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.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

You too-be can be a doctor

Hello Doctor, how are you today

Well, if it isn't my favorite patient.
What brings you here today?

I've been feeling kind of icky in the mornings, did some research on "You tube" and found out it's just a Body code B 336

Yes,  it's a heart circuit code, possible tachycardia, ventricular atrophy or maybe even the whole heart is shot!  Some important testing is required to narrow the problem down.
What do you think?

Well, "You tube" told me that it's due to my high blood pressure, I saw on some guy's video I need to take a blood thinner in order to lower the viscosity of my blood and thus lower the pressure.  And he's reliable!  He has over 100 followers!

And you are going to do what "You tube" suggested?

Yes!  It said I need to go on the blood thinner Coumadin, that should lower the blood pressure, It also said if it doesn't work, take two pills of Hydralazine and Nitrates.  And, if I'm still alive in the morning log back in to "You tube" and recheck for other possibilities as the initial diagnosis was obviously wrong.     It continued to say that if I improve my mood, not only I can be healthier but also happier. So I thought I should go on Paxil, and since one of the side effects is diarrhea, I can also loose weight at the same time. Isn't that a wonderful drug? So what do you think about that?

That's crazy!  Don't you think we should do some testing before you do something that expensive and invasive.   All on what was prescribed on "You tube" !
And I won't write a prescription for those powerful drugs you mentioned!

No problem! I got my own!

Maybe I shouldn't even ask but, how did you get them?

My next door neighbor's dog was barking a lot and his vet prescribed canine Paxil, my neighbor told me it's the same thing for humans, he knows because he used to be a janitor at a Pharmacy, Well, I figured I'd use Fido's Paxil and save some money. As for the Coumadin, I got it online from a web site in Nigeria, I'll be saving a ton of money and all I had to do was to give them my bank account number. Isn't that great?


It seems every single day, we get someone who brings their own diagnosis and parts, wants to know how much you would charge to install and, would blame you if it does not fix the problem.
What a world we are becoming!

Friday, April 7, 2017

What's wrong with you!,,,,,,,,people?

I simply don't get it. How did it ever get to the point where we ask a professional for some service to be done, and have the expectation or audacity to think it's going to be free. 
It was last Friday, late in the afternoon. I don't know what your Fridays are like, but mine are very busy.
We usually don't schedule any work on this day and use it to catch up on the jobs from earlier in the week. Frequently we will work until 6 or even longer in order to accommodate all the clients that had to have their vehicles done before the weekend.
So it's last Friday around 3 P.M. and someone shows up at our door. They told us they had their vehicle somewhere else and they messed up everything with their brakes. They broke one wheel stud and now the vehicle is making some loud noises as it moves forward. It's impossible to ignore and not to notice. 
They asked if we would remove the wheel, the caliper and pads, the brake rotor and possibly the wheel hub and bearing assembly all  in order to inspect and correct the problem someone else had caused. 
A few minutes before, we had just joked in the office that the next person to take another vehicle that day would be "Shot for their crime".
I should have just said "we can't do it today" but instead I said "We'll be glad to help you, the quote to inspect and or repair is sixty five dollars".
A very indignant lady replied "You're going to charge me just to look at the car?!"
Nothing gets my blood pressure higher than someone who wouldn't work one minute of their life for free, but expects other to do. It took a lot for me to keep my mouth shut. 
They proceeded to make a few phone calls, (prior to that, they used our free wi-fi to find the other places)  and found someone who "wouldn't charge them just to look at the car".
I have to say I was happy to see them go. I certainly wouldn't go to any of your places of business and ask you to do something and not pay for it. 
I continue to write about patience, there is a reason for it. You can't be an auto repair business owner if you don't have an immense amount of patience. But it has its limits!


It seems to me that on a daily basis, I get a client who at whatever age, they still believe in the tooth fairy. How do I know that you ask?

It's about people thinking that other people, not themselves, will work for free.

On a really busy day, with all the bays full and all the technicians working as efficiently as possible, a client proceeded to educate me on the merits of "free diagnosis"

 You see he said, other shops don't charge for diagnosis, if I have the work done they recommend, they will waive "diagnostic fees" and you should do the same. Maybe then you will be more successful!
Mind you, this is the same guy who bought a new BMW and told me they had given him free oil changes for the length of the warranty. I tried to explain then, he merely had prepaid for those oil changes. He didn't believe me then either.

But that really got me going!  I proceeded to explain that the most important thing about a successful repair is the diagnostic work. I explained that you can do the best work on a missed diagnosis and the ensuing result is going to be a failure, always. You can't fix an engine misfire by having diagnosed it as failed suspension shocks

Backtrack to the beginning of this exchange.

2006 "Corvette" comes in with a mysterious intermittent squeek, It only happens at slow speed of 15-25 mph and the vehicle has to be under some kind of load. Difficult at best to try and recreate in the shop, you also need two people in the vehicle as one drives and the other tries to locate the ever so faint source of the noise.

It took about 3 man hours to find the source, it turned out to be coming from the drive line area. We explained we would have to remove it for further inspection. Gave him a quote to inspect and he agreed.

Once we removed the components and inspected, we gave him a quote for all the necessary parts and the labor to fix. He agreed again. That's when all the problems begun!

-you are not going to charge me for the testing time are you? After all, you get to do the work and you are still charging me for that. Besides, I saw how somebody else had a similar problem on you tube, if you had started with that, you wouldn't have spent so much time.

Sir, if I had started with that, as you say, and then ask you to pay me for 10 hours of work to remove the transmission for further access, based on a you tube video, do you think you'd be willing to do that?

-No! I'd want to be sure that if I was to spend that money, the problem would be in the area you pointed. I certainty wouldn't want to spend all that money on a guess, do you think I'm nuts?

Bite my tong,,,,,, silence,,,,

We now have two diagnostic choices, and they are:

1) The you tube way, no charge to test, goes documented as "owner request"
No shop responsibility if it does not produce the results the owner intended.

2) We test and it's a separate line item from the repair. We guaranty the correctness of  answer.

So! which one will it be this time Sir?

“How much” to,

I get asked this question so many times a day, I wish there was a single answer to the question.

How much to do ” head gaskets” ? How much to replace the engine, how much to replace my brakes, how much to do the struts, how much to do a ” timing belt” etc. etc. etc.  You get the idea.

Some shops may choose to quote the lowest possible price to get the vehicle in, figuring they will add all the other necessary items once the vehicle is in the shop, the work being done and the client has little choice.

Some will give you a more realistic price and not compromise their integrity,
Realize that if you ask, “how much to replace the head gaskets”? what you get is the price to replace the head gaskets and just that. Nothing else.

Let’s use the example of a 2002 Cadillac SDV with the North star engine.
The initial cost to answer the question on the phone is $2090 in labor and $665 for a head gasket set,  Total price of $2755 and that could conceivable be the quoted price over the phone. But now, let’s look at the actual price, the one you would get once the job is half way done and you have little choice.
Add $500 for machine shop work (necessary to assure no damage to heads)
Add $380 worth of radiator, thermostat and cooling system hoses
Add spark plugs $100
Add cooling system clean and flush  $165
Add Head new head bolts $180
Add head bolt inserts along with the work to retrofit (necessary on about 90% of the instances this job is done)  $800
Suggest new radiator since most head gaskets blow due to overheat $525
So now, imagine you get a quote of $2755 and a day or two later you are asked to spend another $2650  at a time when there is no going back.
So back to the original question, would you rather get the realistic price or the “come in to the shop” price?

Let’s take it one step further.
 You make the phone call to Shop 1 and the quote is $2755 ,then you call another shop and the quote is $5400  but they explain to you that it is a realistic out the door price. So, which shop is going to get your business, shop 1 or shop 2?