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Happens All The Time

It happens all the time. Does it? When we take an appointment at the shop that is going to require a diagnosis of sorts one of our questions is “Does it happen all the time?”. The initial answer is almost always “Yes”.

It is likely that the service person making the appointment will prod a little more. Inevitably always will turn to sometimes. When the vehicle actually comes in for diagnosis sometimes becomes never after the mechanic goes for a ride with the customer.

Like the doctor patient thing, it only hurts when you are not at the doctor’s office.

This problem is an intermittent problem. The solution is going to require some digging. There are a lot of mechanics that hearing the word “intermittent” run to the other end of the shop not at all interested in solving your problem. Many shops pay their mechanics for the job they do not how long they take. Flat rate is the term used. Piece work might be another.

Replacing a fuel pump on a 2005 Chevrolet Silverado has a flat rate time associated with it. A flat rate mechanic will get paid however many hours the flat rate manual says it should take to replace that fuel pump. The customer can be told very accurately how much the job is going to cost.

There is no flat rate for intermittent. The customer must recognize that a solution to the intermittent problem can be elusive. How much are we going to charge to fix your problem?

Customer: “My car stalls once in awhile while driving. It will start right up again and not do it again for the rest of the day. How much will that cost to fix?

I can tell you how much it will cost to replace your fuel pump. Would you like a fuel pump? No guarantee that is the problem.

Stalling and starting right up again, what could be wrong? Ignition switch, ignition coil, fuel pump, engine computer, immobilizer computer, ignition module, electronic throttle module, loose wire to ignition switch, loose wire to ignition coil, loose wire to fuel pump, loose wire to engine computer, loose wire to immobilizer computer, loose wire to ignition module, loose wire to electronic throttle module, bad connection at the ignition switch, bad connection at the ignition coil, bad connection at the fuel pump … you get the picture.

What part do you want? Where do you want me to look? How much do you want to pay me for my troubles?

Fortunately your mechanic has a strategy for your problem. We want as much detail as we can get as to when, where and how the problem occurs.

We will try to reproduce the problem, we will scan the computer network for any tell tale codes. We will perform a visual inspection. We will look for the obvious. We will page through any applicable service bulletins from the vehicle’s manufacturer. We will check out our favorite google sites.

If we do reproduce the problem we may narrow down the possible causes based on our knowledge of the systems involved. We may instrument your vehicle to hopefully record information from various inputs and outputs when the problem occurs.

As you can imagine time will tick by in the process. How much time is the unknown? We have to balance time and cost. It is difficult to bill for “no solution found”.

We could sell you a fuel pump.

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