Semper Fi Bob was well into his late 80’s when I met him. He’s quite the talker, and he’ll never run out of things to tell you. I like old Bob. We have a few things in common, not much because of the years between us, but just enough that we can relate on quite a few subjects. We both served in the USMC. Of course, the years we served were decades apart, but even with the differences in time served, we still could “talk-the-talk” like two old veterans who just got their discharge papers. Bob had a problem with the horn buttons on his ‘92 Buick. It was the kind of horn that has its buttons and the air bag all built as one piece. He didn’t have the money to replace the entire airbag, but he did want to get that horn working somehow. I thought I could get it to work even if I had to “rig” something up, but that was OK with him. With his advancing years catching up with him, his hands weren’t the best. Most of his strength had faded with time, and so did the ability to straighten his fingers all the way out. I had to come up with a way that he could hit the horn button with the palm of his hand, rather than with a finger tip or thumb. Not a big deal, actually if he didn’t mind the look of an old style horn button attached to the edge of the air bag (so it didn’t interfere with the air bag operation) it could work just fine. Now Bob, being Bob, talking was his gift, and finding somebody with a little military background, and stuck in the driver’s seat of his car was all he needed to tell one of his stories. Bob hopped in the back seat and leaned over to watch what I was doing. As I worked on his new horn button, he told me all about his time in the Marine Corps. Fascinating story; I could have listened for hours. In fact, I made sure I took long enough for him to tell his story in full and without any interruptions. He told me about his time in Korea, in Inchon actually. It was a cold winter when he was there. A bitter cold wind and heavy snow was only part of the horrific condition he had to deal with. He went on in great detail how he was just a young kid who didn’t know a thing, and how you would be talking to someone one minute and the next minute the fellow Marine sitting right next to him froze to death. When he told me that part of his story I had to stop and turn to him to ask, “That really happened, just like that, Bob?” With a stone cold look on his face he said, “As sure as I’m sitting here talking to you, my friend.” I don’t think he was kidding. He was dead serious, but it was as if he was telling me a story from a distance, but at the same time, a story where he was actually there in the mountains of Inchon still fighting the bitter cold. I think it’s a way for time and age to allow a person like Bob to separate themselves from what was probably a terrible event in their life. I certainly have never experienced some of the things he was telling me about, like the chow, the hours of watching for the enemy, or how his boots didn’t have much in the way of insulation, so you put on as many socks as you could along with any straw or grass you could find. Bob made a point to tell me that if you needed to run to the “head” (bathroom for all you none GI type) … well, you tried to wait as long as you could, because exposing yourself in that kind of cold could be the end of you… and I don’t mean just “your” end that’s exposed. I finished up my little project and gave it a try. It worked just fine. “Hop up here Bob, and see if you can make it work like this,” I told him. Bob made his way into the driver’s seat and gave his new horn button a try. A gleam came over his face, beaming from ear to ear. He had to try it a few more times, and each time the smile kept getting bigger and bigger. “Don’t you know I needed that horn! Mercy, there’s some little kids in my neighborhood who get out in the street to play, and I just want to toot my horn to let them know I’m coming. Thanks partner, ya done me right.” The old Marine got out of his car and opened his wallet, “How much do I owe ya?” “Bob, it was an honor to do this job for you. I can’t take a thing.” “You most certainly are, Marine!” he said to me as he palms a twenty in my hand. “Thanks Bob, I appreciate that, but I really appreciate the stories. You know I write a column for a magazine, and I think I’d like to tell your story if that’s OK.” “Sure, not a problem. Go right ahead. I think I’d like that.” You don’t shake hands with Bob, because of his crippled hands; his way of shaking hands is to “bump” knuckles. Good enough for me. It’s the thought that counts. Then Bob turns to the car sitting in the bay just in front of his car. With whatever strength he had, he did his best to straighten one finger and point at the car in front. “I’ll never get over seeing this,” he said. It was a Kia Sportage in for a no start condition. I made the assumption it was because it’s a Korean car, and I thought it must be bringing back some of those painful memories he had as a young man. “I understand where you’re coming from Bob, it’s a Korean car. I understand completely; it’s something your generation had to deal with on the battlefield where your friends had died. I’m sorry it brings up some bad memories for you.” “That ain’t it,” he said as he walked closer to the car, and pointed directly at the name branded on the back door, “Killed – In – Action.” I think my knees buckled a bit when he said that. I didn’t know what to say next. Bob waved good-bye, and pulled his car out of the shop, and tooted his horn as he made his way down the street. I see old Bob once in awhile, still driving the same car, still tootin’ his horn. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his story of how he served our country. He’s one of the last of that generation, a much simpler time, before computers, before cell phones, and when KIA stood for only one thing. I’m proud to have served my country, I’m even more proud to have met a great man like Bob. We should all be as lucky, and we should all remember what his generation and many others have done to keep this country free. So the next time you see a Kia, think of it as something other than a car, think about my friend Bob. Then, say this to yourself: Semper Fi Bob, Semper Fi.
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Article: The Ghost Mechanic - those mechanics that seem to leave evidence of their bad work that you find... or was it a mechanic after all?By Gonzo
The Ghost Mechanic
Creepier things have happened, but rarely do things go without an explanation. This time around it’s the mystery mechanic who seems to have been working on this guy’s car, or maybe not. Maybe it’s that ghostly mechanic who haunts people’s cars on quiet neighborhood streets in the middle of the night. You know, that guy who leaves nothing but telltale greasy finger prints or unattached wire harnesses, or even loose bolts where loose bolts shouldn’t be. This job was no exception to the antics of the invisible mechanic’s handy work. It’s a mystery worth solving.
A Chevy HHR was towed in for a no start condition. It wasn’t exactly a no start; it was more like a poor starting/running condition. When it would run, the poor thing sounded like it was on its last trip to the garage and its first trip to the salvage yard. Trying to beat it to its last ride on the tow truck, I hooked up the scanner to see what inner mysteries were present. Code P1682 (Ignition 1 switch circuit 2), but I wasn’t done yet. Time to do a complete health check on all the modules. Sure enough, the ‘U’ codes were off the charts. Seems we have a lot of low voltage codes causing a problem.
A quick check of the wiring diagram showed the power led to a voltage input lead for the PCM, TCM, and several other circuits that would definitely lead to a rough, hard to start, non-cooperating HHR. This may turn out to be a simple problem after all. Could be wiring, a component, or perhaps a fuse box problem. A quick glance at the fuse box didn’t reveal much, but I should probably take a closer look at that fuse box. Maybe go as far as physically checking the actual fuse circuit. Hmm, something is amiss here. The fuse is good, but the fuse is in the wrong slot. The slot that it’s in should be an empty slot. Seems somebody was fooling around under the hood and didn’t put the fuse back correctly.
Might as well try moving the fuse back to the proper location. Well, imagine that, this old HHR starts right up! OK, it’s not running the best . . . yet. Do a little throttle relearn and it runs as good as new.
After rechecking the related circuits for any damage, or out of place items I gave the HHR the once around the block test. Runs great, sounds great, no warning lights, no unusual noises, seems fine to me. I guess I’ll write up an invoice on this job and call the customer. As I closed the hood, the telltale greasy hand prints from the last guy who was under the hood were everywhere. I think I spent as much time cleaning this guy’s hood as I spent diagnosing the problem.
I gave him a call and explained to him, as best I could, what I had found. Although, I did have that one nagging question regarding who had worked on the car previously. I really wanted an answer to that question.
"NOBODY" … are you serious? That’s when I explained the entire repair all over again. Between the greasy finger marks on the hood and fenders, and the fuse in the wrong place, I’m afraid I’m not going to buy the story that the mysterious ghost mechanic has struck again. His only explanation came down to the whole thing must have been a poltergeist or something. Or ‘someone’ not ‘something’ is a better way to put it. I’m not buying the ghost mechanic theory. At this point, he seemed to be more intent on finding out the final bill, and not so much on solving the mystery of how the fuse mysteriously moved into a different slot.
But, before I gave him the total, I recommended he perform an exorcism on his car, since ‘NOBODY’ has been touching it. His response, "How much more will that cost me?” Seriously? Now, I’ve been asked to do all sorts of things to a car, like put a helicopter landing pad on the roof, remove a varmint from behind the dash, or turn a Prius into a tow truck, but I don’t think I’ve ever been explicitly asked to do an exorcism on the family truckster. Actually, I’m starting to put this whole thing together.
The mystery mechanic is none other than this guy himself. His answers to certain questions, and how he told his story were a dead giveaway as to who the ghost mechanic was. I swear some people just can’t be honest and admit when they’re beyond their learning curve. We both might have had a good laugh over the whole thing, but instead this guy wants me to drop the price in half, since it was such an ‘easy’ repair and all, and ignore the whereabouts of this seemingly ghostly apparition with the mindless ability to screw up the family car. But, since this guy wouldn’t own up to it, even with the evidence of his very own greasy paw prints, he’s in for a lesson of honesty, awareness of his own abilities, and how to pay for a professional diagnosis.
It’s just another case of the mechanic solving the mystery of the proverbial ghost mechanic. Debunking wives’A tales about the modern automobile, supernatural occurrences under the hood, and apparitions that seem to move fuses around is just another duty of the modern mechanic. Oh, and don’t think you’re the first person who’s tried the ghost mechanic as your method of passing the blame… you’re not. Every good mechanic has performed their fair share of exorcisms in the past and have seen the results of the mystery mechanic and his endeavors. We know who you really are.
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Article: I Just Don't Get It - - They'll leave their car...forever...like I want your car at my shop!? Forever!!By Gonzo
I Just Don’t Get It Help me out here. There’s something I just don’t get. How in the world do people leave their pride and joy, the family truckster, the old jalopy, or whatever they want to call it at a repair shop for an extended amount of time? Every day while driving to work I’ll pass numerous little shops, and a few big shops that seem to have the same cars sitting in front of their bays. They move them around a bit, you know, kind of like shuffling chess pieces or something, but they never seem to leave. What’s going on? Then, every once in a while I’ll get someone that comes into my shop with this same old story, “I had my car over at this other shop for the past month and they still haven’t found out what’s wrong with it. So, I got tired of waiting and had it dragged over to you.” Usually after they’ve finally decided that leaving their car at one of these phantom repair places wasn’t a good idea. Sound familiar? Well, if you’re a shop owner you’ve heard it before. What’s surprising is that it happens a lot more than most people realize, and what really surprises me is how somebody could be without their car for such a long time, then finally decide to pull it to another shop. I mean seriously, what did you buy the car for? Was your goal just to make the payments while it sat in front of this obscure repair shop rusting away? I just don’t get it. How’s this possible? I mean, does this shop have some sort of charismatic charm that convinces someone to leave their car there for months on end without ever getting it repaired? Or is it one of those, “I’m in no hurry. Take your time with it.” stories? For me, it seems every time somebody tells me they’re not in a hurry is when they call back in an hour or show up the next day wanting to know what I’ve found wrong. I’ve never dealt with anyone who has just left their car for me to casually work on it whenever I feel like working on it. Oh, they’ll tell me to take my time but, they really don’t mean it. I have the time. I’m in the business of repairing cars. I’ll make the time or I’ll hire more help, whichever or whatever way it takes to keep the customer happy. At my shop, the norm is that everyone is in a hurry and can’t wait even a few hours for me to get to their repairs, which seems to be the complete opposite at these main street rest stops that call themselves “repair shops”. Now, if all these shops are doing is providing a free space for an extended stay at the “Shady Rust Hotel”, well, that’s not what I’d call a really smart business decision. Maybe keeping the parking lot full is just their way of showing off how many cars they have to work on, or should I say… trying to work on? I’ve often wondered about the true status of those cars at these repair shops. I’m pretty convinced that it’s not because these stationary cars all have some sort of exotic part that has to be shipped in by a row boat from some far off island country. I really think the reason these cars are spending their day taking up valuable space in front of these shops is because the mechanics at these shops don’t have a clue how to fix them. Let’s face it, if they’re in the business to repair problems on customer’s cars (just like I am) then by all rights fix it! Make room for the next one! As one good ol’ boy mechanic from one of these “We’re always busy” shops stated to me the other day, “Well, I just keep trying different parts until I get’r runnin’. If’n I run out of idears I let er’ sit until I think of somethin’ else ta do. I’m only bringin’ ya this here car cause the owner was getting a bit riled up over it takin’ so long.” Seems like a poor way of diagnosing problems and even poorer way of taking care of their customers if you ask me. But, we should also look at it from the other side of the coin, the customer side that is. They’re just as much to blame for all this waiting around for a repair that probably ain’t going to happen. Obviously it’s not time that worries them, so it must be the cost factor they’re concerned about. Talking with one customer who had their car at another shop for so long that cobwebs had spread across the motor told me, “Well, he’s good and cheap. That’s why I left it there for him to give it a try.” I can believe the cheap part, but good... I don’t think so. When are they going to wise up about it all? That is, the shop that doesn’t have the skills to repair the car properly and uses whatever charm or magic they have over the customer to leave the car at their shop for so long. Along with the car owners who simply pinch pennies on their car repairs and aren’t concerned with quality. But, they’re willing to put their own kids in their family truckster that was repaired by somebody with questionable knowledge and skills. This car repair stuff isn’t some kind of kid’s game or something that should be left to chance. It’s a highly skilled trade with highly skilled individuals who dedicate their life to performing intricate diagnostics and repairs to their customer’s cars with sophisticated equipment and continual education on the latest systems being developed. Of course, I’m leaving out those parking lots that claim to be repair shops. For something that has evolved into a computerized and mechanical machine that is rarely understood by the average owner, and something that nearly every person owns, has been left to the whims of an unregulated and unlicensed repair industry. It just completely boggles my mechanical mind. It’s a wonder anything ever gets accomplished, or that good mechanics stay in the business and further their education to do even higher quality work than before. I mean seriously, you’ve got to have a license to sling plumbing pipe or cut hair, but hardly any kind of quality check for the person doing the repairs on your family jalopy that zooms down the road at 75mph. I just don’t get it.
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Lately our traffic and participation in the forums has been rising but the chat room, especially Sunday chat is not being utilized as much. The question came up whether we still even need a chat section or Sunday night chat. Please take a moment to vote, so we can poll our community on this topic.
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By Ron Ipach
I’d like to officially welcome you to the second half of 2017. That’s right, the year is half over. Let me ask you a question; How’s your business doing? Is it exactly where you thought it would be right now? Are you on track to meet your goals? Or do you need to tighten up the bootstraps and get rocking and rolling on there to get the year to where you really need it to go?
I’d like to wind the calendar all the way back to January 1st. You know, the day that everybody comes up with all those great New Year’s resolutions. They have resolutions about how the business is going to go, how much time they’re going to spend with their family, how much vacation they’re going to take this year, how much money they’re going to make, how much weight they’re going to lose, all of those things.
Do you remember that day? Do you remember actually sitting back and making another New Year’s resolution? Well, if you’re like most people, yeah. You figured this year was going to be the year, the year that everything is going to get on track. And I really, really hope it is for you. But if it’s not, well, it’s half over with, and I want to point that out to tell you that it’s okay. It’s okay if you’re not nearly where you thought you would be, because we have another six months to go to be able to pull it out.
So don’t get discouraged if you’re not where you thought you would be. Congratulate yourself if you are exactly where you think you’re going to be, or where you should be. So you’re doing great this year, fantastic. Go out and celebrate. Celebrate the victory. And if you’re not where you need to go, it’s time to tighten up those shoelaces and get really rocking. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s okay. We have a full six months to pull this out.
It’s time to start taking action on everything you’re learning. If car count is your problem, and for most shop owners it is, get going on all these strategies that I’m giving you here for free. Every single day in your email box I’m giving you tons of strategies to help you move forward and keep plenty of car count coming in the door. If it’s about profitability, if it’s about finding that technician, look, we have lots great information, lots of videos that we can share with you, if that’s where the problem is.
Don’t let it be an impending storm. The second half of 2017 is going to be a great year, but you need to start taking action. If you need information, fantastic. We’ll be here to give it to you, but in most cases it’s just a matter of you needing to go and take action.
Time to really start rocking and rolling to get this 2017 to be everything you thought it would be; to lose the weight you want, get the car count you want, make the money you want, have the dream shop that you always knew your shop could be. You got a half a year left. Let’s get rolling.