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Gonzo

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Everything posted by Gonzo

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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!
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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
  7. 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.
  8. 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??? 

  9. 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.
  10. 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
  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.
  12. 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
  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.
  14. 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.
  15. This is an article I wrote several years ago for a trade magazine.... I think it's still true today... Love to hear your comments. Diagnostics fee or not This has been an issue since day one. Should we charge to diagnose the car or should the estimate be free. Let’s define an estimate first. What is an estimate? An estimate is a list of all the parts and labor involved in making a repair. With the possibilities of adding supplements to the original estimate if other work is deemed necessary after the initial work has started. Ok that’s an estimate, or is it…? Let’s try this again. What is an estimate? It’s a guess……. With the chance that I might get it right but more than likely the final bill will be different than what was original “estimated” at. Hmm, the two definitions are different but at the same time mean the same thing… What about the diagnostic side? Ok, how about that… that diagnostic thing. What is a diagnostic? It is the process in which a technician is able to determine the cause or failure of a piece of equipment, vehicle, or appliance. Did ya get that? … One more time … What is a diagnostic? It is the process used to determine the root cause of a given mechanical or electrical problem that has become an issue with a vehicle, appliance or piece of equipment. Sounds the same doesn’t it…. hmm, maybe we are getting to the real issue… MONEY The diagnostics may take some time, may even require a few sophisticated scanners, wiring diagrams, and tools. Time is money as we all know, of course, knowledge, expertise and experience is a commodity that should always be respected no matter what field you are in. A service charge for such “diagnostics” is essential in the continuing financial stability of a shop or for that matter… any service oriented business. Once the diagnostics has been completed an “estimate” can then be given to the customer for their approval. This should also be noted that if a “diagnostics” is preformed and the problem turns out to be “intermittent” or none exciting a fee still applies. The time has already been spent to figure out that there was nothing wrong. That brings up another touchy issue. For some reason the customer feels cheated if you charge for nothing found… now wait a minute, how was it determined that nothing was wrong… ah…the diagnostics lead to that result. Then the problem isn’t the problem anymore, it’s the time spent looking for the problem that is the problem. To ease the customer’s woes you could always give them a time table for future re-evaluations. (30 days is a good round number) Note; It wouldn’t be the first time I have diagnosed a car for a customer only to find out that their complaint is from lack of understanding of their vehicle or dare I say… their just another fruit basket behind the wheel. Now I’m not in favor of a free diagnostics (if you couldn’t tell already) and I’m not too fond of the free estimate. If there is any “man hours” that are part of any job a “man” wants paid. If that “man” is working on a commission basis, I can assure you that he is going to rush through the “estimate” in order to get to the real money end of the job. However a diagnostic is a totally different thing, I don’t think I could have made a living without charging for the time it takes to figure out some of the strange pr oblems I’ve encountered over the years. Some things were easy to diagnose, some took hours. But I believe it’s the standardization of a diagnostic charge that would make things a lot easier for the customers to understand the complexities of today’s problem evaluations. If a tech couldn’t figure out a problem in a reasonable length of time … say an hour… then it’s quite possible the shop is going to be losing money if they kept him on that job. The next best thing would be to move him off that job. Put another tech on who might be able to figure out the problem in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, the shop is already behind the 8 ball, since the first tech didn’t get the job done, but in the long run… it will get done, there will be an estimate for the customer explaining the repairs needed. I don’t know which is more of a problem, the shops out there not willing to charge for estimating… Oops I mean diagnostic time… or the customer who doesn’t feel that it’s a necessary part of the process. Then again, these are not yesterday’s cars. It’s about time there were some standards that everyone in the industry had to go by, be it from the independent side or the dealer side. Regulation or self imposed limits as to how much can be charged across the board for various levels of diagnostics. Not to say diagnosing a bad ball joint is easier than a battery drain, no, not at all. Each field in the industry would have to come up with a balanced set of standards that those involved could agree was a fair price for that type of service. If all the independent shops charge the same fees in a demographic area it would lead to a more even playing field for the customer. Maybe, we should think about using a different term rather than “independent”… we can be independent in ownership, style, quality, etc… but put the customer’s concerns up front. If I wasn’t in the business and didn’t know where to take my car I would really would like to know that I’m getting quality work done at a fair price at any shop I went to. If there was a way to put an end to the “I can get it done cheaper down the street” escapades… my drive home would be a whole lot more pleasant than in the past. . If that didn’t happen it then only comes down to a question of where to have the vehicle repaired at. Everyone has their favorite doctor, dentist, or restaurant. Which is probably based on location, atmosphere, or “ya just like that particular place”. Price is always an issue, and probably always will be. If you’re not getting the job done right at the shop of your choice… choose another one. How many times a day does your phone ring because you have some “price shopper” who is never coming to your shop because your price is higher than the last shop they called… even though they were referred by a friend to call you. Maybe we should focus on better instructional classes, more information, and true manufacturer level scanners available to the independent side of the business. Sometimes too much effort is put on the “Be nice to the customer”, or the preverbal “Customer is always right” routine. The old saying; “If the customer knew what was wrong they would have fixed it themselves” still holds true today. But I’m talking about telling them what’s wrong with the vehicle, not how to fix it. With the advent of the computer age upon us the car has become a rolling updateable, flash reprogramming software jungle of information. The cost of these specialized scanners puts them out of the range of most consumers, and a lot of small shops, which, in some ways, also places the shade tree mechanic on the endangered species list. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the same line from a customer’s after I have diagnosed a problem. “Well, I could have done that myself, I would have looked there for the problem if I had the time, and I don’t know why you’re charging me for something so simple. You should give a break on the price because it was so simple. “Hey, I’m a regular customer I should be getting a discount.” My usual answer is… “So if you knew what was wrong, why did you bring it to me to figure it out?” And, I’m not sure that other professional people you deal with such as a doctor, dentist, or the grocer…etc… is going to give you a discount just because you shop with them on a regular basis. Common sense, the largest lacking component in all of these situations… In my opinion, once common sense is removed from the conversation “stupid” takes its place. I wonder if I could estimate how many times this has happened… maybe so… but I better think about diagnosing it first…
  16. 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
  17. 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! ! !
  18. 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)
  19. 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
  20. 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".
  21. 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.
  22. Well, that's all ya gotta do to fix it anyway... Sent from my SM-J727V using Tapatalk
  23. 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


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