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How to approach vehicles with a laundry list of needed repairs

Friday, June 2, 2017 - 06:00
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Whenever we get a vehicle in for one simple service and find a lot of other stuff that needs attention, any well-trained, reliable technician will make a list of the needed repairs for the customer, putting the safety-related ones at the top — loose front end parts, failing brakes, expired or worn out or expired tires, and so on.  The caveat is that if a customer is shocked by a large estimate of needed repairs they didn’t expect, they’ll tell all their friends your shop tried to sell them the moon. And today, it doesn’t take many needed repairs to produce an estimate that climbs off the chart above what some customers can afford to have done. Even if they can afford the repairs, some savvy customers will opt to get a second opinion, so honesty is always key when making a list like that.

Show and tell is the best way to handle those situations. And your communication skills must peak in situations like this. Someone has quoted Einstein as having said, “If you can't explain it to a six-year-old, you don't understand it yourself.” And we all know some customers are sharper than others when it comes to absorbing what you’re telling them.

This canteen green Pathfinder hadn’t darkened our door before, but we had done numerous jobs for these folks on their other vehicles.

The other way the laundry list estimate goes is when they bring one with them when they come, and in my department, we get that regularly. These folks are typically the busy drivers who have been putting off first one repair and then another one for quite a few thousands of miles and then they’ll decide they want all those problems handled all at once. And some of their repairs aren’t quick and easy, either.

One of the recent ones we got was a 2005 F-150 with an inoperative moon roof that was stuck in the open position, no taillights, inoperative outside rearview mirrors and an erratic gas gauge. That same day we got a 2009 Chevy C2500 with a “fix whatever you find wrong” order, and there was quite a lot we had to do to that one. Then there was the 2005 Nissan Pathfinder with a laundry list that was a knuckle-busting adventure from beginning to end.

Happy customers

This family loves the work we do, and they tend to bring us most of it, but this was the first time we had ever seen the Pathfinder, which had 185,654 miles on the odometer. On the phone, the owner told me the instrument cluster was acting crazy, and I figured that’s all she wanted done initially, but then by the time her husband got there with it, she also wanted the heater core replaced – what an afterthought that was! It had long ago been bypassed.

As for the instrument cluster, it was doing wacky things. The temp gauge, the tach and the speedometer would come and go, and the brake, ABS and VDC warning lights would flash on and off just as randomly. The scan revealed a network code or two, but not much else. One thing we did notice is that the cluster couldn’t communicate during the dead-needle times. Filing that away mentally, I had Thomas launch into the heater core job.

In the meantime, the two other laundry-list vehicles rolled in. That 2009 2500 series Silverado mentioned earlier had been neglected for many a mile and year, with StabiliTrak and Tire Pressure Monitor messages, a gaggle of inoperative and busted lights and inoperative door locks. The 2005 F-150 was one a police officer brought in with an inoperative moon roof, tail lamps that didn’t work and a squirrely gas gauge.

The 2009 Silverado’s “StabiliTrak” problem called for this steering angle sensor, which wasn’t such a terribly bad job, but it took several wrenches and most of an hour to get it done. The Silverado’s door lock switch had been wet, and when we replaced it we got two operative locks – it’d need door lock actuators on two doors.

The Silverado wasn’t all that interesting, except for the StabiliTrak message displayed on the cluster. The DTC and the troubleshooting led to the replacement of the steering angle sensor, which was fairly involved because of the rusty, dusty fasteners. Robert jerked the steering column out, put it in a vise, and did the surgery – that took care of the StabiliTrak. The rest of the repairs were fairly straightforward, but we did need to mount a couple of universal tag lights in the rear bumper – you can get a traffic ticket in these parts if your tag lights are out. We also replaced the busted CHMSL/Cargo lamp assembly. We replaced the driver-side power door lock switch for corrosion, but then found two of the four door-lock actuators were dead, along with two of the tire pressure monitor sensors.

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