In the automotive repair profession, ASE certifications, manufacturer certifications and years of service are just some of the ways to distinguish one as a pro vs. a parts-swapping technician.
I try to approach each and every job as a professional. This includes detailing my repair work and striving to make each repair as neat and orderly as possible. (Sloppy work usually means sloppy results.) It doesn’t matter whether the job is for a customer off the street or for another repair shop, it’s important that you do the most professional job possible.
I recently got a car from a small motor swap shop that I used to visit once in a great while. They never sent me a lot of work, but their techs would call me constantly asking for information on how to repair something; a very rude practice in my opinion.
Grudgingly, I told them I would look at this one particular car, even though it didn’t sound like one I wanted to deal with. The car had a zillion miles on it with a turbo/intercooler engine under the hood. The car definitely had seen better days.
While checking under the hood, I found a lot of new parts slapped on and several things that were out of place, most of which were not fastened down correctly with their retainers or clips. You could tell they had no idea what was wrong or what they were doing, and were only throwing parts at it, hoping it would start. The first thing I found were several wires that were poorly spliced together, and most of the relays were dangling off their brackets. I had to fix the wires even before I could check the rest of the systems.
The main complaint was the fuel pump wasn’t coming on. They had already replaced the fuel pump relay, and even though it had all the correct signals (at the relay), it refused to cooperate. I found something that I rarely see, but it does happen the relay was assembled backward. For now, the easiest solution was to reverse the leads at the relay.
Once I switched it over, the car started. It ran terrible, the service light was flashing and a misfire code was stored.
Upon further diagnosis, I found a broken wire at the #1 coil. I had the scope hooked up to a pressure transducer, and it was showing some weird exhaust pressure readings. Sure enough, a compression test on one of the front cylinders confirmed my suspicion: the converter was also clogged.
Every single intake bolt, intercooler bolt and the fasteners had never been properly tightened. Instead of pulling the intake section and intercooler lines off to get to the #1 cylinder and fix the wire, I thought it was time to call these guys and give them the news.
“We can handle it from here,” they told me.
They paid for my time, and, as expected, it wasn’t long before they needed more help. I could tell there was already some tension from the tone of their voices on the other end of the phone, and I was going to be the scapegoat for this car’s demise.
“I’d check the fuel pressure since it sounds like that might be part of the original problem, before all this other stuff went wrong,” I told him before he rudely hung up the phone.
I always thought these guys were a little shifty, and it wasn’t long before I found out for sure. The owner turned out to be just as unprofessional as his hired hands. What was my clue? He stopped payment on the check.
I was furious. But, I cooled down a bit and did not stoop to their level. Let’s be professional about this, I told myself. I kept my cool and called them.
My comments went like this…
“I’m not here to lie, cheat or steal, and I’ve never-ever done that to you or anyone else. Your lack of handling things in a professional manner portrays the caliber of a person you really are. If you had a problem, all you had to do was call me or bring the car back. But, trying to save a few bucks on your part, after the efforts I put in this, is not acceptable. I don’t want your money. I also don’t want your techs calling me to pick my brain for answers. It’s not about the money now; it’s about the principle.”
I said my peace, and hung up the phone. Case closed. Shops like these give the rest of us a bad name.
I felt 100% better after handling it this way. I didn’t see any reason to stand there toe-to-toe, and try to get compensated for my professional time. My professionalism means more to me than a few bucks. Let’s face it, for a repair shop to insult another shop, especially when they couldn’t figure out the problem on their own, shows that their true colors definitely came shining through.