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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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Funny! Oh man, you nailed it with this one!


That gate you speak of is a portal from a dimension that is unknown to people like us. We know it exists, but we have never been there. In that dimension you will find all those undesirable people and cars you speak of. How else to you explain it? Oh, this dimension seeks out and finds repair repair shops.


Bad news though, I don't know of any type of welding rod that works with "portal dimensions"

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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?

      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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