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Gonzo
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Pay To Play - Doctor visits and mechanic diagnostics - are they the same thing?

Pay to Play

Playing the diagnostic game in the auto repair business isn’t for everyone. Some repair shops don’t want to deal with any of those heavy-hitter type of diagnostic problems. They would rather deal with the simple, basic, and easy-to-fix problems that make quick money and take little effort on their part. Anything that’s going to take time to figure out they’ll send down the road to a shop that will work on those type of problems. I’m one of those shops that everybody sends their headaches to. It has its draw backs for sure, but the reward for me is getting in there, finding the problem, and doing what seems impossible to others.

One of the major issues with being more of a specialty diagnostic shop is how the customer perceives what a mechanic can or cannot do. Most of the time they’ve already spent their limit at the guess-at-it-until-ya-get-it shops and aren’t keen on spending any amount of money on diagnostic time. Which, as in most of these heavy-hitter type diagnostic cases, is the majority of the work needed to be done. I hear it all the time from folks who still believe all mechanics are alike and price is their only concern. “I’ve already spent “X” amount of money and it’s still broke. Why should I spend more money just for YOU to look at the car?”

It must be a bit unnerving to some, forking over their cash just to have their car “looked” at. Although, they don’t seem to think twice about it when they pull the check book out at the reception desk after their doctor “looked” at them. Whether they feel any better at the time they’re writing the check or not because they’re confident that a quick stop at the pharmacy to pick up that prescription will fix them right up; good as new. However, paying a professional mechanic to do his or her “looking” is simply out of the question.

The way I see it, “Ya gotta pay to play” folks. Wherever this idea that a mechanic can walk out to the parking lot, wave his magical ratchet over the left rear tail light and all will be in working order is totally absurd. I mean seriously, the car has one service light, but hundreds and hundreds of reasons why it might be on. A battery drain can come from anywhere, a shorted fuse can be caused by all kinds of things, and as far as intermittent problems well, the possibilities are endless. Not to mention when some jackleg gets under the dash and starts adding their version of electrical wizardry to the problem.

Some people just can’t make the connection between a doctor’s office visit and a mechanic’s diagnostic time. They’re stuck on this “look” thing. For that small number of people out there who don’t see the similarities between a doctor visit and automotive diagnostics, it’s not likely you’re going to change their mind about it any time soon.

The last example of the “ain’t playin’ the diagnostic game” told me that he would only let me work on the car if I could guarantee it wouldn’t cost more than $400.00 bucks. I told him, “I’d like to say that it wouldn’t cost more than that, but what happens if I get in there and find the part alone costs $500.00 dollars, then what?” His answer, “Then I’d forget about fixing it, and I’d pay you for your time. How much do ya think that would be?” I smiled and answered as I pointed to the diagnostic fee on the wall, “The diagnostic fee, just what I’ve been explaining to you all along. Ya gotta pay to play the game, and that’s the diagnostic fee. Otherwise, I don’t play.”

He still didn’t get it. I then told him, “You want me to guess at how much it will cost when I haven’t a clue what’s wrong. At this point I don’t even know what color the car is let alone the extent of your problem. Furthermore, you’ve had somebody work on it before. They’ve wired around some sort of switch you mentioned to me earlier about, and obviously I’ll have to undo all of that to determine the exact problem. Does that make sense now?” As if to show how my lack of intelligence about his car was quite obvious to him, he answered sternly, “It’s dark blue.” Not another word was spoken. I’m completely flabbergasted. Looks like the two of us are not going to play, because he’s not willing to pay. Instead of going any further, I figured it was time to throw the towel in on this one and call it a stalemate. All this transpired about the same time he thanked me for talking with him and was heading out the door to find the next guy who would “look” at his car.

Seriously, what’s free these days? If ya wanna play, ya gotta pay. Simple as that. I doubt if you went into the doctor’s office and said you weren’t going to pay for his time, the doctor would tell you to get lost or at least want to know why you didn’t want to pay for his services. I’m sure if you told him, “I ain’t payin’ ya just to look at me. I’m only going to pay you to fix me.” The doctor might think you’re just a bit touched and in need of a different kind of doctor. But, as it is... mechanics diagnosing a tough problem have to deal with the “I ain’t payin’ ya to look at it” game nearly every day.

Maybe in the future, all this will change. It has to. Cars are getting even more complicated and have amassed huge networks of electronics and mechanical parts that shouldn’t be left to the untrained and stab-at-it-until-ya-get-it type of repairs. Like a doctor, a professional mechanic might have a pretty good idea of what is ailing a car, but testing and diagnosing it is the game we all have to play to sort out the real tough problems and not just make assumptions. You want professional service… Pay to play, then the game is on.


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