For spending so much time in their cars people aren't always too bright about taking care of them. That's where auto mechanics come in and boy do they see some sorry machines. These auto techs share the stupidest times a customer has brought in a vehicle.
Two Laughs And An Idiot
“You can tell quite a bit about someone judging by their vehicle. Example A: This one guy who sold adult toys came into the shop. He bragged about selling some of the biggest dongs on the market and for some reason he thought one of those things would be great to fix the hole in the middle of his exhaust.
I’m not sure what his thought process was here but I guess he imagined that the dong would twirl around or something as the exhaust blew through it? I’m not sure exactly. But nope. It just caused an exhaust leak at the headers. We sat in the back of the shop laughing about it for a solid hour.
Another stupid thing we saw also involved adult toys yet again. An exotic dancer at a club from up the road pulled in with her Volkswagen Jetta. Regular old car but none of us wanted to touch it. The reason why was that she replaced the gear shifter with a bright pink, jelly dong. Nobody wanted to pull that car in because god knows if she actually used it or if it was just there for laughs. She came in for transmission problems but get this. As it turns out, the jelly toy flopping around all day on that gear shift wasn’t very good on the shifting forks. Go figure. Don’t replace your shifter with a dong.
But the crowning jewel of stupidity has to go to the dude who tried to save money while lowering his poor Ford F-250 to do that awful squatting thing. He tried to cut out the leaf springs himself and removed five in the process. He ended up coming to us with his head hung low because we had advised them not to do that and inevitably the truck bed and all the weight of the rear end of the truck came down on both of the tires over a bump and blew them both out.
He was the son of one of our best customers and since our customer is extremely based, he told me to chew his son out. I happily obliged and finally talked his son into leveling his truck rather than doing that stupid squatting nonsense.
Seriously, the squatting looks really stupid. And you’re wrong for doing it to your truck or SUV.”
An $8,000 Mistake
“One day a lady brought in a meticulously clean, 2-year-old Honda into the shop. It was one of the sportier Accords too with the turbocharged 2.0 and it still smelled new. She was a fairly well-off woman who worked for a major company about 20-25 miles from our shop (this will be important later, I promise).
Anyways this poor woman let a friend change the sparkplugs on her Honda a few days prior and now it was running poorly. I asked her if the engine light was on, and she told me it was flashing on her way into work that morning. I told her to tow the car to the shop just in case, but she insisted on driving it to us to save some money I suppose. I tried my best to convince her otherwise but it was her choice to drive with a flashing engine light during the busiest of 5 pm rush hour traffic.
So she made the 25-mile drive from work and let us take a look at the car. It didn’t take long to find out, but the guy that installed her plugs hadn’t torqued them down properly which was about as bad as that sounds. For some reason, the ignition coil didn’t blow off on that cylinder like it typically would. So the plug bounced around in there, damaging the coil beyond repair before finally breaking apart and falling into the cylinder where it gouged the heck out of her cylinder walls. It was honestly a bit of a miracle that the car made the drive to our shop in the first place.
As you can imagine the prognosis was not good.
Repair suggestion? Don’t even think about it. This virtually new Accord was going to need nothing less than a new engine to the tune of $8,000. Ouch.
The poor woman didn’t have that kind of change lying around to replace the engine, plus she still owed $20,000 on her shiny, red paperweight. She left the shop looking kind of sore.
Life lesson folks! That kid down the street isn’t qualified to work on your car. Especially spark plugs. And at 10,000 miles, your Honda doesn’t need new plugs anyway.”
This Is Why You Let The Professionals Speak
“One day a lady brought in her 2002 Mercury Mountaineer with, like, 137K miles for a state inspection. I saw the ticket roll off my printer, walked over to our state inspector, and handed him the ticket. The guy then hopped into the shite-box, turned the ignition, and instantly heard an exhaust leak which in my state is a safety fail. At least he was nice enough NOT to start the inspection and returned to me with the news.
We were short on advisors/writers so the service manager wanted me to speak with the lady. Fine. So I approach her with the news:
‘How much will it cost to fix?’ she said/
‘Well, it really depends where the leak is coming from. Our hour diagnostic starts at $140 per hour. So first we’ll have to put it up in the air and—’
‘Didn’t your tech just say it was coming from the exhaust?’ she interrupted.
‘Well, yes, but the exhaust is made of multiple parts—’
‘Well if the tech knows where its coming from, why does he need more time to find it?’ she interrupted again.
‘Well, because miss—’ I said, trying to get a word in.
‘Just tell me how much it’ll cost,’ she snapped.
‘Fine, Ms. Know-It-All,’ I thought as I walked over to my parts counter:
‘Can I get a quote for a full exhaust system on this thing?’ she asked.
‘Sure,’ I sighed.
I handed the repair order to the parts guy for a figure. Okay, so $3,500? Pretty steep for an old car. I walked over to my computer to calculate labor times on pro-demand. The program said eight hours, but just because I already hate this rude chick I say 11 just to get her out of here. I returned to the woman with the new figure.
‘All-in-all, $5,500 for an entirely new exhaust system,’ I said with a straight face.
‘It’s going to cost HOW much?! Can’t you just patch it?!’ she shrieked.
‘Well Miss, like I said, our diagnostic to find the leak so we can repair it starts at $140 per hour—’ I said until she put up her hand to stop me right there.
She exhaled a long, exasperated, annoyed sigh. I couldn’t believe this drama queen. How could you be so rude yet so stupid at the same time?
The clueless lady grabbed her repair order and stomped out blathering, ‘I guess it’s time for a new car!’
Seriously though. If she could’ve just kept her mouth shut for like two minutes we could’ve just cut out the leak, slapped a new pipe in her car and she’d been out in an hour for $200-250 max. But nope, she was too stupid to listen to me and instead went off to buy a new car. Good riddance.”
Diamond Plate Guy
“Oh boy, do I have a shop nightmare. Let me tell you about the Diamond Plate Guy. So guessing by his name, Diamond Plate Guy had all but two things he used to modify his truck; a Dewalt drill and a ton of, you guessed it, diamond plate. This guy went to town on an absolute base model V6 Ram 1500 of all things. This truck also had the exhaust chopped off so you already know what kind of guy we’re dealing with here.
Anyways I thought his ride was already bad enough until I popped the hood and sweet Jesus did this guy go overboard. This idiot drilled, glued, I’m not sure, diamond plate on EVERY flat surface in that poor engine bay. I’m talking about the air filter, intake manifold, fan shroud, even the battery, and so much more. If it was bright enough outside, the sheer shine from all that lousy diamond plate would blind me. That was 18 months ago and my eyes have yet to recover but this wasn’t the end of Diamond Plate Guy by any means.
He came back not too long ago because he thought painting the inside of the wheel would be a great idea. Even the inside of the wheel that seats to the wheel hub. Just moronic behavior. But yeah, pretty much this guy came in again because the paint seized around the wheel and the hubs and wouldn’t turn. It was my job to smack the wheels off with a big hammer.”
This Guy Has Seen It All
“Oh, boy do I have a long list of stories.
I remember one situation involving two different vehicles — one 1-ton pickup, one solar power system in an RV — wire up their twin 12V batteries in series, frying several parts of the 12V electrical system with 24V, including the second battery.
Then there’s the young girl who poured motor oil into her brake fluid reservoir of her Cobalt thinking that’s where engine oil went in to top it off. It had been in there long enough to ruin just about every piece of rubber in the system, so basically, everything was contaminated to the point of needing to be replaced. She probably got rid of the car, I have to imagine a written estimate would have been at least half the value of the car at the time.
The time a customer had his buddy flat tow him in by tying his Ranger up behind a Jeep with a big ole’ length of rope for several miles was amusing and highly dangerous/illegal. They were very clearly impaired. He had tried changing his spark plugs (not the only thing it needed) and managed to completely strip out the cylinder head on one plug. Then he blamed us when this basket case of an engine ran like trash when all we did was manage to get it to run at all.
Let’s see, 20k miles on conventional oil sludging up the engine, absolutely no end to dangerous tire stupidity, including bearing witness to a rollover/3-vehicle collision caused by someone else installing illegal tires on an F-250 which we refused to the very same customer mere days before…
A customer comes in with an Accord, complaining her son seemed to have done something to make it louder. We get it up on the lift and… well, he had taken a Sawzall to remove a 6-inch section of pipe and used hose clamps and a metal bar to keep the two sections attached to each other but completely open to the air. She got the bill, he lost all driving privileges.
Oooh! One guy had a beat-up Elva (obscure vintage English sports car) with residential wiring and plumbing fixes throughout. That is to say, brazed copper pipes in the cooling system with a homebrew twin(!) radiator setup (which still overheated), and actual residential wire and twist caps (which still didn’t work). He wanted us to get it running again for hooning about in a field. That would have required undoing literally everything he had ever done to the car, and a lot more. It left on the trailer it came in on. Shame, the Elva was literally a street-legal track car of its time.
Oh, you did mean today? Dodge Dart, uses wheel bolts instead of studs. Cheap aftermarket wheels with incorrect spacing, no hub-centric adapter rings, has cheap ‘universal’ wheel spacers to clear the front brake calipers. Neither the wheel spacers nor the wheels were intended for use in this application with wheel bolts. The spacer has no way of centering on anything, so trying to sandwich it between the hub and the wheel while entirely supporting the wheel in the air and threading in the wheel bolts one can’t help but let it slip crooked — which is what the customer did when he put them on himself, which caused it to scrape the brake caliper bracket. It was a juggling act to get it centered enough not to interfere with anything. But those wheel bolts are still being subjected to a lot of additional forces that hub and wheel assembly was never designed for, and at some point, something is going to fail. Also, the front tires were brand new. Rear tires were old, worn, and very dangerously low on air — basically flat.
Never install two new tires on the front with old, worn tires in the back. This is dangerous in bad weather, especially in the winter. If the back end suddenly let’s go first, I don’t care how good you think you are, you aren’t recovering when the front has so much extra traction and the rear has none. The front tires act as a pivot and send you spinning out of control, the back tires can’t regain enough traction to straighten back out. But if the front end lets go first, the newer rear tires can still slow the car down in a straight line long enough for the front tires to regain traction for a safer stop. If you have four matching tires of equal wear and grip, it’s much easier and more predictable to recover from a sudden loss in traction. Conventional wisdom is really wrong when it suggests putting new tires in the front.
Michelin did a lot of testing with it, and it’s our corporate policy to put them in the back for that reason. Same for winter tires, never install just a pair on the front of a front- or all-wheel drive vehicle with all-seasons in the back. We only install in sets of four winter tires, with the modestly better-mismatched pair going in the back if they aren’t all four the same.”
Just A Few Drops Of Oil Huh?
“I took a few high school auto shop classes so I guess you can call me a bit of a tinkering amateur mechanic. Anyways, a co-worker of mine asked me to look at her car as it was making some grinding sounds. The first thing I did was check the oil. Pulled out the dipstick and saw that there wasn’t even any oil. Simple fix. I just told her to add some oil and see if that fixes the problem.
The next day she comes to me and says she added oil but now the car won’t start. So, she had the car towed to my house. I look at it and I try to turn it over. The starter is engaging but the engine isn’t turning. I pop the hood and check the oil. She took my advice of adding oil alright but boy did she go overboard.
Maybe I should have clarified how much to add. She added so much oil that it was practically spilling out of the dipstick tube. Once I drained the oil down to a practical level, I was finally able to get the engine to turn over only to discover that she hydro-locked the engine with all that oil and shattered a connecting rod or piston. Sounded like a rattling Coke can full of nails. I felt bad that this poor girl just destroyed her car because I told her to add some oil.”
It’s Always A College Kid
“About once a month we’ll get a diesel in that somebody filled up with unleaded. Once we had a customer who put diesel in her Ford Fusion, which is much more impressive. Diesel pump nozzles are bigger, to prevent exactly this. Undeterred, she got a funnel and used it to slowly fill her tank from the diesel pump.
But by far the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen was on an early 2000’s VW Passat brought in by a college kid (it’s always a college kid). I’m handed a work order that says simply ‘running rough.’
Go start the car and it’s misfiring terribly, gotta keep the pedal nearly floored just to limp it into the shop. Open the hood and there’s oil everywhere. Pull the dipstick and oil starts bubbling out of the dipstick tube. Raise the car and pull the drain plug, and somewhere between THREE TO FOUR GALLONS of oil drains out (engine capacity is something like 5.5 quarts).
Did this guy try to DIY his last couple of oil changes and just skipped the part where you drain the old oil out?
The story I got later was that the dude had noticed an oil spot on the ground and figured he had an oil leak. So far, so good, but not for long. Figuring it would be easier to find the source of the leak if there was more oil in the engine, he says he proceeded to add oil until it was full. My service writer asked him to clarify, and he said he kept adding until it was up to the opening where you pour it in!
And the poor thing actually ran that way for about half a day before it started misfiring!
Half a case of foaming degreaser later, I put in the prescribed 5.5 quarts and start it up expecting oil to start pouring out of the front and/or rear main seals, but by some miracle they held! We advised a new set of plugs and valve cover gaskets, and that he drive it a few days and bring it back so we can try to spot the original leak, now that it’s been degreased.
He declines everything, pays for his oil change, and leaves. Two months later he’s back saying his check engine light came back on the day after his last visit and now it’s running rough again. Misfire and PCV system codes are no surprise, so I again recommend spark plugs and valve cover gaskets. If he’s the luckiest fool ever that will be all he needs. He again declines but asks us to clear the codes. And happily pays $50 for a code scan and clear, which would have been deducted from his bill if he had authorized any actual work, which was still badly needed.
I am absolutely certain his check engine light came back on within a day. I hope that day was worth 50 bucks.”
Completely Out Of Touch Customer
“This was a story told to me by a friend who worked for Land Rover roadside assistance. He got a call to a car that had stalled and wouldn’t start, half a mile from a petrol station. The call was to a 5.0L Petrol Range Rover Autobiography. The most complicated and expensive Range Rover on the market.
He arrives and the owner said that she was driving along and it just stopped. Knowing that there was a filling station close by, he asked if she’d perhaps put the wrong fuel in. Turns out she had, but not in the way you’d expect.
She had owned the car for a month and was disappointed with the fuel economy (which will have been around 8-13 mpg) and she was telling one of the mums on the school run, that she was constantly having to refuel it. One of the mums said, oh I put diesel in mine and I get much better range. Another mum (also a Range Rover owner) exclaimed the same. She put diesel in hers and didn’t have to fill it up anywhere near as often as this lady.
So she drove to the filling station and filled it to the brim with diesel. Nowhere in her, or the other parents’ minds, had it occurred that gas and diesel engines are different.
She filled it, it started, seemingly from the petrol that was still in the pump/lines, and then it stuttered to a halt half a mile later.
The total cost to repair this was in the region of $10,000. The car had only 900 miles on it.”
Did Somebody Hire A Plumber To Repair This Car?
“My kid had a Chevy Suburban come into the shop for a gas leak (like it was pouring gas, not dripping). Once they got underneath it, they found that most of the vehicle’s exhaust system was replaced with plumbing-grade PVC pipe that was warped and looked like it had caught fire at least once. In addition, all of the body mounts were either gone or nearly gone, so the body was basically floating on the frame. Just absolutely abysmal.
We also had another car towed in during the winter with the complaint that it would run for a few seconds, then sputter and die. It was left in the shop overnight and the next morning it started up just fine. Couldn’t find an issue with it and returned it to the customer. That night it gets towed in again for the same thing. After more investigation, discover a ‘custom’ (using the term very loosely) dual exhaust, that had no water drain in the muffler so the condensation in the exhaust would gather and freeze solid, blocking the exhaust. Drilled and drained about a gallon and a half of water from both mufflers.”
He Ruined His Own Truck Over A Scam
“Had a guy come in for an engine rebuild. He had run his truck very hard so it was a difficult rebuild. We wound up replacing most of the engine internals for a pretty penny. On top of that, the guy was very pushy, calling constantly and showing up every day. Not a big deal, at most a bit of an annoyance.We show him where we are then let him know we can’t keep working until he’s out of the work area. I just thought that he was interested in the process.
But anyway, we finished it on the 4th of July weekend. He picked up his Dodge, called back a couple of hours earlier saying there’s a knock in the engine. We say hey, no problem, just pull over we will call a tow truck and have it towed to us. This kind of stuff can happen on full rebuilds.
For the record, he didn’t let us test drive it more than around the block. He just wanted to take it ASAP which we thought was a little fishy but oh well.He says not to worry and that he’s already called a tow truck to tow it to his house, and we can tow it to the shop next workday. We send the tow and bring the truck in, drop the oil pan, and it’s just full of absolutely mashed up engine pieces. All that hard work GONE. I couldn’t believe what this guy managed to do in a matter of days.
Well turns out, this idiot kept driving after hearing the engine knock not because he didn’t know, but because he was TRYING to cause as much damage as possible until the engine exploded. Basically, this swindler was banking on the entire engine rebuild to be covered by our six-month rebuild warranty. He tried calling a BAR (Bureau of Auto Repair) rep who didn’t really end up helping his case. Said his mom was a lawyer but never heard from him again. Might still have pics of that mess, dude was a prick.”
Sometimes Good People Do Dumb Things
“I’ve seen many dumb things over the years but there’s one that always stuck out to me.
One of our most loyal customers tried to do something himself in his driveway. He’s a great guy, we always did all his work for him and he never complained about anything. Great guy to do business with but boy he should not be doing his own work. There’s a good reason he always comes to us!
Well anyways, he lived maybe two minutes down the road from the shop. One day he noticed a rattle sort of noise coming from under the car. He looked underneath and figured out it was the exhaust heat shield on the gas tank that had come loose. Our guy decided that he’d fix it himself instead of bringing it to us.
After all, it looked like an easy enough fix. He got under his Chevy with a drill and decided he’d drill a new hole in the heat shield then put something through it.
Well long story short, our guy isn’t very lucky. He managed to drill straight into the plastic gas tank which started leaking immediately. We ended up replacing the plastic gas tank because of his DIY mistake and to my knowledge I don’t think there is any other way to repair a leaking gas tank other than a full replacement.
In short, if he just brought it up to us we would have fixed it for him quick in five minutes and probably would have just asked for him to bring the shop coffee next time he comes in to pay for it. Instead he spent at least $500 (probably more but I don’t remember exact numbers).
Sometimes even the easiest jobs can cause major headaches when the person working on it isn’t a professional.”
He Talked A Big Game For Someone Who Didn’t Know What He Was Doing
“I was just a grease monkey in a tire shop one year while taking care of my grandparents in a small desert town in Washington. The boss left for a week-long vacation and left me in charge. This kid got hired (maybe 19 years old, tops). He was so god freaking obnoxious. He told everybody all of these outlandish stories:
-He used to be on the SWAT team
-He was an ASE certified mechanic
-He just got out of rehab for narcotics
One day, I told him to drain the oil out of the car I was working on. He went downstairs. After a few minutes, he said that the oil was out. I checked the dipstick (the actual dipstick. Not the idiot in the lower bay) and it was still maybe a quarter OVER full. Without saying anything, I went downstairs to check Fuckstick’s handiwork. I guess they never taught him that transmission fluid isn’t the same thing as oil. The kid drained a brand new (at the time) Suburu’s transmission.
Fuming, I stormed upstairs and berated him in front of the whole crew. I told him the only excuse to be that stupid was that somebody must have ‘peed in his mother when she was pregnant with him.’
The kid cried and we all shamed him for being a moron.
I ended up having to call the customer and say there had been a mix-up and that we were going to be replacing the transmission fluid as well at no extra cost. The customer was totally chill and I covered the shop’s butt.
Fast forward to when the boss is back. He quickly exits the boss’s office, who is roaring obscenities and chasing him out. The kid left. When we asked what had happened, he said he had gone to the office to narc me out for being mean. Boss chewed him out because I’d already left a report on his desk explaining the whole situation for him to read when he returned. That was one of my favorite jobs ever. The crew really was like family. We hired some lousy people sometimes, but they never lasted long. Good times.”