The $121 Lesson… And A More Valuable Lesson Learned.

The frustrating part is that I know better…

I am pretty good with cars, basic maintenance, changing an alternator or starter, etc…  I am no mechanic, but I can usually figure things out.  With the internet and YouTube, it is much easier these days.

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I recently bought my son a 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee. He will be sixteen soon.  It is in great shape, low mileage, the only issues are the door locks will not work with the buttons on the doors, and the A/C fan only worked on high.  Being lazy, I brought the truck to a local shop which I have had good luck with in the past.  I figured I’d just let them fix it up and change the oil.

I drop it off and get a call the next day.  The service writer sets me up with the, “Its a twenty year old truck and you can’t get parts anymore.”  I smelled BS already…  He told me it was the blower motor resistor affecting the fan speed, and the part alone is $330. Plus, another thirty minutes of labor at $104 an hour.  I already had an hour in it.  He said to just look at the door locks it was an hour of labor per door.  That’s just to look.  Right away I told him to forget the door locks.  He said the blower motor resistor and oil change would total $570.  I thought that sounded crazy and told him I’d call him back.

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I googled the part and replacement.  This is a common, easily diagnosed issue just by the fan only working on high.  I found the “new” parts on Ebay and Amazon for $40.  YouTube showed the part was under the passenger dash and was a five minute fix.  Literally two screws and an electrical plug.  The absolute most expensive I found the part was at AutoZone for $183, far from $330.

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I called him back and told him to forget it.  I’ll just get the oil changed and pay for the diagnosis (an hour labor).  He told me the oil change was $45, I said that sounds high, he said “Yeah.”  I told him about the part being $40 bucks on Amazon and he said “Yeah, I don’t have access to those.” I told him that they need to find some new parts suppliers because that is a scam.  He said “Yeah.”

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I said forget the oil change, I’ll just pick it up.  My bill was $121, there was a $7.53 shop materials / disposal fee… For what???  They put the same part back in!

I ordered the part on Amazon, bought oil change supplies from O’Riley’s.  I got the part in one day, free shipping.  My fifteen year old son changed the part in about 10 minutes (that’s stretching it) with me directing.  It works perfectly.

If I had taken the time to look up the problem I would have saved myself $121.  Pure laziness, no other excuse.  The sad part is a shop charging one hour labor to take it out, thirty minutes to put in the new one and $330 for the part.  I know they are in business to make money, but damn.  I will never, nor will anyone I can convince, use them again.

$290 mark up on a part, and an hour and a half labor for something a fifteen year old, who knows little to nothing about cars, did in ten minutes.  Don’t be lazy like I was.  There is a time for a shop, but that could have cost me over $500 bucks just because I was lazy…

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This morning we changed the part and the oil in under an hour…  Plus had the bonus of father son bonding and teaching him a little about his truck.  You can’t put a price on that.  The satisfaction he had with fixing his new truck himself was awesome.

Don’t underestimate the gift of time spent with your kids.  I worked a lot when they were little, now that I’m retired, I need to learn to make use of this time wherever I can.  Every time I miss a chance, and think about all the overtime I worked while my girls were growing up, I hear that old song, Cat’s In the Cradle.  That was my dad and I to the letter.  He was busting his ass to keep us out of the shitty neighborhoods, which I appreciate now, but as a kid I just wanted his time.  Never really got it though.  I’m trying not to make the same mistake.

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