CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Electrical

After running various checks on the battery, starter and alternator, I agreed to have my mechanic perform a more thorough diagnosis to locate the draw on my battery. After keeping the vehicle for three days the mechanic told me the security circuit and the cd changer circuits were the culprit. I asked for the fuses, which he had removed accepting his diagnosis. One day later I questioned his diagnosis, returned the fuses to their rightful place in the fusebox, and there has been no drain on the battery. The car runs as though there had never been a problem. I have been told intermittancy could be the culprit - who knows? My question is did the mechanic earn eight hours worth of billable shop time; did I pay to have a problem identified or did I pay for a diagnosis, regardless of the outcome?

You wanted to have the problem of having a dead battery resolved. You wanted to have a parasitic draw test performed,you paid for it. What value (in millamps did your mechanic say your draw was? you paid to get the number what was it?)

The mechanic removed the fuses that were completing the circut to the load that was causing your battery to go dead. What was the draw after the fuses were removed? you paid for the number what was it?

Now you put the fuses back in, you need to have the draw measured again before you can make a conclusion.

I don’t think the job should have paid eight hours,at most two,you had the wrong man on the job. You would feel much better if you had only paid two hours, right?

Did the mechanic try to justify 8 hrs labor? please explain

To answer your questions directly No he did not earn 8 hrs pay,Yes you did pay to have a problem identified,Yes you did pay for a diagnosis,I cannot put the last comment in contex can you elaborate? Are you saying “If I get a incorrect diagnosis do I still have to pay” First you must be exact in saying the diagnosis is incorrect but I say no you don’t have to pay if the diagnosis is incorrect.

Thank you for your reply. I don’t have the invoice in front of me at the moment, but the mechanic did provide the the millamp values. I would say the diagnosis was incorrect if by returning the fuses to their original position the problem did not persist. In other words, had the diagnosis been right, the shortcircuit would drained the battery again. The mechanic made no attempt to justify eight hours: it was a matter of if you want your car back, pay the bill.

You never really told us what the original problem was. Did you have a dead battery? Did the mechanic do anything other than remove the fuses (which, by the way, does NOT solve the problem)?

Security systems and radio/cd units in ALL cars that have them are constantly drawing small amounts of current from the battery. This is how they maintain their memory when the ignition is shut off.

If you replaced the fuses these systems are once again drawing current 24 hours a day.

Tracing and testing circuits is time consuming. Did the mechanic spend eight hours? There’s no way either of us will ever know.

What’s the difference between “diagnosis” and “problem identified?”

It is difficult to tell from your message. If the mechanic did what he said he was going to do and what you agreed to have him do, then he earned his pay no matter what the outcome.

If both of you agreed to pay him if he was able to correct the problem, then it appears you owe him because you don't seem to have a current problem.  It all depends on what you actually agreed to.  As you might suspect, if it was not in writing, you will likely not be able to agree as to what that original agreement was.  

 The mechanic deserves to be paid for his work based on the agreement made prior to the work.

My Ford Thunderbird is an '04 and if I leave it for 1 month without starting it will drain the battery. Most new cars draw a small amount of current while parked, some more than others. Perhaps the current draw you are noting is “normal”. You never said how old the battery was and how long it took to drain the battery to a point you couldn’t get the car to crank.

A rechargeable “jumper” battery in your trunk would be a good idea until you get more info. Perhaps a new battery with a higher capacity would be useful too.

There is not much I can do about the T’bird, it is what it is. So I have a jumper handy when I go to fire it up after is sits for awhile. My boat drains the battery to power the bilge pump when it is docked. I got a solar charger (about 1 square foot panel) that I put on the dashboard in the sun and that keeps the battery charged fine.

Disconnecting your fuses and replacing them seems like a hassle. Perhaps you can wire in an in-line switch somewhere and click them off if you have to leave the car at the airport or something.

Mr./Ms. Oregon Motorist, You Forgot To Introduce Your Car!

It is often very helpful, although not always necessary to have this information. Please supply whatever information you can, identifying the make, model, year, miles, engine size, and transmission type (automatic / manual).

Also, as McParadise has already requested, please describe the symptoms of the problem with as much detail as possible.

Others with your particular kind of vehicle may have experienced a similar problem and may be able to help you. Drawing on past experiences sometimes circumvents having to start from scratch. Getting input from others is the beauty of this forum.

Please introduce your car and symtoms and maybe somebody will have another go at it.

Thanks, CSA

Another perspective,If your car was under warranty the manufacture would never have paid 8 hrs for a parasitic draw location. Now if after finding the draw the work to fix it could have paid big hours (like in replacing a part of the loom). For the mechanic to get 8 hrs diagnostic time he would have had to of submitted a O.L. (other labor) request with a description of what he has done and what he is doing to find the problem,his method better fit a accepted diagnostic technique or he will be denied.