On one of many slow days at the shop, I had a small job come in from one of the local tire shops. This rather young girl brought the car to me from the tire shop that’s just a few blocks away.
She told me she was the owner and that the tire shop was rude and wouldn’t help her, so I called the tire shop to find out what was the deal.
Her problem was an occasional “no start.” The tire shop didn’t want to get involved with this vehicle because it had a breath analyzer attached to the starting system.
My opinion, if you get behind the wheel in a condition that would require having to blow into a plastic tube to start your car, you really should take stock of your life.
I needed to find out why this car won’t start. The first thing I did was disconnect the breath machine to verify if the problem was the car or the analyzer.
Once the unit was disconnected from the car, I had to call the 800 number on the device to let them know that it’s an authorized disconnect, and not the driver trying to bypass the system.
It’s quite an ordeal. Not so much the physical disconnecting of the unit, but the information you have to provide to prove that you’re actually a repair shop when it comes to properly disconnecting the unit.
With that accomplished, I got back to diagnosing the problem at hand. It turned out to be a bad starter motor. I called the parts warehouse and got prices on a replacement starter for the owner. Later that day, the owner called back and said they had just installed a starter so I must be mistaken.
It was a newer starter, not really a quality rebuilt unit, but it had a lifetime warranty. Against my better judgment, I removed the starter so they could handle the core and warranty.
She came in for the old starter and sometime later showed up with the replacement starter. I informed her that the quality of my diagnostics or the charges had not changed. But, if the car failed to start for any reason beyond the bolts falling out of the starter, it was coming out of her wallet. It went in one ear and out the other.
A while later, Grandpa showed up to pick up the car with one hell of a chip on his shoulder. (I think old Grandpa threw back a few before he showed up, too.)
“This is higher than the tire shop,” he said angrily, “I don’t think I should have to pay that much for it if the other shop could have done it for less.”
I reminded him that the tire shop may have a lower labor cost, but they also said they didn’t have the necessary skills to actually make the proper diagnosis and/or the repair. He rambled on about how he had fixed cars when he was younger and since he knew a lot about cars he asked if I could cut him some slack.
Sorry Grandpa, maybe I’m doing you a big favor; you spend a few bucks with me, that way you’ll be a few bucks shy of that next six pack. That might keep you or your alcoholic granddaughter from getting behind the wheel drunk, and I might actually be preventing a future fatal accident.
So do me a favor, save some of that hot air for the breath machine. You’ll need it to start the car.