Jump to content


There's a new wrench in Town

Recommended Posts

There's a new wrench in town


A Volkswagen Beetle was left in the parking lot one cold morning. It was one of my regular customers 01' Beetle. All I knew of the problem was that it wouldn't start.


"Let's check a few things first," I said. I pulled out one of the glow plugs to check it for wear and tear and if it was getting the necessary voltage to warm it up. All was well; in fact they looked fairly new. I had a meter handy so I checked to see if the resistance was correct…right on the money. I cracked open a fuel line to one of the injectors … no fuel…. No fuel??? Hey, wait a minute… isn't that kinda necessary?? The tank was full, but no fuel pressure at the lines. One of the things to worry about with a diesel is … air in the fuel lines…. Anytime these engines get any air in the fuel lines… oops… they will be hard to start or not start at all. Ask anyone with a diesel that has ran out of fuel…ask them how long it took to get it started again.


Well, before I start tearing into other possibilities, this would be a good time to shoot a little starting fluid down its throat and see if I can get a burp or two out of the little engine. I want to be sure there are no "mechanical" issues with the engine.


A couple of quick shots of ether and crank of the key…. Shazaam…!! Started right up…. Hold on hold on…. fuel is spurting everywhere.. Shut it off... Shut it OFF now!! Looking under the fuel distributor you could see that the fuel was actually coming out of the two halves of the distributor… apparently the gasket or housing to the distributor has developed a major leak. My guess would be probably from the cold. Air was getting into the fuel lines, but once the engine spun fast enough to overcome the air rushing in from the bad distributor it then was able to start.


I called the customer and gave him the bad news, the biggest problem was cost; a fuel distributor isn't a cheap part by any means. Luckily for the owner he was still covered under the factory 100k mile warranty, but barely. It was about 500 miles shy of going over the mileage. The obvious next step would be to have the car towed to the dealership. All the work could be completed under the warranty and save the customer from a huge repair bill. Nothing like a warranty when it actually pays off on an expensive part… I'm actually more relieved myself. It's not the easiest job by any means, oh I'll do it… but given a choice between changing a fuel distributor or taking a swift kick …. I'll take the swift kick.


At this point I'm through; I did my part, diagnosed the problem and sent it on to the proper repair facility to have it done. What more should I do? Then the phone rang, it's the owner of the car.


He was quite calm on the phone.. I couldn't believe what he was telling me.


In a very calm and collective voice the owner said, "The tech at the dealer says it needs new glow plugs, new glow plug relay, and a new glow plug harness."


Once the initial shock wore off, I began to laugh. "You're kidding me," I answered laughing the whole time.


"No, that's what the man said," he said, with a little smirk in his voice.


I think he knew, but didn't want to say anything to me about what he thought was going on… oh, I knew, I knew quite well what was going on.


He asked, "Do you want to call them?"


"No, let's see if they want to call me. I already know what's wrong with the car. Let's try this; ask them if they will guarantee the repair and make it right if that doesn't fix the problem," I told him.


"Ok," said my now laughing owner, "This ought to be a fun adventure. I'll play along with ya."


The phone rings again… it's the tech from the dealer. I felt like it was one of those old western movies. You know the ones, where the bad guy strolls into the bar and says to the other cowboy, "This here town ain't big enough for the both us." Oh yea, my young, wet behind the ears dealer tech had something to prove. You could tell he had been shining his wrenches for just an occasion to show up an independent shop. I could hear that "western" movie music in the background. I was waiting for the "call out" any minute now. It's the old "I'm the dealer tech and nobody knows more than me." You know, I'm getting older, I may not be as fast as I use to be… but it's still going to take more wrench than this spark plug has to get the best of this old gear head. Talk about a cocky, fresh out of diapers, full of himself dipstick. If this guy would just listen to what he was saying, he could have figured out who the real cracked engine blockhead was. I'll bet he goes to work; dons his dealership uniform and transforms himself into tat ta tat da…. SUPER MECHANIC!! Look in the shop, springing from tool box to tool box, no, could it be… why yes it's SUPER MECHANIC..! I'm honored to be in the presence of such a marvel of the auto world. Could I have finally met my match, am I to be put down at high noon like the Wild West gun slingers of old? Hold on there, partner, I still have my secret decoder ring and my x-ray glasses to ward off such attempts of super human abilities. I'll call you out… High Noon, wrenches ready… let's do this cowboy.


He proceeded to tell me that he had a code for an intermittent glow plug signal and that they had records showing that the glow plugs were changed at the dealership 2 years ago. Naturally, that was what was wrong with it. He didn't need another shop to tell him that, because he was perfectly capable of handling the repair and that the only reason he was making this call is because it was company policy to verify complaints if the customer didn't agree with their diagnosis. Holy Wrenches Hombres, at least we have that going for us…


You know, there are times I'd just like to give these snot nose, green horn, socket jockeys a quick thwack on the noggin. But, this kid was lucky, I wasn't in the mood to belch out my usual "you're too young kid, you're going to need a little more grease in the right places before ya go messin' with this old wrench" speech. Instead, I was going to give him another chance to rethink his diagnosis.


"How did you arrive at that conclusion," I asked.


"I had a code for it, and these cars have a history of problems with the glow plugs," he very proudly stated.


"Did you check the glow plug themselves?" I very calmly asked.


"Well, they were changed 2 years ago," he answered.


First mistake; more to follow.


"Let me get this straight, you found a code, you didn't check it, and now you want to change the part… is that it?" I said in a stern manner.


"I don't need to check it, I already know," he quickly bantered back.


"I hate tell you this, but that code is there because of me. I pulled the glow plug out and hand checked it. I even checked the resistance value on the glow plug and the incoming voltage. I didn't see a thing wrong with the glow plug circuit. Did you by chance notice the raw fuel under the fuel distributor?" I asked in a even more stern voice.


"Yea, I saw the fuel. I washed it off." he answered in a confident manner, "It started to stink up the shop and blow the fumes all over the shop. The car was directly under the shop heater and the other techs were complaining. Not like it had anything to do with the repair anyway. You guys' are just a little sloppy, you should clean up things better next time."


"That fuel you seen is from the fuel distributor housing," I told him.


"Oh, you know, all these customers are all alike; they're just trying to get stuff done for nothing while it's still under the warranty. So, it's no big deal," he answered.


Oh please, don't tell me this kid had the nerve to say that. It reminds me of all those comments that small children say to strangers in a crowded room. Usually out of context and never under the right circumstances and, most often, with their parents standing right there totally embarrassed by the whole thing.


Another mistake, keep going kid… it's just keeps getting better.


"I think you should put this car back outside and check it in the morning after it gets good and cold. It's going to leak again, that I'm sure of." I told the new wrench.


"I'm going to have to ask my service writer about that, because I'm very sure of the repair work that I have already diagnosed. So, like I said... This is just a courtesy call... not a call to tell me how to fix it." He said in a very demanding tone.


"Ok fella, have it your way. I'm just trying to help you out. I didn't spill a drop of fuel. That fuel you see came from the distributor not from anything else." I said, trying to get my point across.


"I understand, but you know, here at the dealership we have the most sophisticated equipment and can diagnose these problems better and quicker than you can." He answered.


The mistakes keep adding up. About now I'm shining my wrenches for a showdown… somebody is going to get it, and it ain't me.


I think if I were him, I would be concerned that the glow plugs that were installed 2 years ago have failed again, seems pretty odd to me that the glow plugs wore out that quickly. But this young wrench head is strictly going by the code and not diagnosing the problem.


I told him, "Wouldn't it be proper procedure to clear the code and then recheck. Chances are it was a false code do to the fact I had disconnected it earlier."


He didn't seem to be interested in my comments. As I expected, the dealership called the owner and told him that they were going to do "further" testing.


The next day the owner called me back again with even more astonishing news. "The dealer tech said that the raw fuel was from the glow plug that you took out," the owner said laughingly. I figured the tech was trying to cover his tracks.


A week later the little 01 Volkswagen had a new fuel distributor and a happy owner. All under warranty, and it didn't need those new glow plugs replaced… imagine that.


This tech at the dealership was just a young wrench with a chip on his shoulder. Trying to out wrench an old hand like myself was not a smart move. To top it off, the owner isn't dumb about the whole thing either. A few more years under this young techs' toolbox and he might just make it.


I guess you could say that there was a showdown at high noon. Holster those wrenches boy, you've got some more miles to put under the hood before you'll be ready for another showdown.


I think it was a good lesson for the young ratchet head. Just because you're dealing with an independent shop doesn't mean they don't know how to use those wrenches. So saddle up there youngster, I'm proud of ya, this was a good lesson for future endeavors. For me, the trigger finger is a little slower than it used to be… But I can still tell the stories… one wrench at a time.






Edited by Gonzo

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Similar Forum Topics

    • Article: Identifying the Problem with Your Shop

      I have never met a shop owner who didn’t have the desire to be successful. People go into business with dreams of changing the world and to make a positive influence in the industry to which they have dedicated their lives. They’re devoted, sacrifice time away from family and, at times, drive themselves to exhaustion—all in an effort to become the best they can be and make their mark. However, all too often, something happens along the way and the business begins to suffer. While shops owners may start their business with passion and vision, they tend to create a world in which everything revolves around them. When the business is small, the owner pays careful attention to every detail. Every car is repaired with the highest degree of excellence. Quality time is spent with each customer and a bond is created, which gets stronger and stronger as the years pass. As the business begins to grow, the owner realizes that the amount of work to be accomplished each day is overwhelming and hires more employees. Everyone is working, but not necessarily with the same culture the owner has. They do their job, but they are not really aligned with the goals and vision of the owner. The shop owner continues to work on his or her skills, learning everything that is needed to run a successful business. After a number of years, the shop owner becomes skilled at running a shop and proficient in nearly every aspect of business, except one: the area of people. And that is when the downward slide begins. The owner recognizes that, in spite of the dedication to excellence, things are not right. The shop owner has established the goals of the company and put everything in place. Everything is attainable. But it’s not working. Frustration sets in, and it’s not long before the owner begins to complain about the lack of performance and drive from the employees, which is the perceived root of the problem. Well, the root of the problem is the owner. We all know that running a business is not a walk in the park, but if your business is struggling, you, personally, are struggling. If your people are not performing the way they should, then you are not performing the way you should. Granted, there are employees that are a problem, and if that’s the case, they need to go. But even superstar employees will turn sour under poor leadership. There are endless issues and problems you encounter each and every day, and some of those problems are out of your control. But, excluding a cataclysmic event, you can trace most of your problems back to you. You are the shop owner, you are the leader. The strength of your business begins and ends with you. Given two equally talented ball teams, the difference between winning and losing is usually leadership. Employees need to know you care about them. The people you employ have vision and goals, too. Not the same as yours, but real nonetheless. One of your jobs, as leader, is to align their goals with yours. We throw this leadership term around a lot these days, and for good reason. It’s the most powerful skill you have in terms of getting the results for which you are looking. The horrible truth is there are too many bosses and not enough leaders. Anyone can be a boss. Bosses order people around. And people will follow, but not for the long term. A leader motivates others by understanding what drives the individual. A leader gives credit to others, never seeking gain at the expense of others. Next time you walk through your shop, pay attention to the mood of your employees. Are your employees laughing and talking to each other? You know, having a little fun at work. Do your employees look to engage in conversation with you, or are their heads buried under the hood of a car as you pass them by? Even worse, does everyone stop talking when you are around? These are signs that your employees are not engaged, which means they are not aligned with the goals and vision of the business, and you are not aligned with theirs. A leader finds out what’s important to others, and works to help them achieve it. Aligning the goals of the individual with the goals of the company will achieve great things. When employees are respected as people, they become motivated and perform at their best; not because they are told to, but because they want to. This is the highest form of team spirit and becomes your driving force toward success. This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on October 1st, 2018
      View full article

      By Joe Marconi, in AutoShopOwner Articles

      • 0 replies
    • [BAD NEWS] Think Your Customers actually TRUST You?

      Yes, I was shocked - and you will be too! The most current report from AAA reveals critical information that YOU need to know. 
      Hope this helps!
      Matthew Lee
      "The Car Count Fixer"
      Grow your Car Count, Income and Profits!

      By JustTheBest, in Marketing, Advertising, & Promoting

      • 0 replies
    • Joe Marconi Key Note Speaker Ratchet & Wrench Conference 2018

      If you are going to the Ratchet and Wrench Conference next week, I will be there to kick things off as the Key Note Speaker on the first day. I will also be making a presentation; Charging for Diagnostics on Friday, Sept 21.  If any member is attending the conference, please let me know and hopefully we can meet.  Here is the link to the conference: https://www.ratchetandwrench.com/articles/5651-ratchetwrench-announces-details-of-2018-management-conference Thank you, Joe Marconi   

      By Joe Marconi, in AutoShopOwner Announcements

      • 0 replies
    • Article: Building a Marketing Plan Around Your Customers

      Roughly a month ago, I went to lunch with a good friend of mine. He works for the YMCA, so we discussed what the YMCA does to attract new members. A few years ago, my friend and his team realized that while they were good at attracting new members each year, they had little to no retention. It was a constant battle to bring in new members to fill the void of lost members. The YMCA realized that it’s easier and less expensive to keep existing members, than to go out and find new ones. They created a new marketing strategy with a focus on keeping existing members. The plan was simple: create an amazing experience for their members and offer new programs to these existing members. The plan worked. Member retention improved. What worked for the YMCA will also work for your business. Before you spend a dime on advertising, you need to understand one crucial component of your business; the customer experience. Without a great customer experience that gives your existing customers a compelling reason to return, you’re simply wasting your money on advertising. Advertising is often aimed at new-customer acquisition. There is nothing wrong with this. Every business loses clientele each year for a number of reasons, and we need to get our name out to our community about who we are and what we do in order to attract new consumers. But, to rely on new customer acquisition alone without a plan to keep existing customers is not a strategy for long-term, sustained growth. Every marketing plan starts with looking at your entire operation and how it relates to the customer experience. Are you doing all you can to create an amazing experience that builds solid relationships? If not, you will be in the same position the YMCA was: using advertising to fill the void of lost customers. While there are many aspects of the customer experience, let’s focus today on the four essential areas: The customer write-up, the sales process, the car delivery and the follow-up. Each of these touch points must be executed with one thing in mind: create an experience so amazing that the customer will have a compelling reason to return your shop again. Customer write-up starts the process. It’s where you begin the relationship or continue to preserve it. It must be performed as if you are welcoming a guest into your home. The sales process must communicate value and benefits to the customer. This gives the customer peace of mind, reduces anxiety and buyer’s remorse. The car delivery is your chance to leave a lasting positive impression of you and your company. It should not be a transaction, but instead the opportunity to resell the job, you and your company. The car delivery should not be rushed. Take the time to review the invoice, ask the customer if they have any questions. Let every customer know how important they are and how much you value his or her confidence and trust in you and your company. The follow-up continues the customer experience. This is where you reach out to the customer with a phone call, email, or thank-you card. It helps with customer retention by making another positive impression in the mind of the customer. Getting back to car delivery: Make sure you review all future service recommendations and let the customer know that they will receive a service reminder. But don’t rely on a postcard or email alone to bring back customers. Think about this: If you had a bad experience at a restaurant, no offer or ad is going to get you back there—only an amazing experience will. The same holds true for your business. By the way, an amazing customer experience is created by the people in your company. Sure, you need to have a clean, well kept facility with nice amenities. But it’s the people in your company that make the difference. Billion dollar stadiums don’t win championships—it’s the quality of the players on the field that win championships. Everyone in your company is part of your marketing plan. A simple smile and hello from a technician when a customer walks past the bays can do more for your business than any ad can. Let me leave you with this thought: Customers will not remember the mass airflow sensor you installed or the exhaust leak you repaired. But they will remember their experience. A positive experience is lasting in the mind of the consumer. It’s the most powerful marketing tool you have—and it’s virtually free.   This story was originally published by Joe Marconi in Ratchet+Wrench on September 1st, 2018
      View full article

      By Joe Marconi, in AutoShopOwner Articles

      • 0 replies
    • New shop start up.

      Hello all, I stumbled across this forum while doing some research on starting a shop. I had some questions to assist in guiding me in the right direction. For starts, what is the general thought on being some what specialized? I’m master certified with Kia and Hyundai as well as hybrid certified. So I was wanting to try and stay toward those three as my main focus. Or has this been proven to not be a solid business model? Also for my shop, we are going to be building it from scratch, so was curious about some input. We are wanting to start with three bays. What would be the minimum building size? We were thinking a 30x60. Which would give us an office/waiting rooms and a little storage. Or would this be to small?   On another note, if anyone on here is in the Charlotte-greensboro area that would like to grab some coffee, I would love to pick you brain for a bit.       Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

      By statrepair, in New Member's Area

      • 9 replies
  • AutoShopOwner Sponsors