How often are mechanics surprised by cars that look like they are cared for but are not?

I repair computers and have seen it all. Cockroaches, spilled soda, pet urine, you name it. Some of these things come in looking so nasty you can’t believe they even bring them to someone. This is one of the reasons for me charging an upfront diagnostic fee so my time isn’t wasted diagnosing obvious junk that isn’t worth repairing. You know when one of these nasty ones comes in that it is usually beyond repair.

Well I recently had a pristine (or so I thought) metal cased HP convertible tablet/laptop come in. This is the type of unit competing directly with Apple as it was made with a solid metal body and had that modern sleek look. It looked perfect on the outside but wouldn’t power on. Well once opened it was quite apparent that it had gotten very wet inside sometime in the past. There was lots and lots of corrosion. Steel was rusted, connections with copper had that blue-green color, and the magnesium body had that white crusty corrosion yet it looked perfect on the outside. The guy admitted it had been left outside for several days during a raining period by a relative after I called him with the news.

This thing looked pristine on the outside and I never would have expected the interior condition after I opened it up. I am sure the same happens with cars. What are some funny stories mechanics have from working on cars owned by the general public? I am sure some come in that are washed and waxed weekly but haven’t seen an oil change. Let’s hear them!

Yeah water is not good for electronics. I dropped my pager in the stool one morning and immediately blew it out and dried it but it was shot after just a few seconds. Back to cars, my wife had her iphone on the center console and I had to stop abruptly as it neatly slid right into my coffee cup. She was not very happy and gave me that look. It acted really weird for about ten hours then started working again just fine. Lucky for me.

As far as nasty goes, one of the worst I’ve ever seen was a low miles SAAB. The repair order handed to me called for a 15k miles service so my thought was KA-CHING! Gravy money…

Out in the lot I opened the door and the smell that came out made me gag. Seriously. It was bad enough I did not drive the car into the shop. I held my breath, operated the driver side window down, and rounded up some guys to help me push it into the shop and onto the rack.

It was bad enough that other guys in the shop (with a plethora of various fumes anyway…) came over and asked me what in the hxxx had died in that car. The service writer said he just quit breathing while writing the ticket up and tried to put on a smiley face to the customer; getting the VIN, odometer reading, and getting away from it as quickly as possible.

The SAAB’s owner apparently had 2 Russian Wolfhounds that he ferried around all the time with the back seat folded down. The entire interior of that car was coated with dog hair, dog urine, and dog excrement stains. A pricy car with only 15k miles and the smell would make eyes water…

Even worse, I discovered the SAAB’s owner was a doctor at Children’s Hospital in OK City and this guy went into work every day no doubt reeking like his car and carrying who knows what kind of germs with him along with dog hair.
Doctors being what they are, I also assume no nurse or administrative employee would dare say anything to him.

I’ve had the displeasure of smelling a car the life of which was spent hauling large drooling, shedding dogs. I know the smell you’re referring to. Why the owners of these cars don’t realize that their vehicles reek is beyond my comprehension.

The only comparable vehicle to that SAAB as far as smell goes was a 3/4 ton Chevy flatbed I had to put a new clutch in although in this case the Chevy’s exterior was also nasty.

The owner of that pickup did contract work picking up dead horse and cattle carcasses out in the fields so needless to say that one had a pretty strong odor also.

I suppose my job was easy compared to what his was. I can’t imagine wrestling bloated livestock every day.
All things considered I still think the SAAB stunk more.

Yup. See it regularly. A customer states that they “really take good care of their car” and that means that it gets detailed every month but it has been 15,000 miles since the last oil change and is 20K overdue for a timing belt.

A recent kicker was a lady who does “take good care of her car” as above, meaning the car was spotless inside and out. She wanted an oil change service before she took the car on a trip. I told her she needed a 60K service and a new battery. Her answer was "yeah, I have to jump start it sometimes to get to work in the morning, but that’s going to have to wait until after vacation.

When I was at the dealer, I was dispatched a car to work on

I found the car in the backlot, opened the door . . . BOOM

The odor nearly knocked me off of my feet

Skunk . . . and I’m not talking the varmints that dig in your trash cans

I rolled down all the windows and sunroof, and drove the car into the shop. It was so powerful, I have a feeling the customer lit up on the way to the dealership

I went to the service writer’s office and asked him what it was like writing up the repair order. He said he just smiled and it was hard not to bring up the stench. I’m not sure if it was medicinal, recreational, or what. But it was pretty hard sitting in the car. Thankfully, it wasn’t there for interior work. Just routine maintenance

And then there are the countless electrical components that are ruined when coffee, soda, etc. are spilled INTO them. Naturally, the customers don’t mention this and want parts replaced under warranty

Another pet peeve was when I had to replace a seat motor or something related to the seat, and the interior is littered with leftover french fries, potato chips, spilled soda, salt, pepper, etc. That scenario happened countless times, unfortunately

it’s also unpleasant when you have to do interior work, and there’s hair all over the place. It’s not always clear if it’s human . . .

I remember one time a customer brought a car in with a noisey valvetrain. A colleague was working on it, but I watched him remove the valve cover(s) . . . it looked like somebody had brushed the sludge on nice and thick. You could hardly see the camshaft under it. The customer was advised that there may be long term damage, and there are no guarantees if the engine will even live a long and healthy life. The mechanic cleaned everything as best as he could, without further disassembly, put back the valve cover(s). He added some kind of detergent/additive, let the engine idle for awhile, then drained the oil and put in fresh oil and filter

I think the car hadn’t gotten an oil change in about 20K . . .

I forgot about the 1997 F-250 Light Duty I got a while back. It runs and smells fine now but I got it cheap as a wood truck and winter 4WD so I didn’t want something nice that was going to drive over saplings and such. Well it stunk. Maybe not as bad as some of the cars described here but it stunk. Anyway, I was trying to shampoo it out and the shop vac just kept coming out nasty. I mean there must have been AT LEAST 100 lbs of mud, rocks, shell casings, cigarette butts, beer bottle tops, fast food wrapper pieces, fast food such as dried out meat, buns, fries, and you name it. It was just gross. A lot of the stench was mouse piss as they were attracted to all the food. I seem to recall finding a dried out mouse in the truck.

I started using the garden hose on the interior of the thing with the shop vac. It was so gross that there was no other way but it still didn’t do it. My neighbor across the street had noticed me trying to clean the truck for days. Finally he came over when I was pressure washing the interior. I had disconnected the battery and just let it rip as it didn’t seem like I could make it any worse. The water running out finally ran out clean. I pulled the door moldings and sprayed out the rocker areas which were filled with the above described debris. All the mud clogged the drain holes so made sure they ran clear. Of course there was rust so I treated that once dry.

I then put a space heater inside the truck on low and let it run for like 5 days straight with the windows slightly down to let the moisture out. Once it seemed dry for like 2 days straight, I re-connected the battery and the truck fired up ran fine. The radio was broken before all this mess and of course this didn’t help but I replaced it at a later date.

It has been fine for several years after this. I recently threw a piece of firewood through the back window by accident so it is covered with a tarp now but will be getting new glass within a week.

This truck has lived a hard life but that is what it is for.

My best cleanup story concerns my Passat wagon and a bottle of olive oil sitting in a milk carton. I had bought the OO but forgotten about it. Then a sudden stop caused the OO bottle to fly forward and break on the back of the back seat (which was in the lowered position.

I immediately drove to a nearby supermarket, bought a carton of paper towels, bottle of windex, and some trash bags. Spent hours cleaning.

Funny thing is I had a new custom made widow sash there also, which became the only olive oil stained sash around. I checked, and used oil-based primer and had no problems later

Later, the carpet covering the back of the seat came loose and had to be glued down, which I did with some transparent caulk.

Smoker car. Pristine outside, entire inside tar covered to the point it was running down the pillars. Smoking with windows up in winter for 7 months of the year…nasty.

The worst vehicle that I ever worked on was my neighbor’s van. She dropped it off in my driveway and gave the keys to my wife. When I got home…I opened the door and was struck in the face with a horrible odor. The van was packed with about 50 discarded McDonald’s bags that had uneaten food in most of them. The coffee cups in the cup holders held old, moldy coffee. The floorboards in back had $20 bills scattered about (honest) and almost all the seats were sticky. I called my neighbor and told her that her van needed to be cleaned out before I could work on it.

She blamed the mess on her teenage daughter and her daughter blamed it on her mother. I got the van back a few days later (I was not charging her for the repairs) and got into a mechanical mess as well. The last oil change was done over a year prior and the van ran very poorly. I used her owner’s manual and serviced the van as best I could. I replaced her turn signal switch and put new bulbs in because she had no brake lights or turn signals. The reason I got the van in the first place was because the local cops stopped her daughter for those infractions. She supplied all the parts and I provided the labor. The neighbor totalled the van about a week later and she gave it to her landlord for parts. The daughter had the van washed and waxed on a regular basis so it looked good but the interior told the tale.

I love the one where cigarette tar was running down the pillars as smoking is one o the big ones I also see with computers. I had one within the last week where a guy bought a computer a couple months ago and it started messing up. The guts were already well-coated with tar and smoke and I cleaned them as best I could with what was on hand. The guy lived in a mobile home and there was tar creeping down all the walls. He made mention that the walls were pure white when he painted them. They were all brown and yellow now.

Just curious, how much does heavy smoking devalue a car? I can imagine an otherwise pristine car with tar and smoke in the interior wouldn’t sell to a lot of people.

I have seen pictures of sludge monster engines where the area under the valve cover is just packed in goo and you kinda see a suggested of the camshafts under all the crud. I have worked on a couple car engines were there is pretty bad sludge but nothing like those pictures. I have seen the tar type sludge as well as coked??? oil in hard sheets peeling off surfaces inside of an engine. I don’t know what the difference is between the two types of deposits but guess it is temperature related. Maybe the sludge forms in the lower temp areas and the hard stuff forms in hotter areas.

As for serious neglect, that has to go to some of the mower engines I have seen. I am always amazed that these simple and cheap engines can hold up to some of the neglect and abuse people put them through. The old oil is so thick and sludgy that I have seen several fly apart once the oil is changed with fresh oil. I guess the nasty thick stuff is cushioning severely worn clearances. All these are splash lubed systems that I have seen do this so I don’t think anything is clogged by the detergents in the fresh oil breaking something loose. I usually run them a mowing after the first oil change. If they are going to come apart, they usually do so within 5 minutes. If they are going to hold together, I change the oil after one mowing and they usually last for a while after that.

How about the other side of the coin here, do you mechanics give better service to cars that are very clean, inside and out, and obviously have had regular service done to them? Do you respect the owners who take a little pride in their vehicles?

The cleanliness of a car never made one iota of difference in whatever service I performed. Per the SAAB I mentioned previously, the car got the full required service called for and was treated the same as any other; except for pushing it into the shop and driving it back out with a shop rag covering the lower half of my face.

My opinion of the car owner was about as low as it could get though as I thought the guy was a disgusting POS for being a doctor and working in the Children’s Hospital in that condition.

Yep it would be better if people didnt use their cars for dining rooms brother bought an old Ford pickup that was packed with chicken bones,but on the other side of the coin,I really dislike mechanics who cant clean their hands before moving or servicing my car,more then once there would be grease on the steering wheel or a set of greasy fingerprints on the sunvisor,it really hurts my feelings,because I generally tip my service people,for a job well done and I appreciate someone doing a good job for me(I have seen cars that were a biohazard site too,having to drive a drunk acquaintence home,you wonder whether the wet seat is from beer or urine)

My son-in-law who apparently has no sense of smell bought a used car for my daughter who has a nose so sensitive she could be a perfume designer. The car reeked of cigarette smoke, marijuana, body odor and moldy a/c .

Fortunately it was summer, I opened the windows, removed the seats, shampooed the carpets, seats, headliner and door panels, cleaned the hard surfaces with sudsy ammonia and water. I then started the car turned on the a/c and heater and sprayed a can of Ozium down the cowl opening and let it run for quite a while and then set it to recirculate and sprayed another can up from the floor vents into the heater.

I then had to shampoo the front carpets again because the stench from the a/c had infested the carpet again. Five days later, after everything had dried I put it all back together again.

The last step was to tell my daughter that she had to go and see any car before he bought it.

I really dislike mechanics who cant clean their hands before moving or servicing my car,more then once there would be grease on the steering wheel or a set of greasy fingerprints on the sunvisor,

Brand new truck (84 GMC S-15 pickup)…brought it in for some warranty work…and when I got it back…there was a major cut down the back of the drivers seat. The mechanic servicing my truck had a utility knive in his back pocket with the blade extended…when sat down in the car seat…it tore the seat up. Had to return the following for them to replace the car seat (free of charge).

One I’ll never forget . While still in school I worked weekends & summers at a local service station . This was years ago . I’m no longer a spring chicken . Anyway an old man brought in an old dodge , I think it was about a 58 . It had the metal casing that had to be removed & the oil filter was inside that .
I removed the casing & had to pry the filter out of it , the casing was packed full of sludge . I asked him when was the last time he had the oil changed . He mumbled around for a while & scratched his head & finally said , Let’s see , I bought this car back in , don’t remember the year he stated but it was several years earlier .

Another one I can’t forget . A little later in life than the previous post I became an electrician . I went on a service call to repair an electric water heater . I pulled up in front of the residence { an old trailer } & as soon as I opened my service truck door the unmistakable odor of cat urine hit me . I went to the trailer door & knocked & a lady opened the door & to my dismay I realized the stink was coming from inside . I should have left right then .
Talk about not being able to breathe & stinging , burning eyes , god it was awful . The water heater was in a bedroom closet . I’d run outside , take a big deep breath & hold it & run back in for as long as I could stand it . After numerous trips outside I finally got it repaired .
For a kicker there was a plaque on the wall that said { WORLDS GREATEST MOM ] . Later I received another service call for that residence for something different . I refused to go .