Memories of mechanics who shout angrily

pontiac
bonneville

#1

A fair warning, eventually I am going to open an old thread. This last month was a very unpleasant month due to a tragic death of a young friend here in Mexico. And, I was not at all done with that thread. To open a new thread would be confusing. I don’t want the usual suspects to fall down in a coma when I open it. :smiley:

And, if I get time, I may also write about my adventures last month which kept me from finishing that thread. Most, though certainly not all, had to do with cars or driving places.

While back in Texas for a few weeks, I was digging through an old filing cabinet, looking for an old personal diary trying to find out the exact date in 1965 that my Army buddy from Far Rockaway Beach and I sprinted up Mt. Rainier to the south side of the summit area, and back down before dark. I found a print-out of a letter I sent to a radiator shop who had treated me badly, but still have not found that diary.

It was in 1997 and I was sometimes driving my 1986 Pontiac Parisienne (sp) into the Rio Grande Valley to visit our daughter, who still teaches there today. It was overheating badly down there. Yes, the radiator showed signs of corrosion and I felt it should be replaced. But, at the same time I felt it might be a good idea to go to a heavy duty radiator and up the percentage of antifreeze. The jugs at the auto store all indicated one could get more heat resistance if you went over 50%, which was a dramatic change. For a few dollars extra, I felt it would be able to tolerate more heat conditions. It is called, IMO, valid owner option if the owner wishes to pay the extra amount involved.

Not knowing a difference in radiator shops, I found one in the Yellow Pages and drove there. When I told him what I wanted, he started shouting at me in a very loud and angry and belligerent manner. I did not need a heavy duty radiator; a standard radiator would keep my car cool to 130 degrees. Also, it was not possible to use more than 50% antifreeze, thus proving he was not aware of new formulations.

He finally agreed to install a heavy duty radiator, and I realized once I got the car back, I could drain some coolant and add more basic antifreeze to increase the boiling point. Once he called and said the work was done, I went and got the car. But, suspicious, I checked and the number on the radiator indicated it was not heavy duty, but standard duty.

I went to another shop and had them install the heavy duty radiator I wanted and was willing to pay for.

Then I wrote him the letter, letting him know I knew what he had done to me. I told him if he didn’t want a job, he could always refuse it. But, if he accepted a job, under our state law, he was supposed to comply with customer’s specifications, if no laws or safety rules were broken. Or, as I said, tell the customer right out he did not wish to do the job for him.

So, why did I have him do the job after his angry and belligerent screaming at me? Well, since I was 18 a majority of the times I went to a mechanic, they screamed angrily at even the most polite comment or question. I figured it was just part of being a mechanic and one had no real choice.

As an example, another time, a few years earlier, I had a late 70’s, also a Pontiac 9 pass wagon, which did not get a lot of miles on it. Something went wrong with the right rear brakes, so I took it to a brake shop located at the corner of our factory parking lot, which meant an easy drop off and pick up. He told me the right brakes were worn out, but both wheels had to be re-done to make ti safe. So, of course, I agreed.

Less than a year later, that same brake went back. when I took it back, I asked him why it failed so soon. He started screaming at me, that he couldn’t guarantee a car’s brakes forever. So, I had him do the brakes again, both sides to make the car safe, etc.

About a year later, and not too many miles, the right rear brake went bad again. This time I decided to take it to the Cadillac dealer. They actually had a reputation for really good diagnostics.

Shortly after I got to work, they called me and told me the right rear wheel cylinder was frozen. Just as obviously it was both times that brake shop worked on it.

No, I did not expect him to guarantee brakes forever. But, i did expect him to fix it properly.

The radiator guy actually did me a favor. He forced me to face the reality that every time a mechanic shouted angrily at me, he was in the end either incompetent or dishonest, or usually both. I no longer tolerate ANYONE I am paying for a service to shout at me angrily.

The best mechanic I ever had work on my cars was also the most polite, by far.


#2

Sorry to hear of your unpleasant month and loss of your young friend.

Those are interesting anecdotes regarding car repair, mechanic competency, honesty, and demeanor.
I have occasionally used a mechanic for car repairs, most recently to do a nasty spark plug change and messy transmission fluid change.

I went to that particular shop because the mechanics are competent, and now that you mention it, soft-spoken, and calm. Another shop, mechanic owned (at his residence), features a “retired” experienced (30 years at GM dealership) mechanic who is also calm and doesn’t yell and is very polite.

However, I have used a shop with a “hot head” mechanic who also has GM dealership experience and performs some nasty repairs on some old local junky, rust-bucket vehicles and keeps them on the road for owners who cannot afford more. I don’t enjoy going there because I don’t know what the mood of the day will be. The mechanic’s son (mechanic in-training) is often the brunt of the shouting. He chalks it off to his dad just being like that. I try and chalk it off the best I can because I’ve come to realize some people have problems I’m not aware of or are in pain. But that still doesn’t excuse impolite behavior.

I think that competent, honest, polite mechanics sleep better at night and their calm demeanor allows them to do consistently better work. I know that when I work on my cars that remaining calm and deliberate yields the best job. I haven’t used the “hot-head” guy for quite a while.
CSA :palm_tree::sunglasses::palm_tree:

edited


#3

I used to deal with a machine shop where the owner was, to be kind, an A-hole. But he did the best work in the area, bar none. His competitors were much nicer to address but their shops’ work was not as good.

His was a performance shop but did regular rebuild work as well. You needed to tell him what you wanted to accomplish and then listen to what he suggested. As he aged, his daughter and son-in-law became the face of the business and he stayed behind the wall, thank goodness! Both were terrific to deal with and the quality of the work remained.

Given my background and car experience, I tend to ask leading questions to see what the answer I’m given. Not necessarily questions I think I know the answer to but diagnostic ones. If they get angry, and defensive, I walk. These exchanges are exactly like a job interview. You don’t yell at your interviewer if you want the job!


#4

The second car I ever owned was a 1957 Chevy convertible. Since I had no money you know it was absolutely shot. The body, interior and top were ok, everthing else; shot. It came with a leaking freeze plug and a broken aftermarket floor shifter. I fixed those and it ran ok. I ran it hard enough to piggy back some rod bearings. I “fixed” those with new bearings and shims. I could not get it to start.

We pulled it on a rope to a garage run by two German brothers one of whom lived in a trailer in the junk yard. He began screaming at me about all you %#@ punks spend all your money on junk cars. I replied it only cost $70. He said, oh not bad, I’ll fix it. The advance plate in the wornout distributor was stuck at full advance. He donated a used distributor,and said I could help myself to anything off the old Chevy’s in the yard.


#5

Screaming mechanics are common? I had one lose his temper with me once and I was shocked. Then again, this is 2018. My review of this particular shop has a lot of “Funny” and “Useful” votes on Yelp. That was likely an expensive tantrum.


#6

Have you heard of the term “developmental disabilities” . . . ?

There are many, and I’m not going to throw out any names

If the guy has one, it’s possible he literally doesn’t know how to behave appropriately

I know guys that are aware they have a disability, have life coaches, are registered with the department of rehab, go to weekly group sessions, and as hard as they try, they STILL can’t behave the way most people would like them to

And don’t assume you can somehow figure out who has a developmental disability and who doesn’t. It’s not always obvious. Some of the people you know and who you would least suspect, might fall in that category, but aren’t exactly eager to tell anybody about it, outside of their family and possibly the personnel department


#7

I’ve been lucky I guess or maybe its the midwest but I’m trying to remember ever running across a crabby mechanic. Even as a kid when I think back now, they should have called me stupid but didn’t. Of course back then the mechanics were usually the gas station owners so they maybe were a little higher on the food chain.


#8

I’ve never had a mechanic go ballistic on me.
I did have an employee go ballistic on me once. I was a new manager with the company and he didn’t want to do a job I’d assigned him that was within his job responsibilities, so he left for three days. I think he was afraid that I’d find out he was incompetent. I don’t think he realized that I’d already figured that out. When he returned, I called him into my office and asked him way he left for three days. He started screaming and pounding on my table, saying “if you don’t like what I’m doing you can fire me”. He was trying to cover up his incompetence. I asked him if he realized what he’d just said and he said “yes”. So I called the HR Director into my office with the paperwork (he was expecting the call) and summarily fired the employee. He left me no choice.

Maybe the reason I’ve never had a mechanic go ballistic on me is that I talk with him up front, directly and with respect and deference to his expertise. I stay focused on the subject and nothing gets personal. It isn’t something I’ve had to work hard at, it’s natural for me. I’ve always been that way at work as well. I have no interest in conflict, just in getting the task accomplished.

Or perhaps it’s because only in an emergency do I let anyone touch my car except someone I know well and trust. So my exposure to the possibility is low, keeping the probability low. I may have trust issues.


#9

A mechanic should never scream and/or curse in front of a customer.

I used to work with a guy who always let frustration in quickly no matter how simple the job. He could not do a lowly oil change without screaming and cursing. It was horribly distracting for me while I was trying to concentrate.
This buffoon worked side by side with me so he irritated me to no end. He was about to be fired when he decided to pack up and move back to UT thank goodness.

He also had a stereo setup with the volume set on 11 and no matter how many times me or the service manager turned it down it always got turned back to 11. That was as irritating as the screamning/cursing.
I like music in the shop; just not to the point where one can’t hear or concentrate.


#10

I’ve never had any problem with mechanics either. I figure if I’m going there, I’m going there b/c they know something I don’t. So why would I argue with them? I might offer up a differing opinion to what they suggest to do first, then they’ll usually suggest that while I could be right, why their theory is probably more likely to be correct. So I’ll say “you’re the expert, let’s go with that”. Their idea usually tuned out to be better than mine.


#11

I have been wondering if the industry has changed over my lifetime. Not sure, just pondering.

I started going to mechanics around 1960. I suspect in those days most mechanics were self-taught, though that is a guess on my part. And, maybe they started on farm tractors.

As time has passed, there are more schools for them, and community colleges have programs. Could that have changed the general quality of mechanics? Not sure.

To argue the other side, though, all our electronic techs, except a very small number of current employees who were allowed to take the entry tests without having completed tech schools, were indeed tech school grads.

And, some became better diagnosticians, and some did not.

And, of course, some were polite and some weren’t. “Jess folks!”


#12

Good viewpoint, as far as it goes. But, if you remember, on the worst thread I have ever seen on this board, around August 2016, I think we pretty well established that current business model makes it nearly impossible for a mechanic to repair intermittents, that are not failing when he has the car.

For other obvious problems, I will take a car somewhere that has done well for me in that past. Which in McAllen has been the Toyota dealer in Pharr.

Another big advantage is they have service writers which isolate me from any possible angry mechanics. Once a mechanic recommended I think it was around $1000 of nonsense, including adjusting the parking brakes which were self-adjusting, and replacing fluids which I kept fresh. After I communicated with Alex my feelings, he has seen it doesn’t happen again. Great guy!

Of course, also that Sienna was a really great car, and had few problems as cars go. Wish I had it now here in Mexico.


#13

My experience with mechanics from the time I was a teenager was that they liked their work and if one showed an interest in what these mechanics found wrong, they would take time to explain the problem. These mechanics might be at a dealership, a service station or an independent shop. My dad did business with a small DeSoto/Plymouth dealer. The chief mechanic was also the service manager. There were times when I would take my dad’s car in for a problem, he would yell at me and say, “Don’t waste your Dad’s money and our time. You should be able to fix that yourself”. He would then tell me where to get the parts and what to do. Then he would say, “I’m going to make a mechanic out of you yet”. Sometimes when I would go on to pick up the car at closing time when it was a job I couldn’t handle, he would say, “Let me show you something interesting”. One time he showed me an engine that they had pulled out of an almost new 1958 Plymouth station wagon. The engine had a.broken crankshaft. I had never seen a broken crankshaft before and the mechanic said it wasn’t common, particularly on an almost new car.
I worked for another mechanic mowing grass. His house and shop were on the same lot. It wasn’t long after I started working for him that I would drift into the shop and watch him work. It was really interesting to watch him diagnose a particular difficult problem, and then have him explain to me how he figured it out. I think I learned as much from these mechanics about analytic reasoning and problem solving ss I did in any of the classes I took in my college career. I never became a.mechanic, but listening to mechanics was valuable part of my education.


#14

Not to sound like a jerk . . .

but there are a lot of mechanics who literally can’t afford to take time off to talk to a kid, much less explain how the kid can fix the car himself

Maybe it was a different situation back, I can’t say


#15

This was 60 years ago. The mechanics I knew grew up around cars. They didn’t go to a trade school. They went to work even before they graduated from high school in service stations. Most grew up on farms during the depression where they learned to do equipment repairs by necessity.
One thing that helped us in WW II was that many of the servicemen had grown up working on internal combustion engines and the tractors, trucks and cars these engines powered. These GIs were easily trained to work on tanks, trucks, and Jeeps. This gave us a leg up on our enemies.
Before WWII, a lot of men repaired and even built their own radios. It wasn’t difficult to build on this knowledge to train these men to work on communications equipment and radar.
This practical knowledge carried over into the late 1950s when I was a teenager. We could learn by doing. I built electronic devices from kits. One could buy a television in kit form and built a working television set.
Times have changed. Back in my earlier days I repaired my television and high fidelity equipment. I changed the spark plugs and did repairs like replacing a water pump. I had to have a new water pump on the 2011 Sienna I owned. The engine had to be raised up. Parts and labor were $975 and when I saw what was involved, the cost seemed reasonable. Our dog had a ceramic bone that he would wrap up in a towel and then sling the towel around. The bone flew right into our flat screen television. The cost of television sets had dropped so much in price that it was cheaper to buy a new set with better resolution than even attempting to have the old set repaired.
Popular Mechanics doesn’t have articles on car repair. “Tales From the Model Garage” with its proprietor, Gus Wilson which began its monthly feature back in the 1920s disappeared in 1970. The interest in repairing cars and electronic goods is almost gone. I grew up in a great time period.


#16

I wish I could give you more than one thumbs up but yeah, that’s the way it was. I never lived on a farm but every kid in the neighborhood either had an old Maytag washing machine motor, or Briggs, etc. that we worked on, built model airplanes, worked on cars, boats, you name it. Several of the parents were either part time mechanics or very mechanically inclined so we all learned about these things. My college roommate came from a farm and we really had the same set of interests and skills. Maybe we need to re-assess a little with sports and video games taking up so much time, but one of our main problems was dodging the police with no place to run our home made go carts or mini bikes.


#17

Times have definitely changed. I remember studying electronics in the Air Force 48 years ago and we were all building Heathkit TVs. We called them “griefkits”. Radio Shack stores all had tube testers for their customers. Now we don’t even have Radio Shack.

I still see a lot of interest in repairing cars, especially since the younger generation had to face the reality that any kind of college degree won’t guarantee a good income and hands-on skills can be far more saleable in the jobs marketplace.

Electronics? Too much of it is no longer repairable. Once a thin film “chip” is manufactured and installed, if it fails it’s not repairable. Almost everything in electronics today that performs any function whatsoever is in the “chip”… even in circuits that require discreet devices, the devices are often surface-mounted. This stuff simply isn’t repairable.

The only reason automotive electronic failures are still able to be repaired is that they’re comprised of various sensors and components… with chips that run algorithms. But if the ECU goes bad, or the audio “head” goes bad, it can’t generally be repaired at home. It simply gets replaced.


#18

On almost all circuit boards there are very few parts that cannot be purchased and replaced. Primarily programmed microcontrollers or microprocessors. Those very rarely fail. More common are power devices or interface circuits and those areas are common off the shelf parts. Back in the day, we used to be able to order schematics or wiring diagrams for radios, tvs and other electronic devices. Today, you need skills to reverse engineer the circuit. Most people who could read schematics can reverse engineer a circuit. Today, it’s just smaller and more integrated but same basic philosophy. Rather than going to Ratshack, you buy online from Digikey. Soldering SMT can be done with the same basic soldering iron but smaller tip, tweezers and magnifying glass…I’ve posted a couple examples of this kind of repair on this site…


#19

Radio shack was such a joke the last few years of its existence . . .

All the guys knew was how to hit on the female customers and sell phones

If somebody came in looking for solder, resistors or alligator clips, for example, they were clueless


#20

Trouble is, these circuits now contain integrated into the chip large numbers of what used to be discreet components. We’ve traded reparability for extreme compactness (density), much lower cost of manufacture and purchase, and far greater functionality. They sell wrist watches now that can do far, far, more (even ignoring internet access capabilities) than the first Ti calculator, and they’re far, far smaller.