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Zombie Cars “Brains, Brains, we need Brains!” Zombie cars? What’s a zombie car? Way back, when we used points and condensers and later the basic electronic ignition systems, cars didn’t need brains (ECM – Electronic Control Module), but that all changed in the mid 70’s on some imports and pretty much on everything else by the time the 80’s came around. Some of these brains were only cursory, and didn’t actually control the car, but merely watched for emission issues, while others played a major role in the actual ignition spark or fuel delivery systems. Most of the engines in those early years, still used the same basic type of distributor setups (with a few exceptions) as their earlier counterparts that used the old tried and true points and condenser type of ignition systems. During those cross-over years it was rather easy to slap a different distributor in it, or change the existing points distributor over to electronic ignition (which worked quite well by the way). These days...it’s not that easy. These computer systems have become so entangled into the engine functions and nearly every other system that it’s impossible to bypass the fuel or ignition systems as we did years ago. However, there are still a lot of people out there that have hung onto some of the cars from that era. Most likely they've been kept parked alongside the garage as a future project or hung onto for some sentimental reason. Some (very few) are in great shape, others… well, they look like zombies already. What makes them zombies? The brain… the brain… they need brains! Just this past week I had several of these faded paint monstrosities lined up in the parking lot. (They never come alone… always in a pack.) For starters an old dilapidated 1986 Dodge pickup with a slant six. This old rusted, tilting to one side relic had been at another shop for a tune-up, but as the story was told to me by the owner, the other shop tried to start it when a fuel line ruptured and caught the old truck on fire. Luckily, they managed to get it out, but the damage was already done. The main harness from the firewall to the distributor, coil, charging system, blower motor, oil sending unit, temp. sender, and the starter wiring were completely melted into an unrecognizable mass of plastic and copper. It was my job to bring this dilapidated hulk back to life. However, the original spark control computer had melted as well, and was unusable. Worse yet, the brain was discontinued eons ago with no replacement parts anywhere to be found. This zombie needs a brain, and there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to get one. At this point the only solution was to do away with the electronic brain and try to refit the old slant six with a much simpler ignition system from a decade earlier if at all possible. A lobotomy if you will. (Dr. Frankenstein would be envious.) Then there was this 2002 Mustang that moaned and groaned while dragging one foot into the shop. It needed a new BCM (Body Control Module). Call the dealer, call the parts warehouse, call everybody! Anybody! Is there a brain for this car? Nope, discontinued. Seems this particular BCM was a rather rare brain out there in zombie land, and at the time, nobody was setup to rebuild them. It seemed this car was destined to wander the city streets with the rest of the zombie mobiles. At the same time this was going on, in comes a 1982 Ford Bronco with the original Variable Venture carburetor still on it. Ok, not a brain, but just as bad. It qualifies as a zombie for sure. Trying to find a suitable replacement these days is a challenge. Ten or twenty years ago this would have been no problem to find a carb. kit (if you dared) or the Holley conversion kit for it, but not today. This trend of bringing back the dead looks like it’s only going to turn into the next zombie apocalypses. As these electronic systems get more and more complex the likely hood of your family truckster turning into a zombie is just a matter of time as each new model comes out. In some ways, I believe the manufacturers have thought this out long before there was a potential of these cars becoming zombies. In my youth it was nothing for me and a few friends to grab an old car out of a junk yard and raise it from the dead. Ya just had to throw a few shots of gas down the carburetor, add a few wires and a fresh battery and fire it up. The rust would fly, the engine would clatter, the smoke would billow out from under the hood, as the exhaust roared out of every crack in the manifold. Those days are long gone now. They may have engineered a longer lasting engine, better paint, and for the part, the interior can hold up to the ravages of time, however, the electronics, are their weakness. Although, these zombie mobiles seem to be coming out of hiding more often than ever before. Reviving some of these early electronic zombies may happen, but on the other hand, it may be a futile effort. The truth of the matter is… these resurrections are not as easy to do as it was so many years ago. There are countless problems that have to be overcome to bring some of these rusted heaps back among the living, especially if you’re in an area that requires emission testing. Just trying to bypass some of those early electronic brains when a replacement part can’t be found can be a real challenge. The good news is that there are a lot of guys out there tearing these brains apart and rebuilding them. But even then, there are some zombie cars that will never make it and eventually die from the lack of a brain, while others wander aimlessly from shop to shop still searching for their elusive electronic gray matter. Even after you manage to find a brain for these living dead vehicles it’s likely something else is going to go wrong. After all, being cast aside for so long, all the hoses, belts, and gaskets have dried up. Something will more likely fall off just like you would expect from any other zombie wandering around. And, you know, just as soon as the latest zombie joins the living something will undoubtedly come tumbling to the shop floor. Whether it’s coolant, oil, a belt, or perhaps no#2 connecting rod, something is not going to stay in place. Just like in every zombie movie I’ve ever watched,.one of them will always have an arm or leg falling off. It sure seems that these zombie cars follow right along with that same affliction. It’s safe to say, these relics of the early electronic era of the automotive world are in some respects the car equivalent of a zombie: half dead, half alive…and in search of a brain they may never find. So don’t be surprised if you’re at the next traffic light when an old faded-rusty-dented car with a shattered windshield, screeching brakes, with plumes of dense low hanging smoke creeping along with it, don't be alarmed, it’s just another car beginning its transformation into a "ZOMBIE CAR".
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Hello all, Has this ever happened to any of you? We recently went out of our way to accommodate a customers' vehicle repair request. Though the customer was argumentative about pricing, hours charged, parts used etc, they ultimately agreed to the repairs. About an hour or so later, we receive notifications of several 0 or 1 star reviews on many social websites including Yelp, Google, Yahoo, Facebook....... you name it they had an account or made a new account to put their side of the story out there. How would you handle this? Do you feel obligated to complete the said repair? Thanks in advance for your thoughts and opinions. Nick
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Well the other day I had a guy come in with a printout from autozone in hand, wants me to put in his alternator. "We don't install customer's parts, please let us diagnose..." blah blah you know the normal routine. So anyway the guy was in a bind, not going to make it another 100yards, pleads with me so we (against our good judgement) put in the $99 AZ alternator which was the correct frame type but the wrong amperage for the vehicle. No money to do it right, no dollars for diag, help a guy out, just try it, come on man I'm dying here story. "Understand, there is absolutely no warranty" Yes, sir, I'm grateful your helping me. All done and it's still not charging (their homemade wiring issues if I was to guess.), the belt and tensioner were cooked, battery is no good, the guy has zero money for any additional parts or labor. "Leave the vehicle until we can fix it please" NOPE! His wife got involved and now I'm a scam artist now on every review site there is. She was screaming at me on the phone until I had to hang up. The moral of this story is if a customer won't let you do your job properly, let them be mad and go somewhere else. Rip the band-aid off fast. I hate to be that guy that says no I can't help you but sometimes it's mandatory.
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We all know as local business owners how important it is to get those online reviews because most potential customers read those things before they make a decision whether they want to do business with you. As a matter of fact, 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business. Because of this, auto repair shops should want to collect as many positive reviews as possible to stay ahead. In the automotive industry, for getting new customers in the door, there might not be a more essential tool than positive online reviews. It can make or break a business plan. From a consumer's point of view, Google will almost always be the resource used to find an auto repair shop in each area. Not only this, some potential customers will view online reviews for the sole purpose of ranking shops, or choosing one over the other. The auto repair shop with the most positive reviews and best Google ranking is most often going to be the one the consumer decides to go to for their car repair needs. The same goes for reviews on both Facebook and Yelp. Some shop owners may be asking clients: "Hey, if you liked our service, please give us a review." And this is a proven strategy as 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business if they're asked to. However, if they're not giving reviews, how can they expect to get reviews back? There's something maybe a little karmic about that, right? If you're not doing it, how can you expect other people to do it for you. Aside from that, if you're not writing reviews, how can you tell them how to do the review? In other words, if you've never given a Google review, or a Yelp review or a Facebook review, and you've never physically done it yourself it's going to be hard when you ask somebody to give your a shop a review. A shop owner may say - "Sure, I'll give you a review, just show me how to do it," now you're scratching your head and saying, "I have no idea how to do it. I've never given one myself." What are the chances that they're actually going to give you a review? Get in the habit of writing as many reviews as possible using all of the local review sites, so you know how to navigate the waters, and you know how to actually write the review. Secondarily, sitting down to write a review is not easy. If you get in a habit of sitting down trying to figure out what you're going to say in your review, chances are when you do it more often, you'll get better and better at it. It will start to flow a little better. When you're asking a client to write you a good review, not only are you going to be able to show them how to do this, but you're going to give them some suggestions on how to write a good review for you because, after all, that's what we want to do. We want to get as many good, positive reviews from our happy customers as we possibly can. Getting in the habit of writing two reviews per week, will ultimately attract more online reviews for your shop. -- Ron Ipach (a.k.a Captain Car Count) President/Founder of Repair Shop Coach More articles and content like this and originated through Ron Ipach's Car Count Daily campaign Auto Repair Shop Owners, Managers, and Automotive Industry Professionals are invited to join 'Car Count Daily Boosters' LinkedIn group to provide resources and gain insight on boosting car count DAILY and filling up the bays in their shops.
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To all the fathers out there, Happy Father's Day. Enjoy the day, your family, your friends and life! Joe
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By Joe Marconi
As shop owners, we sometimes feel that we need to answer every question and handle every situation. While you need to be proficient as a business owner, you also need your employees to think for themselves.
Empower your people to solve problem. Ask them for their opinions and don’t be too quick to jump in on every situation. The more you jump in and solve their problems, the more they will rely on you. This is not to say you don’t have their back; but a team functions best when everyone takes ownership of their position and takes responsibility to take care of problems.
Will employees make mistakes? Yes. But there isn’t a shop owner on this planet that has a perfect record at making decisions. We all make mistakes.
As a shop owner; teach, mentor and coach. Include your employees in on decisions that relate to their job position. When employees feel you trust them, they will begin to solve their own problems. This will set you free to work on the things that will bring you greater success.
By Joe Marconi
I am writing this on my last day of vacation in California, spending time with family. It took me a few days to totally relax, but made it a point to not look at emails or call the office.
We all need downtime. I know there will be a ton of work to be done when I return, but I also know that the time away has recharged my batteries and I will be more productive.
Being away from business and spending time with family puts things into proper perspective. You realize that a lot of the things you stress over, are really not as important as you think.
Take time to enjoy life. We all know how quickly time passes us by. And remember, no one on their death bed ever said they wished they spent more time at work.
By Stevens Automotive Service
How many of you have a four bay shop ?
If you do how many techs do you have ?
What is your average sales weekly , monthly ?
What do you spend in advertising ?
What was your sales in 2017 ?
I am using this shop as a guide for those who would like to follow and see real time progress.
For those interested just answer the questions so you and I can see what your strong points and if and where you may have areas for improvement.
By Stevens Automotive Service
After looking and reading some posts Here are some quick answers to some of them.
Charging for Diagnostic time... Absolutely and is easy done.
Fleet Customers.. Absolutely if you have the man power and shop to handle them. Be careful , you can loose them if your not equipped to support the amount of work. Do your homework.
Damage and misfortune to a customers vehicle while in your care... If it's your fault just fix it. If not assess and address it quickly, the sooner the better.
Know your Business not just part of it... Know it inside and out. Knowing your fixed cost is a must.
Spend Wisely ..It takes money to make money keep it balanced , don't invest without returns.
Advertise Wisely....Quick example : If you are around a large place of business where people work , Hospital, Shopping Mall, Manufacturing Plant Etc there are just a few suggestions of gaining customers for next to nothing cost, to attain those customers. A promotion on a business size card and NO, you don't have to discount a thing.
Dealing with employees ..On cell phones , drugs etc whatever you don't address you condone!
Hope this helps Need help with anything, I am a phone call or email away !
Stevens Automotive Services
By Stevens Automotive Service
If you have ever thought about shop management and training for your business now is the time. Make 2018 profitable and with a lot less stress.
For ASO members that are serious about business and becoming the shop of choice in your area then lets get started.
Business coaching and training for your auto repair business. Real world one on one training for your business as all shops are different with different needs and markets.
Cost is 100.00 a week for a 1 year program for serious owners only that want to build a business.
Contact me for details and make 2018 all it can be.
Email [email protected]