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OK, Who Left The Gate Open! - - - clank, pop, grind, zwing, You can here them coming!


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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 go 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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  • 1 year later...

We have a term for these vehicles. We call them "good ol' neighborhood cars". Sometimes I think we are stuck inside the fence and the gate already has been welded shut. Countless times we've declined to touch them because you end up marrying them.

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Haha too funny. I've come up with an easy way to avoid the inevitable on these beauties. "Sir, your inspection is coming up in 2 months and it's not going to pass because of the (rusted out frame or whatever) Are you certain you want to spend the money for just a few more weeks of use?" Then the other gate clangs open and the buddy swoops in "don't worry I know a guy who'll pass it, just get the alignment good" lol

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Auto shop owners are always looking for ways to improve production levels. They focus their attention on their technicians and require certain expectations of performance in billable labor hours. While technicians must know what is expected of them, they have a limited amount of control over production levels. When all factors are considered, the only thing a well-trained technician has control over is his or her actual efficiency.
      As a review, technician efficiency is the amount of labor time it takes a technician to complete a job compared to the labor time being billed to the customer. Productivity is the time the technician is billing labor hours compared to the time the technician is physically at the shop. The reality is that a technician can be very efficient, but not productive if the technician has a lot of downtime waiting for parts, waiting too long between jobs, or poor workflow systems.
      But let’s go deeper into what affects production in the typical auto repair shop. As a business coach, one of the biggest reasons for low shop production is not charging the correct labor time. Labor for extensive jobs is often not being billed accurately. Rust, seized bolts, and wrong published labor times are just a few reasons for lost labor dollars.
      Another common problem is not understanding how to bill for jobs that require extensive diagnostic testing, and complicated procedures to arrive at the root cause for an onboard computer problem, electrical issue, or drivability issue. These jobs usually take time to analyze, using sophisticated tools, and by the shop’s top technician. Typically, these jobs are billed at a standard menu labor charge, instead of at a higher labor rate. This results in less billed labor hours than the actual labor time spent. The amount of lost labor hours here can cripple a shop’s overall profit.
      Many shop owners do a great job at calculating their labor rate but may not understand what their true effective labor is, which is their labor sales divided by the total labor hours sold. In many cases, I have seen a shop that has a shop labor rate of over $150.00 per hour, but the actual effective labor rate is around $100. Not good.
      Lastly, technician production can suffer when the service advisors are too busy or not motivated to build relationships with customers, which results in a low sales closing ratio. And let’s not forget that to be productive, a shop needs to have the right systems, the right tools and equipment, an extensive information system, and of course, great leadership.
      The bottom line is this; many factors need to be considered when looking to increase production levels. While it does start with the technician, it doesn’t end there. Consider all the factors above when looking for ways to improve your shop’s labor production.
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