I can’t get no (automotive) Satisfaction

Recognising your weaknesses is as important as knowing your strengths when running a garage

By Hannah Gordon |

Published:  21 October, 2019

The vehicle repair world can be hugely satisfying one day and an absolute pain in the backside the next. The challenges we now face as techs are getting harder and more detailed thanks to the electronic minefield of modern cars.
There have been a few instances in the workshop where we have had to admit to the customer that we just aren’t sure yet what is wrong with their car. It is mostly met with understanding as we explain the complexities, but on the odd occasion it can cause the customer to become annoyed.
Last week we had a BMW 1 Series come in. The customer had been elsewhere to get the fault codes read as the car kept going into limp mode. It had shown a fault linked to the crankshaft sensor. They requested that we changed the sensor and check the wiring.
The crankshaft sensor is under all the air intake manifold and isn’t the easiest of jobs. Wiring was all deemed to be ok and a new crankshaft sensor fitted. The car drove great, then a week later same problem reoccurred.
So, it came back, again, and the car was hooked up to a diagnostic computer and faults relating to a pressure sensor and the catalytic convertor came up. As we deal with a lot of older and classic cars we aren’t trained in electronic fault diagnosis. It is not only frustrating for us to not be able to help the customer but also for the customer who keeps having to bring the car to a garage and not be able to get the fault rectified.
That is the way car repair is now heading. It is a lot more computer-based with a lot less instinct and hands-on work. Hours can be lost testing all the wiring and sensors on a car. It is hard sometimes to justify a bill when you have been unable to locate the problem. As car problem fixers, mechanics pride themselves on being able to hand a vehicle that came in broken and goes away running perfectly. That is why we do this job - to become heroes in the eyes of the customers. The BMW owner is now fed up with the car. It has been to different garages and specialists who have been unable to completely fix the problem and they have fallen out of love with the car.
In my experience if an issue isn’t easy to fix we have to be completely honest with the customer, I often explain that we don’t have the up-to-date software that would give us the definitive answer. We then recommend a reputable specialist that would be better suited. As a business owner I am here to fix cars but I am not about to pretend we are something we are not. I know how capable the staff are and what our limitations are. Yes, it is frustrating turning work away but it is also important to be completely upfront with the customer.

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