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The Ghost Mechanic - those mechanics that seem to leave evidence of their bad work that you find... or was it a mechanic after all?


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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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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

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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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