This is the first in our series on Auto Repair Shops and You. While we have a lot of excellent customers, and we are meeting new ones every day, there may come times when even the best customer has questions about a repair or how stuff works in the shop. I think the best way to overcome that mystery and to give everyone a clearer picture is to start by explaining our processes and the general workings of the shop itself.
On an average day, we typically have between 5-10 cars pre-scheduled for work. Some of these may be just basic maintenance, oil changes, tire rotations, checking brakes etc. We will also have a few cars scheduled for more in depth things, be it a timing belt service, drivability issue, noise, warning light or other technical issue that takes time to diagnose. Now while no one can predict when something will go wrong with their car, not having an appointment means that we will do our best to work your car in as soon as possible. This can mean, the end of the day, but more likely it means, when another car has been diagnosed and we call to contact that customer for approval to repair and they don’t answer, we can wait for a return call and begin to look at your vehicle.
Now this is where we may get 20 minutes into checking your car out, and have to stop and begin the repairs on the other vehicle that had an appointment scheduled. Sometimes we get an approval for another vehicle and we have to wait on parts to arrive. This will allow us to spend more time on your vehicle. This is also why we don’t recommend waiting on repairs other than oil changes or tires because it may be hours between diagnosing and repairing. Once we determine the issue(s), we will give you a call or text if you prefer, to explain what is going on and what the cost for each repair will be. Then it’s up to you to decide if you want us to repair it or if you prefer to skip the repair or in some cases decide if the investment to repair is a smart choice compared to the value of the vehicle.
Other things that can affect repair time, and how soon we can get your vehicle back to you are parts availability and programming of new electronic components to the vehicle. Most basic parts for common vehicles we can have in hand either the same day, or the next day. Newer vehicles may have parts only available from the dealer, and older vehicles (even vehicles that are 8-10 years old) may have parts that are discontinued. This makes finding one that much more difficult. Because we have been in this business so long, we have a very good working knowledge of what parts you can save money on by going with an aftermarket part, and which parts are just a bad idea to use aftermarket on. No one likes to have to spend the extra money for an alternator from the dealer, but at the same time, no one likes to break down when coming home from work because that “new” but cheap part failed 3 weeks after we replaced it. Sure it’s covered under our warranty, but that does little to help you at 1am on the side of the interstate.
The programming aspect is becoming more and more prevalent as vehicles become more sophisticated. Some of the German brands even require a new battery to be “programmed” to the vehicle. I’ll get more into the programming side in another article, but the overall scope is that we can do some programming in house. Some programming we can have done by a local, specialty shop usually the same day. Other instances require programming be done before the vehicle can be started/driven and for that we have to schedule to have our on call programmer come in which may take a day or two.
Some tips to speed up the process:
- Write down and explain exactly what your complaint(s) are with the vehicle. Specifically what is it doing or not doing and any and all conditions when this happens. The clearer you can be, the easier it is for us to address the specific problem. Less time spent trying to find a problem translates to less diagnostic cost to the customer.
- Staying on top of scheduled maintenance. I can’t tell you how many times a vehicle will come in with a mis-fire and 150k + miles on it, only to find that the spark plugs have never been replaced. The same with Variable Valve Timing (VVT) codes because the vehicle is low on oil, and or is way over due for an oil change. Regular maintenance is so important.
- Check engine light. Having the codes pulled for a check engine light at a local parts store is fine. The issue is that parts stores are in business to make money, and they are not usually technicians. Most of the stores have a reference for each code with the 3-5 most likely causes of each code. They problem is pulling a code is not the same as diagnosing a car. Sure a mis-fire on cylinder # 3 could be an ignition coil. But it could also be a spark plug, injector, broken valve spring, or multiple other things. That’s the value in paying a tech to diagnose it. You’re not throwing money at parts and hoping it fixes it.
- Keep your vehicle relatively neat. I know that time is rare these days, I have 5 kids myself. Once a week, I take 20 minutes and clean out the big stuff and trash from my truck. Not only does it make it more pleasant for techs to get in and drive, but there are at least 4-5 times a month when a back seat or trunk is PACKED full of stuff and we need access to replace a battery, fuel pump, relay box, ect. Not all issues are planned, but if you take a little time each week just to get the big stuff out of the way it can make the job much easier.
- Let us know the best, most efficient way to contact you and be able to get a response. Sometimes we only have a limited amount of time to get a part that same day, so if you miss a call or text from us, we may miss that cut off and that will put us all out another day. This can mean the customer has to find a ride and it can mean a car lift tied up and unusable until the part arrives for the shop.
- While the internet offers an endless amount of information, bringing your vehicle in and telling us that you want xxx part replaced because that’s what you saw online is never a great idea. Sure it’s possible, but what happens when we replace that part and the vehicle still has the same problem? It’s never a faster way or a good situation for either party. We survive and stay in business through repeat customers. We aren’t going to do anything to intentionally jeopardize that by selling you stuff you don’t need or doing anything else to treat you or anyone unfairly.
- Remember, if you don’t understand something, or want to see a part to better understand what’s going on, NEVER hesitate to ask. I would much rather take 20 min to explain something to a customer and make sure that they are 100% comfortable with what we are doing, than to have them leave and a friend or family member tell them that they got ripped off by us because they are unsure of what we did and why we did it.
All in all, we always try to get customers in and out the same day when possible. If all else fails Enterprise will pick you up at the shop and you can leave the rental here when you pick your car back up.