Archive for January, 2009

The Phone…

Monday, January 5th, 2009

I’ll admit, the first few times a customer had called and wanted to know what was wrong with his/her car over the phone based on a description of the problem, I got some amusement from the ensuing conversation, but…

C’mon now, here it is some 20 years later, and I still get these calls, it’s really gotten pretty old. I guess the calls fall into two camps. The first group wants to know who sounds the most intelligent to entrust their vehicle to. The second group is a DIY’er (Do It Yourself) wanting to know what to fix, so they can save some money. Typically the second group lacks even the most rudimentary tools or skills to correctly diagnose their problem, but expects an answer to their dilemma, and actually more often than not, gets offended when you are unable to help. Here are some examples from last week. Let me know if you’d be able to help them.

Brnng, brnng.

Me: Good Afternoon, thanks for calling GM’s Only, how can I help you?

Caller: I’ve got a 2003 Chevrolet truck that the engine light has come on, so I went and bought a “scan tool” and pulled the code. It’s got a PXXXX code stored. I wasn’t sure what that meant so I bought a book and it says there is a problem with the air injection. What do I replace?

Me: If you bought a book, what did it tell you to replace?

Caller: It didn’t, that’s why I’m calling you. I didn’t understand it. Can you tell me what to fix?

Me: If you have a scan tool and a book, and some other tools, such as a DMM(Digital Multi Meter) you should be able to fix this yourself. Each code has a minimum of three possible causes. You need to follow the flowchart for the code to determine what needs to be repaired/replaced. Did you want to bring this in for testing to actually determine what needs to be repaired?

Caller: I already know what’s wrong with this, why do I need to bring it in and pay you?

Me: If you know what is wrong, why are you calling me?

Caller: Um, thank you. The caller hangs up, sounding miffed that I didn’t tell him what to repair when he knew what was wrong with the car.

Maybe it’s just me, but does anyone else see a problem here? Forget the fact that I stay in business by providing a service of fixing your vehicle. Let’s overlook that I spend thousands of dollars every year for the proper tooling, equipment, and software to provide that service. How can someone that spent less than a hundred dollars to troubleshoot his problem on his own, expect that to replace years of experience and tens of thousands of diagnostic equipment?

The real problem in my opinion is a good portion of the American driving public has no idea what it takes to fix their car. For all the years I’ve been doing this, the idea has been, this business is simple, so simple in fact, that anyone can do it. You might disagree with me, but this is reinforced with all the loss leaders that are advertised for your dollars. Call around to some service departments, including dealerships. Ask them about diagnosis. I’ve done it and it is amazing what some people will say just to get the car in the shop. “We’ll hook your car up to the machine we have, and it tells you what to fix. Bring it in and we’ll check it out for you, it only runs $XX.” If only it were that simple. I’d like to dispel the notion of the ‘Magic Box’, but after years of trying, I’ve come to the realization it’s a losing battle.

DIY’er Caller 2(Which called directly after caller 1): I’ve got a 1999 Suburban. The truck quit running on me and I towed it home. The gas gauge wasn’t working before this and the engine wasn’t getting gas, so I dropped the gas tank and replaced the fuel pump. (The fuel pump on this vehicle is a modular fuel pump assembly, which includes the tank unit/sending unit for the gauge) The gas gauge still isn’t reading correctly and it sill won’t start. What’s wrong?

I won’t go into the details of my conversation with him, but for the last part of his question I’m looking for an answer to that one myself. What’s wrong? Got any ideas?