Originally posted by Christopher Ihara
Well a lot of this depends on the shop and the area where you live. First off, remember that shops are in business to make money. That is afterall, the captialist way.
Also remember that you get what you pay for. A lot of places do a gear change and simply smear some RTV on the differential cover and smack things together. Some don't even bother to replace the bearings and races.
The shop I've been helping out at for the past few weeks does lots of gear changes. They replace gear lube, friction modifier, use only Motorsport gears, replace front and rear races, front pinion seal, and install a rear differential cover gasket. They also install the correct speedometer gear. They charge around $650 for the whole deal.
On cars that require an Abbot box they charge a little more. $120 for the box, and then another $75.00 to put it in. So a rear gear change then runs around $845.
On cars with an IRS you have to drop the exhaust, which doesn't take terribly long, but the removal of the differential pumpkin does add about another 3/4 hour to the job when you consider indexing the driveshaft and the half-shafts. So an IRS car is around $957.50 give or take.
What I don't understand is why people are so loathe to pay a shop to do quality work? Cheaper is not always better. A lesson in simple economics....
A gear change takes about the same amount of time for any shop. So the difference in the amount of cost would be deterined largely on the amount of money paid to the mechanics.
A bad shop gets few repeat customers. Therefore they get less business. In an attempt to get more business from other shops that do better work they have to charge less. Since they do less business they cannot afford to pay their employees as well.
Better skilled employees will move to a shop that can afford to pay them more for their skills.
A good shop has lots of business. They have lots of people lining up outside for their services. With an increase in demand comes an increase prices. Simple supply and demand. A shop only has limited resources. As demand goes up, their ability to supply those demands decreases. The shop earns its reputation on the good skills of the employees. The better employees get more work and consequently better pay. So the shops costs increase.
So the moreal of the story is that if you want good work you should be more than willing to pay a decent price for it. I'm not saying you should set yourself up to be ripped off, but a decent shop isn't going to be cheap.
If you do find a good shop that is relatively affordable you should reward them with referrals.
While I agree that you get what you pay for, and in the case of the shop that you are helping out definitely goes above and beyond what most "Gear Changes" entail, but $650.00 to do gears is insane. $199.00 for the gear at the most expensive place, a complete installation kit from Ratech which incles bolts, all bearings except for the axle bearings, gasket, pinion seal, pinion and carrier shims, nut, crush collar, and cover gasket is $89.00 for a total of $288.00. That means your shop is charging $362.00 for labor alone. The job should take roughly 3 hours, maybe 4 if they run into problems for a person who is experienced in doing gears with the proper tools, with smoke breaks. So with 4 hours of labor at 362, we are talking 90/hr, way too much money. It's not like replacing the races are that hard, it takes a full 10 minutes to do the big pinion bearing race, similar amount of time to do the smaller one. Really, it's just a matter of pulling them out and tapping in the new ones which unless they are gouged, or scratched really don't need to be done in the first place IMHO. At that price, you might as well pony up the extra 200 or so and buy a complete rearend from FRPP with your choice of gear installed. The gasket's arent exactly rocket science to do and are more of a PITA to use and you have to scrape them damn things off everytime you pull the cover, RTV works great and shouldn't be looked down on just because its RTV. Alot of times the scraping of the old gasket gouges the hosing enough to create it's own leaks which the gasket will not seal so you end up using RTV anyway. The gaskets come with the rebuild kits anyway so its not like it's an added cost, but it does take time for the permatex gasket maker to dry off so you cant just slap the cover on and go so that adds time to the "LABOR" portion of the job i guess. Speedo gear's are about what? 20 bucks? Install is 90 seconds worth of wrenching since the car is already up in the air, its one bolt and 1 clip.
In the end, it comes down to what the customer will pay, just like all other capitalist adventures, its only worth what someone is willing to pay and I refuse to pay 650.00 for something that should cost about $550.00 MAX with all the above parts installed which is probably overkill on just a gear swap, maybe you they should call it a rearend rebuild since thats basically what you are getting minus new axle bearing and seals.
For $650.00, you might as well buy the tools yourself, read the tech articles on the Corral and SSOTN and do it in your garage and make some money on the side doing gear swaps. Gears are not by any means hard to do, its just tool intensive and most of the tools will be used again and again doing mods to a car.
I'll tell ya what, you will make more money charging people 450 for a complete gear swap instead of 650 in pure volume alone.