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Passing The Torch - - - "It happened to this dad's first car and now it happened to the son's car as well."


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Passing the Torch


In walk two young lads. They were told by a shop just around the corner to come see me about their 2001 Honda Accord. It had a very typical problem I run across all the time.


"I've got no park lights, nor dash lights," the young lad says.


His buddy quietly stood next to him without much to say. I knew exactly what these two had done.


"So, when did you put in the radio?" I asked.


Now, the tag along buddy comes up to the counter with a smug grin on his face, folding his arms across his chest, stares dead at his buddy and says, "He knows."


The young driver did a double take, as if he had just been caught cheating in a high school exam. He couldn't imagine how I knew he had recently installed a radio in the car just by telling me there were no park lights.


Then his giggling buddy said, "Yeah, he put it in over the weekend."


"No, no… The dash lights worked after I put the radio in, honest," said the driver, trying to sound as confident as possible.


"I'll bet you put the radio in during the day." I said.


"Yeah, so?"


"Your lights are not on during the day. How could you have known if they were working?" I said.



"Ok boys, I'll give you an option," I said with my "Father Knows Best" voice, "If you'll go pull the radio out, and then change the fuse, I'll bet your park lights will come back on. Otherwise, I'll have to charge you for my time to do it. Which is it going to be?"


"We didn't try taking the radio back out," the buddy tells the young driver.


"It's not the radio, I know it's not," the driver says.


"Ok, then its settled," I said, "I'll need the keys. You boys can wait in the lobby. I'll be right back."


The two young lads sat down in the waiting room, while I made my way to the parking lot to pull the car into the service bay. When I opened the driver's door I was in for the surprise of a lifetime.


The instrument cluster was lying on the back of the steering wheel. All the side panels, kick panels, door threshold trim, and windshield trims were either removed or dangling by a few wires or clips. The carpet was pulled back and tucked under the seats exposing the floor. The trim around the steering wheel was gone, and all the wire harness tape and conduit was strewn throughout the car. They even managed to take out the glove box, ash tray, and part of the center console. How they managed to drive it over to the shop is a miracle. That's probably why the buddy had to come along… somebody had to hold the headliner up. Hard to imagine the lights were the ONLY thing not working in this car now…. Unbelievable.


Once I managed to get the stuff moved from behind the driver's seat, I could then move it back far enough for me to get in. When I started the car up the radio was at full blast on a head banger rock station. With the array of aftermarket radios available, trying to find the volume button on these things can be a project of its own.


The amazing part was not that all the trim was strewn throughout the car, but the fact that the radio was the only thing in its correct place. After I successfully turned the volume down I tried the parklights. I already had the wiring diagram and the fuse box layout in hand, now all I needed to do was find the fuse. It was definitely blown, and rather than waste a fuse I decided to forgo any further diagnostics and just go straight to the radio.

At least they didn't have it screwed in place yet. All I had to do was lift it out of the slot and disconnect it. With a new fuse installed I flipped on the light switch. TA DA! Parklights!


This took all of 5 minutes. Here I am sitting in this torn apart car with all these switches and components dangling in front of me wondering if I should go into the lobby now, or wait so they think it really, really was hard for me to find. I didn't have the heart to do that to the poor kid. He's about the same age as my teenage son, and I thought I should help him out.


Since I had the factory prints in front of me I located the two leads for the factory radio illumination. (Red/black – voltage lead from switch and Red – ground lead controlled from the dash dimmer) I went ahead and clipped those two wires off of his make shift radio connector.


I pulled it back up front. The two boys rushed out of the waiting room as soon as they saw the car come around the corner.


The giggling buddy said, "It was the radio wasn't it?"


"Yep, I'm afraid so… you'll have to go home and find the schematic to your radio, and follow it a little more carefully this time. I've disconnected the radio so you won't have any of your tunes until you get home."


The young driver was pretty put out over the whole thing. He had to call his dad and explain everything, and like always… … … I end up explaining the whole thing again to the dad on the boy's cell phone.


Dad insisted that his son pay for my time. (Even though it only took me a few minutes) Then the dad told me something that I thought was quite appropriate for the situation. It seems that when old dad put a radio in his first car he did exactly the same thing. As any father would do, he tried to warn his son but as boys will be boys, they'll do just the opposite of what dad says to do. The boy's father went on to tell me how his father made him take his first car to the shop and have it repaired, AND pay for the repair himself! This whole episode felt like I was witnessing the quintessential passing of the torch from one generation to the next.


After settling up the bill I watched the two boys back out of the parking lot. As he drove off the young driver seemed to have a better understanding of the world around him, and I think he just found out that old dad was right all along. His giggling buddy was in the passenger seat (holding up the headliner), and still had that grin on his face. I still get a chuckle every time I think of his buddy standing there with that grin on his face, giggling… while he turns to look at him and says, "He knows."


What an afternoon, something you don't see every day. An automotive lesson passed down from one generation to the next and this time… I got to be a part of it.



Thanks for reading, and I enjoy reading your comments. The more comments the more I push those stories towards my editors (at least I try to)

thanx again ... Gonzo

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      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.
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