RULE NUMBER ONE: DON'T KILL THE TRADESMAN WHEN YOU GET YOUR BILL
One of the toughest parts of the job for any mechanical repair business is an estimate for an internal problem.
The situation is similar to exploratory surgery on people because you do not know what is wrong until you open up both patients.
But human nature forces us to seek the solid ground of a diagnosis before exploratory surgery on a car or person-we just gotta know what is happening below the surface before we get below the surface.
Most repair shops will give a ballpark figure based upon a reasonable expectation of worst case scenario, but sometimes worst case scenario is still an optimistic forecast when parts are removed from a powertrain or body.
The tradesman is forced to deliver some very bad news to the customer because the vehicle has more problems than originally envisioned before the vehicle was opened up for a complete inspection. That is why shops will hesitate to zero in on an estimate before they have a serious look under the hood or skin of the car.
This is particularly true when shops tackle the old iron because their longer history may mean bigger complications. It is not uncommon for restoration shops to find some unbelievable repair horror stories once they remove the sheet metal, things like quarter panels welded right over the original body panels and splashed with a thick layer of bondo to cover up absolutely zero body repair skills.
The resultant train wreck is some very bad news for the customer- and no body guy really wants to deliver this kind of bad news to his unlucky customer.
The same can be said for an engine or tranny from an older vehicle that requires a complete re-build to live to fight another day. An older vehicle may have parts that are not exactly found on every shelf so the parts alone may drive up the price in a supply and demand kind of way.
The important thing to remember is that repair shops are not anxious to go beyond their ballpark figure for a job. They are reluctant to apply a final figure for a simple reason: they can't see anything until they open up the patient.
It is the same principle that is used by surgeons because sometimes both have to deliver some very bad news on the job.
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