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I’ll admit, the result you see in the photo above is my own doing; it’s what happens when you pass up the belt service a few times on an old Jeep Grand Cherokee then ignore the obvious “bearing noise” from under the hood for a week or two. 


When I removed the pulley, most of the ball bearings tinkled out the bottom of the car onto the ground.  I figure the bearing siezed, the pulley froze in position, and the friction of the belt melted away about one-third of it.  I spent this afternoon driving down to where I parked the Jeep, quickly replacing the pulley and belt, and driving it back home.  (Thanks Sean, for the ride and a spare hand.)

The repair was easy.  What really pissed me off was my call to the local Jeep dealer’s parts department.  They wanted $144 for the pulley alone or a full $235 for the tensioner arm as well.  I understand that sometimes parts like this are a bit high, but when I found it just a phone call later at the local O’Reilly’s for $27 I just about came unglued. 

What the hell are they thinking?  Do they really believe that a plastic pulley with a press-fit bearing is worth almost a buck-and-a-half, or did their marketing research tell them that Jeep owners just get off on paying five times the price for parts?

This is why you should always, always call a few different parts houses before you settle on a price for parts.  If I’d have accepted the Jeep stealerships’ parts department price, I’d have paid over $200 for a self-repair that cost me $50.  (And if I’d have allowed someone to tow the car to a dealership, I’d have easily spent $500+, assuming they didn’t bend me over as bad on labor as they intended to on parts.)

One call, $150 saved.  Bastards.


13 Responses to When Pulleys Go Bad/Goldbricking Dealerships

  1. Rick says:

    You should send the dealer a printout of this post.. And let them know next time you’ll name names.

    Not like it will make a difference.. but it may be worth a bit of satisfaction.

  2. Krow says:

    Just be glad you dont own a VW (newer ones anyway). Their reliability is questionable at best. And no matter what winds up needing to be fixed, its gonna be expensive.

  3. bodiby says:

    Similar thing happened with a part for my Honda Civic. I needed two of these parts. The online Honda dealership wanted $6.50 each. The local stealership wanted $14 each. Same OEM Honda part.

  4. yzf600 says:

    I think they rely on people’s urgency to get their ride back on the road to override any price comparison shopping. It really sucks.

    However, it is nice to drop in the dealer parts store and find pretty much any part I need for my 10 year old Eclipse.

  5. wheels17 says:

    I still remember a double brake job one Saturday about 10 years ago.

    14″ front rotor for a Ford E-150, with bearings and seal, weight about 25 lb, $32 each at parts store.

    8″ rear drum for dodge shadow, about 5 lb, $118 each at dealer after scamming them that I was a shop(list about $150), since it was not available after market.

  6. Jim Wiest says:

    I have a friend that works at a large parts distributor. Unfortunately I moved. Now I have to pay retail again!

  7. Brau says:

    I’ve had the same experience at almost all dealerships. It is so common that I rarely ever purchase parts from them. I once went to toyota for brake shoes – they wanted $30 for 2 shoes with about 1/8″ of pad. The local parts place had a pair for $8 with 3/8″ thick pads. I saved enough on the shoes to allow me to replace the drums too – which I did not buy at Toyota!

  8. eschoendorff says:

    That’s why they call them “Stealerships.”

  9. Adam says:

    Most of the time parts prices are more expensive at the dealer then they are aftermarket, *but* don’t count them out entirely. I’ve often found that the cost for small gaskets and other parts are less expensive at the dealer, plus I get a higher quality piece then aftermarket would have supplied. I work at a motorcycle shop, and often refer people to their dealer to order a small part, rather then ordering it as part of a larger kit. Often times (especially with older vehicles) people are surprised by how much they can still order from the dealer.

    The best thing you can do is find a dealer/shop you can trust, and let them help you make the decision as to what is better. A few times I’ve purchased an OEM part even when it was more expensive- the OEM part was much higher quality. Example: i changed the clutch out on my 96 civic at 130,000 miles with a street-performance oriented clutch set. at 183,000 miles the engage chattering is STILL driving me nuts! I’ve noticed no improvement with grab or drivability, just a larger hole in my wallet and the need to drop the transmission and change the clutch, AGAIN, less then 100,000 miles later. I’m buying one at a dealer this time.

  10. l_bilyk says:

    Sometimes the dealers are actually less expensive.. on some filters and such

  11. Dan says:

    My main problem is finding parts that the normal part stores don’t carry. Try finding a power stearing pully for an 84 RX-7. The pumps they sell don’t come with one, and the dealership wants 200 for a pully that doesn’t even have ball berrings in it! It is a solid peice of cast metal! Alot of times junk yards are a better deal then anything.

  12. Fong says:

    My biggest gripe was being charged $200 in labor to replace a mass air flow sensor. I figured this thing must’ve been completely buried somewhere. I opened up the hood and it’s sitting right next to my airbox, 2 screws, and on wiring harness easily accessible. The dealer gave me the runaround about need to run “diagnostics” (i.e. read the code on the OBD-II scanner) and multiple “test drives” (riiight). I was able to get a partial refund after filing with the Better Business Bureau.

    I really hate when dealerships treat everyone the same, ignorantly. I took it to them because I didn’t have the time or the tools, not for lack of knowledge…but ripping me off, no monger will stand for that one.

  13. Jason says:

    The best investment anyone reading this web site (you are a do-it-yourselfer, right?) can make in a new car is either the factory repair manuals, often available only from a dealership and usually over $100, or the Haynes manual, which can take a year or two to come out for a new model, but is under $25 and worth every penny 10x over. I tend to buy both since there are some things the Haynes doesn’t cover well.

    When you need a part use the ‘net to check prices from several dealerships (their prices vary more than you’d expect) and parts places of various levels. Usually the parts chains are cheapest but for things like brake pads and other consumables you get what you pay for. Either buy their best brand or go to NAPA.

    Avoid service at the dealership if at all possible. Your local mechanic will usually do a better job, cheaper. But even they’re often overpriced.
    My brother was quoted $250 from a neighborhood garage to replace an oxygen sensor on a 1990 Oldsmobile a few years ago but the part was $15 at a chain and it took me 10 minutes to replace.

    Caveat Emptor, as always.

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