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Stupid's Free.... ----- Never argue with an idiot, or a know-it-all DIY'r.


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Stupid's Free




There's always been a difference between the professional automotive technician and the weekend mechanic. These days the gap is growing ever wider with the technology changes. However, a lot of DIY'rs still are doing repairs at home and believe they know more than the professional tech even after admitting they don't know what they aredoing. Not to say there isn't adifference between the levels of knowledge at the corner repair shop and the next shop down the street. Sure, always has been. But, that's a result of experience, education and what type of repair is common to that certain repair facility... nobody knows it all. But, imagine how much difference there is between the uneducated, unfamiliar, and down right dumber than dumb person who tries to repair their car at home.


I get a lot of these "home" repair guys in the shop with their family cars whose first claim to fame is how much money they are saving by doing the work themselves. Yes, professional auto care can be expensive, and in a lot instances you can save a few bucks by doing the physical labor yourself. On the other hand, there's an assumption made that you know what you're doing. This is where a lot of socket jockeys get themselves into trouble. Now with small hand held scanners and meters out in the market place there's an even bigger chance of a complete disaster waiting to happen.


Take a problem I was involved with just a few weeks ago. A DIY'rs daughter's air conditioning wasn't working on a 99 Ford Escort. From his meager test results he saw a 12 volt reading at the clutch. His gut reaction was the clutch must be bad, which means a trip down to the local cheap-o-depot for a replacement compressor. After spewing the refrigerant into the atmosphere and more than likely a good amount of the oil he did managed to get the compressor replaced. Then he added a new can of refrigerant to the system. To put the second can in he had to start the car. Oh, oh...problem...the compressor still doesn't come on.


"I checked it again and I still had 12 volts so I don't know what's wrong with it now. That's the only reason I'm bringing it to you," the DIY'r tells me.


Knowing that most of these guys really don't want to spend a dime on repairs, especially something they feel they can do themselves I figured I would save him diagnostic time by helping him out a bit. I told him, "If you have 12 volts at the compressor sir, then it's most likely a bad coil on the compressor."


"Nope, can't be..., it's new"


I've lost count how many times somebody has told me the new part can't be the problem... because it's new. So I not only doubt the quality of his part but his test results as well.


"Well, then...there's only one of two things it can be. Either it's a bad coil on the compressor or... you really don't have 12 volts at the coil," I told him.


He still insisted he was right and that I needed to check it out further.


Once I had it in the service bay I checked the voltage at the coil. Hmmm, that's peculiar... no voltage. This car uses a unit called a CCRM (Constant Control Relay Module) this module has several purposes but the one I'm concerned with is the 12 volts for the compressor clutch. I checked the output lead that lead from the CCRM to the coil... nothing. I then checked the signal from the PCM that controls the activation signal to the internal relay for the compressor at theCCRM. Perfect, no problem there. The culprit in this case turns out to be a faulty CCRM. Not a big deal, I'll call him and let him know.


I gave him the option of doing the job himself, but he wanted me to do it since it was an "electrical" problem. All-righty then, I can do that, and while I'm at it I'll make sure he has the correct amount of refrigerant too. Everything seemed fine until he came to pickup the car. That's when this CrackerJack qualified DIY'r sticks his chest out and tells me his version of how to diagnose it and fix it. As usual, the wife is standing next to him for encouragement.


"I had 12 volts at the coil so why didn't it work?"


"Actually, there was no voltage at the coil."


"Are you telling me I don't know how to read a volt meter?"


"I'm saying you probably misread the meter, that's all."


"I've been fixing cars for years.You're not going to tell me I don't know what I'm doing. You did something else to the car! You electrical guys have a trick to making things work and then I've got to pay for it!"


"No, I'm afraid not. I replaced the CCRM and recharged the system with the proper amount of refrigerant."


"I can put the refrigerant in."


"How much did you plan on adding?"


"I keep adding more until it's cold."


"That's not a good practice sir; you should put in the amount it's supposed to have."


"I guess you assume I don't know whatI'm doing at all... do ya?"


You can imagine the rest of the conversation. I've stood at the service counter for many years and have been on the receiving end of these DIY'rs retributions before. Nothing new, might as well take their abusive comments, straighten the desk a little, jot a few notes down and wait for them to finish. (Never interrupt them... it will only take longer.) In his mind and explanation, (as usual) I turn out to be not only acomplete idiot, but have no reason for being in business. Obviously as he stated, I've been at this car stuff for nearly 30 years and have been doing it entirely wrong all this time. (Glad I found out now... geez...another couple of years of doing it wrong would have been devastating.) You know, after spending time in classes, schools, conventions and on the job perfecting my trade, I find that listening to these wanna-be mechanics blare out their reasons for owning a tool box only amounts to a whole lot hot air.


Well, one thing is for sure... he left the shop with cold air in his car. Maybe he needs to drive around for a while and cool off. Then go home, take a class or something in the proper use of a multimeter. I don't like to assume I know, because all it does is make an ass out of U and me. There are plenty of tech schools and on line classes out there that will teach you how to be a mechanic.


The old saying says it best; Stupid's free...but you pay for knowledge... the pros know it already... the novice just assumes it.

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I know what ya mean Frank. And you know the biggest thing that gets me is that they still walk out the door as if they're right. Even though they had no clue as to how to fix it... they still have that chip on their shoulder that they know how to do it, and I'm still an idiot. Go figure....

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This is one of those articles that probably won't ever get published. I'm sure a lot of my editors will say it's too harsh for publication. OK, maybe so... but... I will also tell them that this is something that happens every once in a while at every service counter, every small garage, and every shop I've ever talked to.


It's more of an article just to say, "Hey, you're not alone... we've all been there."

If you agree... leave a comment.

I'd like a little "fire" power when I bring it to the editors.



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At this point ... I'm too stupid to do anything else but write about it, fix a car or two... and spit nails. Might as well laugh about it while I can. Thanx again Joe for your support.

Well, I do hope it gets published, I agree with Frank. The world should know what we go through. Plus, it would be great for other shop owners to see that we are all in the same boat. While I was reading your article I didn't know if I should laugh at this guy or spit nails.


I too had a recent situation with a DIYer who replaced his compressor and charged the system by the seat of his pants. He over charged the system and couldn't get the compressor to turn on. The first things out his mouth were, "I just spent a lot of money on this car, so go easy on me".


Gonzo, please keep putting on paper what most of know but may not know how to express!

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      My son is not in the automotive industry. He is in the commercial real estate business. However, the workplace problems are the same. Recently, his frustration with the heads of the company reached an all-time high. When I asked him why he doesn’t speak up and let the leadership know how he is feeling, he responded, “Anyone who has voiced concerns or issues has been viewed as weak and incapable of doing their job. I don’t want to be viewed like that.” This is an example of a toxic work environment.
      If you are a shop owner, you are a leader. And leaders must be approachable. That means that you are willing to hear the concerns of others and have them express themselves. It also means that while you may not agree with someone’s perspective on an issue, it is their perspective, and that viewpoint needs to be recognized and respected.
      Make it known that you want to hear the opinions of others. Literally, ask for input from others. And thank those that speak up. Now, I am not saying that you need to act on every concern or opinion. That would not be realistic. But just listening may be enough. And you never know, someone in your company may have an idea that you never thought about and even improve your business.
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