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Billing extra time for seized parts + Rust


Savage

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Hello everyone

I am new to the service side of the retail auto industry having worked in sales for 5 years. I am now the mechanical department manager of a Carstar collision repair shop. In addition to the usual insurance work, I am starting to take on more customer pay repairs. An issue I keep running into is that because I am located in Canada (South Ontario not far from Detroit) many of the vehicles we work on are severely rusted underneath and many bolts have siezed in place. Many require torches, cutting, drilling, and other unusual disassembly of adjacent components to remove. For example right now I am having a starter replaced on a caravan, and the lower engine mount needs to be removed but is siezed. We needed to apply heat but because it is so close to the rad fan shroud, ended up having to remove the shroud and other items nearby just to attempt to heat and remove the bolt. This ultimately didn't work, and we are now cutting it and drilling it out. Often times using heat causes damage to components. We needed to use heat to cut into a suspension knuckle to remove it after it was damaged from a curb, and ended up destroying a wheel bearing. Abs sensors also commonly need to be snapped off and drilled out because they are just so fused in place. Obviously this gets expensive. 

 

This happens all the time, and as a result the times I am using from shopkey pro and mitchell are not reflective of how long these jobs actually take. On one hand I don't feel it is fair to the customer to charge 2.6 hours for the starter replacement, and another 3 hours to attempting multiple ways to get a bolt out, heating, removing adjacent components, fan shroud R+I... turning a 2.6 hour job into 5.6 hours. On the other hand I understand that this is just the reality of working on vehicles older than a couple years in this part of the country and the customer should be paying for it. 

 

What would you consider standard practice in this situation? I don't want to be eating all this extra time, but I also don't want to have to charge customer hours upon hours additionally because we have to figure out how to unsieze everything.  

 

 

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I'm in Prince Edward Island, so we have it even worse than you.  Not only do we have road salt in the winter months, we are surrounded by salt water!  We add time for these things regularly, depending on the car.  If it's especially rusty looking my techs will usually give the SA a heads up that there may be extra time involved, and this is relayed to the client.  They have gotten pretty good at spotting something and letting us know that it may cause some extra time the vehicle.  That said, the rust doesn't often slow my guys down much, aside from wheel alignments.  One trick we use for those tight spots such as your fan shroud.....keep a few various sizes of tin laying around the shop to use as a heat shield between the part you are heating and the part you do not want to burn/melt.  Works great.  Also, Wurth makes a spray gel designed to protect things from welding sparks, that can be sprayed on plastic or other pieces that helps them withstand heat better.  I can send you a picture of the product tomorrow from the shop if you like.

 

Jeff

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If we identify the problem before the repairs we let the customer know there will be additional labor if we run into this issue, if we don't have any problems we don't bill for it. We also call and get additional labor time if it happens during the repair and additional time is needed. I would rather be over prepared than under bill.

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A tool that works really great for seized bolts and nuts is an induction heater. They are faster and there’s no open flame. Of course they don’t fit every situation but they really work super. I use mine a lot. I believe mine is the “Bolt Buster “

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Problems such a seized nuts/bolts/sensors can often be anticipated on a job based on past experience and then be explained to the customer up front. When it comes as a surprise I always call the customer and explain the situation that the anticipated labor charge will increase due to unforeseen complications. I find that keeping the customer in the loop and informed prevents trouble. I feel that if I fail to inform the customer then I don’t deserve compensation for the added labor but if I take the time to inform the customer and allow him or her to be part of the decision making process then there are no surprises, no hard feelings and the CUSTOMER pays for the additional labor repairing his or her vehicle. A seized, rusted or broken bolt is not my problem unless I allow it to be.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Our labor guide marks up the standard labor by 30%, so a starters that pays 1 hour becomes 1.3. Some jobs take longer some less but it all pretty much works out. Some jobs like a starter on a 5.3 trailblazer require bending the tranny lines out of the way. We quote new lines on a job like this because you just aren't bending them without a leak. Remember an estimate is just that, as soon as you realize your going to lose stop and call the customer. It's a balance between too many conversations and just getting the job done, so by starting out with a bit of a cushion your life gets easier. 

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

         0 comments
      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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