Great discussion here --
Seems like the trend here is going against the hard and fast, set-in-stone book rates for jobs that obviously don't take as long as published.
As an example I'll use a head gasket job on a 103 engine. I'd say the typical or average labor charge for this task is $750, so that's about 10 hrs book (or more) to remove and replace head.
I myself have now done this job twice. The first time it took me 2 full days to remove and replace. Second time, 6 hours total -- and this is with rudimentary tools and no lift. (note-- this is with me diagnosing the problem and asking a shop what their labor charge is for R&R'ing the head)
-- drain radiator, block; remove shroud, fan clutch, serp belt (15 minutes)
-- remove valve cover and air filter housing (10 minutes)
-- remove distributor, cap, wires, driver, protective cover (15 minutes)
-- remove front cover (4 bolts) and knock off with rubber hammer (5 minutes)
-- set crank to TDC (2-3 minutes)
-- remove chain tensioner plug (tricky if you don't have the correct tools (30 minutes), about 10 minutes with right tools
-- mark cam timing on sprocket (1 min)
-- pull slide rail bolt (5 minutes)
-- remove intake manifold bolts, cold start valve (7 I think), tough to do with a regular 13mm box wrench (45 minutes) 15 minutes with a small ratchet or better tool (small area to work in)
-- remove exhaust manifold (1 hour) just because you need to get underneath car, with lift 20 mins tops
-- bust off head bolts (10 minutes)
-- remove tranny dipstick bolt and 2 others on other side (10 mins)
pull head off
This is just an illustration and my personal experience. I have only done it twice, and I already feel like a pro. I'm sure a tech that has done this job dozens of time could have the head off in an hour and a half or less. YES this is a major job and it ooohs and aaahs the average customer when told what needs to be done -- but this is NOT a 10 hour job and shouldn't be charged as such.
Techs and customers both have valid arguments regarding these book times -- but it is jobs like the one I just described that has no basis whatever, for a preset 10hr or more book rate. It is pure profit and shops lather at the mouth I'm sure when they see these come in.
just my .02
'91 300E, 208k miles