Friday, February 15, 2013

The Worth of an Honest Mechanic

We’ve all had the duplicitous experience of finally getting our car back from a garage, hoping this latest fix means it’s going to run well for the next ten years without any problems, and praying there was no big change between the quoted price and the pick-up price. You don’t want to think, "Which organ do I have to sell to get my car out of here?" Quote in mind, you still have a hard pit in your stomach, as you get a ride from a friend/family member, to the garage wondering if this is going to hurt.

You walk up to the cashier and sure enough – the moment of truth – it’s not the $125.00 that they told you when you brought it in, it’s now $625.00 because once they got the old part off they discovered that the rest of the (insert your part name here) was also worn out and it had to be replaced as well. Without the extra $500, your car would be unsafe and not drive-able – GASP! What do you mean I can’t have my car, I need my car, it’s my key to independence, to the open road, to get to my grandmother’s house, my kid’s soccer game, dinner with my wife, a weekend getaway, the ball game, the chance to GET AWAY FROM – - – THIS GARAGE! Of course you begrudgingly fork over the cash, mumble a few choice words about the guy who ripped you off, get into your car and drive away.

This happened to me less than a few weeks ago.  I saw the great marketing ad – "buy two tires – get two free" – what a deal – I’m going to jump on that one.  But low and behold, instead of the anticipated $300 for a set of four tires, I asked a few questions and discover it’s $600+ because they’ve got to do a four wheel alignment.  "Oh didn’t I tell you, that’s the only way you get the two free tires." I turned around and left the shop immediately. The sales person couldn’t believe I was walking away from the deal – and I wasn’t. I was walking away from their dishonesty.

I have a fleet of cars, not new cars; cars that my large contingent of dependents motors around in. Not one has less than 100,000 miles, they were all bought new, and then as each child passed their driver’s test, we handed them over a set of keys – to the oldest car in the fleet, while the next one got the next oldest vehicle, and so on up the line.  My wife has the esteemed distinction of having driven her Dodge Caravan 287,000 miles, until the third transmission died.  We left it in the church parking lot where the transmission failed, without notice, and called a junkyard to come and tow it away.  They gave us $200 for it – hardly a fair trade for all the memories that car gave us on family vacations, but fair enough to get it out of our church parking lot.

As a former gear head (I used to drag race a Chevy El Camino with my brother in Salem, Ohio back in the day), I know my fair share about cars, the problem now is I don’t have the time, and my passion for cars has waned over the years as well. Three sports cars don’t really fit with a family of six, even if you try to connect them with tow bars. I traded them in, moved on to mini-vans and SUV’s and haven’t looked back.
Which brings me to an unbelievable find. An honest mechanic. I can tell you, they do exist. I found one, a referral from my brother-in-law. My wife’s latest minivan, this one now with over 190,000 miles, is a workhorse – a 2001 Honda Odyssey – we love, but has long since outlasted any warranty, and is hardly worth the outrageous cost of the last dealer who serviced it.

One of those "Armageddon lights" came on a couple of weeks ago.  "Service engine immediately!"  Frightened, my wife calls me from her office and tells me I need to come and pick her up and have the car towed to the nearest garage before all the wheels fall off and the engine blows up. I asked her if it sounded bad, smelled like something was burning, or was making a strange sound. No, the DANGER light came on, she needed rescued. I told her, "I’m sure it’s ok, drive it home and I’ll get it serviced the next day at our new mechanic."

I’m sure the motorists following her home on Interstate 79 were none too pleased, her cruising at barely above the minimum speed limit of 40 mph.  I took it to our new mechanic the next day, he put it onto his electronic diagnostic machine. It was a fuel flow electronic sensor that was on the blink – total cost, including labor under $100.00.  It took thirty minutes and I was back on the road.  Ever since meeting him, all our vehicles have been serviced at his shop, and I’ve referred every person seeking a mechanic to him.  Why? He’s honest.  He did a great job at fixing my problem, charged me a fair price, eliminated that pit in the stomach feeling I always got from the unethical garages, and for that – he’s bought my loyalty forever.  Honesty in business, what a novel idea!  Must be a new marketing technique someone is trying out.  It sure works for me.

Here’s to all the honest mechanics we find and keep forever!

P.S. Searching for a mechanic? Drop me an email and I’ll pass along our treasure.

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