Repairing by the Numbers
Now and then, I’ll get a car in the shop that you can clearly tell some amateur has been
fiddling around under the hood. Things are out of place, harnesses and lines are not strapped
down, or they’ve come up with some concoction to seal an oil leak. Nothing surprises me these
days, especially after all the years I’ve been at this. Whether it’s a homemade battery clamp
or gobs of pepper poured into the radiator to seal a leak, I’ve probably seen it
before… and then some.
Once in a while, some of these in-the-ditch repairs truly are a road side emergency, but
I tend to believe with proper maintenance even those repairs could be avoided. I’m not saying
you won’t break down on the side of the road, I know I have, but we aren’t driving around
with points and condensers or 2 ply tires anymore. Cars have far more reliability built into
them than the cars back then. Even though the number of repairs has dropped considerably,
the number on the bottom of the repair invoice rises with every new technology added.
Like everything else in the modern world, it still comes down to the numbers. The dollar number
that is. Car repair can be expensive, especially considering the amount of training, tools and
equipment needed to perform the various diagnostics and repairs. However, there are still a
number of people who take car repair and maintenance as something that can be taken care
of with cheap off shore parts and a shade tree, no matter what the problem is.
That number is soon to change.
The number of sensors, cameras, and multiple layers of high speed computer data in the modern car changes the way a lot of repairs that once were simple, like a cracked windshield, or a piece of trim falling off into a calibrated control system service. A consumer, or for that matter a repair shop, who is unaware of the complexities of these new systems and tries to penny pinch a seemingly minor problem, may inadvertently be putting themselves, their passengers and the other motorist at risk. The days of bailing wire and homemade repairs has reached the end of the road. Cars are far too sophisticated and complex for shoddy repair work from either the unaware motorist or those repair shops with antiquated repair methods. This is where training the consumer about their car is just as important as training the technicians.
Things like replacing an outside mirror after Junior clobbers it backing out of the garage, aren’t as simple as before. Now, they’ll need to be calibrated and realigned because of the cameras and sensors in them. Even minor fender benders can’t be taken as lightly as before. A few stray piece of duct tape might hold the bumper on, but cover up a radar sensor. However, with these systems in working order, the likelihood of getting in a fender bender or getting too close to the garage door has been diminished by those very same cameras.
Cars aren’t built like the solid tanks of yesteryear either, and why should they be? The technology and the way the vehicles are built goes hand in hand, and it’s not just about fuel economy or creature comforts, it’s about the safety of the occupants as well.
In short, the modern mechanic is going to have their hands full programming, calibrating, and setting up the modern car for those minor mishaps that the average motorist gets involved in. Even now, insurance companies offer better rates if your car is equipped with some of the latest radar and protective systems, such as crash avoidance and lane departure awareness systems.
Keeping these rolling computers in working order isn’t going to get any cheaper, either. Someday you might even count the number of times the technology in your car made a difference to you and your family’s safety, and for those reasons the numbers don’t matter. Saving a dollar is a smart thing to do, cutting corners on repairs isn’t. Repairing the car by the numbers just doesn’t add up when it comes safety and reliability.