What Do I Tell My Mechanic?

Discussion in 'FAQs & Tips' started by admin, Jul 24, 2016.

  1. admin

    admin Administrator Staff Member

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    by BAT Auto Technical

    So you have a problem with your vehicle that you cannot determine the problem or it is beyond your experience. What do you tell your mechanic to help provide him/her the information they need to fix your car?

    Before you read the rest of this article, Roy wrote an excellent article that would be an excellent prolog to this article, see Intermittent Electrical Problems.
    We'll go a little further into some of the things that can help save alot of unnecessary chasing down problems.

    We'll use a spark loss situation as an example of some of the things you might write down for your mechanic. Yes, you should write it all down, make notes on when it has the problem, the time of day, if it does it when it is cold or hot. Even little things that you think the mechanic may not find interesting or of help may be the key.

    Ok, so we have our vehicle and we go out to start it and it won't start. Now think about the questions you would ask.
    I only said it wouldn't start. The questions are going to be in bold.
    This is purely a hypothetical situation as each situation will be different, but the questions will probably be similar. We'll assume this is a vehicle that has lost spark.
    So the first thing they need to know is, Does the engine crank? In our case, we will say yes.
    If there is a voltage gauge, what is the voltage? We'll say it is just above the 12V mark.
    Does it sound like the engine is cranking over faster than normal or slower than normal? We'll say no.
    Does the engine sound like it wants to try and start or fire? Again, we'll say no.
    Does it backfire? We'll say no.
    Now understand that your mechanic will more than likely confirm all of this, but you have assisted your mechanic in going in the direction that he/she needs to be in.

    Some common questions of vehicle starting problems will be:

    • Does it start?
    • Does the engine crank?
    • Does it sound like the engine is cranking over faster than normal or slower than normal?
    • If it doesn't crank over, can you hear anything click and do the lights in the dash dim when the key is turned to start?
    • Is there a voltage gauge and is the voltage above 12 volts?
    • If it turns over, is there any indication that it wants to fire, like popping, trying to start or backfiring?
    • When was the fuel filter last replaced?
    Remember that your mechanic needs as much information as he/she can get about your problem. If it is a noise, try and determine what area it is coming from, when it happens and whether it is a dull thud or a metallic noise.
    If it is a vibration, when does it happen? All speeds, low speeds, high speeds, going up hill or going down hill?
    Engine problems, try and note the common things about when it occurs. Things like if it only happens in the morning when the vehicle is cold or after it has been on the highway for a while.

    Remember that normally, the mechanic has not driven your vehicle. They will have to spend time locating the actual problem and you will be paying the diagnostic fee, which is usually by the hour. So any information you can provide to the mechanic to help them locate the problem, may help save you some money.
    In instances where you are dealing with a service writer/service manager, you may want to write down the things you think are important for the mechanic to know on a piece of paper and ask that it be attached to the repair/work order. This may insure the mechanic sees the info directly from you. Remember when a service writer/service manager writes things down on a repair/work order, they may have done a lot of writing and sometimes will write things on the work order in their own version of shorthand. Something they can read, but often not what the mechanic can understand.

    This article should in no way be considered a guide, as it would take hundreds of pages to really go in-depth on this subject. The hope is that it helps to educate folks to what some of the things there mechanic will want to know.

    Your feedback is GREATLY appreciated!! Please email your comments to: Contact Us
     
  2. nickb2

    nickb2 Wrench. I help when I can

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    To augment this article. I thought a customer questionnaire would be appropriate to this write up.

    Most reputable shops will have some form of engine drive-ability questionnaire like the following PDF.

    I have no idea who Mike is, but I like the format of his questionnaire.

    Mike’s Automotive Service
    Engine Drivability Diagnostic Questionnaire
     

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  3. nickb2

    nickb2 Wrench. I help when I can

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    Here are other examples of questionnaires particular to different systems and the questions that can be simply written out or checked off.

    These come from a very reputable shop from British Columbia. I would have included my own, but it is in french.;)
     

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    Last edited: Jul 25, 2016
  4. nickb2

    nickb2 Wrench. I help when I can

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    Most shops have a drop off slot for your keys. I worked for a few shops in my life. I took for example Chrylser when I opened my own small shop.

    The dealers, and most reputable shops should have this very simple way of communicating for the client on the go.

    Bolt a mailbox above the slot, or above the exhaust hole on the most easily accessible and visible garage door. On the mailbox, write in bold letters that the mailbox is not a drop off box for keys.

    Always make sure there is a camera pointing to the key drop off area and a sign above the key drop off area saying a nice "hello, you are on camera!"

    Even if it is a bogus camera, most thieves won't risk it, unless they are on crack or something similar.:p

    Some clients are too forgiving and drop the keys off at 4am in the morning in the mailbox, and any thief (if those exist) can simply drive away and then you have to explain that the shop is not responsible for the theft. Lost time and grief for all involved. I say this from personal experience.

    Pre-print a few hundred envelopes with a simple questionnaire inside.

    In bold letters, on the envelope, ask the client to disarm any anti theft systems or write the sequence/code to disarm it, if applicable. Also ask them to disable remote starting (if they know how!!) or ask them to include all remotes in the envelope.

    Repeat that this is for the safety of the technician working on their car/truck.

    Include a blank page with a header "comments".

    You all would be amazed the weird stories I have read on those blank pages, and the time I saved diagnosing, and the money the client saved because he or she was able to communicate in his/her words.

    And to sign off on this, leave a contact business card in each envelope. Amazing what word of mouth can do!!;)
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2016
  5. nickb2

    nickb2 Wrench. I help when I can

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    Oh, as an afterthought, screw a pen to the mailbox. If it is not attached, it will cost a fortune in BIC ballpoint pens. Even the most honest ppl will steal the pen. It's like it is beyond the average person to not take it.

    I tried a cambels soup can attached to the mailbox, in two days, no more pens. I retried the endeavor, next week, no more pens. :eek:
     

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