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Billing extra time for seized parts + Rust


Savage

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Hello everyone

I am new to the service side of the retail auto industry having worked in sales for 5 years. I am now the mechanical department manager of a Carstar collision repair shop. In addition to the usual insurance work, I am starting to take on more customer pay repairs. An issue I keep running into is that because I am located in Canada (South Ontario not far from Detroit) many of the vehicles we work on are severely rusted underneath and many bolts have siezed in place. Many require torches, cutting, drilling, and other unusual disassembly of adjacent components to remove. For example right now I am having a starter replaced on a caravan, and the lower engine mount needs to be removed but is siezed. We needed to apply heat but because it is so close to the rad fan shroud, ended up having to remove the shroud and other items nearby just to attempt to heat and remove the bolt. This ultimately didn't work, and we are now cutting it and drilling it out. Often times using heat causes damage to components. We needed to use heat to cut into a suspension knuckle to remove it after it was damaged from a curb, and ended up destroying a wheel bearing. Abs sensors also commonly need to be snapped off and drilled out because they are just so fused in place. Obviously this gets expensive. 

 

This happens all the time, and as a result the times I am using from shopkey pro and mitchell are not reflective of how long these jobs actually take. On one hand I don't feel it is fair to the customer to charge 2.6 hours for the starter replacement, and another 3 hours to attempting multiple ways to get a bolt out, heating, removing adjacent components, fan shroud R+I... turning a 2.6 hour job into 5.6 hours. On the other hand I understand that this is just the reality of working on vehicles older than a couple years in this part of the country and the customer should be paying for it. 

 

What would you consider standard practice in this situation? I don't want to be eating all this extra time, but I also don't want to have to charge customer hours upon hours additionally because we have to figure out how to unsieze everything.  

 

 

Edited by Savage
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I'm in Prince Edward Island, so we have it even worse than you.  Not only do we have road salt in the winter months, we are surrounded by salt water!  We add time for these things regularly, depending on the car.  If it's especially rusty looking my techs will usually give the SA a heads up that there may be extra time involved, and this is relayed to the client.  They have gotten pretty good at spotting something and letting us know that it may cause some extra time the vehicle.  That said, the rust doesn't often slow my guys down much, aside from wheel alignments.  One trick we use for those tight spots such as your fan shroud.....keep a few various sizes of tin laying around the shop to use as a heat shield between the part you are heating and the part you do not want to burn/melt.  Works great.  Also, Wurth makes a spray gel designed to protect things from welding sparks, that can be sprayed on plastic or other pieces that helps them withstand heat better.  I can send you a picture of the product tomorrow from the shop if you like.

 

Jeff

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If we identify the problem before the repairs we let the customer know there will be additional labor if we run into this issue, if we don't have any problems we don't bill for it. We also call and get additional labor time if it happens during the repair and additional time is needed. I would rather be over prepared than under bill.

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A tool that works really great for seized bolts and nuts is an induction heater. They are faster and there’s no open flame. Of course they don’t fit every situation but they really work super. I use mine a lot. I believe mine is the “Bolt Buster “

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Problems such a seized nuts/bolts/sensors can often be anticipated on a job based on past experience and then be explained to the customer up front. When it comes as a surprise I always call the customer and explain the situation that the anticipated labor charge will increase due to unforeseen complications. I find that keeping the customer in the loop and informed prevents trouble. I feel that if I fail to inform the customer then I don’t deserve compensation for the added labor but if I take the time to inform the customer and allow him or her to be part of the decision making process then there are no surprises, no hard feelings and the CUSTOMER pays for the additional labor repairing his or her vehicle. A seized, rusted or broken bolt is not my problem unless I allow it to be.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Our labor guide marks up the standard labor by 30%, so a starters that pays 1 hour becomes 1.3. Some jobs take longer some less but it all pretty much works out. Some jobs like a starter on a 5.3 trailblazer require bending the tranny lines out of the way. We quote new lines on a job like this because you just aren't bending them without a leak. Remember an estimate is just that, as soon as you realize your going to lose stop and call the customer. It's a balance between too many conversations and just getting the job done, so by starting out with a bit of a cushion your life gets easier. 

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

    • By Joe Marconi in Joe's Blog
         4
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