Mechanically Speaking: How long will it take to fix that?

"...short of simple services, waiting around is not the best unless of course you have a lot of time and no need to question why..."

Do you like to wait and watch while your car is being serviced or repaired or do you prefer to drop your vehicle off and pick it up when it is ready? Do you know what your repair shop prefers? Yes, that is correct, drop off and pick up. Why?

The “untrusting” figure the vehicle will be fixed in five minutes and they will be charged for one hour. Some waiters want to be in control of the whole process. Every step of the way. “How much longer?” “How much more will that cost?” “I’ve got an appointment in half an hour and I need my car.” Some maybe just like the coffee.

In general, short of simple services, waiting around is not the best unless of course you have a lot of time and no need to question why we have stopped working on your car or have not started working on your car or …..

Why isn’t auto repair a simple in and out job? Firstly many appointments have a little mystery in them. We don’t actually know what is wrong with your vehicle when it drives in the door. We might have a good idea but a one hour job easily becomes two and a two becomes four and a four becomes eight etc., etc.

Unraveling mysteries is not a pure science but your mechanic can be pretty good at predicting the outcome. The time thing can be a problem. It is usually logistics that gets in the way of your vehicle being repaired on a very tight schedule. Waiting for parts. Waiting for the vehicle to cool down. Waiting for the vehicle to warm up. Waiting for a hoist to be open to perform the repair efficiently. All these factors come in to play and determine how and at what rate your vehicle is repaired.

Let’s take for example a simple cooling system service. Your vehicle is due for new antifreeze and an inspection of the cooling system. Roughly an hour labor is required. Firstly the vehicle must be driven to verify a few things. Does the engine get up to full temperature (Is the thermostat working correctly?) Do the cooling fans work correctly? Does the system build the correct pressure? These inspections are done most efficiently on a hot vehicle.

The next step, draining out the old antifreeze goes much more safely and quickly on a cooled down vehicle (a good hour to cool down is nice). No one likes to play with a scalding water antifreeze mixture. Once the coolant is out, if the previous inspections showed a sticking thermostat, now would be the time to change it. While the car was cooling down the parts people got us the new thermostat. The mechanic worked on another job.

Out comes the old thermostat and in goes the new. Replacing a thermostat can add hours or only minutes (unlike humans, cars parts are all not located in the same place) to a simple coolant change but doing it now will save doing the whole drain and refill coolant process a second time during another appointment. Now the cooling system is ready to refill.

Refilling cooling systems can be tricky. When done it is always best to make sure there are no air pockets left in the system. The best way to do that is run the vehicle to fully warm. Test that the heater produces good heat, then shut the vehicle down and let it cool down for an hour or two. At this point the coolant level should be checked and topped up as needed.

So an hour of technician work required three or four hours of time with the vehicle at the shop. The time use was efficient and safe. The cooling system is full and functioning as designed.

Under the pressure of a waiting client this job can be done without the two cooling off periods but the technician and the shop will appreciate the extra time to perform the job safely and verify the system is functioning as it was designed.

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