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Gonzo

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Gonzo last won the day on July 15

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About Gonzo

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    Gonzo

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    15031 s. 4150 rd, claremore, Oklahoma, 74017
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    ASE CMAT
    USMC
    TEA (Tulsa Executive Association) Past president and chairman of the board
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  1. 3 GALLONS OF TROUBLE It was shortly after opening time when one of my long time regular customers brought their teenage son into the shop for a little discussion and repair time. The father and I go way back, and he knew I'm not one to take a lot of gruff, especially before coffee. He looked at his son and told him, “Gonzo, probably hasn’t had his coffee yet so go easy on the old guy,” he said with a quick little nod and wink in my direction. He was right about the coffee, but that still didn’t prepare me for the story I was about to hear. The story started sometime earlier, apparently after I changed the fuel pump some two years ago. It had to do with his gas mileage. Apparently, his incredibly detailed fuel charts that listed every fill up, time, date, and the exact mileage there was always a 3 gallon discrepancy. All traced back to the very day I put the fuel pump in over two years ago. He was concerned, no, let me rephrase that, he was extremely upset and insisted that I was the cause of all this, and obviously, I must have done something wrong. His insistence that I was to blame was backed up by his anal retentive log book of every liquid that every entered his trucks orifices. Everything was tracked by way of his trip odometer. Before the new fuel pump he would get close to 400 miles per tank. His accuracy was to be commended. Not a lot of people go to this amount of effort to calculate the different seasonal fuel changes and how it affects the overall mileage with a cross reference to the previous year and then highlight long trips in a different colored highlighter with notations about wind speed and weather conditions, or which direction he was traveling, With all this cross checking, geological mapping, GPS location, and weather pattern charts there still was this 3 gallon gap. Each fill up averaged right around 23 gallons from empty, and never a drop more than 23 gallons. But now, his fuel tank was holding 26 gallons. His question, “So, where is the other 3 gallons going?” I tried not laugh, I’ve changed a lot of fuel pumps but I never have had anyone come in and tell me that there fuel tank now holds more fuel than before. The dad smirk was getting wider and wider as the story and his teen aged son's lack of making me believe his story increased his volume and temper. The whole time, good ol' dad just sat there with that look on his face as if to silently tell me, "You're turn... I'll just watch." “I’m pretty sure your gas tank hasn’t increased in volume since a fuel pump has been changed. I would imagine you’re probably mistaken as to how much your tank actually holds. Did you ever check your owners manual by chance? ” I told him, as I reached for my coffee. Nope, he wasn’t buying that. He knew how much his gas tank has 'always' held and he knew I was the cause of his lost mileage. The more I tried to explain, the more upset he was getting. He was quite sure (and demanding) that he was correct and that I wasn’t listening to what he was saying. By now he was quite loud and belligerent over the whole matter. Poor old dad, laid a hand on his son's shoulder, but the boy just shrugged it off and continued on his rampant dissertation of fuel mileage vs. fuel tank volume. At that point, I kinda figured dad had already had enough of his boy’s attitude and figured old Gonzo was going to straighten him out. (This is going to take a lot more coffee…better start another pot.) The aggravated son then began to tell me how good a mechanic he was, because he had rebuilt a few motors in the past so… he knew his way around under the hood. Then he added to his story with the usual, “I went to one of those parts stores that will read codes for you… they said the reason for the check engine light was because of a bad gas cap.” Now there's a new twist, oh wait I've got it now. As long as the fuel mileage was the only issue it's safe to say you would have kept driving around with this attitude that I must have screwed something up, but... as soon as the check engine light comes on and another scrappy teenager with a code reader tells you that it's caused by a gas cap you put it together... and what do you know... it's Gonzo's fault. I can see the whole scenario now, he was grasping at possible reasons why his gas mileage had dropped so much and now he's got some confirmation. What gets me is how something as important as the involvement of the service light wasn't brought up sooner into the conversation but what is important is to tell me how good a tech you are and that you have already made this seemingly incompetent decision that I was to blame. So at this point, we have a service light on, we have a supposed loss of fuel economy (sort of), and I’m sure there is more… there is always more… I had to ask, “Anything else?” On occasions the ABS light comes on… he had that checked too. This time he consulted the ever faithful internet. He tells me in a loud forceful voice… as if I couldn’t hear anything he was saying, “That always means it’s time to rebuild the ABS controller.” Oh yea, I do that every day… I take the controllers apart and remove the epoxy sealer over the circuit boards and remove the effected components on the board and then reseal the whole thing back together. Sure it can be done, but not cheaply, and it sure isn't going to change that 3 gallons of fuel in the tank. All this before my first cup of coffee? Finally, dad convinced the son to dropped the truck off. I went straight to the glove box and checked the owner’s manual for the fuel tank capacity. It had it in big bold letters… 26 gallon capacity… not 23 as he was so sure of. Just to be sure, I checked the tune up parts and the filters… all looked great. The next thing was to tackle the check engine light. Yes there was a code, well a code that might lower gas mileage… sort of… but not by 3 gallons. It was the evap solenoid valve code, P0449. After testing the circuit and the valve it turned out the valve was at fault. A new evap solenoid valve solved the problem. As far as the ABS… nothing, not a thing, no codes, no history codes, and the system was working normally. A drive test showed no problems but I gave him the benefit of doubt that he may have an intermittent ABS controller problem… however when I gave him the options of leaving it alone or changing it… he left it alone. After all the phone calls were made and dad and son arrived to pick up the truck there was never another mention of the so called missing 3 gallons or the fact that it was merely the original fuel sender that was reading improperly all this time. Or the fact that the loose gas cap had nothing to do with the service light either. I guess when you’re wrong you don’t have to admit it, at least when you're a teenager, and dad is paying the bill. But, you can be darn sure, if the mechanic is wrong, it's time to scream in his face, accuse him of incompetence, and let everyone else know about it, and write some review about, and then ask for your money back. Welcome to the world of auto repair and some of the strangest customer reactions you'll ever run into. Oh, and I apologies for being the mechanic in this story, and I guess I should apologies for one more thing….. Writing in BIG letters on his invoice… YOUR TANK HOLDS 26 GALLONS! ! View full article
  2. 3 GALLONS OF TROUBLE It was shortly after opening time when one of my long time regular customers brought their teenage son into the shop for a little discussion and repair time. The father and I go way back, and he knew I'm not one to take a lot of gruff, especially before coffee. He looked at his son and told him, “Gonzo, probably hasn’t had his coffee yet so go easy on the old guy,” he said with a quick little nod and wink in my direction. He was right about the coffee, but that still didn’t prepare me for the story I was about to hear. The story started sometime earlier, apparently after I changed the fuel pump some two years ago. It had to do with his gas mileage. Apparently, his incredibly detailed fuel charts that listed every fill up, time, date, and the exact mileage there was always a 3 gallon discrepancy. All traced back to the very day I put the fuel pump in over two years ago. He was concerned, no, let me rephrase that, he was extremely upset and insisted that I was the cause of all this, and obviously, I must have done something wrong. His insistence that I was to blame was backed up by his anal retentive log book of every liquid that every entered his trucks orifices. Everything was tracked by way of his trip odometer. Before the new fuel pump he would get close to 400 miles per tank. His accuracy was to be commended. Not a lot of people go to this amount of effort to calculate the different seasonal fuel changes and how it affects the overall mileage with a cross reference to the previous year and then highlight long trips in a different colored highlighter with notations about wind speed and weather conditions, or which direction he was traveling, With all this cross checking, geological mapping, GPS location, and weather pattern charts there still was this 3 gallon gap. Each fill up averaged right around 23 gallons from empty, and never a drop more than 23 gallons. But now, his fuel tank was holding 26 gallons. His question, “So, where is the other 3 gallons going?” I tried not laugh, I’ve changed a lot of fuel pumps but I never have had anyone come in and tell me that there fuel tank now holds more fuel than before. The dad smirk was getting wider and wider as the story and his teen aged son's lack of making me believe his story increased his volume and temper. The whole time, good ol' dad just sat there with that look on his face as if to silently tell me, "You're turn... I'll just watch." “I’m pretty sure your gas tank hasn’t increased in volume since a fuel pump has been changed. I would imagine you’re probably mistaken as to how much your tank actually holds. Did you ever check your owners manual by chance? ” I told him, as I reached for my coffee. Nope, he wasn’t buying that. He knew how much his gas tank has 'always' held and he knew I was the cause of his lost mileage. The more I tried to explain, the more upset he was getting. He was quite sure (and demanding) that he was correct and that I wasn’t listening to what he was saying. By now he was quite loud and belligerent over the whole matter. Poor old dad, laid a hand on his son's shoulder, but the boy just shrugged it off and continued on his rampant dissertation of fuel mileage vs. fuel tank volume. At that point, I kinda figured dad had already had enough of his boy’s attitude and figured old Gonzo was going to straighten him out. (This is going to take a lot more coffee…better start another pot.) The aggravated son then began to tell me how good a mechanic he was, because he had rebuilt a few motors in the past so… he knew his way around under the hood. Then he added to his story with the usual, “I went to one of those parts stores that will read codes for you… they said the reason for the check engine light was because of a bad gas cap.” Now there's a new twist, oh wait I've got it now. As long as the fuel mileage was the only issue it's safe to say you would have kept driving around with this attitude that I must have screwed something up, but... as soon as the check engine light comes on and another scrappy teenager with a code reader tells you that it's caused by a gas cap you put it together... and what do you know... it's Gonzo's fault. I can see the whole scenario now, he was grasping at possible reasons why his gas mileage had dropped so much and now he's got some confirmation. What gets me is how something as important as the involvement of the service light wasn't brought up sooner into the conversation but what is important is to tell me how good a tech you are and that you have already made this seemingly incompetent decision that I was to blame. So at this point, we have a service light on, we have a supposed loss of fuel economy (sort of), and I’m sure there is more… there is always more… I had to ask, “Anything else?” On occasions the ABS light comes on… he had that checked too. This time he consulted the ever faithful internet. He tells me in a loud forceful voice… as if I couldn’t hear anything he was saying, “That always means it’s time to rebuild the ABS controller.” Oh yea, I do that every day… I take the controllers apart and remove the epoxy sealer over the circuit boards and remove the effected components on the board and then reseal the whole thing back together. Sure it can be done, but not cheaply, and it sure isn't going to change that 3 gallons of fuel in the tank. All this before my first cup of coffee? Finally, dad convinced the son to dropped the truck off. I went straight to the glove box and checked the owner’s manual for the fuel tank capacity. It had it in big bold letters… 26 gallon capacity… not 23 as he was so sure of. Just to be sure, I checked the tune up parts and the filters… all looked great. The next thing was to tackle the check engine light. Yes there was a code, well a code that might lower gas mileage… sort of… but not by 3 gallons. It was the evap solenoid valve code, P0449. After testing the circuit and the valve it turned out the valve was at fault. A new evap solenoid valve solved the problem. As far as the ABS… nothing, not a thing, no codes, no history codes, and the system was working normally. A drive test showed no problems but I gave him the benefit of doubt that he may have an intermittent ABS controller problem… however when I gave him the options of leaving it alone or changing it… he left it alone. After all the phone calls were made and dad and son arrived to pick up the truck there was never another mention of the so called missing 3 gallons or the fact that it was merely the original fuel sender that was reading improperly all this time. Or the fact that the loose gas cap had nothing to do with the service light either. I guess when you’re wrong you don’t have to admit it, at least when you're a teenager, and dad is paying the bill. But, you can be darn sure, if the mechanic is wrong, it's time to scream in his face, accuse him of incompetence, and let everyone else know about it, and write some review about, and then ask for your money back. Welcome to the world of auto repair and some of the strangest customer reactions you'll ever run into. Oh, and I apologies for being the mechanic in this story, and I guess I should apologies for one more thing….. Writing in BIG letters on his invoice… YOUR TANK HOLDS 26 GALLONS! !
  3. Newspaper circulation is dropping by the day and is next to nothing, bulk advertising mailers aren’t near as effective as they were years ago, radio time can be costly and can pigeon hole your advertising dollars with the type of clients you’re looking for, local television is only available in those off hours and I’m not sure how many new prospective customers I’ll find with broken cars at 3am, and internet advertising isn’t as local as you’d like, and at best is unpredictable. So what’s an affordable, useful, and productive way to advertise your small business locally? One that draws local people that want to work with a local company? Maybe, instead of advertising to the consumer, how about directing your meager advertising budget to other businesses…. Networking is the answer. If you’re not familiar with networking you should be. Networking groups are everywhere. Occasionally you’ll hear the term ‘Tips’ groups vs. networking groups. They’re basically the same thing. Networking groups are a diversified group of business people, shop owners, sales people, and/or employees that get together once a week, once a month, or on special occasions to exchange ideas, business cards and referrals. They’ll usually have a few minutes for you to introduce yourself and talk about your business. Some will offer you a chance to do a presentation about your business at each meeting. Either way, this is your opportunity to advertise your business to other businesses and generally, create new business for you. But, the big thing you’re looking for is the referrals. It’s probably the most important reason to join one of these groups. Some of these groups are small, some have been around for decades, and some are very secretive. Some in fact, only allow one of each type of business into their group, while others have no restrictions at all. Of course, there are rules in most cases. Things like, “always check with members first for any service and always relay your experiences with the other members, attendance policies, and confidentiality concerns. In a few of these groups it’s not about how much money you have, because you can’t buy your way in. It’s your character and community standing that are the deciding factors. For some of these groups you have to be nominated and then you’re brought before a board of your peers to be voted in, or black balled out. Other tips groups aren’t near as picky. Whichever way it’s organized I guarantee to you… it’s all worth it. You’ll even find some of these networking groups that share a common interest outside of their own business ventures. Such as meeting at a golf course once a month for a short meeting and a 9 hole golf tournament. There’s even a tips group here locally that likes to sample different restaurants each month and switch their location depending on the group size and menu selection. I’ve even heard of one that meets every Saturday morning for breakfast. They’ve got a whole corner of this restaurant reserved for them. Sometimes they are a hobby based tips group. From model airplanes, to sewing, to horse racing. The types of networking groups are endless. Once you start checking into them you’ll be surprised at the diversity and number of tips groups there actually are. I’ve been with one networking group for over 20 years. This one is a private membership type that meet once a week with rather strict attendance rules and a ‘hush-hush’ policy as to who is a member. I recently withdrew from the organization because of my busy travel schedule and couldn’t meet the group’s attendance requirements. Although I will say, I made a lot of connections, and a lot of money out of the group. Now, after being out of the loop, –so-to-speak-, I find I’m missing something. The referrals weren’t the only thing that was important and only a small part of what I enjoyed about being a member of the group. It was the alike thinking individuals who experience the same good and bad days, crazy customers, and unpredictable parts and employee problems we all face on a daily basis that made the difference in my daily activities at the shop. It just proves the old adage that misery loves company. I couldn’t agree more. In other words, it was the lifelong friendships and the contacts you make that were more important. Recently, I went looking for another tips group to get in. I found one that meets at a golf course once a month. My kind of group. I’m not really there for the business contacts anymore, I’m there for the fellowship and contacts. The dues are extremely cheap, attendance doesn’t matter, and any number of identical businesses that would most likely share the same type of clients are allowed. This time around it’s all about the camaraderie since I’ve retired from active repair shop ownership. Here’s the big problem though: If you’re sitting there complaining that you don’t have enough work to keep your bays full and don’t know what to do, start searching for a tips group. If you’re not that guy sitting there worried about filling your bays but you know of a guy who is worried about filling his bays, tell him about tips groups. To put it another way, if you’re reading this you’re more than likely the type of individual who is looking to succeed in their business by absorbing as much knowledge from every source possible. That’s where getting involved with a tips group would be absolutely beneficial to you. It’s the ones that don’t keep up with the changes, don’t socialize, and don’t get off their duffs to do something about their situation that fade into obscurity. If perhaps, you can’t find one in your local area, or you feel you’re too far off the beaten path, chances are you’re not alone. My suggestion, start your own networking group. It can start off based on common interests or school activities or anything else you can think of. Try putting one together at a local meeting place or at the local coffee shop. It can all start by just talking with another business owner on a Wednesday morning, which then leads to the next person, and then another. Soon, you’ll have a group with lots of new friends and business contacts. Think of it this way. Right now, reading this article, you’re effectively in somewhat of a tips group. Everyone who is reading this are probably looking for the same thing you are. That my fellow tippers, is basically the secret of networking. I for one, have found that networking groups are far more valuable than expected. If I needed a plumber, tile for remodel project, or in the need to rent a piece of machinery for a job, the first place I looked was through my networking group. If there wasn’t anyone I could find in the member list, I would ask the other members who they’ve used for that certain job. Chances are, that referral they told me about got my business, and for them, it was better than any other type of advertising. Because, these type of customers are more than likely not going to give you a hard time about the cost. They’re after a quality job done in a timely manner. Chances are they didn’t reach the top of their business ventures by cutting corners. They appreciate good workmanship and good service. Let’s face it, the internet is great, newspapers and radio media are fantastic, and like most people the TV is on 24-7 blasting out commercial after commercial. But, nothing beats a handshake and a “Nice to meet you” in person, in your community, from another local business. There’s something to be said about front porch diplomacy. Even as the world seems to draw closer and closer by way of our laptops, getting out into your local community is still hard to beat. Even with all of that, some businesses still thrive because of local appeal and not national reputations. Automotive repair is one of those businesses that really need local involvement to keep the bays full. Get out there and network!
  4. Newspaper circulation is dropping by the day and is next to nothing, bulk advertising mailers aren’t near as effective as they were years ago, radio time can be costly and can pigeon hole your advertising dollars with the type of clients you’re looking for, local television is only available in those off hours and I’m not sure how many new prospective customers I’ll find with broken cars at 3am, and internet advertising isn’t as local as you’d like, and at best is unpredictable. So what’s an affordable, useful, and productive way to advertise your small business locally? One that draws local people that want to work with a local company? Maybe, instead of advertising to the consumer, how about directing your meager advertising budget to other businesses…. Networking is the answer. If you’re not familiar with networking you should be. Networking groups are everywhere. Occasionally you’ll hear the term ‘Tips’ groups vs. networking groups. They’re basically the same thing. Networking groups are a diversified group of business people, shop owners, sales people, and/or employees that get together once a week, once a month, or on special occasions to exchange ideas, business cards and referrals. They’ll usually have a few minutes for you to introduce yourself and talk about your business. Some will offer you a chance to do a presentation about your business at each meeting. Either way, this is your opportunity to advertise your business to other businesses and generally, create new business for you. But, the big thing you’re looking for is the referrals. It’s probably the most important reason to join one of these groups. Some of these groups are small, some have been around for decades, and some are very secretive. Some in fact, only allow one of each type of business into their group, while others have no restrictions at all. Of course, there are rules in most cases. Things like, “always check with members first for any service and always relay your experiences with the other members, attendance policies, and confidentiality concerns. In a few of these groups it’s not about how much money you have, because you can’t buy your way in. It’s your character and community standing that are the deciding factors. For some of these groups you have to be nominated and then you’re brought before a board of your peers to be voted in, or black balled out. Other tips groups aren’t near as picky. Whichever way it’s organized I guarantee to you… it’s all worth it. You’ll even find some of these networking groups that share a common interest outside of their own business ventures. Such as meeting at a golf course once a month for a short meeting and a 9 hole golf tournament. There’s even a tips group here locally that likes to sample different restaurants each month and switch their location depending on the group size and menu selection. I’ve even heard of one that meets every Saturday morning for breakfast. They’ve got a whole corner of this restaurant reserved for them. Sometimes they are a hobby based tips group. From model airplanes, to sewing, to horse racing. The types of networking groups are endless. Once you start checking into them you’ll be surprised at the diversity and number of tips groups there actually are. I’ve been with one networking group for over 20 years. This one is a private membership type that meet once a week with rather strict attendance rules and a ‘hush-hush’ policy as to who is a member. I recently withdrew from the organization because of my busy travel schedule and couldn’t meet the group’s attendance requirements. Although I will say, I made a lot of connections, and a lot of money out of the group. Now, after being out of the loop, –so-to-speak-, I find I’m missing something. The referrals weren’t the only thing that was important and only a small part of what I enjoyed about being a member of the group. It was the alike thinking individuals who experience the same good and bad days, crazy customers, and unpredictable parts and employee problems we all face on a daily basis that made the difference in my daily activities at the shop. It just proves the old adage that misery loves company. I couldn’t agree more. In other words, it was the lifelong friendships and the contacts you make that were more important. Recently, I went looking for another tips group to get in. I found one that meets at a golf course once a month. My kind of group. I’m not really there for the business contacts anymore, I’m there for the fellowship and contacts. The dues are extremely cheap, attendance doesn’t matter, and any number of identical businesses that would most likely share the same type of clients are allowed. This time around it’s all about the camaraderie since I’ve retired from active repair shop ownership. Here’s the big problem though: If you’re sitting there complaining that you don’t have enough work to keep your bays full and don’t know what to do, start searching for a tips group. If you’re not that guy sitting there worried about filling your bays but you know of a guy who is worried about filling his bays, tell him about tips groups. To put it another way, if you’re reading this you’re more than likely the type of individual who is looking to succeed in their business by absorbing as much knowledge from every source possible. That’s where getting involved with a tips group would be absolutely beneficial to you. It’s the ones that don’t keep up with the changes, don’t socialize, and don’t get off their duffs to do something about their situation that fade into obscurity. If perhaps, you can’t find one in your local area, or you feel you’re too far off the beaten path, chances are you’re not alone. My suggestion, start your own networking group. It can start off based on common interests or school activities or anything else you can think of. Try putting one together at a local meeting place or at the local coffee shop. It can all start by just talking with another business owner on a Wednesday morning, which then leads to the next person, and then another. Soon, you’ll have a group with lots of new friends and business contacts. Think of it this way. Right now, reading this article, you’re effectively in somewhat of a tips group. Everyone who is reading this are probably looking for the same thing you are. That my fellow tippers, is basically the secret of networking. I for one, have found that networking groups are far more valuable than expected. If I needed a plumber, tile for remodel project, or in the need to rent a piece of machinery for a job, the first place I looked was through my networking group. If there wasn’t anyone I could find in the member list, I would ask the other members who they’ve used for that certain job. Chances are, that referral they told me about got my business, and for them, it was better than any other type of advertising. Because, these type of customers are more than likely not going to give you a hard time about the cost. They’re after a quality job done in a timely manner. Chances are they didn’t reach the top of their business ventures by cutting corners. They appreciate good workmanship and good service. Let’s face it, the internet is great, newspapers and radio media are fantastic, and like most people the TV is on 24-7 blasting out commercial after commercial. But, nothing beats a handshake and a “Nice to meet you” in person, in your community, from another local business. There’s something to be said about front porch diplomacy. Even as the world seems to draw closer and closer by way of our laptops, getting out into your local community is still hard to beat. Even with all of that, some businesses still thrive because of local appeal and not national reputations. Automotive repair is one of those businesses that really need local involvement to keep the bays full. Get out there and network! View full article
  5. Older story for sure, but a good one. After all the years (decades) I've put under the hood it's kind of nice to remember those days when car repair was just a test light and a volt meter. Wow... I sort of miss all of that. Since I'm retired from wrench, it just means more time for writing and teaching. I'll probably use this story in some form when I'm teaching. Nobody is perfect.......especially not me. LOL
  6. Picture This ---- I learned a little something when I was teaching a little something Picture This (A lesson learned while teaching) 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 thru 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, because you tend to forget to mention them 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.
  7. Picture This ---- I learned a little something when I was teaching a little something Picture This (A lesson learned while teaching) 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 thru 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, because you tend to forget to mention them 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. View full article
  8. Wow, just reread this story... Oh the memories. LOL... and YES, it's still as funny as ever.
  9. Semper Fi Bob was well into his late 80’s when I met him. He’s quite the talker, and he’ll never run out of things to tell you. I like old Bob. We have a few things in common, not much because of the years between us, but just enough that we can relate on quite a few subjects. We both served in the USMC. Of course, the years we served were decades apart, but even with the differences in time served, we still could “talk-the-talk” like two old veterans who just got their discharge papers. Bob had a problem with the horn buttons on his ‘92 Buick. It was the kind of horn that has its buttons and the air bag all built as one piece. He didn’t have the money to replace the entire airbag, but he did want to get that horn working somehow. I thought I could get it to work even if I had to “rig” something up, but that was OK with him. With his advancing years catching up with him, his hands weren’t the best. Most of his strength had faded with time, and so did the ability to straighten his fingers all the way out. I had to come up with a way that he could hit the horn button with the palm of his hand, rather than with a finger tip or thumb. Not a big deal, actually if he didn’t mind the look of an old style horn button attached to the edge of the air bag (so it didn’t interfere with the air bag operation) it could work just fine. Now Bob, being Bob, talking was his gift, and finding somebody with a little military background, and stuck in the driver’s seat of his car was all he needed to tell one of his stories. Bob hopped in the back seat and leaned over to watch what I was doing. As I worked on his new horn button, he told me all about his time in the Marine Corps. Fascinating story; I could have listened for hours. In fact, I made sure I took long enough for him to tell his story in full and without any interruptions. He told me about his time in Korea, in Inchon actually. It was a cold winter when he was there. A bitter cold wind and heavy snow was only part of the horrific condition he had to deal with. He went on in great detail how he was just a young kid who didn’t know a thing, and how you would be talking to someone one minute and the next minute the fellow Marine sitting right next to him froze to death. When he told me that part of his story I had to stop and turn to him to ask, “That really happened, just like that, Bob?” With a stone cold look on his face he said, “As sure as I’m sitting here talking to you, my friend.” I don’t think he was kidding. He was dead serious, but it was as if he was telling me a story from a distance, but at the same time, a story where he was actually there in the mountains of Inchon still fighting the bitter cold. I think it’s a way for time and age to allow a person like Bob to separate themselves from what was probably a terrible event in their life. I certainly have never experienced some of the things he was telling me about, like the chow, the hours of watching for the enemy, or how his boots didn’t have much in the way of insulation, so you put on as many socks as you could along with any straw or grass you could find. Bob made a point to tell me that if you needed to run to the “head” (bathroom for all you none GI type) … well, you tried to wait as long as you could, because exposing yourself in that kind of cold could be the end of you… and I don’t mean just “your” end that’s exposed. I finished up my little project and gave it a try. It worked just fine. “Hop up here Bob, and see if you can make it work like this,” I told him. Bob made his way into the driver’s seat and gave his new horn button a try. A gleam came over his face, beaming from ear to ear. He had to try it a few more times, and each time the smile kept getting bigger and bigger. “Don’t you know I needed that horn! Mercy, there’s some little kids in my neighborhood who get out in the street to play, and I just want to toot my horn to let them know I’m coming. Thanks partner, ya done me right.” The old Marine got out of his car and opened his wallet, “How much do I owe ya?” “Bob, it was an honor to do this job for you. I can’t take a thing.” “You most certainly are, Marine!” he said to me as he palms a twenty in my hand. “Thanks Bob, I appreciate that, but I really appreciate the stories. You know I write a column for a magazine, and I think I’d like to tell your story if that’s OK.” “Sure, not a problem. Go right ahead. I think I’d like that.” You don’t shake hands with Bob, because of his crippled hands; his way of shaking hands is to “bump” knuckles. Good enough for me. It’s the thought that counts. Then Bob turns to the car sitting in the bay just in front of his car. With whatever strength he had, he did his best to straighten one finger and point at the car in front. “I’ll never get over seeing this,” he said. It was a Kia Sportage in for a no start condition. I made the assumption it was because it’s a Korean car, and I thought it must be bringing back some of those painful memories he had as a young man. “I understand where you’re coming from Bob, it’s a Korean car. I understand completely; it’s something your generation had to deal with on the battlefield where your friends had died. I’m sorry it brings up some bad memories for you.” “That ain’t it,” he said as he walked closer to the car, and pointed directly at the name branded on the back door, “Killed – In – Action.” I think my knees buckled a bit when he said that. I didn’t know what to say next. Bob waved good-bye, and pulled his car out of the shop, and tooted his horn as he made his way down the street. I see old Bob once in awhile, still driving the same car, still tootin’ his horn. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his story of how he served our country. He’s one of the last of that generation, a much simpler time, before computers, before cell phones, and when KIA stood for only one thing. I’m proud to have served my country, I’m even more proud to have met a great man like Bob. We should all be as lucky, and we should all remember what his generation and many others have done to keep this country free. So the next time you see a Kia, think of it as something other than a car, think about my friend Bob. Then, say this to yourself: Semper Fi Bob, Semper Fi. View full article
  10. Semper Fi Bob was well into his late 80’s when I met him. He’s quite the talker, and he’ll never run out of things to tell you. I like old Bob. We have a few things in common, not much because of the years between us, but just enough that we can relate on quite a few subjects. We both served in the USMC. Of course, the years we served were decades apart, but even with the differences in time served, we still could “talk-the-talk” like two old veterans who just got their discharge papers. Bob had a problem with the horn buttons on his ‘92 Buick. It was the kind of horn that has its buttons and the air bag all built as one piece. He didn’t have the money to replace the entire airbag, but he did want to get that horn working somehow. I thought I could get it to work even if I had to “rig” something up, but that was OK with him. With his advancing years catching up with him, his hands weren’t the best. Most of his strength had faded with time, and so did the ability to straighten his fingers all the way out. I had to come up with a way that he could hit the horn button with the palm of his hand, rather than with a finger tip or thumb. Not a big deal, actually if he didn’t mind the look of an old style horn button attached to the edge of the air bag (so it didn’t interfere with the air bag operation) it could work just fine. Now Bob, being Bob, talking was his gift, and finding somebody with a little military background, and stuck in the driver’s seat of his car was all he needed to tell one of his stories. Bob hopped in the back seat and leaned over to watch what I was doing. As I worked on his new horn button, he told me all about his time in the Marine Corps. Fascinating story; I could have listened for hours. In fact, I made sure I took long enough for him to tell his story in full and without any interruptions. He told me about his time in Korea, in Inchon actually. It was a cold winter when he was there. A bitter cold wind and heavy snow was only part of the horrific condition he had to deal with. He went on in great detail how he was just a young kid who didn’t know a thing, and how you would be talking to someone one minute and the next minute the fellow Marine sitting right next to him froze to death. When he told me that part of his story I had to stop and turn to him to ask, “That really happened, just like that, Bob?” With a stone cold look on his face he said, “As sure as I’m sitting here talking to you, my friend.” I don’t think he was kidding. He was dead serious, but it was as if he was telling me a story from a distance, but at the same time, a story where he was actually there in the mountains of Inchon still fighting the bitter cold. I think it’s a way for time and age to allow a person like Bob to separate themselves from what was probably a terrible event in their life. I certainly have never experienced some of the things he was telling me about, like the chow, the hours of watching for the enemy, or how his boots didn’t have much in the way of insulation, so you put on as many socks as you could along with any straw or grass you could find. Bob made a point to tell me that if you needed to run to the “head” (bathroom for all you none GI type) … well, you tried to wait as long as you could, because exposing yourself in that kind of cold could be the end of you… and I don’t mean just “your” end that’s exposed. I finished up my little project and gave it a try. It worked just fine. “Hop up here Bob, and see if you can make it work like this,” I told him. Bob made his way into the driver’s seat and gave his new horn button a try. A gleam came over his face, beaming from ear to ear. He had to try it a few more times, and each time the smile kept getting bigger and bigger. “Don’t you know I needed that horn! Mercy, there’s some little kids in my neighborhood who get out in the street to play, and I just want to toot my horn to let them know I’m coming. Thanks partner, ya done me right.” The old Marine got out of his car and opened his wallet, “How much do I owe ya?” “Bob, it was an honor to do this job for you. I can’t take a thing.” “You most certainly are, Marine!” he said to me as he palms a twenty in my hand. “Thanks Bob, I appreciate that, but I really appreciate the stories. You know I write a column for a magazine, and I think I’d like to tell your story if that’s OK.” “Sure, not a problem. Go right ahead. I think I’d like that.” You don’t shake hands with Bob, because of his crippled hands; his way of shaking hands is to “bump” knuckles. Good enough for me. It’s the thought that counts. Then Bob turns to the car sitting in the bay just in front of his car. With whatever strength he had, he did his best to straighten one finger and point at the car in front. “I’ll never get over seeing this,” he said. It was a Kia Sportage in for a no start condition. I made the assumption it was because it’s a Korean car, and I thought it must be bringing back some of those painful memories he had as a young man. “I understand where you’re coming from Bob, it’s a Korean car. I understand completely; it’s something your generation had to deal with on the battlefield where your friends had died. I’m sorry it brings up some bad memories for you.” “That ain’t it,” he said as he walked closer to the car, and pointed directly at the name branded on the back door, “Killed – In – Action.” I think my knees buckled a bit when he said that. I didn’t know what to say next. Bob waved good-bye, and pulled his car out of the shop, and tooted his horn as he made his way down the street. I see old Bob once in awhile, still driving the same car, still tootin’ his horn. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his story of how he served our country. He’s one of the last of that generation, a much simpler time, before computers, before cell phones, and when KIA stood for only one thing. I’m proud to have served my country, I’m even more proud to have met a great man like Bob. We should all be as lucky, and we should all remember what his generation and many others have done to keep this country free. So the next time you see a Kia, think of it as something other than a car, think about my friend Bob. Then, say this to yourself: Semper Fi Bob, Semper Fi.
  11. Real or Reality TV Have ya noticed all the reality programs on TV these days? There’s a reality show for every subject you can think of... and probably a few you never would have thought of. From high society in the big city to the suburbs, and even some from way … way back in the woods. They can be quite entertaining, funny, and sometimes pretty strange. Now, I’m not much on which rich neighbor is doing what with which rich neighbor or who makes the best moonshine, but what I do know is a few things about the automotive repair world. I've been to check a few of those shows out. Although, from my side of the wrench, as a professional mechanic, I take a completely different view of them. In my opinion, some of these reality shows are far from 'real' reality, and I’ve certainly watched a few that I didn’t even make it past the first commercial break before I flipped the channel to something else. It’s not so much the cars; it’s how they go about restoring them that gets to me. They’ll start off with somebody flashing a wad of cash, and then they buy some old relic, tow it to their garage and present it to the crew. The crew will have this shocked look as to what was just dropped off or they’ll have their own ideas about how nuts their boss is for even thinking about taking on this relic as a project. That's about the time the boss gives them the lowdown on what his/her vision is of the latest acquisition. Which, usually consists of a full tear down and rebuild, but they only have a few weeks to do it all in. By the end of the show there's a gleaming fully restored work of art that (for the sake of reality TV) there is already a buyer or two ready to shell out some ridiculous amount of money for it. But the shows that really irk me are the ones that use the “all-nighter” approach to car repair. They’ll completely dismantle a car down to the last nut and bolt and in the length of one long commercial break they'll have all the mechanical, electrical, vacuum systems, interior, instrument panel, brakes, transmission, rear-end, engine, cooling system, heating systems, glass, and a full paint and body mod completed in less than 72 hours. (I can't find a lot of those parts in less than 72 hours) And, the best part, (or biggest guffaw on these shows) is during the final reveal. They drag the new or previous owner into a warehouse and surprise them with their refurbished car. Off to the side, just out of the primary camera view, is the entire crew that has spent the last three days with no sleep looking as fresh as a daisy. I'm in awe of the crew to say the least, not one of them is covered in grease, has half of their shirt untucked, no fresh cuts or scraps, not a single bandaid in view, and not one of them showing any effects from sleep deprivation. Simply amazing… gotta love it... must be some of that TV magic. I’ve done my share of all night marathon repairs before and quite frankly, by the time the sun comes up I’m not the most coherent guy with a lug wrench in his hand. Hey, they call it “Reality TV” but, as this arm chair quarterback sees it……. it doesn’t seem all that realistic to me. I’m sure the entire staff are some of the finest mechanics, bodyman, electrical gurus of the automotive world, but I highly doubt you can turn out a truly professionally restored vehicle in that short amount of time. There has to be a huge number of short cuts that are taken to meet the TV deadlines. On the other hand, there are a lot of great automotive reality programs on the television that go to great lengths to show how a modification is installed and go through the process of explaining those mods to the “nth” degree. Any show that portrays the reality of doing the job I do every day in a professional manner I'll sit down and watch it from beginning to end. You want to show me how you install some super cool new rear tail light lenses or wild looking front grill... awesome!!! Or, pulling an engine out of a classic and doing the necessary rebuild on it... super!!! Love that stuff. But, when you try to convince me that you're going to take some car that has been sitting for ten years in the back of some family garage totally neglected and raise it from the dead overnight... ya lost me. Come on, I do resto's all the time and the biggest hassle with any of them is and always been the parts availability. A job comes in the shop, y put it up on the lift and spin the drive shaft only to find out the differential or bearings are shot. It’s not like you're going to run down to the local parts store and pick up a set of bearings for a thirty year old low production car just like that. But, somehow, someway, some of these shows pull it off... (That's TV for ya.) Aside from all the mechanical woes, ya have to consider what the original reason was for the car to be parked for so long in the first place. Nine chances out of ten it's because something was worn out and the replacement part was hard to find, or really expensive to repair. Not every car in the back of the garage is there because someone was collecting it or saving it for a reality show to come by and restore it. In some ways it gives the novice car enthusiast the wrong impression of what it takes to restore a car. Lately I've been doing a lot more restoration projects than I've done in the past and I do believe it's a result of all these reality shows being aired. For that, I thank you. But, at the same time... shame on you! I can't live up to the overnight expectations that seem so possible on the big screen. Even though the customer doesn't mention they have been watching a reality show, you know... they're thinking … “This shouldn’t take that long. It didn't take that long for that guy on TV.” The idea that you're going to resurrect a dilapidated hunk of iron into a show stopper in a short span of time just ain't real reality. And, let's not forget the real big issue.... cost. Now there's some reality for ya! When the customer starts to see the costs, WOW!!! Then the reality of doing a restoration project starts to set in. Makes ya wonder if putting that old rust bucket back in the corner of the garage might be a far better idea than fixing it up. I'm certainly grateful for the few shows that have that “sit-down-with-the-customer” session explaining the cost of the restoration. It does add to the realism and makes it more believable. I’ve got a big “Thank You” to the guys and gals on these shows that portray the automotive world in its true form. It's a pleasure for me as a professional mechanic to see the artistry and talent of another professional on screen. Watching them dealing with a stuck bolt, rusty bodywork, or dodging the fumes from the soldering gun is all part of the real reality. But, I do have to give credit to all the other shows too, they are entertaining, and in some small way add to the resurgence in restorations projects across the country…. The only thing I ask is… keep it real. View full article
  12. Real or Reality TV Have ya noticed all the reality programs on TV these days? There’s a reality show for every subject you can think of... and probably a few you never would have thought of. From high society in the big city to the suburbs, and even some from way … way back in the woods. They can be quite entertaining, funny, and sometimes pretty strange. Now, I’m not much on which rich neighbor is doing what with which rich neighbor or who makes the best moonshine, but what I do know is a few things about the automotive repair world. I've been to check a few of those shows out. Although, from my side of the wrench, as a professional mechanic, I take a completely different view of them. In my opinion, some of these reality shows are far from 'real' reality, and I’ve certainly watched a few that I didn’t even make it past the first commercial break before I flipped the channel to something else. It’s not so much the cars; it’s how they go about restoring them that gets to me. They’ll start off with somebody flashing a wad of cash, and then they buy some old relic, tow it to their garage and present it to the crew. The crew will have this shocked look as to what was just dropped off or they’ll have their own ideas about how nuts their boss is for even thinking about taking on this relic as a project. That's about the time the boss gives them the lowdown on what his/her vision is of the latest acquisition. Which, usually consists of a full tear down and rebuild, but they only have a few weeks to do it all in. By the end of the show there's a gleaming fully restored work of art that (for the sake of reality TV) there is already a buyer or two ready to shell out some ridiculous amount of money for it. But the shows that really irk me are the ones that use the “all-nighter” approach to car repair. They’ll completely dismantle a car down to the last nut and bolt and in the length of one long commercial break they'll have all the mechanical, electrical, vacuum systems, interior, instrument panel, brakes, transmission, rear-end, engine, cooling system, heating systems, glass, and a full paint and body mod completed in less than 72 hours. (I can't find a lot of those parts in less than 72 hours) And, the best part, (or biggest guffaw on these shows) is during the final reveal. They drag the new or previous owner into a warehouse and surprise them with their refurbished car. Off to the side, just out of the primary camera view, is the entire crew that has spent the last three days with no sleep looking as fresh as a daisy. I'm in awe of the crew to say the least, not one of them is covered in grease, has half of their shirt untucked, no fresh cuts or scraps, not a single bandaid in view, and not one of them showing any effects from sleep deprivation. Simply amazing… gotta love it... must be some of that TV magic. I’ve done my share of all night marathon repairs before and quite frankly, by the time the sun comes up I’m not the most coherent guy with a lug wrench in his hand. Hey, they call it “Reality TV” but, as this arm chair quarterback sees it……. it doesn’t seem all that realistic to me. I’m sure the entire staff are some of the finest mechanics, bodyman, electrical gurus of the automotive world, but I highly doubt you can turn out a truly professionally restored vehicle in that short amount of time. There has to be a huge number of short cuts that are taken to meet the TV deadlines. On the other hand, there are a lot of great automotive reality programs on the television that go to great lengths to show how a modification is installed and go through the process of explaining those mods to the “nth” degree. Any show that portrays the reality of doing the job I do every day in a professional manner I'll sit down and watch it from beginning to end. You want to show me how you install some super cool new rear tail light lenses or wild looking front grill... awesome!!! Or, pulling an engine out of a classic and doing the necessary rebuild on it... super!!! Love that stuff. But, when you try to convince me that you're going to take some car that has been sitting for ten years in the back of some family garage totally neglected and raise it from the dead overnight... ya lost me. Come on, I do resto's all the time and the biggest hassle with any of them is and always been the parts availability. A job comes in the shop, y put it up on the lift and spin the drive shaft only to find out the differential or bearings are shot. It’s not like you're going to run down to the local parts store and pick up a set of bearings for a thirty year old low production car just like that. But, somehow, someway, some of these shows pull it off... (That's TV for ya.) Aside from all the mechanical woes, ya have to consider what the original reason was for the car to be parked for so long in the first place. Nine chances out of ten it's because something was worn out and the replacement part was hard to find, or really expensive to repair. Not every car in the back of the garage is there because someone was collecting it or saving it for a reality show to come by and restore it. In some ways it gives the novice car enthusiast the wrong impression of what it takes to restore a car. Lately I've been doing a lot more restoration projects than I've done in the past and I do believe it's a result of all these reality shows being aired. For that, I thank you. But, at the same time... shame on you! I can't live up to the overnight expectations that seem so possible on the big screen. Even though the customer doesn't mention they have been watching a reality show, you know... they're thinking … “This shouldn’t take that long. It didn't take that long for that guy on TV.” The idea that you're going to resurrect a dilapidated hunk of iron into a show stopper in a short span of time just ain't real reality. And, let's not forget the real big issue.... cost. Now there's some reality for ya! When the customer starts to see the costs, WOW!!! Then the reality of doing a restoration project starts to set in. Makes ya wonder if putting that old rust bucket back in the corner of the garage might be a far better idea than fixing it up. I'm certainly grateful for the few shows that have that “sit-down-with-the-customer” session explaining the cost of the restoration. It does add to the realism and makes it more believable. I’ve got a big “Thank You” to the guys and gals on these shows that portray the automotive world in its true form. It's a pleasure for me as a professional mechanic to see the artistry and talent of another professional on screen. Watching them dealing with a stuck bolt, rusty bodywork, or dodging the fumes from the soldering gun is all part of the real reality. But, I do have to give credit to all the other shows too, they are entertaining, and in some small way add to the resurgence in restorations projects across the country…. The only thing I ask is… keep it real.
  13. Clamps and Batteries (Some of the ways I've seen battery clamps installed on cars over the years... there are some positive and some negative aspects to them... ) The first time I saw a hose clamp holding the positive cable onto the battery I just couldn’t believe it. Nobody prepared me for things like this. It’s not the kind of thing covered in tech schools, or in one of those “how-to-fix-your-car” manuals. It’s something that will surprise you the first time you see it… but then it happens again. A few months later, I open the hood on another car, and low and behold… it’s a pair of grip pliers attached the terminal. This time I took the pliers up to the customer and told him what I found. He didn’t want the pliers back… OK, then… I’ll clean them up, and put them in my tool box. Now I’ve got a collection of these crazy battery clamp contraptions. They’ve kept showing up over the years without fail; from screws and nails tightening a worn out clamp to some foreign object taking the place of the original clamps. Ya just never know. I think the grip pliers are probably the most popular form of substitution. Not much use as pliers anymore, the teeth are usually worn or something else is wrong with them. But, I don’t want to just throw them away… I always think I’ll find some use for them later… never do of course. Wouldn’t it make more sense to replace the clamp when it’s time with an appropriate type of replacement clamp? And, it’s not like some of these “wiz-bang” contraptions were just put on yesterday, oh no… some of these creations have huge amounts of corrosion and “fuzz” built up on the terminals. There must be a misconception about how a battery clamp does its job? Has to be, why else would I see this so often, and it’s not always on the good old hunting truck or the farm truck that hardly ever makes it out of the fields. It’s the everyday soccer mom’s car or the exotic odd-shape-battery-style cars, either. Something else to think about… some thought has gone into these “home engineered” clamps. It took a lot of time and effort to accomplish these inventive forms of electrical fasteners. I’ve even had a car that someone had taken strips of a soda can and used them as spacers between the clamp and the post. This wasn’t just a quick little effort mind you. Somebody had to think about it, conjure up a plan… get a pair of tin snips, cut out strips from a soda can at just the right height to match the clamp and then carefully place a few of them into the gap. Before ya knew it, the clamp was tight again… a genius at work I tell you…a genius!… maybe not MENSA material, but a genius for sure. One time I had a car in where somebody used a high voltage connector for a battery clamp. The kind you would find on high voltage overhead electrical lines. It was a splice clamp used to hold two lines together. Apparently it was the only thing handy, and it did work; in fact must have worked for quite some time… I couldn’t tell what it was until I removed the almost two inches of corrosion build up. I don’t know what kind of material this clamp was made out of, but battery acid sure liked it a lot. Then there was this rocket scientist attempt at improving on the old battery clamp… he used a hacksaw blade and cut the post down the middle. Then put the clamp back on with a small steel wedge down into the crack he made with the hacksaw. From the pounding the top of the battery had taken it looked like the guy used a sledge hammer to knock the little wedge in place. Of course, it wasn’t long before the battery started to leak acid out of the post. What a mess… A real favorite of mine are the ones that tighten, and tighten, and tighten the bolt clamp until that little bolt won’t go one thread tighter. Then bring the car in thinking they have a major electrical problem, because at times the starter will click, or they’ll lose all power to the vehicle. The place I’ll always look at first are the clamps. 99% of time it’s a simple clamp problem, especially when I can remove the battery clamp off the post without turning the bolt. (Yo’ dude… that clamp is made of lead… it will stretch and deform out of shape. You can tighten all you want but it ain’t going to get any better.) Now let’s talk battery size… really… is this all that hard to figure out? If the battery in the car had the positive post on the right, and you put a battery in that had the positive post on the left… uhmmm… do ya think ya might have a problem? Ya gotta put the right size back in… just ‘cause it fit… doesn’t mean it “fits”. The old air cooled VW is one that comes to mind. I’ve lost count of how many of those I’ve rewired after a too tall battery was installed and burnt the whole back end of the car. It never ceases to amaze me how a simple thing like a battery or a clamp can become such a traumatic fiasco in a car. Just boggles the mind at all the variations of craziness I’ve seen over the years with battery installations and repairs. Many years ago a customer brought in a 75’ MBenz that his grandson had put the battery in backwards. The car was ruined, but not completely… it could be rewired and repaired, but the cost was more than he wanted to deal with. I bought the car off of him as is, and tore it down and rewired it. I drove it for several years, and then later gave it to my daughter to use. Battery replacement should be a basic simple repair; however, after seeing some of the creative ways people create their own connections or how they install them, looks like a complete loss of common sense to me. I’d like to think simple is the word to explain it, but simple doesn’t even begin to describe it all. These days I just laugh at the marvels of these back yard engineering feats. It’s hard to keep a straight face when you get back to the front counter to explain to the customer that a paperclip and two bread twist ties aren’t strong enough to keep the cable attached to the battery. It’s some of the best entertainment at the shop. Gotta love em’. Just to let ya know, I’ve already got enough grip pliers, old hose clamps, coat hangers, screws, wire nuts, small bench vices, ratcheting wood clamps, fence pliers, clothes pins, meat skewers, and c-clamps to last me a lifetime, so if you would please, come up with a few new ones for me… I’ve got room in my collection for more…Oh, and I could use a few more laughs too. View full article
  14. Clamps and Batteries (Some of the ways I've seen battery clamps installed on cars over the years... there are some positive and some negative aspects to them... ) The first time I saw a hose clamp holding the positive cable onto the battery I just couldn’t believe it. Nobody prepared me for things like this. It’s not the kind of thing covered in tech schools, or in one of those “how-to-fix-your-car” manuals. It’s something that will surprise you the first time you see it… but then it happens again. A few months later, I open the hood on another car, and low and behold… it’s a pair of grip pliers attached the terminal. This time I took the pliers up to the customer and told him what I found. He didn’t want the pliers back… OK, then… I’ll clean them up, and put them in my tool box. Now I’ve got a collection of these crazy battery clamp contraptions. They’ve kept showing up over the years without fail; from screws and nails tightening a worn out clamp to some foreign object taking the place of the original clamps. Ya just never know. I think the grip pliers are probably the most popular form of substitution. Not much use as pliers anymore, the teeth are usually worn or something else is wrong with them. But, I don’t want to just throw them away… I always think I’ll find some use for them later… never do of course. Wouldn’t it make more sense to replace the clamp when it’s time with an appropriate type of replacement clamp? And, it’s not like some of these “wiz-bang” contraptions were just put on yesterday, oh no… some of these creations have huge amounts of corrosion and “fuzz” built up on the terminals. There must be a misconception about how a battery clamp does its job? Has to be, why else would I see this so often, and it’s not always on the good old hunting truck or the farm truck that hardly ever makes it out of the fields. It’s the everyday soccer mom’s car or the exotic odd-shape-battery-style cars, either. Something else to think about… some thought has gone into these “home engineered” clamps. It took a lot of time and effort to accomplish these inventive forms of electrical fasteners. I’ve even had a car that someone had taken strips of a soda can and used them as spacers between the clamp and the post. This wasn’t just a quick little effort mind you. Somebody had to think about it, conjure up a plan… get a pair of tin snips, cut out strips from a soda can at just the right height to match the clamp and then carefully place a few of them into the gap. Before ya knew it, the clamp was tight again… a genius at work I tell you…a genius!… maybe not MENSA material, but a genius for sure. One time I had a car in where somebody used a high voltage connector for a battery clamp. The kind you would find on high voltage overhead electrical lines. It was a splice clamp used to hold two lines together. Apparently it was the only thing handy, and it did work; in fact must have worked for quite some time… I couldn’t tell what it was until I removed the almost two inches of corrosion build up. I don’t know what kind of material this clamp was made out of, but battery acid sure liked it a lot. Then there was this rocket scientist attempt at improving on the old battery clamp… he used a hacksaw blade and cut the post down the middle. Then put the clamp back on with a small steel wedge down into the crack he made with the hacksaw. From the pounding the top of the battery had taken it looked like the guy used a sledge hammer to knock the little wedge in place. Of course, it wasn’t long before the battery started to leak acid out of the post. What a mess… A real favorite of mine are the ones that tighten, and tighten, and tighten the bolt clamp until that little bolt won’t go one thread tighter. Then bring the car in thinking they have a major electrical problem, because at times the starter will click, or they’ll lose all power to the vehicle. The place I’ll always look at first are the clamps. 99% of time it’s a simple clamp problem, especially when I can remove the battery clamp off the post without turning the bolt. (Yo’ dude… that clamp is made of lead… it will stretch and deform out of shape. You can tighten all you want but it ain’t going to get any better.) Now let’s talk battery size… really… is this all that hard to figure out? If the battery in the car had the positive post on the right, and you put a battery in that had the positive post on the left… uhmmm… do ya think ya might have a problem? Ya gotta put the right size back in… just ‘cause it fit… doesn’t mean it “fits”. The old air cooled VW is one that comes to mind. I’ve lost count of how many of those I’ve rewired after a too tall battery was installed and burnt the whole back end of the car. It never ceases to amaze me how a simple thing like a battery or a clamp can become such a traumatic fiasco in a car. Just boggles the mind at all the variations of craziness I’ve seen over the years with battery installations and repairs. Many years ago a customer brought in a 75’ MBenz that his grandson had put the battery in backwards. The car was ruined, but not completely… it could be rewired and repaired, but the cost was more than he wanted to deal with. I bought the car off of him as is, and tore it down and rewired it. I drove it for several years, and then later gave it to my daughter to use. Battery replacement should be a basic simple repair; however, after seeing some of the creative ways people create their own connections or how they install them, looks like a complete loss of common sense to me. I’d like to think simple is the word to explain it, but simple doesn’t even begin to describe it all. These days I just laugh at the marvels of these back yard engineering feats. It’s hard to keep a straight face when you get back to the front counter to explain to the customer that a paperclip and two bread twist ties aren’t strong enough to keep the cable attached to the battery. It’s some of the best entertainment at the shop. Gotta love em’. Just to let ya know, I’ve already got enough grip pliers, old hose clamps, coat hangers, screws, wire nuts, small bench vices, ratcheting wood clamps, fence pliers, clothes pins, meat skewers, and c-clamps to last me a lifetime, so if you would please, come up with a few new ones for me… I’ve got room in my collection for more…Oh, and I could use a few more laughs too.
  15. 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. View full article


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