Suspicious about repair shop repairs


Old 06-05-03, 03:11 PM
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Suspicious about repair shop repairs

I hope I am not off topic. I am not a do it yourselfer when it comes to cars but was wondering if someone could shed some light one the following car repair (was I taken advantage off is my main question).

I have a 1999 Honda Civic (4 cylinder automatic). Around May 20th, the check engine light came on and would not go off (I did the check gas cap thing). Anyway, the dealer couldn’t get to the car very soon, so I took it to a small repair shop highly recommended by my fiancé’s daughter. They fixed it. Their diagnostic tools gave them codes (300,303,304) that said “multiple misfire in engine. To fix it they did the following:
1) Replaced Plugs
2) Replaced Cap (I think of Rotor)
3) Replaced Rotor
4) Replaced Spark Plug Wires
5) Replaced Fuel Filter
6) Also, they did a general tune up and fuel system clean (carbon clean).

For all this they charged $518.00 ($284 was labor).

Okay, so I thought the price was high but they came highly recommended. The car worked fine for 1-˝ weeks. At one point, I turned the corner, the car “stuttered” than stalled. From then on it would not start. It would crank and crank but would not start. We had it towed back to the shop that did the previous week they said this time:

There was no spark at all. I had two options:

1) Replace the whole distributor assembly.
2) (Or) replace the coil and igniter.

They said the cheaper option was #1 which would cost $670 + Tax.

Needless to say I said NO on this and had it towed back to the dealer. They agreed there was no spark but said to replace the coil and igniter, the cost at the dealer was only $381 (including tax).

Questions I have:

1) I know very little about cars (read almost nothing) but I believe the rotor and the coil and igniter are closely related parts (Is this true?). Could the first shop have done something in the first repair that would have caused the coil and igniter to fail?
2) If the answer to #1 is yes, then what recourse do I have (if any) for the original repair? This is the first time my Honda has broken done since I got it and I am very suspicious that it broke down about 9 days after it was fixed by the original shop.
3) I thought you were suppose to get the original parts back (or at least be offered them). They did neither. (This refers to the first shop not the dealer).

Thanks, any help or advice is appreciated.

Jim Locigno
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Old 06-05-03, 04:48 PM
Join Date: Dec 2001
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your coil and ignitor are electrical components and if damaged by the shop that had worked on your car it really wouldnt have ran for 9 days, with the exception of the fuel system clean and carbon clean treatment, all the work that was done was just maintence items.
did you ask for your old parts if you had told them that you would of liked your old parts im sure they would of provided them to you however most customers do not want their old parts.
Old 06-05-03, 06:10 PM
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BeJay is right. You have to request your old parts back. If you didn't, they got trashed.

Frankly, if you know nothing about cars, they could easily bamboozle you and show you someone else's distributor cap.

Honda has had many problems with coils and igniters, that has been going on for eons with them. On older (around 1991) Civics there was a campaign on them with free replacement.

If the dealer didn't make an issue of the first guys work, chances are they are two unrelated repairs/problems.

With regard to the first guys repair, all are warranted but #6---collosal waste of money. I've never done it to any of my cars and they are all 15+ years old and pass the NYS dyno test with flying colors. The key is in maintenance, not "brew in a bottle".

Unfortunately, get used to high parts/repair bills with Hondas. When they do break, they really soak you due to the cost of parts. It's one reason among many I don't own one.

The other major expense on this car at 100k or less is going to be the timing belt and water pump. Check the owner's manual for the replacement interval and stick to it. The water pump should be done at the same time the timing belt is.

I can tell you that a gas filter and air filter run about 30 bucks for this exact car as I'm buying it for a coworker whose daughter owns this same vehicle. I'm saving my colleague money by buying the parts discounted for him with my trade discount.
Old 06-05-03, 06:37 PM
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Thanks for the very quick replies everyone. I guess a feel a little bit better that everyone thinks it wasn't the first shop's fault.

Also, when I picked up the car at the first shop and asked futher questions about carbon clean it sounded like unncessary stuff to me to but it was too late then and earlier they gave me the impression that it was necessary to get the car running. Ugh. Somedays I wish I knew more about cars so I would know when I am being bamboolzed or not. I've tried to learn (long ago) but I'm a computer geek and anything mechanical just doesn't get through to me. I guess it's just a different way of thinking.

Anyway, thanks again.
Jim Locigno
Old 06-05-03, 07:04 PM
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Dont feel bad. It is guys like you that keep guys like me workin on cars. The "Brew in a Bottle" as Joe so fondly calls it is not out of necessity, but applied correctly can do wonders for your engines performance. I dont use it often, and certainly dont use it in my own vehicles, but it is definately a time saver on a car that has runability problems. One other question that you had that no one bothered to answer for you is the difference in the cost from the independent shop to the dealership. I have said this before, having worked in both a dealership as well as several independents the cost of parts, either OEM or aftermarket, is generally higher when you deal with an independent shop. The shop marks up (usually around 40%) the parts that they buy so they can make something off of them. They generally only get 20% off of list from the dealer if there is not an aftermarket part available. The dealer has alot more room to "play" with prices than the other guys. It sounds like you got a pretty fair shake at the first shop, but you probably should think about one thing. If someone tells you "well it could be this, or it could be that" then they are guessing and have not properly diagnosed the car. They may be very capable of doing so, but be careful.
Old 06-05-03, 07:14 PM
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None of us was born as mechanics, jim [except maybe Joe Cool; he bleeds 30 weight when you stick him].

Suggestion for learning more about vehicles? Come here every day and read all the latest automotive postings and answers. You will see and learn an amazing amount of stuff about vehicles and as long as you don't ask what brand of oil to use, you'll normally get lots of good stuff to read.
Old 06-06-03, 06:37 AM
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Well, I started helping my late dad (passed away in 1988) work on cars when I was five in 1976, but I never bled any motor oil. LOL. I did learn fractions before the other kids because my dad was great with math and would explain to me how a 1/2" wrench was bigger than a 7/16" even though both numbers were bigger on the latter. LOL.

My dad was a blue collar guy at heart despite his white collar image and profession. I surely love to fix and perfect things the same way he did, but I digress.

Billy: Depends on the shop and how they source. Trick is to know how to source smart. I have one Pontiac dealer that exclusively calls me as a Pontiac Trans Am parts source, thinking I must own everything T/A related. I have helped this guy make sales on GM parts he didn't even know were still available from GM. LOL.

Depends on the source and dealer. Remember that an independent also isn't locked into buying from any one source. So, a BMW dealer is going to be forced to buy a set of Bosch wires at a higher price than you may be able to source the same OEM set reboxed as someone else's product.

Case in point: The cold control for my mother's 1968 GE fridge (Yup, I fix it GE: $98. Gemline: $45 bucks and in stock at my local appliance warehouse/parts man. Open the box, walah, a WRX9266 GE control in there. Half price! Working great since 2000.

The independent price to me seems a little on the high side of the spectrum, but when you do ALL your own work, outside labor sounds expensive be it car repair, lawn service, appliance repair, etc. I have a pretty large network of friends and we try to do projects together and share expertise to save money, so ANY outside labor seems like a lot. LOL.

Again, depends on the shop and how they source. My opinion is that the first shop seems a little high.
Old 06-06-03, 10:16 AM
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Those prices are a shocker. $528 smackers! Wow. Here in cowtown midwest, those aftermarket list of items would sell for around $60. A shop would charge an hour, maybe 2 hours, to install them, at an average hourly rate of $55 an hour (independent shop). Now let's see. Oh yes, it's a foreign car, so add 20 percent. Now that comes to about $200 buck around here.

The highest hourly shop rate around here is a dealership, at about $80 an hour. Most others fall between $40 and $65 an hour.

For $528, I could almost buy the parts here, buy cheap Southwest Airline tickets, fly to a major city, tune iup the car before my beer got warm, then fly back with some pocket change.

By the way, your repairmen performed reasonable work based on your symptoms. And I won't fault them for their prices either. However, I do envy them.
Old 06-06-03, 10:36 AM
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Aaah, if you really want to fly somewhere to fix a car, Lug, come on down and you can do the head gaskets on my little brother's 3.8 Sable. LOL
Old 06-06-03, 01:01 PM
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Actually they have come out with a tool to fix these, it's called a sledgehammer. LOL.

Universal Ford fix it tool

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