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Auto Repair, Hatchback, Truck, Sedan
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#9 of 2869 Re: Thanks for forming this new forum [Mr_Shiftright]
May 10, 2012 (5:39 pm)
"Well greed is a subjective issue in many cases." But it is objective in others. My dentist charges a sliding fee scale; depending on the income level of a client. That seems like an objective, non greedy way of dealing with the 2 level economy in which we now live. The fees from higher income clients offset the low fees from poor people. I occasionally did that in my work; but it depended on how I felt about the client; their car, and what they claimed about their finances. I know I can't please everyone; but that is no reason to not try when it seems appropriate.
I don't need your shop to drop what they're doing in order to scan my computer. Auto Zone does it for free (or so I've been told). But if you give me a senior citizen price break if I bring the car in; I'd find that attractive. The shop where I last had my car smogged did that. They also gave me a printout of how to adjust my idle speed (no, I did not need it) so I could drive down the street and slow the idle down in order for the car to be testable. And they did not charge extra for the retest.
I'm not asking for people to suffer for poor people's sake; just to be kind once in a while (when and how is optional). Besides; it comes back multiplied...
I didn't mean to imply that certifications are required to do auto repair. I just meant that pricey shops often make a big point of posting certifications on the wall where clients can see them; because they impress some people.
#10 of 2869 Re: Thanks for forming this new forum [zaken1]
by Mr_Shiftright HOST
May 10, 2012 (5:49 pm)
Well that's called "goodwill"--the opposite of goodwill is probably more accurately----selfishness.
Greed, to me, is blatant overcharging, not being stingy with your time.
As for a sliding scale, that becomes more difficult for a mechanic than a dentist, because you didn't just spend $30,000 on a new set of German teeth, but you might roll in with a brand new, or new-ish car---that sort of upsets the generosity equation for most mechanics.
#11 of 2869 Re: Thanks for forming this new forum [Mr_Shiftright]
May 10, 2012 (6:09 pm)
The dentist may get off easier too if people have insurance. Customers seem to get more upset at their dealer service department after the warranty expires. Unfortunately, I also think that too many dealers are putting in misplaced incentives that turn the service writers into commison based sleazebags. The mechanics aren't the problem!
#12 of 2869 Re: Thanks for forming this new forum [berri]
by Mr_Shiftright HOST
May 10, 2012 (6:12 pm)
Exactly--being a line mechanic at a dealership is no picnic.
#13 of 2869 Re: Thanks for forming this new forum [Mr_Shiftright]
May 11, 2012 (7:48 am)
"Being a line mechanic at a dealership is no picnic"
No, it's not. A guy I know just retired from a busy domestic store at age 65. You won't see very many guys working the line that are past 50. It is hard, frustrating work and it is no longer easy to "beat the clock" like it was in the "old days".
His shop charged something like 110.00/hr and he got paid 20.00 per flat rate hour. On slow days, he was lucky to flag three hours. He no longer overhauled engines or even starters. These days, everything is replaced rather than rebuilt.
This friend of mine started in the 60's. When a car cam in running badly he knew it was one of maybe four things and he was quickly able to nail down the problem and fix the car. He was a excellent mechanic (notice I didn't say technician?").
Because of his skills he was often able to "flat rate" a job and complete a three hour job in two hours. Those days have, for the most part, ended.
Mechanics/Technicians buy their own tools and they don't buy them (usually) from Sears or Harbor Freight. They buy the good stuff that they know will hold up.
It is pretty common for a technician to have 40,000 or more invested in tools and new tools are always needed as the cars change.
My recently retired friend does his best to talk young guys out of joining the trade for the reasons I mentioned. Pretty sad.
Shop owners have it tough too! Overhead is staggering and the new equipment that is always required is beyond expensive!
All an all, it is a damm tough business anymore and I have nothing but respect for the guys who manage to stick with it and do an honest job!
#14 of 2869 late to the party
May 15, 2012 (10:21 am)
While I can't call myself an older master mechanic, I did learn from one of the best. I also started when I was about 5 years old helping out in his shop, so I guess my knowledge does go back quite a ways. I did work in a professional capacity for him, on and off, all through school. The most intensive were my summers home from college.
What I've found interesting, and possibly a bit distressing, over the past couple of decades is how, mostly due to cars becoming electrical marvels, as Dick pointed out, so many younger mechanics are completely deprived of "old fashioned" troubleshooting techniques. Essentially, if their computer doesn't tell them what is wrong, they are often at a loss. They can diagnose a new BMW, but show them a pre-OBD car with a vacuum leak and they are as useful as a Jiffy Lube Oil Change Monkey.
I fear that, at some point, older cars will die off more from the lack of ability to repair than anything else.
#15 of 2869 Re: late to the party [qbrozen]
May 15, 2012 (3:10 pm)
so many younger mechanics are completely deprived of "old fashioned" troubleshooting techniques.
That was kinda my point about many of the modern mechanics, and the reason that the current philosophy seems to be, "keep replacing parts until it starts working again." I agree with zaken1 when he says the test of a good mechanic is to "know which parts do not need to be replaced; and to only replace parts which actually are defective.", but I know for a fact that, at least among GM dealers, it's hard to keep a mechanic that has those skills. Working at GM's Proving Ground, I met at least a half dozen excellent mechanics who had started their career at dealerships, and once they had proven their worth, had been hired (stolen from the dealership) by the Company. So we have excellent mechanics within the company, but out there in the public sector, where they can make an impression on the customer, we are left with the less-experienced diagnosticians. We need to re-think our philosophy if we want to keep our customers happy.
I had one more thought (well, OK, maybe 3 more thoughts) about auto repair, (looking at it from a do-it-yourself standpoint. Two basic things are necessary to repair a modern automobile.
1. The service manual for that particular vehicle.
2. An inexpensive diagnostic tool for reading trouble codes.
Without these tools, you're working blind.
Oh, I forgot... one more thing....
You must be able and willing to read!
#16 of 2869 Re: late to the party [lovemygrandam]
May 16, 2012 (6:55 am)
1. The service manual for that particular vehicle.
2. An inexpensive diagnostic tool for reading trouble codes.
Yes, this is true ... to an extent. I just might substitute a couple of things. A manual is not absolutely necessary when you have the internet. I haven't referred to a manual in a couple of years now because I've found the info on the net to be more comprehensive.
As for the diagnostic tool ... an inexpensive one won't always get the job done, at least on late-model vehicles. Not a generic one, anyway. On my VW and bimmer, a generic code reader would have been less than useful. Fortunately, there are cheap aftermarket solutions that are car-specific in these 2 cases. Nowadays, the proprietary systems give you much more specific information than the generic readers do, and there are many cases where that proprietary system is only available at a dealer or a specialist who has invested the money.
#17 of 2869 Warranting parts
May 22, 2012 (11:37 am)
The mechanic purchased the part and installed it. He marked up the cost from his wholesale cost to retail price. The part failed soon & a replacement was needed. He charged for his labor again for R&R the defective part. I maintain he should not have charged for his labor in replacing the defective part because when he took a profit on it, he took responsibility for its effectiveness.
#18 of 2869 Re: Warranting parts [euphonium]
May 22, 2012 (4:31 pm)
There are several complicating factors in this situation. The shop does not warranty the part. The warranty is issued by the part manufacturer; who will provide a replacement part for free to the shop when they return the defective part to the distributor from which they purchased it.
The shop passes along their free replacement allowance when they replace the part. But shops still have to pay their mechanics to replace the second failed part; and their profit on the difference between wholesale and retail pricing often is not enough to cover their out of pocket cost in paying their mechanic to replace the part.
Shops often choose to buy parts from a manufacturer who does not make the highest quality parts; just so they can keep their parts prices competitive. Other shops just use the brands of parts which the store they buy from sells; and are not aware or concerned that some stores sell the best quality electrical parts; but may not sell the best quality engine parts or brakes. Such shops cannot afford to take responsibility for the effectiveness of the parts they sell; but instead depend on the attractiveness of their parts prices to continue to draw customers. This is sort of like the sales philosophy of discount stores, who know that the things they sell will often not last as long as premium quality merhandise; but betting that the low initial cost will have more appeal than the greater longevity and reliability of the more expensive parts brands.
People who do not like this type of reliability or service soon learn not to buy things from discount stores; and not to buy car brands which are known to have poor reliability. If they don't become aware of these differences; they typically end up believing they have very bad luck around cars.
But some consumers expect to receive premium quality service from shops which are selling mediocre quality parts; in addition to paying discounted (retail) prices for those parts. PRACTICALLY NOBODY SELLS PARTS AT THEIR WHOLESALE COST TO THE PUBLIC; so your claim that marking up the parts price to retail obliges the shop to cover the cost of labor for replacing defective parts just does not hold water.
There are shops which eat the labor cost of warranteeing parts; but those types of shops typically use only premium quality parts; which rarely fail; and also charge premium prices for their parts and labor; which gives them a comfortable margin to cover such events. Unfortunately; if consumers expected competitively priced shops to give them that level of service; the shop would soon go out of business if they did this with their warrantees.
Most shops mark up the price of the parts they sell from their cost to retail cost. (actually, some shops mark up their parts price to far above retail cost. Dealerships are a great example of this). But at the same time; some of these shops also set their labor charges on the low side; since the profit they make from parts adds to their income from labor charges.
I never marked up parts prices when I was repairing cars (which is almost unheard of in this industry); but I also used the highest quality parts, and took twice as long to do a job as the shops usually did; (because those flat rate time estimates are way too rushed to allow careful and thorough work; especially in electrical system repair). However; I also realized that charging the going hourly rate for my leisurely work would drive most people away; so I charged half the hourly rate of most shops. My clients then ended up paying a similar total amount as the shops usually charged for a given job; but they received far higher quality work. As a result; I never had to advertise. My clients largely came from referrals by friends.
As you can imagine; this is no way to make much money as a mechanic. I was able to do this because I only worked for people I liked and respected; because I felt it was more important to be of service to good people than to get rich; and because I worked alone, in low rent; plain looking surroundings. I also was very picky about what brands of cars I worked on; and what jobs I would and wuld not take on. So I created what I felt was as ideal a life as I could have as a mechanic; but the price of this luxury gave me a lower income than most other mechanics would accept.