Today I took the 6 hour NY driver’s safety course. I took it online and it was simple and easy to do. My insurance company informed me that it it would lower my policy premium by $600 for the year, so I jumped right on it. If you have one of those in your state, (not sure if ALL states have it) I would recommend taking it. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I learned anything from taking it other then I would save a bunch of money but that was good enough for me!
A customer of mine had a breakdown after closing time and needed assistance. After being rejected by AAA for a tow (he had used up his 4 times) he frantically called around looking for a local tow to drop him in front of my shop. Keep in mind, this is NY during a ridiculously endless set of snowstorms and there was quite a bit of snow still on the ground. He was stuck in more ways than one and couldn’t leave the vehicle with half the front end jutting out of a snow bank into the street. After numerous rejections from various busy tow companies he was told by a company that although they were too busy, they would come if he agreed to pay them the exorbitant fee of $250 to be towed under 5 miles. He was frustrated but felt he had no choice, so he agreed. When the driver of the insanely overpriced tow truck arrived, he refused to even help him push the car out of the snow so the tow dolly could be attached. After a few swear words by my customer he reluctantly helped him. After 3 hours of sitting in freezing cold weather he towed him to my place and left the car., the misery was over.
When he finally got in touch with me I blew a fuse. $250 for a tow that is under 5 miles even in NYC is completely unacceptable and a clear case of price gouging. I find this behavior really revolting to say the least. If you wanted a premium tow on a cold snowy night then $125 would have been excessive but passable…$250 is gross. I will be assisting him in taking this to the next level, hopefully a refund or a case with credit card company, and at the very least a complaint with licensing authorities.
Sometimes you have no choice but to pay up but please, if you must in that moment, then make sure to follow up later.
Update: He called the main dispatch number at the tow company and went “Cruella” on them and they credited him back $100.
I write mostly about what it means to get the most from your mechanic, but this isn’t a one way street. You have a play a role and be a good customer as well.
Case in point:
We were fixing another classic truck that had many issues. I called the customer and gave her a price, but explained it doesn’t include one of the issues, the lack of heat. She approves the repair so we go ahead with the job. After we get the vehicle running we address the lack of heat issue and we diagnose it as a fairly simple heater hose repair for a total of $43. I called her and explain that it’s a minor repair and can fix it for the $43. She replied with a long winded account of how she’s already approved the amount and she can’t have the bill keep going up…blah, blah, blah. I let her go on for awhile and finally I say, “Look, it’s basically $43 for heat, do you want heat for $43 or not?” After hemming and hawing, her answer was, “Um, yes.”
$43 for heat back in your car would be a good deal to most people, apparently not her. A little appreciation for finding a simple inexpensive fix would have been a nice simple “Thank you”. Don’t go on and on and on. Work WITH your mechanic not against them, it’s best to have a good relationship that can benefit you over the long haul.
There are many small things that need repair on this particular vehicle (not the beautiful one pictured) and my guys already did a few of them (gratis). After her behavior I wasn’t feeling very generous though.
Keep your emotions in check if you can.
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!