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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
There seems to be 3 categories when it comes to car owners.

1) The type that can repair or fit almost anything and takes pride knowing they done the work themselves without paying labour for someone else to do it.

2) The type that can tackle the easy jobs themselves, some basic servicing, batteries, bulbs and maybe even brakes etc but takes it to a garage for more difficult stuff.

3) The type that get a garage to fix or fit everything. Maybe time restraints or just rather having someone else not fudge it up.

I am in the 2nd group admittedly, wishing I could be in the first but think its invaluable knowing someone that does a good job everytime but have been ripped off before for things I just didnt need and only agreed because of the hard sell or being pressured into just getting it done.

I have been to specialists before that can charge an arm and a leg. I have been to the well known garages that looked at my previous Alfa Spider and tried charging me nearly one grand for a damn front window wiper motor and labour...

So, what group do you consider yourself to be in and what’s your take on specialist or run of the mill garages? I think specialists can overcharge just for the fact they are very experienced but finding a good local independent garage is just as important for good prices.
 

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Used to be a Number Two (no, not that kind). Would definitely replace brake pads and once removed and replaced a cylinder head. But got fed up with that and now pay for everything. Current car (an old Ford Mundane) rarely needs anything other than a routine service.

Used to go to an Alfa specialist who definitely didn't rip me off. They once did a half hour job and charged for half an hour's work! They also once plugged in and discussed the diagnostics, sending me on my way free of charge.
 

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Number two tending to number three. It depends where I am. I have no space in London for tools or working on a car beyond the bare minimum. In Italy, I can get the cars up on jacks and I'll do more.

But I'm lucky in having a specialist who does not rip me off and who tends, if anything, to undercharge. I also have a general (but with a nice side line in sports tuning) garage in Italy who'll happily tackle and small jobs I can't do for a very reasonable fee.

As a result they both have a lot of customers of long standing...

Peter
 

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Somewhere between 1 and 2 I think. I can't weld for **** and I leave timing belts to others because, half the time, by the time you've got hold of the parts and tools, it's not that much more to actually pay someone. If I can't/won't/don't want to do it, it goes to the garage up the hill from my house, the proprietor of which bought my Jag and reconstructed the floor. He's too busy to make up work that doesn't need doing, and doesn't charge daft money. Which is probably why he's always busy. I've used a Honda specialist for a timing belt. He was only a bit more expensive because he used genuine Honda bits.

There do seem to be one-make specialists who, shall we say, expect you to pay a premium for their knowledge and expertise. Fine if they are using knowledge and expertise that isn't available everywhere, to do something that requires that knowledge, but an oil change is an oil change. Doing it on a Fiesta is essentially the same as doing it on a Jag, or an Alfa, or a VW. Whatever badge is on your car, it'll be held together by nuts and bolts, the odd semi-unfathomable plastic clip, and some weird spring thing that pings off into the undergrowth when you least expect it.

Having an understanding of what 2 involves, even if you don't do it yourself, makes you much less likely to get conned if you go down the 3 route. It will help you avoid the whole "Yeah the crutch joints are a big problem on these. You can't tell when you drive it but it puts too much load on on the crangle pins. If you don't deal with it, eventually you'll be driving down the motorway and your throckets will come flying off. And then where will you be?" scenario.

Sometimes, especially with old cars, people treat them like children or pets. They are then susceptible to garages who see them as a cash cow. Once they know that if they mention something, your immediate reaction will be to book it in for fixing, they've got you.
 
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Was one many, many years ago but always had my dad as backup. Today I'm two moving towards three.
 

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I would class myself has half way between one and two.

I can do most things like clutches, suspension, brakes etc but haven't tackled an engine rebuild yet. (only a couple of headgaskets)

However I am getting less and less motivated to do the work myself as I get older.
 

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Depends on the car.

Anything old is much easier. Stuff does things which make sense.

"Modern" cars don't follow the same rules.

First became apparent to me on a 1992 Escort I owned. It developed a misfire so, in the way I'd done on every car I'd owned prior to 1992 I decided a saturday morning would be sacrificed to a carb strip down and a check on the dizzy & plug leads.

After 5 minutes of realizing that all those things were nothing like they used to be (sealed with plastic caps, overlayed with sensors and wires, full of sealed processor units) I gave up and took it to someone who plugged it into a computer, read some codes, and swapped out whole units for new ones.

Haven't bothered much since then with anything bigger than bulbs and batteries on moderns.

Old cars still get a fettle.

I certainly don't take my Volvo to a Volvo dealer for an oil change that's for sure.
 

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Years ago , a friend thought he'd change the plugs on his Fiesta himself. He ended up snapping the top off the plug and had to pay loads to a garage to remove the half plug and fix it all. Not a saving after all. I changed the air and cabin filters on the Multipla a couple of times but I wouldn't do it on the Giulietta even when the service deal ends. The filter is hardly accessible without putting it on a ramp and removing some bumper parts. Makes you hope it's actually replaced at service.
 

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I think we're missing a fourth category here.

The type that could fix, & in the past has fixed, just about everything but is now in the happy position of being able to afford to pay somebody to do the job. . . that's me!
 

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The filter is hardly accessible without putting it on a ramp and removing some bumper parts. Makes you hope it's actually replaced at service.
You can remove the filter by removing just the rear part of the undertray once you jack up the driver side. It is a bit of a faff but not really that bad if you change it every 2 years or so.

I wouldn't trust the garage to change it, on my car it very obviously hadn't been done when it should have been.

The oil filter is another part that could easily be missed. At least with the older cartridge type filters it was easier to tell if it had been replaced.
 

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I suppose I'm 2. I would like to do more involved things and nudge toward 1 but it's not going to happen.

The issue of specialists is an interesting topic. The well known specialists, such as Alfaworkshop and Autolusso, clearly know what they're doing, but take pride in ripping you off at the same time. There is no way you should pay their prices, unless there is a clear reason to do so.

The solution is the 'small' specialist. They know what they're doing, have a smaller but loyal client base, but don't feel the need to exercise their adrenal glands and pontificate in internet forums, or write lengthy and verbose articles in magazines such as AROC. If you can find a good local Alfa specialist who can provide a decent service without ripping you off, then all the better.
 

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We have a small local specialist near me, but I haven't been impressed with their work or the cars they sell.

Alfas these days are not significantly different to other cars of European origin, so in most cases I would be happy to take the car to my trusted regular garage.

This like Multi air engines might need specialist know how, but if you have a 4 cylinder Diesel pretty much the same engine can be found in millions of Vauxhalls so pretty much any garage should be able to do things like the cambelt.
 

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I suppose I'm 2. I would like to do more involved things and nudge toward 1 but it's not going to happen.

The issue of specialists is an interesting topic. The well known specialists, such as Alfaworkshop and Autolusso, clearly know what they're doing, but take pride in ripping you off at the same time. There is no way you should pay their prices, unless there is a clear reason to do so.

The solution is the 'small' specialist. They know what they're doing, have a smaller but loyal client base, but don't feel the need to exercise their adrenal glands and pontificate in internet forums, or write lengthy and verbose articles in magazines such as AROC. If you can find a good local Alfa specialist who can provide a decent service without ripping you off, then all the better.
Out of interest, how do you feel you've been ripped off?

What is their typical hourly labour rate ?
Around here specialists in VAG, BMW and Alfa typically charge around £40- 45 p/hr, and in my experience bend over backwards to keep the labour charge as low as possible, particularly if the job takes longer than expected
 

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I'm a 3 definitely, I can choose unleaded or super, top up oil and add coolant and antifreeze, I could probably change a battery, I'm just a driver I rely heavily on a good honest mechanic, I value mine in the same category as my doctor,dentist and accountant. Currently I use Feli, Sunnyside who is now Autoalfa I trust him and I don't even quibble with whatever the bill is because I know he's not shafting me, likewise I don't try and tell him how to do his job or question his work because I read something on a forum. And for the record Autolusso have never shafted me, in fact the one in Cumbria fitted me in for an emergency pit stop at short notice and welded my GTV exhaust while I was on holiday in the area,
 

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The issue of specialists is an interesting topic. The well known specialists, such as Alfaworkshop and Autolusso, clearly know what they're doing, but take pride in ripping you off at the same time. There is no way you should pay their prices, unless there is a clear reason to do so.

The solution is the 'small' specialist. They know what they're doing, have a smaller but loyal client base, but don't feel the need to exercise their adrenal glands and pontificate in internet forums, or write lengthy and verbose articles in magazines such as AROC. If you can find a good local Alfa specialist who can provide a decent service without ripping you off, then all the better.
My experience of both Autolusso and Alfaworkshop is that they are competitive and not rip off merchants. When I needed the Multiair unit replaced Alfaworkshop showed a considerable saving over both the, nearest we have, local experts. Partly because most of the cost was in the unit and they are, apparently, able to bulk buy and hence reduce the price. Similarly for the belt change the quote from Autolusso was similar to the loal guy but they could provide a loan car for the day.
 

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I’m probably a 1, but i’ve just decided that I can’t face changing the failing DMF on Mrs rxe’s 159 2.4, so that is being outsourced to the local specialist. If it wasn’t her daily driver I’d do it myself over several weekends.
 

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It is important to find a local garage who you can build a good "partnership" with.
It really does help if you can know and understand the basics. I am very lucky to have a local "2 man band" Alfa specialist.
Yes, they charge a bit more than a regular garage, but they also are the best value overall for any car that you intend to actually look after, rather than "MOT and run into the ground"

Last year I bought a 1978 series 2 Spider. The previous owner had little mechanical knowledge and the local garage used him as a profit bonus. They had "looked after him" by persistently failing to fix a severe oil leak. The oil was ****ing out. Also the car jumped out of reverse gear (both these problems I didn't know about until I got the car home). They had, however, happily charged him £1500 to remove the twin carbs and send them off for "calibration".

I took the Spider to my local Alfa specialist (Autobritalia, Kent). They fixed the oil leak (someone had fitted a sensor without the copper washer), reverse gear problem (gear box mount, £30 fpr the part plus half hour labour) and yes, they also set the carburettors up correctly, plus sorted all the steering and ball joints out that caused the car to wander all over the road....

I also bought another Spider this year, again, maintained by garages, with the owner always at a distance.
This time it was one of the larger Specialist garages, so things were not as bad, but even so I find they are ok with lots of things, but when it comes to taking a bit of time to work through stuff systematically they also fail. This one had "done everything that needed doing", but still the gearbox mount was shot, causing vibration on acceleration (did they even road test it?) and also the carb inlet mount had failed even though recently replaced. The reason? There is a carb. stabiliser bar and the bush in this had also failed but not been rectified...

Can also tell of the time I took my mother's 156 V6 to "Mr Clutch" for an oil and filter change...g*d what a fiasco. I have seen Ian at AutoBritalia change a V6 oil filter...piece of **** to him, but not to the unfamiliar. Eventually I basically had to explain to the Mr Clutch mechanics how to get to the oil filter to be able to remove it...never let them work on my mother's car again, she takes it to Autobritalia too now.
 

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I suppose I'm 2. I would like to do more involved things and nudge toward 1 but it's not going to happen.

The issue of specialists is an interesting topic. The well known specialists, such as Alfaworkshop and Autolusso, clearly know what they're doing, but take pride in ripping you off at the same time. There is no way you should pay their prices, unless there is a clear reason to do so.

The solution is the 'small' specialist. They know what they're doing, have a smaller but loyal client base, but don't feel the need to exercise their adrenal glands and pontificate in internet forums, or write lengthy and verbose articles in magazines such as AROC. If you can find a good local Alfa specialist who can provide a decent service without ripping you off, then all the better.
I must admit I find this post personally offensive, I give away information for free to anyone who asks, who do you thinks writes all these articles? https://www.alfaworkshop.co.uk/alfa_maintenance_guides.shtml, I try to be as open as possible with everyone. I offer a cambelt service for £300 on a TS, a price everyone else has had to match and even now no one undercuts me by much and I offer genuine parts at a significant discount. As for lengthy and verbose articles, I try most of the time to be as informative as possible and offer as much technical information as I can, however please feel free to turn over the page rather than reading them next time you get a copy of the magazine!
Regards
Jamie Porter
The Alfaworkshop
 

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I must admit I find this post personally offensive, I give away information for free to anyone who asks, who do you thinks writes all these articles? https://www.alfaworkshop.co.uk/alfa_maintenance_guides.shtml, I try to be as open as possible with everyone. I offer a cambelt service for £300 on a TS, a price everyone else has had to match and even now no one undercuts me by much and I offer genuine parts at a significant discount. As for lengthy and verbose articles, I try most of the time to be as informative as possible and offer as much technical information as I can, however please feel free to turn over the page rather than reading them next time you get a copy of the magazine!
Regards
Jamie Porter
The Alfaworkshop
I wouldn't take it too personally, If I lived closer to you I would bring you my cars and I know lots of friends who have and are happy. What get's my goat are a certain brothers in South London that make my blood boil every time I'm reminded of them. Also sometimes people feel aggrieved by costs because they have no clue as to how much time and labor is actually involved, or how mechanical engineering works.
 

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I suppose I'm 2. I would like to do more involved things and nudge toward 1 but it's not going to happen.

The issue of specialists is an interesting topic. The well known specialists, such as Alfaworkshop and Autolusso, clearly know what they're doing, but take pride in ripping you off at the same time. There is no way you should pay their prices, unless there is a clear reason to do so.

The solution is the 'small' specialist. They know what they're doing, have a smaller but loyal client base, but don't feel the need to exercise their adrenal glands and pontificate in internet forums, or write lengthy and verbose articles in magazines such as AROC. If you can find a good local Alfa specialist who can provide a decent service without ripping you off, then all the better.
I agree with Jamie and think you are bang out of order

We spend hours everyday giving out free advise to DIY'er, garages and other Alfa specialist, yes we earn a living but that is it

The amount of money we invest in the right equipment and training to do the job properly would make your head spin

Ned
Autolusso
 
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