Auto Service World
Feature   April 1, 2004   by

Could you say that again, please?

Sometimes auto repairs threaten to become routine (like when you have to change 47 Pinto gas tanks during a manufacturer’s recall campaign). But there’s one aspect of the auto industry that will continually surprise you – the driver.

Among the routine requests for oil changes, tune-ups, and new mufflers come the unusual, confusing, and often humorous statements that leave you scratching your head in bewilderment.

A number of years ago a young lady pulled up outside our shop in an import car. My colleague and I were leaning against our toolboxes having coffee as we watched her get out and try to check the oil. The car had a custom black-leather hood protector across the front that you had to peel back to open the hood, and that morning it just didn’t want to come off.

After struggling with it for a few minutes, she gave up in disgust, whirled on her high heels and marched into the bay where we were standing. "Would one of you guys please help me?" she demanded, with her hands on her hips. "I’m having trouble removing my bra."

Moving up the age scale, there was the elderly gentleman who gave me a tongue lashing one day because the repair bill on his wife’s car was three times as much as the one for his own. "Every spring and fall I bring both cars in for servicing," he thundered, "and the bills are always the same."

I explained that while his car had required an oil change, his wife’s vehicle had needed new front brakes. He was still upset, and it finally dawned on me that he wasn’t questioning the price of new brakes; he was upset that his wife got to spend more money on her car than he did on his. In his view, he wasn’t getting his fair share. He stomped out and we never saw him again, proving that some days you just can’t win.

Then there was the lady who was adamant someone had stolen her garage door opener and replaced it with another while the car was in for service. "I went right home, and the door wouldn’t open," she maintained. "I just know one of the staff is planning to steal things from my garage!" The service writer had to physically go to her house with some new batteries for the remote and do a demonstration before she was convinced otherwise.

One technician, Alex Flavin, recalls the day a man came into the dealership, asking for a tire rotation. The reason had nothing to do with better tire wear; his concern was his hubcap emblems didn’t line up and he wanted them all turned the same way.

Speaking of tires, every winter without fail, a customer shows up at Sean and Colleen Greenwood’s shop, asking to have the "summer air" drained from their tires and the "winter air" put in. Apparently summer air has too much moisture in it and could freeze up in the cold weather.

I recall an elderly widow who rolled her late husband’s "77 low-mileage Ford Bronco over a bank. Fortunately she wasn’t badly hurt in the accident, but the mint-condition 4×4 was a wreck. Determined to restore what had been her husband’s pride and joy, she bought another Bronco with a tired, oil-burning engine and asked us to build one vehicle out of the two. The main request? It had to look exactly like the original. It took over a month to swap engine, drivetrain, interior, and give it a complete paintjob inside and out, but she was thrilled with the outcome and drove it for years.

If only we could capture on tape the way some customers describe their cars. One lady, a naturopathic practitioner, called her car "Diarrhea" because of its color.

The strange requests also apply classic cars, like the guy who’d spent a lot of money restoring a 1959 Edsel Station Wagon, only to have me cut out the back floor so he could install tanks for a dual-fuel propane system. Or the farmer who brought in a 1965 Mustang 289 GT 4-speed car with Pony interior, and wanted the numbers-match engine and tranny removed and put into another plain-jane Mustang with a slightly better body.

Shop owner Gary Yorke from Vancouver (see page 29) called up a client to let him know the restoration on his classic Corvette was all finished. "That’s great," replied the man. "Can you deliver it to my house – in Edmonton?"

Whether it’s the guy who wants you to check his brakes but won’t let you remove the tires, or the one who insists you diagnose a noise while he holds the cell phone close to the engine, we’ve all seen it.
Sure, it can be a pain, but you have to admit it keeps life interesting.

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1 Comment » for Could you say that again, please?
  1. JOHN SEGATO says:

    I totaly agree with the saftey attributes of TPMS and have gone so far as sell it to customers at cost to ensure thier safety, however I still have had dozens of customers refuse to purchase it because they can go to my competitors, big an small, and buy winter sets without TPMS.

    Until it is writen into law and everybody is on the same playing field I will need to continue to give my customers the option of purchasing TPMS sensors.

    With respect to guys who say they aren’t losing business by demanding their customers buy TPMS sensors you are fooling yourself, you my not lose many in store customers but I can guaranty you are losing a boat load of online and phone customers to shops not requiring TPMS.

    Lastly I think it is totaly ridicules that automobile manufactures such as Hyundai that make cars in Canada for Canadian consumption are allowed to an DO sell cars without TPMS, what is this realy saying about the government’s position on TPMS!

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