Why are so many mechanics so bad?


#1

Recently a car pulled out right in front of me when I was going about 50mph, I stood on the brakes and managed to swerve around them, but they clipped my driver’s side rear wheel and left the scene. I should have chased them down, but was too shaken.



There was lots of black from other car’s bumper all over rim and rear quarter, but my rim was not bent and minimal paint damage to my car.



I take the car to local tire shop to get alignment checked, but they don’t have the equipment to do alignment on an Audi. They recommend Southland Body Shop.



I go to Southland Body Shop (hope Google finds this) body shop and they say they can do alignment. I leave car and get lift to work, $90 later I pick up car at end of the day.



As expected, the interior is dirty where mechanic has been. Then I get out on highway and the steering wheel is off by a 1/8 turn. It’s not even close to straight. #$%^.



First thing next morning I bring car back, the service manager is not pleased to see me again. I tell him the wheel is off center and he says they will take care of it. I unload my bicycle from the trunk and ask them to call when it is ready and I ride to work.



I never get a call from the shop, so at 5pm I ride to the shop, hoping car is ready. I inquire about my car and the service manager says “yea, it’s in the back”.



The back lot is gravel, and there sits my car with all four windows down and the key in the ignition. From the amount of dust covering every square inch of the interior, I’d say it has been finished for at least half-a-day. The good news is that the sky was filled with black clouds all day, but we did not get any rain. I’m certain if it had rained, they would not have rolled up the windows, so the dust is actually not as bad as it could have been.



I load bike and drive home, at least the wheel is straight.



Now, two weeks and several hundred miles later I notice a rattle/thumping sound. I empty the golvebox of all the crud, check that the rear seat backs are latched and empty the trunk. I then drive down a bumpy road with the engine shut off, the sound persist and sounds as if it is coming from between the two firewalls (Audi/VW have a double firewall). At home I check for a loose belly pan, battery, any tools left behind by the morons at Southland Body Shop. I can’t locate the source.



I take the car to the only good Mechanic in town, Bub Brannon. He puts the car on the lift and we walk under it looking for anything out of sorts or loose. He grabs a hammer and hits the underside of the front right wheel and we hear a rattle. Turns out the Morons at Southland Body Shop left the locking nut loose where the steering rack is adjusted for toe-in. (The steering rack is behind the wheels on this car, just under double firewall). Bub spins the nut up snug and puts a wrench on it and the problem is solved. He refuses to let me pay him.



Bub has been my favorite mechanic for decades, but He’s talking about retiring. If he does, I’m hosed.


#2

Most mechanics are not bad and should not be tarnished by the acts of a smaller number of incompetents or crooks.
In this case it sounds like your vehicle was in the hands of an incompetent.

I suppose you know that there won’t be a problem with simply tightening the tie rod lock nut “IF” the tie rod has not rotated. If it has then the toe is off. It would have been a good idea to run a tape measure across the front wheels - just to make sure.

Rather than blame most mechanics as being bad based on the Southland experience why not say most are good based on your experience with Bub.


#3

Most mechanics are not bad and should not be tarnished by the acts of a smaller number of incompetents or crooks.

Most mechanics may be fine…BUT…There is a significant amount of mechanics who are shoddy. Far more then there should be. And if you start adding in the National chains like Midas and Sears where the mechanics all work on commission this goes up significantly.


#4

assuming this is in TN?


#5

I agree with Mike on this one.

There are far too many mechanics who are either just marginally competant or just plain don’t care. It’s difficult these days to find a good mechanic who’ll not only take the time to do the job right but also has up to date expertise, equipment, and integrity…or knows his limits.

There also seem to be too many parts changers out there. Guys who know “if the car is doing this, change this part” without necessarily knowing why and what the parts do. I suspect a lot of them are guys who haven’t kept up with the new systems.

There ARE good shops out there, but they’re getting harder to find.


#6

Actually I’m in Oxford, MS


#7

Another side to this saga is that most car owners are clueless when it comes to their cars and wouldn’t recognize shoddy work when performed and then if they did probably would just chalk it up to shoddy work and not follow up. I am usually willing to pay extra to go to my dealer for repairs than listen to my neighbors complain about all the local garages for being too slow, not having parts in stock and taking weeks to get them and having to go back twice to get it right.


#8

Point made, but I’ve found the comment apples equally to dealer shops. If you’ve found a good one, stick with them.


#9

Why are there so many bad mechanics? It is still allowed to enter the field with little to no training,pay system (flat-rate is the reason for many mistakes IMHO) the guys with the training arent correctly supervising the new mechanics (an every-man for himself mentality)But mainly I think the reason is the job is difficult and many people who manage to get hired just do not have the required intelligence to do the job right no matter how many ASE tests they passed.


#10

Most mechanics may be fine…BUT…There is a significant amount of mechanics who are shoddy. Far more then there should be. And if you start adding in the National chains like Midas and Sears where the mechanics all work on commission this goes up significantly.

I would say any bad ones are too many. But in real life there will be some. We all hear a lot of stores about bad mechanics. Everyone who has had a bad experience, tells everyone one they know, but how often does someone tell you at the water cooler that they just had some service on their car and the mechanic did a good job.

I have to agree that many chains pressure their “mechanics” to increase profits. If they don’t do that, they hire incompetent ones and don’t allow them enough time to do the job right.


#11

If I have one real peeve about mechanics it’s that too many of them don’t spend enough time diagnosing a problem. This is a sticky area becasuse time is money but I think mechanics should be prepared to “throw in a little extra” if you want to call it that. Eat a little of that time and be reasonably sure of the diagnosis before presenting it to the car owner.
Most of the techs I know do this and throw small repairs in for free at times.

There is another issue too and it does not apply in the OP’s case. In the OP’s case they were downright shoddy by not centering the steering wheel while setting the toe and leaving the tie rod lock nut loose.
Many people neglect or abuse their cars and scream bloody murder when presented with a bill to fix all of the things they’ve ignored for the last 100k miles. A high bill automatically means “ripped off” in their eyes.

Others will blame every hiccup that a car suffers on the mechanic even if what the mechanic repaired was not even in the vicinity or related to the current problem.
(Case in point; a lady who got a water pump replacement and 3 days later blamed the inoperative right rear electric window failure on the water pump replacement. And would not understand this no matter how many times it was explained.)

Friend of mine is a lifelong farm vehicle mechanic and as he puts it; “change a chain and sprocket on the right side of a worn out old Allis Chalmers combine and you can bet you’re going to get blamed for the left side failing 3 months later”.


#12

Should have added that I think the percentage of incompetent or crooked techs is comparable to the number of incompetent or crooked people in other fields and also correlates to the number of incompetent, crooked people who are always trying to put something over on a shop.

Guys who turn wrenches know exactly what I mean. Those who don’t should spend about 5 years doing it and it will become painfully obvious.

Speaking of incompetent and BS, what about doctors (shielded by the medical board and state) and the latest lousy version of Windows software. :slight_smile:


#13

You make a good point. And I agree. Incompetancy and dishonesty are far more common in all fields than they should be.

In the credit industry crookedness is institutionalized! In what other industry can you contract to charge 1.9% interest on a loan and then suddenly raise it to 21% after the money has been loaned? And charge the new interest on the old interest? And then take somone’s house if they don’t pay! Vinnie the Legbreaker should be so dishonest!


#14

I have had the pleasure of the dealing with many mechanics over the years as a result of delivering auto parts for years, and working summers as a mechanic during college. Additionally my family has been involved with the auto indutry for years.

Why are there so many bad mechanics? Because the people that should be working as mechanics don’t want to be involved with it. The guys who love cars and are really bright get involved with engineering or take jobs at a corporate level. The guys who aren’t college bound who are car nuts tend to get involved with tuners, with the remaining folks sporadically found in dealers and independents across the U.S. There’s just not aenough of them. The rest (about half if I had to guess) are incompetent goofs who do poor work either because they don’t care, don’t wish to learn, can’t learn, or choose the field because it seems like something “to do for a while”. Let’s face it- the best and brightest aren’t getting involved with the field and it gets worse every year. I can tell you from experience that troubleshooting on some modern cars involves hours of reading schematics, study of systems, intelligence and patience. Most folks entering the field don’t have the package. I see the best work and competence from the older crowd, with a few young stars every so often. Overall though whether it’s BMW, Honda or Ford the young crowd coming in pretty bad. I will say though I live in the northeast and my opinions are biased as a result of my experiences in this region

Being a true technician (you can troubleshoot and understand modern vehicle systems 100%) should be a prestigous role in a way and a respected field, but idiots fill the industry and ruin it for the hard workers.


#15

This sounds like a good example of the Peter Principal from Dr. Laurence J. Peter: In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.

Your first mechanic has done just that or even has exceeded it a little. He should back off and be a disassembler at a scrapyard.


#16

“Being a true technician (you can troubleshoot and understand modern vehicle systems 100%) should be a prestigious role in a way and a respected field, but idiots fill the industry and ruin it for the hard workers.”

well, you succinctly and briefly answered and highlighted the complete problem with ALL (not just vehicle repairs) work ethic and professionalism issues for each profession.

i hope you don’t mind, but i am going to print that phrase out. it is worth putting on the wall here at work!

i heard an old saying: “it’s hard to soar like an eagle when you work with turkeys”

kind of the same issue, just put less profesionally than your comment.


#17

Speaking of incompetent and BS, what about doctors (shielded by the medical board and state) and the latest lousy version of Windows software.

There’s a big difference between incompetence and just plain ripping people off. I’ve seen way too many mechanics that are purposely trying to rip you off. It’s NOT incompetence…it’s GREED pure and simple.

As for Windows Software…You’re going to find problems there…But remember…the Windows operating system is about a million times more complicated then ANY car you’ve ever owned or worked on. So compared to how complex it is…there are far far far less problems.


#18

I agree that there is no excuse for any dishonest business, including auto shops, just find a good one and stick with it.

Regarding windows, I just use macs.


#19

I would agree with your statement. A friend of my wife is married to a “true” mechanic (now retired). This guy could trouble-shoot and fix anything. He built a very capable dune buggy from a VW chassis back in the 70. His last job as a mechanic was master mechanic at a large Jaguar-Rolls Royce dealership. He enjoyed talking to rich and famous persons to explain why their Rolls Royces behaved the way they did. He was also an expert body man as well.

After that he became service manager at a large auto service center. He enjoyed that less than being a mechanic. He did say that he would never encourage a son (if he had one) to become a car mechanic because of the general lack of recognition, dirty work environment and pressure from management. If he had to do it again he would have become an aircraft mechanic.

As for myself, I grew up on a farm with lots of machinery to fix, trained in the army as a mobile mechanic, and afterwards decided to pursue engineering.

Our family doctor has great respect for good mechanics. By his own admission, he told me: “I only deal with 2 models of varying ages; a mechanic needs to know a very large number of different designs and models!”.