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


Gonzo

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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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Very good Gonzo, one thing stuck out at me "know their limitations" I tell the young guy at work all the time "know your limitations" as I push the oil drain towards him. Leave the other work to the ones that know what they are doing. You are only doing a disservice to the customers by pretending and killing the business one customer at a time. The business is only as strong as it's weakest link, as a dog sled team is only as fast as the slowest dog.

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SKM., that's about it, know your limitations with respect to what tools including diagnostic tools at hand, before going after a repair! There is a guy on you tube that has the saying "If I can Do it you can" that's provided you have the tools the technique and all the know how.

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Totally agree with all of them! However, I hope you guys never find yourself on vacation needing a mechanic. I drove cross country once and needed a shop to fix a rear heater hose that got torn by road debris. Of course it was in the late afternoon. Do you know how hard it was to just be a civilian in someone else's shop? Granted, I could have sacrificed a good shirt and done it myself on the ground, maybe, after buying a screwdriver at Kmart. It would have been easier to buy a new screwdriver than unload all my families stuff to find the tools I packed and stored in the trunk. Long story short it worked out well, I didn't disclose my occupation until after I paid, and the shop really treated me well.

 

The point is some of these guys might know what they are doing.

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The idea to write this story was over a guy who came in with an old Cougar with a digital display completely torn apart, but what he really came in for was the charging system. The charge system on this one model has to go through the dash to work. So, I had to fix the dash to fix the charging system.

 

The guy told me the number 2 and number 1 reasons as to why he knew what was wrong with it, and that I was full of it.

 

he was dead serious too... he really thought because he lived next to a dealership that it automatically made him an expert.

 

the things I do for a few bucks.... geez.

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      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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