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    • Shop Owners; Take time to recharge this weekend

      There's a time to work, and there's a time to relax a bit. We are in the middle of a three- day weekend; Labor Day. The very name Labor Day should make us all think about how hard we work all year long.  We need balance in our lives. We need time with friends and family.  So, take a break and recharge your batteries this holiday weekend. It will do you a world of good.  Trust me, the business will be there after the weekend is over.  Happy Labor Day Weekend!  

      By Joe Marconi, in Joe’s Business Tips For Shop Owners

      • 0 replies
      • 138 views
    • Article: It's Doing The Same Thing --- Is it really????

      It’s Doing the Same Thing             Being on the mechanic's side of the counter, I've  often wondered what does "the same thing" really mean?        Nearly every time a customer comes up to the service  counter, who has no background in automotive repair, or  any idea at all on how repairs are made and what's all  involved, but tells me, “It’s doing the same thing”,  I have  to ask myself… “How do they know?”  Is it really doing exactly  the same thing?  Funny, how it turns out (99.9% of the time),  that it’s NOT doing the same thing.            I hear this rhetoric from customers now and then, but when my wife starts in on me with the good ol' 'It's doing the same thing', now I'm more than a little curious.  Here's an example.        We were about to head on our vacation when the bulb warning light on the dash came on indicating one of the rear lights was out.  It was a side marker light on the driver’s side of the car. Easily changed and taken care of, and with all the commotion and last minute preparations, the warning light problem became a distant memory. So off we went on our little adventure.       Several states and hundreds of miles later while the wife was driving, and I was taking a nap, she nudges me and says, “It’s doing the same thing”.           Now I understand there is always the possibility that it really is doing the same thing, but really my dear … you’re married to a mechanic. Can we at least re-think how to inform me of such things?  Yes, the light on the dash is “doing the same thing”, but let’s try rephrasing it to the guy just waking up from a pleasant-no-stress-day-off.  How about: “The warning light is back on, dear.”  At least that way I won’t feel like I’m back at the shop trying to decipher the latest “doing the same thing” dilemma. I’m on vacation for heaven’s sake!            At the next stop I performed the usual "walk around" and noticed the passenger side marker light that was out this time.   Not to be outwitted by a little warning light, I gave the lens a little tap. Low and behold, the filament lit up, and off we went.           As we traveled down the road I had plenty of time to ponder how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “Doing the same thing”.  Over the years I’ve seen this escalate into complete madness at the front counter or end up with a tap on a bulb lens.  As in my wife’s case, the dash warning light could only indicate that a bulb was out and which end of the car it was.  However, when a customer lays down a chunk of their hard earned cash their interpretation doesn’t include the possibility of multiple issues controlled by the same warning light. From their perspective, it's doing the same thing.                  A few weeks ago I had a 1995 Saturn in the shop that had been all over town, as well as to every relative who owned a tool box.  No one seemed able to get the air conditioning to cool.  Part after part was changed, but still no cold air.  When I finally had a crack at it I was surprised at what I found.  The connector for the A/C compressor was exactly the same style and type as the low coolant level sensor mounted in the over-flow bottle.  Somebody had flip-flopped the connectors.  Once I found the problem the cure was simple… just reverse the connectors and “Ta-Da” cold air.  All the functions were working, cooling fan, line pressure, vent temperature, everything was great.  Even the “low coolant” light was operating correctly.                  But where would this story be without a 'It's doing the same thing' scenario.           A few weeks later I get a call, you guessed it… “Doing the same thing”.  Now, I’m no dummy, I know what they meant.  They're actually telling me that it's not making cold air again.  I informed them it was probably leaking refrigerant or something like that, but I seriously doubt somebody switched the connectors again.  They weren’t buying that, they kept insisting that it’s doing exactly the same thing as before. Even after reading the description of the repair on the invoice, and telling me they totally understood it… they still can't break away from the common reply... it's “Doing the same thing”.               This follows right along with the typical scenario right after changing out a blower motor for a customer and a week later they're back because their air conditioning isn’t cold. I’ll ask, “When did you notice the air wasn’t cold?”   The usual answer, “Right after you changed the blower motor.”           I should have a guy in the background with a drum set patiently waiting for me to ask, "So when did you notice the problem?" and when the customer delivers the inevitable punch line, the drummer could bang out the classic drum roll-rim tap and cymbal crash.  A priceless moment for every counter person.                  The way I see it, the consumer brought their car into a repair shop for a professional evaluation of a problem, and expect to never see a related or similar problem ever again.  But, as soon as the work is done and some other problem creeps up that seems to be more than a little bit like what they just had repaired, the mechanic is soon to have the same thing happen again.                  The fact that there are other things that can go wrong can be a huge mountain to climb. But, with some diplomacy, and tact, a good counterman can get through these situations.  One thing for sure, as the mechanic, you've got to get in there and solve the problem no matter if it's the same thing or not.  Generally, (from my past experiences) the same thing is hardly ever the 'same thing'.  The Saturn, was a faulty compressor due to the fact the last shop didn't add enough oil to the compressor, the replaced blower motor problem, was a faulty low pressure switch, and the wife's car, well... she hasn't had to tap on the bulb lens ever since.                     But to me.... it's all the same thing.  
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      By Gonzo, in AutoShopOwner Articles

      • 3 replies
      • 182 views
    • Profitability "sweet spot", is there such a thing?

      Looking forward and thinking about business goals for the future, I'm wondering if there is such a thing as a sales volume, personnel, or facility sweet spot for profitability. I'm in a semi-retirement mode already, so having profits to spend is a priority over simply growing the business for growths sake. I really enjoy being in business and planning and reaching for goals, but wondering about what those goals for the business should be. I've reviewed some industry financial data without any clear conclusions, but I'm wondering what folks here think or have seen or experienced. A little about where I'm at currently. I started this business from scratch 7 years ago. We currently have 8 employees and did 1.3 in 2017. Any wisdom from you who have been doing this longer?  

      By gandgautorepair, in General Automotive Discussion

      • 21 replies
      • 1,334 views
    • Article: Sempri Fi - My traditional Memorial day weekend story.... leave a comment

      Semper Fi            Bob was well into his late 80’s when I met him.  He’s quite the talker, and he’ll never run out of things  to tell you.  I like old Bob. We have a few things in common, not much because of the years between us, but just enough that we can relate on quite a few  subjects. We both served in the USMC.  Of course,  the years we served were decades apart, but even  with the differences in time served, we still could  “talk-the-talk” like two old veterans who just got their discharge papers.   Bob had a problem with the horn buttons on his ‘92 Buick.  It was the kind of horn that has its buttons and the air bag all built as one piece.  He didn’t have the money to replace the entire airbag, but he did want to get that horn working somehow.  I thought I could get it to work even if I had to “rig” something up, but that was OK with him.     With his advancing years catching up with him, his hands weren’t the best.  Most of his strength had faded with time, and so did the ability to straighten his fingers all the way out.   I had to come up with a way that he could hit the horn button with the palm of his hand, rather than with a finger tip or thumb.  Not a big deal, actually if he didn’t mind the look of an old style horn button attached to the edge of the air bag (so it didn’t interfere with the air bag operation) it could work just fine.     Now Bob, being Bob, talking was his gift, and finding somebody with a little military background, and stuck in the driver’s seat of his car was all he needed to tell one of his stories.  Bob hopped in the back seat and leaned over to watch what I was doing.  As I worked on his new horn button, he told me all about his time in the Marine Corps.  Fascinating story; I could have listened for hours. In fact, I made sure I took long enough for him to tell his story in full and without any interruptions.   He told me about his time in Korea, in Inchon actually. It was a cold winter when he was there.  A bitter cold wind and heavy snow was only part of the horrific condition he had to deal with.   He went on in great detail how he was just a young kid who didn’t know a thing, and how you would be talking to someone one minute and the next minute the fellow Marine sitting right next to him froze to death.  When he told me that part of his story I had to stop and turn to him to ask, “That really happened, just like that, Bob?”   With a stone cold look on his face he said, “As sure as I’m sitting here talking to you, my friend.”   I don’t think he was kidding. He was dead serious, but it was as if he was telling me a story from a distance, but at the same time, a story where he was actually there in the mountains of Inchon still fighting the bitter cold.  I think it’s a way for time and age to allow a person like Bob to separate themselves from what was probably a terrible event in their life. I certainly have never experienced some of the things he was telling me about, like the chow, the hours of watching for the enemy, or how his boots didn’t have much in the way of insulation, so you put on as many socks as you could along with any straw or grass you could find. Bob made a point to tell me that if you needed to run to the “head” (bathroom for all you none GI type) … well, you tried to wait as long as you could, because exposing yourself in that kind of cold could be the end of you… and I don’t mean just “your” end that’s exposed.    I finished up my little project and gave it a try. It worked just fine.    “Hop up here Bob, and see if you can make it work like this,” I told him.   Bob made his way into the driver’s seat and gave his new horn button a try.  A gleam came over his face, beaming from ear to ear.  He had to try it a few more times, and each time the smile kept getting bigger and bigger.  “Don’t you know I needed that horn! Mercy, there’s some little kids in my neighborhood who get out in the street to play, and I just want to toot my horn to let them know I’m coming.  Thanks partner, ya done me right.”   The old Marine got out of his car and opened his wallet, “How much do I owe ya?”     “Bob, it was an honor to do this job for you. I can’t take a thing.”   “You most certainly are, Marine!” he said to me as he palms a twenty in my hand.   “Thanks Bob, I appreciate that, but I really appreciate the stories. You know I write a column for a magazine, and I think I’d like to tell your story if that’s OK.”    “Sure, not a problem. Go right ahead. I think I’d like that.”   You don’t shake hands with Bob, because of his crippled hands; his way of shaking hands is to “bump” knuckles.  Good enough for me.  It’s the thought that counts.  Then Bob turns to the car sitting in the bay just in front of his car. With whatever strength he had, he did his best to straighten one finger and point at the car in front.     “I’ll never get over seeing this,” he said.   It was a Kia Sportage in for a no start condition.  I made the assumption it was because it’s a Korean car, and I thought it must be bringing back some of those painful memories he had as a young man.   “I understand where you’re coming from Bob, it’s a Korean car. I understand completely; it’s something your generation had to deal with on the battlefield where your friends had died.  I’m sorry it brings up some bad memories for you.”   “That ain’t it,” he said as he walked closer to the car, and pointed directly at the name branded on the back door, “Killed – In – Action.”   I think my knees buckled a bit when he said that.  I didn’t know what to say next.  Bob waved good-bye, and pulled his car out of the shop, and tooted his horn as he made his way down the street.           I see old Bob once in awhile, still driving the same car, still tootin’ his horn.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget his story of how he served our country. He’s one of the last of that generation, a much simpler time, before computers, before cell phones, and when KIA stood for only one thing.      I’m proud to have served my country, I’m even more proud to have met a great man like Bob.  We should all be as lucky, and we should all remember what his generation and many others have done to keep this country free.  So the next time you see a Kia, think of it as something other than a car, think about my friend Bob.  Then, say this to yourself:   Semper Fi Bob, Semper Fi.  
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      By Gonzo, in AutoShopOwner Articles

      • 2 replies
      • 179 views
    • Our thoughts and prayers for those being affected by Harvey

      We are praying for our brothers and sisters down in TX. We have sent supplies to Austin, and hoping we can help in whatever way we can.

      By HarrytheCarGeek, in General Automotive Discussion

        
      • 2 replies
      • 342 views
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