It seems like some people just should not have cars! Auto mechanics recall the moments when they had more trouble understanding the car owner than the actual car problem. They realize they can't fix everything.
Content was edited for clarity.
"I replaced the clutch in a car for a woman then returned her car. By the time I got back to the workshop, there was a message waiting for me that she couldn't get the car into gear (this was before mobile phones).
I was driven back to her house where she stood waiting for me looking like she was ready to murder someone. I got in the car, started it up, foot on the clutch, into first, and drove it around the block, up and down through every gear. She apologized and off we went back to the workshop once more only to get the same woman on the phone. This time not just a little angry but screaming all kinds of curses at us.
Back we went to her house and you guessed it, started the car, put it in gear, and drove around the block again. This time instead of leaving, we told her to try before we left. She jumped in, started the car, and crunched the gears hard and loud. It was at this point that the penny finally dropped. I am almost six feet tall. This woman was about four feet and five inches tall. She didn't move her seat forward so she was only pressing the clutch pedal a quarter of the way down.
After explaining this to her, I got an earful of abuse from her saying that she didn't even know that her car seat could move so how was she supposed to adjust it? Oh, and she would be writing to the newspapers to tell everyone about the bad service she got from our garage.
I did move her seat forward a bit when I returned to the car, but being as tall as I am there is no way for me to put the seat back to the original position while I was still in the car. The seat wasn't so far back that she couldn't reach the pedals but still far enough back that she wasn't pressing far enough to engage the clutch."
"I started working at a Pontiac/Buick dealer in 1989. The other mechanics told me of the big idiot they recently fired who was doing their oil changes. He was fired because he messed up an oil and filter change on a late-model Pontiac Trans-Am (five liters V8/five-speed trans).
When he removed the filter, a piece of the filter threads stayed on the engine, preventing the new filter from tightening down all the way. He installed the new filter on but did not notice the filter did not seal itself properly - so it had a bad oil leak. He didn't check for leaks, but finished the oil change and parked the car.
The customer picked it up and drove away. He came back an hour later with the Trans-Am hooked to a tow truck. He was driving along and the engine seized up. Another mechanic investigated and found the improperly-fitted oil filter and the leak. The engine seized from lack of oil - it all leaked out. The dealer agreed to pay for a new engine.
They ordered a new five-liter engine from General Motors. When it arrived, it turned out to be a five-point seven-liter V8, a more powerful version of the same engine. By the way, General Motors never offered the five-point seven with the five-speed manual transmission, because the five-point seven has too much power. The five-speed will break if driven hard.
So the dealer called the customer and said they must wait another week because the wrong engine was sent. When the customer heard it's a five-point seven, he asks if it could be installed. He's no fool, he has visions of non-stock extra power dancing in his head. The dealer agreed to do so (For you General Motors fans, it had a pilot bearing in the crank, so it would fit).
So the customer got a more powerful engine and was happy. Three months later (you guessed it) the Trans-Am was back, this time with a broken five-speed transmission. The customer demanded a warranty repair. The dealer denies the claim because the more powerful engine voided his warranty. The customer must pay for a new transmission on his own - and I assume, keeps his foot out of it from now on.
Oddly enough, years later I became good friends with a classic car enthusiast. He once told me a story about how he messed up an oil change at a Pontiac dealer. Yes, he was the guy! Small world."
"We would work on random peoples' cars who didn't have the money to pay for parts and labor.
One lady had her car towed in because it was making weird noises. We checked a few basic things first, then started it to see what the noise sounded like, and the exhaust system spit out a whole bunch of nasty sludge and smoke but it wouldn't actually run.
It turns out, she thought the opening to add gas was the opening to add everything.
When she first started having problems, she dumped oil, antifreeze, brake fluid, and windshield washer fluid in there to make sure it wasn't running low on fluids."
"They tell a story in engineering class about a guy who complained his car would never start when he bought vanilla ice cream. Any other flavor and the car started fine, but never with vanilla.
The car checked out fine, they couldn't reproduce the problem at all but the owner kept complaining.
Finally, they sent a technician with the customer to buy ice cream. Turns out that all the ice cream was kept in the back of the store, except for vanilla, which had its own freezer right upfront. So buying vanilla ice cream was a very quick trip, and the car wouldn't start because it was still overheated and vapor locked from the short time it was turned off. Since the other ice cream was further back, the longer stop gave the car enough time to cool so it would start again.
Once they had changed the symptom from 'vanilla ice cream' to 'car won't start soon after being turned off,' they were able to find the problem and fix it properly."
"I had a grey-hair woman get in a fender bender, she shouldn't have been driving, but whatever, I just fix things. She had a 2010 Ford Fusion. It ended up getting two new headlights and a grille. I aimed the headlights, and we sent the car off to her in a few weeks.
About three days later, I get called upfront and the same grey-hair lady was upfront claiming her headlights weren't aimed properly. I had the porter bring the car into the shop, and I calmly invited the grey-hair lady and her middle-aged daughter in the back. I then turned on the headlights and compared them to another car in the body shop. Virtually the same height.
The lady exclaimed that the other car's lights must be off too and we don't know what we're doing.
All because 'My driveway isn't lit up like it was before' after about twenty-five minutes of showing the lady everything was done right.
The middle-aged daughter finally says, 'Mom, they're aimed right.'
Just for giggles, I turn on the brights and the grey-hair lady exclaims, 'That's what they used to look like!'
If only I could cut her license up."
"This guy comes into the shop with a 01 Honda Civic. He says the check engine light is on and wants an under the hood inspection. I'm like alright but then I notice a giant problem trailing from the front of the yard... it's oil.
I walk up to the gate, look down the road, and see oil everywhere
I don't know what to tell the guy except, 'Were you born yesterday?'
This guy changed his own oil on a hill, fortunately, it was only zero point three of a mile away and he didn't put the cap back on...
I really wanted to string that guy up and hang him until he was dead because I knew the police were going to be furious with our shop for the incident. Fortunately, we got off the hook when we called them ahead of time and let them know who actually did it."
"So an older man came in for an oil change. It was the dead of summer last year in the Great Plains, one hundred degrees Fahrenheit or so. He said he was driving down to Arizona to stay for the rest of the year, and he wanted an oil change before leaving. Sounded pretty normal. Then, he told me to put in 10W-40 oil in his vehicle. I'm looking at his car, and I can tell straight up that there's no way that thing needs such a viscous oil.
We brought in the vehicle, and wouldn't you know it, it takes 5W-20. Big surprise. Before we do anything, I politely walked up to the customer and said, 'Sir, I just want to let you know that the vehicle requires 5W-20 motor oil-'
The customer replies, 'Geez! It's always a fight with you people! I'm driving through the desert, and it's going to be hot, and that oil needs to be thick or it ain't gonna lubricant the engine! I want 10. W. 40!'
Sixty years ago, this would be true. People used to change their oil depending on the weather; heavier, viscous oils for the hotter season (such as 10W-40) and thinner oils for the colder season (like 5W-20). This guy never got the memo that oil technology has changed, however, and we no longer need to wildly change the viscosity of motor oil according to the climate. You can keep the same weight and viscosity all year round thanks to technological progress.
Anyways, after some more verbal harassment, we proceeded with the oil change as he specified. He decided to stay out in the bay and watch us while we worked, grumbling to himself and occasionally saying a few nasty things to me while I ran his information through the computer and performed some topside procedures.
There are times when you meet someone and you know that no matter how level-headed or reasonable you intend to be, nothing you say will change his or her mind. This guy was a powder keg, and I put on my most obsequious demeanor to keep my head from being chewed off.
This car had about seventy thousand miles or so. After we started up the car for him to roll out, I listened closely to the engine and I could tell it didn't sound right. After he drove off, I asked one of my more tech-savvy technicians if he heard the engine. He sure had. When the engine has to really work to heat the motor oil to get it properly flowing, it makes lubrication difficult. And he thought that the engine had a lot of its life expectancy artificially cut short because of the man's obstinacy.
Folks, the moral of the story is that even if you're predisposed to mistrust what the salesperson has to say, don't always assume that we're out to get you. In the vehicle maintenance industry, some of us genuinely care that your car receives the right services to stay on the road for as long as possible. And if you don't trust the mechanic, at least trust in the manufacturer's specifications."
"I was handed the keys by a tech and was told to move the truck.
I hopped inside.
The entire inside panel of the driver's door was missing. All there was, was exposed metal and some stray wires.
There was no way to lock or unlock the door from the inside of the truck. There was no way to operate the window. There was no way to open the door.
It was the middle of August, so the interior was like the inside of an oven. I desperately reached over to open the passenger window, only to discover that the switch for that window wasn't working either. I moved the truck as fast as possible and got out of there before I caught on fire.
I asked one of the techs how they'd been getting in and out, and apparently, they'd all just been climbing in and out the passenger side too. And of course, the guy who owned the truck couldn't wrap his head around the idea that it couldn't pass inspection."
"Customers will frequently come in for bad batteries and park their cars outside. In doing this my first year as a living, you realize that at least about ninety percent of the cars will start again to make it inside the shop (customers are instructed to do this task).
One customer comes in just for that so I say, 'Go ahead and bring it inside.'
He goes, 'The battery is dead.'
I reply, 'Ok we'll see if it starts, if not I'll jump it.'
He says, 'I know it is not going to start.'
I reply, 'We'll just give it a shot and I'll jump it if it doesn't work.'
He says with attitude, 'I know it's not going to start. I don't want to burn out my alternator.'
He replies, 'It won't affect your alternator. Just try and if not I'll jump it.'
Now with even more attitude, he goes, 'Whatever man. I know it ain't gonna start!' He then walks off.
So I continue working on the other car and guess who I see driving into the shop a few moments later.
My approach may seem arrogant but I was already working on vehicles and was being polite. Also, I handle this stuff every day, there are reasons behind my directions."
"I worked at a Saturn /Saab /Isuzu Dealer for many years.
My favorite story is called, 'Weatherstrip Woman.'
I had a lady customer who returned to the service department with her month-old new Saturn, stating that the rubber door seal was falling off.
I got the work order, and sure enough, the weatherstrip rubber was falling off. I squeezed the metal in the weatherstrip so that it would pinch onto the body tighter and reinstalled it. Since we rarely had any problems with these door seals, I handed in the work order for my next job.
Two days later, the car was back. The weatherstrip was starting to come off again. Huh? Okay, we sourced a new door seal and I installed it, even though the first one was still showing no adverse signs, other than hanging loose in the door frame. I finished it off, added some trim adhesive for good measure, and paid special attention to make sure that the seal was fully pressed onto the seam around the whole door frame. I handed in the work order.
One week later, she's back... I'm starting to get mad, my boss was starting to get mad at the comebacks. The weatherstrip was hanging loose yet again.
This time I had the chance to see the customer as she headed to the waiting area - suffice to say that she was a large lady.
I postulated to my boss the theory that her bod was dragging across the weatherstrip every time she got in or out, and that said the posterior friction was working it loose from the frame.
His words exactly were, 'Fix chubby's door seal, so the weatherstrip never comes off again.'
I decided that I was going to use windshield adhesive (urethane) to re-affix the seal. If you've ever worked with urethane, it sticks to everything, and once dry, it holds tenaciously unless cut. That's why it's used for windshields.
I let it dry for an hour with a heater blowing on it, and sent the customer on her way. My boss gave me the stick-eye as she was driving away.
I didn't see her for three months.
Then one day she rolled into the drive-thru, and my boss won't even come out of his office. I get paged to the drive-thru.
I got to the car, and the weatherstrip was still in place. Yay! The rubber however has worn away completely down to the metal crimps inside, at the height of the rear of the door frame.
With her glaring at me, I stated to her, 'Miss, I need to tell you that your car is warranted for defects, but not for wear-and-tear. This falls under wear and tear.'
She drove away and I never saw her for any maintenance or warranty related ever again."
"After I was replacing a guy's brake pads and rotors, I took the guy's truck out and set the brakes by giving it a couple of hard stops (not hard enough to lock up the tires or anything).
So I finish the truck and the guy is waiting there impatiently and was already cashed out for some reason. I talked to him and he seemed like an alright guy. Looking at the brakes he noticed the smell of heated-up brakes and put his hands right next to the rotors. He then flipped out because he could feel the heat off of them. I explained the process and that it was a normal braking condition you could see on the road. This convinced him to back off and accept that he didn't know what he was talking about.
The next day I come in, and I get called to my manager's office where my angry manager was complaining about this warranty brake job I had to do because the customer was unhappy. So I explained to the manager that if I didn't do this setting in the process, then the brakes could make noise due to them not being properly mated to the rotors.
So I did the guy's brakes again, then took it for a test spin to make sure it was alright. Of course, the brakes were now making a faint noise. I took the truck back to the customer and explained it all to him again, and sent him to the salesman.
Later that week, I heard the guy came in for another set of pads due to the noise but refused to get the pads set in properly. My manager made a deal that this would be the last warranty work this guy got if he was going to tell the techs how to do their job.
It is always tough dealing with people who think they know more than you, but for some reason, they take their cars to you."
"My cousin used to live with her sister and her sister's husband. The brother-in-law would take care of all car maintenance for all of their vehicles. He would just do it and not mention a word to them.
The cousin in question moved to Washington D.C. and after about nine months (and having driven her car from Chicago to Washington D.C.), the engine seized. When the mechanic asked her when was the last time she changed her oil, she insisted that she never had to do that in Chicago and this must be some new thing you people in Washington D.C. came up with.
Even after we explained it to her, she still thought that the mechanic played a trick on her in order to cheat her."
"Last year, I had a Prius come in on the hook. The tow guy said it wouldn't start. Ok, typical.
The owner showed up and said his wife was driving it and it just stopped running. So being half electric and gas, it was normal for the engine to shut off at a stoplight and the electric motor to kick in. Not the case. I cranked it for five minutes on and off with no luck. The car had fuel pressure, spark, and injector pulse. Also, had ten thousand miles on it as well.
So what could be wrong?
The next thing I know I smell diesel fuel. The tow truck has been gone for an hour and we only got gas cars in the shop.
I realized they put diesel fuel in a Prius. She said the nozzle wouldn't fit so she jammed in there enough to not spill the 'gas.'
I dropped the tank, cleaning the lines, and off they went."
"I do a lot of mechanic work and I could easily be a professional. I am a trucker though for 24k and under non-CDL loads. This girl in the parking lot of a Walmart hooked her battery up backward and tried to start her truck. When that didn't work, she illegally opened the hood of my semi-truck with 18-volt batteries and hooked up jumper cables backward. During this, I was inside the store shopping. The way my truck works is the batteries are always juiced for jumping, but aren't under a constant load. She completely fried her jumper cables, battery, blew her fuse box, and destroyed her alternator. Luckily, there was no damage to my truck.
When I came back out and asked her what she was doing with my truck, she first called me a chauvinist and said, 'What, women can't work on cars?'
Then threatened to sue me for her damages to her truck.
She threatened to call the cops on me for my aggressive behavior when I removed her cable from my batteries and 'damaging her possessions,' because she somehow thought I messed up her truck by taking the cables off before the alternator had time to charge up.
Meanwhile, her fuse box was pouring smoke and sizzling. I'm all for doing a good deed and helping a total stranger, but the audacity of this woman was insane. I ended up calling AAA because I got a good business account with faster service and more options for about 250 bucks a year, and then I left. That was my good deed for the day, helping a poor arrogant woman who clearly didn't know what she was doing. I feel bad for the guy from Scally's who came out to help her.
By the way, I didn't charge her bill to my account. The good deed was that the response time was about fifteen minutes and they brought out a well-equipped wrecker rather than a regular truck and also a more competent mechanic."