and for them it is a better bet than diagnostic time.

Here is what is obvious to me - you need a good, reputable, local and independent mechanic to take you truck to. If you had a regular mechanic then I have to assume that you wouldn’t be at a corporate chain. My guess is that there is also indication that that the truck hasn’t been obviously well-maintained.

There is no need to assume that a check engine light means anything expensive or major. Sometimes it is as simple as a new set of plugs & wires. But the place to start is with the actual codes that came up. Look at your estimate or call Firestone and get the “P” codes (e.g. P0123) and post them here. My guess is that you probably have some misfire codes and others indicating a lean or rich running condition (the suggestion of thermostat and intake give opposite impressions). But for specific advice and help it would be best to have the actual codes.

I’ve got a friend whose relatives are likely to become our regular mechanics. We’ve moved around too much to have a regular mechanic, but we’re in this town for awhile. I can’t vouch for the early maintenance on the truck; we bought it with about 70k miles on it, but the spark plugs haven’t been changed since we got it, so needing spark plugs probably isn’t unreasonable. An hour and a half of labor to change sparkplugs when they’re assuming that they are already removing the manifold on the other hand…

Anyway, I’ll have the P Codes tonight; I’m picking the report up on my way into work.

The price for the distributer cap is laughable. You can probably go without the fuel injection cleaning service. But the other stuff is in the ballpark pricewise. The price for the spark plug job is actually quite reasonable. As you mentioned in your list, most of the cost involved is for labor. Most places charge at least $65 an hour for labor with many charging far more. My mechanic charges $90 an hour, but he fixes the problem the first time, time every time and in a timely manner.

Frankly, as a whole, the charges involved are reasonable. But I would certainly get another estimate or two.

Actually, I’ve got a second question. Does anyone know what that F999G Rotor is?

After talking to my father and several people at work, I think I’ll probably just handle the wheel hub myself. I can get the part much cheaper at autozone, and my father has installed those before. I’ll probably pay his gas to my house this weekend and feed him. It might cost about as much as the labor rate on that part by the time all is said and done, but when I’m done, I’ll know how to do the installation. Really it looks like I can do most of this myself, excepting the manifold; luckily, my wife’s uncle is just a sheet of paper shy of actually being an auto mechanic, so I forsee that being a replacement for Thanksgiving day football if he doesn’t mind.

Get a decent repair manual for it and you might even decide to tackle the manifold.

I would also do some actual diagnosis of your immediate problem though. All you said is that the light came on. Is the truck running ok? A bad or loose gas cap can trigger the check engine light. Did you happen to pick up the actual codes?

Stuff like plugs & wires are just good to do if they are due for replacement (plugs especially). If the cooling system hasn’t had attention in a while a new thermostat & fresh coolant are just good as a matter of course. But new intake gaskets is really drastic unless you’re absolutely certain that they need to be done. If they really did need to be done you’d notice other issues - like an unsteady idle or coolant in your oil.

So if you report the codes people can help you pick through the pile better. You have to remember that Firestone’s business is not fixing cars - its making money.