Two cars pull up in front of my shop. The drivers didn’t come in, but I heard the commotion from my office window.
The boyfriend opens the hood of his girlfriend’s car. They both stare at the engine; she tells the boyfriend that she was supposed to drop off the car for an engine misfire and some parts store employee told her to come here. All she wanted was a ride home.
The boyfriend mumbles that he knows everything about cars, so there’s no reason to go to a repair shop. Besides, he continues, all of these repair shops are just going to scam you. He proceeds to tell her all about his great mechanical skills, along with some crude specifications that “these guys” (the repair shop, I guess) wouldn’t know anything about.
The more I heard, the less automotive savvy he sounded.
After about a half hour in front of the shop, they got back in their cars and drove off.
The last thing he said was, “I’ll stop at the super discount parts store on the way home and pick up the parts I need, and if they don’t have the right stuff, I’ll just make it work.”
WARNING, HACKER ALERT!
I’ll bet something will still be wrong when this guy gets done, and that “something” is going to be a hacked repair job. It’s not just the all-knowing boyfriend hacks out there, or the crazy uncle with a toolbox, it’s also the fly-by-night mechanics. They pop up from time to time to take a stab at repairing a broken hose with a coffee can and pipe cleaners, or they use some old plumbing parts for an exhaust pipe.
Somewhere, at any given moment, some hack is trying to super glue a plastic section back on to the intake manifold, duct taping a hole in the air cleaner box, or blocking off the rear brakes with a plug in the master cylinder so he doesn’t have to deal with changing out the rusted brake lines that are buried along the frame.
Some of the ludicrous, unorthodox ways people have attempted to repair their cars can boggle the mind. I’ve seen it all: globs of body putty inside fender wells; two wires twisted together with household electrical wire nuts; different-sized threaded nuts jammed onto ball joints; bailing wire and aluminum foil around a fuse; bathroom faucets for radio knobs; a 2×4 wedged between the block to keep the alternator belt tight … and the list goes on.
By the time these hackers get done, the cost of a proper repair has jumped sky high, and, in most cases, if the vehicle would have been brought to a reputable shop in the first place, the owner probably could have saved money in the long run.
I’d like to take some of these “cracked socket heads” and stand them in front of all the guys in the shop, just like they did at a Calvary outpost in those old Technicolor westerns. You know, the scene where the slacker soldier is in front of the formation and is being reprimanded by his superior officers. One officer reaches over and rips the insignias off his uniform. Then, a small squad of armed men march this ex-soldier out of the open gate. I’d personally offer my services to remove the insignias from any of these hackers and march these wannabe mechanics right out of town.
Every trade has its hacks, but, for some reason, the automotive field has a few extras compared to the rest. Maybe it’s just the number of cars out there, or the lack of any agency watching over parts sales and repair shops.
Years ago, you could get into most working trades — brick laying, carpentry, electrical, plumbing, mechanics, etc. — right out of high school, and they didn’t require much in the way of advanced training. You would start as a helper and work your way up as the boss saw fit. If you showed up for work on time every day, did what you were told to do, and got along with the rest of the crew, before you knew it, they let you try your hand at it.
That’s still true in a lot of trades, but times have changed for our business. A plethora of advanced issues confront today’s techs as the automotive field has become laden with electronics and advanced engineering. Now, more than ever, hacking a repair together means a comeback — or worse.
I suppose, as long as there are screws, clips, nuts, bolts and tools at the department store, people are going to tinker around with their cars and hack them up. But I guess I should also be thanking the hackers who are, in essence, providing great job security for all of us professionals out there.