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A Mechanic's Life - Tales From Under the Hood

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  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,645
    edited December 2012
    A few weeks ago another shop called me about one of their customers cars. The inspections were expired and they had gotten a warning to have them completed by a specific date or they were going to get ticketed. The car would not complete the monitors so it wasn't ready for emissions testing and not being able to get the emissions sticker was preventing it from getting the state sticker. The owner of the car delivers pizza's for a living and if I'm to believe everything that he told me has an engineering degree, and used to work as a mechanic while in school.

    I solve a lot of the more technical issues for a number of shops around me, emissions monitors not completing being one of those kinds of problems on occasion. The owner of the car, and some relative that has a cheap scan tool (code puller that can clear codes) had been working on this themselves and had allegedly been trying for a week to get the monitors complete. They had until the next day (the tenth and last day) to get this done and have the cars inspections completed. One of the very first things that I noted was the car was empty. Nice, that blocks several monitors from running right there. The evaporative emissions system needs to see the fuel level between 15 and 85%, and the catalyst, O2 performance, fuel control, and in some cases misfire monitors, and other tests can all be blocked as well on an empty tank. In order for me to take this out on the road and evaluate what is going on it has to have fuel in it. I called the customer and let him know what the situation was and he OK'ed me putting in some gas. Ten gallons put it just below 80% so that took care of at least one reason why it wasn't completing. Sure enough when I hit the road with it, several tests still didn't run and it was because of fuel trims that were previously adding fuel were now taking it away. That meant that I had to start from scratch, clear codes and force the car into fast response mode and drive a very specific course. I got the car to complete every monitor except for the evaporative system, a cold start was still going to be required for that one but all he had to do was let the car sit eight hours, and then drive it exactly as instructed and it would complete for him. During my testing I had performed a manual version of the evaporative monitor and knew that as long as the criteria for the tests to run were met it was going to pass. Take note that for emissions testing one incomplete monitor still passes so I had in fact achieved what he needed anyway. He could go back to the original shop and they could complete the inspections and he would avoid getting the ticket. Total price was just about $80, and that included the $38.00 in gas.

    It was only then that the real trouble began, he showed up to pick the car up but he didn't have any money. No checks, no credit cards (or so he said) and he wasn't getting paid until Friday Dec 21st. Later I found out he had tried to play my wife against the other shop claiming that they were supposed to pay because they had failed to solve the problem. To me he promised to be in and settle up, and you can guess where this is going, here we are New Years Eve and he's no-where to be found. In all "fairness" he should have paid on the spot. We don't do credit and don't have deep enough pockets to carry anybody. With his situation had I have kept the car he would have gotten the $200 ticket, to protect him from that my only choice was to trust him. The other shop called us last week and inquired about whether he had showed back up and settled his bill or not. Somehow I have a feeling they are left holding the bag for this guy too. They asked how much he was into us for and they promised to make good on his bill in his place. The other shop's main concern was that I might be angry and stop helping them out since he sent the guy here.

    In my book he has taken not just the gas and not paid for it, he has taken some of the single most valuable thing any of us in this world have, my time. Each of us only have just so much of it, and scores of stories are written about what people would give to have just a little more. There are now two shops who have this guy's name on their list for never again. There isn't enough money on the world for him to get any more of my time. He showed us what we get for being nice and concerned for him and his situation. It will never happen again, our choice.
  • kyfdxkyfdx Posts: 31,186
    edited December 2012
    With his situation had I have kept the car he would have gotten the $200 ticket, to protect him from that my only choice was to trust him

    Looks like his financial losses would have been greater than your bill, had you held on to his car...

    I think you would be surprised at the resources available to him, once this became clear (that you weren't letting the car go)... I'm guessing he still has a cell phone, cable TV, food in the fridge, etc, etc, etc... And, if he really has a job delivering pizza, daily earnings... $80 might just have magically appeared, when push came to shove.

    You might be too nice of a guy to be in the car repair business... ;)

    MODERATOR
    Prices Paid, Lease Questions, SUVs

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,645
    With his situation had I have kept the car he would have gotten the $200 ticket, to protect him from that my only choice was to trust him

    Looks like his financial losses would have been greater than your bill, had you held on to his car...

    Yes, that's exactly the situation. His world could only have been worse off without our help and we have nothing to show for it.

    There is a saying, "No good deed goes unpunished". For everytime someone has a hard luck story we get slammed if we don't help them out, yet here is how those stories usually turn out if we do.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,645
    Well finally a decision was made, we didn't get to repair this one. The guy went back and forth with the shop that sent it to us a number of times and we did get authoriation to take it apart to prove what was wrong. The chain is stretched so much that the tensioner is completely extended and it is so loose that the noise you can see in the cranking waveform is the cam being pushed and pulled by the chain and the valve springs. The word we got is Nissan is going to pay for the repair. Between the engines condition, the bald tires and some other obvious issues that demonstrate the neglect that the car endures he's not really a candidate to be one of our customers anyway.

    So what's going to fill the bays in it's place? How about a 2006 Ford Explorer that had it's battery go dead. So off to Walmart they go and had a battery installed, two weeks later it's dead again. After doing that two more times it went to the dealership and they didn't find anything wrong. Now we have it. There is a second Explorer, a 2003 that suddenly has no power that got towed in with 160K+ on it sent by another shop. Several check engine lights were already on the schedule, control arm bushings on a Neon and the heads came back from the machine shop for Subaru#1, and the new Saturn Vue head will be in the shop today. I really need to get all of this done before classes start monday.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,686
    In short, you have plenty to keep you busy! That Altima owner blows my mind, and it's that sort of thing that makes historical documentation on cars such a valuable asset when buying used.

    What year is the Subaru? I'm guessing it's an EJ25 engine that you're putting the new gaskets on.... Did you send the heads to the machine shop to true the mating surfaces?
    2010 Subaru Forester, 2011 Ford Fiesta, 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup, 1974 Ford Pinto Wagon
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,645
    edited January 2013
    Yea, it's a 2.5, and I always send heads out to the local machine shop. It doesn't make any sense to do that much work and leave the owner at risk for a potential valve issue. BTW, I use the updated gaskets on these too.

    As far as the rest of the work it all went like this.
    The 99 Honda Accord, P0136 the PCM lost it's ability to control the upstream O2 sensor heater. Pull the code and slam a part method and you would be putting in an O2 sensor that wouldn't fix the car.

    The loss of power Explorer was reported to have already had the catalysts checked, funny because the drivers side catalyst has clearly failed. That car needs looked at closer, it's running better than the owner described at this time even with the cat being bad.

    The Explorer that has the battery dying is actually a 2008, and has a varying draw on fuse #3 in the underhood fuse block. That fuse powers up the smart junction block (SJB) under the drivers side of the dash, it also provides the power for a number of things that are controlled by the SJB. That needs some dissasembly to pinpoint which circuit(s) are falsely active and why.

    The 2010 PT Cruiser with the P0128 needed a PCM software update. This one was a real challenge, it's supposed to use the new version for J2534 flashing, but that system wouldn't recognize the PCM. Attempting to use the 2009 and older J2534 system correctly identified the PCM and allowed the flash update to be installed.

    We did a couple of inspections, and had yet another car dropped off to use for fill-in, it's an auction bought used car for another shop with a check engine light issue that they couldn't figure out.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,645
    I realized a little while after I wrote that that I confused cars, and codes. While the upper sensor heater circuit inside the PCM did fail, it was responsible for setting codes P1164, P1166, and P1167. The P0136 was a Toyota Camry that was one of the state and emissions inspections.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,686
    edited January 2013
    It doesn't make any sense to do that much work and leave the owner at risk for a potential valve issue.

    True.

    When I replaced the gaskets on my '96 Outback, which had 196,000 miles on it at the time, I didn't have extra work done on the heads, but I probably should have. I ended up driving the car another 24,000 trouble-free (and leak-free!) miles before it was destroyed in a crash, so it worked out fine that time around.

    I'm curious about what you generally charge for replacement of both head gaskets on the EJ25, and moreso how many hours of labor it takes you. Do you pull the engine from the bay, or leave the block in place? I've heard you can do the job with the engine in, but for me it made more sense to pull it (there wasn't much left on the engine once the peripherals were all moved aside to access the heads) and do the work on a stand.

    Good luck to you for smooth sailing through your workload as you head into the weekend!
    2010 Subaru Forester, 2011 Ford Fiesta, 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup, 1974 Ford Pinto Wagon
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,645
    edited January 2013
    Update on the 2008 Explorer that's been killing batteries. I had noted the drain on the battery after the car was shut off it was just under 1/2 an amp. This is measured with a low amps current probe that simply clamps around a wire and senses the magnetic field produced around a wire by the current flowing through it. The probe out-puts a voltage that is in a direct relationship to the current flow. When there is one amp of current flowing in a wire being tested, the probes output is 100 millivolts. The probe can be connected to a volt meter or oscilloscope. Having proven that the drain was through fuse #3 and checking to see what that powered up some dissasembly was going to be required to prove what circuit was causing the problem. The Smart Charger was hooked up to the car to bring the battery back to 100% while a plan of attack for the problem could be devised.

    Other notes at that time. There was a pulsing when the battery drain level changed, but using a voltmeter it wasn't obvious just how much of a drain was occurring. It was also noted that if the car was disturbed in any way, the pulsing went away for a while, maybe as much as an hour or two. This can be considered normal as it takes time for all of the modules on the car to go to sleep after the car is parked and the ignition is turned off. By now it was time to leave Thursday, the problem would have to sit and wait.

    Friday when we got to the shop and now using the oscilloscope instead of a voltmeter it was observed that the pulses of current that would flow were at eighteen second intervals. These pulses hit eleven amps for approximately half a second. The strategy at that moment was to see if we could hear anything turning on/off. So we shut down everything else in the shop and listened. Sure enough the sound was coming from the doors, it was the lock actuators cycling. Since the drivers window was open I first held the lock button and confirmed that I could feel the lock motor was operating. Remember with a problem like this you have to be careful to disturb the car as little as possible during testing because you never know how long the problem could go back into hiding if you inadvertently wake some of the modules on the car up. There could easily be a switch input to the system that would monitor the door lock position. The next step was to push the lock button down, it popped back up right on cue with the current drain.

    At this point we have made significant progress. The car is acting like it is seeing an unlock command. It "could be" one of the door switches, it "could be" the key fob (although not likely) it could be a faulty smart junction block. It "could be" a wire grounding, since that is how the door lock switches work, they pull the lock circuit to ground to command the SJB to lock/unlock the doors. It also "could be" the aftermarket remote start system that has been added to the car. We aren't about guessing, we have to prove exactly what it is.

    With the drivers window open I was able to lift the door switch panel and access the door lock/unlock switch. The purple with a yellow tracer is the unlock command. Connecting the oscilloscope to that circuit by back probing allowed the command signal to be watched. It was normally at 12v, but when the locks cycled it was clearly being pulled to ground (0v).

    This is important. That pulse to ground causes the SJB to wake up other modules in the car, and explains the entire drain issue. At this point we still don't know where the fault is, but it is narrowed down to a small circuit. Actually opening the drivers door caused the fault to disappear again. We would now have to plan out the steps to follow this problem to it's source. The first part of that is to go do something else for a while and let the problem resurface. Since opening the door caused the problem to go away, the door latch was pushed to the closed position with the door open, and that allows the door ajar switch to be closed.

    This essay is a good example of what it really takes to diagnose problems on cars. The pull a code, google search and toss a part and your a master mechanic is a very innaccurate portrait. The time invested in this car by the moment I identified the exact cause was just over two hours, split up over some three days. Nothing short of careful observation and coming up with a routine to test this car was going to give an answer to the problem.
    The next time the car acted up, I had to start dissasembling the dash to access the SJB and it's wiring. I also knew that I had to find and be ready to disable the remote start connections, that proved to be under the floor mat, drivers side. While monitoring the circuit and watching the command to unlock the door, I cut the wire that was connected to the door unlock input wire. (purple/yellow)

    Instead of the 12v signal that I was seeing, I now saw a pulsing voltage that went from 0v to 12v for about 500us (micro seconds) every 40 ms. When the drivers door unlock switch was operated I got a full ground, and then when it was released I saw the 12v signal for about five seconds, and then back to pulsing. Within twenty seconds after closing the door, the battery drain dropped to 190ma. That's a far cry from the 400ma+ I was seeing. When we get to the shop this morning, the first test will be to see where the battery drain is now. If it's less than 50ma (ideally under 20ma) then we are done except for putting the car back together. The really tough part here is how to charge correctly for the time invested and also account for the training and equipment that had to be used in order to reach this point. Consumer pricing pressure causes shops to not charge enough to do this work and recognize a profit, heck someone doing brakes and rotors is easily making more gross profit per hour than we get to charge for work like this, meanwhile their investment to do brakes is virtually nothing compared to what we had to spend to do electronics at this level.

    That's why Walmart only sells batteries, they don't fix cars, and also explains why the dealership didn't solve this. Given enough time and if they properly payed the tech to do so, he/she would have found this problem just like we did. But they don't charge correctly for it, which means they don't pay then techs correctly to diagnose something like this and so the vehicle owner get's left hanging. Well then again, they could have simply traded this in and got a new one.........
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,645
    So this morning when we got to the shop, I turned on the low amps probe and connected it to tjhe battery cable. The voltage was 2.8 to 3.2mv. That means we got the drain under 10ma. The aftermarket remote start system is confirmed to be the cause of the problem. Now we get to put the car back together, write this all up and send the customer back to the shop that installed the system.

    NEXT!!!!
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,963
    Next time let us guess first. :shades:

    The first thing I would have done would be to disable the remote start. From reading the posts around here, those things are often flaky, especially the aftermarket ones. Ditto security systems.

    My '97 Outback has a dealer installed OEM security system that started doing 2 am wake-up calls back in '07 or so. Wouldn't crank without holding down the override button (which sort of begs the question of why have a security system if a little button on the side footwell area overrides it). Fortunately mine was old-school enough that I was able to access the dip switches and disable everything while retaining the use of the key fobs to lock and unlock the doors.

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

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,645
    Next time let us guess first. :sick:

    Seriously isn't that the biggest problem here? Guessing can make you lucky, but when it comes to really doing this job day in and day out trying to get by, by guessing only proves just how incompetent someone really is.

    I've said it before, "It isn't wrong to do the job right".

    The first thing I would have done would be to disable the remote start. From reading the posts around here, those things are often flaky, especially the aftermarket ones. Ditto security systems

    But if you are only capable of guessing, and you get it wrong someone else ends up paying for your guess. You seem to think that's OK, but it isn't and in the end that hurts the consumers. The trick is, you have never really had someone lay out exactly how one of these jobs gets approached, how it flows step by step, and how technically challenging it is. What's more the investment in the scope and current probes, and the voltmeters used is a financial commitment that's likely beyond most readers imagination.

    You'll recall the whole reason that I ever spent any time here was because of Mr. reeds involvement with that NBC story. The follow-up that NBC did to that story went out of their way to praise one shop who didn't charge anything to figure out their rigged car. Maybe it's beyond your ability to understand why that was wrong and why it sends the wrong message to the consumer but ultimately it does. There isn't any work that we ever have to do on a regular basis that is as difficult as a diagnostic like this one was. These are one time affairs which are unique events in every way and only the right answer, the first time demonstrates competence as a technician, and as a repair shop. It's place here in a mechanics life thread paints a real example of just how big of a battle we have to wage for respect when it comes to doing the job correctly.
  • stickguystickguy Posts: 15,672
    Since you have to do a series of tests (action/see what happens) over a number of days, wouldn't it be logical though to start with the most likely culprit, and at least narrow it down?

    I don't know exactly how they integrate the remote start unit, but if there is a simple way to just unplug it, why not do that, and put on the meter to see if the draw was eliminated? At least that way you know where the problem is!

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

  • roadburnerroadburner Posts: 6,879
    The first thing I would have done would be to disable the remote start. From reading the posts around here, those things are often flaky, especially the aftermarket ones. Ditto security systems.

    Back in the '90s my wife and I passed on a new Maxima that was a screaming deal- precisely because the dealership had added a remote start system. Nothing I like better than buying a new car that has had the wiring harness hacked up and modified with Scotch-lok splices(or worse).

    Mine: 1995 318ti Club Sport 1975 2002A 2007 Mazdaspeed 3 1999 Wrangler 1996 Speed Triple Challenge Cup Replica Wife's: 2009 328i Son's: 2004 X3 2.5

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,645
    Since you have to do a series of tests (action/see what happens) over a number of days, wouldn't it be logical though to start with the most likely culprit, and at least narrow it down?

    No, and that's the point. That is exactly how a guess is made, you have to "ASSUME" that a given component is the problem and without any real logical approach, you start spending time based on what could easily be a totally false assumption. In a shop you would quickly be exposed for not having any idea how to diagnose a vehicle problem if you take that approach.

    I have dozens of examples where a vehicle had aftermarket equipment on it, that was removed that in the end had nothing to do with the reported issue. I can also show you a number of technician reports that the SJB was in fact the cause of a parasitic drain on similar models to this Explorer. Armed with that information the best guess you could do would give you a 50% chance of being right, which easily leaves a 50% chance of being wrong. Unless you get to take a legitimate logical approach, exactly as outlined above you get to be wrong no matter what you try to do. That's something that has to stop and is the reason I spent the time to write that out and post it here this morning. Edmunds has writers on staff here who probably make their months wages writing half as much as that essay explains. IMO.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,986
    edited January 2013
    Do you give the consumer a heads up prior to all this diagnostic work? In other words, if someone comes in with an electrical gremlin, especially one that has eluded other people's guessowork, how do you prep the customer for the possibility that they may be paying for 5 hours shop time to ultimately repair a single broken wire?

    In short, how to you get a customer to sign a blank check?

    MODERATOR --Need help with anything? Click on my name!

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,645
    Do you give the consumer a heads up prior to all this diagnostic work?

    Of course. We set a min/max guideline and I kept him informed of the progress periodically.

    In other words, if someone comes in with an electrical gremlin, especially one that has eluded other people's guess work, how do you prep the customer for the possibility that they may be paying for 5 hours shop time to ultimately repair a single broken wire?

    The only other choice is to give away the time, which usually means that the technician doesn't get paid for his/her time that they spent on something like this. The sad part is by not charging correctly the suggestion that the tech didn't know what they were doing still gets to apply. e.g. "If they knew what they were doing it wouldn't have taken them that long".

    That's a falsehood that I have had to overcome my entire career as a technician. I have more unpaid hours worth of some of the most difficult work than I care to think about.

    In short, how to you get a customer to sign a blank check?

    We don't. The customer knew going in that this was a problem that had already beat the usual methods. In the end, it took me less time than the dealer, who had the car for ore than a week, and Walmart who condemned the customers original battery, and two of their own replacements over a six week time frame. I have a little over two hours across two and a half days to come up with a documented and verifiable solution. The dealership's technician likely lost more money in unpaid time, than we billed the customer for what we did. Walmart threw away or at least returned enough batteries to outspend what we did this job for as well. The problem is we would have arrived at the correct answer if we would have been the first choice, and then it may have had the appearance that it wasn't a big deal and sure enough someone, somewhere might easily have tried to claim we took advantage of the customer because of how much we did charge. I'll again point out, what we charged was actually less than a shop makes when they relign a few sets of brakes, or even sell a few sets of tires for the equivalent amount of time. Yet, they don't have anywhere near the investment in tools and equipment to do those services, let alone the training/experience aspect of the equation.
  • fezofezo Posts: 9,444
    I know I'll hate myself for asking, but did you ever hear again from the guy who took the $200 he owed you because he needed it to register the car?

    I know - silly to ask.
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,963
    edited January 2013
    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. 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.

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

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

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

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,645
    I don't even recall what you are referring to.
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,963
    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.

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

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,645
    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: 1,645
    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: 9,444
    Oh, happy to hear it! I was going to try and locate the post but couldn't find it.
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,963
    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!

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

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,645
    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: 1,645
    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.
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,963
    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?

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

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,645
    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?
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,963
    :D

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

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