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By Zs Automotive
I just opened an auto repair shop about 4 months ago, but I'm still working my full time job as a tech therefore I open the shop from 4 pm until 9pm M-F and 8-5 on Saturday. I'm starting to build customers but most are from referrals and neighbors I don't get much traffic cars. I'm starting to think that the hours I'm open don't really work for the auto repair business seems like after 6 everything dies. Has anyone worked this kind of hours or what do you guys think about this odd hours.
Article: The Ghost Mechanic - those mechanics that seem to leave evidence of their bad work that you find... or was it a mechanic after all?By Gonzo
The Ghost Mechanic
Creepier things have happened, but rarely do things go without an explanation. This time around it’s the mystery mechanic who seems to have been working on this guy’s car, or maybe not. Maybe it’s that ghostly mechanic who haunts people’s cars on quiet neighborhood streets in the middle of the night. You know, that guy who leaves nothing but telltale greasy finger prints or unattached wire harnesses, or even loose bolts where loose bolts shouldn’t be. This job was no exception to the antics of the invisible mechanic’s handy work. It’s a mystery worth solving.
A Chevy HHR was towed in for a no start condition. It wasn’t exactly a no start; it was more like a poor starting/running condition. When it would run, the poor thing sounded like it was on its last trip to the garage and its first trip to the salvage yard. Trying to beat it to its last ride on the tow truck, I hooked up the scanner to see what inner mysteries were present. Code P1682 (Ignition 1 switch circuit 2), but I wasn’t done yet. Time to do a complete health check on all the modules. Sure enough, the ‘U’ codes were off the charts. Seems we have a lot of low voltage codes causing a problem.
A quick check of the wiring diagram showed the power led to a voltage input lead for the PCM, TCM, and several other circuits that would definitely lead to a rough, hard to start, non-cooperating HHR. This may turn out to be a simple problem after all. Could be wiring, a component, or perhaps a fuse box problem. A quick glance at the fuse box didn’t reveal much, but I should probably take a closer look at that fuse box. Maybe go as far as physically checking the actual fuse circuit. Hmm, something is amiss here. The fuse is good, but the fuse is in the wrong slot. The slot that it’s in should be an empty slot. Seems somebody was fooling around under the hood and didn’t put the fuse back correctly.
Might as well try moving the fuse back to the proper location. Well, imagine that, this old HHR starts right up! OK, it’s not running the best . . . yet. Do a little throttle relearn and it runs as good as new.
After rechecking the related circuits for any damage, or out of place items I gave the HHR the once around the block test. Runs great, sounds great, no warning lights, no unusual noises, seems fine to me. I guess I’ll write up an invoice on this job and call the customer. As I closed the hood, the telltale greasy hand prints from the last guy who was under the hood were everywhere. I think I spent as much time cleaning this guy’s hood as I spent diagnosing the problem.
I gave him a call and explained to him, as best I could, what I had found. Although, I did have that one nagging question regarding who had worked on the car previously. I really wanted an answer to that question.
"NOBODY" … are you serious? That’s when I explained the entire repair all over again. Between the greasy finger marks on the hood and fenders, and the fuse in the wrong place, I’m afraid I’m not going to buy the story that the mysterious ghost mechanic has struck again. His only explanation came down to the whole thing must have been a poltergeist or something. Or ‘someone’ not ‘something’ is a better way to put it. I’m not buying the ghost mechanic theory. At this point, he seemed to be more intent on finding out the final bill, and not so much on solving the mystery of how the fuse mysteriously moved into a different slot.
But, before I gave him the total, I recommended he perform an exorcism on his car, since ‘NOBODY’ has been touching it. His response, "How much more will that cost me?” Seriously? Now, I’ve been asked to do all sorts of things to a car, like put a helicopter landing pad on the roof, remove a varmint from behind the dash, or turn a Prius into a tow truck, but I don’t think I’ve ever been explicitly asked to do an exorcism on the family truckster. Actually, I’m starting to put this whole thing together.
The mystery mechanic is none other than this guy himself. His answers to certain questions, and how he told his story were a dead giveaway as to who the ghost mechanic was. I swear some people just can’t be honest and admit when they’re beyond their learning curve. We both might have had a good laugh over the whole thing, but instead this guy wants me to drop the price in half, since it was such an ‘easy’ repair and all, and ignore the whereabouts of this seemingly ghostly apparition with the mindless ability to screw up the family car. But, since this guy wouldn’t own up to it, even with the evidence of his very own greasy paw prints, he’s in for a lesson of honesty, awareness of his own abilities, and how to pay for a professional diagnosis.
It’s just another case of the mechanic solving the mystery of the proverbial ghost mechanic. Debunking wives’A tales about the modern automobile, supernatural occurrences under the hood, and apparitions that seem to move fuses around is just another duty of the modern mechanic. Oh, and don’t think you’re the first person who’s tried the ghost mechanic as your method of passing the blame… you’re not. Every good mechanic has performed their fair share of exorcisms in the past and have seen the results of the mystery mechanic and his endeavors. We know who you really are.
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Article: Sinch' Ya - - - Being in the service business means you get paid to perform service work. But, some people still want you to do your job for free... ya know, sinch' ya got the car in the shop.By Gonzo
There’s the bargain hunter, the bargain shopper, the bargain finder, and the “I ain’t shopping anywhere, unless I get a bargain” shoppers. But, there is one more bargain shopper who tries their best to get something for nothing at the repair shop, and that’s the “Sinch’ ya bargain shopper.
The sinch’ ya bargain shopper isn’t hard to find, they’re everywhere. But, there are a lot of places where this form of shopping never works, such as the grocery store and at the gas pump. Now, the sinch’ ya shopper may try it at a doctor’s office, but I seriously doubt when they’re at the dentist getting a cavity filled they’ll ask, “Sinch’ ya got that tooth fixed, can ya look at this other one too?” and not consider the fact your dealing with a professional who gets paid for that sort of thing. Basically, what they are trying to accomplish is to get one thing done while sneaking in something else. You know the type. At the repair shop it is a habitual occurrence.
Take the guy who comes in for a brake job, and then asks, “Sinch’ ya got it here, could you see why the check engine light is on.” Sometimes, the shop will bow to their request, but a lot of times this simple check ends up taking a considerable amount of the technicians time, because the problem in question isn’t a simple problem after all.
It could be their thinking process assumes it’s no big deal, since the car is in the service bay already. Although, sometimes it’s pretty obvious it’s an intentional effort to slip in another repair on the cheap. And you can bet, if the mechanic checks things out and finds it’s a major issue, they’re not inclined to pay for any diagnostic time. I mean what was the mechanic thinking? They just wanted you (the mechanic) to “look” at it, not diagnose it.
Now, that’s another thing. That word “look”. It seems to go hand in hand with the “Sinch’ ya” bargain shopper. “Can ya look at this for me too? Since it’s here?” however, when the service writer says, “They’ll have to charge you for the time to look at it”, you can bet the next thing they’ll say is, “Oh, never mind then. If it’s going to cost me anything I’ll just wait until next time.”
That little word “look” tends to lead to other issues as well. Time after time I’ve been asked, “Well, if ya can’t look at it for free, what do ya “think” it is?” Oh here we go again. Now, the mechanic isn’t looking, he’s gotta think, sinch’ ur there and all. Which is probably the worst idea ever. Guessing at a repair just starts the wheel of parts spinning and hope it lands on something cheap. You can guess at a probable solution, with luck and experience the mechanic might actually have the correct answer. But, I have to wonder, is that all they really wanted in the first place? You know, a free spin on the parts wheel.
Obviously the answer can only be based on what information was given. What if it’s not the right solution? What if the mechanic’s answer doesn’t match what they’ve researched on the internet? What if they think it’s still something else and the mechanic is wrong? Now what? I’ve solved these “thinking” answers with my own little tidbit of wacky wisdom. I’ll tell them, “I try not to think. It gets me in trouble every time. I’d rather test it and be sure.” Which only leads to, “Then, what would be your best guess?”
Now we’ve gone passed the sinch’ ya, the look, and the think, and have gone straight to the guess. I’ve got a standard answer for the guess. It’s an answer that throws the whole question of sinch’ ya, look, and think right out the window. I tell them, “Well, it sounds like butterflies in the muffler.” Imagine the unusual stares I get. For me, it’s a priceless moment. It’s about then they realize I’m not about to tell them anything worthwhile about my job, their car, or their problem. Let’s face it, the long and short of it all is thinking, looking, and sinch’ ya’s don’t put supper on the table.
Of course, it’s all about the dollar. It goes back to why it’s not such a good idea to give estimates over the phone without knowing the condition of the vehicle. Despite their best efforts to explain things, I’ve found over the years if they knew what was wrong in the first place chances are we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
But, sinch’ ur here, maybe I can make an exception. Maybe I’ll bend a bit and take a look at the problem. Yea, I’ve slipped up more than a few times, usually after I’ve forgotten the golden rule of not “looking” at a customer’s car unless we’ve agreed on a fee. And, what happens 99% of time? They’ll thank me and tell me they’ll be back later to have the work done, but I wouldn’t hold your breath you’ll ever see them again.
In large, urban shops the whole concept of the sinch’ ya bargain hunter is probably a whole lot different than the same type of customer in a small rural town. Meaning, there isn’t one set rule or answer to the issue. The big problem for both the big city and the small town is educating the customer, as well as the technician on what it takes to do this job.
I’ve got to admit, after 3 decades of working on cars I still don’t quite understand the general public. Sinch ya’ gotta have them, you might as well “look” at their car and tell them what ya “think”, at least that’s my best “guess”. But, I am sure of one thing, when I retire from all this wrenching and scanning I won’t be the bargain hunter type of customer. I know from experience what it takes to do this job, and I highly respect anyone who takes on this trade and performs the job with professionalism. But, I might ask ya to check the butterflies in the muffler, sinch’ ya got it in the shop and all.
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Detective On Duty
It’s pouring down, the tow driver is dropping off a car alongside the shop. Carrying the keys into the office completely drenched from head to toe.
“Here ya go, have fun with this one,” he said, as he headed back out into the rain.
No one ever called to tell me about this car, and the tow driver only had a last name and nothing more.
What to do now? I guess the only thing to do is to see if the tow company had a phone number
to go along with the name. I tried the phone number several times, but never got an answer. For now, I'll just let it sit outside in the rain maybe the owner will call.
Several days went by, the rain had stopped and still no phone call. I tried the number again but this time the number was no longer in service. Now I’m at a total loss as to what to do. The shop was caught up that afternoon, so I thought I’d check out this little truck and see what was going on. Maybe there's a name in the glove box.
The truck was spotless, there wasn’t anything in the glovebox except for the owner’s manual. No name, no insurance card, not even a scrap of paper anywhere in it. Well, I tried at least, I might as well open the hood and check things out.
Was I in for a surprise, no wonder the tow driver told me “Have fun with this one.” Under the hood was not a 1989 2.3 liter… more like a 95 2.3 Liter engine. Somebody dropped a new motor in and didn't realize the wiring is completely different.
No more foolin' around. Time to put my detective hat on and see how much information I can dig up about this little truck. I called the tow company that dropped it off to ask them where they picked it up and see if I could track the owner down that way. They knew exactly where it came from. It was from a salvage yard.
Ok, time for another phone call. “Oh that truck, yeah I remember that one," the fella at the salvage yard told me, "the guy who owns it dropped it off for us to put an engine in it that he bought from us. We told him we didn’t think it was going to work, even though the original engine was the same size." The guy at the salvage yard didn’t have much more information on the owner than what I already had. But, they said they would keep an eye out for the guy if he showed up.
A few more phone calls thru the DMV and I had the name of the last insurance agent who had a policy on this truck. He told me, the truck was sold at an auction. The original motor was blown after a long high speed chase by the police. The driver/owner was arrested on drug charges and the car was confiscated (as is their usual policy).
Another phone call led me to the auction house (with a lot of searching) they came up with the name of a used car lot who bought the truck. Which led to another phone call, and after talking to them I finally had a first name to put with the last name the tow driver originally provided, and of course, another phone number.
I gave the number a try. It rang and rang, I was getting worried that all this phone work I’ve done is going to end up as another dead end. Then a voice came on the phone.
“Hey, yea, ah, ... Hello?”
“Hi ya doin’ is your name Jake? Do you own a Ford Ranger that had a motor put into it over at a salvage yard?”
“Ah… yeah, Ah, wow, like dude… that’s my truck, who’s this?”
I gave him all my information and explained to him how I tracked him down. He didn’t seem too impressed, (I thought I did an OUTSTANDING job of tracking this guy down).
When “Jake” finally showed up at the shop, I told him what would have to be done to get the truck running. He was under the impression that you just hook up a couple of wires and it would take off and run like new. Not quite the case there Jake, it’s going to take a lot more work than what it took for me to find this guy.
I gave him the options on what could be done with what he had to work with. The big issue was now the cost… (Of course $$) and young Jake didn’t have a dime to spend on it. He was out of a job, and didn’t have any way of paying for repairs. Luckily, the tow bill was paid by the salvage yard (I think they just wanted it out of there)
Jake had to go home and think about it. Well, I know what “think about it” really means… it means “I can’t afford it, so I’ll have to think of some other way of taking care of it.”
Monday morning the car was still sitting in the lot. By that afternoon a guy came by snooping around the little Ranger. He said he was going to buy the truck, and asked me what was wrong with it.
Later that day Jake called and told me he was selling the truck. What could I say, “OK?” or “hey dude… I just played “Private Eye” to track you down. At least have the courtesy to ask the age old question, “Do I owe you anything?” So I can at least say; “Nay, no problem, that’s OK thanks for asking… hope you get on your feet soon.” But no, all he said was; “I think he’ll pick it up sometime this week.” Click…
Another week went by and no one showed up to look at the truck. Then, the next Monday morning when I made my way into to the shop the truck was gone. Not that I was surprised, I called Jake to see if he knew his truck was on the move again, this time I got his answering machine,
“Ah, like, ah… I ain’t here… leave a message.” BEEP
“Hey, Jake your truck is gone. I guess your buddy picked it up. Come down
sometime, and I’ll give you the keys.”
Funny. how All the effort I put into finding this guy, ALL the time I spent writing down phone
numbers, contacting people, gathering information and compiling the history on this
truck that ALL I have to show for it is this story and a set of keys.
I guess I should stick to mechanic work. Seems detective work doesn't pay as well.
That was nearly a year ago and I still have the keys. I guess Jake’s buddy doesn’t need the keys either, and I'm not about to go through all that detective work to find the new owner. I'm over all that detective on duty stuff. Maybe I'll just put an ad in the paper under the lost and found section:
“Did you find a Ford Ranger that used to belong to Jake? If you so ... I’ve got the keys.”
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