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Years ago my younger brother came to work for me. He didn’t know a thing about cars, but was willing to learn all he could. Teaching new techs is an art that most shop owners have to learn to do, but teaching your little brother can be a chore and can test your patience. I muddled thru it all and taught him what I could. I was sure at some point in time the two of us would butt heads like brothers will do, and he would take his new found skills and move up in the rank and files of the automotive technical world, but in the meantime it was his turn to learn from his older brother.
When he first started I would walk him through each step of how to diagnose a certain system in a car. A lot of times he would have questions, and I’d do my best to answer them. He learned quickly and was really sharp at picking up some of those little details that are harder to teach. You know things like how you held a certain wrench or used a certain tool, to you and me it’s no big deal. But to a novice, it’s a revelation, then you (I) tend to forget to mention those certain traits while you’re teaching. Mainly because you are trying to get to the solution as efficiently as possible, and you neglect to bring it up. Such as: “always test your test light connection before testing what you’re testing, or don’t forget to check for all your tools before you pull the car out of the shop….” Things like that.
One day we had a truck come in with dual fuel tanks on it. The gas gauge wasn’t working and needed some attention. This was a perfect opportunity for Junior to learn a few of my short cuts on these old models. It was an older Ford, in which the tank gauge ran thru the tank switchover button. It was rather easy to pull it out of the dash and connect to the gauge from the back of the switch.
Luckily it was the typical problem I’ve seen a hundred times in the past. The switch connections would melt and the tank wouldn’t switch from the front tank to the rear, and of course the gauge wouldn’t move either.
After locating the correct leads to the gauge and to the tanks I decided to show him how the gauge worked. I hooked up the one of the tanks to the crossover lead that would supply the signal from the tank to the gauge.
“Ya see this, that’s the lead to the fuel gauge in the dash, and this is one of the tank wires. I’ll connect these together and we should get a reading on the dash,” I told him.
He was watching intently, taking in all the wiring diagram information, the location of the wires, and how I was bypassing the switch. He was fascinated with the flow of the current and the way the gauge would respond. I even went as far as moving the gauge from full to empty by opening and closing it to a ground signal. While I had his attention I filled him in on the two types of gauges that were used back then (bimetallic and magnetic) and how low resistance on a bimetal type gauge would read near a full tank, while a magnetic gauge would read close to empty. Change the resistance and the gauge would/should read accordingly.
“So, if we put gas in the tank the gauge should move right? That way we could check the sending units in the tanks too,” he asked me.
“Great idea, grab a gas can and let’s add a few gallons,” I said, excited that he was so interested in the project.
He grabbed a can of gas and poured a few gallons in the tank. I was watching the gas guage carefully, but there was no movement. I knew I was on the right wires, but nothing was happening. Now what? Are there more problems?
“Crawl under there, and check to be sure the wire color is correct,” I yelled from the cab to him.
“Yep, it’s the right wire on the tank.”
“Well, we might have to pull the tank; it’s not changing the gauge readings up here.”
“Before we do that let’s add some more gas, maybe we didn’t add enough,” Junior tells me.
I thought I better go back and help hold the funnel, while he poured the gas in the tank. Unknowing to me, all this time my wife (who was the office manager) was listening in on the whole thing. She likes to keep tabs on me, and make sure I’m not going into one of my usual rants or having a fit because I had to explain something over and over again to little brother. This time she was standing at the corner of the shop just behind the truck with a camera. “CLICK”, I heard the camera shutter go off and she was back there laughing like there was no tomorrow.
“What’s so funny?” I asked her.
“You two idiots have been putting gas in the wrong tank. You’re on the front tank, and you’re putting gas in the rear tank,” my wife answers, laughing hysterically.
About then the camera “clicked” again… this time it was an action shot taken at precisely the exact moment when these two idiots had that dumb struck look on their faces and realized what they just did. The shot had both of us on our knees, one holding a funnel and the other with the half empty gas can, and both of us staring right into the camera lens. Couldn’t have set it up any better if you tried.
The picture clearly showed the side of the truck with both fuel tank doors visible and there was no doubt which tank we were putting in the extra gas. I guess it was one of those things I should have mentioned when we were checking the tank senders… make sure we are both on the same tank.
For years that picture hung over her desk, and anytime I thought I was so smart she would point at the photo. Usually with that typical smirk, usually shaking her finger at me and of course the laugh… she had to laugh, but it wasn’t all that funny until she had me laughing about it too. Ok, Ok, I’m not perfect... and now my little brother knows it too.
These days he’s a top notch tech at a dealership, and I have to call him on occasions for some help on how to solve things once in a while. Oh the photo… uhmmm… what photo?? Somehow it’s missing… haven’t seen the darn thing in years. But I guess I really don’t need to see the photo … the wife has a pretty good memory... she reminds me just how smart I think I am every chance she gets.
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By Elite Worldwide Inc.
By Bob Cooper
According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, some CEO’s are starting to understand the price they have to pay for quick profits, and many of them are now taking a different approach. Although all companies should consider their long-term growth and financial stability, there has been an ongoing challenge that today’s CEO’s face; the relentless demand for immediate profits that is put on them by their stockholders.
Look at it like this. Publicly traded companies (i.e., Delta Airlines, General Motors, etc.) are owned by stockholders just like you and me. Although small investors like us don’t have a voice with such large companies, there are Wall Street fund managers that do have their ear. These are the people that buy and sell stock in staggering lump sums, and in order to entice those fund managers to invest in their companies, and to then keep that money invested in their companies, the CEO’s need to show strong profits not just for the year, but for quarter after quarter. The CEO’s know that if they miss their earnings (profit) mark, then there is a strong probability the fund manager will consider pulling their investment, and investing their money elsewhere.
In summary, investors like you and me put pressure on our stockbrokers to generate good profits for us, and in order to do so they put pressure on the fund managers, who then put pressure on the CEO’s. The end result? The CEO’s know if they don’t deliver, they may very well be out of a job, which is why so many of them are far more focused on short-term profits than long-term success.
Are their exceptions? You bet, and the late Steve Jobs is a classic example of someone who had a long-term vision and who invested his profits back into Apple. Of course there are others who do so, such as Warren Buffet of Berkshire Hathaway and Bill Gates of Microsoft, but they are few in numbers compared to the CEO’s that are driven by short-term success.
So now that the Wall Street Journal is reporting a shift in how CEO’s think about squeezing the golden goose, you may want to revisit your shop’s business strategy as well. Since Steve Jobs is considered by many to have been the greatest CEO of all time, you and I should certainly feel comfortable following his lead.
How you view and operate your shop is certainly a personal decision, and I understand everyone is going to have different goals in mind, yet I feel there are some principles in business that are too good to be new. As Steve Jobs showed us, one of these principles is that we can’t let short-term interest or a quest for immediate rewards overcome our better judgement. Let your competitors make that mistake. Instead, just as Steve did, you need to set long-term goals that you believe in, you need to create a plan for reaching those goals, and then you need to constantly invest in your future. Some examples would be investing in training programs that address the newest vehicle technology, or taking the time now to implement an apprenticeship program that will help you develop your own superstar advisors and technicians in the coming years. I’d also recommend launching marketing campaigns that build your brand and focus on your principles, rather than campaigns focused on discounts that are designed to generate immediate sales. These are all surefire ways of investing in your future, and keeping you well ahead of your competitors.
If you follow the example that Steve jobs set for us by reinvesting in your company, and if you live by the principle of never putting money ahead of people, you will see what your competitors will more than likely never see; a more profitable, successful business that is good for you, your employees, your customers and the industry. I am sure you will agree that beyond the great products, Steve Jobs gave us quite the gift; a lesson in how to build an incredible business.
“Since 1990, Bob Cooper has been the president of Elite (www.EliteWorldwide.com), a company that strives to help shop owners reach their goals and live happier lives, while elevating the industry at the same time. The company offers one-on-one coaching from the industry’s top shop owners, service advisor training, peer groups, along with online and in-class sales, marketing and shop management courses. You can contact Elite at [email protected], or by calling 800-204-3548."
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Just a little back story, have been in business for 6 years. Started from my house garage and grew to a 3 bay shop 2 years ago with one full time b tech. Very diverse shop we do a lot of collision repair,mechanical repairs,and used car sales with an inventory of 30 cars right now. when i first started, being so diverse helped keep the shop busy but now i am at the point where i would really like to perfect and enlarge my auto repair side of the business. i am very tired of throwing parts at cars and i know we are weak in the "CHECK ENGINE" world but i don't know how to make the jump to correct this. I know for a fact this will help my shop become more efficient and improve my used car business as well. ideally i would like to hire a Master tech who could help train the other tech and let me step into a manger position so i could buy more cars and be more aggressive in marketing the business, maybe land a fleet account. i just feel stuck with all these decisions and can't seem to decide which turn to take. i feel very lucky to have found this site and i am very excited to see what advise people have.
7 Years of Bad Luck
Black cats, a rabbits foot, a 4 leaf clover, the number 13, avoiding stepping on cracks, and always take the driver’s front tire off first. Ok, I’ve heard most of these superstitions, but the tire thing? What’s that all about? Well, there are some of us mechanics who have a few superstitions just like baseball players, sailors and the like. A lot of mechanics won’t admit it, or don’t think they are superstitious, but we all know you are.
Whether it’s a lucky screwdriver, a special place you always lay the air ratchet, or maybe how you organize your tool box there’s bound to be something in the way of a superstition somewhere among that pile of tools. Shy of calling out the witchdoctors to dance clockwise around a car while carrying a dead chicken and chanting some sort of low baritone incantation before every diagnostic procedure, I think it’s safe to say there are more than a few superstitions in the of auto repair biz.
I’m not one to think I’m even the least bit superstitious (knock on wood). I just don’t believe in that stuff, because I’m not superstitious. OK, OK, my wife says I am, and points out my flaws all the time, even if I won’t admit it. For instance, I won’t start a car after I’ve done a bunch of work on the engine, unless I’ve left at least one tool under the hood. After it’s started and checked out, then and only then will I pick up all my tools. Superstitious, you say? Maybe, or it could be because even after I’ve put everything back together something may or may not be as perfect as it should be. At least then, when I have to redo something, all the tools are still right where they need to be. But, you can bet even if I finished a job and I know everything is right, I’m still going to leave at least one tool under there … just in case.
I’ve watched techs nervously cross their fingers or keep their eyes shut while turning the key for the first time on a new motor they just rebuilt. (Usually followed by a sigh of relief and a couple of Yahoo’s! or the other, and we all know what that would be.) Or the guy who would never put a car in his service bay when the car color had the same first letter of that day of the week. (Totally weird. He eventually quit, and now works on forklifts instead. Yellow is a good color for him.) I once worked with a tech who wouldn’t start a repair unless he had a pocket screwdriver, for fear it would jinx him without it. It didn’t matter if he was just changing a battery or scanning for codes, that pocket screwdriver had to be in his pocket. As a joke, a couple of us hid all this guy’s pocket screwdrivers, and then watched him beg and plead to borrow one. Cruel, but it was still pretty funny anyway.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a full moon, a rainy day, a black cat that just walked across your service bay, or perhaps the color of the car there’s bound to be one guy or gal who has some premonition that something isn’t going to go right for them. Why, I’ve even heard of some mechanics (and shops) that won’t answer the shop phone if it rings the very second they unlock the doors. They’ll let somebody else get it or wait for them to call back. I guess they don’t want to start their day off with a complaint, or they just think it’s bad luck to do so. Nevertheless, it’s still sounds like a superstition to me. From the gardener to the baker everybody and every trade has their own superstitions.
We’ve probably all heard of the baseball players who won’t change their socks, or wear the same jersey during a play off, or football players who always have to tap the sign over the door as they go onto the field. It’s just one more of those wacky superstitions that keep showing up. Even the golfing great Jack Nicklaus had his own superstitions. He wouldn’t play unless he had three pennies in his left pocket during a round of golf. Sailors used to watch the sky, and if it was red in the morning, sailor take warning. Then there is the old “knock on wood” that to this day I still see people do. Superstitious? Sure, or perhaps a quirky habit? Who’s to say? Then again, it might just be to what degree we carry our personal superstitions in public that separates us from the completely insane or just being a little wacky. Except for breaking a mirror. That might really be 7 years of bad luck. I broke one about 5 years ago and the wife still hasn’t left me off the hook for it.
So how superstitious are you? I’ve consulted my horoscope and it says today is a good day for you to tell all. So alrighty then, all you mechanics and technicians out there or anyone else for that matter, let’s hear your superstitions. If you don’t have one then let’s hear about the guy in the next service bay. (That way we won’t know … it’s actually you.)
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Ok, Who Left the Gate Open?
Clunkers, Hoopty’s, Leaners, Rust Buckets, and those bumper-draggin’-krinkled cars must travel in packs. How else can you explain how these oil dripping, rod knocking, windshield cracking, grease slinging, POS’s (Piece of Scrap) can find their way to the shop all at the same time? I swear there’s a gate at the end of the street that somebody has left open.
I’m sure there’s a gate, there has to be one, and I’m sure there’s somebody down there who opened that sucker up and sent all of these dilapidated, unmaintained, falling apart fugitives of the service bay to my front door. Sometimes, after I close up at night I go on a hunt for this elusive gate. I can’t find it. Where’s this gate at? Wait a minute, I think I know why. When the closed sign goes up they move the gate to another part of town. Yea that’s it…it’s gotta be… and I’ll bet they’ve got a couple of these gates in every time zone too! It’s a mass underground movement I tell ya!
Seriously, I can go for weeks or even months and not see one of these 4 wheel disasters. But, when one does sneak passed the gate one or two more always slip through as well. And, as usual, their owners are only concerned with one problem and one problem only, but with these run down relics it’s never “one” problem, it’s a series of numerous problems that lead up to a cataclysmic failure that finally brought these unrecognizable modes of transportation off the highways and byways and into a repair shop.
As of the last “super moon” just a while ago, the gate must have been opened for an extended length of time. It wasn’t just one or two… but dozens of these overdue for the crusher jobs coming in.
One guy asked if I could find out what the grinding noise was in the left front of his van. He forgot to mention he was dragging a huge overloaded trailer behind this old van. I told him that I can’t put it up on the lift with a trailer hooked to it, so if he didn’t mind, disconnect the trailer. After he pulled into the lot, and tried to back up, he found out his reverse gear had gone out. Right there in the parking lot!
Geez, now I’m out in the parking lot looking at this POS not to get paid mind you… but to get rid of it. It was without a doubt the most tore up, bent, broken, fluid dripping, cancer rotted vehicle I’ve ever seen that still had air in all four tires. The guy wants to discuss fixing his metal grinding sound but isn’t concerned about the lack of reverse. I sternly told the guy, “Look, I’ll see what’s making the grinding sound, but, you’ll have to help push it off of the lift and out of the service bay.” He didn’t like that idea all that well. Oh, I forgot to mention… there was just enough room for the driver to get in the van. The passenger side was full of junk. Even the dash had about a foot of crumbled up papers, coffee cups, and various other unusable items stashed on it. And, the smell, OMG! Unbearable!
Just as that one left and was heading down the street the next patron of the gate passed it on its way into the parking lot. This time it’s a service truck, a big Dodge Ram diesel dually on a trailer. It doesn’t start, and it’s supposed to have had a fire accompanied with all of this. The two fellas that were there to drop the truck off had no offloading ramps, no winch, no boards, and no idea what they were doing. I asked, “How did you get the truck on the trailer?”
“Oh, that was easy,” the brightest of the two of them told me, “We used a crane and picked it up and dropped it on the trailer.”
I watched in amazement as these two knuckleheads scampered around the trailer like the Keystone cops trying to come up with some way of getting it off. The no#2 trailer efficiency expert had a brilliant idea. “Let’s tie a rope to that there building over yonder, then I’ll drive the truck we used to tow it in with and you steer the broken down one. I’ll gun it and you’ll slide right off the trailer!”
OMG! ! I’ve got to put a stop to this right now. I came out of the shop with both arms waving frantically, “Wait, wait, wait, hold on a second! You’re not using the neighbors building as some sort of anchor post for some foolish idea. How about you guys take this thing home, find the ramps, or get that crane and put this thing on a proper tow truck. Because what you’re suggesting can lead to all kinds of problems.”
I thought I might have to break out a chalk board and a couple of school desks to get through to these guys about the variables that could happen. Of course, they both just stared straight ahead as if every brain cell in their head had just exploded. The last thing I needed was for these two hayseeds to be on the six o’clock news explaining they just saw Big Foot in the parking lot pushing their truck or how aliens landed and smashed the service truck into the side of the building next door. They finally towed it home… what a relief.
Not to be outdone, the very next one was another piece of work. Lost horsepower, wouldn’t shift right, and sounded terrible. What a horrid piece of machinery. Honestly, you could have scrapped the gunk off this engine into a rag and squeezed a quart of oil out of it. I managed to get the inspection cover off of the timing belt and just as I suspected the timing had jumped. Way overdue for replacement. It’s not only going to need a new belt, but a bath before I work on this hunk of junk, and then… who knows what I’ll find. It just never ends.
Someday I’m going to find that gate, and when I do.... I’m going to weld it shut. Lock it up and throw away the key. If you spend your day looking at these unbelievable poorly kept vehicles like I do, ya just have to ask yourself. “Can it get any worse?” Oh, it does… and it certainly will. For the most part, these sorts of jobs never turn into paying/profitable jobs. Most of these cars are so far gone that the repair costs keep going up and the customer still ends up with a bucket of rust to drive.
Then… … … Hold on a second, listen. Do ya hear it? I hear the sound of a gate creaking open, and the sounds of an old wore out motor. I can see plumes of black smoke and I can smell the burnt oil too! Oh no, they’re coming. Ok, who left the gate open! Here we go again….
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