Aug
29
2012

Quick Tips To Tell If Your Technician's Honest

Get out your clear nail polish & permanent marker

Quick Tips To Tell If Your Technician's Honest

Good ol' Google defines trust as the 'the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.' One way to know if your technician's reliable and truthful is to follow up on the work that they did. I mean, if you want to know if he really replaced your water pump you're going to have to visually check and see if you've got a new water pump. Of course, that seems a little extreme seeing as how you'd need to take the engine apart. Stay with me here... why not follow up with them on something small? Like an oil change or tire change? I'm a firm believer that if you can trust me with small jobs, you can trust me with big repairs. If I can be faithful with an oil change, I will be faithful with an engine replacement. It's a matter of integrity. 

So what small things can you follow up with after you get the car back from your tech? Here's a list... (wisdom passed on to me from another licensed technician) and make sure that you confirm your tech's checked these things. For example, not every shop verifies tire pressures with each oil change. So it's not fair to give your technician heck if your tire pressures are off when it wasn't expected that they check tire pressures to begin with. 
 
Tire Pressure

After you've confirmed that the technician checked the tire pressures, take your tire pressure gauge and check them yourself. They should all be topped up to the correct pressure. Got clear nail polish? Put some on the tire pressure valve caps at the seal. Check after you get the car back to see if the seal has been broken.  The seal has to be broken if they took the caps off to check the tire pressure.

Oil Filter

Would you believe that some shops change just the engine oil but don't replace the oil filter? That's why some not-so-reputable shops' oil changes are so cheap. If you have an oil filter that is easily visible once you lift the hood, put an X on it before you take the car in. After you get the car back, look again and make sure the oil filter has been replaced. Again, you can only give the shop heck if they billed you for an oil & filter change but didn't replace the filter at all. 
 
Fluid Levels

If you've asked the technician to check and top-up fluid levels, check your fluid levels and make sure they're at the correct level when you get the car back. For a neat tip about those not-so-easy-to-read fluid reservoirs, watch our webisode.

 

Aug
27
2012

Even Mummy Mechanics Get The Runaround

Poor customer service doesn't discriminate

Even Mummy Mechanics Get The Runaround

I recently took my client's car to our local Chevrolet dealership to have the PCM flashed as they have manufacturer-specific software. This car had symptoms that GM released two technical service bulletins for, noting clearly that the car needed to be flashed. I have to say, my experience with their service department left me... speechless. 

After paying for the service, I went to the car and tried to start it. The engine would run but then stall. I tried a few times and finally I pushed the accelerator pedal lightly to keep the RPMs up and the engine ran fine. The service advisor confirmed the issue but told me that the stalling condition was “normal” and all I had to do was “give it some gas.” You ever get that gut feeling that what you're being told is just not right? That's exactly what I felt. Even if you don't know how to fix cars, you're probably raising an eyebrow reading this.
 
Now keep in mind that I'm fully decked in my coveralls and my shop regularly buys parts from them. Clearly the service advisor knew that I worked in the industry. I asked him if he had to give his own car some gas every time he started it up, to which he didn't respond. The service advisor then asked me if I checked the fuel pressure. Why would I? The car ran fine when I dropped it off. I asked if his shop does a fuel pressure test when there's nothing wrong with the fuel system, again no response. 
 
He spoke with the shop foreman who apparently told him that the vehicle came in already with the stalling issue. I am 100% sure that the car didn't have stalling symptoms when I dropped it off, my client also confirms that he's never experienced that before. The service advisor then offered to have his technician diagnose it, for a fee of course. 
 
Although I had a good relationship with the dealership's parts department, I was ready to close our account altogether. I know I'm a small shop, a small-volume customer, a small invoice... but I didn't deserve to be treated that way by their service advisor. Their parts manager called me within the hour. He apologized and offered to give me a refund. I was impressed by the parts manager's promptness and commitment to customer service even though my frustrating experience was with the service department. 
 
The story ends well. I took the car to another Chevrolet dealership and had no hassles getting the car flashed. The car runs well now. And I still buy parts from our local dealer, only because we have a good relationship with the parts department. One thing's for sure, I have lost faith in their service department's ability to communicate professionally with their customers. 
 
So I know how you feel, if you've ever been talked down to. Whether I'm in 'regular' clothes or wearing my shop coveralls, there are some service advisors out there who will communicate inappropriately. In those cases, trust your gut feeling... chances are it's not you, it really is them. 
 
Aug
17
2012

Updating Your Engine's Computer

Even your car might want an occasional flash

Updating Your Engine's Computer

If you know anything about product testing, you'll know there's always the ideal world and then there's.... reality. Your car is no exception to this rule. When the vehicle is designed and manufactured, often faults aren't discovered until well after the car is on the road. Or what happens in the ideal world (at the design and testing stages) isn't a true reflection of the real world. 

Consider the recalls that come out from car manufacturers. They notice a problem with the car after it's hit the market despite all the product testing that was done previously. Many of you who use Microsoft Windows will know that there are always updates available to fix various bugs for even the newest release of Windows. 
 
It's becoming more common that your car's computer may need to have its software updated to correct driveability and emissions related issues. This is referred to as an ECU (engine control unit) flash or a PCM (powertrain control module) reprogram. Sometimes the parameters set at the factory level are too sensitive for real-world application so a simple flash will often correct that. With cars becoming more technologically advanced, the ECU constantly reads signals from various components to control systems such as power accessories, climate control and engine performance. 
 
Don't worry, an ECU flash isn't something that you need to keep on top of for maintenance. But if your technician ever says that they need to reprogram or flash the ECU/PCM, at least you'll know what that means!