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Big Repair Bills – A Huge Dent In Your Bank Account

07.04.2009 · Posted in Home and Garden Articles

A little scratch: $1500. A wear out device replacement: $3500. A fresh trunk-release switch cover: $150. All these are genuine repair costs related to AOL Autos since drivers took their vehicles to the auto shops with apparently small problems that resulted in excessively expensive repair bills. Not all motorists can choose to repair his vehicle himself or purchase a new one as trouble occurs in the existing one. Most of the car owners are left with limited options like gathering the big bills and paying it. Let us focus on some of the regular repair jobs that resulted in exorbitant repair bills.nnBeyond the BumpernnDeana May has seen first hand what lies ahead for the customers who bring their car with just a surface scratch or an abrasion at Los Angeles-based AC Auto finishing. “It’s a scary thing — looks can be deceiving. You can do an estimate on a front bumper then take it off and behind it there are all kinds of damage. Low-profile cars with low-profile tires go over a bump or up a driveway, they don’t take an angle, often they need a whole new front end. May says that this is a common affair at her shop and explains it with an example. Last month a Lotus driver was quoted a cool $5,400 to get his car repaired though the car did not look as though it needed so many repairs. She says there is always a danger of the customers getting erroneous quotes for repairs with high-performance parts such as AMG or Brabus for a Mercedes. Some standard or stock components are put in place instead of these high-performance parts. nnCracked Grille and Fender BendernnWilly Stroppe, the president of automotive engineering firm Bill Stroppe and Sons in Paramount, California, says that once he had seen a minor damage to the front of a Ford pickup truck turn into a major repair bill. “It looks like the front plastic grille got broken with a light hit, but when we got into it the housing behind the grille was cracked and broken all the way up. Replacing everything from the fenders forward, the headlight vessels, a new front end, it all adds up. In a lot of cases you gotta pull out the radiator. That’s not something you can do in a couple hours.” Stroppe, who works mainly with Fords, has seen similar problems on a Ford Explorer and the pickups repair bill was more than $1200. “It’s not like the old days when everything was steel,” he adds. In his nearly half-century of experience in the car business, he has seen a lot of instances where a car whose frame and shell are in good condition but it needs a lot of work on its suspension is bought and sold off to an unwary buyer after doing a shoddy repair work on it. This leads to a gigantic repair bill in the future for the unsuspecting customer when the repair work crumbles.nn$150 Cover UpnnMark Essig, a writer in a small town in North Carolina, was astonished to find a repair bill of $150 on his car by a local mechanic just to replace a missing cover for the trunk-release switch in his ten-year-old Mercedes 320 CLK. Though such expensive repair bills are no longer a surprise for upscale European marques, Essig says, this one really took the cake for its icing on a already frosty $2000 repair bill which he did not expect in the first place. He says that this was not included in the estimate and it came as an additional cost. He says: “It was part of a $2000 repair bill that included valve cleaning and brake work, and I was so sick to my stomach that I couldn’t quibble over $150. Best part was, I didn’t ask him to do it.” Another story involves a Porsche 944 owner, Michael Russell, an AOL Autos friend who too his old-school German car for repair and got more than he bargained for in the form of $3,500 repair bill including labor cost in place of $15 exhaust valve replacement which was what he expected it to be. He says, that they had to rip out the engine to get to the valve, which had burned out, a common enough problem in older performance vehicles. Since without the repair, he had no way of getting to work, he had to grit his teeth and bear the cost.nnAir PressurennThis is a first-hand experience. I took my wife’s 1995 Nissan 240SX S-ER to my local mechanics to fix the air conditioning. However, Id already taken it into the shop the week before, to be told about a leaking gasket that had depressurized the system. So they fixed the gasket, re-filled the system with Freon coolant and pressurized it, for a paltry $300. I thought Id got off lightly, until two days later, when the system began blowing hot once again. At the shop, they told me another seal had broken, but it more complicated this time, meaning extra labor. When I was handed an estimate of $800, I pointed out that the original fix was under warranty, and my mechanic agreed but pointed out in turn that a different component had was to blame this time and therefore the warranty was not valid in this case. Having failed to negotiate a lower repair cost, Im poorer by $300, and my wife faces the prospect of a long, hot summer. Lesson learnt: get a second opinion, and evaluate general system integrity when replacing individual components on older-model cars.nnChilling Coolant, Hot CostnnKen Lavacot of advises you to never ignore little signs. A bit of steam coming out of the exhaust may seem like nothing, but it could be a warning of huge repair bills. For example, he says, “Coolant is normally used to cool the engine, but if coolant gets into the combustion chamber, the engine will burn it, generating white smoke and steam.” Among the expensive solutions is gasket replacement. “If the gasket that seals the intake manifold to the cylinder head fails it lets coolant into the intake port and then the combustion chamber. In which case, the intake manifold will need to be removed.” And getting to the gasket and reassembling the parts once it is replaced is the expensive bit. If there is coolant in the combustion chamber but the gasket is functioning, Lavacot says the engine must be taken apart. He adds: “This can be tricky because it is difficult to tell what is causing the problem. For example: A repair shop has told you the cylinder head is cracked, and as they start disassembly they can discover it was the intake manifold gasket that has failed. An honest repair shop will inform the customer that the repair bill will be lower. Or the opposite can happen. A repair shop may tell you that your engine has a blown head gasket, but once the disassembly is complete they inform you that the head gasket is fine, and so is the cylinder, which has been pressure checked. This only leaves the engine block as the failure and must be replaced, and that can be costly.”nnPaintwork BluesnnMy brother-in-law got a little more than he bargained for when he lent his Jaguar convertible to a family member. The car was returned with a scratch in the back panel on the drivers side. This can be fixed at minimal cost as a bodywork shop can buff out a scratch but the Jaguar XK8s aluminum shell meant that a costly adhesive had to be used to fix the scratch so as to prevent further deterioration or warping of the cars monocoque shell. It cost a whopping $1500. Most luxury carmakers like Audi, Mercedes and BMW harness the aluminum-shell technology which is very expensive to repair. He was told that he was lucky the scratch was not in any other part of the car as it could have easily doubled or tripled his cost. Get several estimates for the paintwork and think twice before lending your Jaguar.

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