It was a picture perfect day at the auto repair shop: the bays were full, the phone kept ringing, the front door bell never seemed to stop, and everyone was humming a tune. Parts were ordered and came in correct the first time. No snapped off bolts, no rusted parts, and no fuss about how long things were taking or how much it cost.
Somehow, some way, there was going to be a loose nut thrown into the activities of the day.
Two new jobs showed up at the same time. A nice, clean 2007 Ford F-350 4WD diesel with an ABS light on, and a really dilapidated 1997 KIA with charging system problems and no light on.
The F-350 owner was practically enthusiastic about having his truck checked out. I’d even say he seemed rather proud about the whole thing. From there it was textbook diagnostics, run a few tests, check the codes, hook up the scanner and watch the speed sensor PIDs. Piece of cake.
On the other hand, the same explanation of the diagnostic charges was given to the owner of the KIA. That didn’t go over as well at all. Seems the KIA had been around the block and around again. He has had it checked out at various shops, which all ended up ticking him off and showed no positive answers about his car’s problems. It took more than a little effort on my part just to get the owner to allow me to diagnose the problem. He finally said “yes” and handed me the keys.
The paint was faded, the clear coat was peeling and the windshield was full of splinter cracks. The dull hood had greasy handprints all over the front edge where people were grabbing it.
It gets better. I grabbed the door handle, pulled, and the door didn’t budge. The owner then leans out of the office front door, while waiting for his ride, and said, “Ya gotta lift it up pretty hard and then jerk it open.” I waved thanks and gave the door a good yank. It creaked and moaned as it swung open.
The interior of the car was a pit. Cigarette butts, papers, fast food cups and other assorted trash littered the interior. The smell was oppressive. But I said I’d look at, and after all the commotion and persuading at the front counter, I’m bound and determined to diagnose this problem even if I have to wear a gas mask to do it.
The dilapidated KIA ended up in the bay next to the pristine F-350 with the ABS problems. Both vehicles didn’t take long to diagnose. The diesel just had a faulty front speed sensor, while the KIA had two problems: A faulty alternator and a strange problem with the instrument cluster. The charge light wouldn’t come on. Since this car has an alternator that is controlled by the PCM, the charge light is just there to indicate the condition of the charging system to the driver. It can charge just fine without a working charge light on this particular car. The only thing to do now was to write up both estimates.
I was so sure the big, shiny diesel job would be a “do” that when I called to get prices on the parts, I told the parts supplier to go ahead and send the speed sensor, but hold off on the alternator. I just couldn’t see the KIA getting done.
Next, I informed the customers. I explained the results of the test to the Ford owner and gave the estimate for the repair. Well, I don’t know if it was the price of the repair or what, but instead of getting an ‘OK’ as I expected, I got an earful about mechanics, the automotive repair business, and how we (mechanics) are all just a bunch of rip-offs taking advantage of hard working people like himself. Really? And to think, he was so eager and obliging to have it checked out. There was no repairing the damage to my ego or this guy’s distrust of auto repair. It pretty much knocked the wind out of my sails. I hung the phone up knowing this job wasn’t going to happen.
Discouraged, I took a deep breath and made the call to the KIA owner. I went through all the steps needed to bring his little car back to life, including the part about needing to pull the instrument cluster out to see why the charge light wasn’t working. I expected this guy to flip out but, to my utter amazement, he said, “Do it. Do it all. You’re the first person to make any sense out of what’s wrong, and I think you’re the man for the job. I expected it to cost a few bucks. Just call me when it’s ready.” I was still in shock as I hung up the phone.
Here’s the rundown: The owner of a grease-covered car that I wouldn’t put a nickel into is having me do the whole thing; the owner of an exceptionally clean diesel goes on a rampage about how rotten car repair people are. Go figure.
I guess it just goes to show, “Ya can’t judge a book by its cover, or an owner by his car.”