Whoever said the customer is always right never worked in an auto shop! These mechanics share the head-scratchingly dumb reasons folks have brought in their poor cars for repairs.
Mechanics Vs. Rich Karen
“I worked in a few different shops, but the one I worked at that was located in Bethesda, MD, was by far the worst. The vast majority of the customers were uppity rich or semi-rich folks, which seemed to demand we cater to their every whim despite knowing nothing about cars.
We had one lady that brought in her Land Rover one day. She complained that it was making horrible noises. As expected, the brake pads had been completely demolished and were grinding into the rotors. Had this been a little Honda or something, her rotors would have likely been completely destroyed; it was only by the sheer size of them that had managed to not fall apart (i.e. the disc completely separate from the portion that went on the wheel hub.) Seriously, I have no idea how this thing was even able to move or stop. It was that bad. Metal on metal.
Anyway, Land Rover parts are notoriously expensive, so after markup, they’re even more expensive. She balked at the price, which wasn’t all that surprising. We didn’t feel comfortable letting her drive the car out of the shop (not just because of the danger to her, but the danger to us as well. Liability is not something you mess around with when surrounded by rich people). We even offered to pay to have it towed to another shop of her choosing.
For some reason, this hit a sore spot with her. She flew into a rage, yelling and pointing fingers at people, accusing us of refusing to let her drive her own vehicle and that we were imposing on her freedom and (I kid you not, she said this): her ‘god-given right to drive a car no matter how messed up it is!’
At this point, our manager came out and refused to let her drive the car out due to liability concerns, plus the fact that this woman was going crazy.
This sent the insane woman over the edge alright. The psycho Karen starts throwing tools, knocking tires over, and just generally acting nuts. We ended up calling the cops on her, and when they got there, she tried punching them and screamed at them.
She ended up in the backseat of a cruiser, and her truck was towed to the local impound. Just another crazy day at work.”
It Was Only A Matter Of Time Before This Happened!
“Last week we had a poor guy pull in with his wrecked 2014 Ram. The thing is, it was a pretty honest mistake, but it certainly cost the man. I blame it on bad design personally.
Back in 2013, the smart engineers at Ram decided to redesign their shifter for some reason. They ditched the typical column shifter for a knob. Yep. A large radio dial-like knob was located on the dash, except it said PRNDL on it. The driver would rotate the knob to select gears.
When we first saw the redesign (it is not the only manufacturer to have this feature by the way) we all had the same thought: ‘This could possibly not end well. Some poor fool is going to shift into park at the wrong time.’
But surely there is a fail-safe, we thought! You know, some kind of computerized, electronic gizmo to prevent catastrophic damage to the transmission if someone were to accidentally shift into park while traveling at speed, right? Wrong!
Can I show the court exhibit A? Back to the poor guy and his wrecked truck. My customer was driving home at night while tired and reached to turn his radio down. I’m sure you can guess exactly what happened. Instead of the radio, I’m sure the poor guy heard a pretty ugly sound coming from his transmission. Yep, he definitely did not turn the radio dial.
We got the vehicle pulled in and took a look at the damage. Whatever fail-safe the folks at Ram had designed had failed in spectacular fashion. The plastic transmission pan was cracked, and the owner was looking at a $2,500-$5,000 bills depending on if he went with a rebuild from a transmission expert of a completely new unit. Good times!”
Tales From Roadside Assistance
“I used to do towing and roadside assistance. I’ve seen my share of stupid customers.
I was dispatched to assist a customer with a tire change. I arrived and it looked like the guy had attempted it himself. He told me ‘Hey man my jack won’t go high enough so that’s why I called you.’
Okay then? I took a look and he’s using the factory scissor jack. But instead of placing it on the pinch weld like he was supposed to, he placed it under the floor and kept cranking the thing. This guy somehow managed to punch a hole through the floor of the family minivan! I know not everybody is a car person but come on!
Then there was the time this idiotic lady was having her son’s Jeep towed to the shop. It kept losing electrical power. She was ranting about how it couldn’t have been her son’s fault and he was a professional when he hooked up the stereo and light bars. She kept trying to get me to take her side (like I even care) that the shop kept doing lousy work and removing her son’s mods and how they were gonna pay to fix it. When I opened the hood I saw an electrical nightmare of messy wires and shoddy connections.
This is why you should leave electronics to the professionals! IF one thing was for sure, her dumb son did not know how to efficiently complete a circuit. That mess of wires should not be there and was certainly the cause of the vehicle losing electrical power somewhere. All of that wiring must’ve been draining the Jeep’s battery like crazy.
One of my other favorite customers was honest at least. I got called to tow a really nice 50s Chevy Bel Air. When I showed up there are burnout marks in the driveway. Burnouts? In a Bel Air? I don’t know about that chief. Customer’s explanation? ‘Ah well you see I really hit the sauce last night and started doing burnouts in the driveway to show off to my friends. Then the transmission blew out eventually.’
Welp. That sucks. You live and learn buddy.
Then there was the dude who tried paying me with a quart-sized Zip-Loc bag full of joints after he had just wrecked his car into a tree on the median. He told me ‘I know how to deal with guys like you,’ and whips out this bag of joints. I declined his offer. Sorry, bud cash or credit only.
And for my last story, there’s the time I picked up this sketchy-looking couple. They had to pay $50 in overages for their tow since their roadside plan didn’t completely cover it. The dude said ‘Man, we don’t have $50, but she will blow you the entire way’ and the girl winks and smiles at me. Nope, nope, nope. BJs don’t pay my bills! Ended up leaving them since they didn’t have the $50.
That job kinda sucked, but I always came home with a story at the end of my shift.”
He Put A Banana Where?!
“In 1997, I lived in India for four years and worked at an auto shop. Not everyone there has a car, so the repairs I did there were always kind of goofy. I knew a guy one day who got in a car crash saying there was something that made him pass out. So I checked, popped the hood and found nothing wrong with the engine. Then I jacked up the vehicle to discover that the bottom of the car was intact after repairs were made by insurance. And then for no reason, I happened to ask ‘Hey did you attempt to make any adjustments or modifications to your care by any chance?’
The guy responded, saying that he had recently plugged the exhaust pipe with a banana with Super Glue in order to bring a monkey home because his kid wanted one.
I kid you not.
I’m honestly not sure what the thought process was going through this dude’s head. I think he believed that the banana smell coming from the exhaust pipe would attract a monkey? I’m not sure exactly.
I shook my head and told the man that because he plugged his exhaust pipe with a banana, the carbon emissions weren’t going into the atmosphere, and instead were going directly into his car. This was the reason his car was making him pass out, and that it was a miracle that he didn’t suffocate. This dude was casually inhaling toxic exhaust and carbon monoxide.
The Mystery Of The Rubber Door Seal
“We had a lady customer who returned to the service dept with her month-old new Saturn, stating that the rubber door seal was falling off.
I got the work order, and sure enough, the weatherstrip rubber was falling off. I squeezed the metal in the weatherstrip so that it would pinch onto the body tighter and reinstalled it. Since we almost never had any problems with these door seals, I handed in the work order for my next job.
Two days later, the car was back. Weatherstrip is starting to come off again. Huh? Ok, we source a new door seal and I installed it, even though the first one is still showing no adverse signs, other than hanging loose in the door frame.
Finish it off, added some trim adhesive for good measure, and paying special attention to make sure that the seal is fully pressed onto the seam around the whole door frame. Hand in the work order.
One week later, she’s back! What the heck? Now, this is starting to tick me off. My boss is also getting annoyed at the comebacks as well. Lo and behold, the weatherstrip is hanging loose yet again.
This time I had the chance to see the customer as she headed to the waiting area – suffice to say that she was a large lady.
I postulated to my boss the theory that her butt was dragging across the weatherstrip every time she got in or out, and that said posterior friction was working it loose from the frame.
His words ‘Fix chubby’s door seal so that lousy thing never comes off again.’
I decided that I was going to use windshield adhesive (urethane) to re-affix the seal. If you’ve ever worked with urethane, it sticks to everything, and once dry, it holds tenaciously unless cut. That’s why it’s used for windshields.
Let dry for an hour with a heater blowing on it, and send the customer on her way – my boss gave me the stick-eye as she was driving away.
Didn’t see her for three months.
She rolls into the drive-thru, and my boss won’t even come out of his office. I get paged to the drive-through.
I get to the car, and the weatherstrip is still in place – yay! the rubber however has worn away completely down to the metal crimps inside, at butt-height at the rear of the door frame.
With her glaring at me, I said Miss, I need to tell you that your car is warranted for defects, but not for wear-and-tear. This falls under wear and tear”
She drove away and I never saw her for anything maintenance or warranty-related ever again.
Pro Tip: Don’t Do This To Your Mechanic
“My father owns a wheel repair shop, where he indeed repairs wheels. You bend, crack, or scratch a rim, he’s your guy. He also handles a lot of mechanical work and some small bodywork. Whenever I have the time, I go work for him. One day a couple of gentlemen come in and drop off a car with all of the wheels bent, not holding air, and scratched to heck. The cost to repair it all came out to be 200 a wheel (much more reasonable than the cost of a new one). The customers were informed of the price. My father then told them it would probably be ready for pick up by the end of the day Friday. Fast forward to then, it’s Friday night. The customer’s car was ready to go and he told us he would be there before closing to get it.
So we wait and wait. Closing time comes around and he still didn’t show. We called the number he gave us, but he did not answer. Half an hour later, still no sign of him, so we close up and leave. The next day, the customer comes into the shop to get his car, giving my dad an attitude because he had apparently shown up at six to get his car. He started screaming about how my dad should have to pay his gas and give him a discount on the service because it took longer to get his car. My father said that he couldn’t do that, as it was not his fault the customer did not show up before the shop closed.
The customer and his friend started arguing with my dad and screaming at him in Arabic, then threatened to go get a Smith & Wesson from his car if my father did not comply with his demands. As the guy turns around to get the piece, my dad, a 300 lb 50-year-old guy with severely messed up legs, chased after him, tackled him to the ground and slammed his head onto the pavement. He picked him up and pinned him against the wall. One of my dad’s employees was attempting to subdue the friend when out comes the owner of the neighboring shop, who had heard the whole argument, with a Mossberg 500, screaming at both of the men who were now pinned against the wall. They called the cops and explained the situation.
The cop arrives, takes the two guys’ information, and searches the friend’s car to check for a weapon. Turns out there was no weapon in the car. The officer asked my dad if he wanted to press charges, to which he said no, thinking it would prevent the altercation from escalating. The police continue to question the customer, and then put him in the back of the cruiser. My dad asks why they were arresting him when he said he did not want to press charges. Apparently, the guy had threatened to blow up the shop, so the police didn’t have a choice. Pretty crazy to watch.”
Guess Who Paid The Tow Bill?
“Service Advisor here. This story happened to me a few months ago.
A customer brings in their car last Wednesday and they say they have a shaking issue. Okay, nothing crazy. This is a fairly common issue. So we take a look and find a bad axle, some wear on the differential, dirty transmission fluid, blown rear chocks, and the vehicle is also needing an oil service. So we give this list of needed work to the customer and they shake their head. We only do the axle and fluid service.
Now let’s fast forward a bit. A few days later I get a phone call from the same customer.
Customer: ‘What in the bloody blazes did you do to my CAR?!’
Me: ‘What’s the issue?!’
Customer: ‘The issue is back, and it’s 1000x worst now you idiots! What the heck did I pay you for?!’
Me: ‘Okay, well if it is our repair that caused the problem we are more than willing to see what’s going on.’
Customer: ‘I demand a tow truck to be sent out and you guys HAVE to flip the bill on this, I’m not paying for this nonsense.’
Me: ‘Sir, not a problem. If it is work we’ve completed, then we are happy to pay for the tow and correct the issues. But be advised, if the issue is due to the OTHER recommendations or new issue, you will be responsible for the tow fee.’
Customer: ‘Yeah, that’s fine, I know it’s what you guys did anyway.’
Me: ‘Okay. Well, the tow truck will be there within the hour, sir.’
We hang up and end the call.
So, the tow truck comes to pick up the customer’s vehicle and brings it back to our shop. But before he picks it up, he makes the customer sign a waiver stating that he is aware of the damages to his vehicle.
The first thing I notice wrong with the vehicle is obvious: it has a flat tire.
Well, no wonder the guy said it was still shaking. This idiot had been driving with a flat tire. Plain as day, there is a puncture on the right front tire. The tire has a nice gash on the sidewall and I can tell that the idiot had been driving his vehicle on the flat tire for days because there is damage to the rim as well.
‘Well then…’ I say to the customer. ‘Sir, you had a flat tire, and you were obviously driving on it.’
‘Nope, not possible!’ the customer pleads, ‘My car left here completely fine! I’ve barely been driving it and it’s been sitting in the driveway all week!’
‘According to the receipt, you acknowledge the puncture WITH the tow truck driver and signed off knowing it was flat. But we did install the spare, drove about 10 miles on the street and highway, and we were unable to replicate the issue,’ I say.
The customer simply grumbled as he pulled out the waiver to reread it and spotted his signature right on the dotted line.
Guess who just paid 75.00 on a tow bill.”
First Off, Get Some Friends Who Can Read!
“Two friends and I (well, one friend and an acquaintance of him) had a thing going where we’d pool our money and buy camper vans, restore them and sell them. Or buy them abroad, drive them back home, get all the paperwork done, and sell for profit. It was a decent gig, I mainly like to because of the road trips abroad and getting to work on camper vans while making a few bucks besides my normal job.
The acquaintance of my friend was a nice man. He had money, didn’t really need to make more but was in it for the same reasons I was. I’m pretty handy around cars, engines, and motorbikes, my friend is a genius with them and I assumed the third dude would be somewhere in between my friend and I, skill-wise.
Boy, was I wrong!
We found a van we liked and contacted the seller, it was abroad (France, we’re in the Netherlands) and both my friend and I were unable to go pick it up. The other guy had some business to do in France (he owns several companies and is always up to something) and said he’d pick it up and drive it back. We gave him our cut of the money and on he went.
Sure enough, my friend gets a call. The van broke down, reason? The dude put diesel in the water tank. My friend told him it’s fine, we’ll have to clean out/possibly replace the water system, just get it to a gas station and put diesel in the diesel tank. Don’t worry about the water tank, for now, just get it home.
The friend gets another call. Van broke down again. Turned out the dude didn’t put diesel, but gasoline in the diesel tank. ‘I thought you said gasoline though!’ We were unable to help him out and basically told him to sort it out. He managed to arrange transport and get the dang thing back to us, which is when we really started doubting his ability to think. Not only is it very obviously a diesel van, the cap of the water tank DOES NOT look anything like a gas tank, it also has W A T E R written right above it bright red (van was white). Same for the diesel tank, which did look like a gas tank, and had D I E S E L spelled out above it.
Then we checked the water tank to see what he put in there. Because when he called us, he clearly said he’d put diesel in the water tank. He got some out… it was obviously diesel.”
You Can Fix A Car But You Can’t Fix Stupid
“Former service writer here.
Had a lady coming in wanting her oil checked because she thought it was low. Checked it myself and informed her she was actually full, the oil was clean, and she was all good to go. She wanted proof so I showed her the dipstick but for whatever reason she didn’t buy that. She wanted to see that the engine was indeed full of oil.
I tried to explain to her that’s not how it works and that it only takes a few quarts for a car her size to be good to go. Even went into detail about how the engine pressurizes itself and the oil is pulled up from the pan into the engine to do its job.
She eventually left though, seemingly unconvinced because she couldn’t take off the oil cap and look down into the hole to see oil.
A few hours later, she called the shop mad as heck because she put in a number of quarts more of oil before it was actually full and was on her way down to us in order to show us how to do our jobs.
Tried to inform her that the best option would be for her to pull over, but she promptly hung up telling me she would see me shortly.
A few hours later, she called back again, trying to say we ruined her car and that the engine blew on the interstate because we didn’t properly fill her engine with oil.
It wasn’t until insurance refused to cover anything because she had overfilled her engine and blew the seals before seizing the engine and shockingly, nothing we did.
She would regularly come by the shop for a while, threatening to sue and so forth. When she was eventually contacted by our attorney, she stopped coming around.
Not really sure what happened to her after that.”
“I Didn’t Know You Were Supposed To Change It So Soon!”
“About 20 years ago, I worked in an oil change shop in Northern Illinois. This one day, this red Camaro pulls up with some Florida plates on it. The woman got out of the car and said she’s passing through town on her way to Milwaukee and that the engine ‘knocks, and it’s not accelerating very quickly. I’m hoping it just needs an oil change.’
So I started the pre-oil change service (filling washer fluids, checking brake fluid, power steering, etc.) and decided to pull the dipstick just to see how the oil looks. Nothing was on the dipstick. I wonder if maybe her car maybe has a leak.
I pulled the car onto the lift, and man is that engine running – not right. So I raised the car to start service, and everything underneath looked absolutely pristine. No sign of any leaks. I’m noticing that the oil filter looks like the factory filter. Now, the car had like 25,000 miles on it so I assumed she’d just been taking it to the dealership for services.
Then I opened the drain plug. Anyone who’s ever worked in an oil change shop knows that the oil in a brand new car is a heavier weighted oil with a kind of green/brown color. So that’s what I’m seeing. I put a finger into the flow to look a little more closely at the oil in the light. Sure enough, it was factory oil. Not only was it factory oil, but there are enough little metal shavings in it that it may as well have been glitter oil.
So I went to show the woman and said ‘Well, part of the problem is that you for sure didn’t have enough oil in it. The other problem is that whoever did your last oil change put in the heavy grade factory oil. You really don’t want that in your engine any more than 3,000 miles.’
She looked shocked and says to me ‘This is going to be this car’s first oil change. I didn’t know you’re supposed to change it so soon after you buy it!’ So yeah. The woman goes out and spends $45,000 on a car and has no idea you’re supposed to change the oil EVERY 3000 miles, not once every 30,000 miles!
I know that after I finished the service and pulled it out of the shop, it seemed to be running a lot better, but I have no idea whatever came of that car or that woman.”
When In Doubt, Don’t Tear Out Wires
“I’m not a mechanic, but I work customer service for the software on a vehicle.
The program connects your vehicle to your phone so what I do is pretty much like IT. So one day this guy calls in and says that his vehicle isn’t moving, figured he needed me to connect him to RSA (roadside assistance) which I get all the time.
But no, apparently he called me because he did something a heck of a lot stupider. This idiot thought it would be a great idea to rip his rearview mirror off, which connects the vehicle to EVERYTHING! In fact all of the software stuff I handle goes through the rearview mirror which has interactive buttons and such. But yeah, this guy thought I could somehow magically fix all this stuff over the phone.
Unfortunately, the guy had triggered the car’s panic state when he ripped out those components so now the car was in its anti-theft ‘locked’ mode. So now the guy was trying to manipulate settings with the now ripped-off rearview mirror and start the car.
Even if you were going to mess around with the wiring, why would you turn on the vehicle and try to drive it? Something is clearly wrong with it at this point Sherlock.
He asked ‘Can you get my vehicle moving?’ Seeming to think I can somehow turn it off locked mode, which, even if I can, he ruined the head unit. So long story short I couldn’t even interact with it in any way. So I just said ‘I can send RSA over to you,’ and he hung up.
I can’t even imagine what he thought he was going to happen.”