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Do you take this car to have and to hold?

July 1, 2015
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

When you buy a car, you don't usually think of it as taking on a responsibility. You don't see yourself as being obligated to take care of said car through better or worse, in sickness or in health. You look at it as a possession which is there to take care of you. You paid for it. It owes you, you don't owe it. So that's not a marriage. Not a very good one, anyway.

Things change, however, when you take it to a mechanic for service or repair. Once the mechanic touches the car, he is often immediately married to it. No shotgun required. No honeymoon. Just right into the "for better or for worse." He has to care for it, sometimes at his own expense. We call it being "married" to a car. It goes like this...

A customer brought his car in for an oil change. He waited with the car and, when it was finished, he took it home. Later, he called back and told us we had ruined one of his tires by putting a nail through it. We don't sell tires or repair tires, so I don't know why he thought we would have done the deed, but he was adamant. "It was just at your place, so I must have run over the nail in your driveway. You owe me a tire!" I asked him to bring the car or tire to us. When he did, it had a roofing nail in it. We have a concrete roof with no roofing nails anywhere. He still insisted it had to be our fault, because we had just worked on the car and it "didn't have a problem before." I pointed out to him that the nail was badly worn down, indicating that it had been there for many miles. He disagreed. We agreed to disagree.

Another customer brought a car in for engine diagnostic work. It wasn't running as good as he wanted it to run. While we were checking it out, we noticed a slight drip of coolant from the water pump. We called him to inform him of the leak and asked if he wanted us to change the pump. He replied that there wasn't a coolant leak before we started on it, so we must have caused it and, if so, it was our responsibility to fix it at our expense. We, of course, could not prove how long the pump had been leaking, nor could we prove that we had not caused it. It reminded me of the time the Social Security people told my dad that they were reducing his pension and that he owed them money because they said he had divorced his wife before she died, so he should not have been getting widower benefits. He said he had not divorced her. They told him he had to prove that he had not. How can you prove that you didn't do something? Shouldn't the other party have to prove that you did it? The water pump guy didn't need proof, or even any evidence. He just knew.

Every mechanic in the world has hundreds of these stories, and if you ever wondered why so many conflicts arise between mechanics and customers, this is one of the top reasons. We feel that we should go out to each new customer's car and start reciting "I take thee Chevy as my lawfully wedded responsibility".

We'll skip the "You may kiss" part.

Larry DeHays is the author of the book "The Car Care World", a compilation of his most popular columns. It is available now through Amazon, Barnes and Noble,, or at the DeHays Automotive office, 17617 Broadway Ave., Fort Myers Beach. He has been an ASE Certified Technician for 37 years and an arbitrator for the Florida Lemon Law for 16 years. For more information go to or



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