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Discussion Starter #1
I just had the engine of the 125 Centomila rebuilt, got the bill and since that moment I can't figure out whether the mechanic is trying to screw me or not.

This is what he did:
- take the engine out of the frame
- dismantle it and check the bits
- rebore etc
- coating and baking
- fit a new piston, crank, bearings, seals etc
- put the engine back together and put it back in the frame
- adjusting and testing

Now my question: how many hours of work is that? (normal to worst case scenario)

PS To put it in perspective:
My bike's a 125cc single cylinder 4 stroke and definitely not a restoration project.
I rode the bike to the shop, the engine was not seized.
The mechanic has a copy of the workshop manual + parts catalogue. I delivered all the new parts to him, except the bearings.

I'd really appreciate your answers.

Johan
 

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I am not a skilled engine builder by trade, but I can pull apart & rebuild a Suzuki rgv250 motor in a day if I have all the bits ready to fit.[V twin 2 stroke]

The last little 4 stroke motor I did was a Honda TL125 which I stripped to fit a new piston & cam chain etc. Again it took a long day due to tea breaks etc.

I would think a decent honest mechanic would match these times or better them.

If he has taken days on end then I think he is trying it on. Even working on an unfamiliar motor should not slow him down much as the motor was complete with manuals to work from.

I hope you were not ripped off!
 

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hi Johan

It can be hard to estimate the time taken to do work on a classic bike, especially if the mechanic hasn't worked on the model before even if the bike is a simple bike such as yours. Things like undoing a bolt which should be 5 minutes (including getting the tools) may take half an hour or more simply because the edges of the nut are worn or the nut is stuck. he may also be unaware of a 'simple trick' to get something apart.

I have a friend who was taking the front axle out of a modern 900 SS Ducati and spent over an hour fiddling with the nut before phoning me. It is a 5 minute job if you know to loosen the axle nut before undoing the pinch bolts on the fork.

Similarly, a good mechanic (classic bevel Ducatis expert) I know spent about 6 hours with help trying to fit a Magni 1/2 fairing to an America and he had the brackets supplied by Magni. Again a simple task except the clip ons were not standard along with the headlight mounting, both of which were discovered after the trouble with fitting the fairing. A simple job taking 3 times the man hours that could be reasonably be expected.

I'd suggest that if you are unhappy with the time then discuss it with the mechanic but be careful as they often get pissed when the cost is queried. perhaps a breakdown of parts, materials and labour on the invoice might help. If you are happy with the work then bite the bullet and pay the mechanic. If you are not happy then get him to fix the problems and find another.

i do know that what my estimate is (time/cost) and what the mechanic charges can vary by two or more times. I now apply a factor of 2 to my estimate or get a ball park indication of the cost before committing. For a $1500 estimate I assume + $400, for a $3,000 I assume +$1,000.

While not always possible costs can be saved by preparing the bike yourself. With a ST2 Ducati two hours can be spent by the mechanic removing and replacing the fairing just to get to the engine to do the work. I'd be happy to spend 4 hours of my time to save the cost of 2 hours of the mechanics time.

Anyhow, just my thoughts and experience.

... and how is the bike now?

cheers

Russ
just returned for a short blast on the GTLs ... the tiddlers are awesome fun
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
The bike is running fine. Except for some strange "tweet" noise every time I shift it into 4th gear. Still have to find out what that is. It didn't do that before.

I know what you mean with small problems that may occur when working on a classic or special machine.
But this is still a small 1 cylinder 4 stroke aircooled engine from 1961 ergo simple compared to the modern stuff. And it was running fine, he had the manuals and the new parts.

The bike's been there since January.
Never heard him say anything about difficulties with dismantling it. He got all the new parts in April.
I often phoned. Always got the reply: haven't had time to work on it yet.

2 weeks ago they said the bike was ready. (it's August already)
Few days later I turned up at the shop and asked if I could take it home. Mechanic: "it's running great but smoking on start-up. I think I forgot to put some small part back in and I want to take the top off the engine to check. I don't want you to take the bike home like that."
Me: wtf? ok I'll collect it later.
I took the bike for a spin. Everything seemed ok to me, except that slight 4th gear change noise.
Back at the shop: Could you give me the bill?
Owner: "No, later, when you collect it" (2 potential customers were overhearing the conversation) PS please phone first before showing up"

Thursday I phoned. Bike was ready to collect on Saturday.
I asked: what about that so-called smoke problem?
Shop owner: it's fixed, mechanic opened the engine, realized he hadn't forgotten the part, closed it again.
Me: wtf? I asked for the bill. Fortunately I was sitting down.
I asked to e-mail the invoice.
Owner said: I cannot, I got to scan it then and I'm not good with computers. Me: type it on the PC then.
He: oh, euh, may I fax it?
Me: sure.
I got NOT the invoice but a worksheet with the amount charged for work hours and oil, sparkplug etc.
I thought the number of hours was too much, did my homework, asked several bike shops etc for a quote for such a job (I didn't tell them how much he charged and yes, Russ, I asked for a normal to bad scenario). No one gave an estimate anywhere near the one I got on that worksheet.

Anyway, last Saturday I took it for a run and didn't return. (I only managed that cos there were other customers in the shop) He can send me his proper invoice with VAT number and details by post and then we'll see what'll happen.

Russ, I appreciate your reply, but I can feel when someone is trying to screw me. Taking months for a job like that, giving crappy answers, grossly overcharging, not willing to make or give a real invoice, etc. Such things really piss me off.
 

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hi Johan

Sounds like you need to find a new mechanic and I think I would be asking questions just like you.

There seem to be way to many tradesmen in general, mechanics in particular, who say one thing just to keep the customer satisfied, knowing that they will not be able to do it. As for their workmanship ... for many it seems to be dollars and not quality of work or pride in workmanship that counts.
 

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Johan I would get impatient either. But consider this. During a complete service of an modern common bike takes a few hours or might a full working day a service on an old engine can take a lot longer. Mostly because of emmevi"s reasons and the lack of experience on the brand. MV Engines are in deed simple but have their hidden complications. I can not blaim a mechanic when he leaves Your stuff laying when he has customers where he gets an easy job and gets some money in by servicing an actual to him known motorcycle. Most workshops having only one work stand, might two. You put an vintage bike on it and start working suddenly You face difficulties. The work stand is blocked for other jobs waiting or You put everything aside in an corner. Until he is confident and has the time that he can work on the vintage bike it will remain in this corner. So simple is that. He has to work for his living to fiddle on an vintage bike is hobby and good will.
 

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I am not defending the shop, in any way, as they sound like they handled things poorly and I am sorry to hear that you had such an experience - I hope the bike runs well. If the bill is insane, I would politely explain that you are surprised and they didn't communicate at all with you regarding what is a very high price for an old bike and try to negotiate a lower price - I hope it works out.

My experiences...
A small MV does not mean simple and working on a vintage bike is never fast. I am FAST working on a Ducati 848. Myself and my 2 friends (all 3 of us have been wrenching since the early 90s) spent over an hour trying to simply re-time my 175 MV, something I had done a month earlier in half the time. Why...old bikes, no OEM tools, no manuals (in my case), OHC chain slipped down twice , dont wanna break more bolts, it was late, etc etc. We put a kicker spring on our 56 Guzzi 175 Lodolo, similar stuff, but you have to move slower. Now a 57 125 Maserati is waiting to be worked on and my friend (who owns the shop) told the owner that it will be a winter project as it will be another project full of un-billable extra hours, hard to find parts and interesting solutions - a lot of fun actually and we are excited to do it, but often bad for a Ducati dealership that really needs to turn 1198 services around fast to keep the door open in these tough economic times.

Honestly, if my friend who owns the Ducati/Guzzi dealership didn't have 20+ vintage bikes and we didn't love working on such bikes he wouldn't even take them in as they are always a lot of extra time and a total labor of love, but never really that profitable - we are just stoked that we get to touch such amazing machines.

Jason.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Johan I would get impatient either. But consider this. During a complete service of an modern common bike takes a few hours or might a full working day a service on an old engine can take a lot longer. Mostly because of emmevi"s reasons and the lack of experience on the brand. MV Engines are in deed simple but have their hidden complications. I can not blaim a mechanic when he leaves Your stuff laying when he has customers where he gets an easy job and gets some money in by servicing an actual to him known motorcycle. Most workshops having only one work stand, might two. You put an vintage bike on it and start working suddenly You face difficulties. The work stand is blocked for other jobs waiting or You put everything aside in an corner. Until he is confident and has the time that he can work on the vintage bike it will remain in this corner. So simple is that. He has to work for his living to fiddle on an vintage bike is hobby and good will.
The shop is specialized in old bikes and has years of experience. Especially BMW, Moto Guzzi, HD etc. But they work on anything and there is a bit of everything standing there.
That's why I took it there in the 1st place. Cos they know what they're working on.

And these guys got plenty of different tools to work with. Can't imagine that after working on classics for years you can't dismantle or put together an engine properly. Some delays ok, long delays no.

With all respect, if you do that, you're just lousy at doing your job. Or a con. And that goes for all professions.

Besides, they had copies of all the manuals and I gave them all the new MV parts (in 1 go, not some now and some weeks later)and they were all correct. They only got the bearings themselves but you can get those anywhere.

But I digress, my question was: how many hours of work is that?

PS Don't get me wrong. I've got experience with work being done on classics (albeit only cars). But the quote I got seemed way too much for a small 1 cylinder aircooled pushrod, given all the fact listed above.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Update on the Centomila's engine rebuild hassle:

Late August 2010 I received a bill for 39 hours of work + parts which I refused to pay completely cos that was way too much for a rebuild like that.

Bike shop owner wouldn't hear of my arguments and dragged me to court. He wanted to get paid for all the 39 hours + intrests etc

There was an expertise today.
The expert said an engine rebuild for an MV 125 Centomila should take 16 to 20 hours in normal circumstances. 24 hours tops with difficulties (worst case scenario).

There you go. Now what do you call a guy who charges 39 hours for something that takes in the worst case 24 hours?

Big thank you to Dorian and Jon for their help and advice!

To be continued. In a month or so.
 

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Update on the Centomila's engine rebuild hassle:

Late August 2010 I received a bill for 39 hours of work + parts which I refused to pay completely cos that was way too much for a rebuild like that.

Bike shop owner wouldn't hear of my arguments and dragged me to court. He wanted to get paid for all the 39 hours + intrests etc

There was an expertise today.
The expert said an engine rebuild for an MV 125 Centomila should take 16 to 20 hours in normal circumstances. 24 hours tops with difficulties (worst case scenario).

There you go. Now what do you call a guy who charges 39 hours for something that takes in the worst case 24 hours?

Big thank you to Dorian and Jon for their help and advice!

To be continued. In a month or so.
I have lots of names in mind oepie, but kids might read this forum so I'll keep them to myself ;)

Good luck - I will keep watching :popcorn:
 
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