Discover, Personal Musings, Uncategorized

What to Expect when you are Expecting Car Repair

As you reach into the pocket of your warm, heavy coat you notice snow flurries already beginning to swirl outside your window.  ‘I should have gotten the remote start option on my car,’ you think to yourself as you brace for the shock of cold about to envelop your body.  The door flies open and you run to the car, diving into the driver’s seat to escape an especially frigid gust of wind.  The ignition key in your hand is rapidly inserted into the ignition lock and you turn.  ‘Click’ responds your car, followed by an unnatural silence.  After the brief shock resulting from the unexpected, your senses report in.  ‘No music from the radio,’ the ears report to your brain.  ‘No lights on the dash,’ is the message from your eyes.  The brain quickly processes and the out of your mouth come the words, “Oh Crap!” (or, if you are so inclined you can insert your favorite swear word in to replace ‘crap.’)  Most, if not all of us, have found ourselves in a situation similar to the aforementioned.  Whether due to a dead battery, a flat tire, grinding brakes, or some other mechanical issue, unexpected vehicle trouble can derail your carefully scripted day.

I have been there too.  Yes, I have had my share of car mishaps, but most of the time I was there on the other side of the situation.  In my more than ten years of experience in and around the automotive industry I saw my share of bad brakes, tires and batteries.  I also met my share of angry, frustrated people living through the aftermath of their car sabotaging an important work meeting, or preventing them from picking their children up from school.  I have changed tires, supervised a shop repairing brakes and now stand in front of future mechanics and technicians and help them learn and grow.  I love the automotive industry and most of the people in it.  And it is because of that love I reach out to all of you today with this insider’s guide to visiting your shop.  Let me begin with the first, and probably most important tip…

  1. It’s NOT our fault.

Yes, we know that you are angry and did not expect to visit us today.  We understand you had a list of important tasks to accomplish stretching over a mile long.  We know this unexpected repair might not have been an item in your budget.  But no, your worn brakes, dead battery or flat tire is not our fault.  Please try to avoid channeling your anger into your interactions with us.  We are professionals  willing do everything in our power to get your vehicle up and running as safely and as quickly as possible.  However, I have yet to meet a mechanic able to walk on water (although some think they can) or turn water into wine (wouldn’t that be great for the break room!)  Take a deep breath and allow us to do our jobs.  A great inspiration of mine once wrote, “Don’t think of the problem, think of the solution.”  Which is exactly what we are doing in the shop.  A calm, professional interaction will allow us to get to the repair and have you back on the road in less time.  That being said…

  1. If it was our fault…

Refer to the line above referencing mechanics not being perfect.  We make mistakes too.  Most technicians and shops I have dealt with will work quickly to resolve any issue that develops due to an error or oversight.  Yes, we are embarrassed but will make it right.  You are our customer and we take pride in our work.  A calm, professional interaction will allow us to fix the problem and have you back on the road in less time.  You have a right to have your concerns heard, and we will listen, but arguing or venting is inefficient, and accomplishes very little.  You might feel better, but your car is still broken.  A mistake might lead to a lack of confidence in the repair shop, I certainly understand, but I will tell you another truism I have found…

  1. 99% of shops are not trying to cheat or scam you.

Yes, there are unethical shops in the automotive industry, probably at a similar rate to any other industry.  And just so you know, the shops cheating customers really tick us off.  Word of mouth, and “Gottcha” news stories designed to expose cheaters have resulted in a society where we assume repair shops are vile dens of snake oil selling scam artists, just waiting for an unsuspecting customer to swindle.  Subconsciously, or maybe consciously, many of you reading this (and thank you for making it this far) think automotive mechanics belong lumped with used car salesmen and personal injury attorneys.  This apprehension taints our interactions.  I am not saying you should blindly believe anything a mechanic tells you.  It is your money and you have a right to be skeptical.  However, instead of pouring over a quote for services searching for evidence that we are taking advantage of you, ask questions about parts or services that you do not understand.  Myself, and many of my colleagues would be happy to help educate you.  Lack of knowledge creates fear.  I want my customers to understand what is going on and not fear automotive repair.  This will allow us to build a better relationship and be more successful with our efforts to repair your vehicle.  But…

  1. Most technicians are introverted.

It’s not that we don’t want to talk to you, we would prefer being in our repair bay working on your car.  We want to put you at ease and educate you, but speaking to customers takes time away from the repairs your vehicle needs.  Your time is very valuable and we respect it, yet so is a mechanic’s time.  I do not know if you are aware that most mechanics get paid based upon the work they complete, not the hours they are at work.  If a brake job is slated to take two hours to complete, a mechanic will get paid for two hours of work.  If they have to spend thirty minutes explaining everything and the job is finished in two and a half hours, they get paid for two hours.  So, I am sorry if we are brief with you, it is not done out of disrespect, we just have an important job to do.  We need to get you back out into the world so you can get done what you need to do.  It’s not personal…

  1. We have a business to run.

The internet is an amazing invention.  You can find all sorts of information (true and false) on the internet.  I know when I charge you fifty dollars for brake pads you can find them online for thirty (maybe even with free shipping.)  But I have a business to run.  I have tools and equipment to pay for.  Rent and utilities as well.  Not to mention payroll, insurance, etc.  So no, I cannot match the internet price.  One of my mentors once said to me, “You cannot go into a steakhouse and expect to pay the same price for a pound of steak as you would pay at the grocery store.”  I do not understand why customers feel this is a problem.  The Nike sweater you are wearing was not sold to you at cost when you bought it.  If you would like to buy the brake pads for thirty dollars online, feel free to buy the tools you need to complete the repair and take the time needed to install the pads.  I would love for you to be my customer, but if you choose to do it yourself, that is ok too.  Working on your own car provides an immense amount of satisfaction.  Just do not ask me if you can borrow the technician’s tools.  That is a major pet peeve of technicians and, if you ask me, insulting.  “Sir or Ma’am, may I borrow the professional grade tools that you used your own money to purchase so that I can save a few dollars and perform the repair myself, while at the same time taking away from you the money you would have earned performing the repair?”  Those are the words a technician hears when you ask to borrow their tools at work.  Great customer service is one thing…

  1. But we are more like a doctor’s office than a drive through.

At an automotive repair shop you cannot always have it your way and you, the customer, are NOT, always right.  We are skilled professionals with years of hands-on experience, industry training, and/or college degrees in automotive technology.  It is our job to inspect the vehicle, discover the cause of the problem and find the correction.  You might not like what we tell you, but as the kids say, it is what it is.  Imagine you went to a doctor’s office with a cough, and during your check-up the doctor noticed signs of skin cancer on your back.  Would you expect the doctor to only prescribe a solution for the cough and not mention the cancer because it was not the reason you visited the office?  Of course not.  Why then will customers walk into an automotive repair facility and get irritated or put off when the technician finds another problem?  I have been told, “All I want is an oil change.  I do not want to buy anything else today so don’t bother telling me about it.”  It is our job to thoroughly inspect your vehicle every time you bring it to us, report on our findings, and give you options for a solution.  It is your decision to get the repairs, but if we neglect to tell you about a repair or service needed, we are depriving you of critical information related to your vehicle.

Well, you made it all the way to the end.  Thanks for spending some time reading what I had to write.  I certainly do not wish for you to experience an unexpected car problem any time in the near future, but if you do, you now have some new knowledge that will help guide you through the repair process.  And please do not forget routine maintenance.  Just like a trip to the dentist, a regular visit to an automotive shop for oil changes and tire rotations can lead to the detection of potential problems before they leave you stranded on the side of the road during a thunderstorm.

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