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Old 07-23-2019, 08:35 AM   #1
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Is $900 (parts + labor) for a new starter reasonable?

My bus wouldn't restart after I stopped at Wawa to fuel up and I had to get it towed. The truck repair place just called and said the starter needs to be replaced (bad solenoid) and quoted $475 plus labor for a total of about $900 (not counting the tow, unfortunately).

Is this a reasonable cost and a plausible source of my problem (as opposed to just a drained battery?) This isn't the sort of work I would be able to do myself, so my only alternative would be to have the bus towed somewhere else and that would be another $300 plus whatever the other place charged me.
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Old 07-23-2019, 08:51 AM   #2
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Would they let you crawl underneath to arc the starter?
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Old 07-23-2019, 08:53 AM   #3
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If you can't do it yourself it's going to be pricey
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Old 07-23-2019, 08:54 AM   #4
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Would they let you crawl underneath to arc the starter?
I don't know what that means and I don't think it's something I could do, aside of whether they'd allow it. What does arcing the starter entail? Would it allow me to keep using my old starter or something?
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Old 07-23-2019, 08:59 AM   #5
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It would comfirm the veracity of their claim. It's a short circuit you'd make across the terminals to determine if the solenoid kicks, and also to spin the starter motor.
Of course, this is done: out of gear, hand brake on, wheels chocked.
With a VOM in hand, battery voltage could be checked, as well as confirming voltage to the starter system while underneath.
If not permitted access, which I'd count on if it's in their shop, and not parked outside, I'd have them arc it for you, in front of you.
Course, you'd prolly have to take it on faith, since it's unlikely you can see the starter from above.
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Old 07-23-2019, 09:09 AM   #6
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It would comfirm the veracity of their claim. It's a short circuit you'd make across the terminals to determine if the solenoid kicks, and also to spin the starter motor.
Of course, this is done: out of gear, hand brake on, wheels chocked.
With a VOM in hand, battery voltage could be checked, as well as confirming voltage to the starter system while underneath.
If not permitted access, which I'd count on if it's in their shop, and not parked outside, I'd have them arc it for you, in front of you.
Course, you'd prolly have to take it on faith, since it's unlikely you can see the starter from above.
I thoroughly lack the know-how to evaluate this myself, so I'll have to trust them as far as the necessity of it is concerned. The wrecker driver made some efforts to get my bus started on the spot, which is at least a few honesty points in their favor (I also know the place through my car mechanic so I don't think they're a total screw job).

Assuming the starter needs replacing, is $900 total a fair price? What could something like this be fixed for if I could find a used (?) starter online and replace it myself?
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Old 07-23-2019, 09:43 AM   #7
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Ouch. Which kids tuition you paying for?

Without enough information I went out and looked at starters at Napa for an International. Around the ballpark of $300 for a remanufactured starter and $500 for new.

What’s the labor rate where you are? I could totally see a heavy truck mechanic charging $200 an hour and up.
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Old 07-23-2019, 10:03 AM   #8
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Ouch. Which kids tuition you paying for?

Without enough information I went out and looked at starters at Napa for an International. Around the ballpark of $300 for a remanufactured starter and $500 for new.

What’s the labor rate where you are? I could totally see a heavy truck mechanic charging $200 an hour and up.
They quoted me $475 for the starter and said it would take 4 hours, so I'm guessing their hourly is around $110 or so. Sounds like if they're screwing me it's only by doing something I don't really need at all. If I really do need a new starter then I guess $900 isn't too bad.

FWIW I've always envisioned the soul-crushing costs as much larger than this (like 5 grand or more). I'll fit this in the budget by crapping in a bucket instead of buying a Nature's Head.
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Old 07-23-2019, 10:35 AM   #9
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With your admitted lack of mechanical knowledge and ability, unfortunately you are at the mercy of the repair shop you inevitably land in.
$900.00 for a starter is high but the repair shops are in business to make profit so in reality, you must pay what they quote, or tow to another shop in hopes of a cheaper rate. You could try negotiating it down, but most shops have set rates for their labor and parts markup that they stick to religiously.

Hopefully in your case the starter is bad and not simply a loose or disconnected wire to it. An unscrupulous shop might simply tighten the stud or reconnect a wire and charge you for a starter.
Assuming this shop is on the level, ask them if the starter is warranted for life, now. Their answer might surprise you.

Another alternative in the future, might be to search out a roadside mechanic. This can also be a crapshoot when it comes to the final repair bill, but a roadside guy won't spend 4 hours changing a starter either!

Good luck...
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Old 07-23-2019, 11:07 AM   #10
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Hopefully in your case the starter is bad and not simply a loose or disconnected wire to it. An unscrupulous shop might simply tighten the stud or reconnect a wire and charge you for a starter.
Assuming this shop is on the level, ask them if the starter is warranted for life, now. Their answer might surprise you.
The wrecker driver spent some time underneath the bus trying to get it going for me, and it was damned hot so I (like to) imagine that he would have fixed it if it was a loose wire or something like that.

Are you saying that the starter will be warrantied for life if the shop is on the level? Or it won't be warrantied in that case?
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Old 07-23-2019, 11:26 AM   #11
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The wrecker driver spent some time underneath the bus trying to get it going for me, and it was damned hot so I (like to) imagine that he would have fixed it if it was a loose wire or something like that.

Are you saying that the starter will be warrantied for life if the shop is on the level? Or it won't be warrantied in that case?
Assuming the shop is good, for what you're paying, it should be warranted for life.
Did they show you the "old" unit?
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Old 07-23-2019, 11:35 AM   #12
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Assuming the shop is good, for what you're paying, it should be warranted for life.
Did they show you the "old" unit?
They haven't done the work yet, just called me this morning and gave me the quote and got my go-ahead. Hopefully they will show me the old unit - should I ask for the old unit to keep when I pick it up? Or is it like exchanging batteries?
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Old 07-23-2019, 11:38 AM   #13
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4 hours to replace a starter seems like a lot. Is he paying college tuition for his boat or what?
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Old 07-23-2019, 12:09 PM   #14
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Well it's in their shop and this is part of your learning curve on starter systems. You have to get to know this stuff.
You don't want the old starter back or you'll get a core charge added also.
The only benefit in getting the old starter would be to get it checked and rebuilt if necessary.

They may not take 4 hours to change it but may find other issues like bad cables etc which will alter the estimate.
Not worth towing I don't think to another facility cost wise as the second shop has to analyse your problem, quote you etc.
Without tools at home to do this work and the know how, just go with that shop. You will be back so at least they get to know you and your vehicle.


Good luck


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Old 07-23-2019, 12:50 PM   #15
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Yeah, it is expensive. Let's hope the hourly rate was a worst-case quote.
But think how expensive that alternative of yours was:
Setting it ablaze in the WaWa parking lot would lose you your bus.
Gotta figure there might be a fine for setting a conflagration in public, maybe a little extra for being at the fueling island.
And, you may have suffered a heat stroke while running away...
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Old 07-23-2019, 12:56 PM   #16
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With your admitted lack of mechanical knowledge and ability, unfortunately you are at the mercy of the repair shop you inevitably land in.
$900.00 for a starter is high but the repair shops are in business to make profit so in reality, you must pay what they quote, or tow to another shop in hopes of a cheaper rate. You could try negotiating it down, but most shops have set rates for their labor and parts markup that they stick to religiously.

Hopefully in your case the starter is bad and not simply a loose or disconnected wire to it. An unscrupulous shop might simply tighten the stud or reconnect a wire and charge you for a starter.
Assuming this shop is on the level, ask them if the starter is warranted for life, now. Their answer might surprise you.

Another alternative in the future, might be to search out a roadside mechanic. This can also be a crapshoot when it comes to the final repair bill, but a roadside guy won't spend 4 hours changing a starter either!

Good luck...

I recently bought a new starter for a Suburban - with my discount there was a $10 difference between a starter with a 3? year warrantee and a starter with a lifetime warrantee - with my discount there was very little price difference between the two starters, but with no discount there was over $100 between the two
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Old 07-23-2019, 01:00 PM   #17
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4 hours to replace a starter seems like a lot. Is he paying college tuition for his boat or what?
No, his boat didn't have the SAT scores for anything other than community college.
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Old 07-23-2019, 01:05 PM   #18
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As a former shop mechanic not on buses mind you but all the same everyone who knows very little all tend to think they are being ripped off failing to understand that working on a rig is next to never cut and dry rusted/broken bolts ,bad wires,oil everywhere , parts that break as soon as you touch them because they are held together with rotten plastic point is in my experience most shops can't afford to go around ripping folks off unless they don't figure on being in business long!
Bottom line is if you don't want to pay mechanics you're gonna have to become one.
but if you want to have a chance of getting em to cut you a deal don't treat em like you think they are crooks and second guess everything that folks who admittedly know more than you say
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Old 07-23-2019, 01:17 PM   #19
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As a former shop mechanic not on buses mind you but all the same everyone who knows very little all tend to think they are being ripped off failing to understand that working on a rig is next to never cut and dry rusted/broken bolts ,bad wires,oil everywhere , parts that break as soon as you touch them because they are held together with rotten plastic point is in my experience most shops can't afford to go around ripping folks off unless they don't figure on being in business long!
Bottom line is if you don't want to pay mechanics you're gonna have to become one.
but if you want to have a chance of getting em to cut you a deal don't treat em like you think they are crooks and second guess everything that folks who admittedly know more than you say
I appreciate your points. And I will say that I haven't communicated to them any sense that I think they're cheating me, other than maybe a sharp intake of breath and a "really?" I'm only expressing my concerns here on skoolie.net.

I'm a programmer by trade and I'm used to the other side of people freaking out about exorbitant bill rates without understanding everything that the rate covers.
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Old 07-23-2019, 01:40 PM   #20
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I appreciate your points. And I will say that I haven't communicated to them any sense that I think they're cheating me, other than maybe a sharp intake of breath and a "really?" I'm only expressing my concerns here on skoolie.net.



I'm a programmer by trade and I'm used to the other side of people freaking out about exorbitant bill rates without understanding everything that the rate covers.
Yeah I expect there are alot of folks who don't appreciate the time that takes
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