Ripped off at the shop?

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  #1  
Old 06-03-06, 10:27 AM
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Ripped off at the shop?

My sister-in-law called me (long distance) from a broken-down car: husband out of town, no one else to call, help, what do I do? She recently moved to Florida, so still learning her way around; the car (96 Buick Skylark) flashed the ABS light, then the battery light, and quit. Sounded very much like either a battery, alternator, or a belt.

She had called a tow truck and while waiting for the tow to arrive, called me. I looked up a national chain repair shop near her work so she could have the car towed there for repair and not lose a day at work.

So the plan came together: they fixed the car, she got a ride to work, and later she got the diagnosis: they replaced both the alternator and the battery, to the tune of about $400.

It seems awful fishy that both the battery and the alternator would go at the same time. How likely is that?

Thanks
 
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Old 06-03-06, 12:02 PM
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A bad alternator can kill a weak battery. Of course you really can't test a dead battery and if they didn't bother to charge it first.... and then again maybe the shop just wanted to make sure she didn't have any problems in the near future.
 
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Old 06-03-06, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by CycleZen
....... diagnosis: they replaced both the alternator and the battery, to the tune of about $400.

It seems awful fishy that both the battery and the alternator would go at the same time. How likely is that?
Well...sounds like they profited about $200...give or take some, for about 1/2-3/4 hours worth of work (depending all what was in the way).

One could condemn the national chain and say shame on them, but...well, when you consider odds...let's talk odds: I saw my dad for his 77th birthday today and our subjects of conversation progressed to chance and evolution vs. God did it. We started rattling off a whole pile of things that would have taken luck/chance, mutations, perfect setting in the universe/moon location, etc., etc. And yet peope still choose to believe in the luck/chance/evolution theory (the odds of just one cell is supposed to be astronomical).

So, my conclusion based on the above is this: 2 things that are actually inter-related, to go out, or nearly be shot at the same time is not such terrible odds considering the luck-chance-evolution vs. God argument, if you put everything in perspective.

Since the work was done at a national chain, I'd be more inclined to believe what they told me. But who knows. Maybe they were right or maybe they made an honest mistake. I would have to question them on their test procedures, anyway. If they found the battery shot and the alternator not putting out...if I were them, doing the work, I would have stuck in another test battery. THEN checked the output of the alternator. I believe alternators actually rely on power coming into them from the battery. Therefore, if the battery was stone cold dead and/or shorted out...perhaps this could have made the alternator appear bad, due to no input from the battery.

Then again...maybe the garage knew that the alternator was toast, positively, absolutely. And after they charged everything they bench tested the battery and found that it wouldn't hold a charge very well, so they figured they may as well replace it to, while they were at it. Maybe the bad alternator was putting too much stress on the battery, and caused it's early demise.
 
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Old 06-03-06, 01:18 PM
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Just curious, but what year vehicle and just how old was the battery? You did say Florida; batteries drop like flies around here when the weather warms up. Anything over 3 years or so and it could have been on its last legs.

BTW, she probably paid a premium price for labor; pretty standard at the big-name national chains (pays for those national tv commercials). $400 for a battery and alternator at a national chain is probably not out of line (giving them the benefit of the doubt as to troubleshooting like daveboy says).
 
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Old 06-03-06, 01:52 PM
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Most of time, the weak/bad battery will kills the alternator.(Alternator works overtime to keep the battery up).
 
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Old 06-03-06, 03:41 PM
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Originally Posted by the_tow_guy
Just curious, but what year vehicle and just how old was the battery? You did say Florida; batteries drop like flies around here when the weather warms up. Anything over 3 years or so and it could have been on its last legs.
I have to agree with you, I spent some time living in Florida and my Century started eating alternators at the rate of 1 per year. I had a good rebuilder and he went through it each time, and never charged me for the last two. He said the OEM regulators had some issues that caused them to fail more often then others. A bad regulator could overcharge the battery, which could cause it to fail as they tend to get hot when that
happens.

Christopher
 
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Old 06-03-06, 05:20 PM
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Lets say the flat rate book listed 2 hours labor to test the system, replace the alternator, and replace the battery.$ 75 per hour labor is not too far out of line. Total labor = $ 150. Add $ 180 for the alternator and $ 70 for the battery and there is your $ 400.
 
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Old 06-03-06, 06:23 PM
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not out of line

The cost of the alt is high just by itself probably 1/3 of the cost. the battery another chunk after markup then the labor cost. it is about right I think if you would have done it yourself you could have saved about 150 bucks but that was not an option.
A weak battery can overload an already tired alternator to the point it just quits and batterys on the average last 3-4 years.
 
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Old 06-03-06, 10:40 PM
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out of topic I know but it's not luck or chance it's science the more you learn the more you open your eyes.
On the Car, Price is right just make sure she did get a new alt and a new Batt, sounds fair to me. how much do people want to pay ?
 
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Old 06-04-06, 02:44 AM
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cost of labor and parts

This is a good example of why I "Do it Myslef"

When I Lived in Inverness Fla. I found that the Big Auto Repair Chains Cost More then I like to Pay.
I would have gone to a junk yard "Did it myself" I Saved on parts and labor. ($100 MAX)
However if my wife had the breakdown, I'd be stuck with a 400.00 BILL...LOL

GOOD LUCK!
 
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Old 06-04-06, 07:07 AM
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Ripped off?

It is common for a shop to recomend a battery when the altenator goes. Depending on the issue with the altenator if it is over charging or not charging at all plays a big part. The shop she went to must believe to do a complete job meaning that they resolve the issue by replacing both to avoid a come back. She was fortunate that they didnt hit her up for the cables and terminals too. All in all they did the right thing in my opinion.
 
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Old 06-04-06, 08:44 AM
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Agreed. The last thing a shop wants is a return visit on a repair (usually with an irate customer). They wanted to make sure it was fixed for a good long while.

Therein lies the difference between DIY and a shop doing the work. It's really expensive if you don't DIY.
 
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Old 06-05-06, 03:28 PM
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Thanks, all!

Thanks, everyone, for your ideas and thoughts. The point about DIYing it is well taken- my brother was out of town when this happened, and he can do this kind of thing upside down underwater blindfolded and one hand tied behind his back. That's why the dollar amount hurts.

It sounds, though, that they did the right thing, so that takes some of the sting out.
 
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Old 06-06-06, 04:04 AM
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Originally Posted by CycleZen
and he can do this kind of thing upside down underwater blindfolded and one hand tied behind his back.
I'd pay to see that
 
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Old 06-08-06, 07:40 PM
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Yeah, tell your bro to do better preventative maintenance on the old unit ;^)
save some $$ and wife hassles
 
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