I Don't Understand What My Mechanic is Saying

Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
Probably one of the leading causes of mistrust,
bad feelings and litigation in the auto repair
industry is poor communication between the
technician and the car owner.

Let's face it...these men and women are trained to
repair a complex piece of machinery, not
necessarily to be articulate and sensitive to your
needs; nonetheless, many mechanics do a poor job of
explaining the problem and the cure....and some
may even be deliberately obscuring the issue.

So if there's something going on with your car
that needs explaining, or if you're not buying the
mechanic's story, post your question here and we'll
all try and make sense of it.


  • gusgus Member Posts: 254
    Excellent topic!

    This topic actually reminds me of a "Car Talk" segment I once heard. A listener called in to ask what words and phrases she could throw around at her mechanic's so that he wouldn't think that she was completely auto-ignorant and try to take advantage of her.

    Their tongue-in-cheek response: Lots of four-letter words. If you want to know how talk to a mechanic, you'd better know how to curse a lot.

    The advice is not entirely without merit.
  • bonnie_rickbonnie_rick Member Posts: 115
    to teach that here, are we? This topic will, however, be an excellent resource for defining terms that we need to both explain, as well as understand, our mechanical difficulties. Sure beats saying "it just clicks when I turn the key"...

    FWIW, let's keep the focus on positive communication, ok?

    Bonnie Rick
    Town Hall Community Manager, edmunds.com
  • C13C13 Member Posts: 390
    I don't think he was seriously suggesting that we attempt to teach people to swear to their mechanics. Note the use of the term "tongue-in-cheek".

    Constant correction is itself not entirely "positive communication". Maintaining a low profile and just deleting offensive material might be a more effective strategy.
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioMember Posts: 851
    I remember Rush Limbaugh saying years ago, how his mechanic recommended an X to be replaced. It cost $600 or so, and he found out later that part doesn't exist! I wish someone here would remember the name of the part, it was funny, and it is a pet peeve that I can't remember it! I can't believe it!&*() Disgronificator! It came to me at that exact moment :) Anyone replace one of those?
  • C13C13 Member Posts: 390
    Hasn't that been pretty much superceded by the framulator, or do I have that backwards?
  • sweetypie41sweetypie41 Member Posts: 2
    i have a 96 jetta gls power windows/doors, the back window came out the glass track, mechanic told me it will cost me nearly $200.00 to replace "because he has the replace the whole glass bracket or frame/track. is it possible that the window track is that inferior to breaks so easily? aren't they usually steel or iron? i simply push the down button to cause it to come off track, how can it be they must replace the whole system???
  • C13C13 Member Posts: 390
    Might be true. I'd get a second opinion. Maybe several.

    Buy a manual and look at the parts and read the procedure. It's a very economical way to check up on the mechanics.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Dear Sweetypie,

    Yeah, get a second price quote, for certain, but I think most of the cost is probably for labor to replace the track....also, sometimes the windows have to be installed in a special way that might require your mechanic to take the pieces to a glass shop...taking a glass and track out of a door can be a lot of work.
  • gusgus Member Posts: 254
    Mr. Shiftright gives good advice on this. The labor cost of taking a door apart is not that much, but you'd be surprised by what a "small" part like a window track can cost you. Window tracks that I've seen tend to be pretty flimsy material--sheet metal with a a few spot-welds. There may be some sublet labor, or there may be some labor involved in fitting a new track to the window.
  • sweetypie41sweetypie41 Member Posts: 2
    :-o wow i never thought those parts would be made so filmsy.....thanx for the advice guys, i will also get a second qoute however just to make sure that price is not exhorbitant. i will keep you posted on my progress. :-)
  • panmanpanman Member Posts: 25
    I've run into the same situation with the window. My fiance has a '97 Honda Civic. Both of her side windows keeps popping out of the track and I can't see why. I've taken both door panels off to replace the windows and they'll work fine for a while, then all of a sudden poof and they're both off again. Honda dealer told her the same thing..$200 to fix. The windows tracks look fine. would this be covered under some kind of warranty on a car this new. Thanks.
  • mrimri Member Posts: 7
    Doesn't the Honda have at least a 36 month
    36000 mile bumper to bumper warranty?!
    It should definately be covered! I can't
    understand why the dealer is giving a cost
    estimate to fix??? Is it already over the
    mileage limit? If not, I'd go back to the dealer
    and tell them to fix or replace entirely.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    It sounds like an alignment problem...most tracks are adjustable, but you have to know how to do it.
  • weslwesl Member Posts: 53
    Modern cars have an enormous amount of plastic including many of the parts that help guide your window up and down. They are flismy, wear out quickly, and Honda is not known for there quick and reliable power windows. Wes.
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioMember Posts: 851
    In defense of Honda, their windows have been produced with a much tighter tolerance than most cars. I'm sure this causes more strain on the window mechanisms. How many cars STILL have windows that flop around when slightly open?

    On the other hand, who is known for RELIABLE electric windows?
  • weslwesl Member Posts: 53
    Who has the most reliable power windows? I find that a tough question to answer, because I only notice cars that have windows that do not work. It is rare to get in a Honda product over ten years old and have all 4 windows work properly up and down with no noise. Honda windows from when the car is new are slow and seem to deteriorate rapidly, which is in great constrast with the rest of the car. Just like an air conditioning system, the key to making power windows last is to use them frequently. At least once a week I roll all the windows up and down and once a year I remove the door panels and lubricate the window mechanism. Never had any problems. The power windows in my 69 Cadillac still worked like a charm even though they had never been replaced. Later, Wes.
  • infoseeker2infoseeker2 Member Posts: 4
    Is there a place or service where you can find out what the standard repair cost is for specific items on a car. For example, to repair the power steering line on a Jaguar XJS12?? With only one Jaguar dealer in the area, I'm trying to find a way test the reasonablness of there prices.
  • C13C13 Member Posts: 390
    A flat-rate book on the net. That's a great idea. I hope one exists. I'll try doing some searches.
  • gusgus Member Posts: 254
    That is a good idea!!
  • cobra98cobra98 Member Posts: 76
    I'm not sure about all vehicles, but my friend was just recently in the garage/mechanic business (owner). Anyhow, when someone would come in for service, he would pull out the book and look up the repair and it would tell him how many hours it took. I'll try to get the name of it.
  • infoseeker2infoseeker2 Member Posts: 4
    Thanks! Since the majority of the cost always turns out to be labor...that would be a great help.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    But keep in mind that most good mechanics can beat the flat rate, so if they quote you that rate, it may in fact take them less time...
  • lanettalanetta Member Posts: 5
    This is something I would like to see also. Need to know what expenses may run in the long haul.
  • cobra98cobra98 Member Posts: 76
    I put a call in to him tonight, but he wasn't home (left answering machine message). I should have the answer about the book (labor hours for a repair job) tomorrow and will post this weekend....
  • gba2michgba2mich Member Posts: 22
    The flat rate manuals used most are Chilton and Mitchell......and yes, many mechanics can beat that flat-rate time....... But that's the beauty of flat rate. If a job pays 1.5 hours, and the mechanic can do it in under an hour....great. The company then makes money. Then again, not all shops use a labor guide.......
  • gusgus Member Posts: 254
    Book rates usually allow more time for a job than is required.
  • gba2michgba2mich Member Posts: 22
    Yes, but not always......we get screwed many times becuase of flat rate hours.....
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioMember Posts: 851
    An experienced person will usually beat the book time for the job. Does that mean you're screwed, or that the good mechanics make more money for their experience? I am NOT arguing that flate rates are gospel, either.

    Gus, what is the best you've beaten a rated time for a job, for which you were proud?
  • gusgus Member Posts: 254
    Volvo B21 motor mounts are a snap. I love them. Takes about 10-15 minutes, and we charge an hour. There are certain routine jobs that you just know you'll make money on. Brakes, struts, shocks, clutches (usually), timing belts and water pumps are some examples of jobs that generally make shops money. They're jobs that are referred to as "gravy", because most of them can easily be done in less than book time. What's most satisfying, actually, is doing a job that you're unfamiliar with, and doing it within a reasonable amount of time--flat rate, or close to it. That's where I find the challenge in being a mechanic.
  • ralph124cralph124c Member Posts: 36
    Hi Gus:
    As a shade tree mechanic, I'd like your opinion on SATURN heater hoses-they are about 3" long, mounted between the engine and firewall, with about enough room for a small monkey's paw to reach them. What would you say for time to change these 50 cent pieces of rubber?
  • gusgus Member Posts: 254
    I honestly couldn't say unless I saw the setup!! Some jobs, you look at something and say "ugh, how are you supposed to do that?!"
  • gchernya1gchernya1 Member Posts: 43
    Wild guess is 1 hour apeace. I would even charge
    more if I can swear that I didn't damage the heater core.
  • ratchratch Member Posts: 21
    In the old days in California and Texas, we could beat the falt rate. Then, move to the salty north and spend three hours getting a rear brake drum off on a one hour job!

    My advice is to not try to impress the mechanic with your knowledge. When you leave your car for repairs, you are entering a contract in which one party -- you -- is the operator and the other party -- the mechanic -- is the expert.

    Do tell the mechanic your complaint -- don't tell the mechanic what you think is causing the problem.

    Excellent advice -- get a repair manual (the factory shop manual is best) and read up on the area where you think a problem might be. You don't need to reveal your knowledge, but you're better off if you have some.

    The bottom line -- if a mechanic wants you to agree to a job described in confusing technical terms, be careful. It isn't your job to understand the mechanic's job -- it is the mechanic's job to rectify the situation of your complaint.

    Finally, if you use a dealer service, rest assured they have probably seen your problem and know exactly what is wrong.
  • C13C13 Member Posts: 390
    Wise counsel, ratch.
  • gchernya1gchernya1 Member Posts: 43
    About brake drums:how to beat the flat rate.
    1)jack up the car and remove the wheel. Leave all other wheels on the ground (assuming no limited sleep). Put back 2-3 lug nuts,do not tight them.
    2)start the engine, shift into the gear, rev the engine and apply the breaks simultaneosely.If first attempt didn't work, try again. This will unfreeze any old drum.
    Another tip about broken bolts: weld nut of appropriate size to the remains of the bolt using CO2 or argon welding machine. If first one didn't do the job, try again.
  • bcathcartbcathcart Member Posts: 54
    Here's some stuff we used to charge the poor punter for.Plugs and points pitted ,pitts and points plugged,large box of valve clearances,long stand for parts,muffler silence,short weight for fuel,new sparks for ignition,clock for timing ,timing for clock,tyre kicks,radiator pressure,clean dipstick,air for fan,new wiper sweep,gear tooth count,clutch clearance,bottle of battery volts,tune up spokes,fit new ground clearance,check mirror alignment,new mints in glovebox,clean and polish toe in,fit new ackerman angle,shock the dampers ,damp the shockers,rate the springs,oscillate the steering,and last but not least fit a new giggle pin on the laff shaft.They are all rogues beleive me particularly main dealers for forign cars,the king of these has got to be Citroen who charge like the Light Brigade.Cheers BeeCee.
  • thinmanthinman Member Posts: 18
    And don't forget changing out the winter air for summer air in the tires...(tyres?)!
  • bcathcartbcathcart Member Posts: 54
    We don't use summer air here as it's permanently winter,tyres is scottish for tires.cheers.
  • bcathcartbcathcart Member Posts: 54
    Another thought, I used to get very tired fitting tyres.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    And if you need new brakes shoes, you really must replace the socks as well. And shall we hem up those piston skirts?
  • cobra98cobra98 Member Posts: 76
    nah. My mechanic said he hemmed the piston skirts when he replaced my fitzer valve and topped off the turn signal fluid.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Ah...and he probably charged you not only for gas, but also for water and electric?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Oh, I forgot...if you're doing the brake drums, do the trumpets as well, since you're already in there.
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioMember Posts: 851
    Turn signal fluid...hehehehehe
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    And you thought that blinking light just indicated that you were making a turn, G-zan?
  • bcathcartbcathcart Member Posts: 54
    You lot should be on the stage,scrubbing it!good stuff lets have more.
  • ratchratch Member Posts: 21
    On domestics cars, it was the sclaten pin. On Volkswagons, it was the mobilator.

    We used to send new technicians after a TR double E or an ST 1. Parts had small branches and stones all boxed up and ready to go!

    Guess we used to drive the shop owners crazy!
  • infoseeker2infoseeker2 Member Posts: 4
    So, what is the best way to get an idea of what a repair should cost.... ball park.

    Both on a '94 Jaguar XJS12

    Repairing the power steering line, and replacing the fluid that has drained out.

    Replacing the 3 inch rubber water hose line.

    In both cases, I think I was ripped off. If it's the normal cost...fine. I'm not objecting to normal profits......just in taking advantage of a female. Sitting at the dealership with a broken down car doesn't give you alot of options, however information, even after the fact, can be used to help in the future.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Well, with a dealer, and especially a dealer of a luxury car, you're paying for overhead. The best way to avoid paying too much for repairs is to comparative shop against a reputable independent Jaguar shop. If you are in the SF area I can recommend some.

    It's hard to say without looking at the car if you were taken for a ride...if it was the low pressure line on the power steering, and this is accessible, that shouldn't cost much...but with that big V-12 in there, perhaps they had to dig out the high pressure line, and I'm sure the part itself, being a special hydraulic hose with special fittings, was quite expensive. The fluid doesn't cost hardly anything.

    I'd guess such a repair would cost about $150 for the part plus a coupe hours labor at most...so maybe $300 for the job?

    Most independents are around 2/3 the price of a dealer.
  • infoseeker2infoseeker2 Member Posts: 4
    Thanks Mr Shiftright.....basically, it would be safe to say that $600 was being taken for a ride!

    Given that info...I'm not done with the dealership!
This discussion has been closed.