Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Hook Line and Sinker!

Hook line and sinker!
Hello Lee, it’s been a while. That’s how it all started.

A good Cadillac client from the past had purchased a 2009 E 350 Mercedes. It developed an engine noise and the dealer told him he needed an engine. The vehicle had stalled with camshaft sensor circuit codes stored in the computer memory. 

Apparently, Mercedes Benz has an issue with vehicles of that era. The timing chain tensioners or the balance camshaft wear prematurely, the subsequent metal debris takes out the rest of the engine. They gave him a quote for the engine and offered him $1,000 to purchase his vehicle. They were hoping to sell him a new one.

Our client had the vehicle towed from the dealer to us in hopes of a better answer. We looked at the vehicle and came to the same conclusion.

We gave him a quote to replace the engine, two options. Option one, a re-manufactured engine from Mercedes at one cost. Option two, a used engine from a reliable salvage partner at a much lesser cost but somewhat more of a risk.

We explained this to the client. When the vehicle was here, and he was pondering what to do, the dealer gave him a call and offered him the following.
Tear down the engine to find the actual failure (at the clients cost, of course!)
Then contact Mercedes corporate and ask them if they are willing to good will the repair, if that’s the case, then Mercedes picks up the tear down cost as well and thus no expense to the client for any of the repairs.

The client towed the vehicle back to Mercedes, agreed to an $1,900.00 quote for tear down and so they commenced the inspection. Hook line and sinker!

My client called me back today and told me, the dealer had contacted him back to let him know Mercedes had declined to get involved. In addition, they now knew for sure his E 350 needed a complete engine. There would be no subsidy or co-pay. He was now on the hook for the entire amount.

I knew this was going to happen, I’ve had dealers use that ploy before. You may ask, “why didn’t you tell him?”
When they almost assured him they could get Mercedes to pay, do you think he would have believed me?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

 squeek squeek!

It drives me crazy!

But not for the reasons that you would think,
A 2010 Subaru is in our driveway and the complaint is a faint squeak noise when applying the clutch.

We asked the client to drive the vehicle with us and show us which specific noise he was talking about.
As he hadn't allowed himself enough time to do that, he was already late for work and asked that we should take him to work. Easy enough, consider it done, we said.

Can you ask the client for more information, the mechanic said. We texted and left a message for him to reply but he must have been very busy.

Do you have any idea what it takes to find the source of a little and infrequent noise?. Specially one the client didn't have time to show you.
Pure hell! is what it takes at times, easy at others and no way of knowing which one of the two it will be until you are deep into the job.
A good portion of the time, it takes two people as one drives and the other listens. That's two employees you have use to try and get the job done.

Mind you, if there are ten doctors in the operating room, all ten get paid. If an attourney consults another about your case, they both get paid as well. But you can toss two or three mechanics into one job and only one, if! and that's a big if, get's paid.
I have no idea why in our trade, multiple mechanics working on the same problem don't get the pay and the respect other professions get. 
You may opine that is due to a lack of trust. But attorneys do no enjoy any more or less trust than auto mechanics. And when you have to write "this is the good leg"  before surgery, I can't imagine you trust doctors anymore than mechanics or attourneys?
In the case I'm writing about, we never realy heard the noise. But given the parameters and circumstances that caused the complaint, it came from the clutch, transmission, slave cylinder or master cylinder area. As we took the time to rule out the sources, the only one we could not, was the slave cylinder. We offered that as a suggestion and the owner agreed to do it. 
The owner drove the vehicle away and came back within a short period of time to say the noise was still there, and furthermore, the pedal would go further down that before. 

We re-bled the system and after a road test, we released the vehicle. No noise and no dropping pedal.

Two days later, the owner took it to another shop as he says the pedal had once again dropped to the floor. 
Again, I had personally driven this vehicle for one full hour in heavy rush hour traffic. Throughout all this time, the clutch felt great to me.I would imagine the pedal must have dropped again for the client to go elsewhere.
The one thing that bothers me, is the fact the other shop told the owner the slave cylinder we had replaced couldn't have been the source of the noise. They never spent one second trying to find it, and yet, they concluded that whatever it was, it was not the slave cylinder. They were only asked second hand about the noise but were quick to opine about how wrong we had been in our diagnosis. I would guess some shops would use it as a means of connecting with the new client, by maligning the previous shop.
It saddens me when other shops will put you down in hopes of acquiring your business.
What saddens me the most, is how easy, people are willing to trust someone whom they just met, and only because they maligned the previous repair shop.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Keep ruining it for everybody else

It's a quiet morning at work in the city of Ventura and I'm staring out through the front window, the weather as usual, is magnificent. But all that is about to change.

A vehicle was towed here recently, it had quit on the road, it was a Toyota Yaris with high miles and had not received any loving care and attention for some time. How do we know this you may ask?

On May the 11th of this year, we decided to give back to the community. Through the local churches in town, we selected 12 single moms who we knew could not afford to have professional car care performed on their vehicles. We decided to give these moms a free oil change, rotate the tires, inspect brakes, suspension, shocks, struts, belts and hoses, replace the wiper blades and send the vehicle to the car wash. All this as a courtesy, free of charge. Our budget was about $500.00 per car aided in by a grant from AC Delco.  First come first serviced as per our web site.  No strings attached.
We know it is tough to be a single mom. Never having enough money to make ends meet and never having enough time for their children and for themselves.
One of those cars was this Toyota Yaris.  The oil change and inspection work was done but due to her late appointment, we weren't able to perform any of the suggested work.  We gave her the information on her vehicle and she went on her way. Unfortunately the vehicle needed a substantial amount of maintenance and repairs which is not uncommon for these single mom vehicles.   She never mentioned "thanks" for the information and left.  But hey!, we weren't doing it for the appreciation, we just wanted to give back.

Fast forward to today and the vehicle just got towed here. We called her back to let her know the vehicle had arrived and we needed to do some inspection work. She approved the inspection work and we got started.

After the inspection, the quote was put together and we contacted her. The initial quote was for a large sum of money (which included all the previous information plus the current repairs). She needed brake pads and rotors, front and rear, struts, front and rear, radiator and cooling system hoses, the fuel pump and filter, belts, the spark plugs had over 150 K miles and the catalytic converter had a code P0420 stored in computer memory,  and of course, she could not afford it. We called her back with a different quote which did not include any maintenance.  It was quite a bit less but still she could not afford it. We called her a third time with a quote for just the bare minimum to get the car rolling (the fuel pump) . She said she would call us back. We went as far as letting her know that we would honor some of the mothers' day repairs by donating back $400 since she had been unable to let the vehicle stay back then for us to do some of the Free work.

The call back never materialized, but a tow truck did so on our driveway. "I'm here to pick up the Toyota" the driver said. We replied that it was not put together as we were waiting for a call back from the client,  additionally, there was an authorized inspection fee that had to be settled.

The tow truck left and soon the owner appeared ready to do combat. She wanted to know why we did not release the vehicle. That was an easy one! We weren't authorized to release it as she never called us back as promised.

"I don't owe you anything as I authorized nothing, do you have my signature anywhere I authorized some work?" was her reply.  For the small sum we were charging, we decided it was easier to waive it as it wasn't worth the aggravation, so we did.

But somehow that was the trigger point for her rage. She threaten to post the worst review on earth on Yelp.  She then told us that everything we did for mother's day was just a scam to bring more work in.
Hugo, our service manager, was speechless listening to her rant and rave and could not understand what we could have done wrong to deserve such a verbal barrage.

After she left, I  asked Hugo "why do we give so much on single mothers day for so many years only to have it ruined by such few individuals?".

So next year when mother's day comes around. You can thank Sarah J for the fact we will be closed enjoying the day with our loved ones, instead of giving back to the community of single moms who so desperately needs it.
,,,,,,,,,,,I know by then, the anger will have disappeared (not the bad review), and we'll plan on doing it over again.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Have seen this problem before?

Have you seen this problem before?

A dear friend of mine, who trusts me implicitly, brought his 2013 Mercedes Sprinter to the shop for repairs. It was a weird, weird problem.
After an extended drive, usually after an hours’ worth of driving, the vehicle would go into limp-home mode and would only move at a speed of up to 5 mph.
This in not something we see with your typical Asian car problem!

If he sat there for an hour or so, it may clear itself and would continue to drive okay for another hour or so of freeway driving. As he was going from Ventura, Ca. to the southern border with Oregon, this became quite an ordeal. He was also short on time as he had a deadline to meet. He made it to Oregon, but not on time. This made the trip completely fruitless as he was there about a day late.

He made it back to Ventura but had to wait 6 times on the side of the road for the engine, transmission or whatever to cool and the systems to reset.
This is where the odyssey begins.
When he dropped his vehicle at my shop, he mentioned he had been told by a friend that it might a transmission problem. And that I should consider that.

We scanned the engine for codes or any data that may prove to be helpful. None! No codes and no available data that could offer a path to repair. We checked the amount and quality of the transmission fluid as he thought it may be related to that system. All okay.
Given the mileage on his vehicle, I suggested he take it to the dealer as it may be covered under warranty.  Lo and behold, it was!  But not before they had to tear down the power train management system apart. The owner had to agree to a quote of $9000 before they decided "miraculously" that it was covered under warranty.

Let me start by saying that if I had the vehicle as long as the dealer had it, my friend would have thought of me as incompetent, ignorant, perhaps even uncaring.

The local Mercedes dealer had the vehicle 37 days. Yes! 37 long days.
All this happened at a time when my friend was in the process of buying another $65K vehicle from the same dealer. They had a huge incentive to do right by this guy!
Their service department was blowing all the challenging work the sales team had worked for.  
Mercedes corporate got involved and they called their super-duper diagnostician. During the diagnostic process, it appears they took the wrong path at least three separate times as my friend told me they had called to revise the quote over and over. What started as a $500 initial diagnostic quote, soon escalated to as much as $9000. And every time they thought they had it, they had to admit they were "not correct" once more. Whatever they had replaced had not solved the problem.

The answer ended up being an electrical glitch inside the torque converter. Whatever the specific problem was, it would leave no trace. Once they replaced the torque converter, the vehicle would no longer go into limp-home mode.

I was relieved it had not been us who kept the vehicle so many days. I know my friend would have had a tough time accepting a bill for all that labor time and parts he would have been liable for. In the end, he was happy to have his vehicle back from the dealer and all the work having been done under warranty.

In electrical and electronics, there are no cookie cutter problems, especially on complex European vehicles such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes. No shop or tech is immune from spending a large amount of time testing only to come up empty handed. That Mercedes tech learned a lot from its exchange with that vehicle. My feelings are that, in the end, the dealer decided to eat the repair to salvage the sale my friend was already in the middle of.

I know of countless times we invested several hours of diagnostic time only to charge little or nothing because we didn't want to exceed the initial diagnostic quote. The knowledge gained from tough diagnostic problems benefits us all - our tech and the shop - unfortunately at a great cost.

Hopefully we can make it up in volume!
#diagnostic,#Audi,#BMW,#Mercedes, #Asiancars

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Time to review Reviews

Time to review reviews,

ABC Auto Care is the best Lexus shop in town!                     John L.
You guys are the Greatest auto mechanics!                             Robert C.
The best auto repair shop in Ventura!                                      Nancy M.
ABC Auto Care is the most Awesome Honda repair shop!     Stephany B.

Two years ago, I purchased a full-page ad in the newspaper. And this is the story.

The owner of the building next door petitioned the city for a permit to have an X rated strip joint on that location. I was opposed to it as I didn’t think it belonged there and that it may hurt all the businesses nearby. The fight is still going on, and at a minimum, it has been a two-year delay in their plans.

So, we placed a full-page ad in the paper to alert all the city of this coming tragedy. Since the content was somewhat incendiary, the newspaper editor would not post it if it didn’t have the creator's name on it. They felt that even a business like a strip club, had the right to defend themselves against its accusers. (One of our customers and a local attorney agreed to put his name on the ad and it ran that week.)

I didn’t like it at the time, but I have come to terms with the fact that they were right! Completely spot on!  For that I say congratulations to the Ventura County Star. You uphold the values and the right to free speech.

I like to see a real name attached to any article online or in print.
I dislike the fact that you can post anything on the internet, and you really don’t have to be responsible for any truth in its content. The truth, on the internet, has become a casualty, an innocent bystander per se.

If you haven’t figured it by now, I made up all the previous reviews at the top of the article. All I had to do was to come up with some fictitious names and bingo! On the internet, you can post anything you want and hide behind the anonymity of a made-up profile.
The people’s names above, exist only in my mind and the reviews are something I came up with just to prove a point.

The point is, all user content on the internet should only be allowed if the full name of the person is attached to it for verification purposes.

Yelp seems to be one of the biggest perpetrators of this as they don’t require their users to post a full name. Especially when some of that content will hurt someone’s business. They only require a “profile” name.

There are lots of people that, whatever they read on the internet, becomes their facts and truth. If it’s on the internet, then it must be true, right?
So, don’t fall for it.  Demand accuracy on any postings.  Ironic isn’t it, how blatantly I violated the one thing I complain about.  Just to make a point!

Lee L.