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This Job Stinks! - - - The aroma of rotten repairs.


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This Job Stinks!


Sometimes it’s not the diagnostic issues, the parts, the software, or the procedures that put up a stink when it comes to fixing cars. Sometimes it’s the car itself that smells to high heaven. Oh, and I mean a real stink and a half sometimes. On occasions I get into a car that has been left out in the parking lot on a hot summer day with all the windows rolled up, and by the time I get around to moving it into the shop it wreaks as if something has crawled in there and died.


Once in a while it’s left over food scraps in fast food bag that bring out the foul smell. Other times it’s some dirty skanky clothing, or a gym bag full of sweaty, soiled socks that puts off the foul odor. Sometimes it’s the heavy smoker’s car, or the putrid smell of stale beer that makes your nostrils wish they were somewhere else. Of course, you can’t forget about the lingering odor of the illegal smoking paraphernalia and/or residue that you’ll run across from time to time.


Honestly, some people just don’t give a stink as to how their car smells. But, others go to the other far extreme. There’s always somebody who tends to keep so many of those air fresheners hanging off of the rear view mirror that you can barely see out the windshield. They must be trying to cover up the smell of the dead body in the trunk with those things, or they’ve decided to start a collection of green and blue air fresheners shaped like little pine trees for some reason. I don’t know which. (I’ll skip looking in the trunk for right now.)


So these smells, these odors, these nostril bending stench makers almost always have one thing in common... the owner doesn’t notice the smell. Ok, Ok… sometimes it’s the baby barf in the back seat or the dog hair trapped in the evap. core that is stinking up the place…and the owner might mention to you that they have a dog, or baby on board… but even then… they seem to be oblivious to the stomach churning stench they are carrying around in their car.


I’ve run across some really nasty smells from the interior of all kinds of cars in my time. Smells that could curl your toes. From putrid steaks in several bags in the back seat of a Cadillac to just plain “B.O” that lingers in the air. Even those whiffs of stale perfume that seem to permeate the interior of some cars can act like a sort of leech looking for a new victim to attach itself. Ya just can’t get rid of some of those smells so easily.


Shortly after I went into business, so many years ago I had a late 60’s Ford Van come into the shop with brake light problems. The owners dropped it off early that morning, and were hoping I could get to it by that afternoon. Needless to say, it was a hot, dry August day with the midday temps well over 100 degrees. It was so hot you could see the heat waves coming off of the blacktop. Not a day to be spending a lot of time out in the blistering sun for any extended period of time. I was hot myself, sweating and very busy, but I did manage to get things caught up in time to look at this old van’s brake lights by mid-afternoon.


I grabbed the invoice and the keys and made a dash out onto the tarmac with the scorching sun blazing down on my back. It was so hot that touching anything metal outside was enough to burn you. I quickly threw the door open, jumped in and fired it up. EGADS! WHAT‘S THAT FREAKIN SMELL?? In mere seconds, my eyes were watering, my nose was burning; I’m about to go unconscious from all this heat, and I certainly don’t want to pass out in this foul smelling contraption. It’s running, I ain’t stopping now, one quick gulp of that hot air from outside of the van and drop it in drive… back to the service bay where there is at least a cool fan waiting for me.


After bringing the van to a screeching halt I bailed out of that thing as fast as I could with one giant leap to the shop floor. Still gagging from the unexpected stench I went around and opened all the doors to the van. Then I got the biggest shop fan to blow that smell outside. Even with the fan blowing right at the steering column that stench seemed to swirl around and around in the same area I was working in. But, I pressed on. My eyes have somewhat adjusted. I can at least focus now. Even though my nose still burned from it, I figured I wouldn’t be in there that long. Thank goodness, it’s a quick fix; the old Ford’s brake light switch was tagged as the problem.


Super… now I just have to dive in there one more time to replace it. As soon as the part showed up I braved the stench one last time and installed the new switch. Mind you, the aroma wasn’t letting up… not even for a second. There was a point there when I didn’t seem to mind the smell, but all it took was a little wind shift from that big shop fan to remind me all over again.


There was one last thing I just had to know, and that was of course… what was that smell? If you remember these old vans had a metal stand that the seat was bolted to. This made for a perfect under-seat storage area too. Storage yes, but I don’t think it was meant for what I found under there. Balled up into little separate packages had to be more than a dozen soiled, wet and gross…. Baby diapers… there was even a small trail of oozing Yuk traveling down the brackets and running to the rear of the van. Yes, potty panties for little ones… used, abused and full of you know what.

That was enough for me. Get this poop mobile outside and let it bake for another couple of hours until the owners come.


By closing time the owners made it in to settle up. (I didn’t say a word to them about the smell.) I watched as they climbed into their van, oddly enough there wasn’t any reaction from the odor, or any indication they even noticed a foul smell emanating from their mobile cesspool. They just started it up, dropped it into gear, and away they went. Unbelievable, my eyes are still stinging from the ammonia, and I’m not even in the van anymore. I can’t see how they could stand it in there with the windows rolled up and all. Gross! Well, one thing’s for sure, this is one time I can say, and I really do mean it this time! …

This Job Stinks!



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Jeff, geez.. I thought I was the only kid that had to do that. I would spend my summers on my grandfathers farm and one of the jobs I had was cleaning out the silos. I would rather clean the cow pens with all that smelly urine soaked straw than the silos. At least I could use the tractor to haul the yuk out of the pens, but the silo you were in there with a shovel and pitchfork. Nasty job.

Ya brought back some memories with your comment. LOL stinky one for sure. ROFL

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Gonzo, once again great topic, great article. We had customer a few years back who owned a fish store (you know where I'm going with this, don't you?). Each day he would take his Van to the market in NYC to get his fish. Well, when brought his Van in for service, no one...and I mean no one wanted to work on his Van. He would park the Van in the sun and that smell was too much to bear. The funny thing is the owner of the store would tell us, "Come on, what smell?"


We would air the Van out and wear gas masks, it was terrible.

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I can't top the pig or the fish story, but in the same regards I get the horse trailers in that a farmer has been carrying other livestock in it. They'll have some sort of wiring issue inside the trailer, and... you guessed it... he never cleaned it out before he brought it to the shop. It's one thing to smell it, walk around it, accidentally step in it, BUT, when it's on the wires and in the same spot that I have to touch... YUK! Having cow crap fall on your face while under a trailer is just one of those things I don't care to deal with. double D Gross.

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A couple of weeks ago we had a SUV sitting in the sun for about 2 weeks. I get inside and almost vomit, come to find out it was a sippie cup with extremely curdled milk. So me being me I take the lid off and walk up to my partner from behind and stick it an inch from his nose. I have never laughed so hard as he dry heaved over and over. Even the mention of it now gags him, heck, I'm laughing out loud as I type this lol

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Most shop owners would agree that the independent auto repair industry has been too cheap for too long regarding its pricing and labor rates. However, can we keep raising our labor rates and prices until we achieve the profit we desire and need? Is it that simple?
      The first step in achieving your required gross and net profit is understanding your numbers and establishing the correct labor and part margins. The next step is to find your business's inefficiencies that impact high production levels.
      Here are a few things to consider. First, do you have the workflow processes in place that is conducive to high production? What about your shop layout? Do you have all the right tools and equipment? Do you have a continuous training program in place? Are technicians waiting to use a particular scanner or waiting to access information from the shop's workstation computer?
      And lastly, are all the estimates written correctly? Is the labor correct for each job? Are you allowing extra time for rust, older vehicles, labor jobs with no parts included, and the fact that many published labor times are wrong? Let's not forget that perhaps the most significant labor loss is not charging enough labor time for testing, electrical work, and other complicated repairs.  
      Once you have determined the correct labor rate and pricing, review your entire operation. Then, tighten up on all those labor leaks and inefficiencies. Improving production and paying close attention to the labor on each job will add much-needed dollars to your bottom line.
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