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In the Shop

RSS By: Dan Anderson, Farm Journal

As a farm machinery mechanic and writer, Dan brings a hands-on approach that only a pro can muster. Along with his In the Shop blog, Dan writes a column by the same name as well as the Shop Series for Farm Journal magazine. Always providing practical information, he is a master at tackling technical topics and making them easy for all of our readers to understand. He and his wife, Becky, live near Bouton, Iowa.

I'm Wearing Your Shoes This Week

Mar 02, 2009
 As the old saying goes, "The shoe is on the other foot." I had to take to a local dealership for repairs the old Ford F150 that's my personal daily driver.

(Someday I'll write a blog about why I pay to have other people fix my personal vehicles. For now, let it suffice to say I'm intimidated by the complexity of my wife's late model SUV, and too lazy in my spare time to fix the rusty, battered pickup that I drive to work every day.)

Anyway. The truck needed multiple repairs for multiple leaks. Knowing what I know about mechanics' commissions, flat rates, dealership policies and other factors, I didn't explode when they handed me a 4-figure repair bill. I asked a few pointed questions, pointed out some small inconsistencies they assumed I would passively accept, but ultimately paid the bill. I was therefore not happy the next morning when there was a bigger pool of oil beneath the truck than before repairs were made. 

My first impulse was to get nasty. After considering how I as a mechanic react to nastiness, and how my service manager reacts when customers get nasty, I calmed down and did some homework. I grabbed wrenches, got under the vehicle and determined where the leak was originating, what was causing it, and what it would take to fix it. When I contacted the dealership's service writer and told him there was a problem, I listened patiently while he gave me his well-practiced list of exemptions, excuses and explanations. Then I told him exactly and specifically what wasn't right, what it would take to fix it, and what I expected him to do about it. 

Presented with a calm recitation of facts and expectations, he paused, thought about it, and said they would pay for all the re-work and give me a loaner vehicle to drive while my truck was in the shop. The truck still isn't repaired, and there's a chance they may muck up their re-work, but at least I'm comfortable with the efforts they're making to satisfy this customer.

Being methodical, patient and calm about botched repairs wasn't fun. It would have been much more fun to go in there and rant and rave and vent the frustration I was feeling. But I've been on the receiving end of that sort of display, and know that it generally doesn't gain anything, and often causes more problems than it solves. I've learned to take the less-fun but more productive approach of calm, logical and friendly when I'm the one paying for repairs. 

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COMMENTS (1 Comments)

Rudy Hiebert
It was good to read about a journalist's experience with the real world. A 1985 F-150 was my commuting vehicle. From the first day I bought until I sold it eighteen years and almost 300,000 kms. later, I give credit to it's longevity to using synthetics from bumper to bumper. My peers who knew my passion about the lubricants and related product options I was using joked that my half-ton would fall apart from rust but the engine would be the last thing that died. I used the OEM specified SAE API 100% synthetic motor oil and a by-pass filter. I even had the oil analyzed occasionally. My dealer didn't have the synthetic in his shop so I brought with me when it was time. He couldn't refuse it but I'm sure he would have rather seen something of lesser quality so he would see my pick-up more often.
6:23 PM Mar 2nd
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