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A Mechanic's Life - Tales From Under the Hood

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  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,534
    It's not as dangerous as hauling nets on a fishing boat, but it's no walk in the park. You gotta pay attention all the time.

    Injuries are simply part pf the job. As far as just how dangerous it is you also need to factor in road tests, and roadside assistance risks. On a dangerous stretch of interstate near here if I get a call under specific hours I'll leave with my car to get the people off of the highway, and then go back out with my truck to recover their car. That way I'm the only person at risk.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,534
    That's what a customer said to me when I advised her that she needed tires for inspection. She wanted to know if I could match that price. My cost for her metric tires is just over seventy each, so no playing her price matching game was out of the question. Everything that her car needed was met with a comment about how that's so expensive, and isn't there anything that we can do about the price? I considered writing down each time she tried to be deceptive here but lets just say that there isn't enough time to do so. At every turn we had to address another distortion of the facts about her car or deal with a fabrication from her imagination. She ultimately left only paying for both inspections, but not the state sticker.

    Two days later she called to say that she wanted the work done but didn't have the money and wouldn't have it until today the third. I advised her to plan to drop the car off at her convenience and we would complete the repairs so she could pick it up completed. It didn't show up. Then she called again and it was the same conversation only this time I had to schedule her for Friday. Today she calls and say's that she went somewhere else and got all of the work done and she wants to come in and get the sticker. It doesn't work that way. Pa regulations require the vehicle to be completely re-inspected if it leaves the premises. The regulations are very clear, it isn't free to have the vehicle re-inspected when required. Shops however can choose to do so for a customer as the inspection price is not regulated and market forces are allowed to set the pricing.

    Having listened to her intentionally be dishonest more times in a few minutes worth of conversations than I care to count and having her also make a false claim that my wife told her that what she decided to do (go elsewhere for the work ) was OK I decided enough is enough. I asked her why wasn't the person who did all of the work inspecting the car? Her answer was because she would have to pay him to do so. I explained to her that she would have to pay us too, because I have to not only re-inspect her car I have to be sure that the repairs were done correctly.

    That concept was very difficult for her to grasp. After numerous attempts by her to still manipulate a bargain I finally told her that as far as I am concerned she is his customer for now on. That was the first time that I think she genuinly heard and understood exactly what I said in any of our conversations. For several moments I heard silence on her end of the phone. Your serious about that she asked? Yes I am I replied.

    If she is lucky her car will never have a failure that they cannot fix. If her car ever does have a problem that they can't handle, they won't get to sublet it to me like they usually do. My Choice.
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,571
    Always been curious how many cars get "red-tagged" for serious safety violations in the few states that require such inspections. I know the state Commonwealth of PA claims that it's a great saver of body work and medical bills but I wonder if the cost benefit ratio really pans out. What's your opinion "from the ground"?

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  • stickguystickguy Posts: 15,412
    I have been accused on occasion of being "frugal", but man, if I had someone like you local that I knew I could trust, I would be so happy to possibly pay a few extra $ for quality and peace of mind.

    I actually have a local guy that I like and have used over the last couple decades. Far as I can tell, they are sharp and on the up and up. Really only had them do 1 out of the ordinary repair (evap canister on my Accord), and while it might have been close to the dealer cost, they did go above and beyond to address an issue. So maybe a crapshoot at times what is cheaper.

    I just don't use them for under warranty stuff. Including the oil changes at the dealer. Same cost (if not cheaper at the dealer), plus I want them to have the records if I have an issue and need a good will!

    on an older car if I get one? They can do the PPI and the basic repairs.

    2015 Hyundai Sonata 2.4i Limited Tech (mine), 2013 Acura RDX (wife's) and 2007 Volvo S40 (daughters college car)

  • stickguystickguy Posts: 15,412
    Steve, I know that in my neck of the woods (close to Philly) that if you really "need" a sticker, you could get one. Dredge a wreck out of a lake, and for the right price, a sticker is yours.

    2015 Hyundai Sonata 2.4i Limited Tech (mine), 2013 Acura RDX (wife's) and 2007 Volvo S40 (daughters college car)

  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,571
    Heh, that'll be the Cardoc's wannabe client's next stop.

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    Minivan fan. Feel free to message or email me - stever@edmunds.com.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,645
    I wouldn't let a chain store lay a finger on my car.

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  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,571
    I had real good luck with Midas in Anchorage. Some of it depends on the people running the particular franchise.

    Moderator
    Minivan fan. Feel free to message or email me - stever@edmunds.com.

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,534
    Nothing get's "red tagged". If the car fails inspection it simply does not get a new sticker. The customer is basically free to do whatever he/she wants with it. However get caught driving it on the road and the ticket runs almost a couple hundred bucks.

    Tell me something, when is the last time you noticed a car sitting alongside the road with one of the front tires sitting at an odd angle because of a sperated tie rod end or ball joint? That's a very rare occurance around home because we find the joints that are failing and replace them before it happens. Drive into Ohio right next door to us and it's rare to not see one. I just taught a class in Indianna, I was amazed to see the trash that was still running around on then road there. The stories from the techs about suspension parts tied back together with bailing wire, and in one case a T-shirt were enough to make me happy when we got back home and off of their roads.

    My shop is one that doesn't make a living doing the state inspections, I spend almost all of my time diagnosing and repairing electronics on the cars. There are many shops that if the state inspection program was shut down it would really hurt their businesses. We of course have a number of consumer types. Ms discount tire is an exception to the rule and not a typical customer for me. My regular customers would bring their cars in to be checked and repaired even without an inspection program. Anyway back to this lady. I still cannot get over how she kept trying to feed us one line of BS after another as if we aren't supposed to be smart enough to know better. She came to us because someone else had reccomended us. (Not sure if I should thank that person or not, VBG) Cars I can fix, people I cannot so in the end she really needed to move on down the road. My customers need to be able to trust me, and I them. Nobody would put up with us being as dishonest like she was nor should they. That's a two way street whether she understands it or not. People like her ultimately cause a shop to suffer a financial loss that get's passed onto the rest of the shops customers as part of the cost of doing business.
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,571
    when is the last time you noticed a car sitting alongside the road with one of the front tires sitting at an odd angle because of a sperated tie rod end or ball joint?

    Well, maybe once or twice. In the last ~40 years. Must be some strong t-shirts out there. :surprise:

    If the car is unsafe but the owner can still (illegally) drive it, then the inspection program doesn't seem to have much teeth. Wondering why bother.

    One of my first jobs was a (mercifully) short stint in retail. You learn pretty fast that people either don't know what they are talking about or they lie. So do clerks, who will push one product over another for the extra commission. Not that I ever did that. :shades:

    Moderator
    Minivan fan. Feel free to message or email me - stever@edmunds.com.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,645
    That's true...management can control the quality of a chain store, to a point--but a good manager can't make the mechanics any better trained than they are the day they work on my car. It's hard to screw up shocks on a Chevy pickup, but I would cringe to have them change the oil on a Mini Cooper or a Subaru (oh, sorry, we drained your transmission by mistake!).

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  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,571
    At least the chain stores often have deeper pockets and better insurance coverage when you sue them. :P

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    Minivan fan. Feel free to message or email me - stever@edmunds.com.

  • qbrozenqbrozen Posts: 17,599
    i went to a jiffy lube once with a subaru about 10 years ago. I told them very specifically that the car takes 4.5 quarts, so don't just pump in 5. Sure enuf, I was draining off the excess half quart that afternoon. I've never been to a chain joint since.

    '13 Stang GT; '15 Fit; '98 Volvo S70; '14 Town&Country

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,645
    It's like going to Las Vegas---don't gamble more than you can afford to lose.

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  • fintailfintail Posts: 34,164
    I cringe at the thought of a chain place dealing with the ~8 quarts needed by the E55, or the fintail's cartridge/element style filter.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,197
    My Cadillac DTS with the Northstar also takes 8 qts. I take it to the Cadillac dealer. I'm not reckless and self-destructive enough to risk taking it to Jiffy Lube!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,645
    I'd go to a chain store if they would let me instruct them on how to do it--but they won't, so I don't. I also have a cartridge filter, and it requires a new gasket, and it's touchy, and I don't want oil all over my exhaust header.

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  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,534
    It's hard to screw up shocks on a Chevy pickup, but I would cringe to have them change the oil on a Mini Cooper or a Subaru (oh, sorry, we drained your transmission by mistake!).

    So you apparently have never made such a mistake, is that a function of your superior technical talents, or is it simply that you haven't had enough chances to have fate catch up with you?

    No major league pitcher ever managed to strike me out. That's a fact that is based along a similar vein as your (or anyone else's) having never drained the wrong fluid, or misconnected battery cables. Given enough chances it would eventually happen.

    Frankly as I read the last several responses I asked myself if any of you were qualified to perform those tasks unsupervised in a chain store, or my shop. I think it's safe to say it would be a regrettable decision (for the shop) to try and find out.
  • explorerx4explorerx4 Central CTPosts: 9,915
    edited October 2012
    I think you are being a bit harsh on Shifty.
    Check out his posts in some other forums and you will see he pretty savvy mechanically and in appraisals.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 34,164
    edited October 2012
    I'm not paid to be qualified. But I wouldn't trust someone with modest skill and credentials who spends most of the day changing oil on Camrys and the like to have perfect luck with my higher maintenance and extremely uncommon vehicles. And it is a good thing for those mechanics who can specialize - the indy MB shop who I patronize does a huge volume.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,645
    I thought it was pretty funny actually.

    No seriously I think if I can rebuild Porsche engines I could put shocks on a Chevy.

    But what i really want to say to Doc is that I know what I don't know, and this keeps me out of trouble.

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  • bolivarbolivar Posts: 2,316
    Well, actually your Northstar takes 7 1/2 quarts. At 8 quarts it's overfilled by 1/2 quart.

    But I've been told it will pretty quickly blow that unneeded 1/2 quart out of the engine thru the PCV valve circuit.

    Also, all 3 of the Northstars we've owned, the dipstick is miss-marked. At the required 7 1/2 quarts, it shows about a half quart low. So, when 8 quarts are put in it, it shows about right on the full mark on the stick. I've never understood what is going on here with the Northstar motors and their dipsticks.
  • roadburnerroadburner Posts: 6,763
    I wouldn't let a chain store lay a finger on my car.

    That's my philosophy as well.

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

  • roadburnerroadburner Posts: 6,763
    edited October 2012
    I cringe at the thought of a chain place dealing with the ~8 quarts needed by the E55, or the fintail's cartridge/element style filter.

    I recently changed the oil in an older friend's 2005 X3, and wound up having to rectify the mistakes made by the prior service "technician".

    I had previously provided my friend with a contact at my dealer as well as at my indie BMW shop, recommending that he go to one or the other for everything but oil changes- and I had offered to perform the changes for just the cost of the oil and the filter.

    Well, he didn't want to "impose" on me so instead he took it to a local shop for an oil change. Fast forward to a Saturday a while back, when he called and asked me if I could change the oil sometime that week as his local shop was busy. No problem; I stopped by my dealer and bought a filter and he brought the X3 over. However, once I got into the job I encountered a textbook example of why you NEVER take a BMW to "Bubba's Fix-It Emporium."

    First off, the drain plug was extremely difficult to loosen; when I finally did break it loose I found that the plug was missing its copper sealing washer. Odds are that Bubba didn't see the washer fall off when he drained the oil; so when he reinstalled the plug without the washer it probably dripped- so he really cranked down on the drain plug to stop the leak. Idiot.

    Next up was changing the filter. Bubba had used a Fram cartridge which had plastic end caps(which were crumbling) and a filter medium that had started to distort. The correct BMW filter -manufactured by Mann of Germany- cost me $10.85 while Fram's alleged "filter" costs $2.50 more. Such a deal...

    The BMW filter also comes with a new drain plug sealing washer and a new o-ring for the oil filter housing cap. Anyway, I wiped out the filter housing as best I could, and I think I got 99.99% of the plastic bits from the worthless Fram piece.

    Finally, I poured in the requisite amount of Mobil 1 0W-40 and proceeded to reset the Oil Service light. Of course Bubba hadn't done that either, probably because he thought it needed a special tool. Wrong again; the indicator is reset using only the ignition switch and the odometer reset button. And it's not exactly proprietary information, either- just type "BMW X3 SIA reset" into almost any search engine...

    My friend kept trying to pay me for my labor, but for me, fixing everything Bubba screwed up was reward enough. It was a dead easy job- assuming that you have opposable thumbs, the correct parts, and the readily available reset information.

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

  • fintailfintail Posts: 34,164
    Wow. And that's why indy shops exist. Chain places might be good for Camcords, but specialty brands need specialty care.

    The closest I have come to a chain place was buying a fintail battery at Sears...drove it right into their facility where a battery is supposed to be dropped in within minutes. Not so easy. I had to go into the storage area with one of the workers and pick out the correct (huge, designed for trucks) battery. The crew there got a kick out of the car though, and no harm was done.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,534
    Yea, this could be fun. How much effort should I put into responding to all of this?

    First oil changes are routinely done by entry level technicians and yes people being who and what they are can make mistakes, especially if they get rushed or distracted during some operation. You say you found the drain plug gasket missing and the plug overtightened. I'll say that based on your post you failed to full fill all of the duties that a technician should have when doing the next service and compounded the problem.

    Lets start with the oil filter. FRAM, that's a company who's products are not high on my own quality list and haven't been for years. They IMO took an approach that tried to cheapen the trade services and marketed directly to consumers, like you. When I see filters sold at retail for less than what I pay wholesale for the O.E. component I don't expect that they will really meet my customers needs and therefore cannot justify trying to use them. However that has in turn caused a problem, the consumer see's that KMART advertisement for a FRAM oil filter and assumes that price is a fair value, and then when they get our bill don't understand why the filter we use cost them five times as much.

    Lately Jay Buckley from FRAM started spending a lot more time on the iATN and has been working to try and repair the companies image. They have in the last few years backed off from advertising that hurt shops, and have been making great strides to manufacture everything here in the USA. Previously a lot of their products were being made overseas and when they have found issues they have been addressing them. You report here that you found a filter with the end caps failing, did you contact them with your dicovery? Had you of done that they would have requested the filter to be returned so that they could investigate why it happened. Did you get all of the fragments out of the filter housing? Are you sure none made it past and into the oil galleys where flow could be restricted? Do you have insurance for working on someone else's car because if you failed to get all of the pieces out, you are now the last one to touch it and are now liable should his engine fail. Had Fram been notified of the failure and that likely concern that pieces may have made it into the engine they would have stepped up and made sure that the owner was protected should a failure occur. But you didn't tell them about it did you?

    You need to go take a seat beside the apprentice who misplaced the drain plug gasket, you have a lot in common with him/her, JMHO.
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,571
    I think Fram gets a lot of undeserved abuse. They sell millions of filters and you don't see lawsuits or hear about failed filters all that much. And it's not like Honeywell, the company that makes them, is a fly-by-night. Price isn't a foolproof indicator of quality either.

    On the other hand, there is this story over in Answers this weekend:

    Engine blew because of oil pressure. The car is under warranty, but Kia is blaming it on an aftermarket Fram oil filter

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    Minivan fan. Feel free to message or email me - stever@edmunds.com.

  • dieselonedieselone Posts: 5,653
    edited October 2012
    First oil changes are routinely done by entry level technicians and yes people being who and what they are can make mistakes, especially if they get rushed or distracted during some operation. You say you found the drain plug gasket missing and the plug overtightened.

    I agree. Mistakes happen. I've made plenty.

    I don't use a quickie lube, but the independent shop I use for most of my maintenance has made mistakes with oil changes twice.

    The tech forgot to put the oil cap on and I drove for about 1,000 miles before I popped the hood to check the oil and found the oil cap sitting on top of the engine cover. Thankfully no oil blew out.

    Another time they put to much oil in it and the oil level read about a 1/3 inch above the full line.

    I didn't make a big deal out of it and frankly I since no harm was done, it didn't bother me that much.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,645
    edited October 2012
    you said" because if you failed to get all of the pieces out, you are now the last one to touch it and are now liable should his engine fail..."

    I don't think so, since negligence law only holds you to a reasonable standard---as a good neighbor I don't think you are responsible for fishing unknown and hidden objects out of an engine, especially when you didn't put them in there in the first place.

    Nonetheless, you have a point as regards friendships being strained by misunderstandings.

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  • roadburnerroadburner Posts: 6,763
    I'll say that based on your post you failed to full fill all of the duties that a technician should have when doing the next service and compounded the problem.

    Nice; I point out why you shouldn't use an incompetent shop for even minor service- yet I'm the one who gets criticized.

    You report here that you found a filter with the end caps failing, did you contact them with your dicovery? Had you of done that they would have requested the filter to be returned so that they could investigate why it happened.

    You have infinitely more faith in Fram's suits than I do.

    Did you get all of the fragments out of the filter housing? Are you sure none made it past and into the oil galleys where flow could be restricted?

    Due to the design of the filter housing any of the pieces that crumbled off the end pieces would have been caught by the filter medium. I thoroughly wiped out the housing just to be safe.

    Do you have insurance for working on someone else's car because if you failed to get all of the pieces out, you are now the last one to touch it and are now liable should his engine fail.

    Yes, I took the food from some poor technicians mouth. I sincerely apologize. As for any liability issues, I'm not particularly worried- although I must defer to your knowledge of tort law.

    Had Fram been notified of the failure and that likely concern that pieces may have made it into the engine they would have stepped up and made sure that the owner was protected should a failure occur. But you didn't tell them about it did you?

    As I alluded to above, I suspect Fram's response would have been "Go pound sand." In any case, my primary concern was advising my friend to make sure that only an OEM or MANN filter is used in the future.

    You need to go take a seat beside the apprentice who misplaced the drain plug gasket, you have a lot in common with him/her, JMHO.

    Thanks for exposing my rank level of incompetence; I hate to think how much bad advice that I have provided to forum members -and others- for the past 15+ years...

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

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