Taking the car in for service is rarely something we look forward to unless you just got that huge end of year bonus that is being transformed into a go faster, turn sharper, stop quicker upgrade.
Most of the time we are taking it in because something doesn’t work; or even worse something doesn’t work intermittently. Some fixes are easy and some are a bit more challenging. But there is something you can do to make this process a little less painful. It is called communication; and it is the most important factor in having a repair done correctly and in a timely fashion.
First off you are going to make an appointment to bring your car in to your favorite service facility. You call and talk to the receptionist or front office personnel and tell them your ‘89 944S2 doesn’t start and the A/C doesn’t work. The person on the phone tells you to bring the car in Thursday at 8am. You do as instructed and when you drop the car off on Thursday morning you are one of a half dozen others trying to do the same thing. They start a work order and say, “OK, I see you on the schedule and you have a starting problem and the A/C doesn’t work”. You say, “That is correct” and sign the work order right before you rush out the door to jump into the shuttle van that is leaving with three other customers for their ride to work.
You think to yourself, “That was quick and easy; I am sure I will get a call right after lunch telling me everything was addressed and the repairs are under estimate”.
Now let’s look at the starting issue…
Starting issues are probably one the biggest areas of communication failure; because there are so many issues that can manifest with what seems to be the same result.
Does the starter not activate? Do you have dash lights? If so, do the dash lights dim? If the starter does activate does it crank normally but the car just never fires to life? Does this only happen after a long drive and a short time before the restart? Does it crank for a really long time and then eventually start? Does it only do it first thing in the morning, but not every time?
Well that could be caused by (in order) a bad starter, bad ignition switch, bad starter solenoid, bad fuel pump and or DME relay or reference speed sensor, a sticking poorly lubricated starter solenoid, bad fuel pressure regulator, and finally bad interior light switches. Yes, I said bad interior light switches can make your car not start. OK, that ones a little too weird not to explain.
If you called and told me your car battery goes dead for no reason every few days I would have you check a few things. When you turn the car off and open the doors, do the power windows still work? Do the interior lights not work? If you jiggle the interior light switch do the lights come on and the windows stop working? If you answered yes, no, yes to these questions then you have a bad interior light door switch. You see, when you start the car the power window relays activate. They stay activated after the car is shut off so you can roll up the windows you forgot about even after the car is off and the key is out. When you open the door the car thinks, “OK, he is done with me and I will power down all accessory systems”. The car knows this because the interior light tells it as much. The signal from the switch turns on the interior light and turns off the power window relay.
This is not a 100% rule on all Porsche’s just common on certain 80’s and 90’s models and makes for a good example for our discussion.
The point is that precise information is important. When you bring the car in; have a list of the issues you want dealt with typed up on a piece of paper with precise details concerning each item. I say typed because with all the computer work we do these days some of our penmanship is not what is used to be back “in the day” and this just eliminates one more communication road block.. This can be attached to the work order if it is too wordy to be typed on the estimate. When you make the appointment, ask if there is any more information or details they need to better diagnose the problem. Should you be watching for anything between now and the time the cars comes in?
Contact information… We all have some sort of electronic gadget attached to our bodies, this is a great time to use it. Give email contact if you have a blackberry or other smart phone and cell phone information for texting if your phone isn’t quite as intelligent. If you don’t know how to text, just ask a 13-year old girl for a quick lesson. If you are in a high level meeting, away from your desk or in a noisy pub washing down a plate of fish & chips with an adult beverage you won’t be able to take a call. You can text a message back telling the shop you approve replacement of the widget so they can order the part before the next parts run so you can get the car back today. Just let them know what form of contact you prefer.
Now that you are armed with this time and therefore money saving information; you will be able to use what you didn’t spend this time on go faster, turn sharper, and stop quicker upgrades next time.
That’s probably not the way it is going to go; so lets look at why that cute little scenario might not go that way, and see what we can do to make it better. To start with; you didn’t know how much information to give and the service writer didn’t ask enough questions about the problems you were having…
Let’s look at the problems you are having and see what we can do to make it easier for you, the shop and the technician working on your car.
Let’s start with the air conditioning issue…
Does nothing happen when you turn it on? No fan, no cold air, just a lot of sweating? Well if that is the case it doesn’t have any electrical power for some reason. Does it work fine on the highest fan position, but shuts off completely on 1, 2 or 3? That is most likely a bad fan resister pack.
Do the fans and vents work normally but the air just got progressively less cool over the last month and now isn’t cool at all? That is a loss of refrigerant due to a small but recently acquired leak in the system.
Does it work great and then all of the sudden it goes from ice cold to flaming hot? Does the temperature change often, but not always happen after going over a bump? If so that is a broken link on the mixing flap door.
You see; when the mechanic gets a work order that says the air conditioning does not work he has to check every part and function of the system and you get to pay for that. If you give the description of the sudden loss of cooling that I listed previously; the $4 plastic clip will be replaced in less time than it will probably take to shuttle you back to work.