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Article: Repairing by the Numbers - Fix it right is more important than ever

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Repairing by the Numbers

         Now and then, I’ll get a car in the shop that you can clearly tell some amateur has been fiddling around under the hood.  Things are out of place, harnesses and lines are not strapped down, or they’ve come up with some concoction to seal an oil leak.  Nothing surprises me these days, especially after all the years I’ve been at this.  Whether it’s a homemade battery clamp or gobs of pepper poured into the radiator to seal a leak, I’ve probably seen it before… and then some.

         Once in a while, some of these in-the-ditch repairs truly are a road side emergency, but I tend to believe with proper maintenance even those repairs could be avoided. I’m not saying you won’t break down on the side of the road, I know I have, but we aren’t driving around with points and condensers or 2 ply tires anymore.  Cars have far more reliability built into them than the cars back then.  Even though the number of repairs has dropped considerably, the number on the bottom of the repair invoice rises with every new technology added.

         Like everything else in the modern world, it still comes down to the numbers.  The dollar number that is.  Car repair can be expensive, especially considering the amount of training, tools and equipment needed to perform the various diagnostics and repairs. However, there are still a number of people who take car repair and maintenance as something that can be taken care of with cheap off shore parts and a shade tree, no matter what the problem is. That number is soon to change.

         The number of sensors, cameras, and multiple layers of high speed computer data in the modern car changes the way a lot of repairs that once were simple, like a cracked windshield, or a piece of trim falling off into a calibrated control system service.  A consumer, or for that matter a repair shop, who is unaware of the complexities of these new systems and tries to penny pinch a seemingly minor problem, may inadvertently be putting themselves, their passengers and the other motorist at risk.

                  The days of bailing wire and homemade repairs has reached the end of the road.  Cars are far too sophisticated and complex for shoddy repair work from either the unaware motorist or those repair shops with antiquated repair methods. This is where training the consumer about their car is just as important as training the technicians. 

Things like replacing an outside mirror after Junior clobbers it backing out of the garage, aren’t as simple as before. Now, they’ll need to be calibrated and realigned because of the cameras and sensors in them.  Even minor fender benders can’t be taken as lightly as before. A few stray piece of duct tape might hold the bumper on, but cover up a radar sensor.  However, with these systems in working order, the likelihood of getting in a fender bender or getting too close to the garage door has been diminished by those very same cameras.   

         Cars aren’t built like the solid tanks of yesteryear either, and why should they be?  The technology and the way the vehicles are built goes hand in hand, and it’s not just about fuel economy or creature comforts, it’s about the safety of the occupants as well.  

         In short, the modern mechanic is going to have their hands full programming, calibrating, and setting up the modern car for those minor mishaps that the average motorist gets involved in. Even now, insurance companies offer better rates if your car is equipped with some of the latest radar and protective systems, such as crash avoidance and lane departure awareness systems. 

Keeping these rolling computers in working order isn’t going to get any cheaper, either. Someday you might even count the number of times the technology in your car made a difference to you and your family’s safety, and for those reasons the numbers don’t matter. Saving a dollar is a smart thing to do, cutting corners on repairs isn’t.  Repairing the car by the numbers just doesn’t add up when it comes safety and reliability.


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      Caller: “I took the car to another shop that was open on the weekend and they messed it up. So, I’m calling you to take care of the bill.”

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      Caller: “I’m never do any work with your shop ever again!” CLICK

      Coupon Discounted

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      Caller: “Yea, it’s a coupon for one of those discount oil/lube places. But, I actually can’t find it. I made a copy of it with a program on my computer.”

      Mechanic: “I can’t honor another shops coupon, and I don’t think they’ll honor a homemade copy of their coupon either.”

      Caller: “I know, I tried to use it there. It’s a fake coupon and they knew it. So, can you take my fake coupon for an oil change anyway?”

      Mechanic: “Your fake coupon is only good for a fake oil change. Neither of which we’ll do.”

      Gas Mileage Gone

      Customer: “I just bought this car and now it doesn’t go.”

      Mechanic: “It’s out of gas ma’am.”

      Customer: “That’s impossible! The guy that sold it to me said it would get better gas mileage than my old car!”

      Mechanic: “The tank is empty ma’am.”

      Customer: “My old car could go a month without gas. This one only went 3 weeks. How in the world is that possible? My old car holds 22 gallons and gets 10 mpg and I filled this one up and it holds 15 gallons and it gets 12 mpg! ”

      Mechanic: “Ma’am, 22 gallons times 10 miles per gallon is 220 miles per tank. But, a car with a 15 gallon tank that gets 12 mpg can only go 180 miles per tank. You simply ran out of gas.”

      Customer: “I just don’t get it. I think you’re making this all up and are siding with the guy who sold me the car!”

      Brake Check

      Customer: “Can you check brakes here?”

      Service writer: “Yep, we sure can. What kind of car is it?”

      Customer: “It’s a Mercedes.”

      Service writer: “OK, where are the keys? I’ll have one of the guys pull it into the service bay.”

      Customer: “I walked here.”

      Service writer: “Well, as soon as you can get the car to us we’ll check it out.”

      Customer: “You said you could check my brakes, so I need to know how bad they are and how much it will cost.”

      Service writer: “I’ll need to see the car to give you an estimate.”

      Customer: “How do you guys can stay in business saying you can check brakes at the same time not being able to tell me how bad the brakes are on my Mercedes?”

      Service writer: “I could send a tow truck for the car.”

      Customer: “What car?”

      Service writer: “Your Mercedes.”

      Customer: “I don’t have a Mercedes. I told you I walked here.”

      Service writer: “I mean your Mercedes you want us to check the brakes on.”

      Customer: “I don’t own a Mercedes. Whatever gave you that idea? I just want an estimate on fixing them.”

      Service writer: “If they’re in awful shape, it will cost whatever the parts are plus whatever the labor would be. If they’re in perfect shape they won’t need a thing done and you wouldn’t have to spend a dime on the brakes.”

      Customer: “Thanks, that’s all I needed to know. I’m going to go find one with good brakes then.”

      Everybody has their own unique way of explaining things. Some on point while others are so far off that even if you could give a logical answer, the answer isn’t always exactly what they wanted to hear at all.
      Just goes to show, that some people will say the darndest things to the person behind the counter. For the professional mechanic, it’s just another day in paradise.

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      By Gonzo, in AutoShopOwner Articles

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