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Tech Stuff

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You added what?

The ignorance of some customers continues to amaze. A buddy’s shop recently took in a 2001 Honda Accord with a “no brakes” issue. The car was towed in on a flatbed, since the customer was afraid to drive it to the shop.

The female owner complained of a “grinding noise.” Initially the problem seemed simple enough — install new rotors and pads, top off the master and kick it out the door.

As it turns out, the woman had been driving the car with no front brakes, and had been stopping the car by using only the handbrake. The rotors were shot to the point of leaving a mere 1/16-inch or so of thickness on each side of the rotor vanes. The pads were gone, with only the backing plates scrubbing against the rotors.

Again, no big deal, right? Replace the rotors and pads.

However, the caliper pistons had worked themselves all the way out, with the seals and boots destroyed.

OK, install new calipers, rotors and pads, bleed and go, right? Wrong. The system simply would not bleed. And the master cylinder would build no pressure at all.

Upon examining the master cylinder reservoir, the “fluid” was gray and swirly looking, and felt like syrup. The owner mentioned that she had been refilling the master cylinder reservoir, and the fluid she had been using was in the trunk.

After peeking into the trunk, the shop found several empty and near-empty quarts of 10W-40 engine oil. Instead of laughing or lecturing her, the tech mustered every ounce of politeness and professionalism possible, and asked her why she had added engine oil to the brake system. Her reply: She assumed that any “automotive” fluid would suffice.

After flushing the lines, replacing the rear cylinders, master cylinder, ABS actuator, calipers, rotors and pads and bleeding, the rocket scientist (obviously smart enough to be a federal politician) was sent on her merry way.

Regardless of what havoc they wreak on their vehicles, we continue to pacify and professionally accommodate these customers, even though we’d often prefer to strangle them with our bare hands.

At the end of the day, ya gotta love it. It’s this type of customer who keeps us in business.   ●

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