Never a day goes by that somebody doesn't email me, calls, or is standing in the lobby with the same type of ridiculous idea about automotive repair. For some reason, (Why, I don't know) certain people think the way to fix a car is simply to change a part. I guess that's how they think a repair shop does it. Or maybe that's the way they were taught to repair a car. Then there are a few of these screw driver twisting, bolt stripping, car jockeys who take parts changing to a whole new level.
They generally start out something like this: "My car won't start, so I changed the fuel pump, the starter, injectors, battery, and ignition switch. When that didn't work I put in a new MAP sensor, crank sensor, coolant sensor, and a water pump… but it's still not working. What do you think the problem is?" Oh, I already know what the second problem is. You worked on it first! The first problem is now secondary to you working on the car. It's pretty typical, ask them what's wrong with the car, and instead of telling you "what's wrong" they'll tell you "what they've done". The first thing should have been to tell me about the car… the second thing should have been what you did to it first.
Sometimes the real funny part is when they tell me the car won't start, but don't give any important information like: it won't crank, it only turns over, it spits and sputters but never runs…etc. Instead they'll tell me something like, "I know what it is, I just haven't found it yet." Seriously dude, I think your dipstick is leaking… I can tell … there's oil dripping off of it. It might do you some good to put your tool box out at the next garage sale. You could save a lot of money on your next car repair that way.
Here's one phone call I'll never forget. An older gentleman called and said he has been working on cars for nearly 30 years, but this one car was getting the best of him. He has already changed every part he could think of, and it was absolutely no help. After asking around town at several other repair shops, my name kept coming up as the person to diagnose his car. He went on to tell me about some sort of connector under the hood with nothing connected to it. He was certain it must be for a sensor, and the missing sensor was the cause of his entire problem. Not only did he not know what sensor it was, but he couldn't tell where the sensor would go if he had the part to change.
"Sir, there are lot of connectors on different cars that go nowhere under the hood. It's probably something that this car doesn't use. Bring it in, and I'll diagnose the problem for you," I told him, being as helpful as I could.
"Yea, that's just what you want me to do. So you can charge me to read the codes like the rest of those moron mechanics out there," he answered.
I took that as an insult. I said I'll diagnose the problem. I never said anything about reading codes. If there is a code stored I certainly would check into the diagnostic procedures pertaining to that code, and see if it has anything to do with his problem. But I'm not code chasing, I'm car fixing.
"Sir, if all you want is a code read then why don't you go down to one of those parts stores that will read the code for free. Codes don't fix cars! I told you I would diagnose the problem!" I blasted back at him now that he's got me riled up. (I'll bet I didn't sound as friendly as I did when I first picked up the phone.)
Apparently, after 30 years of fixing cars this guy never diagnosed a problem. His entire career was based on changing parts until it fixed the car. What was the problem with this car?? …… He ran out of parts to change!
"I can fix it if you could tell me what part needs replaced, so don't give me any of that high tech answer stuff. Just tell me what part to change," he answers back.
You can just about guess what happened next; he wasn't about to pay for any of my services. Ok fella, your time is up! Go ask another one of your friends where you should go. Since you were kind enough to classify me and my trade as a moron, I know where I'm going to tell you to go… hope ya like hot places.
Then there was this naïve used car salesmen who thought he could buy a used scanner that would have the complete dictionary of auto parts by code stored in it. With that he could change parts and fix the cars, all without consulting a technician or pay a diagnostic fee.
"You'll need to diagnose the code results not just change the parts pertaining to the code. A scanner is NOT a mechanic in a box, as you seem to think it is," I told him.
Nope, no dice, his mind was made up. He knew there was a scanner that would do just what he thought it would, and I was only keeping it a big secret. As he put it, "I'm no dummy; I know how to fix cars." Hmmm, are ya sure about that? Why don't you just stick to selling them, because your "mechanically inclined" part is broke, and I'm not qualified to fix things like that… even with a scanner.
Parts changers, ah yes… what would a day be like at the shop without one. So many places to buy parts, so many tools and so many backyard garages.
I'd like to tell all the parts changers out there: "When you're all done playing mechanic come see the guys at your local repair shop. Pay them for taking care of your problem. It will be a change from buying parts, and when the tech is done with the repair the only thing you'll have to do is … "Part with your change."