World's most honest mechanic

Here’s an interesting excerpt from a book I’m reading “From Birdland To Broadway” by Bill Crow:

The year was 1948, the car a 1930 Ford Model A coupe.

As vehicles got a lot more complicated even a great mechanic couldn’t do that and stay in business.

The best I’ve seen is - I was in a shop getting a front end alignment. Woman has her car towed there saying it wouldn’t start. She said one mechanic who already looked at it quoted her $500 to replace the fuel pump. So she had called up her normal garage (where I was at) and asked how much they charged. $350 was their price. So she had her car towed there and left it with them…fully expecting to pay $350. Her total bill was $40. Just needed a new gas-cap. They could have easily charged her $350…but instead they were honest and found the actual problem and fixed it.

It’s amazing how someone in that field can be dishonest. I guess if you can easily pull the wool over someones eyes…then it doesn’t matter.

I remember the spark plug sand blasting box but most of the kids have no clue, and those who do just don’t even go there anymore. Even the old mechanic who still has a dusty old one in the back of his garage will not use it anymore.
Clean and fix ??
All they do these days is replace.

Even the old mechanic who still has a dusty old one in the back of his garage will not use it anymore

I have one…It was given to me. Haven’t used it in 30 years. Collecting dust someplace in my cellar.

I have used them, but the fact is that once you blast the tip of the plug, you give the ceramic insulator a rough surface so the plug will carbon up about twice as fast as a new plug. Not sure you would want to blast a Platinum or Iridium tipped plug.

Would you expect the dentist to examine and X-ray your mouth, find and repair the filling, and then not charge you for the exam but only the filling?

How did the dentist know which tooth to repair and how? How did the mechanic know what to do to what part of the engine without doing some testing first?

That mechanic wasn’t just honest, he also had no idea of how to make a living and run a business.

It’s 65 years later and people still expect car work for free. No wonder it’s a struggle for a mechanic to make a decent living.

The clue here was “gas station”. Often they made their money on the gas, oil and tires. Mechanical repair was sort of a side line to them, and yes, they could have made more money doing this if they wanted to. But for local customers, these sort of freebees meant customer loyalty for buying the gas.

Reminiscing about the “good ole days” can be fun but it occurs to me that when I closed my little shop here in Mayberry II the overhead was nearly $250 a day. Giving away time was very costly.

I had a mechanic misdiagnose my Ford Maverick that was leaking coolant. He thought that a freeze plug behind the transmission was leaking, so he pulled the transmission. It turned out that the heater core was leaking. I had the car overheat on the highway and coasted in to a Dodge agency before seeing my trusted mechanic. The mechanic at the Dodge dealership made the same diagnosis. They filled the radiator and sent me on my way at no charge. My own mechanic would not take a dime for pulling the transmission even though I tried to pay him something for his extra labor.
I had another experience back in 1963 at a Pontiac dealer in Southern Illinois. I was returning back to east central Indiana late at night. The Pontiac I had was running poorly and I didn’t think I would make the remaining 250 miles. I pulled into a small mom and pop motel that had a vacancy sign. I was told that there was one room left, but it had a problem and I might not want it. The problem–the television set in the room didn’t work. If I took the room, I could have it for $4 for the night. I was also told that I could watch the television in the lobby. Well, the last thing I cared about was watching TV. The room had a comfortable bed, was very clean and had nice, thick towels. I wasn’t familiar with the town, so I decided to try the Pontiac dealer. I arrived at 8:00 and explained my predicament to the service manager. He assigned a mechanic to my car right away. The mechanic worked for an hour. My bill was only $5. The service manager explained that the car was not right, but would get me back home. I tried to pay more for the service but he said, “I can’t charge full price for a car that leaves my shop that isn’t right”.

“…the overhead was nearly $250 a day.”

Today you can hardly hire a top-notch mechanic for $250/day. Unless you pay him flat rate. :slight_smile:

The year was 1948 and the unknown is whether that guy starved to death by New Year’s Day 1949…
To be honest, a dead plug symptom is far different than a carburetor or timing issue so it sounds like a shotgun approach was used.

He also sounds like a guy I have known for about 40 years, worked with very briefly, and who passed away in 2011. Great guy but I would never let him or his son touch any vehicle of mine.

His opinion was that anyone who had to pull codes, use an oscilloscope or VOM, etc was an inept fool who couldn’t figure things out.
Can’t figure people though. He stayed absolutely swamped in work at his shop for decades while shotgunning things on a daily basis. Everyone liked him…including the people who discovered they were screwed over intentionally or unintentionally.

Way back when, 1970 I believe, I was in route from California to NAS Memphis in my 61 Fiat Cabriolet. I filled up in Amarillo and had to add a quart of oil. To add oil, I had move the fuel line to the carb and I forgot to put it back.

Four miles later, I was out of gas, the fan cut the fuel line that I forgot to put back. No one would give me a ride back to Amarillo so I had to walk the whole way. I got gas that I put in an old antifreeze bottle and hiked all the way back to the car. By this time I was peeved at the whole state of Texas and was really cussing them out.

I got 17 miles to the next little town. I asked the mechanic if they had any fuel line I could purchase, but he wouldn’t sell me any. Instead he replaced my fuel line for free, would not take a dime for it. I filled up there, less than 10 gallons. I really wanted to vent my anger at the state of Texas, but now, because of this guys good deed, I couldn’t justify it anymore.


Yeah, there’s a clueless guy like that in my shop.

EVERY time a vehicle comes into the shop with a misfire code, he assumes it’s plugs and wires

He’s constantly charging 6 year old batteries, when we have the correct new batteries in stock

He polishes plastic headlamp lenses, but doesn’t apply clearcoat, so in 6 months, when the car’s back for the next scheduled service, the headlamp is back to its old yellow self, as if he never touched it.

He drains the oil and removes the oil filters, without even checking if we have the correct filter in stock. He’s gotten burned a few times doing this, but he doesn’t see a need to change.

He replaces rear hub seals on full floater axles and reassembles everything, without driving the vehicle, and without even checking runout on the rotors. If you’re going to remove all that stuff, you might as well check if the rotors are good. Now’s the time to do it.

He saves old defective parts and then tries to give them to other guys to use, claiming they’re good. I keep telling him that if something is defective and gets replaced, throw it in the trash. That’s where it belongs.

Yet “everyone” loves him, because he’s a good natured guy who would never hurt a fly.

@db4690, that guy lived about 40 miles from me and a cousin of mine who lived close left his Pontiac there for a transmission fluid change. Sounds simple enough, but it took over a week to get the car back.
Once he got the car back it wasn’t wanting to shift and the fluid level was on the FULL mark.

At that point he drove it to me and my thinking was that maybe the filter was not inserted all the way or had come out and it was sucking air also.

When I dropped the pan I was stunned. It had leaves and dog food in it; about a double handful. He has both trees and 2 dogs around the shop, so…
The transmission pump was sucking up the dog food/leaves and clogging the filter. Cleaned the pan, changed the filter, and the trans worked fine.

Told it before but think it was 1968 with my 59 VW. About 100 miles into my 200 mile trip back to school just outside Butterfield, MN, my clutch stuck half way out and slipped like crazy. I went about a half mile to the only gas station and the guy put it on the lift, pulled on the cable, greased it a little and it was fine. Total charge was $1 and I was on my way in about 15 minutes.


So the guy used the trans pan as a doggy dish before remembering its true purpose . . .

I’m not sure if that’s funny or tragic

@db4690, one regret I have is not taking pics over the years of a few things and a few pics of his shop and the area around it is one of those things.
In all seriousness, old parts ranging from bolts to engine and transmission assemblies were piled up 3 to 4 feet deep between and in front of every stall. Walking around in that shop usually meant squeezing sideways between any car and the mountain of junk present in every location.

You’re right; the transmission pan was apparently being used a doggy dish at some point but how someone could actually go to the trouble of installing it while in that condition is baffling. How hard would it have been to at least bang the thing on the floor and dump the dog food and leaves.

The owner of a Chevy did get a bit upset with the guy when he found out that the recently overhauled SBC engine had only been steam cleaned, valve cover gaskets changed, and fresh orange paint applied everywhere. Even worse, this motor was one of those hot little 302 DZ engines for a '69 Camaro Z-28.

Another engine that was allegedly overhauled turned out to have a fair amount of leaves in it when a gut feeling led to tearing into it. No new rings or bearings either. ;-(

Admittedly a bit embarassing to say, but I like the guy and remained friends with him right up to the time of his death a year or so ago even though he screwed me over at a Subaru dealer where we both worked by sabotaging an engine on me while I was off at a service school.
That’s how likeable he was…

It that honest mechanic in the example had to remove a stuck plug from say… a Ford Triton V8 to clean it, he would have charged at least 15¢…

The best personal experience I’ve had was about 9 years ago when driving on the turnpike with my 1994 LHS. Suddenly the car surged and started losing power, while all the warning lights on the dash started to go berserk–the cruise, ABS, “Trac Off”, and other lights lit up, went out, lit up again, went out, then the car died, similar to something that would happen if a UFO was hovering over the car in a bad Sci-Fi movie. I had it towed and the mechanic did diagnostics and determined that the ECM was bad. Then I got a call later in the day and he told me the timing belt had jumped. I got the timing belt replaced, along with the water pump, and the mechanic ate the cost of the ECM he’d purchased, since it wasn’t the problem. Apparently when the belt jumpted

The other experience was when I was younger and had to replace part of my windshield wiper assy. I couldn’t see how to get to the part I needed to replace, so I took my car to a Dodge dealer. The lead mechanic came out to the parking lot, looked at it, explained what I needed to do, spent about 15 minutes overall discussing it with me, and didn’t charge a dime. I also needed some touch up paint for the car, so I asked at the service desk. My car was too old to stock paint for he said, but he thought he had some leftover. He ended up giving me a cardboard box full of little cans of touch up paint for free, saying he couldn’t sell them because they were too old. You can guess where I ended up taking my cars for service years later when I had newer cars and more money.

Here’s my honest mechanic story. About 12 years ago my local mechanic replaced a bad wheel bearing on my 1997 Chrysler Cirrus. My daughter was in med school at the time and lived about 100 miles away from us. She was driving the car at the time and about 6 months after the initial repair the bad wheel bearing symptom reappeared. I told her it’s probably the wheel bearing after she described the symptom. She took the car to the local 5 star Chrysler dealer and told them about the prior wheel bearing repair. She calls in tears the next day saying the dealer replaced the rack and pinion because it was bad but they weren’t through yet because something else was also wrong (they had a stethoscope out trying to locate the source of the noise). She didn’t have the money to pay the several hundred dollar repair bill. I called the dealer and told them put the original rack and pinion back in and don’t do anything else and my daughter will pick up the car. She settled the bill for $65 for the incompetent troubleshooting. I called my local mechanic and told him the symptom and he said the new bearing was bad bring it in and he’ll replace it for free.

Not only did my mechanic replace the bearing again free of charge but offered me a $65 shop credit because my daughter paid someone just to get her car back. I declined the shop credit and told the owner it wasn’t his fault the new bearing went bad and thanked him for making things right.


She was a broke kid in med school that didn’t have the money to pay the bill. You need to go see a doctor to find your heart. BTW you sound like the guy at the Chrysler dealership. Have a nice day.