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A Mechanic's Life - Tales From Under the Hood

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  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,983
    That's just human nature; everyone complains about docs/lawyers but they typically love their own personal one. You just have to quit reading that stuff. Kill your TV. :shades:
  • busirisbusiris Posts: 3,448
    First of all, I agree that the independent shops are like the dinosaurs, looking at that big bright object in the sky, headed their way and getting larger by the minute. In all the shops that do anything but the most basic, common repairs, the independent shop is going to disappear by 2025, just like the milkman, the service station attendant and the doctor that made house calls. Simply put, the environment is evolving.

    But, what about the future of car repairs/maintenance?

    I see several possibilities... Some are...

    1- Throw-away vehicles, like the TV and computer of today. Built for a specific, relatively short lifespan, they will be recycled into new cars with the latest technology. Planned obsolescence, and no worries about outdated versions of software controls.

    2- The separation of dealer sales & service centers, possibly with the manufacturers running the service centers and dealers only selling. A hybrid version: Dealers disappear completely, and cars are sold primarily via Internet and Apple-style stores. Service centers are regionally located within sales areas.

    3- Dealers cede the service responsibilities management to the manufacturer, and manufacturers run each dealer's service organization, eliminating the wide variance of how each dealer's shop facilities are manned and equipped. Uniform service becomes much more attainable.

    4- Something entirely different...

    One thing is for sure... If the manufacturers are thinking this is a problem that will eventually get resolved once the dealers "come around" to the idea of providing responsible service, they're on a different planet than we are... If anything, many dealers are getting "cheaper" nowadays.

    As for Cardoc's implication that the general public "takes it out" on service techs, I personally don't see it that way. What I see is ill will towards the dealerships and manufacturers. A common term one sees on forums is "stealerships", and I think most folks understand the lack of qualified, ably trained techs is not a fault of the techs themselves, but a lack of effort by dealerships/manufacturers.

    Then again, I don't face repair customers on a daily basis. But, I spend enough time on forums to know that many either don't ( or can't ) comprehend that a $50-60 K lux-mobile will ALWAYS have a higher cost to maintain than a basic, no-optioned Toyoya Corolla.

    Of course, I could be totally off-the-mark. After all, back in the 1960's, when seat belts were finally mandated, I would have bet good money that no one would die due to lack of wearing their seat belt by the time the 21st Century rolled around. Same for smoking. I was terribly wrong on both accounts.
  • roadburnerroadburner Posts: 6,019
    I don't see independents becoming extinct, but I can see the survivors being the shops that specialize in no more than 2-3 brands(Audi/VW, BMW/MINI, Buick/Cadillac/Chevrolet, etc.). In my case those shops have always been the ones that I wound up patronizing. Unfairly or not, if I was looking for a new shop to use for maintenance or repairs on my BMWs I would zero in on a shop that had a good reputation among BMW enthusiasts- as opposed to BMW "wearers"-and in almost every case that turns out to a BMW specialist shop.

    2009 328i / 2004 X3 2.5/ 1995 318ti Club Sport/ 1975 2002A/ 2007 Mazdaspeed 3/ 1999 Wrangler/ 1996 Speed Triple Challenge Cup Replica

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    There are more lawyers in New Jersey than there are Master Technicians in the whole country. Think about that.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Overall, there's a grand shortage of service techs (only 5% of GM trainees make it to the top), and no one seems to have any real idea how to effect change.

    Techs around the country know what the problems are, which is the first step towards fixing the problems but their voices fall on deaf ears. That's why you don't see them telling kids that this is a great career to come into.

    The kids that do try to enter the trade quickly learn just how poorly its administered so they leave while they still have time to do something else with their lives. Just go back to the two statements about using the techline. Is it really all that different? The techs calling in to the hotline looking for the silver bullet, than the DIY'ers who write in here looking for a silver bullet in the Answers forum? It is the wrong approach in both cases, but the DIY'ers don't know better, and the techs aren't encouraged, or rewarded for taking a disciplined routine towards real diagnostics. Even worse, when they do someone at some point will turn around and say something like "P0101, I knew it was a bad MAF why did you spend all of that time testing it?"
    Toy tool sellers, like CarMD tell the public pull the code and our database will tell you what is wrong with your car, as if that's all it genuinely tales, all of the time. The contradictions are everywhere and they can be maddening.

    BTW, the one way to effect change the quickest? No new blood so that the trade collapses through attrition. The peak should occur about five to ten years from right now at our present pace.

    Roadburner had one part right about specializing, the problem is there isn't enough work in one or two manufacturers anymore to keep a shop afloat. There hasn't been enough for a while, which is why those dealers got caught selling wallet flushes.
  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    1- Throw-away vehicles, like the TV and computer of today.

    Never going to happen, unless you can buy a new vehicle for less then $199 :P .

    4- Something entirely different...

    Maybe a tiered or hierarchical service concept?

    At the bottom layer would be the techs (or shops) doing the routine/maintainence stuff - tires, brakes, oil changes, wiper blades, etc.

    In the middle would be the techs working on the electronics or emissions.

    At the top would be those - maybe like cardoc3 - who can troubleshoot problems that seem to or may actually, involve multiple failures.

    This could take the shape of a pyramid, with, for example, 1 top-tiered center supporting 5 middle tired centers and 10 lower tiered centers.

    In any case, it's a given that 1) vehicles are more reliable today than they were 20 or 30 years ago, but 2) when something does go wrong, it can be a bear and cost big bucks to diagnose and fix the problem.

    Question for cardoc3 -
    Is there any mechanism in place for techs like yourself to report problems back to the manufacturers? You've related a couple of stories about the root cause of a problem being in the wiring someplace - chaffed insulation, pinched wiring, corroded connection, etc. Wouldn't the manufacturer want to know about such problems, so that they can use them as sort of a lessons learned to improve their product? The rationale being to improve the quality of there product so that the need for repairs are reduced or eliminated?
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,664
    "Never going to happen, unless you can buy a new vehicle for less then $199"....

    I would disagree with that. In fact, this is *already* happening to out of warranty cars.

    Some examples:

    1. Many cars which are flooded are automatically totaled--repairs are not even attempted in some cases.

    2. Most cars built say in the last ten years, with a value of say $7500 or less, that lose their engines AND are out of warranty, are junked.

    3. Some cars built between 2003 and 2013 have engine computers that cost thousands of dollars. If you own a very high mileage example that's a bit scruffy, you'd be apt to get rid of it.

    It's not unimaginable that dealers or automakers will face a complexity of warranty repairs wherein the labor or parts invested would be more expensive than pro-rating the car and taking it back to the factory for refurbishment.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,917
    Complex cars are also throwaway when they start going wrong. A ca. 2001 S600 with any major issues is a parts car. An old A8 with issues is scrap value. Old V12 7er is even worse.

    For indy shops, maybe the jack of all trades ones will be numbered, but brand specialists will continue to have customers, especially when their work on big jobs is significantly less than the dealer, usually with identical results. Not special for oil changes, but if you need a transmission etc.
  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    I don't disagree with your examples. Almost any consumer product is, at some point in time, going to get to where it's just not financially viable to keep it going.

    However, bisiris seemed to be hinting at vehicles that were specifically designed to be throwaway - not repairable in the usual sense. I don't think that would include cars that were flooded.

    1- Throw-away vehicles, like the TV and computer of today. Built for a specific, relatively short lifespan, they will be recycled into new cars with the latest technology. Planned obsolescence, and no worries about outdated versions of software controls.

    Back to flooded cars for a minute. Many people would declare a loss a cell phone that was dropped in the toilet. But I would open it up as much as I could, remove the battery, SIM card, and whatever else would come out. Then I would bake it in a ordinary oven at, say 150 deg F or 175 deg F and try to dry it out.
  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    Complex cars are also throwaway when they start going wrong. A ca. 2001 S600 with any major issues is a parts car. An old A8 with issues is scrap value. Old V12 7er is even worse.

    True. Like I said above, any product eventually gets to the point where it doesn't make financial sense to repair or maintain it. But that's not quite the same as a vehicle that designed from the get-go to be throwaway.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,664
    Okay but even here we see the trend in the "disposable car" direction. For instance, many cars no longer have dipsticks; many cars have numerous parts which are not 'serviceable'.

    I guess what I'm saying is....if more and more parts of a car are becoming disposable, at what point does the entire car become disposable? :P
  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    edited April 2013
    For instance, many cars no longer have dipsticks; many cars have numerous parts which are not 'serviceable'

    Just because it doesn't have a dipstick doesn't mean that the oil doesn't have to be changed, or added to, in 150,000 miles, right?

    if more and more parts of a car are becoming disposable, at what point does the entire car become disposable?

    When the cars costs less than $199 ;) .

    We could do a back of the envelope calculation. Lets take a car that costs 15,000, has a 10 year life, and needs $2000 worth of maintainence done on it over that 10 year period (tires, brakes, oil changes, etc). So the cost of that car is $1,700/year (ignoring financing and similar costs).

    IMM then, a throwaway vehicle that was intended to be discarded every 2 years would have to cost less than $3,400.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,917
    I don't know, super-complex cars that age poorly might be part of the plan for some of these guys - they know their brand equity and target market combine to make it work.

    I think most modern cars are "throaway" in a way - nobody is thinking they will ever be restored or repaired past a certain point.
  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    ...super-complex cars that age poorly might be part of the plan for some of these guys - they know their brand equity and target market combine to make it work

    I don't disagree with that. But I'm not in the financial stratosphere where I'm willing to buy - and discard after 3 or 4 years - an A8 or 7-series.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,664
    Well I wasn't thinking of this as a rational development. What I meant was that you might be *forced* to dispose of it because of some--let's be fair---unusually complex repair. In other words, a certain number of consumers now purchasing 2013 cars might end up getting completely screwed, with no one intentionally planning for them to be.

    To put it another way --- every year we progress technologically, we are in a sense creating a more treacherous "danger zone" for the consumer on that line between "one day being in warranty, and the next day not".

    If a 2013 car has a 5 year warranty, the risk of facing complete disposal at year 6 is greater for them than it was for a consumer with a 2001 car in 2006.
  • busirisbusiris Posts: 3,448
    edited April 2013
    ...super-complex cars that age poorly might be part of the plan for some of these guys - they know their brand equity and target market combine to make it work

    I don't disagree with that. But I'm not in the financial stratosphere where I'm willing to buy - and discard after 3 or 4 years - an A8 or 7-series.


    Well, I certainly don't think we all wake up one day and find ALL cars have morphed into disposable, recycle able units. That type of trend usually starts at the bottom and works its way up.

    Example: Flat screen TVs. When first introduced, the small sized sets were considered "use until it breaks", and the 50"+ sizes were considered long term sets. It's hardly economical today to have a standard 50" plasma repaired after its out of warranty, the way the current pricing is structured on new sets.

    Henry Ford's intention was that, with proper maintenance and service, a Model T would run FOREVER. I doubt you could find an auto executive today that would make that claim about a single model his/her company produces today.

    So, we're already on that path to a certain extent. There will always be those that go to exceptional efforts to keep their "unit" (car, fridge, HVAC, etc) running as long as possible, but for the masses, its going to be more like "it broke.... Time to buy a new one".

    Back to flooded cars for a minute. Many people would declare a loss a cell phone that was dropped in the toilet. But I would open it up as much as I could, remove the battery, SIM card, and whatever else would come out. Then I would bake it in a ordinary oven at, say 150 deg F or 175 deg F and try to dry it out.


    That's a perfect example of my previous comment, kudos to you, but folks like you are, population-wise, rare as hen's teeth...

    Now, I'm not making any specific predictions on when (or even IF) the car industry will reach a completely "commodity based" behavior like we have for electronics, appliances, etc., but I do see a lot of movement in that direction.

    In 100 years, your great grand kids will still be able to go see a Model T in a museum, but its doubtful they will see many examples of cars being produced today sitting alongside that Model T.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,664
    edited April 2013
    So you're going to dry out your car in the oven? :P

    Actually a heated paint booth might work!

    But seriously, I've seen what it takes to repair a flood damaged car, and believe me, no one's going to be doing that in his spare time in his backyard.

    Picture this (actual scene I witnessed last week).

    A flooded Porsche Boxster brought in for repair---water was just over the floorboards.

    Car now has totally stripped interior (to bare metal), convertible top and top mechanism off, dashboard off, wiring spilling out of firewall.
  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    It's hardly economical today to have a standard 50" plasma repaired after its out of warranty, the way the current pricing is structured on new sets.

    I guess it depends on what the cost is to repair one. My son's 55"(?) plasma died late last year. One of the indicator lights was blinking a code that indicated some buried thermal sensor had opened up. We took the set apart, bought a similar part from radio Shack, patched it across the bad one (that was actually part of a transformer), and put the set back together. And it worked, for a while anyway.
  • kyfdx@Edmundskyfdx@Edmunds Posts: 25,906
    cell phone that was dropped in the toilet. But I would open it up as much as I could, remove the battery, SIM card, and whatever else would come out. Then I would bake it in a ordinary oven at, say 150 deg F or 175 deg F and try to dry it out.


    And, then, you would go buy a new cell phone... ;)

    Moderator - Prices Paid, Lease Questions, SUVs

  • busirisbusiris Posts: 3,448
    I guess it depends on what the cost is to repair one. My son's 55"(?) plasma died late last year. One of the indicator lights was blinking a code that indicated some buried thermal sensor had opened up. We took the set apart, bought a similar part from radio Shack, patched it across the bad one (that was actually part of a transformer), and put the set back together. And it worked, for a while anyway.

    Cost is always a factor, and usually THE factor.

    Still, I can't imagine the ordinary consumer dismantling his wide-screen TV and swapping out any "plug & play" parts, if there are any, much less grabbing a soldering iron and replacing fixed components. Nor can I imagine the average car owner swapping out a water/fuel/oil pump on his car.

    I don't think any of us posting on this thread would honestly consider ourselves "run of the mill" car owners, if for no other reason, we at least have some minimal interest in how they work, as well as what it may take to keep a car running. I'm certainly no car "wizard", but I do expend some effort in attempting to understand car "innards".

    To the average car owner, oil is oil is oil.

    In a related side note of where we're headed: 2-3 years ago my wife bought a fairly-well optioned Oster toaster oven, close to the $100 range. After a few months, the upper heating element overheated (probable bad thermostat) and deformed. I emailed for warranty service, and was told to expect a new unit within a week, which we did receive. The email also instructed me to simply cut the power cord off the defective unit and take it to a recycling place for disposal.

    Evidently, its cheaper to take a user's word that he has a bad toaster unit, junk it, and completely replace it than it is to examine the defective unit, repair it and return it. What I would like to know is at what $ break-even point the manufacturer wants to repair the existing unit. One thing is for sure, whatever that $ level was then, its most certainly higher now.
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