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A Mechanic's Life - Tales From Under the Hood

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  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,946
    edited January 2013
    Fezo is talking about the guy who couldn't pass IM and didn't have enough gas in the tank for you to even properly test his car.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Seems to me that you could have disconnected the remote start back on Jan. 3 and told the owner to do a "come-back" if that didn't fix it.

    That of course say's that you have no idea how to test and prove what was wrong and why you shouldn't be touching the guys car nor giving him advice.

    You did it the "right" way, had the SUV on your lot for 3 days and spent a bunch of hours, some likely unbillable, to diagnose every last thing.

    If you take the time to read it, you'll see that it wasn't "diagnose every last thing" it was a direct patient approach that went straight at the problem. Part of the intention of this whole thread is to expose what amounts to pressure to take an unprofessional approach which does lead to consumer dissastisfaction more often than not.

    What you seem to fail to realize is that in practice, you'd fail so often that you wouldn't be able to hold a job as a technician/mechanic by trying to rely on you disconnect it and see if it fixes it's approach. Part of what you are failing to recognize is that there was no guesswork applied to this repair, and there didn't need to be. This was a straight in and straight back out approach and we did in fact bill all of the time allotted towards this car. 2.5hrs.

    Meanwhile a poor slob like me could have "fixed" it in ten minutes, been right 80% of the time, and have been a hero

    Actually, you likely would have only succeeded in ping-ponging the guy when the accessory store had proof that you had guessed like this in the past and been wrong. ;)
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Ahh, got you. When he said $200 he lost me. It wasn't that much and the other shop sent us a check and made good on the job.
  • fezofezo Posts: 9,195
    Oh, happy to hear it! I was going to try and locate the post but couldn't find it.
  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,946
    succeeded in ping-ponging the guy

    That sounds exactly like what your competitors are doing to you. :D They crank out the easy work, make a lot of money, and save the hard stuff for you when they screw up and need bailing out. And I bet most of their customers are just as happy with them as yours are with you.

    Nice to hear you didn't take it in the shorts with the empty gas tank guy. Would have guessed otherwise.

    I know you have a life out there and classes to prep for, but these problems you present are a lot of fun. We want more when you have time!
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    That sounds exactly like what your competitors are doing to you. They crank out the easy work, make a lot of money, and save the hard stuff for you when they screw up and need bailing out.

    Think about that for a while. Virtually all of the advice that consumers ever get seems to fall under the catagories of, (1) Try to get the manufacturer to warranty it, (2) Call around for the cheapest price, (3) Google it and try to do it yourself

    You never see anyone explain to the consumers that a shop will need to approach the problem their car is displaying like a detective, with a solid background in electronics, and with tens of thousands in equipment. The troubling part is this isn't new, it's been evolving for close to the last two decades but it is never explained to the consumers. The only fair explanation for that is the people who write and call themselves experts simply don't know what it really takes to do this work. Technicians like me have forged our way to where we are today in spite of the efforts of many of those writers.

    And I bet most of their customers are just as happy with them as yours are with you.

    Most of the time they are, and they should be. The problem however is there is no reward out there for them to turn it up and start getting more training, and start buying the O.E. tools. (remember the R2R issue). For them to start spending that money, they would have to charge more and with no information making it to the public as to why they go from being the good guy to someone with questionable motives. It would be like their prices suddenly stopped being "fair".

    When people shop our prices, which you can see are cheap by the national averages, we lose the easier work. There is always someone who is going to be cheaper no matter how low you try to go. But today cheaper means a glass ceiling on capability, and you never know exactly where that ceiling is at. Inside the trade the top gun techs have been trying to raise the bar and get our peers to see why they need to invest more in themselves and their equipment. Your guess to simply disable the aftermarket system, with no testing or logical confirmation other than to add yet another few weeks for the customer to be in limbo reflects a dead end approach as a career technician. The technology in the automotive world keeps evolving and so the demands on technician competency are skyrocketing at an ever increasing pace. Techs need to learn how to analyze a system problem and create a sound diagnostic routine to solve it, and there has to be a reward for them to make that effort.

    For us the situation can be summed up like this, "We shouldn't have to apologize for working harder and investing more than the next guy, and still needing to earn a living."
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Meanwhile a poor slob like me could have "fixed" it in ten minutes, been right 80% of the time, and have been a hero.

    What do hero's eat for lunch?

    The idea that being a hero 80% of the time would make you successful is terribly flawed. First to be "the hero" you described, if you are to live up to some of your own expectations you'd have to provide "the service" for free. So maybe on that one day to that one customer that a blind guess worked for, you came through. That however doesn't instantly turn them into a loyal customer. In fact as you alluded in another response, they are likely still happy with their original shop. On top of that now there is the idea that they owe you something that you deserve to collect on the next time that they need you. That it turns out typically discourages the customer from coming back. What's worse, you play the hero to customer #1 who refers custmomer#2 to you, only this time you try and charge correctly and they walk away thinking they weren't treated fairly and go back and tell customer #1 how you treated them even of you again guessed correctly.

    While all of this is going on, what about the 20% that your guessing failed to help? They have the loudest voice and will collectively use their voices to announce your incompetence to the world. When the car reveals that it wasn't fixed, they will quickly forget that it was a trial. They only know that you failed to solve it the first time. By not actually being in a business like this you don't have to deal with the results of the failures and so you haven't needed to make changes to try and eliminate them as much as it is humanly possible.

    Our approach.....
    By having and using a repeatable diagnostic routine, combined with training and experience the final outcome is a predictable rate of success that is quite high, (less than .5% failure). It takes a lot of hard work and years of experience to achieve that kind of precision and is one of the reasons that many of the so-called experts don't have any idea what it really takes to be a top technician today. They haven't made that kind of effort and gained the experience that would be required themselves.

    There's a lot of variations on the fix it "fast, good or cheap" method. Pick any two

    That of course isn't a very original quote. "The E-myth" is a great book and it is a must read for anyone who really wants to try and go into business for themselves.
  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,946
    edited January 2013
    By having and using a repeatable diagnostic routine, combined with training and experience the final outcome is a predictable rate of success that is quite high, (less than .5% failure). It takes a lot of hard work and years of experience to achieve that kind of precision

    Will an equal amount of experience and training, another tech would have noticed the remote start and disabled it and moved on to the next problem.

    The E-Myth guy wants you to operate (and grow) like McDonalds. I like this approach better:

    To make more money, do as little as possible.

    You run a full service shop, you teach, you do a radio show. Yesterday I took a walk on the beach for an hour after lunch. What were you doing?
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Will an equal amount of experience and training, another tech would have noticed the remote start and disabled it and moved on to the next problem.

    And when the percentages catch up to him/her with that approach prove that they don't know what they are doing.

    You run a full service shop, you teach, you do a radio show. Yesterday I took a walk on the beach for an hour after lunch. What were you doing?

    What's lunch?
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Come to think of it, you're going to love this.

    Instead of getting to have a lunch break, I was busy being a hero to a fellow who lost the keys to his mothers Dodge Magnum.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    edited January 2013
    This is a topic that deserves a lot more time into writing this out than I really have available this morning. Funny how that's a theme that's been underlying this whole debate over the last couple of days. On one hand you have gotten to see how each and every repair event should be approached, scientifically and with the capability to produce documentable results. On the other hand we have pressure to work at an unprofessional, shoddy level.

    I'll again link you to my facebook page and you can see just a few of the screen shots from my PICO scope. http://www.facebook.com/john.gillespie.127648?v=wall&story_fbid=124122724282154

    There are more than just these and in time they will be written into a full tutorial complete with false leads and some traps to help technicians practice gathering and then analyzing the information that they collect. Nobody ever taught techs to work this way in this trade, when I first started working on cars I remember the service manager coming over one time when I was diagnosing a horn that didn't work and he asked me,
    "Did you check the fuse?".
    "Did you check the horn?"
    "Did you check the relay?"
    etc.

    He really was trying to help me at that point but what it revealed is that there wasn't a logical approach a play. Basically if a tech guessed what to check early he/she would seem brilliant if he/she guessed correctly, and incompetent just about all of the rest of the time.

    That's where Steve's pressure ultimately leads to, and it's the incompetence that ultimately everyone remembers.

    I vividly recall the days when I had left the Ford dealership and went to a Buick/Chevrolet one and my whole world as a technician just about fell apart. Back in '82 GM had computers on just about every car they sold and since nobody paid diagnostics back then I was really struggling to put any food on the table for my wife and infant daughter. Then late in 83 my brother-in-law and I were talking about how things were going and he convinced me to get some electronics training and walk away from cars and learn to work on computers. So I signed up and studied electronics with CIE (The Cleveland Institute for Electronics). Six months later after I had completed what amounted to the entire first year of schooling, I was diagnosing things on the GM computerized cars at a completely different level than I had ever been able to in the past.

    Fast forward to now, here we are with some thirty years of continued study and raw first hand experience and we have the little debate that took place right here this past weekend. I've had to endure pressure from people who have no real training and experience to do the jobs that we do for my entire career. Pressure just like what Steve was bringing with his responses. It may be very popular to guess and guess cheaply, but experience has proven that is a fatally flawed path and that kind of pressure through the years is one of the reasons consumers often struggle to "find a good shop, and/or a great technician".

    Meanwhile trying to apply what it really takes to run a full shop in today's world automotive repair world, it is getting so cost prohibitive it's no wonder that 100-hour weeks occur on a regular basis.

    The automobiles have been evolving for decades, the work that automobile technicians must perform has been evolving too. It takes more formal training, it takes more equipment, and it takes a lot more experience than it did back in the 70's and 80's. It's going to take even more in the future.
  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,946
    edited January 2013
    All that and you have time to Facebook too?

    Hyundai/Kia just came out with some remote diagnostic stuff like OnStar does, built into the car's telematics. Self-diagnosing problems is going to be the next wave. Obviously it's been happening for a while now, but the depth and accuracy will get lots better (it'd be pretty basic to track down a flaky horn, even if the diagnostic forks have to go to the door switches, the clock switch, key fobs and security circuits).
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Someone once said, if you love what you do, you never really work a day in your life.

    All that and you have time to Facebook too?

    In doubt you love walking on the beach as much as I love figuring out and fixing vehicle problems. Maybe you havn't figured it out yet but your pressure to do a lousy job amounts to another problem that I need to "fix".
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Hyundai/Kia just came out with some remote diagnostic stuff like OnStar does, built into the car's telematics. Self-diagnosing problems is going to be the next wave.

    So when the car keeps reportig that it's got a problem to an owner who want's nothing to do with trying to have it fixed, how well will that sit with the owner of the car, and just what kind of feedback will they give to consumer reports? :P

    Obviously it's been happening for a while now, but the depth and accuracy will get lots better (it'd be pretty basic to track down a flaky horn, even if the diagnostic forks have to go to the door switches, the clock switch, key fobs and security circuits).

    These systems will be good at saying something is wrong, it's a misrepresentation to pretend they will be able to determine what is wrong. There will be some pattern failures, and with specific rationality testing some codes can get to be slam dunks. But what we see in practice is these systems expose faulty diagnostic and repair routines in a stunning fashion. That means that technician competency has to rise in order to satisfy the consumers needs as systems like these become more common-place, not diminish.
  • My dad used to say: "A machine is only as good as the man using it".
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,268
    You never see anyone explain to the consumers that a shop will need to approach the problem their car is displaying like a detective, with a solid background in electronics, and with tens of thousands in equipment. The troubling part is this isn't new, it's been evolving for close to the last two decades but it is never explained to the consumers.

    The other part of the problem, as I see it, is that consumers generally don't know the differences between one shop and the next. Unless they go to the yellow pages and see an ad for a shop that flaunts expertise in "gremlins," as I like to call them, the assumption (without further experience to the contrary) is that any shop (especially those that are brand-specific) can fix the problem, when that is simply not true.

    I would hope that there is a shop in my area that can and does do work to the caliber you have posted here, but if there is, I couldn't tell you which one it is... and I've needed that shop on a few occasions! :sick:
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,268
    That means that technician competency has to rise in order to satisfy the consumers needs as systems like these become more common-place, not diminish.

    To that end, have the automotive programs stepped up to train their students in these techniques? You've mentioned that you do teaching - are those specialty courses that professional techs are attending, or courses that students (pre-professional) are attending?
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    To that end, have the automotive programs stepped up to train their students in these techniques?

    Before they worry about teaching the kids these kinds of techniques, they first have to make sure that they are putting the lug nuts on the right way and torquing the wheels correctly.

    You've mentioned that you do teaching - are those specialty courses that professional techs are attending, or courses that students (pre-professional) are attending?

    Continuing educational classes for professional techs.

    We can take this discussion in a whole new direction along this topic all by itself. Guidance counselors still send the wrong kids towards the auto repair trade. We really need the kids that they are sending to become engineers, to become auto technicians. The problem is we don't have anything to offer them in the form of decent wages and benefits while they learn to be the journeymen that you need.
  • Clarkson from TopGear UK has (had?) a Mercedes CLK 63 amg 'black' edition. Nice car. The oil change shows as a countdown in days.

    Out of curiousity he waited to see what would happen if he let it go to zero. They came to his house (so he said).

    I'm picturing getting in a Kia etc and having the onboard voice nag me about something or the other every time I start it, grr. I recognise it could be useful though.

    Pete
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