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Being your own mechanic

Discussion in 'Trucks and Trailers' started by slamjamrockinman, Jan 27, 2010.

  1. slamjamrockinman

    slamjamrockinman LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 715

    Well now that I own my first truck (i'm 17) I have sure learned a lot. I am wondering, how many of you guys do your own work on your trucks? What do you guys think of this?? A bunch of my buddies are in a votech program at a local college and they are learning all sorts of skills to do basic work on vehicles. Some of them are getting pretty good and I have let them start helping me fix things on my truck, just small things. I am starting to realize, the money you can save is ridiculous! Quick example, My truck is a plow truck and does have a bit of front end issues. Idler/pitman combo need replacing. I got a bid from my mechanic (really good mechanic and cheap too) for about $400. I know this is a pretty good rate, and I don't mind paying him. But I looked at the all data and the estimated labor time is like 2 hrs for both, which is very generous from what I have heard. The parts at Napa would be around $115 if I remember right. Pretty good savings it seems. Now I know the guys with larger operations do a lot of their own work and many even have a small shop with a in house mechanic. Is it worth it if you only have one truck? I am thinking about investing in some good tools, maybe even a cheap lift if I get a shop. I would like to get it set-up where I can fix most problems that occur. In the long run, it seems like a good idea. Also with dealers for mowers, they seem to love to charge a lot. I am trying to switch over to online parts and doing the work myself to save even more money.
    I am tired of getting charged by dealers and mechanics. I know their is the kind of people that go straight to dealers or a reputable shop and have no problem paying a $100 an hour labor rate plus the markup on parts that mechanics charge. I am really trying to get in the habit of fixing things myself, mowers included, but those are way easier than trucks imo. These are just smaller things I speak of NOTHING major. Brakes, suspension, steering, wheels, tires, interior, electrical, oil changes, fluid flushes, etc.. What do you do in terms of repairs and what is your opinion? Imput is greatly appreciated!
    -Thanks, sorry it's a long thread.
  2. ranger350

    ranger350 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 108

    I do all my own repairs unless its going to be a real pain then I goto a mechanic (as far a vehicles are concerned). Probably the biggest project I fixed was a leaking relief valve on the hydrostatic pump in my John Deere 4600. Of course that is located behind the engine which of course require the tractor to be split, fun stuff! (split it three times before I found the actual leak now i'm a pro.)
  3. hosejockey2002

    hosejockey2002 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,195

    In this business it's good to know as much as possible about the tools you use and drive. That way if you take your truck into the shop to get it worked on you are far less likely to get screwed. You can save money by doing things yourself, but if time spent working on trucks starts getting in the way of accomplishing your business work (whether it's mowing or construction or what have you), you have to ask yourself whether you could be making more money working your business than working on your truck.
  4. sawinredneck

    sawinredneck LawnSite Member
    from Kansas
    Messages: 157

    I've got another four years of waranty on my truck:)

    I've got a mini skid, a worn out Dixon, a JD JX 75, Emglo gas powered air compressor and a Hobart 10kw welder/genset that I do ALL the repairs on, plus whatever else shows up, or I have to drag in, or I have to go find an fix for others.
    It's good to take care of what you can, you know what you have and what you put into it. I'm all for getting tools, but there is a point where you have to know when to quit. Some of the needed tools are VERY costly, a lift being one of them.
    It's also good to know your limits. It looks easy, but it's also easy to get in over your head. I charge double for basket case jobs because of the time involved figuring out what went where and how, plus having to find the little problems that you probably overlooked in your haste to find a big problem. (I've done it as well)
    I don't mean to sound discouraging, I am not, just go at it realistically and understand you will need help on a lot of things at first.
  5. Lawn Man Dave

    Lawn Man Dave LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 420

    Experience is the best teacher......... this is coming from someone who used to turn wrenches on aircraft...... you will make mistakes that will cost you time and money but will learn from them and get to the point that you will be able to rebuild engines......

    I have caused repairs in the 5 didget range a few times.......... but I learned a lot from those mistakes haha (miss drilling a hole on an airplane can get expensive...)

    Pat attention to detail........ forgetting to install a cotter pin or tighten down a bolt can cost you a lot of money or a trashed truck.

    Good luck man.
  6. WJC

    WJC LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 364

    I think when youre a small operation, you have to fix as much as you can. You sound like youre no idiot, so youll save yourself a lot of money and learn at the same time. I do all of my own maintenance on everything.If i didnt,I wouldnt be in business anymore because im a small operation. Hell I even built my own bagging system for my Rider.
  7. mike lane lawn care

    mike lane lawn care LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,707

    I usually do my own stuff, but my truck needed a new steering stabilizer and the shop wanted just under $200 for it, which was high, and I could do it, but with it being crappy and cold out, I said screw it and had the shop do it. on my last truck which wasn't near as nice as this one, I did tons of work to, replaced axles, transfer case, diffs, 5 or 6 hub assemblies.
  8. slamjamrockinman

    slamjamrockinman LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 715

    Thanks for the input. Most of my buddies have been helping me, they seem to know a decent amount from the class they are in. I do know my limits, and I know that sometimes it is better just to call the mechanic.
    I totally agree hose jockey, you have to be careful with those mechanics, I always try to bring a buddy along so I don't get taken advantage of. My mechanic lets me go under my truck when it's on the lift to see what the problems are, I really like doing that.
    Ranger 350,
    glad you got your tractor fixed, I bet you learned a ton while doing that PITA of a repair.
  9. slamjamrockinman

    slamjamrockinman LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 715

    Also forgot to mention, could you guys shed some light on the dealer issue as far as mowers go. People keep saying "find a good dealer". I don't get it, maybe if your machine has a warranty, heck ya. But I hate dealers, it's easy to rack up a big tab, and very few are very knowledgeable it seems like, at least the morons that work at the front desk. I found one that is really knowledgeable, but they still charge a lot. Anyone on here that avoids dealers as much as possible. I'm talking online parts and doing most repairs yourself? I think ProCut covered it in one of his threads, he said he started to avoid them after a while.
  10. sawinredneck

    sawinredneck LawnSite Member
    from Kansas
    Messages: 157

    You cannot avoid the dealer, not if you want to stay in a decent turn around, or have more equipment than you need and can afford to have half of it sitting waiting on parts.
    I encourage people to get parts from other sources, but it's a fact, you HAVE to go to a dealer for most of the parts. A good dealer can get you parts the next day, a good dealer has a knowledgeable parts guy that can talk you through, or has enough sense to get a mechanic that can talk you through most repairs. A good dealer realizes you don't make money, he doesn't make money and will squeeze in a commercial machine in the shop leaving the twelve homeowner units ahead of it outside to get you mowing.
    Does that help a little?

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