Moral of the story…Change your oil people. Oh and pay attention to your tires. Content edited for clarity.
“I worked at a dealership one summer in high school. This guy towed in a relatively new, top-of-the-line Corvette he had bought there sometime before I started. He was pissed that it had died on the road and been running like crap before that. He was ranting and raving about how he spent all this money and it only went X months/years before completely breaking down. None of us really knew what to say while he was ranting, so we went to the car. We were even more speechless when we saw why the Corvette hadn’t made it.
One of my work buddies got it up on a lift and started looking it over. He opened the oil drain plug and NOTHING came out. He pulled apart the engine and the oil could now be best described as glue.
The owner talked to the guy and asked when the last time he changed the oil was. The guy had zero idea what he was talking about. Seriously, he had no idea that you had to do that. He assumed you just added gas and that’s the only thing you needed to do. The engine was a complete loss, which meant the car was a complete loss to him. What a complete waste. Some people just don’t deserve nice cars.”
You’re Gonna Pay For It
“This customer brought in a car last week Wednesday with a shaking issue. We took care of some of the issues the car actually had and it left 10 times better. The issues included bad axles, tsb on the differential, dirty transmission fluid, blown rear shocks, and of course it needed oil service. We listed the recommendations still required but the customer declined. So we only did the axle and diff fluid service.
Well, cut to today. The same customer calls and immediately blows out my ears with, ‘What in fucken hell did you do to my CAR?!’
Confused, I asked, ‘What’s the issue?’
He shouted, ‘The issue is back, and it’s 1000x worse! What the hell did I pay you for?!’
‘Ok, well if it is our repair that caused the problem we are more than willing to see what’s going on,’ I replied civilly, ‘we didn’t replicate anything after the test drive, so, unfortunately, we can’t determine it’s the same issue without checking it out.’
The customer said, ‘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.’
‘Sir, not a problem. If it is work we’ve done 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 a new issue, you will be responsible for the tow fee,’ I answered clearly so he would hear every word.
He just replied with, ‘Yeah that’s fine, I know it’s what you guys did anyway.’
‘Okie dokes, the tow truck will be there within the hour sir,” I told him.
The tow truck driver picked the car up and noticed an issue, told the customer, and noted it on the receipt. The customer signed and acknowledged what the driver had seen. This is important.
We got the car soon after and immediately saw what the driver had noticed. How the customer signed off on this coming back to our shop, I will never understand.
There was a puncture on the rear right outer tire sidewall. Plus a nice welt, and gash the size of a penny. The tire was completely deflated (remember the tow driver noted this, told the customer, wrote it out, and had the customer sign it).
I grabbed an air hose, hooked it up to the tire, but the air was just wheezing out.
I approached the phones. I called him up and said, ‘Yes sir, we can see you had a flat tire and continued to drive on it.’
He shook his head saying, ‘Nope, not possible. It left here fine! And I barely drove it home and it sat since I picked it up from you guys.
Exasperated, but staying calm I replied with, ‘According to the receipt, you acknowledged the puncture WITH the tow truck driver and signed it off knowing it was flat. But we did install the spare, and drove about 10 miles on the street and highway, and we cannot replicate the issue at this time.’
I could hear the customer try to find the receipt and then he hung up. I guess he finally conceded and realized we weren’t going to budge.
Guess who just paid $75.00 on a tow bill? I’ll give you a hint: It wasn’t me.”
You Can’t Assume
“I took a few high school auto shop classes so I guess you can call me a novice mechanic. 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, and saw that it was not even touching the dipstick. So, I told her to add some oil and see if that fixed the problem.
The next day she came to me and said she added oil, but now the car won’t start. So, she had the car towed to my house. I looked at it and I tried to turn it over. The starter was engaging but the engine wasn’t turning. I popped the hood and checked the oil. She took my advice of adding oil, but I realized she had needed some more directions because this was a disaster.
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. It sounded like a rattling Coke can full of screws. I felt terrible that this poor girl just destroyed her car because I told her to add some oil.”
It Was A ‘Project’
“I was working at a performance shop at the time. A 2010, Golf GTI came in for lack of power and throwing check engine codes for under boost and several for fuel trim management conditions. I did the typical process of checking the turbo wastegate operation, pressure, and smoke tested the charged side of the turbo system for leaks, and tested fuel pressures. All of it checked out.
Then I removed the intake side from the turbo to inspect for rips in the rubber boot, but it all looked good. Then I took a look inside the intake boot and I wanted to smack this kid upside his head.
This moron bought one of these turbonator gimmicky things and put it inside the intake. It had turned completely on its side and was restricting 80% of the airflow. I removed the ‘obstruction’ and motor operating values returned to normal and power was restored. I did not feel any guilt that this idiot had to pay a few hundred for me to diagnose and remove his ‘totally awesome’ DIY performance mod.’
“The worst one I’ve seen actually ended up being on a motorcycle I bought. At some point, the chain snapped or came off somehow, got lodged between the front sprocket and the engine case, and punched a hole in the case. The owner JB welded a piece of license plate over the hole as a patch but apparently didn’t give a shit enough to actually dig out the case pieces.
I never noticed it because, on top of the license plate patch, he glued a black piece of plastic that the front sprocket cover slid into and looked perfectly stock. I rode that bike a lot and it was fine for a while, but I was on a trip with it about 100 miles from home when it overheated and died. I limped it home but just barely. I pulled the engine and that’s when I found it.
I pulled the lower pan off and there were chunks of aluminum floating in the oil the size of coins, one was about 2 inches big. The oil pump pickup was completely impacted with aluminum and blocked. The gears inside the pump were destroyed, the bearings were worn almost completely through, and the cams were destroyed. It blew the head gasket when it overheated. It was dead and not coming back. This is the worst case of carelessness I’ve ever seen that lead to serious consequences.”
Round And Round
“A woman came into the shop for an oil change, some common minivan, nothing out of the ordinary. I walked by the van while it was up on the rack, and noticed one of the tires was nearly bald in the middle, cords showing. It was textbook over-inflation.
I checked the tire pressure and it was well over-inflated. Then I got suspicious and looked around the vehicle. Two more tires were in exactly the same state, over-inflated and showing damage from it. However, strangely enough, the fourth was a bit under-inflated with no glaringly obvious tread wear.
I pointed it out to the customer when she came back, and asked if there was any reason three tires would be over-inflated. She told me what she and her husband had done. Her answer had me wondering how people could drive at all.
Long story short, she was occasionally seeing a ‘low tire’ light on the dash (no indication of which tire, just ‘low tire’), told her husband, and he just aired up all four tires. When it happened again, he ‘fixed’ the same way, rinse and repeat.
So over time they kept the tire with the leak going but managed to ruin the other three. Please buy a tire pressure gauge if your car doesn’t give you per-tire pressure readings. Or it could cost you.”
“It was a really bad snow day, and for whatever reason we were open. A guy pulled up needing a flat repair. He pulled up in a way the car could be just pulled in. My co-worker went to pull it in and couldn’t stop. The car slammed into his box. It wasn’t going fast enough to damage anything thank goodness. Turns out the car had zero brakes. None whatsoever. We said something to the customer and he replied calmly with, ‘Oh the foot brake? That hasn’t worked in years, you have to use the hand brake.’
We inspected the vehicle and discover it didn’t even have brake calipers in the front. With the hoses clamped off and not an ounce of brake fluid in the master cylinder.
And the most surprising part: he didn’t want to get the brake repairs done.”
What’s Next? Vodka For Wiper Fluid?
“I’m not a mechanic, but I know a bit of the do’s and don’t’s. Some years ago, here where I live there was a fairly widespread craze of mixing a household oil (I don’t remember the type, but it wasn’t at all related to the engine like sunflower oil or something like that) with diesel for better fuel consumption. The thought was that this type of oil would burn anyway, and mixed with diesel it would give the same miles for less money.
Of course, it wasn’t the brightest of ideas. I remember that despite being fairly young, I strongly advised against this practice. My mother didn’t listen to me and proceeded to top her Mitsubishi Pajero Turbo (great car for fuel economy, I know) with whatever oil she used.
Now, to be fair the car held up pretty well despite the abuse because it was an absolute tank, however, it eventually succumbed. If I remember correctly the fuel pump completely failed and had to be replaced entirely. Eventually, it was a lost cause. The funny thing is that the mechanic, after looking at the engine for about three minutes or something like that, asked slightly angrily to my mother if she was using the oil.
When questioned how he knew that he said something along the line of, ‘It’s the fourth this week that has come in with this issue.”
He Had No Clue
“I bought my car from a guy for $785. For all intents and purposes, it worked fine, but the guy said that it overheated almost daily. It was a 1999 Nissan Sentra, manual, 135K miles. If it didn’t overheat it would have been closer to $3-4K, maybe even more. I bought it anyways, cause I could try fixing it and cause I was desperate for a car (my old one died and I lived 10 miles from work).
So I brought the car home (the guy filled the radiator per an agreement we made), and the overflow tank was already empty. I started feeling along the coolant piping, and when I came to the thermostat sensor housing I could stick my fingernail inside the gap. My fingers came out soaking wet with coolant. Poor guy didn’t realize this was a relatively easy fix.
I went to a parts store, and spent $10 on a housing gasket, $3 on some liquid gasket, and $50 on new oil, a new oil filter, a new air filter, radiator cleaner, and coolant. Spent an entire day putting that gasket in (the reason it took so long is a frickin story and a half that was all about Murphy’s law), changed the oil, and cleaned out the radiator, and I haven’t had any trouble since. All in all, a perfectly working car for about $850.”
At Your Own Risk
“I had the car on a hoist at Midas for a peek at the brakes. The manager started telling me about a sports car he had in for shuddering front discs. They took off the front wheels, and to everyone’s amazement, the outer disc surface was completely gone! The internal ribbing was also worn down but still attached to a thin inner disc.
They immediately got the owner to come and take a look, but he refused to accept that anything serious was wrong! He was not going to pay some crooked car shop for two new discs when his were just fine! He insisted they reassemble everything so he could drive away.
They let him go, but only after having him sign a form stating he’d been told the car was in a dangerous condition.”
More Than I Can Count
“Unfortunately, I have seen this too many times. I’ve seen two different vehicles — one 1-ton pickup, and 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 the 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 awful when it was a miracle we managed to get it to run at all.
A customer came in with an Accord, complaining her son seemed to have done something to make it louder. We got 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.
One guy had a beat-up Elva (an 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 was left on the trailer it came in on. Shame, the Elva was literally a street-legal track car of its time.
And literally today there was a Dodge Dart. They used wheel bolts instead of studs. Cheap aftermarket wheels with incorrect spacing, no hub-centric adapter rings, had 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 had 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. This 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 were still being subjected to a lot of additional forces that hub and wheel assembly was never designed for, and at some point, something was going to fail. Also, the front tires were brand new. The 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 lets 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 the same.”