Tuesday, 06 April 2010 06:57

“My ‘Regular Mechanic’ Says You Didn’t Do a Thing”

Written by Gonzo Weaver

Many specialists like me run into situations where the customer’s previous mechanic has referred the customer but hasn’t told the customer the whole story, including why he’s really referring the job to me. Many times the job does require a specialist but sometimes the “regular mechanic” just doesn’t want to look incompetent to the customer, and the customer doesn’t want to accept that their “regular mechanic” was incapable of fixing the problem.

Even when you make the repair and the problem is solved, you can still be fighting a losing battle with the customer because of disinformation from the regular mechanic. Often the “mechanic” turns out to be a friend or relative or “Billy Bob” from next door. It’s when the mechanic is a supposed professional, but not acting like one, that I get a chapped hide.

Here’s one of those situations.

A Chevy pickup with the anti-loc brake light stuck on showed up at my shop one day. Not a big problem, but it can beexpensive to fix, as I explained to the customer. Replacement parts run from several hundred dollars to well over $1000 for certain vehicles. The customer told me his regular mechanic had already checked it out and told him it was going to be expensive and take time to fix. Better send it to an electrical expert to have it repaired. (At this point I liked this regular mechanic.)

After a lengthy conversation with the owner about how long it’s been like this... and how many different parts his regular mechanic had already tried… and how many times he checked the fuses… and that it had to be a ‘huge problem,’ otherwise his regular mechanic would’ve taken care of it.  I put the truck in a bay and put it on the scanner.

Huge problem or not, I’m the lucky guy who gets to follow up. The previous mechanic had left about everything that went to the ABS system unplugged. After getting all kinds of service codes stored in the computer, I had to go back in and reconnect all the different parts. Then I cleared the codes from the computer, and basically started all over again with the scanning and basic testing. (I was liking the regular mechanic a little less at this point.)

After taking the truck around the block once, the ABS light came back on. Rechecking the codes led directly to a faulty ABS controller. (The controller is basically the brain box that makes the whole thing work.) I have changed several of these in the past, and, other than the part being ridiculously priced, it’s a simple repair. The trick to this one is that the unit is mounted under the car just below the driver’s area. If you unbolt the unit and tilt it slightly towards the center of the truck, you can get access to the screws that hold the controller to the mechanical part of the ABS unit. This way you don’t have to undo any brake lines and bleed the brake system. Just install the new one, clear the codes, and do any “relearn” that needs to be done. Luckily, there wasn’t any “relearn” procedure on this year’s model and I had just saved the customer some labor time.

Okay, job well done, but the customer is not happy with the cost. Like I told him, it’s not the labor that is expensive, it’s the parts. He left, somewhat satisfied.

A few weeks later I get a call from the owner. The guy was furious. He wasn’t holding any words back. He definitely couldn’t care less if anyone else was listening. After he was done ranting and raving about the repair, it became obvious what was wrong.

It wasn’t the repair. It wasn’t the cost. It was his “regular” mechanic. Seems he went over to see his buddy to have some sort of work done. That’s when his mechanic told them that it didn’t look like we had done anything and that he just paid for absolute absolutely nothing.

“Hold on a minute buster!” I said, my blood pressure rising. “Let’s start over again. First off, is the ABS light off?”

“Well, yeah, it is.”

“And is the ABS system working?” I asked.

“It’s working fine.”

“Then what is the problem?” I asked.

“My mechanic looked under there and said you guys never took the lines off so you didn’t replace the controller like you charged me for,” was his answer.

I told him that we most certainly did, because if we didn’t, his light would still be on, and the ABS system wouldn’t be working.

“Furthermore,” I told him, “you don’t have to take the lines apart to put on the controller. The controller is the black electrical box above the thing you’re calling the lines. Not only that, it’s probably the cleanest part under the truck, since it’s only been on the car for a couple of weeks.”

The customer called back later that day to complain some more, still not buying my explanation. Yes, he did see the new parts, and he was aware that everything worked, but “my mechanic knows you didn’t do anything, and you electrical guys know how to jack up the systems to make it look like you did something.”

Exasperated, I asked him nicely to let me talk to his mechanic or bring the truck and the mechanic to my shop and I’ll show them both how the repairs were made.

After the two showed up, I patiently went through the whole procedure.You could almost see the light bulb slowly brightening above their heads. They left somewhat satisfied.

Later, when I thought about that ‘light bulb’ over their heads, I thought it should have been a neon sign instead, flashing “dumb ass”on and off.

But, then again, there wouldn’t have been enough brain power between the two to light it up.