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Gonzo

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Everything posted by Gonzo

  1. Gonzo

    Gonzo

  2. Heading to Kansas for the Vision Convention.  Who else is going?  Hope to see you there. 

  3. Twas the Night before Christmas (Mechanic style) Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the service bay, Not an engine was stirring, just old Santa’s sleigh. All the air hoses were hung, by the compressor with care, The mechanics had the day off, I’m the only one there. I was just an apprentice, but wanted to show St. Nick just what I knew, My boss was all for it, said it was OK if I turned a few screws. With visions of being a full time mechanic, dancing in my head I was going to give it my best shot; I’ll fix this old sled. I gave the key a twist,and listened in dismay, That little red hot rod needed service, in such a bad way Then from under the hood there arose such a clatter, That even St. Nick had to ask, “So, what’s the matter?” I flew from the driver’s seat and raised the hood in a flash, Nearly stumbling off my feet, from my quick little dash. The under hood light, glimmered onto the engine below, The fan belt had broken, and a spark plug blew out a hole. It’s something I can handle; I learned this stuff in school, I’ll have this fixed up in no time; it only takes a few tools, I started it up and all eight cylinders were firing away Just a few minor adjustments and he could be on his way That’s when I noticed, his sled was packed full of all sorts of toys… He hadn’t finished his deliveries, to all the girls… and boys. He was dressed all in red, from his head to his foot, And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot Anxious he was, to finish his trip as soon as he could, With my wrenches a flyin’, he knew that he would. It was up to me, to get it fixed this very night, He still had a long way to go, before it was daylight. His eyes, how they twinkled, his dimples, how merry His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry. And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow. I knew it was Christmas Eve, so I couldn’t say no, He had a broad face and a round little belly That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly. He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself. His sled was like new, after the job was all done, Now that it’s fixed, he could get back to his run. He reached into his huge bag, and pulled a box out with a jerk, Said he knew just how to thank me, for all of my hard work, I ripped open the present, and Oh, what a sight! Snap On wrenches and sockets! Boy was he right! As he pulled from the parking lot, he held the throttle to the floor, Just to show off, he passed by the shop, once more, This guy Santa, he’s a little strange, at any rate, He had a name for every cylinder, in his little V8. I could hear him shout, so loud and clear, Naming off each cylinder, as if they could hear. "Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen! I heard the tires screech, as he caught second gear, Off to deliver those presents, some far, some near. Then, I heard him exclaim, just before he drove out of sight, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” View full article
  4. 12 Days of Christmas at an Automotive Repair Shop You know the song, so just sing along with me in the holiday spirit. On the 1st day of Christmas a customer sent to me: A cartridge for my grease gun. On the 2nd day Christmas a customer sent to me: 2 Latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun. On the 3rd day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 3 Wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun. On the 4th day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 4 Wire straps, 3 wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun. On the 5th day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 5 Piston rings, 4 wire straps, 3 wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun. On the 6th day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 6 Brand new sockets, 5 piston rings, 4 wire straps, 3 wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun. On the 7th day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 7 Dash lights flashing, 6 brand new sockets, 5 piston rings, 4 wire straps, 3 wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun. On the 8th day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 8 Engines leaking, 7 dash lights flashing, 6 brand new sockets, 5 piston rings, 4 wire straps, 3 wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun. On the 9th day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 9 Coils a-sparking, 8 engines leaking, 7 dash lights flashing, 6 brand new sockets, 5 piston rings, 4 wire straps, 3 wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun. On the 10th day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 10 Headlights blinking, 9 coils a-sparking, 8 engines leaking, 7 dash lights flashing, 6 brand new sockets, 5 piston rings, 4 wire straps, 3 wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun. On the 11th day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 11 Gears a-grinding, 10 headlights blinking, 9 coils a-sparking, 8 engines leaking, 7 dash lights flashing, 6 brand new sockets, 5 piston rings, 4 wire straps, 3 wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun. On the 12th day of Christmas a customer sent to me: 12 Trannys slipping, 11 gears a-grinding, 10 headlights blinking, 9 coils a-sparking, 8 engines leaking, 7 dash lights flashing, 6 brand new sockets, 5 piston rings, 4 wire straps, 3 wrench ends, 2 latex gloves, and a cartridge for my grease gun. Speaking on behalf of the entire automotive repair industry, Thank you to all our customers for their patronage. We appreciate it. Have a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. View full article
  5. mechanic's pay at best is $35 an hour. A $20 diagnostic over 5 minutes is more than enough for that and even overhead. yes, $35 an hour is pretty good. And yes, $20 over 5 minutes ain't bad, if a diag. actually only took 5 minutes, most diags can take 30 to 60 minutes at best. This includes all the research time and equipment use. Let's do the math, at $20 per 5 minutes, diag. comes to $240 per hour. hmm, I'm pretty sure the labor rate ain't that high.... yet. Meaning, an average diag. should fall somewhere between $120 and $240... depending on the amount of time it took to diag. the average problem. (If it took 20 minutes .... it must have been super easy... like.... what was it a loose hose? a bad tooth? Seriously... how long does it take to look at a horseshoe?) I guess, the way he is explaining things, a diag. should only take a few minutes and can't be compared to the involved tests and xrays he's got to do in order to properly diag. a problem. Maybe, I should suggest to him that I'm only going to pay him for the actual 20 minutes he was in the room and not count the hour and a half that I've spent there.
  6. Doctor's Orders The field of automotive repair and body work has always been plagued with a few unscrupulous individuals. But, I would say that every trade has their share of them as well. I pride myself on doing the best that can be done for my customers and I don't take kindly to anyone who thinks this job is anything but a professional. This is not a job that can be mastered overnight; it takes years of experience and understanding. Even though I carry the title “ASE Master Technician” I don't consider myself a “Master” of the automotive field. I may have “mastered” the trade but not the technology that continually changes. That's an ongoing education which each and every mechanic deals with. But, with that said, there are still some individuals that still look down upon the automotive trade as some sort of second class job. Recently I received an email from one of those type of individuals. Several years ago I wrote an article titled, “Diagnostics Fee or Diagnostics Free” which was published in a variety of magazines. The article was primarily about the issues of a diagnostic fee for testing and evaluating a vehicle. A copy of one of the magazines was in a waiting room at a repair shop where this guy was getting his car to be repaired. He happens to be a dentist, which I consider as much a professional field as mine. However, this guy... doesn't see it that way. His email went something like this: I read through your 'two cents' on engine diagnostics and I could not agree more. However, I do have a bone to pick. Charging for a diagnostic is fine but where do you draw the line? I am a general dentist. For a new patient I charge $39 for an exam (cleanings from a hygienist are $60). I take roughly 25 minutes to complete an exam on a patient. Some patients take longer as they have a more difficult case and sometimes they just have more questions. I have spent 9 years in college, at a cost of over 200k, and roughly 600K on my practice (I have lots of fancy equipment too, even more expensive than the 'diagnostic computer') AND I am dealing with the actual health and well-being of mankind (screenings for head neck cancer, dental caries, oral path., etc., etc.) If I used your kind of math I guess I should charge more in the neighborhood of $500 for an exam (my education alone was probably more than 20 times yours so the math is still WAY low). But I don't charge that much. A true professional would realize when a charge is ridiculous and when it is not. A diagnostic charge from a mechanic should be in the neighborhood of $20. If you are charging in the near $100 range I would consider removing the self-titled "professional" from your website. Which I found funny that you brought it up anyway. Your computer is a one-time purchase. You don't throw it away when you are done so quit trying to factor in the computer cost like it is a consumable. A mechanic's pay at best is $35 an hour. A $20 diagnostic over 5 minutes is more than enough for that and even overhead. Actually, you just gave me an idea. I am going to tell my patients I now have a "parts, labor, and supplies" fee. That would be great. Imagine the next time you come into my office and I say that my labor fee is over $500 an hour. My patients would leave. I can't believe a mechanic thinks charging $100 an hour or labor is reasonable when everything else is also marked up 300% PLUS!!!! ... It is laughable. Anyway, I agree....but let’s get realistic. This is a junk email and address, no need in trying to contact me with your response. He agrees? Realistically, I find that hard to believe. These are the typical misguided perceptions that still linger in some peoples conceptions of the auto mechanic. Apparently, according to this guy... I'm not worthy of calling myself a professional because I'm “just” a mechanic. It's sad to say that there are still people out there that take this dim view of the automotive mechanic world. It could be this guy is only retaliating from a previous experience with his car that didn't go right, or it could be he was at one of those “unprofessional” shops that tried to tackle a job they shouldn't have been taking on. Maybe he thinks all mechanics alike, and not one of us is a true professional in our trade. Obviously, after reading this, I have come to realize that all dentists are not alike. I know my personal dentist respects my profession... and has a great amount of appreciation for my trade, just as much as I do for his skills and abilities. Even though in the email he stated there was no need in a response, well, there is a way to respond. Here it is. Those years you spent in college almost equals my years of training... your investment into your field is acknowledged and is definitely a part of both our trades. Mind you, the countless changes and improvements in the equipment and procedures in the auto industry (and dentistry as well) doesn't offset the cost of doing business in any shape or form. You'd think it would, but, as fast as the auto manufacturers introduce new systems so does the equipment to diagnostic them change. Honestly, I feel sorry for this guy. He seems kind of bitter. As a mechanic, I work on everything from the front bumper to the rear-end of the car. This guy... using a car as the comparison... only works on the shiny grill that everyone first sees. I mean really... he only has two models to work on and the last time I looked both models have the same 32 components to deal with. But, let's not reduce ourselves to his level of explaining the differences between the two professions. Oh wait… I already did. My bad… I guess it’s a lot easier to be condescending than it is to pull teeth, huh, Doc.? Sorry Mr. Dentist, I don't think I'll be following “Doctor's Orders” as you clearly state them in your email. I think this time you should take my advice and try to be more respectful to the guys and gals that keep your cherished ride on the road. There's no set fee for diagnostics, there's no 300% mark-up on parts, and there definitely isn't any magic one time purchased machine that will diagnose a car. Maybe you should try to be a little more understanding and a bit more professional, because right now... you're not! View full article
  7. EGO vs. Ability For some reason, especially in the auto repair business, there’s a tendency for the ego to overshadow the actual abilities for a lot of mechanics. Sure, I can say my ego has stepped over the line a time or two, but for the most part, the ever changing industry usually keeps a person humble. For some guys, there’s no stopping their ever-unchecked ego from stepping out beyond their tool box. Especially, if they’ve landed a position that is far above their abilities. Some of them reach beyond the typical, “I know more than you do” level, to a status where their ever-enlarging ego has no boundaries, regardless if they are even qualified for such a position. If you ever have wondered if you’re that type of person or not, take this little survey and let’s see. Answer the following questions as truthfully as possible. Answer each question – yes or no. 1.I know all there is to know about cars. 2.All the other mechanics are below my abilities. 3.Customers come to me because I’m the best there is. 4.Have you ever said to another mechanic, “Get out of my way, I’ll take care of this.” 5.I don’t need to take advanced classes, I should be teaching them. If you answered any of these questions with anything other than ‘NO’, you probably need to check your EGO at the door. It’s not hard to spot these egotistical mechanics though. We’ve all ran into one at some point in our careers. You know, that one guy that runs his mouth all the time, or walks by each service bay shouting louder than everyone else while making claims he could fix that problem faster than you can. That one guy who, when given some authoritative position, turns into a ‘mini-Hitler’. Or, the one who can’t seem to finish his own work, but at the same time, he’s awfully chummy with the boss. The kind that swings into action if the boss says ‘jump’, but never actually accomplishes a thing. Yes, we all know ‘that’ guy. Worse yet, is when these type of individuals break their ties to the tool box and move to other aspects of the auto repair industry. Like the front office. When I was first starting out, I worked at a small local dealership as a helper. I wasn’t even what you might call an apprentice because I wasn’t assigned to a mechanic or strictly to the mechanic shop. I was more the guy who cleaned up the bays, held tools, and brought parts from the warehouse to the service bays. Everybody was great, and encouraged me to learn more and more. All but this one guy. It wasn’t long before it was universally known throughout the entire building that ‘this’ was our egotistical wrench head of the shop. This guy had something to say about everything. You couldn’t even sweep a floor or roll up a hose without him saying something demeaning or repulsive. But, it only got worse. Apparently, his boisterous attitude made it all the way to the front office. But, being the ‘non-car-front-office-people’ that they were, and since this guy couldn’t stay in his own bay long enough to finish anything, they made the assumption he must be their gift from the wrench gods. Which, in turn, must mean he deserved a promotion to bigger and better things. They made him the shop super. Now, his ‘little-Hitler’ mentality came out with a vengeance. Nobody was safe from the torrential down beating this guy dished out. Even with numerous complaints, the dealership head honchos still believed he walked on water. His greatest skill was not wrenching, or diagnosing, but getting rid of anyone that said anything against his ideas, or even remotely showed any signs of intelligence beyond his mental capacities. (Didn’t take much by the way) It wasn’t long before his ever oppressive antics started to affect the quality of work and the number of customers that used the dealership service department. Soon, every tech that was left had had enough. They were all packing up their tool boxes and heading down the road. After a while, even the need to have some young kid sweeping floors and running parts back and forth wasn’t needed, because there were more empty bays than full ones now. This egotistical maniac even thought he could teach the other mechanics and helpers something about the auto industry that apparently … only he understood. His method of instructing was appalling. It usually consisted of him shouting at the top of his lungs from the front of the room, while showing the aspects of some out of date process. He even had his own homemade jargon and squirrelly nicknames for these long forgotten components which only fit a cars that haven’t seen a service bays for decades. All the while, pointing a three foot long piece of dowel rod like if it were some sort of magic wand. It was more like watching a circus clown trying to explain advanced quantum physics. His true attitude was even more apparent if you asked for help on something. Instead of helping, he would come over and take whatever it was you were working on and rip it completely back apart, then telling you that you did it wrong. Ya know, if you already ‘knew’ you did something wrong, how is starting over from the beginning ever going to help? Two wrongs don’t make a right, and you ‘still’ don’t have any clue what you’re doing. But, as with a lot of these ego driven socket jockeys and little Hitler attitudes, it’s just a matter of time before upper management takes notice. However, for this dealership, it came bit too late. The place closed due to lack of work. Like ya didn’t see that coming. So, why am I bringing this up? It’s not funny, it’s not technical… what gives? What’s the whole point of this story? It’s for you to consider the results of your actions when you’re talking with a customer or for that matter another mechanic. The fact that a customer or fellow mechanic doesn’t know what you know, is probably the very reason your customer or that mechanic was asking you for your advice. You may find that technology is starting to pass you by because you’ve spent way too much time telling everybody that you know it all, instead of studying that very technology you claimed you knew. (You can only BS them for so long) Maybe, it’s time for you to eat a little humble pie and accept the fact that you need to advance your training just to be able to do what you thought you already knew how to do. It’s easy to find yourself in this business thinking you’re above reproach. But, honestly, we all can learn a lot about the make-up of today’s cars and even more about helping other technicians and mechanics without going to the point of becoming the next little Hitler. Years ago a mechanic’s job was all about turning bolts, twisting screws, and adjusting cables. Today, the stereotypical mechanic doesn’t really have a place in the service bay on a daily basis. Tomorrow’s tech is here today. That’s the guy or gal that is heavily involved with advanced electronics, data lines, and computer strategies, but they still need to turn those nuts and bolts just like before. Above all, the auto repair business is on the brink of being so sophisticated of a career choice that the shade tree adventurer will be hard to find. Every mechanic needs to learn and understand today’s vehicles to be profitable and to be respected in the industry as well as with their clients. It may take a while to bring the world of automotive repair up a few notches from that old stereotypical mechanic we all knew. But, we could all start by showing a little more respect to others, as well as ourselves and especially to our fellow mechanics. View full article
  8. Breaker, Breaker… In my many years of repairing cars I’ve helped out a countless number of other shops with their electrical problems. Some shops I would see a few times a month, and others only once in awhile. This was years before the internet was around, and cell phones were only a fad and way to expensive to have. So, most everything was done by a land line or over the CB radio. Back in the mid 80’s and 90’s I had one shop that I talked with nearly every day. Great guys, but not so great as mechanics. The owners name was Joe. His shop was small and seemed to be a place for wayward towed vehicles and obscure customers looking for dirt cheap repairs. His main business was his tow service, and the repair shop seemed to be there just to fill in the gaps on those slow days. One afternoon I got a call from Joe about a car his crew had given up on. They threw the parts cannon at it, but couldn’t get this car to come back to life. Joe was with tows, and needed the mechanics he had to drive the other tow trucks. This particular car had been in his shop for quite some time and I don't think the customer was too happy about it. So, to speed things up a bit, he dropped it off at my shop. “I’ll be on the road all day. I've got to get back out there. I've got tows lined up all day. If you get it going, could ya run it back to my shop,” Joe said, as he made a dash for his tow truck. “No problem Joe, I’ll get right on it,” I said, just as he drove off. The car was an 80’s GM. I could see all kinds of shiny new components under the hood, and could tell they put a lot of effort into swapping parts to find out what was going on. The symptom was; if you flipped the key to the crank position it would immediately start, but die just as quickly. The parts they changed were the predictable parts cannon fodder that the typical parts slapper would try. Tune-up parts, an IAC, TPS, MAP, ECM, etc… etc… all of which might, could, should’ve, probably, maybe, and of course, eventually with enough darts thrown at it, could have hit the target and fixed it. But it didn’t. I wasn’t about to go that route. Time for some real diagnostics and not just shoot from the hip. Why not start with the basics- fuel, air, and fire. Spark was good, timing looked good, and the intake had a good air pull. I gave it a shot of carb. cleaner, and as long as I kept spraying… it kept running. Ok, time to check the fuel pressure. Interesting... there was pressure. Hmmm, now what to do? The next obvious thing (to me) was to check fuel volume. I disconnected a fuel line and gave the key a flick into start. The fuel shot out into the drainage bucket, but then trickled to a stop. I did it a second time. Not as much fuel made it out this time, but the scenario was basically the same. It was always a quick burst followed by a trickle. Maybe I should look at that gas gauge. Well, wouldn’t ya know it, the gauge is ready E. It had just enough in the tank to pressurize the fuel lines but not enough to keep it going. Might as well grab a gas can, and put some in the tank. I’ll try it again… vroom, vroom, vroom, alright! It’s running great! Looks to me as if the entire problem was that it was out of gas. However, with all the new parts they installed, I couldn’t be sure if this was the 'only' problem or an after affect of having the car in the shop so long while trying to solve another problem. It could have been any one of the other components (within reason) they changed that really 'did' need to be changed. Later that day I drove the car back to Joe’s shop. He wasn’t there, but his dispatcher was in the office sorting out tow tickets and monitoring the CB with the volume up full blast. In the background you could hear the CB chatter from all the area’s tow companies. About then I heard Joe’s voice over the CB, “Did Gonzo call yet? Need to check in on him, we need to get that car back to the owner.” “He just walked in Joe, over,” the dispatcher told him. “So what was wrong with it,” Joe asked between the squelch of the CB radio and all the other chatter from the other tow companies. The dispatcher turned to me and pointed at the mic. So, I told him . The dispatcher, with a stunned look on his face, said, “I can’t tell him that. He is going to be so pissed.” “I don’t think you should either. At least not until he gets back,” I said, while breaking into an ear to ear smile. The CB comes back to life with Joe’s voice again; “So what did he find out, over,” Joe's frustration was showing through as his voice barked out of the CB speaker. The dispatcher said to me, " Old Joe sounds pretty pissed." I don’t know whether it was the way his day was going or how much time and money he's spent on this car. Either way, he’s not going to like this answer. “Go ahead… tell him,” I said to the dispatcher, still sitting there hold the mic button, “He wants the answer, so let him have it.” “Alright, Joe, are ya ready for this, over?" the dispatcher said, then waited for a response from Joe. "Yea, go ahead, over." "It was out of gas.” A dead silence came over the CB. No chatter, nothing, not another sound for what seemed to be an eternity. Then, all hell broke loose. Tow drivers from all over the city were razing poor Joe. The CB was full of laughter and goof ball comments, but not a word from Joe. Poor Joe, you asked for it, and now you got it. “Tell Joe to stop by the shop, he can settle up with me then,” I said, while trying to hold back the laughter. As I walked out the door, the CB chatter could be heard all the way to the parking lot, and the comments were still flying. It was one of the funniest moments I’ve ever had for doing nothing more than putting gas in a car. When Joe came up to pay the bill I told him I had a little something for him. I handed him a little tiny gas can on a key chain. I figured it might be a good reminder for him to always check the basics before loading up the parts cannon again. After all these years I’m sure he hasn’t forgotten about it, and I’ll bet he doesn’t tell too many people where he got that little gas can key chain from… but now, it wouldn't be so much on the CB, but over the internet. View full article
  9. I'm so freakin' pissed.  If you receive the Sept. issue of Brake and Frontend you'll notice a cover story about diesel particulate filters.  The weird part is that there is no author to the story listed.  Well, that author is me.  I did NOT authorize this story to be printed again (originally printed in 2015) and it's obvious that they don't want YOU to know who the author is because there is NO mention of it anywhere.  I'm currently seeking something to be resolved about this.  Mainly, because this is my lively-hood  since I was forced to sell my shop (due to health reasons)... So, why am I telling all of YOU about this for???   I need your support. Call the Babcox magazine and complain on my behalf.  I'm seeking restitution for this blatant attempt at making money using my writing skills without any recognition by publishing this without my name attached.  These stories are there to sell advertising and how they approach new clients.  It's also how I introduce myself to prospective clients who are in the need of a writer/mechanic... which is exactly my status at the present time.  So, if you want to help out an fellow mechanic/writer... call them and bitch them out for me...  thanx in advance.  and... if you're wondering... there is NO agreement with Babcox on 'owning' and reproducing an article.  It's strictly a hand shake deal... which is not binding in the court of law.   Basically put, NO they DO NOT own the story... but they seem to think they do. (I've already talked to a lawyer) 

    1. xrac

      xrac

      What a sneaky, lowball, scandalous move on their part. Shows they are thieves with no integrity at all. 

    2. Gonzo

      Gonzo

      Andrew Markel (the editor) called me.  He tried to play it off as if they (the magazine company) had all the right to do whatever they want.  When I mentioned to him about not putting my name on the story his answer was..."Don't need to. We own the story."  I said, "So, I guess if I find something that you wrote and just threw it out there without any recognition... you'd be fine with that too?"  He hung up on me.  Gee... what's that tell ya??? 

  10. if wasn't for the emission quality we have today... I'd have to agree with ya. but, yes, elec. ign. made life a whole lot easier.
  11. Restoration for the Mechanic Electrical issues on today’s cars have certainly taken center stage. Mechanical issues are still there too, but it’s not uncommon to have a mechanical problem be diagnosed, monitored, or calibrated by some electronic means. You just can’t get away from the electrical if you’re in the automotive repair business these days. It’s taken over just about every facet of the automobile. Today’s mechanics have become something entirely different from the stereotypical mechanic from just a few decades ago. It’s not that long ago when the electrical section of the repair manuals were just a chapter or two, today… its volumes and volumes of schematics and diagnostic procedures. I’m old enough to remember when points and condensers were still the norm, and I’ve watched the industry go from electronic ignition to today’s electronic jungle of wires and processors. We’ve definitely come a long way with the technology. Even though I work on all these newfangled electrical wizardry systems on the modern car, deep down I’m still the kid who got a kick out of tearing down an old junker and putting it back together. Now, I’m surrounded by modules, proximity keys, and sensors. Occasionally it’s kind of nice just to step away from the computer and just turn a wrench or two. I look forward to those simpler kinds of jobs, the ones that need a craftsman’s touch and not a box of transistors and capacitors to figure out what to do. Back to a time when a driver was more mechanical involved in the process of operating the vehicle. Heating vents with levers and cables, or a hand choke that needed just the right touch to get it started. No electronics, no service light, just the essentials. (For you younger techs, I’m referring to the days when you actually had to unlock a door with a key.) I still marvel at the ingenuity and engineering of those times. I guess it’s one of the reasons why I like going to old car and steam engine shows so much. It’s all about the mechanics for me. Electronics are great, but to see the early mechanical devices that were commonplace a century ago still amazes me. How they figured it out, and how they made it work is shear brilliance. (If you ever get a chance to study some of those early mechanical systems, you might be surprised how things were accomplished prior to the computer age. It’s quite fascinating… well at least to me it is.) It’s great to be able to step back once in a while and just be a mechanic. Back when things were rebuilt and not just replaced with new. There’s a certain satisfaction in taking a broken mechanical device and making it functional again. It’s those jobs that after you’ve wrestled the components into place, and everything is finished you realize that you’re covered in grease, but for some reason you’ve got this big smile on your face. It’s the look of accomplishment, a smile of pride in a job well done. And while you’re cleaning up the tools, you look over at the finished project still smiling, knowing you’re done and can move onto the next project. It just doesn’t compare to finishing up on a modern car when the last thing to do is watch that blue line steadily move across the computer screen, waiting for it to say “Task completed”. Not that I’m putting down the modern car, no far from it. It’s just nice to take a break once in a while from the technical mumbo-jumbo and just be a mechanic for a change. Even though it’s pretty awesome to solve a difficult electrical issue, it’s hard to beat a good old fashion mechanical repair. For me, when a restoration project shows up at the shop I get a chance to turn off the laptop and open the toolbox. These restoration jobs are just as much for the customer as they are for me. It’s a restoration of some of my old almost forgotten mechanical abilities. (Yea, I still got it…) We put a lot of trust in the modern electronics, something the engineers and designers of those automobiles from a few decades ago never even though of. Their own ingenuity and craftsmanship kept them going. Components were built to be repaired not replaced. I think it’s safe to say that a car from 50 years ago is more likely to start and run in another 50 years but I seriously doubt a car from today would have the same luck. There again, it might be something a technician/mechanic of that era might figure out how to do by then. Me I’ll still stick with being a mechanic/technician … I still like the physical repair aspect of the job. The future of electronics in today’s cars is constantly changing; sometimes we notice the changes while other times you can’t physically see them. Sometimes all it takes is a little R&R on an old jalopy just to make me remember how far we’ve come. In the meantime, the latest restoration job is done so it’s time to go for a test drive. I’ll get back to the laptop and the modern car world just as soon as I get all the tools cleaned up… it might take a bit though … I’m still admiring the restoration job and I’ve got some more smilin’ to do. View full article
  12. I find the real harm is in customer/repair shop relationships. If you start your relationship at the repair shop with, "I already know what's wrong, and I know how to fix it... you just do what I tell you to." Is not a good way to begin. This guy, well, he was probably the worst I had to deal with over the years.... because... he made it a point to tell me... straight to my face.... that I was subordinate to his refined education level. If I was any less of a gentleman, and not an upstanding business owner... I would have reached across the counter and showed this guy the alternative uses for my extra large box end wrench.
  13. Geek With Attitude Now I realize I'm only a mechanic, and not an Ivy League scholar, and I may not qualify as the next inductee into MENSA, but I’m still a pretty smart guy. Oh, I may not know all there is to know about every single make and model out there, but I have enough background and technical ability to solve just about anything that goes wrong with the modern car. But, for some people the mere thought that a mechanic might actually have a few brain cells just baffles them to no end. A few weeks ago I got a call from a guy, who (to the best of my dim witted abilities could tell), was having a problem with his truck. He told me that he pulled all the fuses, and was still having a battery drain issue he couldn't find. He even took it to another shop and wasn't happy with their results, so he was going to give me a chance at it based on a friend’s recommendation. “Bring it in tomorrow, and I'll get it checked out for you,” I told him. The next day a 98 Nissan pickup with 150,000 miles on the odometer was waiting for me. After getting the owner’s information, I went over what he wanted me to do. Little did I know this guy had all the answers already. Not only the answers, but several ideas as to what was causing his problem. This particular guy was a full-fledged computer geek with more than a little attitude to go along with it. Not only did he think he was dead right about everything, but that every mechanic out there was nothing more than a knuckle dragging grease monkey with the IQ of a walnut. The more he told me about the problem the more I knew I was in for a long afternoon. Seems everything that was ever wrong with the car from the day he bought it was leading up to the moment the battery went dead. But, of course, it's not dead now... that takes a month before it would happen. “A month?” I asked. Oh, he had an answer for that too. It all started with the front crankshaft seal. The seal was leaking, and it leaked all over the alternator, so he had the seal changed along with a new alternator and battery. (Both the alternator and the battery came from one of those cheapo depot places; imagine where the seal came from.) A month went by before the car wouldn't start again. The seal was leaking too, but not nearly as bad. “Hmm,” I said, sitting at the service counter thinking this whole thing through, “You say it takes a month before it won't start? Are you driving it much?” “Yes,” he said, “Every day.” This didn't add up, something else is wrong with the car. As I tried to explain to him that if a car is driven every day, and starts perfectly fine, but then all of a sudden it goes “click-click” it tells me there is something else wrong, and it's probably not a battery drain issue. “Leave it with me, and I'll check it out,” I told him, Apparently, Mr. Geekdumb doesn't have a clue how a car works, other than where to put the gas and which way the key turns. Not that I’d hold that against him, a lot of people don't know a thing about their transportation. It's just that most people don't try to sound like they do, especially while standing in front of somebody that just might. Once I had the truck in the shop it turned out to be a classic problem; the battery bolts were tightened down as far as they could go, but I could easily pull the cables off the battery without any effort at all. The charge output and parasitic draw tests showed no signs of any problems. As for the seal leak. Well, if you've been around cars with high miles and poor maintenance you've probably seen this before. The PCV valve was clogged. Without that, no ventilation for the lower end, and of course, a back pressure builds up and that pressure has to go somewhere... usually out a seal, and the front seal is one of the usual places for it to go. Explaining all this to the computer nerd turned out to be a whole lot tougher than I thought possible. How one person can act and think that they are so smart, but can't see the logic behind the explanation is beyond me. The more I tried to explain, the more this guy asked even more bizarre questions. I gave him the run down on the battery clamp issues, “Yes, a loose battery clamp can make the car not start. Sometimes you'll get one quick turn of the starter then nothing, not even a dome light. Other times you'll get a “click” which is what your car sounds like. This can also stop or restrict the alternator charge output from entering the battery.” “So, that’s why my dash lights don’t work?” he asked. “There's no relationship between the charge output and the dash lights. That's a separate problem. Most likely the rheostat,” I said. “Well, what about the switch on my dome light, it doesn't work. I’m positive that is due to the front seal and the PVC you mentioned.” “Sir, it's a PCV not PVC, “Positive Crankcase Ventilation” is what it stands for, and no, it has nothing to do with your dome light.” “So I have two PCV’s in the car?” “No, just one.” “So where's the PVC?” “That would be in your house most likely. Most homes have PVC plastic piping.” “So, now you're telling me I don't have two PCV’s?” “I never said you had two.” This went on, and on. My frustration level was getting to my MAX level, and I'm about to tell this guy just where he can put his PCV and his PVC. But, after lengthy deliberations he eventually decided to have me at least fix something...one thing…change the battery clamps. He had the solution for the dash lights, dome light, PCV, and the front seal. I apparently don't understand, or fail to comprehend how all his other problems are related to the dead battery. He showed up later that day to pay for the clamp replacement, and it wasn't hard to tell this guy had an ego driven “micro” chip on his shoulder. He wasn't about to have some lowlife mechanic explain the physics of the internal combustion engine to such an astute individual as himself. His parting comments as he walked out the door said it all. “I work on highly technical and advanced systems on home and business computers that are far above the complexities of anything you’ll ever see. I'm better off fixing my own car, because I have a degree, and my intelligence level is far superior than any mechanic.” Really? That's the best you got? Better luck insulting me next time, fella…leaving is probably the smartest thing you’ve done so far… don’t let the door hit ya on the way out. View full article
  14. HillBilly HoeDown “Time for an old fashion sing-a-long. You know the tune, now sing it like you know you do when you’re in the shower!" Come on now… you can do it! First a little Banjo pickin’ … ya got it… OK Here we go…. --------------------------------------------------------- Come listen to my story about a man named Jess A do it yerself guy who kept his car a mess Then one day while in a tinkerin’ mood . . . Out from the engine came a bubblin' crude . . . Oil that is, . . . black gold, . . .Texas tea The next thing ya know Ol’ Jess ain’t thinkin’ clear Kin folk said, Jess move that car out a here! Said a mechanic place is where you ought to be So he hauled the ol’ car to the facil-i-ty Repair shop that is, spinnin’ tools, movin’ tires Now with all the repairs done, Ol' Jess can get back He's pritnear giddy not having to be towed… Ol’ Jess says he ain't workin' on his own car no more! He reckons it'd be easier just to come thru the lobby door…. Front door of the repair shop that is, no tow trucks, no home repairs. Ol' Jess yelled out, "Car repair ain't the place fer me!" “Workin' on ur own jalopy ain't like it used to be.” Said, “These here cars, are too complex for me these days” “It takes a heap of schoolin’ just to fix em’ anyways.” Trainin’ that is, conventions, classes, and OJT. Ol’ Jess refers our shop to all his family and his friends, They're so glad that he ain't fixin' cars no more and mention it time and time again. But, now it’s time say goodbye, to Jess and all his kin. We’d like to thank you folk fer kindly droppin in. You're all invited back again to this here locality To have a heapin helpin of our wrenchin’ abilities Auto repair that is. Engines, Transmissions, Brakes, and more… Y'all come back now, ya'hear? A little more Banjo and repeat the first verse. Alright! Ya done well Y’all! ! ! View full article
  15. I had a run in with a mid 80's Taurus that needed an ECM. Went thru 5 of them until they got the right one. A-1 Cardone was the only place that had them, and they 'generic'd the ECM's into one part number. This one had a different transmission (factory) than the standard tranny. Something about how many teeth were on the reluctor inside the tranny. Anyway, on the 6th one... it happened to be the right one. Otherwise the car would start (of course) but wouldn't come out of 2nd gear. A total pain to do... and as usual...after all the time spent on it... the profit margin fell to a dismal break even venture. Time is money, and the time I spent yakking with the parts people could have been spent doing another job. (I love being retired... LOL)
  16. and ya know... years ago... you could rig up a repair and get a customers car back on the road. now... well... that ain't possible. some customers get super pissed as if it is your fault.
  17. Well, that's all ya gotta do to fix it anyway... Sent from my SM-J727V using Tapatalk
  18. Zombie Cars “Brains, Brains, we need Brains!” Zombie cars? What’s a zombie car? Way back, when we used points and condensers and later the basic electronic ignition systems, cars didn’t need brains (ECM – Electronic Control Module), but that all changed in the mid 70’s on some imports and pretty much on everything else by the time the 80’s came around. Some of these brains were only cursory, and didn’t actually control the car, but merely watched for emission issues, while others played a major role in the actual ignition spark or fuel delivery systems. Most of the engines in those early years, still used the same basic type of distributor setups (with a few exceptions) as their earlier counterparts that used the old tried and true points and condenser type of ignition systems. During those cross-over years it was rather easy to slap a different distributor in it, or change the existing points distributor over to electronic ignition (which worked quite well by the way). These days...it’s not that easy. These computer systems have become so entangled into the engine functions and nearly every other system that it’s impossible to bypass the fuel or ignition systems as we did years ago. However, there are still a lot of people out there that have hung onto some of the cars from that era. Most likely they've been kept parked alongside the garage as a future project or hung onto for some sentimental reason. Some (very few) are in great shape, others… well, they look like zombies already. What makes them zombies? The brain… the brain… they need brains! Just this past week I had several of these faded paint monstrosities lined up in the parking lot. (They never come alone… always in a pack.) For starters an old dilapidated 1986 Dodge pickup with a slant six. This old rusted, tilting to one side relic had been at another shop for a tune-up, but as the story was told to me by the owner, the other shop tried to start it when a fuel line ruptured and caught the old truck on fire. Luckily, they managed to get it out, but the damage was already done. The main harness from the firewall to the distributor, coil, charging system, blower motor, oil sending unit, temp. sender, and the starter wiring were completely melted into an unrecognizable mass of plastic and copper. It was my job to bring this dilapidated hulk back to life. However, the original spark control computer had melted as well, and was unusable. Worse yet, the brain was discontinued eons ago with no replacement parts anywhere to be found. This zombie needs a brain, and there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to get one. At this point the only solution was to do away with the electronic brain and try to refit the old slant six with a much simpler ignition system from a decade earlier if at all possible. A lobotomy if you will. (Dr. Frankenstein would be envious.) Then there was this 2002 Mustang that moaned and groaned while dragging one foot into the shop. It needed a new BCM (Body Control Module). Call the dealer, call the parts warehouse, call everybody! Anybody! Is there a brain for this car? Nope, discontinued. Seems this particular BCM was a rather rare brain out there in zombie land, and at the time, nobody was setup to rebuild them. It seemed this car was destined to wander the city streets with the rest of the zombie mobiles. At the same time this was going on, in comes a 1982 Ford Bronco with the original Variable Venture carburetor still on it. Ok, not a brain, but just as bad. It qualifies as a zombie for sure. Trying to find a suitable replacement these days is a challenge. Ten or twenty years ago this would have been no problem to find a carb. kit (if you dared) or the Holley conversion kit for it, but not today. This trend of bringing back the dead looks like it’s only going to turn into the next zombie apocalypses. As these electronic systems get more and more complex the likely hood of your family truckster turning into a zombie is just a matter of time as each new model comes out. In some ways, I believe the manufacturers have thought this out long before there was a potential of these cars becoming zombies. In my youth it was nothing for me and a few friends to grab an old car out of a junk yard and raise it from the dead. Ya just had to throw a few shots of gas down the carburetor, add a few wires and a fresh battery and fire it up. The rust would fly, the engine would clatter, the smoke would billow out from under the hood, as the exhaust roared out of every crack in the manifold. Those days are long gone now. They may have engineered a longer lasting engine, better paint, and for the part, the interior can hold up to the ravages of time, however, the electronics, are their weakness. Although, these zombie mobiles seem to be coming out of hiding more often than ever before. Reviving some of these early electronic zombies may happen, but on the other hand, it may be a futile effort. The truth of the matter is… these resurrections are not as easy to do as it was so many years ago. There are countless problems that have to be overcome to bring some of these rusted heaps back among the living, especially if you’re in an area that requires emission testing. Just trying to bypass some of those early electronic brains when a replacement part can’t be found can be a real challenge. The good news is that there are a lot of guys out there tearing these brains apart and rebuilding them. But even then, there are some zombie cars that will never make it and eventually die from the lack of a brain, while others wander aimlessly from shop to shop still searching for their elusive electronic gray matter. Even after you manage to find a brain for these living dead vehicles it’s likely something else is going to go wrong. After all, being cast aside for so long, all the hoses, belts, and gaskets have dried up. Something will more likely fall off just like you would expect from any other zombie wandering around. And, you know, just as soon as the latest zombie joins the living something will undoubtedly come tumbling to the shop floor. Whether it’s coolant, oil, a belt, or perhaps no#2 connecting rod, something is not going to stay in place. Just like in every zombie movie I’ve ever watched,.one of them will always have an arm or leg falling off. It sure seems that these zombie cars follow right along with that same affliction. It’s safe to say, these relics of the early electronic era of the automotive world are in some respects the car equivalent of a zombie: half dead, half alive…and in search of a brain they may never find. So don’t be surprised if you’re at the next traffic light when an old faded-rusty-dented car with a shattered windshield, screeching brakes, with plumes of dense low hanging smoke creeping along with it, don't be alarmed, it’s just another car beginning its transformation into a "ZOMBIE CAR". View full article
  19. Poking it with a Sharp Stick It's not so much that I work with the general public in my daily business, it's more of what kind of 'public' gives me the business. I'm not talking about people who can think and reason like most educated, knowledgeable people. It's that ever present cave man mentality. You know the type, the guy who's elevator doesn't go to the top floor, or the couple who can't seem to keep both oars in the water. The all seem to lack one simple characteristic, common sense. The very quality that every halfwit adventure I've either seen, (or been a part of) have in common. (I can't leave myself out of this one... guilty as charged) It stands to reason if some of these mental giants were among the intrepid pioneers who crossed the great divide in a Conestoga wagon, they probably would be the ones that never made it. But, with so many modern conveniences like diet, clean water, and modern medical care, these half-wit trail blazers roam freely throughout every part of the countryside. There was a comedian some years ago who told a story about his ancestors from the Stone Age. He commented on how some people felt it necessary to leave the safety of the cave to take on some huge beast with nothing more than a sharpened stick, only to be trampled to death by the same prehistoric behemoth. He went on to say, “My relatives were the ones who stayed in the cave... how else can explain my being here?! If my ancestors were the ones who got killed off, how would it be possible for me to be standing here telling you all about them? My relatives had the good sense to stay out of harm’s way. Were my ancestors brave? Sure they’re brave, they’re just not stupid.” “Oh look, large man eating beast outside the cave, I’ll stay here… you can go out there. I’ve gotta sharpen my stick, and while you’re gone I'll paint your picture on these cave walls. Our ancestors will think you’re great hunters that way.” (“Right, when in fact they’re running for your lives…!”) Funny, yes, true... I guess so, and in similar ways, it’s how some people tackle car repair. In most states there’s no regulation to keep someone from poking their pointed stick under the hood of their car, or hanging a shingle on a shop door and call themselves a “mechanic”. The unsuspecting consumer is at the mercy of the phone book (and other sources) to find a shop that can actually make the appropriate repairs on their car. It's like the car has turned into a huge mammoth, and the person attempting the repair is just taking stabs at it with a sharp stick. No training, no experience, and more than likely no clue what they are doing. This is but one of the many reasons why the automotive field gets such low marks in the consumers’ eyes. As one of my customers told me, “It's getting harder and harder to find a good mechanic these days”. And, from what I can tell, it hasn’t been much better in previous decades either. A typical example of this was last week. An older gentleman came into the shop with an air conditioning problem on his 1967 Thunderbird. Sweet ride, entirely original... just the way he liked it. He had been to several shops trying to get the air conditioning working. This car was factory equipped with the old style compressor and A/C lines that didn't use a Schrader valve, but instead had the hand shut off valves that you moved (in the correct direction) to recharge or change the compressor. The owner’s story was that every place he went to, no one knew how to use the hand valves correctly to refill the system. They were all good at replacing parts, but had no clue as to how the system worked. I'm old enough to have worked on these when they were very common. All the previous shops could have figured out how they operated, if they would have just put down their pointy stick, and did a little research. (FYI - There's only 3 positions to be concerned about: Front seated blocks off the compressor, Mid-position is used to allow flow between entire system, compressor, and the gauge port, and the most important one, back seated, which allows the entire system to work normally.) Turned into an easy job for me; all in all, the A/C system was blowing cold air in no time. All it took was a little basic knowledge rather than guessing at it. (No telling what parts actually needed replaced, by the time I saw the car everything was new, oiled, and mounted correctly.) Too bad for the owner though, he paid each and every one of them to do what I just did... make cold air. The T-bird owner was overjoyed to finally have his air conditioning back in working order. (He did tell me he wasn't about to use those other guys ever again.) I guess after so many pokes with that sharp stick the T-Bird owner had had enough. Then there’s the DIY'r trying to repair the car in the family cave. First it’s a jab with the pointed end of their stick, then two, then another, until they either figure it out, or they find the information they need to make the repairs. There's been a lot of talk lately about the factory information not being available... really?? What Neanderthal told you that? I've been working professionally in the car repair business for a long time and I've never had any problem obtaining factory information. The hard part is getting the right scanners (at reasonable prices) and education these days. It's out there; it just may take a little poking around to find it. (Pun intended) The big thing is, it’s not free, never has been. Poking the sharp end of your stick at the manufacturer and expecting him to roll over like a wounded mammoth and hand you the information for free … just ain't happening… ever. I have this mental image of a DIY'r and their protégé the “untrained mechanic” as the cave men portrayed in the painting with the great mammoth in center. The cave men are throwing their spears into the beast, but the huge behemoth of prehistoric times still isn't quite finished off. It's not a futile effort, if they keep stabbing at it they’ll eventually get the job done. Gee, doesn’t that sound just like a couple of guys trying to figure out what’s wrong with the car by throwing part after part at it? It does to me. Poking around with that Stone Age sharpened stick method of diagnostics is a slow and unproductive way of making any kind of automotive repair. But, I still see the same kind of poor workmanship even today. Working on modern cars, and even one from a few decades ago requires the right tools, the right information, and some good old fashion common sense. If you’ve got all that, you’ve got half the battle won. That common sense and good repair practices goes a long way. One thing’s for sure… it beats poking it with a sharp stick. View full article
  20. It’s Doing the Same Thing Being on the mechanic's side of the counter, I've often wondered what does "the same thing" really mean? Nearly every time a customer comes up to the service counter, who has no background in automotive repair, or any idea at all on how repairs are made and what's all involved, but tells me, “It’s doing the same thing”, I have to ask myself… “How do they know?” Is it really doing exactly the same thing? Funny, how it turns out (99.9% of the time), that it’s NOT doing the same thing. I hear this rhetoric from customers now and then, but when my wife starts in on me with the good ol' 'It's doing the same thing', now I'm more than a little curious. Here's an example. We were about to head on our vacation when the bulb warning light on the dash came on indicating one of the rear lights was out. It was a side marker light on the driver’s side of the car. Easily changed and taken care of, and with all the commotion and last minute preparations, the warning light problem became a distant memory. So off we went on our little adventure. Several states and hundreds of miles later while the wife was driving, and I was taking a nap, she nudges me and says, “It’s doing the same thing”. Now I understand there is always the possibility that it really is doing the same thing, but really my dear … you’re married to a mechanic. Can we at least re-think how to inform me of such things? Yes, the light on the dash is “doing the same thing”, but let’s try rephrasing it to the guy just waking up from a pleasant-no-stress-day-off. How about: “The warning light is back on, dear.” At least that way I won’t feel like I’m back at the shop trying to decipher the latest “doing the same thing” dilemma. I’m on vacation for heaven’s sake! At the next stop I performed the usual "walk around" and noticed the passenger side marker light that was out this time. Not to be outwitted by a little warning light, I gave the lens a little tap. Low and behold, the filament lit up, and off we went. As we traveled down the road I had plenty of time to ponder how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “Doing the same thing”. Over the years I’ve seen this escalate into complete madness at the front counter or end up with a tap on a bulb lens. As in my wife’s case, the dash warning light could only indicate that a bulb was out and which end of the car it was. However, when a customer lays down a chunk of their hard earned cash their interpretation doesn’t include the possibility of multiple issues controlled by the same warning light. From their perspective, it's doing the same thing. A few weeks ago I had a 1995 Saturn in the shop that had been all over town, as well as to every relative who owned a tool box. No one seemed able to get the air conditioning to cool. Part after part was changed, but still no cold air. When I finally had a crack at it I was surprised at what I found. The connector for the A/C compressor was exactly the same style and type as the low coolant level sensor mounted in the over-flow bottle. Somebody had flip-flopped the connectors. Once I found the problem the cure was simple… just reverse the connectors and “Ta-Da” cold air. All the functions were working, cooling fan, line pressure, vent temperature, everything was great. Even the “low coolant” light was operating correctly. But where would this story be without a 'It's doing the same thing' scenario. A few weeks later I get a call, you guessed it… “Doing the same thing”. Now, I’m no dummy, I know what they meant. They're actually telling me that it's not making cold air again. I informed them it was probably leaking refrigerant or something like that, but I seriously doubt somebody switched the connectors again. They weren’t buying that, they kept insisting that it’s doing exactly the same thing as before. Even after reading the description of the repair on the invoice, and telling me they totally understood it… they still can't break away from the common reply... it's “Doing the same thing”. This follows right along with the typical scenario right after changing out a blower motor for a customer and a week later they're back because their air conditioning isn’t cold. I’ll ask, “When did you notice the air wasn’t cold?” The usual answer, “Right after you changed the blower motor.” I should have a guy in the background with a drum set patiently waiting for me to ask, "So when did you notice the problem?" and when the customer delivers the inevitable punch line, the drummer could bang out the classic drum roll-rim tap and cymbal crash. A priceless moment for every counter person. The way I see it, the consumer brought their car into a repair shop for a professional evaluation of a problem, and expect to never see a related or similar problem ever again. But, as soon as the work is done and some other problem creeps up that seems to be more than a little bit like what they just had repaired, the mechanic is soon to have the same thing happen again. The fact that there are other things that can go wrong can be a huge mountain to climb. But, with some diplomacy, and tact, a good counterman can get through these situations. One thing for sure, as the mechanic, you've got to get in there and solve the problem no matter if it's the same thing or not. Generally, (from my past experiences) the same thing is hardly ever the 'same thing'. The Saturn, was a faulty compressor due to the fact the last shop didn't add enough oil to the compressor, the replaced blower motor problem, was a faulty low pressure switch, and the wife's car, well... she hasn't had to tap on the bulb lens ever since. But to me.... it's all the same thing. View full article
  21. Rocky Mountain Oysters Gonzo Jan 2010 At my shop I tend to do more electrical repairs than anything else. It’s what I’m known for, and sometimes I get my share of odd ball electrical problems. Sometimes it’s a factory defect where a harness has rubbed into a bracket behind the dash and shorted things out. But, a lot of times it’s some add-on that causes the problems. Usually some sort of flashy-testosterone filled bling that the owner is using to show off his macho self to all who pass by. Seldom do I see these “manly” things on a girl’s car… it’s mostly the guy’s… sorry dudes… it’s true. You guys can’t leave them alone. Ya gotta show your manhood somewhere on that Detroit steel. I had this cowboy’s truck in the shop; it’s was a late 80’s Chevy pickup, jacked up to the sky and loud. His only problem was his parking lights would blow a fuse. My usual first question is, “When did ya put in the stereo?” (Over the years I would say it’s probably the no#1 problem I find in the park light systems on these GM cars and trucks of that era.) It never fails; some goof ball is going to use the gray wire as the radio ground. I can usually tell these types of guys because they’ll “always” tell me how they used an ohm meter to check the wiring. (More testosterone showing... gotta make like they've got some "cojones"... at least, more than the mechanic who's going to fix the mess they created, you know.) The gray wire will show continuity to ground because the dash light filaments will send the meter signal to the next bulb and the next until it reaches another ground source. It’s really not a ground at all; it’s actually the positive voltage lead for the dash light circuit that is part of the factory radio. However when you turn the park lights on (Which they won’t check until the next time they drive at night.) the fuse to the park lights will blow. Happens all the time. This hombre was safe… it wasn’t the radio. Now I have to look elsewhere. One of my many “tricks” to test a short circuit on these older trucks is with 2 fuses. First stick one in the fuse box and turn on the park lights. (It came in blown, and I doubt you’re going to make it any worse) … Keep your eye on the fuse, did it blow quickly? … Or did it take a bit? When I say a bit… I don’t mean like… a second….I mean not immediately, let’s just call it a quick blink. If the fuse takes a bit to blow that tells me the short is farther away from the fuse box than closer. (Learning the difference may take some practice.) In this case this saddle sore owner’s problem was not immediate, but an ever slight delay. I’m going to look around the outside of the vehicle and see if it reveals any clues. It could be in the back or the front of this herd chasing cattleman’s Cadillac. I climbed out of the cab and headed to the south end of this northbound rig to check for any trailer wiring. (It’s my 2nd usual place to look for faulty wiring on this type of truck.) Any time you get the handy-dandy farmhand with his fence pliers working his magic on the horse trailer wiring, you’re bound to have problems. Well, how about that… it was professionally done… and in fact the wiring looked great! But there was this other foreign object dangling on the receiver hitch. Oh man … is this necessary? Bull testicles? There’s a pair of fake plastic bovine male parts rocking back and forth with every sway of this pasture cavorting vehicle. Now, I don’t know who this cowboy is trying to impress… ‘cause if I was a cow… I’d think there something wrong with this bull. And, if I was some gal in a car behind this boot wearin’, skoal chewin’, cattle jockey… I don’t think I’d be impressed either… or at all. But then something else caught my eye… and it wasn’t the swinging genitals. There’s a small wire connected to them, and the wire is connected to the brown wire of the trailer connector… which, is the park light wiring. OMG… no way…these rocky mountain oysters light up and glow with the evening sky. I don’t remember animal husbandry being a part of my job requirements. And I don’t think glow in the dark dangling beef ta-tas was covered in any of my training classes. You mean to tell me, if I disconnect the wire from this cowboy’s dangling plastic bull parts that the park lights might work? This is nuts! I can’t believe this … … this is definitely not going well today. Well, I’ve gotta try, it could be the end of my search of why the park lights are blowing the fuse … here goes… … with one hand, I grabbed this pasture-prowlers-artificial-cattle-creators and held on with an almighty firm grip. With the other hand, I took steady aim with my trusty cutters--- “Snip” ---the deed is done. Back to the fuse box and change the fuse, and then flip on the park lights. Well what do ya know, we have lights! Tell all the Angus and Holsteins on the farm – the park lights are working perfectly! ! Ya Hoo! I’ll have to admit, it’s the first time I have ever had to castrate a truck to get the park lights to work… Well, I guess, there’s a first time for everything… might as well start up my new career… You’ll find me on one of those late night infomercials or in the business yellow pages under; --- “Bull Castrator/Mechanic”--- . View full article
  22. 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
  23. 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


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