A Bogie of a Battery
I'm an avid golfer. You can ask my wife; she'll tell you. There's hardly a weekend that goes by that I'm not out on a course somewhere. I've got a regular group I play with each weekend. None of us are all that exceptional, but we enjoy the game and the company. We all know what it takes to play the game, and understand even more that practice does not make perfect, but perfect practice makes for perfect play.
I try to keep this in mind when I'm at the shop. The best practice for me is doing the job correctly, and not cutting corners for the sake of cost or time. When a problem is compounded with cheap parts, it doesn't make the repair any easier. Especially if the customer doesn't recognize the difference between a good quality part and those cheap knock offs out there.
A referral job came into the shop the other day. He said he had a battery drain problem, but had tried everything to solve it. The problem had been going on for years. Each and every time he would take it into a repair shop the answer was always, "It's the battery." He wasn't buying that anymore, there had to be more to it.
That afternoon the Jeep Cherokee was dropped off for me to try my hand at solving the problem. I didn't get off the first "T" box, before I found a problem The battery tester showed a faulty cell in the battery, and to top things off the battery was the wrong size for the car. Not only that, it was one of those cheap second rate batteries sold at some of the discount stores. I guess for some people that's OK with them, but for me it's a for sure "Bogie".
Off to Hole no#2
Of course, there are some people who believe there is no difference between the higher priced batteries and the cheap "off brands". I beg to differ… they're cheap for a reason. For some, the realization of this only happens after they have had a couple of triples, or the dreaded "snow man" (that's an "8" for the non-golfers out there), before they realize that there is a difference in quality and price.
After replacing the battery (with a good one) I did find a small draw on the system. It happened to be coming from the instrument cluster. On this year and model the horn fuse also sends a constant voltage to the tachometer in the cluster, even while the key is off.
The draw was extremely small. I might have overlooked this small draw, but since this was an on-going problem I thought I would check into it a little further. There wasn't anything else wrong with the vehicle. It was a clean well kept ride, no extras added on, and even the engine bay was well detailed.
As it was a back-up vehicle, and not his daily driver, any sort of abnormal draw would definitely turn into a dead battery. I called him, and gave him the bad news. His main problem wasn't so much the draw that I found, but the battery situation. Since this is what everyone else was telling him, he wasn't convinced that it was part of his problem. I started to sound like all the other shops that had looked at his car, so there was some doubt.
Making the turn
He showed up later that day to grab his battery for replacement. I carried the battery out to his car for him. He still wasn't convinced that the battery was part of the problem, but because the printout from the battery scanner showed the bad cell he was willing to replace it, again.
"How many times have you replaced it?" I asked.
"This will make the 4th time I've taken the battery back within the last 6 months. The first one leaked, the next one had a loose post, and the last one went dead after the first day, and never would take a charge," he tells me, while lifting the tail gate to his daily driver.
Hole no# 15
There in the back of his car was a set of golf clubs. As he slid his golf clubs off to one side to make room for the battery, I couldn't help but notice they looked like new clubs.
"New clubs, Calloways right?" I said.
"Yea, just got them. I traded in my old set for these. What a difference it makes to play with good quality clubs," he proudly tells me.
Even though I'm a weekend hacker, I thought I might use this opportunity to give a quick golf lesson.
"What did you play with before?"
"Oh, just some knock off clubs, they were alright, but you sure can tell the difference when you play with the good quality stuff," patting his clubs carefully while placing a towel over them.
"Did ya ever think that automotive batteries are manufactured just like those golf clubs?"
"I'm not following you," he says.
"There are cheaper golf clubs that can do the job, but better equipment can improve your game. The same thing with car parts; if you buy cheap parts, you're more than likely adding to the problem if the cheaper part fails prematurely. Golf clubs, car batteries, it doesn't matter. There's always better, best, and of course a whole lot of worse out there," I told him.
"So you're suggesting buy better parts?"
"Just like the golf clubs," I said.
"Hey, that makes sense. I wonder why I never thought about that? More people need to know about cheap parts, and what you gain by paying just a bit more… I get it… thanks."
To the 17th
"Cars are my business and knowing cheap vs. good parts is part of my job. This is where my experience pays off for you, the consumer. I've been around long enough to know what a good part is, and what's not," I told my golf playing customer.
"That makes so much sense. It's unbelievable I would ever think I knew enough about car batteries to know which one was a good one, and which one is not. (Laughing now) Funny you should tell me all of this, because that's what the guy at the pro shop said when I was looking at changing clubs. The pro at the golf shop suggested letting him use his expertise to find that right set of clubs for me," my birdie putting customer tells me.
That afternoon he called back, seems the department store's battery department didn't want to give him his money back. And their reasoning behind it?... Oh this is priceless… they told him:
"The battery they originally sold me is not the correct battery for the truck, so they can't warranty it any more, or give me my money back. Then they tell me that if I would have purchased the correct battery size in the first place they would have no problem warranting it."
For real? You've got to be kidding me. I've heard of all kinds of reasons why you couldn't honor a warranty, but the fact that they sold him the wrong battery is a new one on me. You'd think after 3 attempts at replacing the battery that someone there would have checked to see if it was the correct battery. Unbelievable. Needless to say, I had to get involved and press the battery salesman to cough up the cash.
With the draw repaired and a decent battery installed, there wasn't much else to do except look forward to the next weekend golf game. At least now this guy could get back to driving golf balls, and not worry about his Jeep sitting at home.
I think he learned a valuable lesson that there is a difference in the manufacturing of quality automotive components and where you purchase them. Using golf as a comparison worked well for this customer. I'm not a pro golfer, but I'm a pro in my field, and sometimes I might know a thing or two about my favorite pastime. At least as a golf playing-mechanic I can show my expertise where it counts. Maybe even putt for an eagle once in awhile, or shave off a stroke or two on my handicap.
Whether it's a round of golf or diagnosing automotive problems it still comes down to the same thing-- quality, good information and practice.
I'd like to thank everyone that reads my stories. ASO is the place where I preview my articles/stories before they go to the editors. Some stories make it, some get changed, and some get rewritten. But, eventually they all go out for publication.
If you don't have a subscription to some of the magazines that I write for here's a couple of the websites to go to and sign up for them. They are all free subscriptions.. no cost to you at all.
www.brakeandfrontend.com, www.import-car.com, www.underhoodservice.com, www.autobodynews.com, these are the magazines that have actual printed copies. There's more but they don't have websites (hard to believe in this day and age)
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Leave a comment, always love to hear you comments. Thanx again. Gonzo