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DIY vs Dealer vs Independent Mechanic (a story about last weekend's trip to WDW)

mkt

I Demand a Snackrifice
Premium Member
Original Poster
Just some food for though... on our last drive up to WDW, we experienced car trouble on our beater CR-V. It's an 03 CR-V with 123k miles (we bought it at 118k miles) that we picked up for $2500 in June, and have been using it for errands around town when we've needed a larger car, and for road trips, since it's more comfortable.

As we left Miami, the CR-V began to overheat. We were almost in Ft Lauderdale, and with Friday rush hour traffic, SO and I decided that we needed to press forward, because bumper to bumper traffic on the way pack would probably kill our engine. So we waited an hour for the engine to cool, and limped the car 2 miles to an auto parts store, where we topped off the radiator, and drove on back roads the rest of the way to WDW. I noticed that we had a misfire at idle.

We made it safely to Orlando, and got to see the rural parts of Florida. It was a much more pleasant drive than the turnpike or I95

The following day we decided to forgo the parks and deal with the car (plus some extra errands). We hadn't yet ID'd the cause of of the overheating, but I was certain that the misfire was due to it needing new spark plugs and coil packs, so I ordered them. And then after calling my car geek friends and getting referred to an excellent independent Honda mechanic, we identified the overheating as either cooling fans, thermostat, or both.

I replaced the plugs and coil packs, and our Honda tech friend replaced the cooling fans in his driveway. We also topped off the coolant and replaced the radiator cap and coolant reservoir cap for good measure. The thermostat wasn't replaced, and we returned it for a refund.

Once the jobs were completed, the car ran perfectly.

So here's the lesson learned. After doing these jobs, I called two dealers for estimates: One in Miami, where I live; and the other in Orlando, where we were at.

Replacing spark plugs and coil packs on our CR-V.

Dealer in Miami: $909.50
Dealer in Orlando: $700
Buying parts online and DIY: $251.36 + 30 minutes of my day. And that amount included buying tools to do the job, because my tools were in Miami. If I had tools with me, it would've cost $181.

And for the cooling fans + radiator fan:

Dealer in Miami 1048.60
Dealer in Orlando: $883.00
Buy parts yourself + independent Honda mechanic paid in cash: $288.64

Yes, it sucks that we lost a day of our WDW visit because of this... but we saved $1000-1400 from dealer price and got a story to share.

Finally, I have a feeling the reason that our CR-V was traded in by its previous owner was because its entire prior service history was at a dealer, and it needed several jobs that were expensive at dealer prices. Their loss is our gain, as before our CR-V went to auction (where we got it for $2500 after fees, taxes, and registration), the dealer who auctioned it off wanted $6k for it on their lot. This little trucklet will be going with us to Disney again in 2-3 weeks time, and possibly to the FL keys this weekend.

Oh, and I made this meme:

 
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