Catch 27

The Multi-Point vehicle inspection, the report card, what ever it is that you want to call it comes with a catch for an auto shop. A catch that most car owners don’t understand or don’t want to admit that they are in fact the cause of.

The stigma attached to this report is one of “overselling”, ripping people off, basically a tool to “up-sell” unsuspecting consumers. I have been in and around the car repair business most of my life but I have also seen the process if you will, as a guy that just needed a quick oil change.

When you take your car to a repair shop, a dealer, a tire shop…most of the time they are going to perform and inspection of the vehicle and some shops will actually ask you if you would like to have it performed, some will advise you that they are going to do it and some just do the inspection. It is almost always free and you should get a copy and an explanation of the findings, good and bad.

If you were to decline the vehicle inspection because you are in a hurry or because you already believe that you are being set up to be “sold”, I have news for you…they are going to inspect your car anyway or at least several primary areas. The reason they will do this is the first element of the catch, you see they could be considered accountable or liable for something that “goes wrong”, breaks, or causes any type of damage because they were the last “professionals” to look at or have the vehicle for service regardless of  a formal inspection process, your authorization or otherwise.

Even if a customer doesn’t make a legal issue out of something that happens after service, in their mind it was the shops fault for not finding the problem while it was there for service and that is the story they are going to tell their friends, family and co-workers.

Think about it, when is the last time you saw the underside of your vehicle and would you know what you are looking at if you did? Consumers should take advantage of the inspection and if skeptical of the findings, just get another opinion to verify it. There are check procedures that only a trained tech is going to know how to perform and have the tools to perform them.

A good example is checking transmission fluid. Some cars you check with the car running and some your don’t, some have a dip stick and others do not, some manufacturers tell you to check the fluid cold and some at operating temp.  How do you check a manual transmission or a differential that is part of the front wheel drive? With todays ever-changing technology, even technicians have to look it up sometimes.

It has always been this way…if I don’t inspect your vehicle and something falls off of it the next day, its my fault. If I inspect your vehicle and find that something is about to fall off, I am trying to rip you off. This is the catch 27. A shop is usually going to get blamed for this type of thing with or without a vehicle inspection unless….they reported the problem and you decline to have it fixed!

There it is, that is the reason for the inspection, it’s not designed to sell you things you don’t need although there are those shops that will “take advantage” and use the inspection in the wrong way. I do find that these days, with the increasing competition, online reviews, and just the fact that things are not as profitable as they use to be, most legit shops don’t do this sort of thing because they know it will eventually lead to them going out of business.

Now don’t get me wrong, If a shop finds something that needs repaired, they want you to say fix it since that is the business that they are in. In fact, a fair percentage of consumers will get an inspection during an oil change and then have any needed repairs completed at different shop or by their “regular” mechanic. For this reason, you may feel a little pressure or “value” adding in effort to get you to let them be your service vendor of choice and not that other guy.

My recommendation? Get the inspection, have the shop show you and explain what they see and get an itemized estimate. You can shop the estimate or if a big job, get another opinion at a different service shop.

Bottom line, if you feel you have a trust issue with a shop, you need to find another shop. Cars go through more abuse than you would think, no matter how well you maintain it, things are going to break and wear out. A car is a machine and it will break so take advantage of the free inspection from a professional. Heck, I wish my heating and air guy would offer such a deal!

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Hot Rods Forever

I wrote in NKY Live magazine about the seemingly dying car culture in America. The younger generations lack of interest and the high cost and low availability of older “cool” cars to buy and fix up.

This got me thinking about even further down the road and the cost of technology beyond literal dollars and cents. Back in the day, systems were relatively easy to work on and a decent knowledge of performance parts and how they worked would get you where you wanted to be at the drag strip.

Today’s cars are not so easy, you really have to understand more than cams, timing and carbs to make a modern car perform in fact, if you don’t know what you are doing you can hurt the performance or worse, a vital control system.

But if you set aside mods and upgrades, the cost to repair current technology, some of which is needed just to keep the car running, is getting extremely expensive. Consider the control modules which are computers and like any computer, they are subject to failure at some point. And what about comfort features like back up cameras in which the Feds would like to see as standard equipment on all vehicles soon.

What will happen to insurance rates when you have a crash and need to replace a $1000 headlamp assembly? I am not exaggerating, the headlight on a Lincoln MKZ is that much! How would a young person when the car is old enough that they can afford to buy it going to be able to drive it  when normal every day parts are so exspensive that you either drive it broke or park it. How can you customize or hot rod a late-model vehicle on a budget when just to get it drivable could cost thousands.

Boo on Cash for Clunkers right? Not all the desirable cars when to the crusher but a good number did. I remember when a rusty but fixable Nova could be driven home for about $500. After some body and paint, a cam, intake, headers, and a nice Holley, you were pounding pavement and feeling good. Todays youth have become disinterested, a lot has to do with the cost and what is available to them, hence the wave of Asian hot rods.

Not taking anything away from drifters and fast and furious rides, I like many of them and you can’t argue with the performance that can be generated out of those 4 and 6 bangers. I just see it as a offshute to the American car culture as it has been for decades. I miss seeing those old Novas, Chevelles, Torinos, and other cool cars cruising’ the streets everyday.

Even if you consider the new factory performance cars as the new skool cruising machines, how do young people afford them and then there is the pride of building it yourself and making it your own. I like what manufacturers are doing these days but some of these hot rods are out of the price range of adults much less kids out of high school.

I guess times are changing, I just hate the thought of losing that mystique, that American hobby that is hot rodding, car building, and the spirit of competition at the track and at the local fast food joint. I cringe when I think of the cost to keep a new car running when it is out of warranty. If you have priced a set of tires lately you know what I mean. The 18 to 20 inch wheels that are standard on many new cars come with a high maintenance cost….things I have always though should be disclosed when buying a new car.

The more sophisticated we get, the more creature features we want, the more it is going to cost up front and down the road. I think the highest price paid is the loss of an American past time, an original ingredient that makes the American pie.

Hot Rods Forever.

Premier February 9th

Motor Mania Radio Show premiers Saturday February 9th at 10am. The show offers an entertaining and engaging format that differs from most other automotive talk shows. Being on a FM rock station, The Motor Mafia as they are known will play music as well as offer auto news, history, hot rodding segments, tech tips, auto racing, repair and maintenance information and a ton of other automotive related topics.

The show is a spinoff of the popular AM show Dipsticks & Deals, the host, Jimmy B, Kenny Koltrain, and The Third Wheel remain the same on this new and inmporved format.