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US$370 to fix a sensor in my truck

Michael Ernest
High Plains Drifter
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 25, 2000
Posts: 7292

So I get home last night, late, after all this incidental shopping, no problems with the truck.
I turn it on this morning. The ignition seems to be jumpy and irregular, but it's nothing like a nonfiring cylinder. After a while the thing idles evenly, but acceleration goes through this strange lugging when I step on the accelerator. I'm thinking corroded spark lead, later I'm thinking 'sugar in the gas tank?'...stuff like that.
The shop calls later and says the 'mass air flow sensor' needs replacing: $370. The part probably costs a few bucks. Figuring out what part I need, that's costing me a low-end Dell. Dang.
It's a sweet science, putting the cost of repair into the testing equipment. Wish I'd thought of that.


Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.
- Robert Bresson
John Smith
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Joined: Oct 08, 2001
Posts: 2937
The shop calls later and says the 'mass air flow sensor' needs replacing: $370. The part probably costs a few bucks. Figuring out what part I need, that's costing me a low-end Dell. Dang.
I had the same problem with my Nissan Maxima -- the part that was replaced was the "oxygen sensor". Is that the same as the mass air flow sensor? I was charged around $450 for this little succer (shown below). It turns out the cost of this item if you buy it online is about $20. It must have taken them 10 hours to install it -- that's the only explanation I can think.
Michael Ernest
High Plains Drifter
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Joined: Oct 25, 2000
Posts: 7292

All the expense, to hear this guy tell it, comes in the diagnostic equipment. So they've now got an embedded operating system governing all these parts, and a big ol test harness they use to actually found out what's wrong. The part? Oh, the part is cheap. Finding out if it works or needs replacing, that's costing you big bucks.
Jeroen Wenting
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Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
that's indeed the reason for the cost.
The diagnostics equipment costs them a lot of money (think a hundred K or more) and they have to recover that cost somehow (worse, every few years it needs replacement as the manufacturer brings out a new model).
Then there's the ever increasing salary of the workshop staff that needs to be paid, rent on premises, environmental taxes, etc. etc.
I was lucky when my battery died that they charged me only �65 for a new battery and installation when they'd had my car on the testbench for several hours to find out what was wrong (the bad battery was obvious but the effects it had on the car led everyone to believe there was something else as well, which turned out to be not the case).


42
Warren Dew
blacksmith
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Joined: Mar 04, 2004
Posts: 1332
    
    1
Originally posted by Eugene Kononov:
I had the same problem with my Nissan Maxima -- the part that was replaced was the "oxygen sensor". Is that the same as the mass air flow sensor?

They are different. The mass air flow sensor is in the intake system, and measures the mass flow of intake air. The oxygen sensor is in the exhaust system, and measures left over oxygen in the exhaust. Both are inputs into how much gasoline is mixed into the intake air, though, which might explain why the symptoms of failure are similar.
I guess the reason they need the expensive test equipment is so they can tell which of these, or of the myriad other parts in today's ultracomplex automobiles, is the one part that's failing.
[ May 09, 2004: Message edited by: Warren Dew ]
Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24166
    
  30

Originally posted by Warren Dew:

I guess the reason they need the expensive test equipment is so they can tell which of these, or of the myriad other parts in today's ultracomplex automobiles, is the one part that's failing.

OK, so, here's an idea: if the part is so cheap, just replace it. There's your test. If the car works, you're done. Even if you did that with five sensors, and it took you an hour, that's going to save the customer a couple hundred dollars.
Seems like unnecessary complexity to me, too.


[Jess in Action][AskingGoodQuestions]
Warren Dew
blacksmith
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Joined: Mar 04, 2004
Posts: 1332
    
    1
Ernest Friedman-Hill:
OK, so, here's an idea: if the part is so cheap, just replace it. There's your test. If the car works, you're done. Even if you did that with five sensors, and it took you an hour, that's going to save the customer a couple hundred dollars.
In many cases I think it might take considerably more than an hour, especially if it's difficult to tell for sure if the problem has been fixed. Also, there's the issue that even after all those replacements, the problem might still not be found and fixed - maybe it actually was sugar in the gas tank - and the garage would be stuck trying to charge the customer for not doing anything useful; not a comfortable situation.
I think most "tune ups" today include preventive replacement of the oxygen sensor; not sure about the mass air flow sensor.
Seems like unnecessary complexity to me, too.
It seems excessive to me, but I'm not sure how unnecessary it is. These particular pieces of complexity have to do with meeting fuel efficiency and pollution control standards. Compared to the relatively simple automobiles of the 1960s, modern automobiles save us quite a lot in gasoline costs (something like a factor of two for comparable vehicles), and I've certainly noticed the improvement in air quality - though it's hard to tell when we've gone farther than really needed.
[ May 09, 2004: Message edited by: Warren Dew ]
 
Consider Paul's rocket mass heater.
 
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