Was I ripped off for my exhaust system repair?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 1999

Dear Tom and Ray:

I took my 1992 Toyota Tercel back to the dealer when I heard a loud noise. The
noise occurred when I pressed on the gas pedal, and I presumed it was the
muffler. The car is fixed, but the bill was for $360. It included $90 for labor
and $250 for parts. Was I ripped off? -- SJ

RAY: No, you weren't, SJ. But if you'd like to come in on Monday, we can have
another go at you!

TOM: It looks to me like they treated you very fairly. Most people assume that
when there's a loud noise under the car, it has to be the muffler. But, in fact,
a hole anywhere in the front half of the exhaust system can make a loud noise
like that. And it turns out -- according to the bill you sent us with your letter
-- that you needed a front exhaust pipe, not a muffler.

RAY: The front pipe is expensive. It's the piece that comes right out of the
engine and runs all the way to the catalytic converter. It also has a woven,
flexible joint in it, because it has to be able to "give" when the engine twists
around. They charged you $230 for the front pipe, and, from my experience, that's
the right price.

TOM: Then they charged you another 20 bucks for other stuff like gaskets, nuts
and bolts. They added an hour and a half of labor at $60/hour ... that's $340.

RAY: Then you add tax, destination charge, gratuity, and a few bucks for the
coffee in the waiting room and voila! They're right on the money.

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