AlexLev

Annual squawks & negotiation ettiquette

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Having my second annual, seems all pretty small stuff. The shop quoted me approx $1428 in labor (approx 17 hours) to fix the minor squawks, it seems a little high to me on top of their annual fee.

left brake caliper leaking, seal (0.5hr)
15 minutes - filter
engine mount inspection - 15 minutes
fuel tank bay inspection - 15 minutes
alt belt loose (15 minutes)
right cabin heat torn (1 hr)
engine air filter dirty (0.15 minutes)

throttle is not hitting stop on carburetor (1 hour)
left wing seal screw 0.5 hour
replacing fuel cap o rings - 1 hour
nose wheel shimmy, tighten bolts - 1.5 hour
glew cabin door seal (15 minutes)
flap hydraulic line (5 hours)
replace left main gear retract rod boot

... that all seemed somewhat reasonable to me, although the rot on flap hydraulic line was a surprise and rebuilding that. Also replacing o-rings on fuel caps takes a whole hour? that seemed a little high too. 

Then they want to charge 3.5 hours to remove and reinstall a turn coordinator, which seems a little high to me (I asked them to ship it out for rebuild), since another shop quoted me just 1 hour of labor to R&R it.

For those mechanically inclined - do these estimates seem high or reasonable to you? If high, what's the etiquette to try to figure that out / communicate with the shop so that all is fair?

I mentioned another shop quoted me less to R&R a t.c. so I just tried to politely ask if there was some unforeseen challenge that made it difficult that the other shop may not have anticipated. I asked that to the person handling the business/sales side of things and she said she would ask the mechanic. Seems like a reasonable question to me, but I hope they don't take it the wrong way.

I usually like to come and help out with the annual, but this year has been a little busy for me and I haven't been able to make it into the shop.

Edited by AlexLev

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11 minutes ago, AlexLev said:

replacing fuel cap o rings - 1 hour

I can't comment on the rest...however this one is about a 15 minute job.  Order your parts from @OSUAV8TER 

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29 minutes ago, AlexLev said:

engine mount inspection - 15 minutes
fuel tank bay inspection - 15 minutes

 

I won't comment on the rest, but this sounds chintzy.  Those aren't squawks, they are time for inspections.  That should have been included in the cost time in the pre-arranged annual inspection fee.  They might argue "oh, those are Mooney-specific," but they should have been called out on the estimate or mentioned ahead of time since they know that you're bringing in a, you know, Mooney.

Granted, that's only 30 minutes of labor, but it might speak to the mentality of the shop.

Also, watch out for that torn cabin heat duct.  I don't know how the G is arranged, but in my J the cowl flap cranks actually rub against the duct if they arranged as depicted in the service manual.  My IA ended up using a few zip ties to flatten the duct a little to keep it from interfering with the cranks.

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Removing and instilling the turn coordinator is the work of minutes.  Did one on my old Cherokee, it took about t5 minutes, most of which was undoing all the screws in the panel.

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4 minutes ago, steingar said:

Removing and instilling the turn coordinator is the work of minutes.  Did one on my old Cherokee, it took about t5 minutes, most of which was undoing all the screws in the panel.

I wonder if it would take longer if the turn coordinator is driving the Pathfinder autopilot. I don't think it would. I am sure they are tacking on an hour or so for shipping it/packaging it, but it still seems suspiciously high to me.

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Consider this - add up the total time and see if its reasonable that they worked on your plane that long.  They might just be bad at itemizing the bill.  An hour to change o rings is a little unreasonable but an hour spread out over those tasks finding the right bits and pieces to do the whole job might not be.

A good mechanic that is doing good work is worth a couple hours here and there that are hard to explain.  A total bill of $1500 to fix all the squawks doesn't seem so terrible.

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As @kpaul said, get your replacements from OSUAV8TER and do it yourself.  The first one took me about 45 minutes.  I took it apart, replaced the inside o-ring, put everything back together and didn't get the nut tight enough.  Take out the cotter pin, redo everything and now it's too tight.  Take out the cotter pin, think this is stupid, why don't I adjust the nut before I put the cotter pin.  The second one took about 10 minutes.  When I pay a pro to do it, I expect them to know how and not go through the stupid mistakes that a first timer would.  So, to me the hour is to high even though it took me that long to bumble my way through it!

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some of those jobs seem like they are a little high on the estimate but remember the shop is always going to estimate to the next round number. a 5 min job gets billed at 15 min, a 40 min job at 45 min to 1 hour. don't forget that you are not just timing the work, you have to add for the prep of getting the parts and tools, walking out to the plane and then putting everything away and doing the paperwork. as long as the total for all the work is reasonable don't nit pick. most shops will keep track of the total time spent on the plane not the individual job and bill accordingly. if they do an itemized break down for time, some of the quicker jobs pick up some of the time another job may have run over for unforeseen circumstances.

Brian

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Anytime I read these threads about "what is reasonable shop time", I think about the many simple jobs I've done (under supervision) which I estimated in minutes, but ended up in hours, or even days.

The simple stuff like ordering and obtaining parts, or matching hardware can take forever.

If I charged for my time, none of you could afford me.  Not because I'm so good, but because I'm so bad.

There's a lesson there.

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My avionics guy has a sign reading "Every 20 minute job is one busted bolt away from being a 3 hour repair".

Having worked on cars all my life, that is extremely optimistic...

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I don't really like second-guessing a shop's labor estimate, but I'll throw in a couple of observations from when I was actively working in a shop.

Engine air filter dirty- 15 minutes should have been part of the Annual work, and it really only takes about 5 minutes (1 minute to change, 4 minutes to clean the gunk off your hands)

    -BUT: I would have charged a lot more to tighten your alternator belt, like probably 30-60 minutes- so you came out ahead.

Replacing fuel tank o-rings should have been 15 minutes

     -BUT:  I would have charged a lot more for your brake caliper than .5 hour- and then I would have charged to bleed the brakes- which, if you've read some of the threads around here, can take half a day- so you came out ahead.

R&R for the turn coordinator might be 1 hour- UNLESS it's connected to your PC system- in which case 2-4 hours might be reasonable. 

5 hours to replace your flap line is about right, probably 3-5 hours depending on which line.  If it's the supply line, then you have to remove part of the interior, which is a bitch.  If it's the pressure line, then you have to bleed the system- which, if you've read any of the threads around here, is a bitch.

Bottom Line-  if you're happy with the shop and how you're treated, I don't think you got screwed.  If the work was shoddy or they're a bunch of dicks, maybe go someplace else.

BUT: if they're the shop that lets you come and help on the annual, and gives you a break on the price, PAY THE MONEY and resolve to do more helping next year, and thank your lucky stars you found a shop that lets you help.

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What is the base annual fee?  Just had a 10k annual at one of the large shops down south. Many items were a few hundred higher than estimated. Cost of doing business I guess. 

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You can do the fuel caps yourself, it’s not cosmic. However it’s not an owner approved maintenance item per the FAR so an A&P technically has to do it... I did it, my A&P inspected my work and signed it off. I have replacement fluorosilicone o-rings at www. Gallagheraviationcllc.com/products

If you need installation help, I have some guidance I can provide too. Just email me at gallagheraviationllc@gmail.com


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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1 minute ago, OSUAV8TER said:

You can do the fuel caps yourself, it’s not cosmic. However it’s not an owner approved maintenance item per the FAR so an A&P technically has to do it... I did it, my A&P inspected my work and signed it off. I have replacement fluorosilicone o-rings at www. Gallagheraviationcllc.com/products

If you need installation help, I have some guidance I can provide too. Just email me at gallagheraviationllc@gmail.com


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

The fuel caps are part of an AD, so they need to be inspected and signed off by an IA.  Anybody could change the fuel caps, including yourself.  Whether the IA signs off on it would be the big question.

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40 minutes ago, Andy95W said:

I don't really like second-guessing a shop's labor estimate, but I'll throw in a couple of observations from when I was actively working in a shop.

Engine air filter dirty- 15 minutes should have been part of the Annual work, and it really only takes about 5 minutes (1 minute to change, 4 minutes to clean the gunk off your hands)

    -BUT: I would have charged a lot more to tighten your alternator belt, like probably 30-60 minutes- so you came out ahead.

Replacing fuel tank o-rings should have been 15 minutes

     -BUT:  I would have charged a lot more for your brake caliper than .5 hour- and then I would have charged to bleed the brakes- which, if you've read some of the threads around here, can take half a day- so you came out ahead.

R&R for the turn coordinator might be 1 hour- UNLESS it's connected to your PC system- in which case 2-4 hours might be reasonable. 

5 hours to replace your flap line is about right, probably 3-5 hours depending on which line.  If it's the supply line, then you have to remove part of the interior, which is a bitch.  If it's the pressure line, then you have to bleed the system- which, if you've read any of the threads around here, is a bitch.

Bottom Line-  if you're happy with the shop and how you're treated, I don't think you got screwed.  If the work was shoddy or they're a bunch of dicks, maybe go someplace else.

BUT: if they're the shop that lets you come and help on the annual, and gives you a break on the price, PAY THE MONEY and resolve to do more helping next year, and thank your lucky stars you found a shop that lets you help.

Well thought out response, thank you. I am happy with them in general. Sometimes, I feel like some hours are tacked on, but their base price for the annual is $1200 which is on the lower side. They do let you help on the annual, but they only give you a price break if you tell them ahead of time that you want the annual to be hourly labor vs their fixed cost. Could also be higher if your "help" turns out to be more of a hinderance (which in my case sometimes it may be).

They are pretty laid back and happy to let you do things/assist if you wish, not the most communicative, but they seem like solid people who have been in the business for a while. They often times help me out and work with me when something breaks and I have a trip coming up and are kind enough to let me get in their hangar and help troubleshoot, etc. With their estimate, annual + labor would come out to be about $2600, not counting the $900 I'll be spending to overhaul the turn coordinator and some of the misc parts. About the same as last year, but I'm the sort of guy who fixes stuff as it comes up and don't typically defer much to annual.

Edited by AlexLev
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I really believe the numbers on the bill are trivial to the task of finding a shop that does quality work, in a timely manner, and that you trust. Once you find a great shop, you'll never even think about the numbers on the bill. 

 

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To be honest, though I took exception to one item on the bill I tend to value the effort of the shops.  My life depends on them.  Yeah, perhaps I could do some of this stuff for myself, but I'm paid way, way more than them so I don't begrudge them their fees.

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Overall it doesn't seem like it is out of line especially if you trust and like the shop.  Some items appear appear to be what would have been covered in the inspection phase of the Annual anyway.  I'd pay it, smile and march on if you didn't do much or anything for this annual.

With 8 onwer assisted annuals behind me I still spend about 24 to 30 hours just opening up the plane for the annual cleaning, lubing and reassembling everything and that doesn't include any other work needed.  Many small things that need to be fixed I identify and begin fixing for the IA by the time he arrives.  He does his inspection we discuss the additional items that need to be addressed and either I do them or we work together to get them done.

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At least they give you the quotes before they do the work. Many shops just do the work without discussing it first. An MSC did this to me, I haven’t gone back.

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15 hours ago, AlexLev said:

Well thought out response, thank you. I am happy with them in general. Sometimes, I feel like some hours are tacked on, but their base price for the annual is $1200 which is on the lower side. They do let you help on the annual, but they only give you a price break if you tell them ahead of time that you want the annual to be hourly labor vs their fixed cost. Could also be higher if your "help" turns out to be more of a hinderance (which in my case sometimes it may be).

They are pretty laid back and happy to let you do things/assist if you wish, not the most communicative, but they seem like solid people who have been in the business for a while. They often times help me out and work with me when something breaks and I have a trip coming up and are kind enough to let me get in their hangar and help troubleshoot, etc. With their estimate, annual + labor would come out to be about $2600, not counting the $900 I'll be spending to overhaul the turn coordinator and some of the misc parts. About the same as last year, but I'm the sort of guy who fixes stuff as it comes up and don't typically defer much to annual.

looking at those numbers they are giving you a great deal even if the times per job are a little off. a good annual inspection will run between 32 and 38 man hours on the average, that's about $2000.00 minimum. shops that use apprentices to do the open and close can give you a bit of a break on the flat rate but not that much. If you like their work and they are as helpful as they sound, support them and don't give them a hard time on the itemization. they are probably doing an estimate after the fact trying to cover most of the time they have in your aircraft but at the same time trying to make sure your not being overcharged. if I charged for every minute I put into an aircraft the bills would be 1/3rd higher.

Brian

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Alex -- having gone through 28 annuals with my plane I have seen a number of different approaches. Most shops have a flat charge for the annual inspection and then present what they declared to be airworthy and non-airworthy issues. For the "airworthy" items, you are kind of stuck. If the cost seems high, I would challenge it. Having owned the plane for 28 years, I have a pretty good sense of what it should cost. I am not talking about nickel and dime difference, but if the cost estimate is way off, I will say something.

For the non-airworthy items, if they are reasonable and something I consider progressive maintenance, I will have them done.  

If you want to see a real nickel and dime approach, check this bill from my recent annual. You think the thing I circled in red is a Freudian slip?

378967402_AnnualBill.thumb.jpg.c1292ce63002e45ec465dcb3a4f5319c.jpg

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I do miss my long time mechanic. We were in synch. He never needed to ask what I wanted to do, he just did it. If you have this level of trust, a little extra cost is not a bad thing. 

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15 hours ago, AlexLev said:

Well thought out response, thank you. I am happy with them in general. Sometimes, I feel like some hours are tacked on, but their base price for the annual is $1200 which is on the lower side. They do let you help on the annual, but they only give you a price break if you tell them ahead of time that you want the annual to be hourly labor vs their fixed cost. Could also be higher if your "help" turns out to be more of a hinderance (which in my case sometimes it may be).

They are pretty laid back and happy to let you do things/assist if you wish, not the most communicative, but they seem like solid people who have been in the business for a while. They often times help me out and work with me when something breaks and I have a trip coming up and are kind enough to let me get in their hangar and help troubleshoot, etc. With their estimate, annual + labor would come out to be about $2600, not counting the $900 I'll be spending to overhaul the turn coordinator and some of the misc parts. About the same as last year, but I'm the sort of guy who fixes stuff as it comes up and don't typically defer much to annual.

Can confirm that I am a hinderance during annuals and probably (most certainly) cause it to take longer with all my questions and need of instruction.  However, I really like to learn about my aircraft, what things to look out for, how to properly maintain it, and you always seem to pick up great tips and tricks from those guys who are pros at maintaining them - as well as better understanding what to look out for.  Cant even begin to explain how much I learned during my last annual - and I have been a CFI for years.  Working at a large university though, I spent all day flying and never really got to get involved in the maintenance side of things.  The goal was to keep the helos and airplanes flying with students as much as possible.

I hope one day after enough annuals I can reverse this and become more helpful instead of dead weight.  As much as I trust those that I let work on my airplane, its nice to know when its IMC at night and I have passengers with me that I at least had eyeballs and hands on it during maintenance. 

Not to brag, but im getting pretty quick at removing inspection panels (no big deal..) 

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There is something else I'd like to mention in this context.  Call it a cautionary tale.  When I had my Cherokee I had annuals done by the on field shop.  I trusted them then and still do (though the foreman moved to my current home drone, one of the reasons I'm there) but my Cherokee always had an AMU or two worth of squawks.  Then I started doing owner asset annuals with fellows who came to the hangar.  They only did this with me, I had one of the cleanest Cherokees in existence.

It took a day of my life, but it was a day spent at the airport with airport people, so time well spent.  We always came in the night before to unbutton the aircraft.  The salient thing her his we found exactly one squawk over several years.  I like it better when they have to show me the bad part.

I'd go back to that if I could, though I don't relish unbuttoning the Mooney.  That's a lot of screws.

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8 minutes ago, steingar said:

I'd go back to that if I could, though I don't relish unbuttoning the Mooney.  That's a lot of screws.

Yes, I offered to undo the inspection panels if I could hang around and watch over everyone's shoulders at my last annual.  Let's just say next time I'll remember my handheld drill (only to remove the screws, of course)...

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