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Gonzo

Article: I Stayed At The Inn - Top ten reasons for knowing more than I do about auto repair

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Stayed at the Inn

I’m sure we’ve all watched the commercial where some guy manages to do something, or fix something that the rest of the crowd couldn’t figure out, and when asked, “How did ya know how to do that?” His answer, “I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night.” Apparently I’ve been doing it the hard way all these years. I guess instead of going to all the classes and taking all the certification tests, all I had to do was go down to a motel for the night. I could have mastered this trade in a week!

Not that I think I’m some sort of expert in my field, because there are much smarter guys and gals in the biz than myself, but I kinda-sorta know what I’m doing, even though I didn’t stay at the hotel last night. Although, on occasion, I get a few wanna-be pros from Motel 6 stopping by the shop for a car repair that might not have left the light on long enough. Most of the time their car is already in the middle of some major surgery. Like they removed the instrument cluster and it’s laying on the passenger seat completely torn apart, hoses under the hood left unhooked, radiator cap is missing, miscellaneous parts are left in the trunk for me to find, or just about any other conceivable way of dismembering a car you can imagine. But, as always… they know more about the repair process than I do presumably.

I could ask the usual rhetorical question, “If ya know so much, why not fix it yourself?” But, I’d probably get an answer that would be even more baffling than the original question. Anyway, I know I shouldn’t climb on my own soap box (but I will) and proudly display all my certificates and achievements in the lobby and front office (but I do) but I believe that’s important for the consumer to know; to know they are dealing with a professional and not some lug-nut-spinning-parts jockey. It took me years of training classes, conventions, and after hours studying to reach the level of expertise that I have now and to maintain my ASE Masters level. And, yes, a good night’s sleep does help to clear the mind and get you ready for the next day, but I don’t think I’ve learned a thing about today’s cars while I was counting sheep.

However, not all these overnight geniuses mentioned they stayed in a hotel. They’ve got other ways of conjuring up wisdom and experience from other sources. Rather than disclaim their source of knowledge I wrote them down as a way of keeping track of where all this knowledge comes from. I’m always curious where this wisdom is obtained, just in case I need to gather up some new knowledge and can’t make it to the hotel in time. Here’s my list of the top ten knowledge acquiring ventures I’ve been told. And yes, these really did happen at the service counter. I’m not clever enough or spent enough time at the hotel to make this stuff up. Some, I hear all the time, some just once in a while, but some of these absurd higher learning escapades are so far out that you might only hear them once in a life time. Here goes:

10- My Uncle/brother/father was a mechanic. (Keep in mind… the “was” part.)

9- I watched it on TV last week (I’m sure you did, and I’m sure it was entertaining. There’s a test later… are ya ready?)

8- The Internet (Of course, the Internet… if it’s on the Internet it’s gotta be true.)

7- I used to own the same model car about 10 years ago and I could fix anything on it. These newer ones are exactly the same. That’s why they can keep the same name on the trunk. (Yes that’s right your 66 Chevy pickup is no different than your 2008 Chevy pickup… the manufacturers haven’t changed a thing.)

6- I worked my way up from the wash bay to the lube and tire rack. I know all there is to know about mechanic stuff. (Let’s see, tools on hand, hmmm, lug wrench, yep, oil filter wrench, got it… oil plug socket, yep got that too… and a funnel, mighty important. Ok that makes it official… you’re a mechanic.)

5- I left all my tools out in the rain and they’re all rusty now. Otherwise I’d fix it myself. So, it’s not like I need your help at all. (Understandably, every good mechanic has left a tool or two out in the weather. But I don’t think that’s stopping him from fixing a car!)

4- I can fix anything on a car. I just need you to tell me what’s wrong with it. (So, you can aye? What happens if you already know what’s wrong with it? Is that when you ask me to fix it? Reverse psychology there.)

3- I’m not paying you to tell me what’s wrong with it, and I don’t care how long it took! I know how much it should cost! I’ve done that repair myself before! So, what was wrong with it again? (Self-explanatory, you don’t know… nuff said.)

2- My brother is a doctor and we have a lot of cars. (Now how does that make you an expert in car repair?)

1- I grew up next to a dealership, so I know everything about cars from watching the mechanics through the cracks in the fence. (I know cows, yea cows… ‘cause I grew up next to the barn… does that count too?)

Auto repair, in my opinion, has more than its fair share of screw ups that turn wrenches on a daily basis, and there’s no doubt a lot of the mistrust over car repair is brought on after someone has had some dealings with one of them. It’s true in any professional service trade oriented to the general public that there are a few bad apples in the business. Maybe that’s why some of these home grown DIY’rs feel it’s necessary to overshadow a professional mechanic’s abilities by belittling them, insulting them, or outright telling them they don’t know what they’re doing.

Then again, the true DIY’r who can handle those odd repairs aren’t the type that end up at a repair shop. If and when those type do end up in need of a pro, they know their limitations and respect the services provided by the professional mechanic. It’s the ones who seem to always have more than one excuse as to why they know more than the professional that gets me. Maybe they are only trying to save face in front their friends after screwing up their buddy’s personal ride.

 

One of these days cars will become so sophisticated that a lot of these home DIY nut busters won’t be able to do anything to their personal rides at all. By then, a lot of those halfwit repair shops that shouldn’t be fixing cars today will more than likely be a thing of the past, too. But, I doubt that will keep that certain group of know-it-alls from coming up with a new excuse as to why they know more than the trained/seasoned mechanic does. Maybe what they should do is swing by the Inn and spend a calm evening in a nice comfy bed. Maybe in the morning they’ll have a better idea of what to tell their mechanic. At least then they could say, “I stayed at the Holiday Inn last night.” It probably won’t help the mechanic out in the service bay, but it sure wouldn’t hurt.

 

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      View full article
    • By Gonzo
      So, What’s Wrong With Your Car?

      It’s the typical question asked at the service desk of automotive repair shops across the country. You’d think the answer would be simple, you know, just tell the service writer what ails the car, but no… that’s not the typical answer from the do it yourselfer.

      When asked, some people have a hard time keeping things simple. Their answer isn’t really an answer, it’s more of a statement of the things they’ve done to their car. Now why is that? How come when the service writer asks, “So, what’s wrong with the car?” the answer is, “I changed the battery, the alternator, and I rewired everything under the hood.” Which sounds more like what they did to the car, rather than what is wrong with the car.

      It troubles me to hear things like this over and over. All I want to know (as the mechanic about to service the issue) is what is wrong, not what you’ve done. Believe me, any mechanic worth his salt will figure out what you’ve done to the car. What he lacks is the reason you’re here in the first place.

      I’ve even tried to rephrase the question, “So, what brings you here today?” That doesn’t seem to work any better. It’s like some unwritten law of responses; the DIY’r type customer has to begin their dissertation with what they’ve done and not the actual problem that brought them to the repair shop in the first place.

      Now, if the service writer starts the deliberation with, “In as few words as possible, tell me what is wrong.” It doesn’t seem to help at all, and if the question asked is, “So, what did ya do to it?” that only puts them in a defensive mode which doesn’t improve the answer or any further forthcoming information. Ya just gotta stand there and listen intently and with unbiased interest in their tale of tales.

      I often wonder if the whole thing is a pride issue with some of these guys. Maybe what they are really telling the service writer is more in line with how they tried to fix it but failed, rather than actually trying to explain the problem they can’t solve. Somehow the mere explanation of all the individual parts that were changed is supposed to inform the mechanic of things they shouldn’t assume are the problem.

      There are those who finish their story with, “and, everything checks out good.” How’s that ever happen? If everything is “good” you wouldn’t be having a problem.

      From the mechanics point of view, “everything” has to be rechecked under the guise of the proper identification of any components replaced, the quality of those components that were replaced, as well as checking the wiring. Once all that is confirmed then the mechanic can check the signals and voltages. It’s one of the many things that separate the DIY’r from the professional. A pro will diagnose things rather than simply change parts. A systematic list of diagnostic procedures isn’t that hard to follow, but understanding the results can be.

      Apparently that’s where I find it hard to follow some of these DIY’r logics. They’ll come up with some goofy name for a part or symptom based on their background or something they’ve overheard. None of which have anything to do about automotive repair or cars in general. But, you’ve gotta listen to their story, no matter what they say.

      I’ve found over years of being behind the service counter, you should never ever interrupt or correct their explanation. Just let them get it all out, and then hopefully work back to “So what’s wrong”. I’ve been tempted more than once to stop them in the middle of their story, hold my hand up and say, “I didn’t ask you what you did. I asked you what’s wrong.” I’m not sure that would go over that well.

      While they are well on their way of their next novel and spilling their tool box of parts they’ve changed in verbal form, I’m trying to keep up with it all by writing as much of it down. Usually, I’m crossing off things as their explanation goes further into the story about how they don’t want you to check that part (because it’s new) or that particular part they just mentioned was changed years ago and hasn’t been a problem since, but for some reason (which they’re not sure of), it suddenly has become extremely important to inform me about it. By the end of the story I’ve gone through a blank invoice on both sides, a scratch pad, and ran out of ink in the pen.

      To top things off, a lot of these home garage repairmen insist on waiting, or in a lot of instances want to watch. This for the most part, can be just as frustrating for the mechanic as listening to their saga. Most shop insurance policies frown on having a customer in the shop area due to the numerous pieces of unusual and dangerous types of equipment, let alone getting in the way of the process of diagnosing the problem. If you want to watch, go find a You Tube video on the problem, the repair shop is not an educational outlet for the uniformed.

      Sometimes, the DIY’r is pretty sharp and might actually have a working knowledge of their car. It’s rare, but there are a few who really could tackle their problem without consecutively changing the alternator five times in a row. Let’s face it, car repair isn’t rocket science, but as the technology proceeds into even more data lines and computer systems it might as well be. Which to me, means an even wider gap between the DIY’r and the professional mechanic, and probably a whole lot more unbelievable stories at the service counter.

      Will the question at the service counter change? Will the answers from the DIY’r get to the point before the service writer has to break out a second scratch pad or a new pen? Probably not. There’s something about fixing your own car that brings out the mechanic in all of us. Whether it’s a pride issue or to save the cost of a professional mechanic, DIY’rs will still give it a try with little to no information. Just wing it and see what happens.

      Don’t worry, they’ll still sell parts, and they’ll still sell tools, as well as the good ol’ free code read at the part stores. Oh, and there are manuals at these parts stores too, but you don’t need those. They are for someone who doesn’t know about cars, not somebody like yourself? (I’m being sarcastic, of course) So there’s plenty of opportunity for a new “So what’s wrong with your car?” moment at the local repair shop.

      When stumped, they’ll find a pro to check their car out. And, I’m sure they’ll still tell the service writer their entire story about all the parts they’ve changed, all the books they’ve read, and how many You Tube videos they’ve watched, without ever getting to the “what’s wrong” until the very end. It’s just the way it is.

      But I already know what the service writer is thinking after they ask, “So, what’s wrong with the car?” and the answer turns into a long winded story. Yea, he’s got a pretty good idea what’s wrong with the car...you worked on it first.


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