Confessions of a Service Writer : Your Questions Answered!

Good day to you all! Hopefully you’re enjoying a long awaited and well deserved day off. Recently I posted to oppo to ask what you would like to know about service shops and the operation behind the curtain. I was totally surprised by some of these but here we go!

Photo: Via Pinterest

1. Do dealerships actually care about their reputations or the horrible things they do such as high Pressure sales, unneeded service work, selling parts that aren’t broken, poor scheduling, intentionally misdiagnosing?

This is a simplified version of the question which can be seen here. 

No. And Yes. It’s shop dependant. Sometimes the Sales manager will be a completely different personality than the shop foreman and you’ll get amazing service but high pressure sales at the same dealer.

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The best places will bend over backward to take care of you. They recognize that YOU are the only way they’ll maintain a business. The worst places are so big or so cheap that they almost can’t fail. They can treat anyone badly and just wait on the next customer to roll up.

2. What’s the most jerry rigged thing you have seen that actually worked? And don’t lie we have all seen at least one.

Photo: Via Drive Nacho Drive

I’ve seen some wild stuff work but I would have to say an improvised drain pan bolt. It’s innocuous enough that I can say for a certainty that it worked too. A car came in one day with a small oil leak. We found that the last place to work on it had stripped the oil pan bolt. Ultimately the only professional solution was a new oil pan as oversized drain plugs weren’t working out. Sadly the customer didn’t give us enough time to get one in, roughly 2 days. So we received permission to improvise. That’s when we busted out a bolt that was objectively twice the size of the original bolt, tapped the pan and boom. No more leak. Let it sit for more than an hour after a long test drive and it was dry as a bone.

3. Are there any tell tale signs of a good shop besides past experience or word of mouth?

Photo: Auto Repair Albuquerque
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I would say fullness and appearance. If it looks clean but is very full of cars that’s typically a good sign. It means they’re organized enough to do high volume and still keep the place in good shape.

Another tip

Go in and ask for air in your tires. How quickly does that happen? How are you treated? If a service tech does the work ask them about the shop and or how long have they been there.

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4. How do you navigate the fine line of: suggesting repairs to prevent issues down the road without coming across like you’re upselling, while making sure you’re not ignoring a problem that will have the customer back too quickly, thinking you didn’t do your job?

 

We have one guy who is so meticulous that it’s wild. He’s great but he’s the reason I have experience with this. One customer came in with a coolant leak. By the time this tech was done checking the car over it needed $2700 worth of stuff.

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So here’s how I deal with this. Focus on the original issue. Once we have an idea of what needs there are with regard to that I’ll have a conversation with the customer about that. Depending on the severity of the problems found in other places I’ll tell them as soon as we’re done focusing on the original complaint. If it’s a small concern like slight wear on control arm bushings for instance I’ll tell them that when they pick up the car that it’s something that can be handled in the future.

5. I know they’re writing the checks and all, but do you ever shake your head when you see a customer throwing money at an obviously bad car? What’s the most ridiculous customer request you have ever seen?  

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These were asked separately but the answer is the same. The photo you see above is one I took of a vehicle that came in at one point on a flatbed. In the condition it arrived in it was worth maybe $1000 despite being less than 5 years old. It didn’t help that it smelled of death and weed and had 3 bullet holes in it and didn’t have any caps on the battery and didn’t have a passenger side windshield wiper.

The customer said that they heard a loud pop one day as they were turning right and that the car wouldn’t go anymore after that. Turns out that the CV axle on the front passenger side was snapped in two different places.

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In addition they had hit something they didn’t tell us about because the lower control arm was bent so far that it would need replacing. You can see in the photo how far back the wheel is compared to the actual fender well.

Once the arm and sway link and cv joint was all replaced we found out that the subframe but also be bent because it was more than 2 degrees away from being able to be aligned properly.

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I called to give them the bad news and with almost no hesitation approved the subframe being replaced altogether. I won’t say exactly what their bill ended up being but it was in my opinion the worst waste of money on a car I’ve ever seen, and that includes lowering springs on a 10 year old 2 door Nissan Altima.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed this little Q&A. Have any questions you didn’t see covered here or in this series? Ask below!

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