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Second Rate Parts --- Just because it's a "new" part doesn't mean you're done. Test, Verify, and if neccesary... test again.

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Second Rate Parts


When it comes to diagnosing a problem one of the biggest mistakes is the notion that once a new part is installed the problem that you were experiencing should be a thing of the past. Countless times I’ve had vehicles brought in that have the same old story attached to them. They’ll tell me:


“I’ve change this part, and that part and this one over there, along with this part under the dash.” Only to still have their original problem.


The latest was a “No A/C” problem on a 97 Chevy pickup. It came in from another repair shop that I deal with on a regular basis. Out of desperation they had tried the “swap-parts-till-it-works” approach but could never get the A/C to come on. A typical system of the day where the PCM energizes the compressor relay and controls the idle once the signal is sent from the control head.


A couple of simple tests led to a faulty control head, so I gave the repair shop a call. “We changed it twice already,” the guy on the other end of the phone told me. They had some doubt about sending me another control head but, at this point they were desperate enough to try anything.


Later that afternoon I had the replacement control head in hand, and wouldn’t you know it… the replacement piece was faulty too. The big surprise was it was doing exactly the same thing as the previous control head. This seemed to be the point where the other shop stopped testing and started stuffing parts under the hood and dash. Now I’m back to calling the shop and see what they wanted to do next.


This was not going well at all. After three different control heads in the same car the shop was not buying my diagnosis.


“There’s something else wrong with this. You’re missing something. I think you should go back and check it again because it can’t be the control head,” the now frustrated shop tech tells me.


Granted, it does seem inconceivable that the same part could be faulty three times in a row, but the test results were spot on. My biggest hurdle wasn’t the testing, and it wasn’t the diagnosis, it’s the other shops lack of trust in my results. Even their parts warehouse wasn’t keen on sending them another part. Somehow I had to convince them that we needed another one.


Since I wasn’t involved in the original diagnosis or the eventual parts juggling I wasn’t aware about the issues with the parts warehouse. They didn’t want to send another part without somebody paying for it first. The warehouse was fed up with the whole idea of it, the repair shop was out of patience and I was the guy stuck with the test results that couldn’t be changed. So convincing somebody to do something took a little more than the average phone call.


The guy from the warehouse came by to check out my shop and to see how I could have possibly come up with two new parts straight out of the box that were bad. I’ve never dealt with this place before so it was a new experience for me as well. I showed him how the test was done and the wiring diagrams. He seemed to understand, but was still not buying that three control heads could be bad.


“Where are you getting your parts from?” I asked.


“I think they come in from China,” the warehouse guy tells me.


“I’ve seen a lot parts come from all over the world, but by far China is the most likely place to have bad parts right out of the box. Do you have a different source we could try?” I asked.


By the next afternoon I had another part, delivered no less, by the same guy from the warehouse. He wanted to watch me install it in the truck, because the warehouse had their own ideas as to what was the problem… and it wasn’t the part. So where did the part come from this time? Straight from the dealership. The warehouse guy’s boss didn’t buy the story I was telling him and wanted to prove that his parts suppliers were not sending him faulty parts. Of course, I must be wrong, and obviously… as a lot of general practitioners of “All mechanics are alike” school of thought, he wanted to prove that I needed to be on that list of idiot technicians prowling the countryside.


The warehouse guy climbed in on the passenger side while I installed the new control head. One simple turn of the key was all it took to either prove me wrong or prove me right. As the engine came to life I pushed the A/C button. “CLICK” went the compressor, and the cold air came blasting out of the center vents. Well, what do you know? The darn thing works.


Just to prove a point, I disconnected the working control head and reinstalled the first one. We’re back to no A/C again… Imagine that….


“I suppose you’ll be sending this part back to China then?” I laughingly told the warehouse guy.


He was quite impressed and had a lot to tell his boss when he got back to the store. I called the other repair shop that originally sent me the job to tell them I was done with it. They were relieved that it was finally solved and was going to send the customer over to me directly to pay me instead of through their shop.


About then the customer came through the front door. Nice older guy, very talkative, and wanted to know what I had found out. The owner never knew his car had been taken to another shop and was quite surprised. (It wouldn’t be the first time that an owner of a vehicle found out their car was at another shop rather than at the one they originally took it to.)


All said and done, the big issue here was testing, and retesting. The other shop had thrown their hands up after several attempts and some very expensive parts that didn’t get anywhere. Then there’s the matter of the part store not willing to budge after they had sent so many components back and forth. A diligent effort and solid test results won out over parts swapping.


All in all, I think I gained a little more respect from the other repair shop as well as a new customer. This parts warehouse, I don’t know… cheap parts just mean cheap results and this job was no exception.


“We certainly can set up an account for ya,” the warehouse guy tells me.


I might pass on that. After this repair I don’t think I want to deal with some second rate parts while trying to do a first rate repair. Just ask the other shop how much they made on the job and how much time they spent on it. Just goes to show, test it correctly and trust the results. And when it doesn’t seem to work out… retest it again.



You know, I might have an idea for a story and then I may just write about what has happened in the last week or two. If you have any ideas I'd love to hear from ya. Coming up with new stories each week is a real challenge... glad ya like the stories... comments welcomed.



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I know what ya mean. The hardest part for any tech... good or bad... is to even "think" the part they just installed is bad. That's were test and retest comes into play.


Pays not to second guess yourself and keep testing even though it comes back as the same part failure.


Been there...done that...and yes... wrote the book... ROFL


Gonzo, when our shop first opened we were only an under car shop (after one year we became a general repair shop and started doing driveability). During that first year before we had test equipment or anyone who new driveability our shop car (96 Chevy Lumina) started running real bad. Our guys guessed that plugs, wires, and an ignition module would fix it. The car still run bad. We took it to another shop to have it diagnosed. It was a bad NEW ignition module. Bad new parts trip a lot of shops up. We have learned through the years and for certain types of parts tol only use OEM and also that the second line ignition parts are very apt to fail.

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Just had one kick my butt a few weeks ago. 98 Dodge caravan, overheating really fast. Had new radiator, so only thing left was the headgasket. Tore the engine apart, did head gasket and you guessed it. Didn't fix it. Found the "new" radiator had a broken baffle inside the radiator. :( Learned an expensive lesson there.

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