From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: tuneup cost?
Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000 15:56:30 EST
Gini Free wrote:
> Hi group...I'd like to know what others have paid for a "full" tuneup on a
> Chev 454 [in a 1985 Southwind, 30ft. if that makes much difference]. I'm
> just looking for ballpark figures, so I can get an idea what's near-normal.
> We were recently charged $260.00, which I think is totally outrageous!
> That's BESIDES the $139.00 for the lifetime ceramic sparkplug wires, the $26
> for the eight spark plugs, the $36 for the dist. cap, and the $13.95 for the
> rotor, which brings the total to $476,.00!!
He pretty much broke it off in you. First off, absent an
demonstrable defect, there is NO, repeat, NO reason to replace a the
distributor cap and rotor. Perhaps 30 years ago but not now.
Absent a rare and random failure, those parts are considered
lifetime parts. They are, however, a frequent way to scalp a few
more dollars from an unsuspecting customer.
OEM-quality plug wires are more than adequate for a stock engine.
Brand name 8mm wires from an auto parts house should cost under $30,
perhaps twice that if you buy them at retail from a GM dealer.
Plugs run about $1.25 each.
Since a tuneup on a modern emission-controlled engine amounts to
little more than changing plugs, air cleaner, perhaps changing the
PCV valve if gunked up, checking the timing, checking the emissions
via a tailpipe sniffer and doing a general inspection, the labor
should not amount to anything more than $100. There are no points
to change and the HEI ignition requires no maintenance until worn
out or tampered with. The carb is a sealed unit that has, at most,
an idle emissions adjustment and should not require attention until
It is common for repair shops to double the price of parts when sold
to a customer. Even given that practice, this guy nailed you pretty
hard. I do most of my work but on the occasion that I decide to
farm something out, I ALWAYS supply the parts. Aside from saving
money, I can select the quality parts I want. If your mechanic
doesn't want to work with customer-supplied parts, it's time to find
> They also charged us over $700 to drop the gas tank [89gal.] flush/clean it,
> and recoat it, and reinstall it...they had originally quoted it between
> three and four hundred.
That seems high but then again, some gas tanks I've seen practically
require dismantling the frame to get out. If he quoted between 3
and 4 hundred dollars, that's what I'd hold him to.
Finally, a philosophical point. If you're going to own an old
vehicle, you're going to have to a) learn at least the basics of how
the thing operates, b) find a mechanic you can trust and build a
relationship with and c) learn to do some of the minor stuff
yourself. Or be ready to bleed a steady stream of money. An old
machine is going to bleed a small stream of problems continuously.
That's just the way things are. If you can't handle these problems,
then an old MH is not a good deal.
Finding a good mechanic is the hard part. I've been mechanicing,
either professionally or as a hobby for 35+ years and I've only
recently in the last few months found a guy that I trust to do some
of the work I no longer care to do. Even then, I'm in and out
several times a day while my vehicle is in the shop just to keep
From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: tuneup cost?
Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2000 02:54:21 EST
Normally I won't waste time on this type of lid but what the hey?
> Neon John wrote:
> > First off, absent a
> > demonstrable defect,
> > ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
> > there is NO, repeat, NO reason to
> > replace a the
> > distributor cap and rotor. Perhaps 30 years ago but not now.
> > Absent a rare and random failure, those parts are considered
> > lifetime parts.
> Have you never seen a rotor with a hole burnt right through the top?
> The high energy ignitions will do just that and you will get a no start
> situation. The terminals in the cap can also deteriorate, thereby
> increasing the gap between them and the rotor blade. This can decrease
> the spark intensity that is delivered to the plugs. The cap can also
> develop carbon tracks or actual cracks which will lead to misfiring of
> the cylinders.
I underlined the critical part of my previous statement to help with
your sloppy reading. Everything you recite is, of course, a
"demonstrable defect". Absent a demonstrable defect, there is NO
reason to replace an HEI cap or rotor.
> > OEM-quality plug wires are more than adequate for a stock engine.
> As you well know, those 454's run very hot. The exhaust manifolds can
> actually get red hot. Ceramic boots are expensive but they will survive
> in that hot environment better than any other.
I'm sure this lady could care less about this. The OEM wires lasted
just fine and the replacement OEM ones will too. One could buy a
sack full of of OEM wires for what she was charged for those ceramic
ones. I repeat yet again, OEM-quality wires are more than adequate
for a stock engine.
> > Plugs run about $1.25 each.
> She did not say whether or not the plugs were stock or could they have been
> platinum? Those would run around $3 each
Since GM did not use platinum platinum plugs on that engine, your
comment is irrelevant. If you advocate using those sorry Bosch fake
platinum alloy plugs, then you ARE a jakeleg mechanic. I gather
that you do, since a real platinum plug costs anywhere from 2 to 3
times that much. It's also considered a lifetime plug.
> > Since a tuneup on a modern emission-controlled engine amounts to
> > little more than changing plugs, air cleaner, perhaps changing the
> > PCV valve if gunked up, checking the timing, checking the emissions
> > via a tailpipe sniffer and doing a general inspection, the labor
> > should not amount to anything more than $100.
> On this we agree.
> > There are no points to change and the HEI ignition requires no
> > maintenance until worn out or tampered with.
I'm losing sleep already.
Just out of curiosity, what routine maintenance do you allege an HEI
ignition to require? Are you one of those thieves who hangs a dwell
meter on the TACH terminal and then bills for a "diagnostic" of the
> > The carb is a sealed unit that has, at most, an idle emissions
> > adjustment and should not require attention until work out.
> What about setting the choke? Checking the choke pull-off? Linkage
> cleaning and lube?
On a tune-up? Not a chance. Unless something is obviously wrong in
this area, most mechanics will only make things worse. Again, just
out of curiosity, how would you claim to set the choke during a
tune-up, considering that properly doing so requires a cold engine.
Do you make your customers leave their vehicles overnight? Or do
you just kinda eyeball it hot and then charge for a 'choke tune-up'.
> > It is common for repair shops to double the price of parts when sold
> > to a customer. Even given that practice, this guy nailed you pretty
> > hard. I do most of my work but on the occasion that I decide to
> > farm something out, I ALWAYS supply the parts. Aside from saving
> > money, I can select the quality parts I want. If your mechanic
> > doesn't want to work with customer-supplied parts, it's time to find
> > another mechanic.
> What happens if there is a warrantee problem with the parts?
Well let's look at the warranty issue. AutoZone, NAPA and most
other aftermarket vendors offer lifetime warranties on most parts
but the warranty applies only to the purchaser. If I buy the parts,
the warranty belongs to me and I have the receipt to prove it, even
when I need to prove it in some distant city. If the garage buys
the parts, then any warranty that might (but usually doesn't) accrue
belongs to the garage. How that trickles down to the vehicle owner
is strictly up to the garage. Even a good garage warranty does one
little good while on the road.
> Who does the second
No independent garage that I know of warrants the labor to replace a
defective part so the situation is the same either way. The customer
pays. That's why it is so important to buy quality brand name parts
instead of the cheapest rebuilt junk the garage operator can lay his
> What caused the parts to fail? Improper installation? Poor parts?
> Where did you say your restaurant was?
Cleveland, TN. But please don't come. I really don't like to have
people with bad attitudes in the place. Spoils the fun for the rest
of the customers.
> The next time I am in your neighborhood, I
> will bring my own food and you can just serve it to me. Really!!!
I cook other people's food fairly frequently. I even have a
published price schedule. I also keep a stock of off-menu food to
meet the special needs of my regular customers. I will, for
example, cook a TV dinner or other junk food for the kids so the
parents can enjoy the 'Que. I'll even allow 'em to bring in food
from other restaurants if that's what it takes to make 'em happy.
Lord knows I don't want to lose a party of 8 or 10 just because one
person doesn't like our food.
I also have free air and water service out in the lot along with a
couple of electrical hookups, just in case a customer in an RV or
whatever needs to plug up or stay overnight. Why not? After all,
the hardest thing to do in the restaurant business is to get the
customer to walk through the door. Everything else is easy.
> > Even then, I'm in and out several times a day while my vehicle is in
> > the shop just to keep tabs.
> Again, apply this to customers coming to your restaurant.
> Do you let them wander
> in and out of your kitchen, "just to keep tabs"?
Sure do, as does any quality restaurant. Never had a customer want
to "wander in and out of my kitchen" but I'm thrilled to be able to
show off my kitchen to customers by taking them on a tour. It lets
the customer see how sanitary the place is and how much care we use
in preparation of their food. I'll even let the customer man the
grill and cook his own steak if we're not too busy. Since most of
the preparation is done in the dining room in a display kitchen,
most of what they see is the prep and wash room.
> If you tried that at our place
> of business, you would be politely asked to leave.
A polite canadian? Really? One really exists? Wow.
In any event, I don't think there would be much chance of my ever
patronizing whatever business it is you do.
> For one thing, insurance
> regulations require this
No it doesn't. Spare that lie for someone who doesn't know any
better. I've owned several garages as well as an HVAC firm and a
machine shop and nowhere in any of my insurance policies has that
topic even been mentioned. That's a little white lie told to keep
customers from seeing the jake-leg hammer mechanic abusing their
vehicles. In the case of my restaurant, our backwater health
department tries to prohibit customer kitchen visits but they lack
the statutory authority.
> and secondly, if you do not trust us, then perhaps you
> should be taking your business elsewhere.
Oh, absolutely. And if you don't have anything to hide, then you
won't mind being watched. The nature of your business is becoming
evident. You're screaming like a cut monkey at my post because I
DID gore your ox. I think I've probably nailed you dead-to-rights
and you don't like it. Any quality shop is PROUD to show off their
facilities and their work.
> I am not saying that what the garage did was right but in every case,
> there are two sides to each story. She did say she gave him a typed
> list and "to do what I had asked to be done". Could it be that the
> garage spent many hours trying to diagnose what exactly was wrong with
> the engine and just billed it out as a tune up?
No. If he spent all that time diagnosing some problem, he had the
legal obligation to document the charge and, since she's in
California, he had the legal obligation to get her specific prior
> He maybe a thief but then again, maybe she is not telling all either. I
> personally got a little uncomfortable when she played the sexist card,
> claiming the mechanic had a "slight prejudice with women".
Why? Patronizing and trying to hoodwink women customers is the rule
rather than the exception almost everywhere. My wife, who is a
quiet and unassuming person under normal circumstances, has hung
around my shops enough to know her way around machinery of all
sorts. She just loves to rip a new asshole for a patronizing SOB
who thinks he has a female sucker on his hands. I still revel at
the memory of her verbally castrating the oil change monkey who told
her - with a straight face, no less - that her brake fluid needed
changing with every oil change.
Could it be that you became uncomfortable because the lady got close
to YOUR home?
> She did say they did good work
> and she had been there before.
Which means nothing, of course. Any business can go to hell between
visits. Maybe the guy had an overdue Snap-On payment or something.
A nearby radiator and AC shop used to do the best work in town and
was the largest facility in the area of its type... Until the owner
developed a booze problem. Hacked up the last two jobs I sent 'em
so now they're on my thief list.
> She also did not say whether or not she signed the work order. If she
> did, then the garage can simply have the vehicle towed to a compound
> until the rest of the money is paid.
Given that this happened in California and that she had a written
estimate that he grossly exceeded without authorization, I pray that
this jerk tries that. The lady will own the guy. So will the state
(grand theft auto.)
> Before prejudging anything, perhaps the other side of the story might
> shed more light on the matter.
Hey Myron, why don't you post the name and location of your
business? I'm sure there are a LOT of folks who will want to make
sure they never patronize your business. Your Neanderthal attitude
toward customers might have worked 20 or 30 years ago but not today.
I'm still trying to figure out the purpose of your post. You had
nothing to add to the discussion. Perhaps you just like to argue.
You're not even very good at that. All you done is to show what
kind of businessman you are. I'm not sure that was your goal but it
certainly is what you achieved. Please do go ahead and post the
name of your business so we'll know what to avoid.
From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: More Idiots
Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2000 03:38:01 EST
> I support your notion of freeloaders. One of my businesses is a coin
> operated do it yourself car wash. We are in a cold northern location
> which requires the building to be heated. We have people who constantly
> come in, with their own brush and bucket, asking my staff where they can
> get water. When they are told that bucket washing is not allowed, they
> get this deer in the headlights look, asking "Why not?" Two of only many
> very good reasons, a $24,000 property tax bill and a further $5,000
> business tax, both which must be paid annually. These people seem to
> think that they can use our building because it too cold to wash in
> their driveways. Nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to the
> retail public.
Awwww. Myron's crying again. hey, can't stand the heat, get out of
the kitchen, Myron.
Funny you'd mention that. We have a self-serve car wash in a
neighboring city that has a large sign out front that says "50 cent
wash, 25 cent vacuum, buckets welcome". Funny thing, that place is
packed out every time I drive by regardless of the time of day.
There's another car wash of similar size not too far away that has
had a number of owners who think like you, Myron. A buck and a
quarter for 4 minutes. Huge signs (I made 'em) saying "NO parking",
"No buckets", "Trash cans for customers only" and the like. Even
has surveillance cameras in the stalls to make sure no one
"cheats". Funny, one almost never sees anyone around to read all
those signs, despite the place being on one of the busiest streets
in the town.
Now I wonder who's making money? Judging by how many name change
signs I've made for the carwash's various owners, I think I know the
I think a clearer picture of you and "canoli" is developing. You're
both bitter old men who blame the failures of your businesses to
thrive or even survive on your "thieving" and "freeloading"
customers instead of looking inward for the cause. You think it to
be unseemly or "freeloading" for customers to actually save money by
not patronizing you. You're also the sort that blames Wal-Mart
coming to town for putting you out of business.
That's the real issue here. There's a segment of society that is
jealous and/or resentful of success of any sort but particularly
Wal-Mart's and opposes anything they attempt to do. Bitching
because they allow their customers to park overnight in their lots
is just the latest round. Meanwhile those of us who take care of
our customers and who know enough to learn from the likes of
Wal-Mart thrive. In my case, the local Wal-Mart is a very good
Oh, and BTW... $29k taxes on a car wash? Really? Naw... Either
the exaggeration bird's come home to roost or you live in a really
FUBAR'd place. Sure am glad to live where I do where I pay less
than $3k for all my local business taxes on almost half a downtown
city block. How's it feel being a slave to the state?
From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: More Idiots
Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2000 14:25:18 EST
> Hate to burst your bubble, John, but I started my business on a
> shoestring, built it into the largest and most successful operation of
> its kind in the county, and retired with a smile on my face.
> When Wal Mart opened, my business increased, because local service is
> almost always preferred to megabuck anonymity.
Hmmm. A few posts back you said that someone set up a competing
business in a cart and the competition was so severe that you had to
sic the government on 'em to force 'em out of business. Now you're
saying that your business was "the largest and most successful
operation of its kind in the county." Hmmm. Something doesn't pass
the sniff test. Could you be lying? Please tell us, Canoli, what
was the name and nature of this largest operation of its kind? And
what's your name. I'd love to see what D&B has to say about your
> I do believe Wal Mart is probably your best customer, and I
> congratulate you on finding a niche that allows you to succeed
> profitably. But what happens when the national bbq franchise opens
> next door and starts selling their product for less than yours?
Buddy's came and went. Sonny's scoped out the scene and let their
real estate option expire. One of my competition slunk out of town
on his yellow belly in the middle of the night last Thanksgiving. I
welcome the competition. I buy a lot of equipment at the resulting
Buddy's tried to buy market share by selling under cost. So did the
guy who snuck out of town in the middle of the night. I was GLAD
they were doing that. Sure I lost a few sales but I more than made
them up in the long term. Once people tried their (almost) free
lunch, they came back. Meanwhile, the competition was bleeding
dry. Ain't the free market grand?
> As for your gratuitous insinuation about Myron's taxes, you really
> should get out more, John, and see what life, and expenses, are like
> in the big city. 3k for half a city block sounds like you own half
> the town.
Naw, but I wish I did. With a population of about 80k, I'd have a
hard time buying up half the town. BTW, I've lived and owned
commercial real estate in Atlanta, Dallas, Long Island (Never
again!), Harrisburg, PA; Charleston, SC; and Chattanooga, TN. I've
NEVER seen taxes anything like what he's claiming on something the
size of a car wash, though Long Island was trying real hard. Around
here, we still keep the government on a short leash. Not short
enough but short nonetheless.
From: John De Armond
Subject: Lifetime plugs (was e: Tune up costs - lengthy retort)
Date: Sun, 27 Feb 2000 21:42:40 EST
John Miller wrote:
> But just as an aside, have you ever heard the radio show mechanic who seems
> to take delight in pointing out that it's not necessary to change spark
> Best regards,
> John Miller, ducking and running
I haven't heard the guy but he's right. My wife's 90 Camry called
for the plugs to be replaced at 60k miles. At 145K miles when a
semi truck ran over the hood, the original plugs were still in the
engine, the engine ran well and the emissions were normal. This car
was my little experiment on plug life.
There have been a few SAE papers in the last few years that studied
the concept of making the plug a permanent part (that is, requiring
engine disassembly to replace.) The benefits are many. The plug
body can be made tiny and tailored to fit, it can be placed in the
most optimum position without worrying about clearing other parts
with a large plug body and, of course, the high voltage wires and
boots can be eliminated, assuming the coil and plug is an integral
assembly. Look for it to happen in the next few years.
BTW, pay no attention to my last few posts in this thread. Nothing
more than a bit of recreational messing with a particularly gullible