Q: Why would a solenoid replacement , and spark plugs cost 943.

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A few days ago the engine light came on, then it went out. The next day I had a hard time starting it. I thought the car still had a carberator so I was trying to pump the gas up in to the carb. After a few tries it started. Then there was no engine light on. Yesterday went to get dinner and the light was back on. Took to firestone and today they said no more carb. But the solenoid and spark plugs needed replacing at a cost of around $943.00. IS THIS excessive. It seems very expensive and they firestone have been working on it for 5 years. I am single, older, and don't need to be taken to the cleaners since I am on a fixed income. Hope you can help. Thank you, Jacqueline M.

My car has 85000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

Hi Jacqueline: Spark plugs for your vehicle, if you buy them retail, over the counter, from any of the auto parts stores cost roughly $2 to $4 per plug, plus tax. Your vehicle has 4 cylinders so, of course, you need four spark plugs, which means the parts cost, assuming you buy the plugs at retail, would be no more than $16 plus tax. There is labor to install the plugs, though, and that is specified at 30 minutes (total, ALL plugs replaced) for your year, make and model. Basically, if the mechanic labor charge is $100 an hour (60 minutes), you would assume $50 (for 30 minutes) to install the plugs and of course the parts cost which is $16, so $66 in total, plus tax and any shop "environmental fees" which are usually nominal. There are many, many different kinds of solenoids, and solenoid applications, used on vehicles so I would need to know "exactly" which one was sold to you. However, if you subtract $66 for the spark replacement segment of the job from the total bill of $943, that would imply a parts and labor cost to replace "a" solenoid which amounts to about $877. A problem is I am not aware of any engine related solenoid whose parts and installation cost on the 2011 Elantra would amount to $877. There are brake system solenoids (if you have ABS) on the vehicle that can be costly but you are not writing in about a brake system problem. The bottom line is, if you can let us know the solenoid part description, application, part number, or like identifying information, we can look it up and let you know what the story is (that is, what the costs and labor time are).

Once you have obtained all the facts, you should initially simply discuss the matter with the shop, explain to them that plugs cost $4 at retail and the shop time is 30 minutes total to replace them, and of course point out the details yet to come about the solenoid. Just simply indicate that you want to be charged an economically rational amount and not the astronomical (economically irrational) sum of $943. If you were overcharged (again, that awaits a definitive opinion on the solenoid) you do have recourse if the shop will not refund an appropriate amount. First of all, if you are in a protected class (elderly, over 65), some state’s Attorney General’s offices will take an interest in this incident. In all events, again once all the facts are in, if you were overcharged you should file a complaint with the AG’s office. You should also file a complaint with the BBB and any state licensing agency that has jurisdiction over the shop. Finally, state consumer protection laws often proscribe "overcharging" or "taking advantage of consumers in a transaction where the consumer is not normally expected to be a technical (or economic) expert". The latter recourse would be handled your private attorney of course (we are mechanics, not attorneys, of course). Finally, if you paid the bill by credit card, that affords you additional protection as the credit card issuer will investigate this as a complaint as well if you present it to the issuer. Feel free to follow up regarding the solenoid and don’t be too dismayed yet. You will get this resolved. If we can assist you in the future with regard to your vehicle maintenance and/or repairs, by all means, let us know. Almost undoubtedly, we would not have charged you $943 for the repairs you have cited in this instance.

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