“This is why I do it”

Cars Energy & Sustainability
“This is why I do it”

Jake von Slatt, of Steampunk Workshop, says:

Got an email this morning that made my frikk’n day:


If you’re the gentleman that posted an article regarding removal and repair of a charcoal canister and stuff – thank you. The article inspired me to keep trying to do my own repair here in Southern CA. I was getting a little taxed by the task. By the way, I decided that my owner’s manual is written poorly. I can understand your writing just fine, but the car manual really tries me. I’m an engineer, and I ask my wife to explain things for me when I can’t figure them out – she laughs and hints that I may be language challenged. But I told her that I understand Jake’s writing just fine… Saving $700 suits me just fine, as well.

Thanks again,


He’s referring to this article.

I did this repair because I was outraged at what the dealer was going to charge me to replace what is essentially a paint can full of charcoal, and when I couldn’t find a generic solenoid valve, I decided to try and repair the failed valve myself.

The real triumph is that a search for “toyota sienna evaporative canister” returns my article in the #1 slot. So whenever a dealer quotes $700 for this repair, chances are good that a handy individual will find the information they need to repair it themselves for zero dollars.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how we win. Thanks for making my day Jim!

12 thoughts on ““This is why I do it”

  1. Raven says:

    Your link to the older article here 404’s. Googling reveals that it got truncated and is missing the ‘-svs-valve-repair’ part.

  2. Gareth Branwyn says:

    Fixed. Thanks for pointing this out, Raven!

  3. Spokehedz says:

    Most ‘repairs’ are not from the cost of the parts, but by the guy who has to unbolt and physically remove the parts.

    This guy has it rough: Everybody hates him, because he charges $200 an hour to turn wrenches. To top it all off, all the parts he gets are essentially the exact same part–but people mark up anywhere from 15 to 50% of the cost. So he’s got to play Telephone with his dealers typically calling 5-6 of them to get a range of prices and goes with who’s cheapest.

    Then he has to physically remove all the stuff, and usually it’s not easy as popping off a cover an a few hoses. Most modern cars are essentially tetris-like in their configuration of parts. To remove the doflapper, you have to unbolt the whatsamahoozit, to get at the unbobulator which is below the doflapper that your trying to remove.

    By doing most of this yourself, you can save substantial cost–but something like replacing the transmission is out of the range of most garages.

    What happened here is a good bit of luck: Most things that break on cars are not easily accessible. Which is why most things cost the amount they do.

    You got lucky, and you saved $700 bucks because you did your research before you went to the shop. THAT is the real lesson here. DO YOUR RESEARCH.

  4. sweavo says:

    Spokehedz has a good point about labour cost. But also dealers come in a lot more expensive than the independents, at least here in the UK. My ABS light was on and my VW dealer charged £47 ($66)to read the diagnostics, and wanted £297 ($420) to replace the wheel sensor. The VW specialist on the industrial estate charged £22.50 ($32) for the diagnostic and £135 ($190) for the sensor including fitting.

    Now I’ve done with my rant, I just wanted to say I loved the story and photos. It’s good to see someone carry their bullheaded stubborness through and come out the other end with a wallet still full of cash, a working car, and a smug grin! That’s how I’ll be looking when I finish my bathroom remodel, which so far I’ve refused to get any help with!

  5. Justin N says:

    Car forums for specific makes, and even specific models are a wealth of information like this.

    On of the first thing any maker should do after buying a car is register with that make/model’s forum and read the faq’s. As a car nerd the forums I frequent have saved me a bunch of money. Members can tell you how to do certain things, advise you on what you can do yourself vs what you should have a shop do, and even provide you with reference materials.

    Labor is the major cost of taking a car to a shop. Most around where I live charge ~$95/hr. When I do a repair to the car I look at it this way: I get something out of doing the repair vs handing over money. I get knowledge. On the flip side it is good to take your car to a good mechanic from time to time. They spend all day looking at the same make/model/etc and can tell if something is off.

  6. steve says:

    It is very easy to sit back and say that car dealers charge too much for parts and labor, but the fact is, most dealers price their parts based upon what the manufacturer recommends as the list price. So if you think the parts are too high maybe you should think about buying from a different manufacturer.

    Labor rates at dealers are usually higher because they have to purchase all of the expensive equipment, tools, and other technology in order to repair your vehicle, and they have to pay to have their technicians trained to be able to fix it when no one else can. The technician only gets paid a fraction of the full labor rate, so its not like the guy changing the part is actually making $200 per hour, plus in most dealers he is responsible for providing all of his own tools, usually amounting to tens of thousands of dollars. Imagine having to buy the computer, desk, chair, and office supplies at your job, then buy new ones when they tear up.

    It amazes me how people assume that dealers can stay in business without customers willing to have their vehicles repaired there. Just repairing vehicles under warranty is not profitable enough to stay in business. I’m not saying I’m all for blowing $700 to fix my vehicle if I can fix it cheaper, because there are some dishonest dealers out there, but I just grow tired of people ranting about a subject they no little about while good honest dealers suffer for it.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at garstipsandtools.com.

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