Is mechanic ripping me off?

Please help,

I took my car to a mechanic who previously replaced my alternator, this alternator is still under warranty. the car had an electrical problem and the mechanic checked my battery (its in perfect condition) and then decided to disconnect the alternator. My car is a VW passat and in order to do this you need to disassemble the entire front assembly. the alternator turns out to be working fine. he found that the problem is simply in a cable connecting the battery to the alternator. this cable is only $15. but because of all that he did, without my consent, he is charging me $300 of labor. given the fact that he was the one who replaced my alternator last time, I believe that this amount he is charging me is not fair. please provide your opinion.


Did you research your mechanic before taking your car to him/her? Does he specialize in VW’s? Does he run a professional shop, or just someone with tools? Doing research on mechanics before using them helps a lot.

Answering your question is not possible without knowing the who he is and the history of the problems. VW’s are not known for their reliability and have a history of electrical problems. Best of luck.

When he replaced your alternator, he would have had no idea that the wire that runs from the alternator to the battery was close to the end of it’s life. He cannot see through insulation any better than you can.

I’m not sure on VWs but, that wire on many cars is a fusible link. The link burned out from some short and not it needs to be replaced.

You said that he had to remover other parts to access this wire, hence the added labor along with his time diagnosing your problem.

I presume you took the car to him because it was not charging. I think he used his best judgment to fix your problem and I really don’t think the price is out of line.


You can’t replace the cable connecting the battery to the alternator without disconnecting it to the alternator. I have no idea what year Passat you have so I can’t research how much you need to remove in order to get to the alternator, but if it’s true that you need to “disassemble the entire front assembly” to get to it, then the mechanic is justified in charging you for his labor in doing so.

The warranty is for the alternator. Not stuff that happens to be attached to the alternator.

Kind of like when you get a refrigerator, it comes with a warranty, but it will not get you a free repair if the outlet you plug the refrigerator into dies.

Your vehicle had a problem that you needed to be fixed.

You brought it to a place of business where the mechanic invested several hours to diagnose and repair the problem. The vehicle is now fixed. From your description, the work he did sounds legit.

It only seems fair for the mechanic to be paid for the work he delivered.

+1 for JoeMario.

You should have gotten a written estimate before the work was done. If you didn’t, you have nothing to reference when complaining of the price. I don’t know how long it should take to find a problem like that but unless you know that, you can’t really tell if you’re being overcharged.

I can see this taking 3-4 hours of work. From what you say there was no reason to believe the problem was in the cable beforehand. Everything here seems fair to me.

If OP has anything to base a complaint on, it would be the nature of the electrical problem reported by the OP to the mechanic. Perhaps the mechanic didn’t do due-diligence in investigating what the cause was first. But the OP doesn’t include that information, so it must not be pertinent.

In my opinion the mechanic seems to have charged the appropriate fee for the services provided. Since he car is now working fine, best to simply drive and enjoy the car.

If OP wants to get a new mechanic for the next repair, suggest to ask friends, co-workers, fellow church goers who they use, and be sure to tell the shop who it was that referred you to them.

...then decided to disconnect the alternator. My car is a VW passat and in order to do this you need to disassemble the entire front assembly.

Very important question: By “disconnect” do you really mean “remove”?

Shouldn’t the mechanic call the OP before doing $300 worth of work? Isn’t this required in many States as per consumer protection laws? The service place I use always calls me with an estimate before doing the work.

Some states require up front estimates; others do not.If someone says fix it or whatever in a state that does not require estimates in advance then the door is open.

OK does not require estimates but in most cases at the places I’ve worked the customers were notified of the costs up front on common services and often called back on problems that required a little digging in order to be able to get a handle on it.

I’m just wondering how a mechanic would legitimately estimate trying to find an electrical problem like a bad cable. The estimate would have to say something like $80 per hour diagnosis plus parts. The issue is that people are not in business to donate time. If work is expended, they need to get paid. People need to understand that. Different story for fraud or incompetence, but this seems totally legitimate to me.

$300 is sort of small change car-repair wise. Whether the shop should have called you or not depends on what happened, the nature of the discussion, when you took it to the shop. If you said “here’s the car, these are the symptoms, please fix this problem”, in my opinion the shop could reasonably expect that a $300 fee wouldn’t require a confirmation call. That’s probably one of their lowest billings for the week for something requiring both diagnosis and repair. But if you told them at the time you dropped the car off to phone you if the charge was going to be over $100, then, yes, I do agree they should have.

I’m just a diy’er, not qualified on what is legally required between you and the shop, just giving my opinion is all. To me it is just common sense that if the expected billing is only $300, that the customer would want the shop to go ahead and fix it.