Jump to content


Article: Pulling the plug, on an old car - - The car is gone, the customer remains.

Recommended Posts

Pulling the plug on an old car

We’ve all had those cars in our shop that would be better off resting at the nearest salvage yard. You know the ones with countless problems, none of which are cheap to repair. But, it’s an old regular customer who can’t afford much more than a Band-aide on the old ditch dodger, and you feel more family than mechanic, so you do your best to keep the old thing running.


But, there comes a time when no matter how much bailing wire or duct tape you’ve got, ya just can’t hold the old car together anymore. That’s when you’ve got to break the news to them. Most of the time, they understand. Sometimes it only makes sense when you bring the shovel and shotgun along when you explain their car’s demise.

The latest was a well-worn ‘85 van that has seen more than its fair share of soccer games and trips to the relatives. I don’t think the salvage value for the old car was much more than what it could bring on the weight scale. It had more than a few problems, and yes it would take a spell now and then and not start, but it always seemed to keep from completely falling apart.


It didn’t actually leak oil; it sort of oozed it out here and there. The coolant more or less stayed put, but ya did have to keep your eye on it. The brakes, well, they were OK, and the master cylinder was getting a bit soft and due for replacement. The fuel pump whined awfully loud, but the pressure held up. The starter was caked in layers of grease and grime, and I was certain it wasn’t going to last much longer. The driver’s door sagged and creaked as you opened it. The passenger door, well, that one took a mighty yank to get it to unlatch. Then, it would make a loud popping sound as the door edge grazed by the mangled front fender. I think the lights worked fine, and it didn’t have any service lights on, but all in all… it was a mess.

Of course, all of it could be fixed, but as the miles and age kept adding up little by little more things were going wrong. Now, it’s the motor mounts that have detreated, leaving the engine flopping around like a fish out of water. The air conditioner lines have been compromised, the power steering hoses are leaking, and the electrical connections are all getting pulled apart. And, now… the exhaust manifolds are leaking. I think it’s time, time to give this poor old car its last rites.

I headed up to the waiting room to console my old friend about his decrepit car. We’ve worked together for many years on this old heap. The intention was always just to make it last one more month. Those months were years ago. I sat down to give him the news.

“Well, partner, I think we’ve got enough assorted problems with the old ride that it’s time to either put some money into it or pull the plug. Or, dig a hole out back and place a shot behind the left headlight,” I told him.

He laughed and said, “I’ve been waiting for you to tell me that for years.”

And here I thought all this time I was saving this guy’s car from the crusher because he didn’t want to buy a new car. When in fact, he did like his old car but, he liked coming to the shop even more. His biggest thrill for the afternoon was watching and listening to all the antics going on at the repair shop. Seems I’ve been this old guy’s entertainment for quite some time. I never knew going to the repair shop was like a vaudeville act for this guy. Apparently so.

No wonder he would sit for a few hours after his car was repaired. I thought he was just using the lobby as a temporary office, which I didn’t mind at all. He wasn’t one of those who was constantly interrupting the flow of the day with a question or two, but he always had a “Hello, how are ya” if you walked by. I guess listening in on the antics of the techs talking technical stuff, writing up tickets, taking phone calls, and all must be some kind of entertainment for somebody out there, and the somebody, was this guy.

It was his way of getting out of the house and mingling with the world. I’m sure he probably kept a running conversation with his favorite checkout lady at the grocery store, too. I’ll bet he even enjoyed having solicitors call him, and I’ll bet they were the ones who had a hard time getting him off the phone… not the other way around.

As with most of these jobs, and fellas like this, they eventually have to buy a new car. He doesn’t come around as often, except for an occasional oil change or new wiper blades. These days he doesn’t drive as much anyway. So, even his frequent trips have become few and far between. However, when he does come by there’s always a new story he wants to tell me about. Once in a while he comes in asking for a complete coolant flush or something like that when we just did one a few months ago. I suppose he’s getting either a bit forgetful in his old age, or he’s just looking for a way to hang around the shop a bit longer.

So, even though it was time to pull the plug on the old car, the old guy still shows up from time to time. Sometimes it’s for a sound he heard, or a vibration he felt, or one of those, “Just check it over for me” kind of afternoons.



You know, I think I’ve figured it out, it’s not so much the car that needs attention, it’s the customer. He just wants a bit of conversation and a little company. And, as long as I’m able to keep the doors open, I’m not pulling the plug on the comradery between myself and my customers. Cars only last so long, friendships last forever.


Click here to view the article

  • Like 2

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Similar Forum Topics

    • Seeking/open to Partnership for Repair Shop Planning

      Hey All, My name is Karla, I had previously owned a 3-bay mechanical repair shop in Burlington, VT for 6 years and built it to maintain an outstanding reputation and provide a comfortable income. I had the opportunity to sell my half of the business and finalized that deal this past fall. I have worked in all areas of the auto repair industry over the past 15 years, graduated from a two-year ASE certified auto tech program and went on to earn my Bachelor’s in business and a masters degree in executive leadership.  I have some capital I will be contributing to the planning and opening of a new shop and am very open to meeting potential partners/investors in all areas of the country. I greatly look forward to building something new in a location new to me. Anyway, I’d like to welcome all /any interest and to answer any questions about joining forces in shop planning and management. Please do not hesitate to contact me, thanks for considering! —Karla

      By KDshopNEA, in Automotive Business Opportunities

      • 2 replies
    • Goodyear exiting the repair business

      It seems that Goodyear corporate stores are changing their business model from Tire and Repair Service centers to strictly tires.   The franchise stores are free to continue their old business model.    Around here, the corporate stores are going to close down on January 27 for 2-3 weeks for a major remodel and possibly? rebranding.   They will sell tires and do alignments, but will not be able to align if they need repair parts.   I've not seen any official statements on this, so I don't really know more than the scuttlebutt. It looks like Hunter will have a great year this year as a result.  I saw a brand new Hunter Revolution tire machine in one of the local stores already. I stand to benefit from this change as we may see some of their repair business.   Since I don't sell tires, I'm not a Goodyear competitor, which allows them to safely refer repair business to us.   Almost everyone else around here sells tires.   We refer quite a few folks to tire-only stores, so Goodyear will now be on my referral list.

      By bantar, in General Automotive Discussion

      • 0 replies
    • Killer Holiday Tip for your repair shop

      Here's a tip I have posted before, but it's worth repeating.  One job that goes unnoticed most of the year is the job of the part's driver.  You get part deliveries all day long, every day, all year long.  Many times, these part's drivers take all the abuse due to wrong parts, the parts took too long to be delivered, on and on and on.  Those drivers may not say anything, but they take it to heart.  So, here's what you are going to do.  Buy small gifts, such as small boxes of candy or chocolate.  Nothing expensive.  During the holidays, give all the drivers one of these small gifts and say "Thank you, I appreciated what you do." Two things will happen. First, the driver will be stunned and will not know what to say, and they will be very thankful that you thought of them.  The second thing that will happen is this:  The very next time those part drivers have three delivers to make at three different shops, what shop do you think they will want to go to first?  Yes...Yours!  

      By Joe Marconi, in Joe’s Business Tips For Shop Owners

      • 2 replies
    • Mobile Auto Repair?

      Hello Everyone! Hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving as much as I did. I wanted to bring this topic up because of PEP BOYS recent "expansion" into launching their "mobile" service. I was interested in your thoughts. Are mobile mechanics a threat to your shop in any way? What are your thoughts? Do they/can they provide the service that today's cars need? 

      Or, on the other hand, do you operate as a mobile tech? What are the struggles you face. From what I am hearing, people "seem" to expect mobile to be cheaper. 
      Only trying to start a discussion about this - and really because, from what I am seeing, there's a lot of buzz around the Pep Boys effort.  Comments? Really interested to know your thoughts.    Matthew Lee
      "The Car Count Fixer"
        PS: Join me on YouTube and check out this totally FREE on-line course I'm offers- "How to Double your Car Count in 89 Days!"

      By JustTheBest, in Auto Repair Shop Management Help? Post Here!

      • 4 replies
    • Increase auto repair sales by adding to the cart

      Retail stores have known for a long time that adding or increasing the size of shopping carts also increases sales. Consumers may go to the store with a list, but as they pass through the aisles, having a cart makes it easy to add to that list.  While your repair shop does not use shopping cart, the same strategy can used. Every customer that books an appointment as done so with some sort of list; an oil change service, a brake issue, tire rotation, etc.  Through an effective multipoint inspection and looking at service schedules, you can make suggestions to your customers that can add to their cart; essentially increasing sales per vehicle. One last thing: Always make service and repair suggestions to the customer that is in their best interest and have value, and you can’t go wrong.  It’s actually great customer service. 

      By Joe Marconi, in Joe’s Business Tips For Shop Owners

      • 0 replies
  • AutoShopOwner Sponsors