Question for the gearheads out there.  I need to have a few items serviced on my truck (03 GMC Sierra).  Transmission flush, differentials, coolant system flush and AC belt replacement.  In the past I've had these things done at the dealership.  The local instant oil change place (Valvoline) can do them for $20-$30 less per item. 

Is this a case of you get what you pay for, or am I paying more than I need to at the dealership?

I know doing them myself would be cheaper, but automotice skills are not among my skill set and I tent to get very frustrated with auto work, so I like to take it to someone who has all the tools and skills. 



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For these basic repairs I think you're just as safe going to Valvoline. 

You're overpaying.  At the very least, find a credible private mechanic rather than a dealer.  For small stuff like that, it doesn't matter much.

But, my suggestion would be to start small, and learn to do some repairs yourself.  Don't do everything at once.  An AC belt or an oil change are probably a good starting point.  It'll take you ten times longer than it'd take a mechanic ... but you'll get faster.  You'll build up confidence, and you'll learn what you can do, and what's out-of-your-league.


I have to get the ball joints on my truck replaced in the next couple of months.  Its out of the league of a weekend mechanic ... so I'll have somebody do it for me.  Brake pads, oil changes, filters, radiators, water pumps, starters, etc. I'll do myself, though.


A decade ago, I probably wouldn't have done much more than an oil change by myself.  Live and learn.



Really?  Ball joints sounded rather complicated to me.  Mechanic was going to bill $1100 for it (plus some other front-end stuff).  Maybe I'm not entirely grasping what exactly needs to be done to change them.



You can do this. Look at some YouTube videos of the repair, there are plenty of them out there. You will need a ball joint separator that the auto parts store will loan you free if you buy your parts from them. You will also need an open ended wrench, a ratchet and two sockets, and a hammer. The most important part is to remember to count the exposed threads on the tie rod ends so you can re-set your steering to the exact same spot. If you are worried, get a lifetime alignment when you are done and you never have to worry about it again. Also, spend the extra five bucks for premium parts and they will have a lifetime warranty against wearing out. Put the receipt in the glovebox and forget it. When they wear out in 100 thousand more miles, they are free next time.

My dad owns a dealership and I wrenched there for fifteen years before becoming a cop. The dealership profits about 2 grand on a new vehicle. On that 1100 dollar repair they make about 800 after labor costs. A good tech can do four of five of these in a day. Basically the only reason to sell new cars is so you can service them.

We made 25 percent of gross revenues on sales, 50 percent on service and 25 percent on warranty, and accessories.

I always thought it was funny the way the sales staff would look down on the mechanics. If they only knew that we paid good techs about 50% more than them and the techs only worked 40 hours a week with no sales manager freaking over quotas, they would have bought some tools and gone to work.

Life is simpler when you are twisting wrenches.

Don't get the pickle fork from AZ to do it. . .

There is an actual press tool that looks like a C clamp for pressing them in and another one from NAPA that snaps them loose. If you have an impact. . . it's fast. Depending on how the truck is built you'll probably have to remove the tie rod ends. The pickle for will do it, but if you damage the boot, you'll have to replace them also. . . which means you'll probably have to then replace the tie rods if you can't get them separated. Then you will have to get an alignment. Watch youtube for the vids on replacing them. . . probably laugh your ass off then. . . tool up good man, tool up. The remover is $35 at Napa, rent the pressing tool. Haynes or Chilton manual will help.

Dealerships charge a lot more for labor usually to my understanding. I've never had any work done through a dealership other than a free oil change though. These is very basic maintenance, so there's no wrong in going to the local oil & lube shop.

Cool - thanks for the advice. 

You can probably do the coolant flush and AC belt. . . if the transmission fluid isn't burnt (brown colored) or gritty feeling. . . well getting it done is up to you. Had a friend that worked at a lube shop and said they wouldn't touch the tranny after 100k miles. If it wasn't leaking, it probably would after they did it. If you're not mechanically inclined the torque pattern on the bolts to replace the cover may get you into trouble. I've done it on an automatic on jack stands but a lift is easier. Manual. . . a lot easier.

Recently I heard that many unauthorized person track some big potato's car by gps. I was wondering if there is any gps blocker that can prevent them from doing this?

Hey good job. If you've got the tools it is a money saver. If you don't it isn't but, just having another tool is a good enough excuse to buy one. I don't know about the oil change though. . . if it's not a premium, I don't know if you can buy the oil, oil filter, and air filter then do it yourself and be ahead. Depends on if they check/top off other stuff, inspect, or hit grease fittings. Not to many grease fittings on cars any more, but the older stuff has it. It may break even. Hey, we're men. . . take pride in doing it yourself.

Anyone here got car inspection device? I just want to do some daily inspection at home. Anyone got such car mirror search


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