I was sort of mulling over in my head the weird people and bizarre incidents that I’ve experienced in 25 years in the automotive industry. I’ve always been in what the dealers call the “fixed operations” part of it- parts and service as opposed to selling entire vehicles. I’m more of a techie type than an emotional, “I wanna sell you stuff ” type- so I’m not going to be good on selling someone on the pretty blue paint job and all the bright, shiny chrome. I can tell you what a timing belt is, though, and why you are in deep shit trouble if it breaks out in the middle of the freeway. (especially if you own an older Honda with an interference engine, but I digress.)
Generally I try not to use much automotive terminology here, because most people have absolutely no clue what I’m talking about, unless they’re motorheads too.
Most people are not motorheads and don’t understand the terminology, and I’m not into long and drawn out explanations. Anyone who drives should know a few basic things (yes, I’ve coordinated car care seminars and I’ve gone through the New Car Checklist with hundreds – salesmen are supposed to do that- but are often too
busy ignorant to do so.) One of the most tragic customers I’ve ever encountered was a college student who had bought an ’87 Tercel (which, admittedly, that year and model was one of the very few of Toyota’s four cylinder cars I would NOT recommend) and was in tears when I had to inform her that the engine was blown and not repairable (when there’s a connecting rod blown clean through the block, the only fix is to replace the entire engine.) She looked up at me and in all wide-eyed seriousness said, “But I didn’t even put 30,000 miles on it.” The poor girl had run this car for 15,000 miles without changing the oil, because she thought it was only necessary to change the oil every 30,000 miles. What was left of the motor oil in this car was a clumpy, burnt-up, coagulated mess stuck to the bottom of the oil pan. I’m surprised it ran as long as it did before it blew up. Oh, and decimal places are important. Just so you know, although most manufacturers have since gone from a 3,000 mile to a 5,000 mile maintenance interval.
I had another guy who contributed to a catastrophic failure on his own car by assuming that just because it’s red and it’s a fluid that it’s automatic transmission fluid. Had he called me (and he was a good customer of mine) I would have told him that while the stuff that comes out of a Toyota cooling system is red, it’s NOT ATF, and putting ATF in your cooling system is a Very Bad Idea. That mistake cost him about four grand. Our tech had to flush his entire cooling system, replace the water pump, head gasket, and power wash just about everything in the entire engine and cooling system that comes in contact with coolant. All because he was too cheap to pay us to do a $79.95 coolant drain and fill- and that would have included the Toyota Red coolant. Penny wise (no, not the clown) and pound foolish, no?
This is red. It goes in your Toyota’s engine cooling system.
Certain vehicles are very prone to acquiring foreign objects in the air intake systems. I loved the older Camrys, but so did vermin, especially in rural areas. I don’t know how many air filters we discovered torn to hell and stuffed with dog food. We also encountered a few blower fans (squirrel cages) that ended up being nesting areas for mice.
Mice and blower fans are not a very good combination.
I worked with a particularly obnoxious primadouche technician one time- well two times, at two different dealerships. Lucky me. He was a gifted tech, and I would definitely trust him to work on my car, but he was a festering asshole of a human being. He did have a very glaring weakness for one who works with heavy machinery and sharp things though. He could not stand the sight of blood. He was working on an older Camry on which the customer complaint was “a rubbing sound when you turn on the blower motor.” As he pulled the squirrel cage out, to his horror, was a nest of chopped up baby mice- which he dropped on the floor as he ran over to the nearest trash bucket and began projectile vomiting.
Always the inciteful person in the shop, (with my iron guts and the gleeful assumption that I’d found Mr. Primadouche’s Achilles heel,) I wandered on over to see if he’s just being a pussy, or if I really needed to call the squad. Being that it was the former rather than the latter, I picked up the squirrel cage, dismembered mouse parts and all, dumped it out in a trash bucket that wasn’t being puked in, and then proceeded to power wash the rest of the guts out in the wash bay. When Mr. Primadouche was done blowing chunks, I calmly laid the squeaky clean squirrel cage on top of his workbench and went back to checking in my stock order. The rest of the guys in the shop were rolling on the floor with laughter, that the “parts bitch” had- yet again- shown up Mr. Primadouche.
This was the same douchebag who tossed a Celica exhaust (yep, not just the muffler-this unit was complete from the cat back) across the shop at me because he was pissed that he got the wrong one. He gave me the wrong information when he ordered it. I know, I should have made him give me a VIN, and from that moment on, I did exactly that anytime he wanted me to special order anything for him or any of his buddies ever again. I’m just glad he missed, because that son of a bitch would have left a mark.
I got a little bit of revenge when he and the washboy were smoking their lunch one fine afternoon. I never understood why he would sit in his truck and smoke the reefer at lunch when there was a highway patrol station next door, but these two would get high out there every day. This truck looked like something that belonged in a Cheech and Chong movie. It was a jacked up fugly old Dodge 4X4 that looked like it had narrowly survived the apocalypse.
The belt molding (where the bottom of the window meets the door frame) was just above my head. So Cheech and Chong couldn’t see me (though I could clearly see that fine skunkweed smoke billowing out of the cowl panel) as I took a rubber hammer, banged on the driver’s side door, and at the top of my voice screamed, “POLICE! OUT OF THE TRUCK NOW!!” As I was running across the lot after the two had fallen out of the truck, I looked back and sort of felt bad because Primadouche had been so scared he wet his pants.
To be continued…