• Gray Penny

Trusting The Automotive Repair Business.


Does your Technician Oversell?

When was the last time you took your most Expensive personal item to the Shop for a service, and left scratching your head over why it was so expensive. When you made the appointment you remember the Service Coordinator saying it was a small service and that you’d be in and out in approx. an hour.

Well for all of you out there wondering I‘ll let you in on a big secret, one that may create some friction between me and my fellow Journeymen. You see I spent the better part of 40yrs. in the Automotive Repair Trade. Now for most who enter into this Trade it’s usually because of the passion they have for Cars, Engines or Speed, and along with that you will also need some mechanical aptitude. In my experience when watching young apprentices start out, unfortunately it is plainly obvious when he or she is not Mechanically inclined. And to be serious if this is not brought to their attention before they waste 4 years on a trade they may not survive in, they will be very unhappy.

Okay after the decision is made that you think your suited for this type of career you complete your four year Apprenticeship, pass with An RSE and your Automotive Service Technician License, RSE stands for Red Seal Endorsement. Back when the government paid for school in 1983 you had to complete two different Exams, one was your Actual License and the other was for what they call the Interprovincial Red Seal and if you were lucky enough to pass both, it made it a lot easier to find a job in the Trade in any province in Canada except of course Quebec. I guess they build them different lol.


Okay now we’ve graduated from Trade school, and now it’s time to apply everything you’ve learned in school to the experiences that you have been facing throughout the other portion of the Apprenticeship program which is the hands on or what they term as practical experience. The Hands on portion is not only evaluated at school but also by your Shop Foreman or Manager of the company that signed up to put you through the program.

Now throughout these four years you start to learn how to work in a Flat Rate shop and all the tricks of the trade be it good or bad, and fortunately for me I had good teachers because they taught me that Flat Rate Could be your friend or an enemy depending on how you use it. I’m going to be as forthwith as I can so bear with me.

Going back to the beginning of this post, I mentioned something about bringing your vehicle in for a Service and leaving with a whole in your wallet because this is the part that really bothers me when it comes to the Flat Rate book times. If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, let’s say for instance your Car is still fairly new and has warranty left on it but you decide you want Air-conditioning installed. I’m using the example of a 2005 Hyundai Accent at the time our shop charged 5.0 hrs. to install and charge A/C. Now most Techs if they had never installed one would probably take the allotted time if not more, for the logical reason that you have to spend more time reading directions and properly locating the areas shown in the poorly described or in some case inaccurate instruction. Let’s take this into the future, now that you’ve overcome the setbacks of the instructions, that same Installation on your car is now cut down to the lowest time I ever installed A/C on a 2005 Accent to 1.5 hrs.

This is only one example of many repair procedures that after doing them over and over successfully and without problems can benefit the Technician. If there are no problems and your road test of 20km is good, then the customer also benefits because his or her car is completed sooner. The customer pays the same even if the slower Tech goes over 5 hrs. Flat rate times are printed into a book that the manufacturer supplies and these times are strictly adhered to when it comes to warranty work because that is all they will pay a Tech.


Now that you have an idea what I mean by flat rate let’s get to the main reason for this blog is to help people prepare themselves from the scenario that I’ve been witness to when working in a dealership shop. These accounts are from experience so no names are being used or actual locations. The setting is an early morning slurry of Oil changes, and each Tech hovers around waiting for work, and this where it starts.

An experienced Technician with good intentions like me would road test it first, even if it was an oil change because sometimes customers don’t know the noises that should and shouldn’t be there. Then there are the money grabbers that could care less, their approach is totally different and they shove the car up on the hoist for the presumed oil change, but ends up with an estimate for the value of the customers next months mortgage payment on the back of the work order. How do you think that makes him feel? This is not all that takes place, the Mechanic doing the work doesn’t even have the proper tools to do the job so he uses the guys tools next to him. Let me give you another example of some apprentices, who think because they now are almost licensed that they don’t need a manual when doing repairs. It sickens me to have witnessed several of them slip through the cracks thinking they were perfect.


One day I was minding my own business having a coffee waiting for a car to warm up to check on a drivability issue, when I started back to shut off the car I saw a newly licensed Tech. trying to remove a Transmission from some proud owners Tiburon(Hyundai). What I was witnessing was clearly a disregard for reading the very expensive shop manual that is provided for that specific model, specifically the transmission removal section. You see he had removed all the nuts and bolts, crossmembers and axles, but it still wouldn’t come out, so out came the prybar and that’s when I had to step in. Had he read the Shop Manual he would have known that this particular type of Manual Transmission has what is called a Pull-Type Release bearing on the clutch which means you have to remove the fork lever. Had he kept prying on it there would have been more than one piece to the Transmission Case.

I guess what my main point is here is that when you take your car in for repair do not let them scare you into doing repairs you don’t need, after all who knows your car best you or your Technician. He doesn’t drive it everyday. And be careful of the ones who don’t stop at a simple oil change. A final thought on Flat Rate is that although it’s standard in most shops you can make yourself feel better by getting feedback on your mechanic And his or her Comeback Ratio.

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