Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Real Cost of Cheap Parts & Labor

The cost of cheap work is always more than what you originally pay. What does that mean?  It means you can pay $100 for cheap work today, but you'll end up paying $300 or more down the road to fix the job correctly, because it wasn't done right the first time. Unfortunately we see these issues a lot here at our shop.  Sometimes it's just a headache for the owner of a car and a lighter wallet to get something repaired or replaced, but sometimes what we see is downright dangerous and can cause more than just a headache...read on to see why!

As a performance install and repair/maintenance shop, we see a lot of cars come through of varying age and level of modification. Most cars are done to a decent level of modification, what you would normally see at a local car meet or event.  Some cars are done to a very high level of workmanship, the ones that stand out, and just look really "clean" or well done. Then there are cars that are done very poorly, and are literally falling apart, or have become dangerous to drive. Sometimes these cars have been modified by a number of people over the years and the quality of work was never a goal, it was just something to be done cheaply.  Sometimes, the owner of the car doesn't realize the work that has been done is of poor quality, or is putting the owner in danger every time it is driven. It's that last category that aggravates us the most, as often times the owner of the car has paid another shop or individual to work on his/her car, and they didn't realize that they were paying for garbage.

"Cheap" Downpipe install on an STI, leaves o2 sensor wiring loose which got caught in the driveshaft

There is usually a reason that Party A charges a certain amount for a job, and Party B charges much less.  They can't possibly be delivering the same level of service and/or quality of products/parts. A famous quote from John Ruskin (forward thinker and philanthropist of the late 1800s) reads - "It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money - that's all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you
bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot - it can't be done".

 John Ruskin

Just picture a new iPhone that costs $800, and a $50 phone from Wal-Mart, there is a reason for that gap in price.  This stands true not just for parts or products, but also for the quality of service or labor a person performs.  Just because someone says they are a "Mechanic", it does not mean that all Mechanics/Techs have the same level of skill or quality.  The same goes for any skill; painting, welding, woodworking, sewing, etc.  Just about anyone can pick up a brush and paint, but only some of us can really turn that paint into a work of art. 

So what does all of this mean for you and your passion for cars and modifying them?  It is your responsibility to research whomever is goign to touch your car, and make sure they actually know what they are doing.  It is also your responsibility to use your better judgement, when a deal sounds too cheap, or too good to be true...walk away!  Why does it matter?  Can't cheap work be fixed, isn't it worth the chance?  Well, let's take a look at some examples that may change your mind on that.

This is from a very well known local shop that does "high horsepower builds". Yup, those are cheap butt connectors holding fuel pump wiring together.  Exposed connections INSIDE the fuel tank.  Very bad.

This car came to us for a general inspection, and the owner thought he may have a fluid leak.  He had recently been to another local shop which is known for being the "cheapest around" for Subaru work, and the owner had concerns they may not have tightened something down and that was causing a leak....unfortunately it was much more than a small leak to be worried about. His WRX had a pulley fail and the previous shop performed a Timing Job on the vehicle.  Once we got into the timing cover to see what may be leaking, we discovered quite a few issues:

The leak is coming from the cam seals, almost all of the seals were leaking.  It takes more time to get the cam gears off and to replace these seals, so a lot of people don't do them as part of the timing job (We include it at our shop).  However, if you don't replace them, and they start to leak, you need to remove ALL of the timing components to get to the seals, basically doing the entire job over again.  Do it right the first time!

The crank pulley has a large chip missing out of it.  It looks like it may have been dropped, and re-installed.  This is dangerous, as this pulley is a harmonic balancer, and it absorbs vibration coming through the crankshaft.  With a piece missing it's balance is affected, and if it starts to wobble it can severely damage or destroy the entire engine.  This should never have been re-installed!

This is one of the hard plastic cam gears.  When these gears are removed, or as they age, they can sometimes chip.  Once they chip the likelihood of them cracking and breaking is increased.  If one of these gears cracks through or breaks, the timing belt comes loose and the engine is basically toast.  We have personally seen it happen a number of times before.  Again, these should not have been used or re-installed and should have been replaced!

When the pulley had originally come apart, small ball bearings fell down inside the timing cover.  You can see on the crank sprocket that it has peened the tiny teeth, before it got lodged into the end of the crank position sensor.  This also should have been inspected, noted, and the sprocket and sensor replaced.  The car was getting intermittent codes for this which was causing issues, and it was because the sensor was not reading the teeth correctly!

Overall this was a hack job, and we needed to replace the cam seals, chipped cam gears, damaged crank pulley, crank sprocket, and crank sensor. We then cleaned up the oil leaks, and re-set the timing. The owner was lucky we caught the issues when we did and no further damage was done.  The Downside, he paid for a timing job to be done twice - one time incorrectly and without care, and another by us to fix the issue and do it right.

Another car that had come in from the same "cheap shop" we mentioned above had a similar issue - Work was recently done and he noticed a leak.  This WRX had a clutch replacement done, and not too long after he noticed some oil on his garage floor.  We checked it out, and it appeared his rear main seal as leaking.  The only way to check is to remove the transmission, clutch, and flywheel to inspect. Sure enough, the rear main seal was leaking oil and was covered in clutch material.  Replacing the the rear main seal on the back of the engine is not required when doing a clutch, but it is an extra step that really should be done.  Otherwise, if it does start to leak (and they often do), you basically need to do an entire clutch job, all over again, just to get to it.  Once again, this customer paid less in the beginning to get his clutch replaced, but he ended up paying twice in the end for what amounts to the same job.

 Leaking rear main seal

This last piece is from a car that had many issues, but this relates to our earlier reference to cheap work sometimes being very dangerous.  This is a lowering spring, that has been cut to get the car even lower.  The spring now no longer has enough coils to stay securely in place when the suspension is drooped.  This is extremely dangerous, because if the car goes over a large bump, or down an incline and a wheel droops, the spring can come loose, and then completely fall out of it's perch.  This would basically render that corner of the suspension inoperable and can cause loss of control of the vehicle.  This should never have been done!

This same car had cheap balljoints replaced, and they did not have safety style nut with a cotter pin to keep the nut from backing off.  This was a simple nylon nut.  Again this is not safe, and if the nut backs off there would be a complete loss of control over the vehicle.  Dangerous stuff guys and girls.

We hope this sheds some light on what  some of the downfalls are in goign with cheapo parts and cheap labor.  Sometimes it just costs you time and money, sometimes it can cost much more.

Remember as one of our founding forefathers is attributed as saying: "The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten" - Benjamin Franklin

Mod smart and do it right the first time!

-Circuit Motorsports is a performance auto shop located in Orlando Florida.  We specialize in performance upgrades, maintenance, ECU tuning, and fabrication.  If you are interested in a build consultation contact us today!

Facebook - www.facebook.com/circuitmotorsports

Website - www.circuitmotorsports.net

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