Outboard motor shop scam? - Page 4 - SailNet Community
View Poll Results: Do you think this is a scam?
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post #31 of 49 Old 03-17-2011
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I've had a simular experience. a simple tune up ended up costing more than $400.00. After hearing your story, I think I got off cheap. The next year I bought the parts and did it myself. There is a reason B.O.A.T. means bring on another thousand. I had another experience on my truck $3000.00 dollars in repairs, and it took them 4 trys to fix it. ...Or buy a new truck for $30,000.00, or another used one that was sold for the same reason, and still needs the repairs.

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post #32 of 49 Old 03-17-2011
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Originally Posted by AdamLein View Post
Like many others have suggested, I do all my own work on my motor, which is worth <$200. It takes forever. I spend hours reading forums, getting books from the library, looking through my SELOC manual, trying out one test, not understanding what the results of the test are telling me, staring at the thing, taking bits off and putting them back on, etc. In one trip to the boat to work on the motor, I can get at most one simple operation done.
Ha ha, this made me laugh. It's amazing how, no matter how long I end up staring at my engine (or any other boat project), it just won't up and fix itself. Even if I stare real hard like.

I guess I just wasn't born with that supernatural mechanic gene.

S/V Argyle
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post #33 of 49 Old 03-17-2011
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Before you pay the bill, run the engine in their tank real hard for as long as they let you. You want to be sure the engine is fixed, not just cleaned up. If they have treated you this way, how are they going to treat you when you bring the engine back with the same problem?

Good luck, we all have learned this lesson a time or three on one thing or another.
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post #34 of 49 Old 03-17-2011
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As a certified Tohatsu/Nissan OB technician, I have a few thoughts on this one.

In our shop, we charge $75 an hour. Of course rates vary from shop to shop. Our typical annual service for small outboards runs one hour. That includes diagnosis of any complaints, winterizing, spring setup, and about 20 minutes of test time in the tank. Repair of any problems, and any parts, would be extra. We also provide free indoor winter storage of small OB's as long as the customer pays for the annual service up front in the fall.

The NS8/9.8 2-stroke is a solid design, and prized by many for its low weight, but any motor, especially one that has run in salt, will need maintenance. As long as your telltale was peeing a strong stream, you probably had an OK water pump, but that does not mean that there wasn't silt or salt buildup in the powerhead cooling passages -- causing overheating. Even so, it is prudent to change out the wp kit at least every 3 years in cold clean Great Lakes water, and more often in brackish, salty, or silty conditions. The manufacturer recommends inspection or replacement annually. Since the lion's share of the expense is the same for inspection or replacement (the labor is the same), we wouldn't normally reassemble a water pump with a used impeller. And if possible, we would install a complete wp kit, as it isn't much more cost than the bare impeller, and gives much better results for a much longer time.

Smoking and poor idle could possibly be a sign of overheating, but could just as likely be a sign of fouled plugs, carboned-up combustion chambers, a maladjusted carburetor, or too much TCW-3 oil in the mix.

Corrosion in the LU would not cause overheating. Period. If your LU needed a re-seal, water in the gearcase might cause rusting of the gears and bearings, which would be both time consuming and expensive to replace, but it would not cause the motor to overheat. There are no pressurized water passages anywhere in the LU -- just the water inlet to the pump. If the shop told you that LU corrosion was causing overheating, their motives are suspect.

Were you scammed? I wouldn't use that particular term just yet. Did they charge you more than the motor was worth? Maybe... but that depends on how you view the value of that 2-stroke motor. They are no longer available new, and the new 4-stroke 9.8A3 weighs in at a hefty 82 pounds, whereas your old motor is about 57 pounds.

I would request that all old parts be returned to you, so that you have at least some evidence of the work that was done. I would also ask for an itemized invoice that details all services performed, and shows all parts used. And I would ask for a written warranty stating that if the shop's repairs fail in 30 days, the motor will be fixed at no additional cost to you. Obviously they can't warrant things they didn't service. If the shop won't provide those basic things, their motives are suspect.

While the price seems high, it may well be justified. Clearly there has been a lack of good communications regarding your repair, but it seems that the shop did keep you informed as the diagnosis was completed, and the costs climbed. And it does seem that you gave them a blank-check go-ahead to fix whatever was needed. Would I consider handing a customer a $900 repair bill for an obsolete motor that is probably worth $600? Only if we had discussed his options beforehand. But that is how our small shop handles customer service. Some shops don't have the luxury of time to discuss all the small details with every customer.

Incidentally, unless you absolutely must have a Mercury decal on a new small outboard, I would highly recommend that you get the Tohatsu brand, since buying a Merc gets you a Tohatsu -- they build all the Merc motors 30 hp and below, and cost hundreds less.

Should you find that you prefer to keep your 9.8, consider either finding another dealer, or doing the work yourself. About half of my customers are the DIY type. We offer advice and service tips to them as well as the manuals and parts they need. Yes, some repairs are best left to those with experience and special tools, but most run-of-the-mill annual maintenance chores are well within the skills of the average owner. Both LU lube changes and winterizing steps are detailed on the manufacturer's website at Nissan Marine Outboards - Authorized Distributor Offering Boat Motor Products, Technical Information, & Dealer Locations for the U.S. & Canada."

Paul Van Voorhees
Certified Tohatsu TLDI Technician
Mgr, Obersheimer Sails
Buffalo, NY USA
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post #35 of 49 Old 03-17-2011
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Opinions vary....here's mine. You got hosed.

What's wrong with going to your local service provider and expecting reasonable treatment and decent communication? And no, I'm not naive, but "reasonable and fair" is the starting point as we examine this thing. You've been criticized by some for not dotting all your i's and crossing all your t's, but it sounds to me like you held up your end of the deal in a reasonable way. Those who say you needed to be hyper cautious are admitting in their own way, that you're dealing with snakes from the get-go. The foul reputation of those who work on engines has been earned by their community at large. I'll bet you a large pizza that if you'd asked for everything in writing and in general covered your behind, they'd have given you a hard time. They'd paint YOU as unreasonable.

Also consider that many have pointed out that outboards are relatively easy to work on. Heck yeah. Try working on a 1966 Jaguar E Type...without all the right tools. Your shop fixes outboards. Day after day, outboard after outboard. They put the outboard on a stand. All the needed tools are a short reach away. The lighting's good. The radios's on. There isn't anything on your motor that can't be lifted easily with one hand. Working on a diesel in a cramped engine room is one thing, but your little motor could be lifted to the perfect working height and easily manipulated by the mechanic to access everything. Point is: I think one of the places where you got hosed is on time. I think you paid for the mechanic to pick his nose, take a poop, and get a start on lunch. Bottom line, I'm betting they charge for more hours on a given day than there are hours in a day.

The impeller was a good place to start for an overheating motor. They replaced it and it was still overheating. Overheating less? Just as much? Thing is, if they don't diagnose it right, they can just move on to the next possible cause and you get to pay for all the mistakes. Grrrreeeeaat. Okay, okay, it's nice to have a new impeller, but you get my point.

You were in an inherently unequal relationship. They took your engine and went to work behind closed doors. You can't prove a thing. And if you don't pay, they keep your engine. And sell it. If you and the mechanic were standing in front of "his honor", you'd be mincemeat. All they have to do is say they did the work...or that it needed the work. Unless you sneak a video cam into their service area, you got nuthin'.

And yes, you were treated poorly by them. Lousy communication. But that's expected in their field.

I took my outboard to a highly regarded outboard dealer and sailboat specialist here in Michigan. I gave them the symptoms the motor had, and they said, "oh, so you want us to replace the bla bla bla". I explained that I didn't want to tell them what to replace, but the symptoms are this. "Oh, you want us to replace......." "No, but here's what it's doing wrong, and I'd like you to fix it and let me know before-hand if it's going to go over $200.00." Bad communication? I agreed to leave the engine with them for repair and they said "okay". I asked, "are you going to give me a work order or anything". "Nope". "You just want me to leave the motor and walk away"? They became offended that I expected any documentation that I'd left a thousand dollar piece of equipment with them. One of the mechanics in the background was chuckling. I guess he'd seen it all before. I could call back a week later and ask how my motor was coming along and they could say..."motor, what motor....who'd you give it to"? The motor left with me. That was a recipe for disaster. They'd be at fault, but any of the posters on this forum would have put the blame on me. Rightly so.

Anyway, once you were in deep with them, I can't say what would have been the right thing to do. I'm amused greatly by the idea that you should have asked for more service and just walked way. "You know, I really like this engine, and wouldn't it be great to overhaul it completely so I could use it for years. Yeah, rings, pistons...sure, let's do it right!". At least then by the time it reaches their sales rack, they'd have some skin in the game.

bottom line: IMO you got hosed. Not by the prevailing outboard service standards necessarily, but by any standard of reasonableness, oh yeah.
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post #36 of 49 Old 03-17-2011
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Is there any reason why mechanics don't charge by the service, rather than by the hour?

For example, you could charge $100 for analysis. If you can't figure out the problem, the owner hasn't spent too much. If you find a different cause for the problem later, the owner already paid your for diagnostics.

You could then charge, say, $200 for lower unit cooling system overhaul, plus parts. $200 for cleaning the powerhead and other upper-unit cooling system passages, plus parts. $500 to overhaul the powerhead. $10 for an oil change. Whatever. Deciding what is needed is covered by the customer's analysis fee, so along with a diagnosis you propose a set of repairs. If the customer doesn't agree or can't afford you, they can walk away with an analysis and see if another mechanic can do the same repair for less (other mechanics beware, how much do you trust your competitors' analysis?).

I'm just making up numbers on the spot. To me the principle seems workable. You could charge seemingly outrageous fees for services and still undercut mechanics using the traditional hourly system. So why not do it that way?

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post #37 of 49 Old 03-17-2011
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Something no one has mentioned is doing some legwork up front. Ask around the dock for recommendations for good shops and shops to avoid.

Sometimes a few conversations can save you a lot of grief.

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post #38 of 49 Old 03-17-2011
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I have never had an outboard serviced. But every time I take my vehicle in for service I ask the price of whatever I am having done, say a minor or major tune-up and an additional complaint possibly. I ask them to call me if anything comes up and give them my cell number. Yes, I have had repairs beyond the price of what I originally asked for, but I knew every step of the way what the problem was, what the price would be and when it would be ready. I have used numerous shops over the years and never had a problem really and no big surprises.

New car dealers charge by the job, using GM's time listed for each procedure for example. But there is a built in buffer and I doubt many mechanics take the listed time to do the job. If GM says the job takes 2 hours you get billed for 2 hours and the mechanic finishes faster - sometimes quite a bit faster. The return on an 8 hour day for a shop like this is pretty good.

I think it's best to ask around and find a shop that has a good reputation. If you use them and find they are good stick with them. A good small shop would be my choice over a large one.

But I think learning to do as much as possible yourself is the best solution.

Living aboard in Victoria Harbour
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post #39 of 49 Old 03-17-2011 Thread Starter
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Ok I got my motor back today and paid them for the work. It was $136 worth of parts and a whopping $715 of labor. I paid $700 cash today and they let me post date a check for next friday for the rest of the balance which was $225.

Ok the parts were... a new button for electric starter, new impeller, head gasket, thermostat and several other small things averaging around $5 to $10 each. Once again, parts only came to $136.

The labor was... repair battery cables, tank test engine ran hot, change clamp handle, replace start button, change gear oil and pump impeller. Remove cylinder head, exhaust plates, and engine block. Clean corrosion, unclog passages, drill out frozen head bolts, change thermostat, retank test runs and cools good.

So in the end, I realize this was a big shop and also came up as a dealer for Nissan outboards. I don't feel I was scammed anymore but it was certainly overpriced. I could have brought it to a small shop and I think they probably could have done it for half the price. Much like bringing your car to a dealership to get worked on is much more expensive, this is basically what I done with my outboard even though I was not quite aware of it. So am I satisfied with the work they done, I would say yes as far as the work goes. Was it too expensive? No, it was INSANELY too expensive! Do I feel it was worth it? I still think it was. Would I do it differently next time? If there was a next time, you bet I would! Would I ever go back to this shop again? NO, because their prices are just too high thats the main problem I have now that its all said and done. Do I recommend taking an outboard to a shop for service and repair? NO and if you do tell them your not spending no more then your limit.

Thats it, overall I am glad to have it back and running good. They recommend I run it in a bucket of water after using it to keep it from getting corroded again. Problem is, it is not very easy to remove from my boat while its in the marina. I guess I will have to figure it all out because I don't want this to ever happen again.

WOW many lessons learned. One, fix myself next time or sell it for little and buy new.

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post #40 of 49 Old 03-17-2011 Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by JimMcGee View Post
Something no one has mentioned is doing some legwork up front. Ask around the dock for recommendations for good shops and shops to avoid.

Sometimes a few conversations can save you a lot of grief.
Now THIS my friend is one thing I wish I would have done. Great advice and perhaps I did not think it was necessary for a small outboard. I know many people at the marina who could have definitely pointed me to a shop with better prices. Wait until I tell them the story this weekend or when I see them again. I bet they will have to pick their jaw up off the ground when I tell them what I paid. Oh well, I move on now and good to know it runs great.
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