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Is Monro Muffler Brake ripping me off?

My wife?s 2003 Grand Caravan broke down recently. It would start and run- but it ran very rough, engine bucking and lurching and a loud ticking coming from the valve train area. I went to the Monro Muffler and Repair near my home and asked them to set up the tow and take a look at the problem. The manager said the diagnostic charge would be $85, which I thought was fair. The tow cost wasn?t discussed, but I assumed it would be in the $75 range.

I received a phone call from the manager at noon the following day. He told me they found a broken exhaust valve spring on #6 cylinder. He then recommended both heads be pulled and overhauled, at a cost of @ $2000. I was skeptical that this needed to be done; the van has 78K miles, oil changed every 3K miles, and running perfectly up until the valve spring broke. He told me that the heads needed to be pulled to determine what caused the valve spring to break. I replied that there was nothing that could cause the valve spring to break other than fatigue or defect, and requested that he put a new valve spring on after verifying that the valve wasn?t bent. He said he wasn?t allowed by company policy to do that, he had to tear into the engine and verify no other problems existed. I thought this was hogwash, and told him so. I asked him why he could not just put a new valve spring in and see what happens, and he told me that he needed to pull the head to get his spring compressor tool to hold the valve. I asked him why he couldn?t use compressed air through the spark plug hole like most other people. He said ?yeah, we could probably do that.? I asked him again to put a new valve spring on, and he again said company policy would not allow him to do that, he was required to pull and overhaul the heads. I equate this to performing brain surgery to fix an ingrown toenail.

I told the manager if he wouldn?t replace the valve spring, to put it back together and I would have it towed home so I could do it myself. I then asked him what I owed for the diagnostic and tow. The total came to $210.51. The break down of costs: $85 diagnostic charge, $129 tow charge with discount of $32.25 for final tow cost of $96.75, and a $14.99 shop supply fee + tax.

I have no quarrel with the shop supply fee and diagnostic charge, but I felt the tow charge seemed excessive for a 5.5 mile tow. I called the tow company that performed and asked them what they would charge me for the same tow, and was quoted $75 plus tax. I went back to Monro and asked why they marked up the tow cost so much. The manager was out on a part run, the mechanic helping me said he didn?t know why. I asked if they could provide me a copy of the receipt the tow company gave them. He found it and it showed they paid $51.60 for the tow. I then asked why they are marking up almost $50 on the tow- pretty excessive for making a phone call- he couldn?t tell me, said I would have to talk to the manager when he got back. I went back the next day and talked to the manager, his answer again was that company policy was to charge $129 for tow service. He said he applied the $32 discount as a ?favor?. I asked if was trying to do me a favor, why not charge me his cost of $51?

My question is this. Are the manager?s explanations above as ?company policy? true? I very much doubt that they are. All indications to me are this guy was trying his best to sell me repairs not needed and gouging me on the tow bill mark-up. Hopefully someone associated with Monro will read this and follow-up. The Monro I dealt with was store #490 on Brandt Pike in Huber Heights, OH. I will also be pushing this up the Monro chain.

BTW? I installed a new valve spring as soon as I got the van home and it has been running perfectly for 150 miles and counting.

Well I’m slightly confused by your post-why would you take the vehicle to a Munroe Muffler for anything other than an oil change or exhaust repair? Wouldn’t you want it to go to a good independent mechanic or a dealer in case the vehicle needs something beyond a very basic repair? However, If you’re technically proficient enough to change a valve spring yourself-why would you tow it anywhere at all except your house? You could have solved the problem yourself or tried to first. I’m not trying to be rude I just don’t understand.

As for the tow costs-yeah thats about right-it doesn’t matter about the distance they kill you on tow costs-big money for them. Always ask first or call around and take the best of three quotes when you’re in a pinch. The diagnostic cost seems a bit high for your region-but I’m sure it’s legitimate.

Just look at it like this-you did the work yourself and saved a lot of money. The tow was too expensive, but in the end you still made out OK. Let’s say if the tow had been $50, and the diagnostic $50, and they said they’d repair the valve the way you wanted for $150-what’s the difference? Same money spent in the end right?

You were very lucky. Every valve spring that broke on me, all two of them, ate the valve within seconds. It is also fair for them to add a markup for services contracted out (the tow), but generally it’s about 40% and if they get a professional discount, they get to keep it.

Well… I am kicking myself for not doing what you suggested in the first place. I’ve worked on my own cars most of my life. I just retired out of the military and started a new job two weeks ago. I don’t have any vacation time built up to take off and fix the van. I had taken my vehicles to this place for oil changes several times, and was treated well when I took our 99 explorer in for front drive axle replacement when the CV joint went south. The place was called Speedy the last time I had dealt with them, but the name and the manager had now changed. I should have turned around and walked out… But like I said, I was more worried about getting it fixed quick, and my guess was probably 700-800 dollars for the repair. I was thinking maybe a collapsed lifter, so 700-800 would have been ball park. That would have been worth it, as you have to pull the head to replace a lifter.
I’m surprised that this guy refused to just put a new spring on… My guess is that if I had given him the go ahead to rework the heads, he would have put a valve spring on only and called me in a couple of days to come get it… with a $2000 bill. I am trying to determine if this a corporate philosophy, or I just went to a bad shop. Anyone else hear good or bad about Monro?

Lesson learned for me

Hi Keith, You’re right and I have no problem with them making a little money off the tow. If they pay 50, and I would have paid 75 anyway, I would have been happy at $75. I was luck that the valve didn’t come into contact with the piston. I asked the manager if it looked like it was bent, and he said no. Then he went into the speil about needing to tear into the engine to locate what caused the spring to break. That’s when red flags started flying in my mind. Not much, if anything, outside of a defective spring can cause it to break. If you don’t smack the piston, throw another spring on and go…

My rule of thumb is just to avoid chains for any sort of repair-or places that experience turnover and employ lots of younger guys. In the end I think you did OK, a little pinched, but I’ve heard a 100 stories that are worse-don’t get frustrated by this. Even the wisest of us get bitten every now and then-it keeps you on your toes.

To be honest, I don’t see a problem here as to the tow charge.
As to the valve spring replacement a shop has to look at it differently than a customer because they’re expected to stand behind the repair.

You replaced the valve spring yourself and have had no problems for 150 miles. What happens if another spring breaks or something happens with the one you replaced in about 150 miles from now? No one to get mad at but yourself.
If a shop does a piecemeal repair like this and a problem reoccurs on that same valve or another spring breaks then odds are the customer is going to place all of the blame on the shop and take them to the Supreme Court if need be.

Since a spring broke (odd on an '03 vehicle unless it’s been seriously overheated in the past) should I ask if you examined the valve stem and collar very carefully with a magnifying glass for potential damage due to the collar and keepers being batted around? Any damage that exists may show up later when the engine decides to swallow a valve at speed.

I don’t see anything unethical in what the shop did. I would pay the bill and forget it.

You must understand that a shop mechanic does not fix your car in the same way he would fix his own car, just like your doctor will not treat your ailment the same way he would treat himself or a member of his immediate family. To keep a business open, you have to #1 control your liability, #2 make payroll #3 fix the problem. That is the way your doctor’s office works and that is the way your mechanic works. They have to. If you want them to be there when you need them, you just groan and pay the bill, and take care of your own problems whenever you can.

The BJ’s closest to where I live now has Monro Muffler running their service bay. About two months before they took over the service area I had bought new tires there so I took it back there for the FREE tire rotations and balancing.

First off…EVERY TIME I went there they ALWAYS found something on my vehicles that needed IMMEDIATE attention. And EVERY SINGLE one of them were completely bogus. First time they said I needed new struts…which were only 1 year old…That was 4 years ago those shocks are still on the truck and are perfectly fine. Then one time they said my tie-rods were bad. I said show me…they couldn’t. The tie-rods were fine…and still are fine. The last time they said I needed new ball joints…Again I said show me…The idiot mechanic shows me by lifting up the wheel and said…see…there should be no play in this. Well 1-1.5" play is well within spec. He was only able to lift it about .5"…which proved to me the ball joints were fine…they are still on the truck running fine.

The problem with places like Monro is the mechanics work on commission. They supplement about 40% of their salary by selling parts for cars that are NOT needed. I stopped going to BJ’s for the free tire rotations. It just wasn’t worth the hassle. And I’ve never bought tires from there again…and won’t ever again unless they remove Monro from their service area.

I could see them wanting to find the cause of the spring breaking. Look at it this way; if they just replace the spring, but the part that it’s attached to is broken or bent, then you’ll break another spring and come back complaining they didn’t fix it right the first time. Again, they replace it and send you on your way. Few days later, same problem, same solution and you’re 10x angrier than when you first brought it in. This is costing you time and gas money to take it back and forth and costing the shop a lot of money to fix it under warranty. After a few go-arounds, they’ll probably hand you the same “spiel” they are now and warn about possible engine damage with so many broken springs

Must be a typo: .5 inch play in a ball joint?

To address the towing charge: You Have absolutley NO right to ask the shop what they paid for the tow, and frankly, I’m surprised that they showed you the invoice. That’s the same as going into Wal Mart and demanding to see their cost on a new fishing pole - you wouldn’t do this, would you? Why is the automotive shop any different?

If you don’t like the cost of towing, get a motor club plan - it’s less than the cost of what you paid for that one tow. Also available through USAA Insurance - you say you’re retired military, so you’re eligible for their service.

I am the manager of a monro and first off i would not have charged you so much for the tow maybe 30% over cost and second i would have told you the same thing valve springs just dont break i have been a certified technician for over 30 years something caused it to break and it will break again just hope you are not doing 70 mph when it does we are a legitimate repair facility with ase certified techs not your buddies driveway we repair vehicles right not like you shade tree mechanics

any movement in a ball joint is dangerous and will not pass any state inspection in any state check your facts check state inspection guidlines as well as MAP guidlines i am a certified master tech with over 30 years expierence in the field and a manager of a monro you are the type of customer i would not want and i am sure many other shops would say the same