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E36 (1991 - 1999)
The E36 chassis 3-Series BMW was a huge hit among driving enthusiasts from the first moment the car hit the pavement. The E36 won numerous awards over the years it was produced and is still a favorite of many BMW enthusiasts to this day! -- View the E36 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 06-16-2013, 03:01 PM
Blanche Blanche is offline
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Not sure if my mechanic is being honest...

I went to a mechanic who was highly recommended (via reviews on bimmer shops). I like the guy, but I'm starting to wonder if he thinks somehow I'm a cash cow. We had a deal in April that he would do my shocks and struts for $1000 and I could pay him half up front then the rest in payments. I was to come in when I saved up the $500. I called last week and he says ok, but then as I'm about to come in he calls and asks about payment and tells me that $500 isn't even enough to get the parts. So he tells me, if I can come up with it all then he'll do it that day for $900. I tell him that I can't do it, but I can write a check for him to cash 2 days later. He's good with that.

An hour or so later he calls me to tell me that my rear brakes are bad. Metal to metal. I suspected that they might need replacing, so he tells me he'll do it for $285 (he said he usually charges $375). I say ok as long as I can put it on that check.

This whole time I am getting the feeling that he needs money and we had a bit of an under the table deal, but I like the guy and trusted him so far.

So when I go to pick up the car, on the invoice he wrote in red big letters "Car is unsafe to drive. Front brakes do not work." So yeah, this freaks me out a bit. He tells me that my front brakes and hydraulics are (or will be) messed up and the car shouldn't be driven. He quotes me $1400 for the work in front of his staff and partner. Minutes later in the parking lot alone, he says he can do it for $900 cash, no invoice.

So after all of that, why am I posting? I'm afraid I'm getting hosed. I'm a chick who knows a little about cars and is starting to do some work on my own car, but I don't feel confident to do it all myself yet. My brother knows how to do brakes, but he works on his chevy...are the E36 brakes much different? Should it be $1400 for front brakes? I'm not a money tree at all and I don't want to be taken, but the worst part is I like the guy and want to trust him, but my gut is saying he's full of it and looking to get money from me.

Any thoughts?
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  #2  
Old 06-16-2013, 03:08 PM
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TRaV MaNN TRaV MaNN is offline
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Not sure if my mechanic is being honest...

Brakes are brakes for the most part. A quick look behind the wheel will tell you how much pad life is left and if the rotors need to be changed or not.

But as for the $1400 question, unless he plans on rebuilding the whole front end, that is entirely too much money. If you ever feel unsure about a mechanic, or any service for that matter, get another quote.

Good luck!


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Old 06-16-2013, 03:11 PM
Blanche Blanche is offline
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Originally Posted by TRaV MaNN View Post
Brakes are brakes for the most part. A quick look behind the wheel will tell you how much pad life is left and if the rotors need to be changed or not.

But as for the $1400 question, unless he plans on rebuilding the whole front end, that is entirely too much money. If you ever feel unsure about a mechanic, or any service for that matter, get another quote.

Good luck!


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Thanks. I did wonder about the shocks and struts quote, but another place quoted me $1500. I will definitely go into another shop or two tomorrow for second opinions!
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Old 06-16-2013, 03:22 PM
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TRaV MaNN TRaV MaNN is offline
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Not sure if my mechanic is being honest...

It's all hard to say. You could look up prices for the parts he's replacing. Then look up diys and see how long it should take for a mechanic to do it. It will at least give you a rough estimate of where the price should be.

But brakes are in the ~$30ish range, and labor couldn't possibly be more than an hour for someone with the proper tools.

This is why it can be EXTREMELY cost effective to learn how to do simple things on this car yourself. To replace all the struts around the car, do front and rear brakes you'd be looking at about 5-600 for quality parts. And you'd be in the hole a weekend if it's your first time tackling any car work. Grab a friend and just figure it out. There's plenty of help here, and all over the Internet.


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  #5  
Old 06-16-2013, 06:28 PM
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sounds shady to me. if this is *his* place of business, then he's doing it wrong. if he's an employee, then he's running the risk of conflicting interests by taking work away from his employer.

that's a big no-no in the industry


as for brakes, just as travis stated, they're pretty much all the same functionally. there are plenty of diy's online to do them as well.

you could also always ask for the old parts back. even if there is a core charge attatched, the parts can be saved for inspection by the customer when requested. check out the mapp guidelines. these standards were put in place decades ago due to shady dealings by the likes of sears and such more or less strong-arming customers into getting services done.


welcome to the fest, btw.



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Old 06-16-2013, 07:35 PM
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Cost for a really good set of shocks and struts is about $500-$600 for the parts. In a shop on a lift for a professional I'd estimate it's about a half day job so add $400-$600 for labor and and you're at $900-$1200 so $1400 sounds a bit high. $1400 for front brakes is ridiculous.
In Florida by statute they are supposed to have your signature as to whether you want to see the parts or if they can dispose of them without your inspection. You also have sign off as to whether you want a written, detailed estimate, and a final signature to approve them doing the work on the written estimate. If you go to any shop and they are not following the three signature process that's an initial red flag.
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Old 06-16-2013, 07:36 PM
hnaz hnaz is online now
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Wow! $1400?? Man, I am in the wrong business. Haha!

OP, get another quote. If it doesn't feel right inside, then it probably isn't. And as others stated, there is plenty of help here and there are some great instructions for do-it-yourself projects like brakes. And by the way, brakes are VERY easy to learn, even if you're in a coma and autistic at the same time. Just remember to replace the wear sensor if you break the cable.
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Old 06-17-2013, 11:33 AM
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ReillyM3 ReillyM3 is offline
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Highly questionable practices... Would not trust him further than I could throw him.
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Old 06-17-2013, 05:40 PM
Blanche Blanche is offline
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Thanks for the thoughts.

He's just got me a little scared to drive the car now, so it's sitting. Is there anything other than the brakes that would cost that much? He said something about hydraulics...I think and the brake sensor. He already replaced the front struts.
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Old 06-17-2013, 06:16 PM
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If the car was stopping OK before you took it in, the brake pedal was firm, there were no warning lights on in the instrument cluster, and there's no brake fluid dripping onto the inside of the tires, you should be fine to drive it to another shop to get it looked at.

There is a brake pad wear sensor on the left front and the right rear to tell you when the brake pads are worn and need to be replaced. When the rotor starts making contact with the face of the sensor a light will come on in the instrument cluster. The sensors get replaced when the brake pads are replaced and they're pretty cheap.
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Old 06-17-2013, 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by dc_wright View Post
If the car was stopping OK before you took it in, the brake pedal was firm, there were no warning lights on in the instrument cluster, and there's no brake fluid dripping onto the inside of the tires, you should be fine to drive it to another shop to get it looked at.

There is a brake pad wear sensor on the left front and the right rear to tell you when the brake pads are worn and need to be replaced. When the rotor starts making contact with the face of the sensor a light will come on in the instrument cluster. The sensors get replaced when the brake pads are replaced and they're pretty cheap.
this. you should be fine to drive it to another shop as long as the brake pedal feels fine. drive around the parking lot a bit if it will help you feel more confident. it should *not* feel worse than when you took it in for service.



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Old 06-17-2013, 06:32 PM
jitsjaf2009 jitsjaf2009 is offline
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If he is willing to screw over his boss or partner, why would he treat you righteous??
I changed the shocks and struts on my 325i vert and it only took me about 2.5 hours...and I had never done it before. (Old days with shocks in front...never struts).
I do my brakes on the wife's 740i or on my 325i in about the same time, about 20 minutes per wheel. Finding a mechanic you can trust is wonderful...but it can be very difficult if not impossible. This is one reason at my ripe old age, I still do everything I can myself.
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Old 06-17-2013, 06:38 PM
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ReillyM3 ReillyM3 is offline
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Yea... If the light isnt on and its stopping straight and youve a good pedal, you will be fine. Modern cars have ways of telling you when you are tempting fate. Squeeling, screetching, sensors, vibration or a soft pedal will let you know. Also sometimes squeeky brakes arent in need of service.... Screw that tool jockey. It appears he is full of the ol' Ovaltine.
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Old 06-17-2013, 07:47 PM
hnaz hnaz is online now
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OP, go find yourself another mechanic. Or better yet, if you are near a local BMW CCA, join it. There will be PLENTY of members that will help you fix your car. Plus you'll make some good friends too! Just avoid the ones who talk too much... trust me on this... LOL!
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  #15  
Old 06-17-2013, 08:27 PM
Homer23 Homer23 is offline
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As a woman, your biggest advantage with car maintenance is your brother. If you don't want to do some of the easy maintenance yourself, go buy a Haynes , Chilton or factory repair manual for your car and have your brother fix (you should help too) some of the easy repairs. If you two don't get along that well, hopefully 30-60 dollars per repair should coax him to help you .

If the front brakes are bad, they should cost about the same as the rears, so he is probably lying out of his ass. If he had to replace the two expensive components of the brake system, it may cost that much but you should be feeling some erratic pedal feel if that were the case.

Next, find a good shop and stick with them.
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Old 06-18-2013, 06:02 AM
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This is a funny thread

If you have to ask the question then find another mechanic
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Old 06-18-2013, 06:31 AM
Burning2nd Burning2nd is offline
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Sounds like your car is a pos to me , here is the story from the other side,

Kid comes in wants his **** lowered and muffler and lights ... Fking car is Falling apart, needs a 4 wheel break job, tires ball joints tie rods and a good tune up ... But he starts haggling for the price on the struts that he insists he can get cheaper down the road

Sounds to me like you need to save your money .....

I've been in that mechanics shoes before... I'm leaning I the detection that this isn't "exactly " how the story goes

You have already indicated that your not a loyal costumer
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Old 06-18-2013, 06:37 AM
Burning2nd Burning2nd is offline
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Oh yea there's some Figurative speech in there
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"Burning 2nd is a lot like vitamin tonic. Overly harsh, tastes like crap, but somewhere in all that there's good intent......just have to learn to read between the lines, actually you have to squint really hard to see the good, but its there somewhere"
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Old 06-18-2013, 08:53 AM
Blanche Blanche is offline
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Originally Posted by Burning2nd View Post
Sounds like your car is a pos to me , here is the story from the other side,

Kid comes in wants his **** lowered and muffler and lights ... Fking car is Falling apart, needs a 4 wheel break job, tires ball joints tie rods and a good tune up ... But he starts haggling for the price on the struts that he insists he can get cheaper down the road

Sounds to me like you need to save your money .....

I've been in that mechanics shoes before... I'm leaning I the detection that this isn't "exactly " how the story goes

You have already indicated that your not a loyal costumer
Not sure how I've shown that I'm not a loyal customer and I've NEVER tried to haggle the price with him. I have no savings and no credit. The only way I can get major work done is by saving money for it. I have the liberty of letting the car sit while I save because my wife and I carpool and we can use her car.

I have already spent over $2000 at his shop in 4 months. I thought this new problem he found ounded a little far-fetched and came here looking to see if it sounded right. To keep the initial post short, I gave the abbreviated version, but since you seem to think that I'm a POS and want to screw over this mechanic I will give you the full version of events.

My car: 1992 BMW 325i, 97K miles, I am the second owner and I bought it in 2008.

1. My neighbor and I (with the help of this board) replaced the cooling system this spring. For some reason, it looked like my neighbor leaked ATF. We tried to check the ATF level, but couldn't loosen the bolt. We decided that before we stripped the bolt, I should take it in and have a mechanic check out the ATF level and fill if needed.

2. I researched and found an independent mechanic who specializes in European cars who had good reviews. I took my car into him and told him exactly what I wrote on point 1 and asked him to check the suspension and brakes because when I last had my tires rotated, they recommended shocks.

3. He plays with my car and tells me that my tranny is slipping and I will *probably* need a new tranny and it'll run me about 2K. I tell him that I have no where near that kind of money. He asks me if I love the car or want to get rid of it. I tell him that I'd like to keep it unless it becomes a money pit. I decide on transmission service and hope that will allow me to save up until I need a new tranny. We agree to $200.

4. He calls later that afternoon and tells me that my fluid is orange/black and that I have a shot glass full of metal in the pan. He advises that I really should get a new tranny. I tell him that I simply can't afford it. He says that there is one other option. He can clean the valve body and that might "nip it in the bud". We have a miscommunication on price. He tells me that he can do that for $250 cash. I thought he meant $50 cash in addition to the previous $200.

5. My car is done. He's excited. He thinks he nipped the tranny thing in the bud. However, my suspension and brakes are bad. He takes me under the car and shows me the front driver side strut and yeah, it needs to be replaced. The shocks are shot too. He also sprayed rubberized undercoating underneath (for no charge he tells me). He quotes me $1200. I tell him it's going to take me a few months (maybe even 6) to save up that change, but I'll come see him to do the work when I have the money. He then OFFERS me this deal (since I'm a teacher, and he likes me...) He'll do the work for $1000 and I just need to come up with $500 for him to start it and then I can make payments to him for the rest.

6. Sidenote: while he had my car he asked if he could run a free OBDI diagnostic on it because he hasn't had a car as old as mine in his shop for awhile. He tells me that the car is clean.

7. I FINALLY saved up $500, so I called him and set up an appointment to bring my car in last Monday. The Friday before I go, he calls and tells me that his father in law just died and asks if I can bring it in Tuesday. I tell him I can bring it in later that week if he needs more time and he said that Tuesday is good for him.

8. Tuesday morning, 9am, he calls me up asking when I'm bringing the car in. I told him that I was going to go in to work and bring it by this afternoon. He says he wants it this morning and then asks me about our payment agreement. I remind him and he tells me that $500 won't even buy the parts...he then offers to do the job for $900 and a bottle of Kettle One if I can pay him all of it. I talk to my wife, she has some money in savings, so I call him back. I tell him that I can give him $500 cash and write him a check for $400 that he can cash on 9am Thursday. He agrees and reminds me about the Kettle One.

9. I bring the car in with cash and vodka. He has me go outside to give him the cash so that his new employee doesn't see me giving him the cash. He tells me he'll have it done today. I had no ride back, so he has his new employee ride home with me so he can bring the car back to the shop. During the drive to my house, he calls to tell me not to mention our deal with his employee.

10. He calls about an hour after he has the car. Rear brakes are bad. Metal to metal. I thought that they needed to be replaced. He tells me that he nromally charges $350 for brakes, but he'll do mine for $285 right now. I told him that I have no money now, but I can tack $285 onto the $400 check. He agrees and I realize that I am eating ramen noodles for a month...

11. I come in to pick up the care and this is where we pick up with my initial post. Big red letters "Car is unsafe to drive!!!" Talks really fast about sensors and hydraulics. Quotes me $1400. Asks his partner if they can do installments (I had no idea he had a partner!) His partner says that they can break it up into 2 payments. I tell them that I simply don't have the money and will have to save. My wife and I go out to our cars. She's LIVID and thinks I need to get rid of my car and just get a new one. He comes out and tells me that if I can come up with $900 CASH he'll do the job and then gives me his cell phone number and tells me not to call the shop...call his cell.

So yeah...that is the ENTIRE story. I'm just confused and expected to have to replace some things, but now it's getting ridiculous. I came into work today to do some lesson planning and I was going to stop at antoher Independent Euro mechanic afterwards. In my head, I think my brother and I are going to replace the front brakes in the near future.
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Old 06-18-2013, 09:00 AM
Blanche Blanche is offline
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Not sure why you would assume the OP is lying? We have helped her with her cooling system refresh and she has been forthright about both her ability and her car's issues. I seriously doubt the car is a POS, and IIRC we have seen pictures of said car on previous threads. In actuality she is one of my favorite people we have been able to help, she listened to all advice weighed her options and posted an outcome. Doesn't get much better than that. In this case the mechanic certainly seems shady, and not all mechanics are above board. I am sure you are, but that doesn't mean this one is.
Thanks. I couldn't have done it without the help of you guys! I felt like I was a big pain in the butt that weekend. Y'all gave me the confidence to do it, but now I feel like I'm in over my head again! I don't understand how a few months ago this guy was raving about what great shape my car was in and we only need a few things to replace/maintain to get in excellent shape to how it's now undrivable!
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Old 06-18-2013, 09:17 AM
Burning2nd Burning2nd is offline
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There is a lot of figurative speech in that thread, as I said ... It wasnt directed at you .. I don't even know you ... Simply saying how it feels on the other side of the table ... To have people constantly coming in wanting deals and special treatment ( not saying u do ) simply putting it out there how the tech might feel .... I don't think he's shady but then again thank god I've never been in shoes
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Old 06-18-2013, 09:22 AM
Blanche Blanche is offline
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Originally Posted by Burning2nd View Post
There is a lot of figurative speech in that thread, as I said ... It wasnt directed at you .. I don't even know you ... Simply saying how it feels on the other side of the table ... To have people constantly coming in wanting deals and special treatment ( not saying u do ) simply putting it out there how the tech might feel .... I don't think he's shady but then again thank god I've never been in shoes
Since you may be the closest to his shoes, you may be best equipped to answer my question. What in the world could he be talking about in regards to my front brakes that would cost $1400?

And I'm not quite sure where I'm being figurative. I reported it as it happened.

Last edited by Blanche; 06-18-2013 at 09:23 AM.
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Old 06-18-2013, 09:49 AM
Burning2nd Burning2nd is offline
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1400$ and the only way I could justify that would e two calibers two rotors set of pads , brake lines ,bleed and labor at like 95$a hour that's steep price

That's like dealer Territory pricing


Also sometimes the price is just so gift because we don't want to work on the car

Example : car is all sorts of trouble all sorts of other things about to break
That price could include the struts and labor in that case it's right on for price
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Last edited by Burning2nd; 06-18-2013 at 09:50 AM.
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Old 06-18-2013, 09:59 AM
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Let's put this in perspective. Anyone cutting side deals on their employer or partner deserves a lower level of trust. Requesting a bottle of liquor is something you'd expect only from someone who was a close personal friend, not someone you'd done business with once in the past, and is a second red flag. That's before you get to the question of price gouging.
When we had our car dealership our mechanics got to cut one side deal........










Their last one!
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Old 06-18-2013, 09:59 AM
Blanche Blanche is offline
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Originally Posted by Burning2nd View Post
1400$ and the only way I could justify that would e two calibers two rotors set of pads , brake lines ,bleed and labor at like 95$a hour that's steep price

That's like dealer Territory pricing


Also sometimes the price is just so gift because we don't want to work on the car

Example : car is all sorts of trouble all sorts of other things about to break
That price could include the struts and labor in that case it's right on for price
Just had the struts replaced by him.

I doubt he's trying to get rid of me or my car. He called me shortly after I got home that day to tell me that he was sorry that my wife was upset and that we'll get the car fixed. He's just really worried about my safety. Just call him when I had the money. But if he wants to be rid of us, he might have just done that.
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