In April of 2020, almost one year ago, I wrote a blog post article about an independent auto repair shop in Dickinson, North Dakota that I could no longer use anymore because of a truck repair estimate that they messed up.
I have owned this particular 1/2-ton 4×4 pickup truck for the past eleven years. In 2016, this pickup truck was stolen by a well-known truck thief in Dickinson who intended on keeping this truck, and while he had it he replaced the front axle half-shafts with used ones from a salvage vehicle. When he installed the passenger-side half-shaft, he damaged the axle-seal which caused it to leak gear oil from the center differential.
(Note: On 4×4 pickup trucks, the front axle universal joints, also known as CV-joints, constant velocity joints, these wear out every 50K miles or so. The bearings in the universal joints wear out, break apart, and fall out, which causes the front wheels to make a clank-clank-clank sound while driving at low speeds. You can look at and feel the universal joints to determine if the bearings are bad. Both front universal joints were very bad on my 1/2-ton pickup truck before it was stolen, the front wheel clanking noise was loud. Replacing the entire half-shaft assembly is less costly in time and labor than trying to replace just the worn-out universal joint.)
When I got this stolen truck back, I wanted to just get its front axle leak fixed at first, because I didn’t know if there was any other damage. If it turned out that in order to get at this front axle seal on the passenger side, its half-shaft had to be taken out, I wanted the half-shaft assembly to be replaced too because it looked old and worn-out, it came off a salvage vehicle.
The independent repair shop in Dickinson that I took this truck to for an estimate, they told me that in order to replace this passenger-side axle-seal, they would need to take apart the center-differential, so I might as well get both sides done. Since both axle half-shafts would have to come out, I said that I wanted both of these half-shafts replaced.
The independent repair shop worked up an estimate to replace the front axle-seals on both sides, for $900. Keep in mind that the axle-seals only cost about $10 each, the cost of this repair is mostly labor to disassemble and re-assemble everything, that is why I wanted the half-shafts replaced too, because they looked worn-out. I noticed in this estimate that the cost of the half-shafts was not included. The service writer said to me, “What, you wanted the half-shafts replaced too?” This would have added at least another $200 to this $900 estimate.
Here is why I was so angry:
- At a dealership service department in Dickinson, I had already been given an estimate in the past to replace both front universal joints and seals on this particular 1/2-ton pickup truck for a total of $750. I could have gotten this whole job completed at the dealer for $750, with new universal joints.
- For this repair, most of the cost is labor, taking everything apart. If I am going to have to pay over $500 in labor just to replace two $10 axle seals, and the axle half-shafts are now out of the vehicle and look old, now is the time to replace them, instead of spending $500 in labor all over again to take everything apart a year or two from now to replace the half-shafts or universal joints.
- This estimate got up to $900 to replace two $10 seals, and even though I said at least twice that I wanted the old, salvage-vehicle half-shafts replaced, they left this out of the estimate and weren’t going to do this.
The point of this long story, this week I got the passenger side front axle seal replaced on this 1/2-ton pickup truck for a total of $165. $165!!!
Since this long story happened a year ago, and because of my experiences with dealership service departments in Dickinson, North Dakota giving me high-price repair estimates for work that I didn’t ask for and didn’t want to have done, I began looking to buy vehicles and have vehicle repair work done far away from Dickinson.
At this time, I am not going to give out the name of this repair place that is inexpensive because I have a lot more work that I need to get done on other vehicles and I don’t want them to become flooded. I suggest that the readers try to begin looking and asking for repair estimates far away from Dickinson.