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  #1  
Old 04-24-2013, 05:22 PM
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Overcharged in Dallas, Texas

I have a Euro W116 350SE normally serviced by my father-in-law, a 35-year certified M-B tech with deep knowledge of the older cars. I drove to Dallas to care for my elderly mother. While there the (original) voltage regulator/alternator failed. I took the car to Lovers Lane European Automotive LLC, a competent shop judging from the customer cars and expertise of the mechanic.

From an MB wholsale parts distributor I knew the alternator would cost the shop $112. Father-in-law said replacement a 30 minute job according to the MB Labor/hour book. To my astonishment the repair cost $590 which included 2.5 hours in labor.! Dead car; no choice.

These guys are probably good mechanics. But I think I was overcharged by 100%.
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Charles Cleaver
1975 350SE + 1992 300CE-24 SportLine 5-speed + 2002 SLK320 6-speed + 1974 W114 280
1986 190E 2.3-16 (Decomm rear self-leveling suspension; Euro-code headlamps) sold
2004 Audi S4 6-spd - sold
1969 (2) and 1980 Porsche 911T, S, and SC - alas gone
1987 300SDL - Graf Spee; Euro-code headlamps; 16-inch 8-hole wheels - sold
1994 E420+(E500 suspension/E-code headlamps/PAD chip) sold
1968 250SE 4-speed (NICE car) - long gone
1962 220S 4-speed/column mount - long gone
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  #2  
Old 04-24-2013, 05:46 PM
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Hopefully you did get all new belts at the least so if it does book at .5 hrs. (which seems low) maybe you were only overcharged by 75%. With that and was a towing charge added or anything else that was seen and repaired as that is what I would do to my own vehicle.
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  #3  
Old 04-24-2013, 05:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ATATEXAN View Post
I have a Euro W116 350SE normally serviced by my father-in-law, a 35-year certified M-B tech with deep knowledge of the older cars. I drove to Dallas to care for my elderly mother. While there the (original) voltage regulator/alternator failed. I took the car to Lovers Lane European Automotive LLC, a competent shop judging from the customer cars and expertise of the mechanic.

From an MB wholsale parts distributor I knew the alternator would cost the shop $112. Father-in-law said replacement a 30 minute job according to the MB Labor/hour book. To my astonishment the repair cost $590 which included 2.5 hours in labor.! Dead car; no choice.

These guys are probably good mechanics. But I think I was overcharged by 100%.
Do you have an itemized invoice/receipt from this firm?

Do they identify the alternator brand and model/style number?

Did you request or were you offered a written estimate of the repairs before they took your car in for service?


.
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  #4  
Old 04-25-2013, 10:48 AM
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Location: Plano, TX
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I'm not familiar with this shop so can't offer any opinion based on prior experience or even hearsay.

Guessing your bill was about 50% parts and 50% labor? Shops typically markup parts 100% over wholesale, so ~$225 for the alt would be about right.

How certain are you regarding the 0.5 hours of book time? That sure seems awfully small to R&R any part. Are you sure that's not the number to replace the voltage regulator with the old alternator in-situ?
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  #5  
Old 04-25-2013, 01:22 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Dallas, Texas
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Bad Dallas repair shop experience

Thank you for all the comments. No towing involved; I charged up the battery and drove the short distance to the shop. According to the M-B shop times book, replacing an alternator (voltage regulator attached to backside already) is .5 hours. A perfectly good alternator from Advanced Auto (never, NAPA, Autozone, etc.) with lifetime warranty wholesales for $80; from the Austin M-B dealer's Wholesale Parts Direct, wholesale price is $112.

The real issue here is the hours.
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Charles Cleaver
1975 350SE + 1992 300CE-24 SportLine 5-speed + 2002 SLK320 6-speed + 1974 W114 280
1986 190E 2.3-16 (Decomm rear self-leveling suspension; Euro-code headlamps) sold
2004 Audi S4 6-spd - sold
1969 (2) and 1980 Porsche 911T, S, and SC - alas gone
1987 300SDL - Graf Spee; Euro-code headlamps; 16-inch 8-hole wheels - sold
1994 E420+(E500 suspension/E-code headlamps/PAD chip) sold
1968 250SE 4-speed (NICE car) - long gone
1962 220S 4-speed/column mount - long gone
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  #6  
Old 04-25-2013, 09:16 PM
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Location: Dallas, TX
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I'm sorry that you feel like you did not get a good deal and I have no experience with this mechanic but I have to say that there's a flaw in your logic.

Good European Car Mechanics don't buy from Advance auto parts, or Napa etc. They buy from a wholesaler like worldpac because they know that they won't get crap. Your high street retailers sell plenty of crap with a lifetime warranty which is fine for the DIY'er who can afford to change the part out over and over again, but not for a shop that loses money and credibility every time a part fails.

Furthermore, shops mark up the price of parts because they can't survive on what they charge in labor. The wholesale price of a Bosch alternator is about $125 and the retail price is $330. This is listed on the wholesaler website which tracks retail pricing for this purpose.

This is how it is everywhere, had you have gone to the Mercedes Benz dealer down the road and been a club member, you could have bought parts at wholesale prices. If you took those parts from the parts counter to the service department and asked them to put them on. They would refuse because they would expect to sell you parts for service at different pricing.

More importantly, I think that you're being a little optimistic with your labor time. I just don't see how any flat rate book can suggest that this job can be completed in 30 minutes.

Just visualizing the job:

You have to disconnect the battery
Loosen the alternator so that you can get the belt off
Disconnect the wiring from behind the voltage regulator
Undo the belts and remove the alternator along with the bracket
Separate the old alternator from the bracket
Remove the pulley from the old alternator
Install the pulley onto the new alternator
Mount the new alternator onto the bracket
Mount the bracket back onto the engine
Wire the new alternator up
Attach the belts
Tighten the belts
Reconnect the battery

Include bringing the car into the shop, gathering tools and it's almost impossible to imagine the most experienced mechanic doing this in 30 minutes.

I would expect it to take less then 2.5 hours but again, book rate will pad out the job a little to account for the expectation that the mechanic may not be familiar with it. It's this way because mechanics are paid by book hours. If they do a job that pays 2 book hours, they will get paid 2 hours regardless of whether they do the job in 20 minutes or in 6 hours.

If there is no job, they don't get paid all.

It may not seem fair when you're comparing it to free labor from your father in law but it is what it is. My father is a Cardiologist but I would not expect to walk into Baylor medical center and get an EKG for free
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Check out the W114, W115 enthusiast website.
http://www.stroke8.org

http://www.w108.org

Join the Mercedes W108 group
http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/mercedesw108/

My 280SL restoration

http://www.w108.org/gallery/albums/a...0959.thumb.jpg

Last edited by alabbasi; 04-25-2013 at 09:29 PM.
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  #7  
Old 05-10-2013, 10:23 PM
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Location: San Antonio
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True, but one seems to also forget that a competent mechanic and a DIY driveway mechanic work at much different paces. I can say that as a former technician that most jobs, especially 'basic' jobs like an alternator shouldn't take more than 10-15 minutes unless its your first time or its buried and you have to move other major components out of the way to get to it.

Examples- just the other day at work, our ac tech was on a rush to get a work truck back on the road (newish dodge diesel) and replaced the evaporator in less than 3 hours. This included evacuating the freon, removing the dash, removing the hvac box assembly, replacing the evaporator and putting it all back together, recharging the freon and test driving it.

I used to work with a guy, I think his name was Harley, at another dodge dealership about ten years ago. This is back when Chrysler minivan transmissions lasted about as long as the front tires without proper rotations. He could remove, rebuild and reinstall 2 transmissions in one work day.

I, back when I was doing that full time with all the right tools, was very quick too. I used to make a killing doing front end work. Most rack and pinions book time for 2+ hrs plus the 1.2 for the alignment and with a good tail wind it would usually take me less than half that before I was out test driving it.

I used to work on Subarus a lot and it usually took me about 15 minutes to change out a front half shaft, about 3 hours to replace both head gaskets, and about 30 minutes to pull the engine out of a car, and that is without doing it the 'junkyard' way.

My point is that one doesn't realize what an accomplished mechanic is capable of in half an hour and on most cars, especially the older rear drive cars, an alternator is not a time consuming repair.
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  #8  
Old 05-11-2013, 12:50 AM
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When it comes to changing out MB alternators - the last two I changed out were on the parking lots of two different Mercedes-Benz dealers, after buying a new replacement alternator. Although it's been many years ago, nearly 20, I changed out my alternators using my own jack and jack stands and tools in not over 30 minutes each. Both times in the dead of wintertime, one of those times with snow on the ground, and once at night using a flashlight. Where MB shops come up with their time charting charges, is anyone's guess. As far as jacking up to doubling the price of parts as one poster here claims is standard, I take issue with this when at an aftermarket repair shop. That's just gigging the unwitting consumer by trying to make money by jacking the price for parts. I'm sure he wouldn't put up with this, so no one else should either. I certainly don't.

It's up to you, (the individual MB owner) to make sure you don't get taken for a ride when using an indy shop, before you agree to let (any) of them work on your valuable car.
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  #9  
Old 05-11-2013, 01:40 AM
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Unfortunately, it is what it is. Shops will mark up the price of parts. You can of course choose to take your business there or find someone else.

As far me as putting up with it? Well, I try to do my own work where I can and I have a wholesaler account so I get great pricing. But if there is something that's beyond my capability and I can't use my network of friends and family to help, then I guess I would be SOL. I could either take the car to a reputable shop and get the work done at their parts and labor rate or I can run the part to the Mexican outfit with the blazing music and taxi cabs parked outside and ask them to put it on. They'd probably put an alternator on for $50 bucks but could I trust them?

It's your choice at the end.

With that said, I'm no longer willing to defend this particular shop as definitely they did over charge you.

I have access to alldata which is used by shops to estimate labor. I made the effort to look at the labor rates. While they don't list anything earlier then 1983, I did check the labor rate on an 1986 560SEL which should be close enough.

It lists the labor rate for alternator as 1hr for new work or 0.7 hours for warranty. As they charged you 2.5 hours, they definitely over charged. Thanks for raising it.
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With best regards

Al

Check out the W114, W115 enthusiast website.
http://www.stroke8.org

http://www.w108.org

Join the Mercedes W108 group
http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/mercedesw108/

My 280SL restoration

http://www.w108.org/gallery/albums/a...0959.thumb.jpg

Last edited by alabbasi; 05-11-2013 at 01:57 AM.
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  #10  
Old 05-12-2013, 04:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bugeyetex View Post
True, but one seems to also forget that a competent mechanic and a DIY driveway mechanic work at much different paces. I can say that as a former technician that most jobs, especially 'basic' jobs like an alternator shouldn't take more than 10-15 minutes unless its your first time or its buried and you have to move other major components out of the way to get to it.

Examples- just the other day at work, our ac tech was on a rush to get a work truck back on the road (newish dodge diesel) and replaced the evaporator in less than 3 hours. This included evacuating the freon, removing the dash, removing the hvac box assembly, replacing the evaporator and putting it all back together, recharging the freon and test driving it.

I used to work with a guy, I think his name was Harley, at another dodge dealership about ten years ago. This is back when Chrysler minivan transmissions lasted about as long as the front tires without proper rotations. He could remove, rebuild and reinstall 2 transmissions in one work day.

I, back when I was doing that full time with all the right tools, was very quick too. I used to make a killing doing front end work. Most rack and pinions book time for 2+ hrs plus the 1.2 for the alignment and with a good tail wind it would usually take me less than half that before I was out test driving it.

I used to work on Subarus a lot and it usually took me about 15 minutes to change out a front half shaft, about 3 hours to replace both head gaskets, and about 30 minutes to pull the engine out of a car, and that is without doing it the 'junkyard' way.

My point is that one doesn't realize what an accomplished mechanic is capable of in half an hour and on most cars, especially the older rear drive cars, an alternator is not a time consuming repair.
I have to agree with your experiences related. When you get good at something, you can run circles around some hobbyist that may think this is all rocket science, and somehow takes endless hours of work doing simple parts R & Rs. Doing an alternator R & R on an old I-configuration is a 10-15 minute job for the expert. At 30 minutes, I was starting to get good at it.
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Last edited by Skid Row Joe; 05-12-2013 at 08:36 PM.
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  #11  
Old 05-14-2013, 01:43 PM
luddite by choice
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skid Row Joe View Post
When it comes to changing out MB alternators - the last two I changed out were on the parking lots of two different Mercedes-Benz dealers, after buying a new replacement alternator. Although it's been many years ago, nearly 20, I changed out my alternators using my own jack and jack stands and tools in not over 30 minutes each. Both times in the dead of wintertime, one of those times with snow on the ground, and once at night using a flashlight. Where MB shops come up with their time charting charges, is anyone's guess. As far as jacking up to doubling the price of parts as one poster here claims is standard, I take issue with this when at an aftermarket repair shop. That's just gigging the unwitting consumer by trying to make money by jacking the price for parts. I'm sure he wouldn't put up with this, so no one else should either. I certainly don't.

It's up to you, (the individual MB owner) to make sure you don't get taken for a ride when using an indy shop, before you agree to let (any) of them work on your valuable car.
Oh please, enlighten us as the proper markup of parts for a repair shop, since you seem to know so much about gigging the unwitting consumer.

FYI, labor just barely pays for my overhead, and most all of the profit comes from the parts that I markup. I sure don't think I am gigging anyone, when I charge double or more than what I pay.

What I pay for a part is my business, and is a combination of my credit rating, payment history, and average account balance. Just because I am a astute buyer doesn't mean I am going to live off a smaller profit margin because some skinflint expects me to sell him parts at cost.

If you want to pay wholesale for parts and DIY, that is great and there are plenty of sources where a home mechanic can buy good parts for a fraction of dealer msrp.

Would the op have been just as miffed if the car in question had a street value of 10k? I doubt it.

People are sure quick to ***** and moan about how much shops markup parts and charge for labor when in reality they should evaluate the prudence of driving a 30 year old car as a daily driver and not having the tools and ability to fix it yourself.
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Old 05-14-2013, 01:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skid Row Joe View Post
I have to agree with your experiences related. When you get good at something, you can run circles around some hobbyist that may think this is all rocket science, and somehow takes endless hours of work doing simple parts R & Rs. Doing an alternator R & R on an old I-configuration is a 10-15 minute job for the expert. At 30 minutes, I was starting to get good at it.
Do those 10-15 minutes include the time spent with the customer, writing up the invoice, diagnosis of the charging system, changing pulleys from the core to the reman unit, cleaning the battery terminals, and checking the charging system when the alternator r&r is done? I didn't think so.


By your comments, a customer should only pay for .25 hours to do a r&r on a inline engine? LOL........
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  #13  
Old 05-14-2013, 01:53 PM
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Overcharged in Dallas

@ Edward Wyatt. This car has been dead reliable including the road trip home (Ketchum, Idaho to san Antonio, Texas). I am the first guy to say a good, honest mechanic is worth his weight in gold. And I think this shop is technically competent. What I don't like is an out-of-town guy who is not a regular customer getting gouged because I had no alternative.
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Charles Cleaver
1975 350SE + 1992 300CE-24 SportLine 5-speed + 2002 SLK320 6-speed + 1974 W114 280
1986 190E 2.3-16 (Decomm rear self-leveling suspension; Euro-code headlamps) sold
2004 Audi S4 6-spd - sold
1969 (2) and 1980 Porsche 911T, S, and SC - alas gone
1987 300SDL - Graf Spee; Euro-code headlamps; 16-inch 8-hole wheels - sold
1994 E420+(E500 suspension/E-code headlamps/PAD chip) sold
1968 250SE 4-speed (NICE car) - long gone
1962 220S 4-speed/column mount - long gone
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  #14  
Old 05-14-2013, 02:01 PM
luddite by choice
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ATATEXAN View Post
@ Edward Wyatt. This car has been dead reliable including the road trip home (Ketchum, Idaho to san Antonio, Texas). I am the first guy to say a good, honest mechanic is worth his weight in gold. And I think this shop is technically competent. What I don't like is an out-of-town guy who is not a regular customer getting gouged because I had no alternative.
I agree, the labor was too high, unless belts were also replaced there was some other issue at play.

My comments were directed at the poster who thinks Indy shops shouldn't profit on parts because he simply does not understand how a small business operates. Must be a govt employee, or a trust fund baby.
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  #15  
Old 05-14-2013, 02:12 PM
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PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ATATEXAN View Post
@ Edward Wyatt. This car has been dead reliable including the road trip home (Ketchum, Idaho to san Antonio, Texas). I am the first guy to say a good, honest mechanic is worth his weight in gold. And I think this shop is technically competent. What I don't like is an out-of-town guy who is not a regular customer getting gouged because I had no alternative.
@ "$590 for an alternator and R & R," I believe you were as you put it "gouged." I agree that you were overcharged by a very wide margin. By exactly how much is the question....perhaps "double" may be correct if you knew what brand alternator, after figuring the unbelievable "2.5 hours" they charged you as well.

As I previously wrote; outside of the 2.5 hrs labor charge, without an itemized bill, you don't know what you're getting nor what you paid for. I take issue with the amount of labor charged too. BTW, what was their hourly rate? I find it hard to believe that it takes 2.5 hours to do an R & R.

Did you request or receive a complete written estimate before work was started on your car?
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