Richard Craver

Thoughts, Musings And The Occasional Rant

The Idiot Whisperer – Part 1

Written By: richardwcraver - Sep• 21•16

Not all customers in an auto repair shop are idiots. Actually some are nice, pleasant people that simply want to maintain their vehicles and move on with life. Then there are the others.

This morning I have dealt with a boy racer. Actually I did an alignment on his LX Accord two days ago. It is lowered, has adjustable rear camber adjustable arms turned full negative for ‘stance’, a ‘full race’ header and stainless steel exhaust all the way back to a fart can muffler. He has wasted spent money outfitting his LX Accord with urethane racing engine and transmission mounts, urethane swaybar bushings and an adjustable rear swaybar. The reason I was doing the alignment is because over the weekend he dropped the front suspension, quite and undertaking working in the driveway laying on your back, the likes of which he is proud, and installed an Acura TSX close ratio transmission, of which he is tremendously proud. There is a short throw shifter conversion with gates so narrow I had to shift slower to avoid missing 3rd and going into 5th. Advantage? Negative. When all this super coolness was complete, his steering wheel was not centered.

I did a complete alignment, which took approximately 1.5 hrs and incidentally pays me .8 hr flat-rate, but utilizing his boy racer blue anodized rear camber adjusters I put the rear alignment right on the money at the expense of his stance. The front is as close as one can expect with a lowered car with aftermarket doo-lollies bolted on, without buying camber correcting parts for the front as well. It actually drove pretty well for what I had to work with. In the end, with all the boy racer goodies he bought online, likely because he saw them in Import Tuner magazine, he still has a LX Accord that runs like an LX Accord but looks and sounds like a trash truck not a race car. Loves his car, hates his money.

Today he is back with a popping noise in the front that happens ‘all the time’ while driving. After much driving we (Two technicians) were finally able to hear and find the general area to go on a hunt. B-brand bushings look OK, no signs of parts rubbing. Nothing left to do but check the tightness of every bolt he could have possibly touched while dropping the suspension to put in the uber-cool transmission. I found several bolts that though not loose, could be tightened a bit tighter, then finally I found a snugged down but not tightened sway bar ball-link nut, tightened and test drove to verify it was the culprit. During the meantime I found an axle boot that he apparently pin holed while installing the transmission, but he doesn’t have time to ‘wait’ for us to fix it, but he’ll bring it back when he has time to ‘wait’. Drop it off you dumb piece of excrement! Why does everyone think that they have to wait for everything? Here’s a few tips for anyone wise enough to take a hint, don’t rush the guy (or gal) working on your car and you will get better quality work. Don’t drop in out of the blue and force the tech to pull off another job to do your oil change that scarcely makes him any money to begin with. We work on flat rate commission, not by the hour; this crap is real to us.

My second chance to be an idiot whisperer was a woman with a 284,000 mile Odyssey that makes a ‘clicking’ noise when accelerating. I drove the vehicle around for several minutes with no clicks heard. What I did hear was a chirpy trilling noise, more like a cricket than a click, that started at 2,000 rpm up to about 3,000.

It is always best to have an accurate description of noises, one can take off chasing a different noise that the customer is not at all concerned about. I like the way a previous shop owner handled noise complaints, “Our labor rate is X dollars per hour, we may have to put two techs on it, one to drive and one to listen, how long do you want us to look?”┬áIn this case I found I could readily duplicate the chirpy trill stopped with the transmission in neutral as well. So back in the shop I put a brake pedal depressor on the throttle to maintain 2,500 rpm with the noise loudly apparent. Turns out poor quality aftermarket belts were the culprit. They LOOK good but the noise was horrible. So she saved money with someone else’s timing belt job, but we get to hunt the noises. It amazes me the number of people who go elsewhere to save a fist full of dollars on a poorly done job with cut-rate parts, but won’t go back to that shop to complain about the fallout. Idiot lesson number two, you don’t always get what you wanted, but you’ll always get what you pay for.

Well usually.


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