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fluidmotion

boat mechanic overcharging?

28 posts in this topic

How much time does it usually take to remove just the stern drive (entire, upper and lower)?

History:

I just picked up a boat and I have always done my own auto and motorcycle repairs, but I did not want to tinker with the boat just yet so this was the first time I brought anything to a mechanic.

The boat started making a knocking noise, so I thought it was the gimbal bearing or u-joints, but after the stern drive removal, the mechanic saw that it was the transom shield and water was leaking in.

The mechanic wants to charge two hours and all he has done was remove the stern drive.

[ Note from administration: please read forum policy before posting again. Thank you!]

Is this the case? If it isn't, how should I approach my mechanic again?

He gave me a quote of almost 4.5k for the replacement of the transom shielding and some other parts....

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I haven't done it, so I can't say for sure, but I don't think 2 hours is that out of line... plus you have to pull everything else after that - what the outdrive mounts to, trim and tilt, etc.

You can always take it somewhere else for another opinion / estimate...

marine_man

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oops, I guess my link got deleted because it goes to a store with directions on stern drive removal. This is what was written there (I believe it is ok to post that after browsing the forum policy more closely):

Removing & Installing

Removing and installing a stern drive unit is much simplier then

you may think. It requires just a few common tools and should

take only a few minutes to complete. We have provided basic

generic directions for removal, installation and removing just

the lower unit below.

Stern drives typically weigh about 85 pounds and are a little

awkward to handle. Be sure to have a helper or some type of

hoist to lift and move the stern drive.

If at anytime during removal or installation you encounter

difficulties, please give us a call and one of our technicians will

be happy to walk you through the process.

View a larger image

Removal: (This set of basic instructions is to remove the entire stern drive unit. If you just want to

remove the lower unit, please review those seperate directions.)

Lower the stern drive into the down position.

Ensure the boat is in neutral for OMC and Volvo and in forward for Mercruisers.

Remove the upper most gear oil drain plug (on OMC and Volvo it is the dipstick on top. On

Mercruiser's it is the flathead screw on the side of the lower drive).

Place a suitable container to catch the gear oil under the drive unit.

Remove the lower most gear oil drain screw (it is normally by the skag on the lower unit)

and let the unit drain completely.

Remove the propeller (this step can be skipped if you would like us to remove and service

it or if it is corroded on.)

Remove the 3 bolts (You may need an allen wrench) from the shift cover (it is on the back

of the stern drive and shapped kind of like a triangle).

Discconect the shift cable or rod from the shift bracket on the stern drive.

Remove the end cap, lock nuts and flat washers from one side of the pivot rod and slide

the rod out (Be careful not to let the trim/tilt cylinders crash onto the floor).

Remove the six lock nuts (three on each side) from the mounting bolts, that secure the

stern drive to the transom assembly (again be careful not to let the trim/tilt cylinders crash

onto the floor).

With your hoist or helper, pull the stern drive back away from the transom.

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Ok... so he's charging two hours to remove the outdrive.. that's it, right?

If so, that is a bit much... I thought you meant to replace the transom shield at 2 hours, which would be a steal. To replace the trasom shield you're talking about pulling the engine for starters... not a quick job.

So yes, 2 hours to remove the outdrive is a bit ridiculous. 1/2 hour to 1 hour at the absolute most...

marine_man

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yes, just to remove the outdrive.

I have never really dealed with mechanics before, so I was wondering how I should approach him about this discrepancy in the amount of time being charged. (I have always done my own work)

Have you ever done a motor pull? I am getting a service manual for my motor, but I was wondering if special tools are needed? I have done motor pulls on a car, but the tools must be different in a boat.

Thanks for the replies marine_man, you always seem to have great advice.

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How to approach this? I would inquire as to why it's 2 hours - if he faced difficulty, or what the hold up was... unless he's charging you 2 hours, one to pull it off and one to put it on... that'd be a little closer. Other than that I think you're on your own. You could try and call another dealer and ask them what they'd charge you to grease the gimbal bearings on your outdrive - the newer (after 1997/1998) outdrives don't have them, but that job requires pulling the outdrive, putting a grease gun on and putting it back together.. pretty close to what your mechanic is doing.

I haven't ever pulled a motor on an I/O. But, based on where some of the bolts are for the transom plate I'm betting it's not a lot of fun. I would start practicing standing on your head now grin

marine_man

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Everything is negotiable to a point. It never hurts to ask but because he's already done the work and you agreed to the terms by hiring him, you might have a little trouble gaining any reduction in cost.

One advantage you have is competition. I don't know how much competition he has though. If he's concerned about potentially losing a customer and some bad PR he may be willing to work with you. I recommend trying to put yourself in his place and learn what really was involved. Maybe it did in fact take that long or possibly even longer and he's actually giving you a deal. Don't know unless you ask.

Do they determine their hours based on a record book like auto mechanics or do they charge time and material?

Bob

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well, I agreed to the terms and I originally hired him to replace my gimbal bearing (a 2.5 to 3 hr job supposedly). So, somehow now it ends up being 2 hrs just to take off the outdrive.

We only agreed to the amount per hour ($90) which is the usual fee. The number of hours it takes really depends on the job, but the outdrive removal job doesn't seem like it would take 2 whole hours when he could have done the gimbal bearing replacement in 2.5 hrs.

I guess I'll first ask him what exactly he did so far. If anything gave him problems and then confront him about the time it took.

I know in the automotive world, there is a book on how long each job generally takes (not counting diagnostics). I'm not sure if there is one for boat repairs though... anyone know the answer to this?

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Most shops charge about an hour to service an outdrive. Thats pulling, greasing, and install. Pretty simple. In fact, marine u-joints have been zerk free for quite a while now. And replacing the gimbal bearing shouldn't take 3 hours.

Pulling the motor on a boat is a walk in the park compared to a car in my opinion. But you usually cant use an engine hoist. You will have to use something that can lift much higher.

I'd get a second estimate if I were you.

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Pulling motor on a boat is a very simple and quick operation. I did reseal my gimbal housing once and it took me 1/2 day total.

Gimbal bearing can be a witch sometimes, I had my local shop with a Bayliner and a bearing that was stuck in very well. The guys were stomped, with a puller almost in a bind and the thing didn't want to move, took them almost a whole day, then they were wondering what to ask to the customer.

Anyway yes, 2 hours for an outdrive removal and reinstall is excessive, unless there was some other work done. $ 4.5k will give you a brand new assembly and lower unit, no motor.

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In case anyone was wondering, this is what happened:

I went back and picked up my boat with my outdrive. The man told me that it would cost 2 hours time ($180). So I ask him why it costs so much and if there were any complications.

He tells me there were no complications, but it takes time to write up the estimate. So I tell him it only takes a few minutes to pull the outdrive off (and he agrees) and that it takes him 2 hours to write up an estimate?...

He then tells me that he told me the day before that he was charging me two hours, which is true but at the time I didn't know it only took a few minutes to pull the outdrive. He also didn't tell me the two hours was for an estimate. And he charged me for an estimate before even telling me that he was going to give me an estimate.

Almost every other shop charges 1 hour for an estimate. So, after understanding that the charge was for an estimate, I tell him I will only pay for 1 hour. I think that is reasonable... He would not budge for 10 minutes of arguing and he finally offers 1.5 hours or for me to get out of his shop.

And so I reluctantly agree.

I would stay away from people who do business like this. Next time I will always ask for how much it costs for an estimate even though I think I know what the job is.

[note from admin: please read forum policy before posting again. thanks!]

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Charge for an estimate? That sounds pretty rediculouse. I don't remember ever being charged for that.

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I agree that it is not appropriate to charge for an estimate but that was a common practice years ago and because so many did it, they got away with it. It was a tactic used to reduce the cost of the estimate for the project because they didn't have to include the cost for doing the estimate in their final price. The unwary buyer didn't always recognize this and thought they were getting a better deal from one source because their estimate was lower. They failed to recognize that the cost for the estimate varied from one place to another.

Bob

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I just can't get over the differences between the trades. Up here the body shops get 52 an hour, the mechanical shops get between 90 and 110. Carpenters get 45 per worker, boat mechanics 90 but all other small engine between 35 and 50. All these are highly trained skilled professionals (for the most part) yet what makes one worth more than another?

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I just can't get over the differences between the trades. Up here the body shops get 52 an hour, the mechanical shops get between 90 and 110. Carpenters get 45 per worker, boat mechanics 90 but all other small engine between 35 and 50. All these are highly trained skilled professionals (for the most part) yet what makes one worth more than another?

Supply and demand. Marine mechanics are harder to find than just a small engine guy. Not sure why carpenters don't make more, I know some that make $50 to $75 /hour down in the cities.

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You also have to take in consideration the equipment needed for the business. Marine specialized tools are extremely expensive, besides standard tools, a facility, tanks, etc.

Automotive have same issue, all the electronics, the hardware and the tools have an impact with prices.

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Valv brings a good point. We think the mechanic is getting the $40/hr but the shop is actually getting it. Out of that the shop pays the mechanic's wage, benefits, worker's comp., unemployment insurance, 1/2 SS, specialized tools, building maintenance, heat, A/C, material disposal, to name a few.

Bob

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Poppycock! Bodyshops have specialized equipment, overhead, and all the same costs (probably more) as a mechanical shop and I don't mind saying that I believe that a bodyman has to be an excellent mechanic plus know all the bodywork and painting stuff. When a mechanic changes a water pump it is a specified proceedure that can be performed the same way each and every time (on the same vehicle). Fixing a damaged car is a whole different problem and definately a lot more work! So why do bodyshops get half of what a mechanical shop gets? These guys are artists. Oh yeah, if a bodyshop charged for an estimate people would just go elsewhere.

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its not really "charging for an estimate" its more they can charge an hour or so for diagnosis. this to me is fine IF two things are agreed upon up front.

One, only the agreed upon price and time for the diag will take place.

and two, any diag time should become part of the repair bill if they now have your (insert item being repaird here) apart since time now overlaps.

the reason I see charging for a diag is if you choose to NOT have the work done. they do have to pay their mechanic for the hour he spent figuring out the issue.

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I don't have a problem paying for an estimate. But in my case, the guy wants to charge 2 hrs for a job that took him all of 15 minutes. I think that is a bit ridiculous.

For an estimate, they should charge for the time they put in or he should have told me that he was going to give me an estimate before he charged me 2 hours. Which isn't even the regular rate that most shops charge (1 hr usually is).

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One thing I feel about estimates. I work for a company that builds industrial packaging machinery with a lot of engineered electronic controls, servo drive systems, electronic touch screens, etc. When a customer asks for a quotation to modify their machinery for a new product line or new packaging idea, the necessary design changes can be quite significant. With all that said, it is truly very rare that it takes an hour or more to quote a job. Our quotes include engineering, pre-assembly, and installation hours and costs. I can't help but wonder why it would take a mechanic an hour to estimate a job.

Just thinking.

Bob

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well, it may take much longer for a mechanic to diagnose the problem because they may not be able to pin point exactly what it is without taking a few things out.

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If you want a reliable mechanic and are close to the St. Cloud area - look up Bruce's Outboard Motor Repair. Fair price & great work.

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I don't have a problem paying for an estimate. But in my case, the guy wants to charge 2 hrs for a job that took him all of 15 minutes. I think that is a bit ridiculous.

I know I've never posted anything here before and I don’t I see you resolved your issue but here is a bit more info.

I’ve worked for my dad in the autobody business since I was 13. Like someone said before there are books out there that tell the time it takes to do something. Sometimes you can do the job in 3 hours and it was suppose to take 4 and you still bill out 4hrs. So you made some pretty good money that day. Well the next day something that is suppose to take you 5 hours and in the end it takes 8 hrs. Well you told the customer that it was going to take 5. Well the customer wouldn’t be to happy getting charged another 3 hours at $55 – $65 and hour. Also its hard to charge them for the extra time as most people that do estimates have to be with 10% of the final bill. So somedays they make good money other days you might lose a bit.

As for the tools each trade has to use just think of it as an investment as it will pay for itself over time.

I do agree he shouldn’t charge for an estimate but that’s the way it goes. The main thing was at least he was willing to work with you on it. One other thing we do is if someone pays in cash we can reduce the bill a bit more depending on what the job was. Paying in cash helps out a lot at smaller business then larger ones.

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