Mechanics look at cars everyday, but there's always a way to surprise even the the worker who's seen everything. Whether it's a guy who hasn't changed his oil in three years, or the woman they tried to warn about a certain problem, there's always a hilarious worst case scenario these auto workers come across every day. Content has been edited for clarity.
Well It Said Low
“My old mechanic had a guy come in with a Ford Probe. He claimed it was ‘low’ on oil.
They take the dipstick out and the whole stick has oil on it. He checks again with the same result. The guy took the oil cap off and looked down into the hole and said, ‘See, it is ‘low.”
He had put three or four CASES of oil in the engine trying to fill the entire block up.”
Just A Little Improvisation
“The previous mechanic didn’t know how to patch an exhaust leak, and had tried to weld a ROCKSTAR can around the leak. The leak caused the second oxygen bank to fail, which is why they tried to patch it with the can.
Not a week later the bank read a failure again.”
Might As Well Fill Them All Up
“Not a mechanic, but former service writer. Woman comes in for an oil change, some common mini van, nothing out of the ordinary. 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 — textbook over-inflation.
I check the tire pressure, was well over-inflated. Then looked around the vehicle — two more tires were in exactly the same state, over-inflated and showing damage from it. The fourth was a bit under-inflated, no glaringly obvious tread wear.
Pointed it out to the customer when she came back, asked if there’s any reason three tires would be over-inflated. 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. Happened again, ‘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.”
It Costs To Do Too Much
“I was working at a performance shop at the time. A Golf GTI comes 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 waste gate operation, pressure and smoke tested the charged side of the turbo system for leaks, tested fuel pressures, all checked out. Removed the intake side from the turbo to inspect for rips in the rubber boot, all good.
Then I looked inside the intake boot and this moron bought one of these ‘turbo-nator’ gimmicky things and put it inside the intake. It had turned completely on its side and was restricting ~80% of the air flow. Removed the ‘obstruction’ and motor operating values returned to normal and power was restored. Did not feel any guilt that this idiot had to pay a few hundred dollars for me to diagnose and remove his awesome DIY performance mod.”
What A Steal
“I bought my car off a guy for $785. For all intents and purposes it worked fine, but the guy said that it overheated almost daily. 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, because I could try fixing it, and 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.
Went to a parts store, 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, changed the oil, cleaned out the radiator, and I haven’t had any trouble since. All in all, a perfectly working car for about $850.
I kinda feel bad for the dude who sold it to me.”
Wheels Are Different Sizes
“I did a co-op at a shop back in high school, guy complains about how his car doesn’t sit straight. We pull it in and don’t even need to put it on the lift to realize that he has 17-inch rims on one side and 15s on the other.
It took me about 45 minutes of explaining to him why cars aren’t made like that before he told us that he’d be taking his business elsewhere. On a side note, the side with the 15s were 100% bald, like racing slick bald and everything in that car was falling to pieces. I have too many stories of mistakes I found in people’s cars there, but this one has to be my favorite.”
Even Luxury Cars Are Driven By Morons
“As a former technical consultant for Porsche, I have a few stories.
A customer dropped her new iPhone under the passenger seat of her 911. It slipped under the carpet and into the sheet metal of the car. I got the phone out, all the while being yelled at about how it better not be scratched, she was not paying, and we would need to call Germany to tell them her phone got stuck as the result of a design flaw.
Another customer said that there was a ‘wooshing’ noise every time she stepped on the gas pedal. The ‘wooshing’ noise was caused by a throttle plate opening and air going into the intake.
A Cayenne owner said that the car pulled. On the test drive, I found that the car did not pull but the steering wheel was 90 degrees off. I raised the car up and saw a bent tie rod. Then, the customer cussed us out about how it should be under warranty and that he never hit anything.
In my new job as a field rep for a high-end manufacturer, a customer said that her speakers always had feedback and made buzzing noises. She was only playing music with vinyl type feedback purposefully recorded in the background. She demanded the car to be bought back and that they should never have built such a car in the first place.”
Why Wouldn’t It Go In Gear?
“I replaced the clutch in a car for a woman, then returned her car. By the time I got back to the workshop, there was a message waiting for me. It was her, saying that she couldn’t get the car into gear.
I was driven back to her house where she stood waiting for me, looking like she was ready to murder someone. I got in the car, started it up, put my foot on the clutch, put it into first gear, and drove it around the block, up and down through every gear. She apologized and off we went back to the workshop once more, only to get the same woman on the phone.
This time, she was not just a little angry, but screaming all kinds of curses at us. Back we went to her house. I started the car, put it in gear, and drove around the block again. This time, instead of leaving, we told her to try before we left. She jumped in, started the car, and crunched the gears hard and loud. It was at that point the penny finally dropped.
I am almost six feet tall. This woman was about 4’5″. She did not move her seat forward, so she was only pressing the clutch pedal a quarter of the way down. After explaining this to her, I got an earful of abuse from her, saying that she did not even know that her car seat COULD move, so how was she supposed to adjust it? She said she would be writing to the newspapers to tell everyone about the bad service she got from our garage.”
“I worked as a car cleaner at a dealership one summer in high school. Guy towed in a relatively new, top of the line Corvette he had bought there sometime before I started. He was angry that it had died on the road and been running like garbage before that. Ranting and raving about he spent all this money and it only went months/years before completely breaking down.
One of my work buddies got it up on a lift and started looking it over. He opens the oil drain plug and NOTHING comes out. He pulls apart the engine and the oil could now be best described as glue.
Owner talks to the guy and asks when was the last time he changed the oil. Guy had zero idea what he was talking about – 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.”
Don’t Mix The Oil
“Some years ago, here where I live there was a fairly widespread craze of mixing oil (I don’t remember the type, but it wasn’t at all related with 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 kilometers for less money.
Of course, it wasn’t the brightest of ideas, so I remember that despite being fairly young, I remember strongly advising 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, which is because it was a tank, however it eventually succumbed. If I remember correctly the fuel pump completely failed and had to be replaced entirely, but I might be forgetting stuff. The funny thing is though that the mechanic, after looking at the engine for about three minutes or something like that, asked almost 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 comes in with this issue.'”
Take Our Advice
“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.”
No That Did Not Help
“Not a mechanic, but while sitting in the shop waiting for my own car to have work completed I witnessed a customer and their mechanic talking about the customer’s car needing suspension repair.
The customer had tried (unsuccessfully) to do the repair himself. The mechanic asked him why some lug nuts were missing and others were loose. The customer replied how he thought he would be helping the mechanic by ‘loosening the tire’ for him. The customer had driven 20 minutes to get to the shop with a tire held on by a few loose lug nuts.”
He Just Made It Worse
“Service Advisor here. Had this happen a few months ago.
A customer brings in car last week Wednesday with shaking issue. Cool, take care of some of the issues the car actually has, leaves 10 times better (issues include bad axles, dirty transmission fluid, blown rear shocks, needing oil service). Done and gone. We listed the recommendations but customer declined, only did axle and diff fluid service.
Cut to today.
Same customer, over the phone Customer: What the heck did you do to my CAR?!
Me: What’s the issue?!
Customer: The issue is back, and it’s 1000x worst! What the heck did I pay you for?!
Me: Ok, well if it is our repair that caused the problem we are more than willing to see what’s going on. We didn’t replicate anything after test drive, so unfortunately we can’t determine it’s the same issue without checking it out.
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 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 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: Okie dokes, tow truck will be there within the hour.
The tow truck picks car up, notices issue, tells customer, notes it on receipt, customer signs and acknowledges it (coming back to this in a second).
We get the car, there’s a puncture on the rear right outer tire sidewall, nice welt and gash the size of a penny, tire completely deflated(tow driver noted this, told customer and wrote it out and had customer sign it).
Grab the air hose, hook up to tire, just wheezing air out.
Me: Well then…
Me: Yes sir, you had a flat tire and you were driving on it.
Customer: Nope, not possible, it left here fine! And I barely drove it home and it sat since I picked it up from you guys.
Me: According to the receipt, you acknowledge the puncture WITH the tow truck driver and sign it off knowing it was flat. But we did install the spare, drove about 10 miles on street and freeway, and we cannot replicate the issue at this time.
I can hear customer trying to find receipt, and he hangs up.
Guess who just paid $75 on a tow bill.”
It’s Always The People Who Try To Get Fancy
“A guy comes in with a Kia Soul for an oil change, mentions when he tries to pass people on the highway the engine bogs down. He doesn’t want to pay for diagnostic, so I just say we’ll see if the visual check included in the oil change brings anything up.
This guy put some aftermarket ‘turbo’ kit in that was just a big fan attached to his throttle body. When he was at wide open throttle, it would close the circuit and the fan would blast air into his engine, only he wired it backwards. The fan would turn on, spin the wrong way and the engine would starve for air.”
Don’t Use A License Plate As A Patch
“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, and got lodged between the front sprocket and the engine case, and punched a hole in the case. The owner welded a piece of license plate over the hole as a patch, but didn’t care 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 awhile, but I was on a trip with it about 100 miles from home when it over heated 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 over heated. It was trashed.”
I Tried To Warn Her
“A long time ago, the muffler of a friend’s car developed a hole. Her husband split a Chockola can and duct taped it over the muffler.
She later had to have some other work done and was going to go to the same repair man I used. Not only was this man an expert, he was an ex-stock car racer. He always had the greatest bunch of cronies around, but they did not suffer fools. At all. I had heard some of their stories and had an idea what they would say if she drove in with that Chockola can.
I pleaded with her for days to get rid of that but she did not. I had to take my car in for service a week later, and man, were there comments. I passed them along, but she and her husband didn’t see the humor. For years later, she was always referred to as my friend with the Chockola can.”
It Seems Like Something Every Day
“I’ve seen two different vehicles — a one-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 ol 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 garbage when all we did was manage to get it to run at all.
Let’s see, 20k miles on conventional oil sludge mucking 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.
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 he had taken a sawz-all to remove a six-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 home brew 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 driving 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.
Today I saw a Dodge Dart that used 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, 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 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 suggest to put 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 mis-matched pair going in the back if they aren’t all four the same.”