Jump to content

Flash Sale + Social Proof

Flash Sale + Social Proof

Flash Sale + Social Proof

Check Engine Charlie - - - I'm sure a lot of shops/techs have a Charlie that stops by...


Recommended Posts

Check Engine Charlie




Charlie comes in every now and then. I guess you could say he's a regular but I think I would call him more of an opportunist when it comes to his car repairs. He'll go to an oil change place for oil changes, a tire shop for tires, a transmission shop for transmission, so on and so on. If there is an opportunity to get his car into a shop he'll make an appointment and get it in. But, the one thing he seems to always use me for is the check engine light.




Normally, most people don't pay that much attention to the check engine light unless it's staying on. Not Charlie, he's absolutely paranoid it will come on and stay on.




Somehow, some way somebody has told him that the check engine light is not a warning of a problem with the exhaust emissions or related engine/transmission problems but the precursor to a ticking bomb that will bring an end to his ride of rides. It's as if the check engine light is the trigger to the doom and gloom of his car. At times, Charlie thinks the check engine light has stayed on a longer than it should when he starts it up in the morning. This prompts an immediate phone call and a trip to the repair shop. With all these trips he's seen me use several different code readers, scanners, O-scopes, and laptops that I have at my disposal to check codes and related engine systems. There's times I think he just wants to see what new gadget I've got that I can hook up to his car. The more bells and whistles I throw out there the more he seems to show up with another reason for me to recheck his car. He can probably name a bunch of the scanners that I've used… seriously… he's been to the shop that many times.




Sometimes I wish he would take up antique car collecting. Go buy something old enough that it doesn't have a check engine light in it and see if he gets the idea that the entire universe doesn't revolve around a service light. It's not like he doesn't remember cars without check engine lights he just doesn't seem to understand that a car can operate without one anymore. Why he's even told me about an old car he drove while he was in college that leaked oil so bad that he had to keep a can or two with him at all times. Talk about something that sounds like it was on the verge of doom and gloom… also sounds like the typical college kids car. So you would think he would have some understanding of the inner workings of the automobile, but apparently once the service light came into the everyday vocabulary his understanding has wasted away just like the oil in that old car from college.


I've tried to explain to him about the meaning of the service light and about the various reasons for it to come on but it just doesn't seem to sink in. I'm hoping the day never comes that his old car actually does turn on the check engine light… because if it did… he'd probably worry himself all the way to a coronary and he would have to have the car towed in while I'd have to make a call to 911 and have him towed to the emergency room. Of course I hope that never happens, but with him I could see something along those lines.


I generally let him watch the scanners do their work or have him watch a graph while I check things under the hood. The other day he was concerned about his O2 sensors and wanted to know if they were working correctly because he thought he saw the check engine light pop on and then go right back off. There were no codes stored and I asked him if it happened when he first started it or after driving several miles. It was while he was driving for a bit and not when it first started.


"What difference does that make?" he asked.


I then explained to him about how the heater circuit operated to warm up the sensor and what the sensor actually did in relation to the fuel mixture. This only made him even more curious to what they did.


"Watch this Charlie. I'll graph the O2 sensors here on this scope and I'll show you the front sensor and its corresponding rear sensor. You'll see the voltage changes on the screen as well as the differences between the front and rear sensors at the same time on the screen," I told him.


"Fascinating, simply fascinating," he said, "But I don't see how that translates to fuel?"


The more I explained the more he seemed to be lost. He still seemed to be more concerned about what was going to happen with that check engine light.


I kept up with the explanation until I got to the point where he was just staring off into space and lost interest in me, the check engine light and the little graph moving up and down on the screen.


I don't know if he ever understood a thing I said, or for that matter has reconsidered the importance of the check engine light. All I know is that at some point in time somebody is going to tell him something stupid regarding the check engine light and he'll make another trip to the shop and watch the fascinating little lines bounce around on my scope screen.


No matter what I say, no matter what I do, old "Check Engine Charlie" will still listen to some B.S. from somebody out there and then head over to my shop for another diagnostics that will amount to nothing. Maybe I need to come up with my own B.S. to counteract what everyone else keeps telling him.


I guess it comes down to the old saying:


If ya can't dazzle them with brilliance… buffalo them with a little bull.


There's a Charlie everywhere.... harmless and at the same time a little annoying. Gotta love em though. I'm glad you like the stories, I also enjoy reading your comments.


I hope my stories brings you a little sanity into your busy days as much as it does for me. At least after reading one of them you realize you're not the only one that has odd customers or weird situations at your shop. thanx again Gonzo

View full article

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Grammarly Writing Support

The #1 Writing Tool

Grammarly Writing Support

Great story again Gonzo, and you’re right, we all have customers like Charlie. It reminds of my own customer, “Transmission Trouble” Tony. Tony worries about everything and listens to everyone, but not the people he should be listening to.


Tony brought his car to us a few years back with a transmission problem. After countless hours of road tests and diag time, we found nothing. On a road test he would yell out, “You see, you see, it’s doing it”. I would be driving his car attentively and say to him, “Sorry, I don’t feel anything”.


After months of this he ends up at the dealer….oh they found something alright. Poor Tony drove out of the dealership with a new transmission! I will never know if there was really anything wrong or not, but I have to believe that the Charlie’s and Tony’s of world just maybe need to have this type of drama in the lives.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You've got it right Joe.... there's a lot of Charlies and Tonys out there... they'll never learn... cause they think they already know... LOL


Thanx for the comments. U da best



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Similar Topics

    • By Joe Marconi
      I will never forget the day when a customer, who didn't like the price, took cash out of his pocket, crumbled up the cash, and threw the money at me. 
      This customer clearly crossed the line, in my opinion. 
      Before I tell the rest of this "true" story, I would like to hear from you: How would you have handled this situation? 

    • By Joe Marconi
      Now that I am not a shop owner, I had to make an appointment to have the A/C checked on my wife's car. While the vehicle was being serviced, the tech noticed a bubble on the tire. I told the service advisor to get me a good set of Michelins.  He said that might be hard since he had trouble getting some sizes and models.  My wife drives a Mercedes E350. 
      Are you seeing tire-related shortages too? 
    • By Joe Marconi
      Having been a shop owner for 41 years, I have lived through many economic swings, both good and bad.  I can tell you that increases in prices, from gas to food to new car prices, can prove to be a good thing for auto repair shops. 
      People tend to tighten their belts during tough economic times, but also understand that they need their cars in the best shape they can be to save on fuel and save on costly breakdowns. 
      How can you help your customers save on fuel costs and focus on preventive maintenance?  
    • By Joe Marconi
      October 4 - October 6, 2022
      Fly with the Eagles
      The Industry’s Most Powerful Shop Management Course
      This is a 3-day course, with each day devoted to a new topic, but you have the option to pick and choose the days you’d like to attend.
      October 4th-6th, 7:30am – 5:00pm EST                                                                                            
      After attending this comprehensive course for shop owners you will be able to
      Improve your skills in time management, leadership, and goal setting Fully understand your shop’s financials and key performance indicators Find and hire superstar service advisors and technicians Turn your existing employees into self-motivated superstars Fill your bays with the right kind of customers through new marketing programs Utilize your step-by-step Action Plan to ensure your ongoing success This AMI-accredited course has one objective: to help you create a more profitable, successful business! Bob Cooper built this course from the ground up based on his own success as a shop owner and his experience in helping thousands of other shop owners go right to the top.
      This series is now presented by Joe Marconi and Kevin Vaught, who have both experienced extraordinary success as shop owners as well, so it’s no surprise that Fly With the Eagles II is heralded by many industry leaders as the most powerful shop management series available to shop owners and general managers.
      To learn more and to register: https://eliteworldwide.com/event/fly-with-the-eagles/








    • Heavy Duty Parts Fleetcross
    • By Joe Marconi
      With so many different models on the roads these days and the challenges of obtaining all the necessary training, tools, and technical information, should auto repair shops consider narrowing their focus on fewer makes and models?  
      Is "All Makes, All Models" really achievable today? 

  • Our Sponsors

  • Create New...