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Why do you want that?

By Staff | Apr 1, 2015

Sometimes a customer will ask for a certain part to be replaced or a certain repair procedure to be done. The service writer might then ask why they think they need that exact part or service. They sometimes bristle at this question, as if their intelligence is being doubted. That’s not it. There are very good reasons to ask these questions. Bear with me for a few examples.

n A gentleman called in for an estimate on all new shocks for his Ford. We gave him an estimate, he made an appointment, and we installed them for him. The next day he returned with an angry scowl on his face. Our shocks were no better than the old ones, according to him. He still had that thump in the rear when he crossed the speed-bump in his park. Note that we did not tell him he needed shocks; he told us, yet we took the heat of his anger. It turns out that the service writer did in fact ask him why he needed shocks, and he replied that it was because they were old. He didn’t mention the clunk in the rear, and the service writer didn’t press any further because the man was getting testy about the questions. Had we known why he thought he needed shocks, we could have shown him the worn sway bar bushing that was causing his thumping noise and fixed it for a fraction of the cost of new shocks.

n A man called for a price on a radiator for an old Porsche. When asked why he wanted a radiator, he said because it was leaking. We couldn’t find one available from any local supplier. It would have to be ordered, and was very expensive. He said to forget it, he would get his own from eBay. He got one and brought it in for installation. We installed it, and as we pressure tested the system for leaks, we discovered a pinhole leak in a radiator hose that sprayed water onto the radiator, making the radiator appear to have a leak. If it had been brought in for a leak in the first place, we could have pressure tested it to locate the leak, and possibly saved the price of the radiator job.

n A gentleman asked the price for a “minor tune-up.” I don’t know what that means. I know orchestras “tune up” before a concert, so I guess a “minor” tuning for them would mean that some of the instruments could stay out of tune. I’ll pass on that symphony. Anyway I kept asking questions about why he wanted it, and we went past: “Because it hasn’t been done in a long time,” danced around; “my wife thinks it’s making a strange noise.” touched on; “It hasn’t been getting as good a gas mileage as it used to get,” and finally got to the crux of the problem, “It’s been idling too high. The engine races and I have to keep the brakes on to keep from speeding. You need to adjust the carburetor.”

Aha. First, there is no carburetor. Everything has been fuel injected since the 1980s. Second, the idle speed is not adjustable. It is under the control of the engine computer, which is under the control of various sensors around the car. A “minor tune-up” (whatever that is) probably wouldn’t address the computer problem causing the fast idle speed. I knew what we had to do, once I knew why he was here.

Getting blood out of a turnip might be easier, but there are reasons for us to ask why. Please don’t be offended. We’re just trying to do the right thing for you.

–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, www.thecarcareworld.com, 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 www.dehaysauto.com or facebook.com/DeHays-Automotive.