Myths and Rumors

Rumor has it that all mechanics are alike.  That's a myth, an
all-out rumor started by uneducated, misinformed, and quick to
judge vehicle owners.  Information and the ability to interpret
that information is what separates rumors from facts.  A lot
of it depends on where the information is coming from. 

There's the manufacturers' websites or the many independent
companies that offer the same quality information either on
the internet or in book form.  There's also some really great
information found in the automotive trade magazines with
some of the top pros in the business.  Of course, there are
manuals that offer less accurate information to the consumer,
and if that's still not in the budget there's
always “he said – she said”, rumor central as I like to call it. 
(For as long as I can remember there has always been
cheap repair manuals out there...and as it always is…
cheap sells first and often, quality sells last…  …  after all, the
cheap stuff has been tried.   Nothing has changed since
the first production cars rolled off the assembly line, and
I doubt it will ever change.)
There are plenty of myths and rumors for all kinds of car
problems.  From how to remove tie rod ends, ball joints, and
steering wheels, to diagnosing an electrical short with a potato...
(No kidding...)  Ridiculous, to say the least.  Some of these
home remedies really do work (never tried the potato myself.) but, most are just the type of thing that makes most decent techs just shake their heads.  Now, I don't want to leave out some of those crazy apparatuses people will create just to take care of a problem without repairing it correctly.  From screw drivers jammed in the steering column for a turn signal handle to bathroom faucet handles for radio knobs. It's the ingenuity of some of these wacky folks that makes me laugh out loud.  I just can't imagine how or what possesses some of these creative minds to do the things they do. It comes down to the rumors started that some repairs are going to be so expensive, so they will try to find a way around it.... even though, they probably have never had it tested correctly in the first place. 

Some of these “weekend bumper jack operators” think it's a myth that you don't need a whole lot of training to work on cars these days. They'll get a cheap car repair manual, or watch a video on how to install brake pads, and then head out to their car and attempt the job themselves.  Only to end up bringing the car into the repair shop, because of a horrible grinding noise coming from one of the wheels.  And, of course, their cheap manual will be neatly left on the passenger seat, opened to the appropriate page for the tech to see.  (Rumor has it the owner found their book tossed in the backseat like a rag doll.   Hmm, I wonder how that happened. My bad...)

So is it a myth that car repair is easy?   It's a myth all right, but the answer is actually complicated.  My hat's off to anyone who can come home from the office and tackle a car repair without any background in automotive diagnostics or previous mechanical experience.  Those are few and far between I might add.  But if they fail, I'll get the typical questions asked at the service counter, “Is this something I could do myself?", or “Is this fairly easy for me to fix?”  Well, yes... and no.  First off, “Is it easy”, well,'s probably easy for me... but I've got years of hands on experience.  Secondly, “Can you do it yourself?”, sure you can... and if you had the years of hands on experience to go along with it you could probably get it done quickly and efficiently without any mistakes.  Honestly, how would I know if it's easy for you?  You brought the car to the shop to have it fixed, not to have your mechanical aptitude analyzed.

Generally, it really doesn't matter what I say, if they want to try it themselves, they're going to try it themselves.  The next usual question is; “Ok, can ya show me how to do it?”   My answer to that is, “Does the baker at your local bakery teach you how to bake a cake?  Does the guy who sells you your lawnmower teach you how to mow the lawn?”  I don't think so.  I'm probably not going to give you a detail by detail instructional lecture on how to fix your car.  So if your neighbor or the shop down the street told you that I would be ever so happy to help you out... ah, that's a myth too.... ain't happenin'.  But, my all-time favorite myth, when a customer says to me, "You do have that machine that tells you exaclty what's wrong with the car, don't you"? Right, that machine... sure I do... I keep it next to the muffler bearings and turn signal fluid.  

Let's face it, the skills each and every one of us have acquired is part of our earning capacity.   Not to say there are not times when a little extra help given to someone isn't appropriate, it's just not the kind of thing that keeps my shop in the black.  I've heard rumors that in order to have a profitable shop you need to charge for your services.  (Duh, ya think?!)  

There are so many cars out there and so many people with different ideas and opinions as to what it takes, it's no wonder so many rumors and myths get started.  With all the half-truths and false information floating around, it doesn't take long before one of those rumors gets to be part of our everyday culture. 

There have even been entire cars and manufacturers of cars that have gotten a bad rap because of some of those rumors. There's no doubt that public conceptions about some cars has a lot to do with the total sales and or longevity of certain models.  The Edsel and the Corvair are two examples of bad publicity and poor acceptance that are forever more associated with rumors and exaggerated stories.  Sure, they had problems, but honestly some of the stories I've heard over the years are just too hard to believe. (Then again, a lot of it could have been brought on by poor maintenance practices too.)

I've worked on both, and it may be true that some of the technology developed for them might have needed a bit more improvement, but what car doesn't have a bug or two in it. If you take a hard look into the history of the automotive world you'll find examples of cars that either had the same flaws or even more faults than these two examples.  I wouldn't call them bad cars... I’d say they were unique cars… but then, if I started telling people that ...  I'd be starting another rumor wouldn't I?  Best leave it be, and just take care of the cars in the best way possible.   Rumors and myths are great for the arm chair mechanic.  Makes for great conversation with the other gear heads, but as a professional... I'll stick to the facts.