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Shift Happens


Gonzo

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Shift Happens

Jo was a new customer referred by an old-time regular. Her little KIA had a transmission problem that seemed to be getting the best of the transmission shop. The story goes that the SUV was constantly in limp mode, and would never shift properly… ever. As it always seems to be the case when a simple problem can't be solved simply, somebody started the diagnostics off in the wrong direction. Little did I know this was a simple problem…. But, as I see it, each and every type of diagnostic work that you do requires a certain step by step procedure that you must follow. Miss a step, or completely overlook a step, usually means you're going to miss that simple problem all together. This was no exception.

 

From what information I could gather the person who diagnosed it at the transmission shop wasn't the same person who installed it. So after the tech put the last bolt in the transmission, he set the car out front, and told the front office, "Got the transmission in that KIA." The front office considered it done, and the call went out for Jo to pick it up. She didn't make it around the block before she was back at the front counter in a "not-so" pleasant mood. You can just imagine the situation at the counter… not pleasant I'm sure. After some deliberation, and very little diagnostics the transmission shop came up with the conclusion that it must be a bad transmission. Luckily, Jo's ride that had brought her there was still in the parking lot, so she left the KIA for them to re-do the whole job again.

 

A week later, it was supposedly done. This time a different tech had installed the second transmission. Unfortunately, he made the same mistake as the first tech. When Jo came to pick up her car the shop owner took her for a ride to be sure that the repairs were made to her satisfaction. It was a short drive… This time, the owner said he was going to pay for the transmission, and would even purchase one from the dealership just to be sure it wasn't their mistake in rebuilding it. But even the dealer transmission failed to shift properly. The tranny shop was at a loss, they decided to make a few calls for some help, and that's when my phone rang.

 

Now, I'm not one to diagnose anything over the phone. I just don't think it's a smart way of taking care of such problems, because you never quite know what you're getting into. But the tranny shop owner sounded desperate, and now the repair costs were coming out of his pocket. From his frantic explanations of no codes, no shift, and no idea of the problem, he kind of put me on the spot … so … I suggested a computer. Heck, why not… ya' changed the tranny 3 times for Pete's sake, obviously that ain't' it. I probably shouldn't have done that, but I think he wanted to try and save as much money as possible without resorting to taking it to another shop.

 

Well, a new TCM didn't work either…. Now, the car is finally coming my way. Jo was a little unsure whether or not there was anyone out there who could find the problem, but her friend told her that it couldn't hurt to let me see what I could do for her. I'll give it a try.

 

When the car showed up at the shop I took it around the block once to verify the condition, and then put it up on the lift. While it was on the lift I decided to drop it into gear and check it against the scanner. To my surprise, it shifted perfectly. I'm not kidding… absolutely perfect. I dropped it back on the ground, and went for a ride again. I didn't even make it around the first corner… stuck in limp mode just as it was before, this dang thing can't pull itself out of a pot hole.

 

Back up on the lift, and wouldn't ya know it, shifts perfectly… AGAIN! What's the deal here? I did it several times, just so I could be sure of the results I was getting. After a few trips I checked the wiring to the transmission while it was on the ground. Oh, oh, the main ground to the TCM wasn't there. How in the world was it there when it was in the air? AH HA! It's moving the wire! Yes, it was moving the wire alright, and a few more than just the TCM ground lead. The locator page showed the TCM ground wire was bundled with several other ground leads that were all attached to the main chassis ground… which wasn't attached to a thing, but was dangling by the battery box.

 

Turns out the whole problem started when she had her battery changed at a department store repair shop, and they didn't have the right size to fit the car. They disconnected the chassis ground wire, so the taller battery would fit.

 

When I told Jo what I found, the two of us pieced together the how and why it happened. Her only comment was, "Well, shift happens".

 

All said and done with, the transmission shop paid for the entire repair, and gave her back what she spent with them. Everyone involved was glad to have the problem solved, and the car back on the road as good as new. I like this gal, she's become a regular at the shop these days. What a card! Always has some sarcastic comment for me, but at the same time a very understanding nature and takes life in stride. I'd love to have a couple of dozen customers just like her.

 

As she always tells me… "If you can't live on the bright side of life… start polishing the dull one."

 

 

 

Edited by Gonzo
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Your probably right about the tranny shop... I don't know... I really don't know. After looking back on it... I really think it was one of those jobs that the diagnostics just got off on the wrong foot and no matter what they did ... they just couldn't get it back on track. The tranny shop is usually pretty good... However, after this job I never got another job from them. I credit that to either being more careful with their diagnostics or to save embarrasment... they found somebody else to check their stuff out... go figure...

Sometimes, being good, ain't so good... at least that's my thoughts on this one.

 

You know these stories, as my wife tells me... Are for everyone to read that's in the business... her way of putting it... is that there is more to fixing cars than turning some wrenches or pushing some buttons on a scanner... and my stories try to bring out the other side of the business...

glad ya like the stories... so far almost everything I send out gets picked up by one of the magazines... I've hardly had to rewrite or reject a story proofing them here really makes a difference.

You know, there's one thing in this business... you hardly ever "really" get a thank you, oh we do on occasions... but for the most part... it's not like each and everyone calls you back and tells you how good their car is working..(screw one up and watch how soon they show up). I just hope my stories let everyone know... we all do care.. and we all do apperciate it. And most of those customers really do too. because... "shift happens"

 

Thanx again for your comments Joe.... always appreciate them...

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

         3 comments
      Got your attention? Good. The truth is, there is no such thing as the perfect technician pay plan. There are countless ways to create any pay plan. I’ve heard all the claims and opinions, and to be honest, it’s getting a little frustrating. Claims that an hourly paid pay plan cannot motivate. That flat rate is the only way to truly get the most production from your technicians. And then there’s the hybrid performance-based pay plan that many claim is the best.
      At a recent industry event, a shop owner from the Midwest boasted about his flat-rate techs and insisted that this pay plan should be adopted by all shops across the country. When I informed him that in states like New York, you cannot pay flat-rate, he was shocked. “Then how do you motivate your techs” he asked me.
      I remember the day in 1986 when I hired the best technician who ever worked for me in my 41 years as an automotive shop owner. We’ll call him Hal. When Hal reviewed my pay plan for him, and the incentive bonus document, he stared at it for a minute, looked up, and said, “Joe, this looks good, but here’s what I want.” He then wrote on top of the document the weekly salary he wanted. It was a BIG number. He went on to say, “Joe, I need to take home a certain amount of money. I have a home, a wife, two kids, and my Harly Davidson. I will work hard and produce for you. I don’t need an incentive bonus to do my work.” And he did, for the next 30 years, until the day he retired.
      Everyone is entitled to their opinion. So, here’s mine. Money is a motivator, but not the only motivator, and not the best motivator either. We have all heard this scenario, “She quit ABC Auto Center, to get a job at XYZ Auto Repair, and she’s making less money now at XYZ!” We all know that people don’t leave companies, they leave the people they work for or work with.
      With all this said, I do believe that an incentive-based pay plan can work. However, I also believe that a technician must be paid a very good base wage that is commensurate with their ability, experience, and certifications. I also believe that in addition to money, there needs to be a great benefits package. But the icing on the cake in any pay plan is the culture, mission, and vision of the company, which takes strong leadership. And let’s not forget that motivation also comes from praise, recognition, respect, and when technicians know that their work matters.
      Rather than looking for that elusive perfect pay plan, sit down with your technician. Find out what motivates them. What their goals are. Why do they get out of bed in the morning? When you tie their goals with your goals, you will have one powerful pay plan.
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