A few weeks ago I realized the key fob for my Subaru was no longer causing the car to emit a beep beep when I unlocked it. The fob worked in that it still locked and unlocked the car, but the sound effect was gone. What happened?
I managed without the beep beep telling me the car was locked or unlocked, but with my OCD, I did check each time to be sure the car WAS locked before I walked away. When unlocking, I was often unsure it had really done so and would push the fob button one more time for good measure.
When I took the Subaru in this week for its regular maintenance, I mentioned the problem to my mechanic but I told him that if the cost to fix it was astronomical to just forget about it. I left the car for two days and heard nothing until I went to pick it up.
My invoice showed the regular $78 cost for the oil/filter/etc so I asked if the fob problem was unfixable. Since my mechanic was also acting as cashier right then, he gave me this explanation:
“No, we fixed it. Works great.”
“But I don’t see a charge for it.”
“No, I’m chalking the cost up to education. None of us knew how to fix it so we went to the online database that I pay $400 a month for, typed in make and problem and got a 6-page description as to how to fix it. Now we know and I’ll charge the next person who comes in here with the problem.”
He showed me the printout and we chatted about the cost of running a car repair shop in today’s world of wired cars. No shop manuals any more. He even has one laptop devoted to the cars that come in. Each one is hooked up to the computer and the diagnostics are run on the car’s computer.
It costs $350 to reset a car’s computer. Sort of like a reboot. A GPS replacement is $5000. My mechanic says most people are not getting the GPS replaced but just buying a new car. Same thing with the rear view cameras. Those are about $7000 to replace. So far, the only one he’s seen that quit working was still under warranty so he sent the car back to the dealer to fix.
All the new electronics and technology on cars are making them more expensive to repair and the mechanics are constantly updating their own technology to do it. My mechanic, who runs a small 4-man shop, pays $2000 a month just on the tech stuff, like that database he used to fix my beep beep problem. So the next time you have your car serviced, remember the overhead costs just to keep the repair shop open.