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A Mechanic's Life - Tales From Under the Hood

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  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,396
    edited February 2013
    That's a good point for a shop... you can't assume a car has a given problem just because its symptoms are the same as those in the past. I don't think it is necessarily a poor move for an owner to hedge their bets like this, but it doesn't qualify as "professional," and a shop should always be professional.

    Along those lines, I'm having a weird issue with my Fiesta - something I've never experienced before. It is suddenly quite loathe to take fuel! Every since I returned from my 2.5 weeks away to deal with my grandfather's passing, the car is extremely difficult to fill. If I fill it any faster than ~1 gallon per minute (that's terribly slow, FWIW - just barely pulling the filler handle), it will activate the auto-shutoff.

    I thought maybe there was ice (frosted up) in the filler neck because it sat for a few weeks in some freakish weather (warm & raining one day, -35 the next). The next fill it filled mostly just fine, but did click off once or twice mid-fill. Then, yesterday, it was back to the same antics as the fill-before-last.

    Suggestions I've seen are related to the vapor recovery system being blocked. Is it possible that ice could be doing this, and a few hours in a garage could "cure" it, or is it something that is going to need a full diagnosis?

    It spent all day Saturday in Palmer, and the temps were up in the 40s that day, so I'd think that would be enough to melt out any ice that may be causing a blockage... ?

    It's under warranty, but I hate to lose the use of it for a day over something trivial. :mad:
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,396
    Channelock remains a U.S. made product and they have always produced the best products.

    They do, but you certainly have to pay for it! The same goes for Mag-Lite. I think I paid $30 for a Mag-Lite a few weeks ago, vs. less than half that for a knock-off version from China. I can't say anything about the Chinese one, but *DANG* that Mag-Lite is nice! It blows the socks off the one I bought twenty years ago (and still have because it still works).

    Channelock is based in my wife's hometown of Meadville, Pennsylvania. I make a point to buy their stuff, but I have to budget for it! :P
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,629
    The tool company I was with sold both Channelock and Mag Lites.

    I used to tell people " the best warranty is the one you never have to use".

    Mag Lites are built with such precision they look like they could be used in the medical field. Cops love them and sometimes they serve double duty as a nightstick. Did you know they have a spare bulb in the end cap?

    Channelocks blow everthing away and they last a lifetime.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,396
    edited February 2013
    Yes, I do (at least, they used to when they had incandescent bulbs... not sure about now), and that's a great feature! Funny enough, I haven't needed to use the spare in my 20-year-old. But, the 3 D-cell batteries only last a precious few hours in it. That pushed me to go with an LED version, which has a 67 or some-odd hour life span. I wasn't expecting the amount of light it produces. Again, dang. I bet it is 20x or more brighter than the original. I doubt I'll ever use the other one again except perhaps in a pinch. Maybe I should just fill it with concrete and keep it as a billy club. :D

    I'm impressed by my Channelock wire cutters. That's one tool where the cheap ones just can't compare. I think I went through three different pair of cutters from tool kits (Allied, Stanley, etc) before I just went out and dropped the $20 on a Channelock set. :shades:
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Along those lines, I'm having a weird issue with my Fiesta - something I've never experienced before. It is suddenly quite loathe to take fuel! Every since I returned from my 2.5 weeks away to deal with my grandfather's passing, the car is extremely difficult to fill. If I fill it any faster than ~1 gallon per minute (that's terribly slow, FWIW - just barely pulling the filler handle), it will activate the auto-shutoff.

    TSB 11-7-6 ( 00-070, 11-6-7) addresses a slow or hard to fill condition. The tech has to first inspect the tubing between the tank and cannister for any kinks, and if that is OK, replace the NVLD assembly with an updated kit.

    The labor time alloted via the TSB is .4hr.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    edited February 2013
    Does he report the income that he is making and pay taxes on it?
    Why shouild I care? Unless you're going to tell me I have to pay more taxes because he pays less.
    Is his "shop" in an area zoned for commercial business?
    Why should I care? So long as he's not next to my house .
    Does his insurance agent know that he is operating a business at his location?
    Why should I care?
    Does he have liability insurance?
    Why should I care?

    What your answers display is the crux of the matter. Every one of them is a measure of honesty, morality, and responsibility. The last one;
    Has he been attending training on a regular basis?

    You correctly identify as ;

    OK, maybe this one makes a difference.

    The truth is they all make a difference but back-yard Bob is given a free pass because of the inferred price gap between him and a real shop. It's just not "PC" to talk about people like him and how they are ultimately hurting the consumer in the long run. Instead the concentration has always been on telling the consumer how to not pay the rates that the shops charge. Every story about the consumer buying a cheap code puller concentrates on that concept, and IMO relies on trying to discredit us in order to give creedence to their "toy tool".

    We learned a long time ago, that we cannot control that kind of pricing pressure and tried to simply ignore it. The trouble with that is that it has hurt the trade, and is eroding it from the bottom at an ever greater pace, while the cost of keeping up with the technology in the cars has been crushing us from the top. The only thing that can make a difference today is the consumer, and they can't do that unless they learn just what kind of a value we really do bring for them. That will only happen over time through accurate articles and not just the cookie cutter versions of "how to choose a good shop" that we usually see.

    Back-Yard-Bob, shouldn't be getting a free pass. When you really sum him up, you would crucify him as a professional shop and if he is getting paid to work on cars, then he is assuming the roll as a pro regardless of his training and ethics. Toy tools, which are really just limited code pullers and have some data stream do not represent the kind of investement that it really takes to work on todays cars, and they should be shown for what they cannot do on a regular basis, not be allowed to raise the suggestion that they are all anyone needs.

    When I see the mention of $160/hr labor rate, that screams a lack of competition. Without shops like mine, that's where everyone will end up. At the dealership, paying that kind of money "to replace a headlight". You can bet the more difficult work will demand even higher rates. BTW, we are $78.77.......
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,548
    In California at least, the hourly rate between the dealer and "the competition" is not very great---maybe 20% less.

    My impression is that the dealer rates encourage other shops who may not be worth anywhere near $130/hour, to charge that, given that $160 is charged at the dealer.

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  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    My impression is that the dealer rates encourage other shops who may not be worth anywhere near $130/hour, to charge that, given that $160 is charged at the dealer.

    So how much do you know about their cost of doing business?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,548
    Only in relative terms---the location, condition of the shop, and display of tools (and the type of cars in the front of the building) allows me to compare overheads to a degree.

    To use a somewhat crude comparison, if Shop A operates in a filthy little, badly lit dump on the wrong side of the tracks, and charges $100/hr, and shop B is in an attractive building that his clean, well organized and well equipped and charges $130 hour, I would say that chances are the $100/shop is operating at not much more than DIY level and not worth the money.

    If the shops with the best appearances and best recommendations are struggling, I can only imagine that the dump-shops are cheating like crazy.

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  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,902
    If the shops with the best appearances and best recommendations are struggling, I can only imagine that the dump-shops are cheating like crazy.

    One thing that seems to be a key factor around these parts at least, is how much real estate the shop occupies. The place I'm going to now has a pretty big yard, so storage isn't a problem. They can take their time and try to get a problem fixed right, rather than just doing a quickie rush job to get it out the door, only to have it break down again just around the corner.

    The old mechanic didn't have as much space, so I think that's why he rushed so much. Although, he does have an '85 Riviera that's been sitting there since at least November 2009...so they'll rush on some things, but sit on others.

    The mechanic before that had even less space, so would tend to rush even worse. That was the one who worked on my '79 New Yorker, proudly proclaimed he wouldn't be afraid to drive it anywhere, only to have it break down on me, just around the corner from his shop. He also did some work on my uncle's '97 Silverado, and that one was even more epic. I get the phone call that it's ready to go, go out to pick it up, and it was dead where it sat...couldn't even move it off the premises. I forget what the first part was that the mechanic replaced, but it turns out it wasn't that, but the fuel pump instead.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    To use a somewhat crude comparison, if Shop A operates in a filthy little, badly lit dump on the wrong side of the tracks, and charges $100/hr, and shop B is in an attractive building that his clean, well organized and well equipped and charges $130 hour, I would say that chances are the $100/shop is operating at not much more than DIY level and not worth the money.

    Isn't that the problem with "assuming"?
    My shop isn't the fanciest building by a long shot, and it never will be because we only lease it. Meanwhile the shop near us that is in the really fancy building relies on just one Snap-On scan tool while I have a total of sixteen scan tools, eleven of which are full up to date O.E. For us it's a choice, spend money to make someone else's building look sharp, or spend it on the tools that the customers need us to have. There isn't enough to do both. (Well actually there isn't enough to spend on the tools these days so we have had to start limiting what we work on in order to maintain the precision we demand of ourselves.)

    Only in relative terms---the location, condition of the shop, and display of tools (and the type of cars in the front of the building) allows me to compare overheads to a degree.

    That degree isn't as high as some might think. Shop location. We could move our shop to the main street which would add about $3000 a month to our expenses, but it would not enhance our ability to solve the customers vehicle problems. Again the money is better spent on tools and schools. That $3000 a month would mean a significant price increase BTW.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,396
    edited February 2013
    The labor time alloted via the TSB is .4hr.

    0.4 hours? Either that's some fast work, or the shop is getting taken to the cleaners on that one.

    Thanks for the heads up. I'm going to fill it up again today at some point, so if I have trouble with it again I'll set up an appointment. Thankfully, the local Ford dealership has a fantastic shop and the (customer) service to match.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Either that's some fast work, or the tech is getting taken to the cleaners on that one.

    Fixed it for you.
  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,157
    edited February 2013
    the local Ford dealership has a fantastic shop and the (customer) service to match

    Years ago heading up to paddle Birch Creek, my '89 Voyager's CEL came on and it started sucking down the gas. I pulled into a private shop and the tech said the problem was likely an O2 sensor and that while they could fix it, it was probably a warranty item and I should go check with the Chrysler dealer. I did and it was. There's some good folks in your town.

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  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Well this should be interesting. I've been approached by some members of the dealers association to assist them in getting more training programs running in the secondary schools again. They also want my input on exactly what the curriculum should concentrate on. Yea I can do that, but there is a problem. Why should I do that? A couple of posts ago the NVLD (natural vapor leak detection) module was mentioned as a likely cause for the hard to fill fuel tank on the Fiesta. The labor time is .4hrs under warranty. If you really understand a technicians job, that .4 is to get the repair order from the service writer, and find the car. Pull it into the shop and connect the scan tool to retrieve the trouble code and start the diagnostics. The next step is to check the TSB's and then if one is found as mentioned earlier, follow the steps as outlined. Now the tech needs to go to the parts department, (wait his/her turn) and get a new NVLD which they hopefully have in stock, and then replace the part as described. Now the codes get cleared a quick self test is run to make sure no problems occurred as a result of doing the repair, check for any fingerprints/grease marks and park the vehicle back outside. All for a whopping .4hr.

    If you have done this a few times, and you don't actually test anything it's likely that you can come close to that time, (.4hrs) but there is no room for any surprises at any point in the exercise. It's pull the code, and slam the part and run to get the next ticket. That is how "flat rate" works. The tech gets paid by the labor time billed. This same repair if it is customer pay would likely have the diagnostic time alone be .5 to .7 hrs and the labor to replace the NVLD is .7. That's a problem because the kids that we need to attract to the trade today, who are smart enough to work on these "robots in the driveway" are also smart enough to know that isn't a fair pay system. You can't pay someone .4 on one car to replace the NVLD, and then turn around and get paid 1.2 on another and call it "flat". That just doesn't pass the sniff test.

    What's worse is it encourages a sloppy routine, in fact it rewards it so long as everything goes perfect while it is ready to duly punish the technicians at the first sign of a flaw for any reason .

    I often refer back to the NBC sting operation that Mr Reed of Edmunds was involved in. They "exposed" dealer employee's over selling maintanence items. NBC did a second story on that reporting about how it was just dishonest employee's who were no longer employed at the dealerships that got caught. Their intent at that point was to exonerate the dealers from any wrong doing, and that is a load of bull IMO. If the service manager/dispatcher feeds warranty job after warranty job to a given tech then he/she will end up not producing the number of hours that the dealer demands of them and they would lose their job, even though they may be a talented, hard working technician simply by how the numbers look on a spreadsheet. If that same tech gives into the pressure and starts selling the maintenance items, then their productivity rises without them working as hard and they make more money and their job is secure too because now they are producing $$$$. They manipulate the techs into selling and then abandon them if anyone raises a question about it, and that is what NBC actually exposed.

    I can see how this is going to go because when I get in front of that room of dealers, one of the first things that I am going to talk about is what I just wrote right here and then I'm going to ask them a few questions and to make a list for me.

    One of the questions will be; Would you want your son/daughter to become a technician in your shop? Yes or No

    The next question would be would you want your son or daughter to be a technician in someone else's shop? Yes or No.

    The next one will likely have some of them wanting to head for the door.

    List the reasons why you would, or would not want your son or daughter working as a technician in your shop.

    Now list the reasons you would or would not want them working as a tech in someone else's

    Think about this, if they wouldn't want their own kids to become techs, why should anyone else? This has been the problem that has been getting swept under the rug for decades and now it's really come back to haunt them. This is a problem that has grown under their watch, its a measure of how poorly they have managed the service and repair side of the operation.

    They have to establish a plan to make the job become one that they would want their kids to have, if their kids would want to chose to. Anything short of that and we aren't going to get anywhere, and that's a consumer issue. Before I can commit to helping attract anyone else's kids to this trade for them, it has to become a trade worth entering. As the title says, diplomacy isn't my strong suit. I'll have all of the ugly details laid right out there and they will have to address them up front with a clear plan or I'll be more inclined to stand in their way instead of trying to help them. Hmmm, looks like I already started doing just that. :shades:
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,548
    If I were a dealer in that room the first thing I'd do is raise my hand and ask you if YOU had already answered those questions, and if so, what are your answers.

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  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,157
    edited February 2013
    The dealers bought a lot of it on themselves by getting all their self-protection laws passed. Some state laws now require the manufacturer to pay retail prices to the dealers for repair work. That costs the consumer more (since dealers have more incentive to raise their rates) and discourages the manufacturer from investing more in repair training.

    And woe be to any manufacturer who tries to come up with some way to bypass the dealer and fix car problems directly. I'm surprised the dealers haven't sued GM for remote diagnosing car problems with OnStar.

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,548
    Well that's a franchise issue. You can't charge mega bucks for a franchise and then undercut your franchisee by selling the same hamburger for .25 cents less on Amazon.com :P

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  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,396
    I can't argue with you on that. My son loves diagnosing and fixing issues, but while I will encourage him to be familiar with vehicles, I could not, in good conscience, encourage him to become a professional automotive technician.

    As for the Fiesta, I filled it up last night and, of course, it had no issues at all. :mad:
  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,157
    edited February 2013
    Why not? Microsoft sells their products themselves or you can go to Best Buy and get a mouse or Excel. They have authorized resellers, and spiff and incentive programs, so in a lot of ways it's not much different than McDonalds.

    There are lots more dealers than car factories around so the laws are stacked so that the dealers profit, and the heck with the car makers' ability to ride herd on the dealers. That makes distribution and retail and repair costs higher.

    And if a dealer has lousy techs or doesn't invest in all the latest scan tools, or overcharges customers for service, there's not much the manufacturer can do about it in a businesslike fashion.

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  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    So how much do you know about their cost of doing business

    Let me turn that around. Do you think (the shops) they would provide me a breakdown of their hourly rate, so I, as a consumer, can truly evaluate whether I think the rate is fair or not?

    Direct salary
    health care (if any)
    workman's comp
    retirement (if any)
    capital expenses (several categoried here)
    overhead (secretary, etc)
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    I'd gladly welcome my daughter to work in my shop if she desired it. I would not want her to work for a dealer under the current system. There are some independents that I would be happy if she worked for them.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Having that information in hand, my accountant constantly tells me that we average 30-40% under priced..... The amount varies because some jobs simply produce greater revenues per hour.

    whether I think the rate is fair or not?

    To do that you have to put yourself into a position where you also dictate the standard of living for the business owner. That's wouldn't be "fair" in anyone's book. You wouldn't tolerate someone else (like me) deciding that for you would you?
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Some state laws now require the manufacturer to pay retail prices to the dealers for repair work. That costs the consumer more

    Now wait one minute, you've tried to push the idea that warranty work was "free" to the consumer when challenging some of my posts. :)
    I've always said, nothing is free, someone is paying for it somewhere.

    discourages the manufacturer from investing more in repair training.

    The technicians don't work for the manufacturer, they work for the dealer. When it comes to warranty pay rates the manufacturers labor times are according to certain manufacturers an agreement between the O.E. and the dealership and are not intended to have any reflection on a dealership employee's wages. That they say is a seperate agreement between the dealer and the employee.

    And woe be to any manufacturer who tries to come up with some way to bypass the dealer and fix car problems directly

    Why would they want to do that and have to pay real wages and benefits?

    I'm surprised the dealers haven't sued GM for remote diagnosing car problems with OnStar.

    I'm not surprised that you still hang onto the idea that OnStar is actually capable of really performing diagnostics.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Microsoft sells their products

    Look at what that says, and then think about this over all issue. If it doesn't occur to you what the difference is then think about it some more.
  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,157
    The technicians don't work for the manufacturer, they work for the dealer.

    And the state franchise laws won't let the manufacturers open repair shops.

    I don't understand your MSFT comment - they sell service too and will be happy to diagnose your computer problems for $60 and up depending on whether it's a software install issue or an "advanced" issue. The "advanced" rates are like $260 an incident.

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,548
    Steve, the cost of a Lexus franchise is staggering. No one in his right mind is going to sign a franchise contract that would allow Lexus to sell the car direct to consumer. There ARE "factory stores" (Lexus stores owned by Lexus itself) but those are halo stores in high rent areas where a profitable business might not be possible for a franchisee.

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  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,157
    edited February 2013
    Lexus can have some of those stores because they were late to the game and could work around existing state laws. The domestics manufacturers are locked into lousy franchise agreements limiting their ability to innovate because of those laws. Chrysler tried it and failed. (Autoblog)

    And guess who recently sued Tesla? (am-online.com)

    "According to NADA there are 48 states in the USA which have laws preventing manufacturer-owned dealerships."

    The reason dealerships are worth so much money is because they are a protected class of business.

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  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    And guess who recently sued Tesla? (am-online.com)

    "According to NADA there are 48 states in the USA which have laws preventing manufacturer-owned dealerships."

    Who won?
  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,157
    47 to go. :-)

    Guess who has pockets as deep as NADA too? Mr. Musk. :D

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