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This is depressing - old car repair woes


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Hello Scotty

Before my question begins, i would like to extend my thanks and sincere appreciation on your several posts in youtube and myself having a 20yr old car and doing repairs, it has been helpful a lot with information no honest mechanic would tell. once again appreciate your efforts !!


question comes with my problem of having an old car - repair costs.

hope you have the patience to read this through.

own a 2002 nissan altima, clocking 195K miles on it. Have been using this car for last 4 yrs and you are absolutely right, it got issues. Good or bad, i like the car very much as a driver and user perspective. I am ready to put down some money and ofcourse have put down some money, substantial amount [good $6k for repairs and various parts replacements] over the last 4 yrs. And still got some areas where i have let them untouched, the valve gasket for instance, i am aware it is blown out but havent changed yet and also aware of the circle of issues i can get by not fixing it, thanks to your videos Smile /p>


The problem i am facing with the real world is a good mechanic. I lived in Indianapolis for last 2 yrs, currently at Sanford[30 min away from Orlando] for 6 months now, have done repairs at local Mexican shops, Indian shops [Indians as in people from India, like myself], Firestone, Meineke, PepBoys, Nissan service centers, independent mechanics etc .. hope the point is served here.

Nevertheless, all are rip offs !!

The shops and Race i mentioned here is just to indicate what are the places i tried and not for any other intentions to be perceived. 

I get the truth that mechanics got to make the buck as well, i dont disagree on that. A $100 per hour for labor? i have a masters degree and been working in usa for last 10yrs and i am long way in touching that pay and honestly i dont see myself in my career ever doing that.

To replace a AC compressor, an independent mechanic quotes me 2 hours of labor, thats $200 and $150 for freon recharge. I was ripped off from Meineke just before with an AC diagnostic fee of $115, showed to the independent mechanic and he was honest to call it rip off and he showed the same thing using a wrench what you showed in your video to tell me my compressor is jammed and not running. with me bringing the part, they would still charge me a $350 to replace a compressor and recharge the Freon.

This independent mechanic is not a young person, by the cars they repair in the shops, by the look of the garage maintenance, i can easily say he is a pro, old and wise. i can easily give that, yet i am being ripped off. 



where can i find a good mechanic who is honest to price a repair and honest to do the job?

will that be just myself when i become a mechanic for my car?

even then,  would i just behave like rest of the world when it comes to others cars?

is this a curse for old car repairs? 



please correct me if and where ever i am wrong. And, for all mechanics out there, this is not a blame, but just a humble concern from an old car owner, who tried with whatever knowledge and information, being ripped off at every turn. it does not matter if i have a 20 yr old Porsche or a Crown Vic, the post here matters about a everyday car user who would like to extend a old car life for whatever memories it carries and trying to make peace with repairs and cost. As simple as the battle between "Justified cost vS a Joker level pay off"

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3 Answers

$100 an hour for labor is not out of line. A shop has all kinds of expenses that need to be paid out of labor charges - rent or mortgage, salaries, insurance, utility bills, taxes, regulatory compliance, and more. A friend of mine owns a shop and while he does OK for himself he's not getting rich any time soon after paying all the bills.

If daily driving a car whose age is measured in decades it's really best if you can do at least some of the repairs yourself. I drive a 1997 Saab with 365,000 miles on a daily basis. I've done all repairs and maintenance myself, excepting exhaust system, so it's been economical to keep. However if I had to run to a mechanic for every little thing it would have been $$$$ to the point of being ridiculous. Most of the repairs were done in the first couple of years to sort things out and having done that at this point it is very reliable. In the last 5 years the only repair the car has needed has been the water pump. (Even then the pump wasn't bad but they have this stoopid design where there's a pipe from the engine to the pump sealed with O-rings, and inevitably the O-rings go bad over time and start leaking.)

The point is that an inexpensive old car can get very expensive quickly if you're not wrenching on it yourself. In some cases it might even be cheaper to buy or lease something new.

As far as finding a good mechanic that can be difficult. It's a given that you need to stay away from dealers and chain shops. (Pep Boys, Meineke, Firestone, etc. are not only gyp joints they can be so incompetent that they may not even know they are ripping you off.) Best bet is personal referrals, ask friends and family where they have had good experiences.



$100 / hour ?!?!

That is an accurate price. Some places charge a little more per hour. Rarely will you see less per hour. The per hour pricing isn’t necessarily the rip off. A good mechanic has put in time building skill and knowledge building skill to do what he/she does.

What is a rip off is charging way more than the book time (the estimated labor for a specific job), charging exorbitant amounts for simple tasks that really don’t need a mechanic (most air filters, most cabin filters), or a mechanic suggesting unnecessary or even WRONG repairs.  Dealerships are notoriously known for the latter.

where can i find a good mechanic who is honest to price a repair and honest to do the job?

TBH, this is trial and error. Ask around  ask friends and family. Find local reviews, go scope the place out yourself before taking the car in.

will that be just myself when i become a mechanic for my car?

Quite possibly. Lol. For me, I watch how to videos online and do the stuff I feel comfortable with. And I ask here on tips and tricks if I get stuck. The biggest challenges I have are things that a stuck and won’t budge, broken bolts or stripped heads. If I think a task is over my head, I take it in to the shop. I’ve tried several over the years, and found some that work with me and are honest. Some work out of their garages like Scotty!

even then,  would i just behave like rest of the world when it comes to others cars?

what do you mean? I don’t get the question.

is this a curse for old car repairs?

Kinda. I am still rolling in my 1999 Honda Accord, since the start. I have 277K miles on it. And for the the better person of 20 years, it has treated me well. Sure there were repairs and maintenance along the way, but they were all normal wear and tear items. 

For context, I spent the more money from 2016-2020 maintaining a BMW X5, than my whole time owning the Accord since 1999. More money spent in 4 years, than 20+ years. Can you believe it?!

Yes, older car will need a little more TLC. And it is up to each person to figure out their own person skills and limits in when to know when to continue with a car, or let the car go. Some cars are cheaper to maintain than others as they age.  Others are astronomically expensive to maintain.

For me, I have grown attached to my Accord. It has become my project car that I use to learn about cars and/how to fix them. Strangely enough, I still use it for daily driving and an ocasional road trip up and down the California coast. So far so good. 


"Even then, would I behave just like the rest of the world when it comes to other's cars?"
I think that he is referring the his previous statement, "Will that be just myself when I become a mechanic for my car?" Really wondering to himself, if he became a mechanic for his car and people started coming to him for help with their cars... would he end up becoming just like the other mechanics whom he is complaining about towards them. Something obviously only he could answer but non-the-less addressing the human issue of greed, etc.
At least that seems to me to be what he is saying. But it threw me at first too.

Got it. Thanks!

Posted by: @selvanvm707

A $100 per hour for labor?... i am long way in touching that pay ...

$100 is very common, and they go even higher. The mechanic does not get to keep most of that. Shops are very expensive to operate.


Posted by: @selvanvm707

To replace a AC compressor, an independent mechanic quotes me 2 hours of labor, thats $200 and $150 for freon recharge.

That sounds about right for the new R1234yf stuff. The older R134A should be cheaper. Freon was banned in 1996.


Posted by: @selvanvm707

where can i find a good mechanic who is honest to price a repair and honest to do the job?

Read the FAQ and see if that helps.