Dear Click & Clack Tappit,

I love your show and listen to it all the time on the weekends. Here’s my question: One day last week my engine started missing severely. I took it into my usual garage that has priced very fairly in the past, but now they’ve lost their dealership and are trying to make it just as a repair shop. I’m not sure they’re charging fairly anyore. Their bill wasn’t even itemized as it usually is. They said that I needed a new spark plug and something called “wires” and charged me $544.41. They said I’d ruin my engine if I didn’t get the repair done immediately. Does this sound like a correct charge to you?

Its hard to second guess the shop, but IF you use them again, get the bill itemized. If they only replaced one spark plug, you got ripped off. Even if only one was missing, all of them should have been replaced. If you have the V6 engine, some of the plugs can be difficult to get to.

Lets say they replaced all six plugs and it still has a miss, then the next logical thing to replace is the spark plug wires. If that didn’t work, then the next place to look would be at the coils, assuming you have coil packs instead of a distributor. finally the problem is fixed but you are about $544.43 into charges. A severe miss usually indicates more than one cylinder. The GM coil packs fire two plugs at once so if one goes out, you have a miss on two cylinders.

But like I said, its hard to second guess what the mechanics were seeing and we don’t have the complete maintenance history on your vehicle. Even if they replaced some items that weren’t the direct cause of the problem, they may have been looking at evidence that these parts were overdue for replacement under a good preventative maintenance program and may save you money in the long run.

I called the repair shop and they said they replaced 6 plugs, spark plug wires and did a power wash to clean out the “build-up” (whatever that is). Does that sound like enough work for $544.41?

The build up is probably carbon deposits. One way to remove them is for the dealer to clean them out. Another is additives in the gas tank for a few weeks.

If you want specific info you need to post specific info such as car make, model and engine.

1999 Pontiac Grand Am SE

Without an itemized bill it’s really hard to make a judgment about the price.

Is the car running correctly now? If so, maybe it’s worth $544.41. As Keith suggested, the rear spark plugs may be very difficult to reach, and there could be a fair amount of labor in their removal and replacement.

You could ask for an explanation of the price. If the shop is reputable I can’t imagine they wouldn’t be happy to explain. If they won’t explain, or you just think they’re charging too much, go elsewhere next time.