“Just make it safe” and “I only need six more months” are two very common customer requests of most auto repair shops.
They both mean the same thing. Fix it cheap!
Trying to fulfill either of these requests sounds easier than it really is. The customer expectations after driving the vehicle away is the same no matter what they originally requested.
I have found it is best, if at all possible, to repair all vehicles with the highest quality parts and best practices. Doing things any other way only costs more, if not in dollars it may be your reputation.
“Just make it safe” conjures up thoughts that all that really matters is the brakes. If the vehicle starts, runs, and stops that is good enough. In reality, a safe vehicle is in perfect condition.
There are very few systems in a car that do not contribute to the safety aspect.
Brakes are only as good as the tires, suspension, and steering system.
What if a vehicle is equipped with an antilock brake system and it is not functional? That braking system is compromised and nowhere near as safe as it could be.
The base braking system is functional but that vehicle’s real braking system (antilock and all) is much safer.
Engine performance is as much a safety feature as any other system.
There are many situations that acceleration is your friend. Sometimes getting out of the way quickly is as important as stopping quickly.
A shop can definitely work to keep costs down but many times the customer fails to understand what may be the result of cost cutting. Lower cost brake pads for example may not last as long, they may make noise and they might not even stop as well.
When it comes to suspension and saving money your first ball joints lasted one hundred thousand kilometres but the next set won’t if they are not the same quality and the shock absorbers are not replaced at the same time.
When the new brakes only go half the distance the old brakes went, the customer has forgotten his or her original request and they are not happy.
The “I only need six more months” request is very predictable.
That vehicle is going to be kept a lot longer than six more months.
In fact the customer will likely keep using it until one of the used parts you put on it to fix it cheap fails again, or the customer will sell the vehicle and make sure he shows the new owner all the repairs that were done and where they were done. “Cheap” will not be mentioned in the same sentence as “it just got a new fuel pump”.
Compromise, when it comes to automobile repair, will only end up coming back to haunt both customer and mechanic. It is generally a lose lose situation.
Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. He will write every other Thursday. E-mail: email@example.com