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Painful 60K Check-Up for VW Passat Wagon

So… just went in for a painful 60K check-up on our 2005 Passat Wagon GLX. Knew that the “bushings” needed replacing. It’s the entire front strut assembly that will be replaced. That’s 4 steering links that they’re charging me $132 apiece for, plus labor (of course). Both horns are also out. They’re charging me $110 apiece for them, plus labor. This plus the regular 60K service, a cooling system flush ($193.50 total) and two tires replaced ($261 total), and our bill is just north of $2,000.

Are these prices in line or totally ludicrous? We live in the D.C. metro area, if that makes a difference, and these prices are from an independent mechanic.

Is the $193.50 for the cooling system flush only, or for the flush and 60k service? That’s unclear.

Otherwise, I’m not terribly surprised. VW’s are not known for their reliability and so I’d expect stuff to break by 60k miles.

Did you go to a VW dealership? Dealers always charge more than independents for similar services. Tires, for example. Dealers do not stock tires. They send a clerk down the block to buy them from a tire store, then charge you list plus markup.

It seems as though you have already completed the service and paid your bill. Next time you might consider just getting an estimate and checking with us for suggestions.

I’m having some trouble with this one. Sure, some of the repairs are quicker/easier if you part swap (like the struts), but 4 steering links? Unless they’re actually something else and just being called steering links…

OP did say it was an independent. Do you have any mechanical ability at all? Or know a buddy who does? A 6-pack (or bottle of wine, or whatever) buys a lot of time with friends.

Also odd that both horns are out. One I could see, both seems strange to me. If there’s an electrical problem that blew them, or they’ve both been exposed to an extreme amount of snow/ice/salt, then maybe. Make sure they’re actually dead. Use some sort of wire and jump from the battery directly to the wire connection on the horn…if they blow, then it’s not the horns. You can get used horns from a yard for as little as $15 - and some yards will pull them for you. $110 sounds awfully high, even for dealer prices.

Unless there’s something wrong, you don’t NEED a cooling system flush. Wipe that off the books. You CAN do it, but it’s not required…not yet, anyway. With very little mechanical knowledge and a bucket you can drain the radiator, and top it off with new coolant from a dealer. You shoulnd’t need more than that. A flush isn’t necessarily the best way to go in any event.

Sorry…I find this a disturbing post. I’m also a VW fan, and drive and work on a few.


I’m also a VW guy and agree with chaissos. Some of this sounds odd for a 60k miles VW and while there may not be any fraud involved there’s always the issue of shall we say, “lack of knowledge”.

The odds of horns failing are very very slim, much less both of them.
Suspension bushing failure at 60k miles would also be very unusual unless you drive on dirt roads, very rough roads, or the car sees a lot of road salt, etc.

Any repairs like this are somewhat generic so a decent independent shop can do the same work as the dealer. I would not read too much into price discrepancies between dealers and independents. The business models are poles apart from each other and the dealer by necessity will be higher.
The analogy I like to use is the cost of mowing your lawn when comparing the 14 year old kid next door against a professional lawn service. Vast difference in overhead.

“Suspension bushing failure at 60k miles would also be very unusual unless you drive on dirt roads, very rough roads, or the car sees a lot of road salt, etc.”

Not in the DC area. I suppose someone could destroy the suspension on speed humps, but we have no reason to believe that ntrainer treats the car that badly. I suggest getting a second opinion on the work.

@ntrainer, who gave you the estimate? I live in MD and might have suggestions for other garages. Howard County, mostly. If you are in NoVa, talk to cigroller.

The coolant was good 'till your t-belt service. Suspension work highly suspect (what were the symptoms?) unless you meant strut top “bushings” really a bearing that was done while replacing struts. I hope you got some top of the line tires for $130 ea. Horns covered in above responses.

Independent mechanic in the DC metro area? Those prices seem more dealership prices.
I have to ask what all they consider part of the 60k service and what the labor rate is(most likely over $100/hr)

A few clarifications: First of all, I’m a novice and not totally capable of doing the work myself due to the fact that I’ve got two very little kids at home and not enough time to DIY. The horn prices are clearly something I’m going to look into, as they seem extremely high, but they did BOTH go out (one before the other), and the mechanic swears he checked everything else (switches, connections, etc.) The term “bushings” is what was mentioned to me informally; the estimate calls the job “replacing front strut assembly” and “replacing steering links.” To be clear: I’m NOT at the dealer, but at Volkswerks, an independent mechanic who specializes in VWs. Finally, the $193.50 is for the cooling system flush only. The 60K check-up is another $240.15. And the person who mentioned the tire prices seemed high… there I have to disagree a bit. Went to NTB for 2 new tires on this vehicle a couple of years ago and paid MUCH more for this for new tires. Perhaps that doesn’t speak well of NTB, but 2 tires – all in, labor included – at $261 does not sound bad to me.

Sounds like the cooling system flush is the area I should really be feeling “taken” on, and the horn price is out of line, but perhaps the suspension work really does cost that much?

I still would like to know more exactly what “steering links” wewe replaced at $132 x 4. There are a few one time use only bolts that are involved in strut replacement but unless you had clunking or tire wear problems or an alignment place told you there was too much wear to hold alignment in spec. I am suspicious. I have seen quite a few '03-'06 Passats (2 slightly different suspension designs) w/over 150k - 200k mi. on orig. suspensions except for struts/shocks.

Speaking of alignment, was one done after the suspension work? Advised after strut replacement.

Yeah, they’re doing an alignment after the suspension work. To the tune of an additional $79.95. I appreciate the fact that it should be done… but given the fact that this total bill is over $2K, I’m hoping they’ll work with me on that.

As for the steering links, all I can tell you is what I see on the estimate: part #8E0407505A, grouped under a heading titled “control arm, A4/P5, Upper Links.” We didn’t have clunking. In fact, we had no symptoms at all of suspension problems. But during our last checkup, we were advised that the bushings were showing wear and that we should prepare ourselves for this replacement. Since then, the only symptoms I’ve noticed is that the car is bouncier and does squeak a bit when going over bumps – yes, the many speed bumps another poster mentioned. :slight_smile:

I will say that now we’re in for the 60K checkup, they did find that though the front tires were wearing normally, one of the rear tires had worn so significantly you could see the rims through the tire. So perhaps there was an alignment problem?

Must say a cursory internet search for the parts my mechanic is replacing has me confused. The steering links are sometimes noted as having a list price of $132 (e.g., though ECS Tuning sells it for $29.95. On the other hand, ECS Tuning sells the horn for $106.13.

So where, in everyone’s estimation, do I have room to negotiate on this bill? Anywhere? I’m starting to feel like this bill – while huge – may be fair, other than the fact that it was unlikely I needed my cooling system flushed.

That PN is for Upper front links $97 at 1st vwparts, $60(aftermarket) or $120(OE) at World Impex, as low as $35 at partsgeek, $26 at rock auto. Would love to post a parts diag. but can’t here, if you go to 1st vwparts site and punch in your car and search for upper link then view illustration you will see a nice diag. of your front end parts. Did they replace the lower link also? Was it another shop that warned you previously re the links or the same shop? I think you meant to say you could see the tire belt/steel cord not the rim through the worn out tire rubber. Were the tires rotated to the back after a lot of time on the front? If not then it was very unlikely that the rear tire wear was a front suspension issue. Did they even check the rear wheel alignment? Unless they specifically mention it or mention 4 wheel alignment I would not assume anything. I would hope they would look for the cause for the rear tire wear. Was the wear/exposed cord on the inner or outer edge of the tire? Just one side or both sides?

1stvw part shows the horn at $80 ea. ($110 list). At that price I would have looked at generic replacements. A really nice set of Hella’s could be had for $60-$80, a decent set of generics for half that.

Other 60k items were probably filters (engine air/cabin air & maybe fuel - althought not called for, not a bad idea). Brake fluid flush (should be done every 2yr. regardless of mi. per VW)?

So the last ? is labor hrs. and $/hr.

FWIW out of curiosity I just priced similar items for Accord, Camry, Milan, Impala and the Asians were about the same $, the USA brands about 20% less in total, all for OE parts.

Independents tend to be cheaper.

The bushings are killing you. Passat/Audi have a design that actually has 8 of them that fail earlier than usual for most cars and are pricey. The suspension work is nothing out of the ordinary for your generation Passat.

Wow, I guess I’ve been lucky. 03 Passat wagon with 96k, only problems have been CV joints. Just had it thoroughly checked, and shocks, etc are all fine, all original.