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Can You Believe Everything You See and Read In Old Car Ads.?

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By Mark Weisseg

Early on in the automotive industry the public was ripe for the taking. Look at our small example here. This as well as muffler bearings, turn signal fluids and a rash of other gimmicks fooled many a person. Foolish gimmicks that still bring laughter to this day.

The down side to all these jokes were they were pulled on a unsuspecting public at times. You know the gig. One bad apple spoils the whole bunch. Even today bad advice will travel much faster than the truth. If someone feels they were ripped off by a mechanic the story goes they will tell ten people, versus if they had great service they may tell one. I think today it’s much worse.

The engine light is on. First mechanic says it’s the EGR valve. You replace the valve and the issue continues. Now you are told it’s a fuel injector. You authorize that and two days later the light returns. Now you are told it’s a oxygen sensor. You authorize that. Sure enough day two and the light is back on. What do you do? Rip your hair out by the roots? Well you can but the light is still on. In the case above it was a bad seal at the gas cap. An eight dollar item. Everyone leaves disappointed and you lose face, and a customer.

The general public believes today all a technician needs to do is plug a computer into your car and it will tell him or her what is wrong. That could not be further from the truth. The truth is a plumber charges about one hundred dollars an hour and may have almost the same tools for twenty five years. You charge a hundred bucks and you are a thief. And you paid 30k for your own tools. It’s an old story but it’s a story that is just as relevant today as it was fifteen years ago. What’s the answer? It’s a tough one.

I had an issue last year when my multimeter broke. I took my 49 Chevy with a generator to a local shop. I know everyone there. I borrowed a multimeter and the guy that had been working there more than ten years followed me out to my truck. I was reading zero. You know what he told me? No worry, the generator is working fine. It is the battery. Sorry Charlie. Elwrongo. It was the generator. He never saw a generator. The wires were crossed. I borrowed a wrench, flipped the wires around and the meter read what it should. Oh boy, now I worry.

Now, I am buying my own lift. So, how’s does the average person feel? They feel lost going into shops today. More lost than ever before. Despite all the training, books and programs the jungle is still full of people who have no right to do what they do. They should be digging ditches. But who replaces them? I don’t have an answer.

These vehicles are very hard to diagnose today. You must use your brain and obviously some people still are not equipped to follow a lead and see what is really wrong. Certainly changing oil, batteries, tires and simple items are easy but lord help you if it’s complicated. It hurts to write this as I have been doing this since Moby Dick was a Minnow. But facts are facts and I am very concerned. The vehicles today are so complicated and smart you still need someone that can figure out what is wrong and why.

This is why it was so easy to fool the general public into buying products they didn’t need in the early days. Advertising standards and our awareness make it a bit harder now, but it still makes you think what products we do need what we don’t actually need to maintain our cars on an ongoing basis.

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