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Diamond in the Rough --- --- --- Cheap cars are cheap for a reason ---


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Diamond in the Rough



I seem to run across the same type of people over and over again who think the great deal they got on this used pile of junk is the best thing since sliced bread? It doesn't matter what year the car is, or what kind of car it is… if the deal sounds too sweet it is probably going to sour your pocketbook. It's not hard to spot these individuals in a crowd. They're usually beaming with pride, and even prouder to tell you what they just paid for the latest conquest. I find it rather comical in a way to see how they are so eager to tell me all about their "high value-low cost" wonder of the auto world.


There have been several of them over the years, more than I can even remember; some have been bought without having been looked at all, or the price was so good the new owner didn't seem to care what was really wrong with it. I've had expensive cars to cheap runabouts dragged, pushed, and shoved into my service bays over the years, only to find out the real issue with these gems is something so serious that the car should have been sent to the salvage yard in the first place.


One time it was a little Honda that a new proud owner brought in to me. The car was really clean, well kept and looked like it had a lot of new body parts added along with a fresh paint job. (He bought it at an insurance auction, by the way.) The only complaint was a thump when you would take off from a dead stop and a constant rubbing noise coming from the engine. The new owner was told it only needed a new motor mount. I wish they would have checked with me before they bought it but, you know… it was "such a good deal" why bother with having it checked out.


The new owner put it to me this way, "I can't go wrong for the price I paid for it." Hmmm, I don't think his good deal would cover a broken engine block right where the front motor mount bolts onto the engine. Awe, too bad… another diamond turns into coal.


Then there was the guy who bought a 4 year old Cadillac out of state-never seen it, and drove all the way there and back. The previous owner said he wired the coolant fans so they would stay on all the time, and that it wouldn't take much to repair it if he knew a good electrical repair shop. He came straight to my shop, and was I in for a surprise! It wasn't only the fans that were wired up direct, but practically everything under the hood. The engine compartment had been on fire, and the entire engine harness and lighting harness was wired with one color wire…. black. Every splice was taped together without any solder or protection. How this guy made it as far as he did was a miracle. Needless to say, the repair was going to be more than the guy wanted to spend on it, so he decided to sell it to the next gemologist that came along.


Then, just this past week, I had a real gold digger make his way to my shop. Not only was this jacked up Dodge diesel pickup a banged up brute, but the guy took it to a transmission shop to have a new transmission installed… AND… he hadn't even bought it from the previous owner yet! So here's a guy buying parts for a vehicle he doesn't even own. Unbelievable… Oh, but it gets better… the transmission wasn't the only thing that was shot. The reason it was shot is because it's stuck in limp home, and the previous owner just kept hammering the pedal to the floor. That big Cummins engine just tore the transmission up. My job was to find out why it was in limp mode. Not only was it in limp, but there wasn't any communication to the PCM. One look at the harness told the story. This truck was a 98 model and had seen better days a long time ago. Looked to me as if somebody thought they could get real creative with the wiring, and had more spliced in goodies everywhere I looked than I've ever seen on any other vehicle before. Well, so much for this repair job. You know this is going to be more expensive than this guy wants to spend.


Now what does the fella do? He doesn't own the rig, but he's put all his money into the transmission and has nothing left to finish the job… and… he still has to pay for the actual truck. I guess it's time to head back to the diamond mine and look for some more sparkly gems.


After all these years, I can't imagine looking at something as expensive as a vehicle, a house, or other big ticket item that I know nothing about, without consulting an expert.


There's no diamonds in the rough, people! Oh there's the occasionally "little old lady left me this car stories" but for the most part… cheap deals are not cheap, especially when it comes to cars. There are so many moving parts and problems to be considered, you just can't use your wallet as the deciding factor whether or not it's a good deal. Use some common sense, and don't just buy it because the price is so good.


My shop offers a "Pre-Buy" check up just as many other shops do. I'd take advantage of it; it's well spent money on a used vehicle, and not a wasted effort on your part. Look at it this way, the only thing you're out is the cost of the "Pre-Buy" you're not stuck with a diamond in the rough that is more than likely just another piece of "fools gold".


When a customer comes in and tells me they are looking at a new ride, I offer to do a "Pre-Buy" checkup on for them. If they refuse, because they don't want to spend the money with me to have it checked out, I just smile, and tell them…


"Good luck fella. You're going to need it. I'd bring your diggin' tools… 'cause I can almost guarantee that this diamond in the rough is going to have you digging one deep hole in your pocket."



I tell the stories about our daily lives in the automotive industry. You like them, let me know. As well as being a shop owner I'm also a monthly columnist for several trade magazines. Your input helps me decide which stories I send off to the editors. So in a way, everyone here at ASO gets to decide which stories go into print. So here's your chance...leave a comment... I really appreciate it. (In fact if you follow my column you get to see how much the editors change the stories from what I started with and what actually goes into print.) Gonzo :)



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Great Tire Deal

Sometimes makes ya wonder... why ya even bother to tell someone NOT to buy a paticular car. I've had the same thing happen to me. Honestly, I think they believe you "could" be wrong. That it's not going to take as much to fix, or some family/church/or neighbor has had different results than you've experienced over the years.


It's as if any expertise you thought you had in this business equals one big fat "ZERO" when the customer is influenced from other sources. I wish them luck... they're going to need it.

What is even worse than the diamond in the rough deal is the vehicle that wasn't a great deal but where the customer paid more than market price and it is still a piece of junk. I had a 16 year old girl stop at my shop with her mother at closing time recently with an overheating car an older Dodge Neon with 150,000 miles plus. She had bought it from a dealer the day before for $2,500. I raised the hood and took one look at it and found the radiator was full of rusty muddy water with no flow. At a minimum it would need a timing belt, water pump, probably a timing belt kit, a serious flushing, and probably a radiator, at least $700-$1000. I didn't look for any other problems. Her dad had "checked" the car out and bought it because it ran good. Ofcourse he didn't drive it long enough to heat up. Now they are going to have a family friend shade tree mechanic fix it and try to save money. I hate to think about how much money they wind up dropping into this piece of junk after the friend possibly screws it up more.


Those prepurchase inspections can save a lot of grief. We have prevented a lot of people from making horrible purchase decisions. Of course I will never forget the time that we inspected a hunk of junk Hyundai that had been wrecked and improperly repaired. Nothing fit correctly. We showed the customer all of the problems and basically advised against the purchase. They happily paid the inspection fee and then showed up at the shop two days later for us to do some work on this hunk of junk that they had happily purchased. They should have saved their money on the inspection because they didn't listen to a word we said.

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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.
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