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Engine sensors

Tow vehicles - discuss, debate, and assistance.

Engine sensors

Unread postby Hannibal on Sat Mar 15, 2008 10:15 am

Although not our tow vehicle but our Durango, and a lot of people tow with Dodges with the 4.7L engine, we had a hard start, rough running situation with a P-0320 code on the OBD readout last week. I looked it up and the "camshaft poition sensor" was the most likely cause. We ran over to the dealership to pick one up for $30 and I installed it in less than five minutes using a 10mm end wrench. It's about the size of my thumb and simply pulls out, unplugs and reverse to install. Cranked up and ran fine. Next day, wife called to say at over 40mph, runs rough and logged the same trouble code. Since I was in the next city by this time, I told her to just swing by our local Chrysler dealership and have the "crankshaft position sensor" being second on the list of probabilities for code P-0320 swapped out thinking such a simple fix couldn't set us back too much at the dealership considering it's even more in the open and easier to change out. How wrong I was. They charged $283 to change the $50 thumb sized sensor with one bolt and plug and nothing in the way to remove or work around. Still fuming about being mugged, I'll never make that mistake again. I shudder to think what they'd charge to change out the windshield wipers as they would require quite a bit more labor time!
All newer electronically controlled vehicles gas and diesel have these camshaft and crankshaft position sensors along with many other easy to diagnose and replace sensors. We could all save some money by familiarizing ourselves with the symptoms and codes (universal since 1996) on our tow vehicles. Just thought I'd pass along my latest "education" in hopes of saving someone else an expensive mistake. Transmission sensors are a huge money vacuum for rebuilders and dealerships...
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Re: Engine sensors

Unread postby PrivatePilot on Sat Mar 15, 2008 10:18 am

Did you approach the dealership and inquire why the cost was so high? They charged you $50 for the sensor, but over $200 in labour?

Did they do any other diagnostic tests or anything on the invoice?

Even at the customary $70/Hr rate for a mechanic around here I'd question why they billed 2.5 hours to do a 15 minute job, and I'd want a very good explanation..
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Re: Engine sensors

Unread postby jp rver on Sat Mar 15, 2008 10:24 am

That's a good piece of advice. Even though many are intimidated by todays computer controlled engines, there are many simple maintenance and repair items that we as owners with even just a little mechanical ability can perform and save ourselves lots of money. I too would be fuming if I were you and would have to see a detailed report as to why this simple procedure cost so much.

Did the crankshaft sensor fix the Durango?
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Re: Engine sensors

Unread postby PrivatePilot on Sat Mar 15, 2008 10:28 am

I'm curious if the dealership didn't charge $200+ for the sensor, and the labour rate was actually inline with actual work time?

It's not uncommon for dealerships to charge assinine markups on some parts when installed by their shop, versus going to a "auto parts" store and buying the aftermarket (discount) alternative.

For example, about 6 or 8 years ago I had to do all four rotors on a Grand Prix I owned. GM wanted over $120 for EACH rotor, whereas I went to the local discount parts supplier and paid $25 for the fronts, and $30 each for the rears.
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Re: Engine sensors

Unread postby Hannibal on Sat Mar 15, 2008 10:56 am

I raised a little stink at the dealership and they replied it was the labor involved. I asked if their mechanics were paid $1200 an hour. The sensor is listed on the bill as $50. I think they're making up for lost revenue as sales are way down. I just made a mental note, paid it and decided to take the effort to not make the same mistake again in assuming that a simple sensor replacement would be fairly inexpensive. They said $85 of it was for diagnoses. The Dodge has On Board Diagnostics which means a simple key on, off, on, off and back to the on position displays any trouble codes on the odometer display. I told them what it needed over the phone and that's what they changed. I just chalked it up to education. I won't go back to them for anything...
The new electronically controlled engines are scary but will actually tell you what's wrong with the OBD or a DB scan tool. I wouldn't want to go back to points and carburetors. The '80s were a moderate nightmare but the newer ones are pretty reliable and easy to maintain. Even the new diesels will troubleshoot themselves for the most part. They look a lot scarier than they are under the hood. I would prefer the 12v P7100 Cummins but I wouldn't hesitate to buy a new 6.7L Cummins based on it's electronics.
The Crankshaft position sensor fixed it. I should have just bought them both at same time. I do that with the O2 sensors when they go. Buy them both and be done with it as they're both the same age and both likely to go not far from each other.
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Re: Engine sensors

Unread postby skipnchar on Sat Mar 15, 2008 11:03 am

But on the other hand...any problem that DOESN'T set a code is getting more and more difficult to have repaired as lots of mechanics are so used to plugg in in and getting an answer that they're not that good ad figuring anything out for themselves. Kind of like our kids using calculators in math class. Doing pencil and paper stuff isn't that easy for them any more but still required lots of times in real life.
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Re: Engine sensors

Unread postby Zinger on Sat Mar 15, 2008 11:59 am

Does the garage work off of flat rate or hourly rate? that could make a difference if flat rate and the book says 2 hours and it takes 1 you are still charged for 2.
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Re: Engine sensors

Unread postby skipnchar on Sat Mar 15, 2008 12:00 pm

That's the way a GOOD mechanic (or at least a fast one) makes more money than an average one.
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Re: Engine sensors

Unread postby cougarlover on Sat Mar 15, 2008 1:30 pm

That is why I am really nice to the mechanics in the family/friends :D Hubby bought a code reader. Best investment ever. Check engine light came on in my truck and it ended up being something very simple after hooking it up to the code reader. I too would question that bill. Sounds like they might have a flat rate or something. Also the $85 diagnosis fee is bogus. I dont know of any dealership around here that charges that. They will usually tell you what is wrong with your car and what it will cost to fix it and make up whatever costs to diagnose in up sale charges.

Expensive lesson to learn though.
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Re: Engine sensors

Unread postby PrivatePilot on Sat Mar 15, 2008 1:40 pm

Playing devils advocate, having mechanics in the family, I've seen people barge into their shop and dictate that they replace "Part such-and-such" and do nothing more or less.

So, dutifully, the do as asked.

Sometimes when the customer returns to pickup the vehicle and the problem isn't solved, they get upset at the shop because it didn't fix their issue, when in reality, the part that they replaced wasn't the issue to begin with.

I once saw someone demand replacement of a fuel pump at a cost of over $1000 when the problem ended up being a $10 fuel filter. Their code scanner said "Low fuel pressure" and they had apparently decided that it was the most expensive part, instead of the cheapest.

I do understand that diagnostics are often still necessary in a shop environment, and the proper high-end tools (such as the Tech-2) are far and above the consumer level products, costing thousands of dollars, so those costs do need to be recouped. However, I do often wish that shops would have a sliding scale on diagnostics - a "basic" scan that picks up major problems (like a failed crank sensor) quickly and easilly (it shouldn't take more then a minute start to finish) and then a more detailed and expensive scan to pickup detailed and difficult problems that could require alot more time, such as an intermittent problem such as ignition, fuel system, etc.

In the latter, a diagnosis could take a half hour or more with a test drive and data-logging being necessary..so I can understand the cost...but to charge the full $80 for a 30 second scan to retrieve a very basic code can be frustrating to pay sometimes, especially when you already know that what part is the problem to begin with.
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Re: Engine sensors

Unread postby jspringator on Sat Mar 15, 2008 2:10 pm

I've had it with dealers. I had a pinion bearing go out last year, and the dealer tried to sell me an entire ring and pinion set. When I balked, they called me back and proposed a bearing kit to fix the problem. By then, I had already made arrangements for an independent shop to fix it. I should have had it towed to the second shop, but I live in a small town and the shop manager is an acquaintance (My son's old Cub Scout parent) and I didn't want to be openly insulting. They charged me $450 to diagnose and refill the rear diff. What a rip. He certainly didn't have the same concern for me.
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Re: Engine sensors

Unread postby Hannibal on Sat Mar 15, 2008 3:38 pm

All opinions understood. I was definitely not demanding or "know it all" in any way. Probably too passive with the bill. If they had replaced the Crankshaft Position Sensor at my request and it didn't fix it, I would have accepted it as it would have been no different than if I had replaced it based on the trouble code and it didn't fix it. We would have simply went from there. Chrysler mechanics in our area do work on a flat rate pay base. I would have a really hard time believing Chrysler would pay their mechanics a flat rate of two or more hours to change a sensor including diagnoses, replacement and test drive. Warranty work would sink them at that pay rate. Sixteen spark plugs in the Hemi would be about four days labor at that rate. But I'm going off on a rant just thinking about it... I'm thinking the dealership is just all over themselves with their faux hospitality, big glittering show-room, huge painted and clean service dept, stale dohnuts and bitter coffee. But, like I said, I'll just chalk it up to the high cost of education and let it slide into the past. But not without passing the semester along to fellow TV owners in hopes of helping others to avoid the same tuition. I don't blame the lowly paid service writers, cashiers or the properly paid mechanics. They all seem like a good bunch of people and the guys at the parts counter are a pleasure to do business with. The mugging doesn't come from them. That's the owner's decision. May his bloomers be infested with the fleas of a thousand Camels. :twisted:
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Re: Engine sensors

Unread postby Frank Henn on Mon Mar 17, 2008 8:12 pm

I run a small Auto repair Shop with three mechanics and a inspection writer. Every year the cost get higher and higher to stay in business, I have just had to spend $20,000 dollars in new state of the art scan tools a probes. These are only as smart as the user, I will send all Three to different schools four each during the year. these classes cost from $175.00 to $250.00 each. I have computer in the office that takes the place of the old Manuals This is upgraded every quarter to the cost of $500.00, This is all part of doing business. I do charge$42.50 to scan for the problem. I see people leave time after time saying they will do it them selfs. Problem is that that one code can be set off by several different things. I hope that I can hang on another two years, and then find somebody who does not know any better to buy me out...
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Re: Engine sensors

Unread postby PrivatePilot on Tue Mar 18, 2008 12:01 am

I do agree that running a shop isn't cheap - my father was a mechanic all his life and ran his own garage for over 40 years, so I grew up in the business.
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Re: Engine sensors

Unread postby skipnchar on Tue Mar 18, 2008 10:47 am

I hope that I can hang on another two years, and then find somebody who does not know any better to buy me out...

LOL You sound a LOT like my Son-in-law talking about his shop. His is just him and one other part time guy and he came from a GM shop (Buick) where they sent him to just about every GM class available but like he says "his training is wearing off" as it's been about 10 years ago he struck out on his own. His expenses are scaled down a little bit from yours but it's all relative I guess. Makes a good living but the hours he puts in would scare an sweat shop worker in Southeast Asia.
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Re: Engine sensors

Unread postby Frank Henn on Tue Mar 18, 2008 8:13 pm

Oh yes and I really love it when they bring in their own parts, and then want me to warranty the repair two or three months later. It is just the motoring public. Well it has been good to me but am getting older can not crawl under the units any more, but that is why I have three mechanics
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Re: Engine sensors

Unread postby Hannibal on Wed Mar 19, 2008 1:15 pm

From the other side of the counter ain't so pretty either. I'm sure it's not just Jiffy Lube and far from just oil changes and fuel filters. I've been an elevator mechanic for 27+yrs. I know about the cost of tools and equipment as well as customers who are on top of things and those who are as naive as they can be. We could really make some money ripping people off for simple repairs but to risk a career isn't worth it. I got ripped off at the Chrysler dealership no matter how you look at it.
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