Tech Stuff

So you think you’re having a bad day?

Probably every shop that deals with the public has a host of horror stories that involve "the world's dumbest" actions on the part of some customers.

This might range from failure to check engine oil level, resulting in engine failure, while claiming a defective engine; to loading massive amounts of weight in the trunk that results in their claim of ill-handling and premature tire wear; to adding diesel fuel to a gasoline engine's fuel supply, accompanied with the excuse that because the diesel nozzle handle was green, "I thought that meant it was eco-friendly."

You wouldn't believe some of the things that parts manufacturers, warehouses and other repair shops deal with on a daily basis. Some of these stories are enough to make your hair stand on end. For your amusement, here are a few real-world examples (yes, these things really happened).

A youngster (probably around 18 or so) brought his 2004 Camaro to a shop because of a driveability issue that initially involved stumbling and "check engine" light on. After diagnosing an EVAP leak and dirty injectors, the shop performed the repairs, test-drove the car and everything was peachy. Codes were cleared and the car ran fine. The customer picked up the car, only to return a week later complaining that the engine was difficult to start, and when it did run, it misfired and bucked. Once again, the shop cleared the codes and (to make a long story short) decided to reflash the ECM. The car ran fine and was returned to the customer. This process was repeated about four times over the course of a month, with the customer becoming increasingly irate with each visit. During the last visit, one of the technicians noticed a set of four drilled holes on the inner fender that were definitely not factory. It turns out that each time the customer returned home, he installed an aftermarket controller that he purchased on eBay and tried to program it himself with his laptop, without a clue about what he was doing (of course, before returning to the shop, he removed the controller and tried to hide the wiring harness).

A female customer routinely complained about a bouncing brake pedal. Each time she visited the shop, the technician quickly diagnosed warped front brake rotors. The fix required replacing the rotors and pads, at which point braking performance was returned to original. The customer, who displayed very little patience, showed up about once each month with the same complaint. Each time, the shop went above and beyond by replacing rotors on a warranty basis. By the way, the technician involved was always very careful to tighten the wheel nuts using a quality torque wrench, tightening in the correct sequence. After four visits for the same problem, it was evident that this could not be a case of that many "defective" rotors.

What nobody realized early-on was that her son regularly washed and detailed the car in order to earn his allowance. Each time, he removed the wheels in order to clean the entire wheel/tire package. When he reinstalled the wheels, he used a long breaker bar and "leaned" on it with all of his might, tightening in a circle instead of in a crisscross pattern. Once the root of the problem was found, the female customer screamed at the shop owner for not providing "car cleaning" instructions.

A wonderful example of sheer stupidity involves a do-it-yourselfer who tried to install threaded rocker arm studs with a hammer, thinking that they required a "press-fit." Hey, I couldn't make up this stuff. You guessed it — he returned the heads and studs claiming defective goods.

Torque wrenches are intended to tighten a threaded fastener to a specific elastic point to apply required clamping force when installing a component. They should be treated carefully and should be well cared for to maintain calibration.

A tool vendor related a story of a customer who returned a 1/2-inch-drive ratcheting torque wrench because the tool was defective and "a cheap piece of junk."

When the vendor asked why the torque wrench was bent and dented, the customer complained that he couldn't understand why such an expensive tool wouldn't work as a pry bar with the aid of a sledge hammer. Unbelievable.

So, the next time that you deal with a customer who apparently has the IQ of a box of rocks, calm down and smile, and remind yourself that you're not alone.

There are plenty of morons out there for all of us.   ●

Have your own story of customer stupidity? Send it to mike.mavrigian@bobit.com.

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