I Hate Car Maintenance

Posted on May 5th, 2008 in diesel,Driving Emotion,Peugeot by Julian Edgar

I love modifying cars but I hate doing car maintenance. Even something as simple as an oil change I despise: I sure wouldn’t last long working as a mechanic.

But every now and again I need to do what I hate: maintenance.

In the most recent case it was a noise that developed in the engine bay of my Peugeot 405 diesel. It started, I thought, after I repaired a leak in the plastic power steering fluid reservoir. The fluid level had been dropping and then I noticed a crack near the outlet pipe. I took a punt and used a soldering iron and filler rod (cable ties!) to plastic weld the crack closed – the repair worked perfectly.

With new fluid in the reservoir, everything seemed fine.

But then a whine started up in the engine bay. Initially it was just audible, but it got louder and louder. It varied with engine revs, being just able to be heard at idle but being very loud indeed at 3-4000 rpm.

I left it for a while but then reluctantly got out my tools.

Using a length of old fuel hose as a stethoscope, I listened around the engine bay and decided that the sound was coming from the right-hand side of the engine (as viewed sitting in the car). Furthermore, it seemed to be coming from the power steering pump.

Wondering if the power steer fluid had been contaminated – and so the pump had been affected – I reluctantly decided to replace the pump. Some wrecker ringing later, I had one coming from interstate by courier.

It duly arrived and I removed the old pump and installed the new.

And what a bastard of a job it was.

The original design of the car was fine, but then they added ABS. And the ABS unit is positioned exactly where you need to get in an Allen-key socket bit to undo the power steering pump bolts. Talk about stupid.

(And after years of working on Japanese cars – so European. That’s exactly what I remember being the case in my 1977 BMW 3.0si – a good basic design and then bits added by the factory as time went by – all with no regard for on-going repairs.)

And it gets even worse. Getting the ABS unit out of the way is nearly impossible in itself, with the bolts very hard to access and clearances incredibly tight.

So after a lot of swearing about French engineering, I finally had the pumps swapped.

And the engine bay whining noise was exactly the same….

This time I handballed the car to Simon of Simon’s Car Clinic. He listened with a more sophisticated stethoscope and decided it was a belt idler pulley on the single serpentine belt that drives the air con compressor, alternator and power steer pump.

I left him to it then received a phone call.

“Are you sure you replaced the power steer pump?” he asked.

From that I assumed that even with the belt idler pulleys replaced, the noise was still there… I assured him that the new power steer pump had made absolutely zero difference to the noise and left him to look some more.

The next day he called again: “It was the bearings in the alternator,” he said. The car was ready for me to pick up.

And the bill? A whopping $1030. Knowing that Simon’s labour charge is relatively modest, I was rather interested to see the breakdown. The Peugeot new parts – a belt tensioner (that contains one of the pulleys) and the other idler pulley – totalled an amazing $505!

But had it been a good idea to replace them? I spun up the old ones and yes, if I’d been Simon I would have replaced them too – one had an odd noise from inside and the other quite a lot of movement.

So getting that noise fixed cost something like a total of $1250 – but putting new bearings in the alternator and then testing it was only $173!

Gee, I hate car maintenance – and paying for expensive parts.

11 Responses to 'I Hate Car Maintenance'

Subscribe to comments with RSS

  1. James said,

    on May 5th, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    Tell me about it, what do they think!!!! We waste so much money on stupid and ridiculous things! better yet they mark everything up way beyond cost price… no wonder why we all hate it!!! i’m sure i speak on everyones behalf when i say… SERVICING SHOULD BE FREE FOR THE WARRANTY OF THE CAR!

    Modifying cars is another thing all together! Just the fitting/labour cost is so high it makes it imposible to complete everything i want to. Better get a hold of that mechanic that is your long lost mate that does it for a slab 🙂

    I just put an order in for my new 2008 Lotus Elise SC:


    It’s the first one i’ve purchased and I have no idea what it’s going to cost me to run!!!!!!!! yet alone modify for the track!

  2. Andy B said,

    on May 6th, 2008 at 7:00 am

    I don’t hate car maintenance, but this is probably because I drive holdens, they are generally built to be fixed.
    Oil changes are easy and fast, ditto spark plugs, in the garage at home a set of plugs takes 15 minutes after the tools have been put away neatly.
    All of the BMW’s ive seen have had horrid design problems from a maintenance point of view, to the extent of needing to remove the windscreen just to replace the sunlight sensor in the dash for the aircon, like really, why not just take the motor, gearbox, and diff out, just to change your oil while you are at it.
    Japanese cars aren’t a lot better than euro ones, and i hate to think what the new breed of Chinese stuff is like.

  3. Jason said,

    on May 6th, 2008 at 10:10 am

    Whilst I don’t *hate* working on cars for general maintenience, I agree that it really pisses me off when something so simple turns into a $hitfight (yes, the $ sign repesents the cost side of it too)

    Something I did to my current car that I had wished I had done many years ago was to fit a remote oil filter kit. Oil and oil filter changes are now a simple matter that takes about 10 mins (including waiting for the old oil to drain) where as it was a 40 min job just to get the oil filter off beforehand..

  4. Howard said,

    on May 6th, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    I love hearing the hourly rate that some dealers charge for general servicing. $80-90-100/hr figures are mentioned, and that’s for some of the poorest quality general servicing I have ever seen (Work vehicles).
    I’ll stick with my older cars that are well past their mandatory dealer servicing for warrenty, and simply drive them over the pit at home and do it myself. If I have to buy extra tools to get the job done, so what. What I spend on extra tools that I can re-use, I save easly on doing my own work.
    And I agree with Jason whole heartedly about remote oil filters.

  5. Michael said,

    on May 6th, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    why complain,

    buy a commodore if you want cheap, plentiful, new, second hand and reproduction parts.

    the problem with old cars is typically where do you start and where do you end, most things could ideally be changed in most cases and you can get carried away in the process.

  6. Darren said,

    on May 7th, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    Don’t forget the biggest rip-off of all, dealership servicing. I bought a new Golf TDI last year, and it will not see the inside of a dealership except for any warranty claims. I have lost count of the number of people I have spoken to (some with cars still under warranty) who are of the same opinion as myself. Provided your mechanic/service centre uses genuine parts and can be trusted to follow the procedure as set out in your car’s service schedule, the dealers are not within their right to void your warranty.

  7. Ben said,

    on May 8th, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    To Howard, here in the UK it’s quite possible to pay 70-100 POUNDS per hour for servicing, let alone dollars! And that’s just for routine jobs like oil and filter changes. Even then the standard of work can be cr@p – I took my Ford Focus to a Ford main dealer and it took them three attempts to fix a broken door handle (thankfully under warranty). They tried to give the car back to me twice when it clearly wasn’t working. Needless to say my car’s been nowhere near the Ford dealer network since….

  8. Ben said,

    on May 8th, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    Another thing. I wholly agree with Julian’s comments on engine access. Twice I’ve changed the oil filter on my Ford Focus, and twice I’ve had to drop the undertray, jack up the car and get the bl**dy thing off by repeatedly hammering a screwdriver through it, and untwisting the filter few degrees, needless to say with lots of swearing and dirty oil getting everywhere. Some parts of the engine are almost impossible to see, let alone work on.

  9. Steven Gibson said,

    on May 9th, 2008 at 9:07 am

    I too, like modifications more than routine maintenance or repair. I disagree that one is being “ripped off” by having someone else do the repairs or diagnosis for us. The shop or mechanic has to make a profit to continue on and provide a good service. I have spent a very large amount of money on tools, some that have become obsolete and virtually worthless. The professional shops do the same thing and to a greater extent. I always try to remember the reason I took my car to them in the first place: I can’t do it myself! This can be due to time constraints, lack of proper tools, experience, fear or whatever. That being said, I do nearly all of my own maintenance.

  10. Lucas said,

    on May 10th, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Geez, sorry to hear about your $1250 pain. Good that you have a mechanic that doesn’t charge too much for labour. Problem with a lot of dealership parts dept is that they really tend to charge a bloody arm and a leg for spares. I was hit for $120 for a door check strap by a Volvo dealership in Sydney for a 14 year 850 series car. Same thing is less than half in the States. A heater valve for a 740 costs $180 at the same dealer. $18 from the US or $45 at the best priced local non-dealership specialist!

  11. Auto said,

    on July 2nd, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    I dont know much about cars at all, and every time I have tried working on em I end up hurting myself. I rather pay someone to do it for me, if/when I can afford it