I was visiting a friend this weekend in the Berkshires and we had a situation. We stopped at a farm to buy some Maple Syrup and my friend got so excited to jump out that she didn’t turn the key completely off in the ignition. We spent a bit of time sampling flavors and learning about tree tapping (this part has nothing to do with the car repair, it’s just fun to relive it). When we got back to the car the battery was dead. Luckily for us, the adorable farmer had a ton of tools handy to help us. We got the car started again, but when she lifted her foot off the gas and the rpm’s came down to an idle, it immediately died again. Now these two ailments don’t really go together, one is a battery issue and one is an idle issue, I was a tad perplexed. After a few tries we decided she would just drive two footed, never letting the rpm’s get too low, and we’d get back home. This was a successful tactic and we made it home.
After a couple of calls to my mechanics they both agreed that probably what happened was that since she never turned the key fully off ,the electronic idle control just got stuck and needed to be reset. We shut the car off for 10 minutes and started it back up and it’s been fine ever since.
There’s quite a bit of guess work involved in car repair and sometimes it IS something stupid that we do ourselves that cause the issues. Try to pay attention to all details when driving….and don’t lock your keys inside, or leave your lights on…I’ve been seeing a lot of that lately!
I get a lot of questions about “check engine” lights on dashboards. Either people have no idea what it is or they have checked their manual and know “exactly” what it is. The truth is the only way to know for sure is to have it checked by a code reader. For instance, I’ve had people tell me that the check engine light came on and their manual said it was an EVAP (emissions leak) code. But there are many different codes that can be produced so I don’t understand why any dealer would put that there.. Many manuals will just say to rush immediately to the dealer and do not pass go. Of course you should do that if you’d like to overpay.
Most of the codes are universal…a P0300 is a random misfire in most cars, however many variables in each vehicle can change the actual diagnosis. If a check engine light comes up on your dashboard don’t panic, especially if your vehicle isn’t acting up in any way. Make your way to your local mechanic and have it checked out. As a matter of fact, why don’t you ask them what the code is so you can Google it yourself. It never hurts to learn something!
I have a very simple question. How often should I have things checked out on my car, i.e. brakes, hoses, belts, etc.
That may be a simple question but it’s certainly an important one. I always recommend finding a good local mechanic to work on your car and included in that, your oil changes. Every few thousand miles when you have your oil changed is the perfect time to have other things checked out. This is why I don’t recommend those quick change oil establishments (this and a few other reasons like they don’t hire real mechanics and I’ve seen them really damage a few engines). If you have a mechanic you can trust you can mention that you’d like these items checked when you go in for those oil changes (if they’re at all honest they won’t try to replace things that don’t need changing), they also shouldn’t charge anything to check.
Prevention is the best medicine and it’s true in car repair as well.
Twice, in the past week, I’ve had to explain what it meant when a dealer “certified” a used car. A customer called and had 2 cars she was choosing from, one was a “certified” dealer vehicle which was $3,000 more than the privately owned, yet very similar car. She insisted the dealer one was better because it came with a 100,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty. I laughed, and suggested she call them back and get a better explanation and, of course, 10 minutes later she called me back to say “um, yeah you’re right, it means nothing”.
The second call was from another customer who just wanted advice on how to proceed with finding a car, but said the same thing. He insisted if he went to the dealer and got a “certified” car he would be assured of a long term guarantee. I had to burst his bubble as well.
I have to give kudos to dealers for being successful with the marketing ploy, but sadly that’s all it is, a ploy.
The best way to buy a car is from a private individual, after taking it to your mechanic and having it checked out. we charge $65 for this service. I’d also recommend a carfax report. With those 2 checkpoints you’re on your way to having a great car for an average of 20% less then you’d pay at the dealer. I know it’s a lot easier to just walk into the dealer, shop around and leave with a car. If you have money to burn, then by all means, go for it. If not…Craigslist here you come!
Recently, while on vacation, I was speaking to a mechanic who told me his boss was constantly walking around asking them “if they were finished” and wondered if I harassed my employees in this manner. Of course I said no. Why would I do that? We are a team and I generally know where they are in the process but even when I don’t, why would I want to put any pressure on them to finish a job? I’m much more interested in a job getting done properly than quickly. This is a selfish quest, it’s about expediency. Sure, I want to finish the job, but also want to make sure the customer doesn’t return with the same issue. There are plenty of returns in this business and the best thing an owner can do, is limit them as best as possible. I hear plenty of complaints from people about how they got a car back from a mechanic and it was doing the same thing days later. This is true of my customers as well, so I’m not gonna claim anything different. The difference is when I do get a phone call my first reaction is “bring it right back in”, I’ve heard other shops will sometimes give the “run around”.
This is a customer service based business model, and any shop who gives you any type of run around, in any way, should be avoided. I really don’t understand it, we are here to serve and to make a living while doing so. I often wonder how some of these employees can even stand going to work everyday if they have to engage in constant arguments with their boss, sounds horrible to me. I’ve always maintained that when you go into any business and see happy employees then you are seeing good management and most likely a quality product, so look around the next time and see if the mechanics seem miserable and won’t look you in the eye. If they won’t, then RUN!
I get that everyone is out to make a buck but what I don’t get is why people need to take advantage to make one.
Case in point: I made a mistake yesterday that I rarely make. I was looking for a very hard to find bearing for a classic 60′s Mustang. I got a couple of leads online and then followed it up with a phone call because when dealing with this type of obscure part, getting a photo and confirmation that they actually have the part in stock, is key. After continually striking out, I hit pay dirt when I was told that someone had a used one. Now a used bearing is not really optimal but sometimes you have no choice. This is where my mistake came into play, I actually uttered those words and thereby revealed my desperation. Shortly after an email arrived with the photo:
It’s hard to tell from this pic but this bearing is about 1” in diameter. The photo came with text: “Used bearing $75”. HUH??!!! Now some of you might be nodding your heads saying, well that’s what it’s worth since there are none, and I guess in a greedy creepy universe you would be right, but not in mine. I deal with old cars all the time and anyone who does knows full well that we aren’t in this just to make money, we’re also preserving the classic beauty of our American vintage car culture. Gouging each other just shouldn’t be in the cards. Well at least I thought we knew that, or I hoped we did, or I’m living in a fantasy (possible) and at least I know.
Sure I could overcharge people all day long since we work on a ton of these classic cars but why would I? We enjoy doing it and we love to see them arrive on a tow truck and then drive back out the door. Many of them not even looking great but still driving good. We treat it like all the rest of our repairs, basing the pricing on labor time and parts cost…period, not adding a premium because it’s special.
The followup to the story…I know you’re dying to know if I bought that bearing.. the answer is NO. I have the best mechanics here and one of them was able to get another old bearing to work…for free.
I guess this is simply just another one of my rants about greed in this industry and again I’ll receive emails about why I’m wrong…fine….have at it.
Do you have any advice on how I can stop people from breaking my window to get inside even though I have NOTHING in there to take?
Well most car owners in urban areas have had thishappen to them at least one time. Even me. I’ve seen people try everything but believe it or not, the thing that seems to work the best is to simply leave a note on the car that says “NOTHING INSIDE, DOOR OPEN”. And obviously, leave the door open. Simple and effective…. a little scary too, but seems to work. I’ve had people bring in their cars for window replacement and tell me they had a note that said “NOTHING INSIDE” but so far no one has come with one that had what I’m suggesting and I’ve suggested it to many, so I’m assuming it’s working.