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Author Topic: Life in the Service Lane . . .  (Read 44861 times)
Oldcarsarecool
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« Reply #15 on: September 17, 2010, 10:01:19 AM »

Since we're talking about music .  .  .
September 16, 2010





As we learned in the above example, people can get pretty creative when it comes to automobile repair.  The driver of that F150 was lucky.  His/her vehicle came equipped from the factory with a radio.  There was a time in the not so distant past when vehicles for fleet duty could be and quite often were ordered without a radio altogether.  In our fleet, quite a few vehicles from that mid-1990s era are still on active duty, like this GMC Safari van.





I mentioned earlier that any concern related to the sound system is not a priority repair in our fleet.  This leads to what I posted above.  But what do you do if you have no sound system  of any kind ?  You follow this driver's lead and install your own .  .  .





The recipe is simple  -  take one cardboard box just large enough to fit between the seats .  .  .





.  .  . and cut the proper sized hole in the lid.





And as we saw with the F150 from above, the radio needs an antenna to function properly.  There's no need to cut a hole in the fender to mount it.  That's what the rearview mirror is for .  .  .





Notice the attention to detail with this installation.  The small piece of paper seen in the photo above keeps the antenna from digging into the headliner.  Add to that a bunch of homemade electrical wiring neatly concealed beneath the lid, and you have one great sound system !  If any of you are considering a similar installation, please remember that a brand specific radio is not required for proper operation .  .  .


« Last Edit: March 01, 2015, 12:56:58 PM by Oldcarsarecool » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: October 10, 2010, 11:20:23 PM »

Customer States:  Check charging .  .  .
October 7, 2010





Night Foreman Larry, relayed the customer complaint to me as it was written - "Check Charging."  No further details were available except that the driver reported that sometimes he has a problem, and sometimes he doesn't.  Awesome .  .  . especially since this “problem” wasn't explained either.

With key in hand, I headed outside to find a 1993 Ford Econoline cargo van, a very common vehicle in our fleet.  A quick road test revealed the issue.  When I first started the van, all the gauges read normally.  But after a few miles, the voltage gauge began to drop which caused the "battery" light to come on.  It would appear that the alternator has ceased to function on a regular basis.  An analysis of the charging system would confirm my suspicions:  battery = good, alternator = bad.  This means the engine and all the electrical accessories are operating solely off the power supplied by the battery without any help from the alternator.  When the battery is drained below a certain level, the "battery" light in the instrument cluster comes on to indicate a problem.

The task at hand was now perfectly clear - remove the alternator and replace it.  Sounds simple enough .  .  .

Generally, replacing an alternator is not a difficult job.  The CliffsNotes version of the process would tell you to disconnect the battery, remove the serpentine belt, remove the handful of bolts that hold the alternator to the accessory bracket, disconnect the wiring from the back of the alternator, and remove it from the vehicle.  At least, that’s how the process works on a “normal” vehicle.  Those of us who work in the industry are aware of the fact that the words "Econoline" and "normal" cannot be used together in the same sentence.  The basic design of the van platform doesn't allow for a whole lot of room under the hood, as this photo shows.





In order to even see the alternator, the air filter housing has to be moved out of the way.  This is an easy task that involves 5 small bolts and 3 hose clamps.  Once the alternator is exposed, the next step is to remove the fan and fan shroud.  The modern belt-driven fan is threaded onto the water pump pulley, and is "unscrewed" with a fan clutch wrench specifically designed for that purpose.  The fan shroud unbolts from the radiator and also lifts out of the way.  By performing those three relatively simple steps, a surprising amount of new space is created, and allows for the alternator to be removed by moving it forward.

This scenario replays itself a couple of times in my mind as I pull the vehicle into my stall.  With the previously mentioned 5 bolts and 3 clamps removed, my target is now visible.  However, there is something about what I am seeing before me that just doesn't look right.  It hit me after a minute or so.

This 1993 van is powered by the bulletproof 4.9L inline 6 cylinder known as the "300 Six."  This is an inline 6 cylinder engine, meaning all 6 cylinders are lined up in a row.  All the newer vans are powered by a V-6 or V-8 engine.  A “V” configuration means there are only either 3 or 4 cylinders in a row.  In other words, the 300 Six is quite a bit longer than any current V-8.  Translation:  The previously mentioned "surprising amount of new space" DOES NOT exist.  This photo illustrates what I mean.





The photo above is of the bird’s eye view of the underhood area of a pickup truck, but the idea is the same.  Note how close the radiator and fan are to the front of the engine.  The radiator is in a fixed location.  The engine mounts are in a fixed location.  The longer the engine, the closer the accessories will sit to the fan and shroud.

Realizing that my evening just got a bunch more complicated than originally anticipated, I decide to take a closer look at the alternator, itself.  Two bolts secure it to the accessory bracket, which also holds the air pump in place below the alternator.  Therefore, this bracket is quite large, as the photo of a similar setup below shows.





The case that houses heating and air conditioning components, (the black plastic seen in the photo above), sits immediately to the left of the alternator  -  no room in that direction.  Immediately to the right of the alternator is the mounting bracket which is bolted to the front of the engine  -  no room over their either.  The fan shroud sits directly in front of the alternator, meaning there are only a few inches of room in that direction.  And finally, the design of the accessory bracket itself prevents me from lifting the alternator directly upward.  It appears that I have dilemma for which I see two possible solutions:

Option 1  –  Drain the cooling system, remove the fan shroud and fan, and remove the radiator.  This would provide enough room to remove the alternator from the front.  

Option 2  –  Unbolt the accessory bracket from the side of the engine and slide it as far out of the way as I can.  This should, hopefully, give me just enough room to lift the alternator upward.

I really don’t want to fool with the cooling system if I don’t have to.  And besides, how hard can it be to move the accessory bracket ?  This is a question I would later regret asking.





Option number 2 it is .  .  .
The Ford serpentine belt system incorporates a spring loaded tensioner, which made for easy belt removal.  I then removed the two bolts that hold the alternator to the accessory bracket.  With the alternator free, I should be able to rotate it and disconnect the wiring harness.  Yet for some reason, I can’t.  Something is holding it in place.  The wiring harness is tightly secured in place behind the alternator to prevent movement and possible chaffing.  With very little slack in the harness, reaching behind the alternator, unbolting the battery feed, and unclipping the regulator connectors proved to be much harder than expected.

With the alternator disconnected and pushed as far to the left as it can go, which isn’t that much, I can now access two fasteners that hold the accessory bracket to the engine.  Actually, I can see two fasteners, and have a funny feeling there is at least one more that I can’t see.  And sure enough, with the two visible fasteners removed, the bracket still doesn’t move.  Since I can’t see anything else from this vantage point, I need to raise the van in the air and take a look from below.

I now have a good view of the air pump, which is also bolted to the accessory bracket.  I suspect the elusive bracket fastener is hidden behind the air pump.  So now I have to move it out of the way.  Just like the alternator, the air pump is held in place with two bolts.  The bottom bolt is easily removed.  The upper bolt, however, is a different story.  I know where it should be, but I can’t really see it from this vantage point, let alone actually reach it.  Maybe I can see it from the top.  

I lowered the van back to the ground which allowed me to see the second bolt for the air pump.  It’s partially obstructed behind the air pump pulley.  I can’t get a socket on it for removal unless I remove the pulley from the air pump.  

So let’s think about this for a minute.  I don’t have to actually remove the air pump or the bolt in question.  I'm trying to reach the fastener hidden behind it which can be accomplished by loosening the bolt with an open-end wrench just enough to swivel the air pump upward.  That sounds like a plan, and turned out to be a good decision.

With the van back in the air and the air pump swiveled, I can see a third accessory bracket fastener, just like I had suspected.  With a wrench in one hand, and the other hand bracing the bracket in anticipation of it falling, I remove the bolt .  .  . and the bracket doesn't move.  

So far, I've removed three of the fasteners, and the bracket is still firmly in place.  Not knowing how many more are there, I stuff my hand in behind the air pump so I can feel around on the back side of the accessory bracket.  With my fingertips fully extended, I detect not one, but two more bolts holding the accessory bracket in place.  After an hour or so of trial and error, coupled with all the extensions, universals, and wrenches as my tool box holds, I finally get the last two accessory bracket bolts out.  And, the bracket separates from the engine.

Now keep in mind I haven’t touched, or even looked at the alternator – the subject of this repair – at all in the last two hours.  During that time, I have been trying solely to make room to get the alternator out from under the hood.  And now, I have it.  By moving the accessory bracket forward a few inches, I gained enough additional space to allow the alternator to be removed.





Success !

Installing the new alternator involves reversing the removal process, which went a lot smoother once I realized what steps had to be taken.  With the new alternator in place, a charging system analysis showed no problems.  Another turd has been successfully polished.

As frustrating as something like this can be, this is the kind of job I prefer.  I love doing stuff like this.  While some may look upon it as a pain, I prefer to think of it as a challenge.  Once it is completed, I feel a good sense of accomplishment, and look forward to the next.  Call me crazy, but happy .  .  .
« Last Edit: March 04, 2015, 01:00:59 AM by Oldcarsarecool » Logged

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« Reply #17 on: October 10, 2010, 11:37:19 PM »

Todd, I absolutely love reading your posts (especially about stuff like this). You really draw the reader into the scenario and make them feel as if they were there. Good stuff man.

Oh, and I would have been cursing and throwing wrenches while doing the above. I hate working on vans. They are a product of the devil.
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« Reply #18 on: October 11, 2010, 12:20:41 AM »

^^
I agree your write ups are really great to read and keep me intrigued the whole time. ANd yes Vans/minvans are horrid to work on....
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« Reply #19 on: October 11, 2010, 09:18:56 AM »

Thanks guys !  There is something about writing that my mind finds therapeutic.  I try my best to make it readable, yet easy to follow;  simple, yet detailed.  The drawback to this is just how long something like this takes me to compose. 

Now all we need is for Jak to tell us a few stories about his Econoline with the 7.3L diesel.  The words "Econoline" and "Diesel" should NEVER be used in the same sentence.  If you think the "normal" van is a challenge .  .  .

Mr. Ashh, where are you ?
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« Reply #20 on: October 11, 2010, 04:52:20 PM »

I'm here, and I can vouch for you. All I can see is the airbox, and nothing past that. We left it for helfman ford to deal with the leaking oil pan and flywheel replacement LOL
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« Reply #21 on: October 11, 2010, 05:20:52 PM »

That was quite the arduous task. I wonder if my minivan would be as difficult. It seems to be spacious enough up there. (All I ever do is new wiper fluid haha.)
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« Reply #22 on: October 12, 2010, 08:10:44 AM »

I'm here, and I can vouch for you. All I can see is the airbox, and nothing past that. We left it for helfman ford to deal with the leaking oil pan and flywheel replacement LOL

Leaking oil pan ?  Flywheel replacement ?  Oh crap !  Did Helfman Ford lift the body to do these repairs?  I'm, thankfully, not really familiar with repairs of that nature.  However, I don't see any other way to replace the oil pan and/or gasket, unless they pulled the entire front of the van off in order to raise the engine upward .  .  .





That was quite the arduous task. I wonder if my minivan would be as difficult. It seems to be spacious enough up there. (All I ever do is new wiper fluid haha.)

I think you would be surprised.  You have a transverse mounted V-6 in your van.  Instead of all the accessories being in the front, yours are all on the side.  Your engine is also quite a bit smaller.  So, there should be a lot of room .  .  .
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« Reply #23 on: October 12, 2010, 05:49:04 PM »

Customer States:  Whistling noise at highway speeds .  .  .
November 20, 2008





Some of you may have read my comments in Jak's Personal Opinion Poll of the 2009 Focus thread.  The 2000-2004 Ford Focus has always been a good, reliable car as far as MAJOR problems are concerned.  The engines were good, the transmissions were good, and catastrophic failures were rare, even among the much abused SVT and Saleen models.  The cars seemed to hold up well.

However, the list of minor annoyances could fill several pages in this thread.  The squeaks and rattles, the brake troubles, and the list of recalls were all, from a customer standpoint, not really big "problems," but a more of a big "inconvenience."  I have heard a lot of customers talk about their Focus the way Mrs. M does - they love their car, but find it to be a royal pain.

Model year 2005 brought a big update in design, especially on the inside of the car.  The new car was light years ahead of the original.  And, aside from the ridiculous drum brakes, a list of minor annoyances began to shrink.

Model year 2008 brought about another design update which featured an even better interior and an even smaller list of annoyances.  However, that didn't mean a glitch wouldn't surface from time to time.

The complaint was written as "Customer States whistling noise at highway speeds."  Technician Adam performed a road test to verify the concern, (this is ALWAYS the first step in the repair process).  And sure enough, as soon as he hit Interstate 70, the whistling became quite apparent.  As a technician, this is what you hope for - that the concern is present, and easily verified.  I can't tell you how many times I've road tested a vehicle for a concern that didn't want to show itself.  It is at this point when I usually discover that a key piece of information has been omitted like, "Oh yeah, it has only done it once about a month ago.  See what you can find."  In the case of squeaks and rattles, an issue that is occurring on a regular basis is a good thing.

Adam returned to the shop and asked me if I had seen this condition before on the new Focus, which I hadn't.  What he heard was definitely coming from the passenger side of the car.  So, we decided to have a look.





The photo above is of the area where the front and rear doors meet at the roof on the passenger side of the car.  The gap on the front door, while maybe not perfect, doesn't look that far off.  However, the gap at the rear door is positively huge.





A gap like this can produce all kinds of issues, especially at highway speeds.  With the door out of place, the weatherstripping won't seal properly.  And it just looks sloppy, especially along the trim at the bottom of the windows.  





If there was ever a car that looked like it was assembled at 4:59 PM on a Friday afternoon, this was it .  .  .
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« Reply #24 on: October 13, 2010, 12:07:50 AM »

How did you go about repairing it?
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« Reply #25 on: October 13, 2010, 01:38:28 PM »

looks more like someone tried to break into it by pulling out the top of the door. great stories todd. keep them comming when you have time.
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« Reply #26 on: October 13, 2010, 04:18:07 PM »

How did you go about repairing it?

This was a then brand new 2008 model Focus with only a few thousand miles on the odometer.  Since it was still under the factory warranty, it got sent to our body shop.  From there, I'm not sure exactly what happened.  But, I would suspect a complete realigning of the panels on the passenger side of the car, which would have to be done by our body shop.





looks more like someone tried to break into it by pulling out the top of the door. great stories todd. keep them comming when you have time.

Thanks Brendan, and welcome back !  The break-in theory is what technician Adam thought at first.  However, the entire door was waaaaaay off at all points.  I have learned to keep my camera in the car so that when I see something "interesting," I can snap a few photos. 

As I reflect on experiences past, I'll write a few more stories .  .  .
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« Reply #27 on: October 13, 2010, 05:04:23 PM »

I love these stories. Please keep them coming.  Smiley
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« Reply #28 on: November 06, 2010, 10:52:15 AM »

Customer States:  Grinding noise while driving .  .  .
November 29, 2008





Saturday November 28, 2008 began the way every Saturday began at Joe Machens Ford Lincoln Mercury in Columbia, MO, with someone asking the question, “How busy do you think we’ll be today?”  Physically, it doesn’t really matter because everyone has to stay until the 4 PM closing anyways.  Mentally, however, the answer makes the difference between suffering through a long, drawn out, boring day, or not having enough free time to catch your breath.   I prefer the latter.  The day goes much, much quicker that way.  

Considering that today is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, that question becomes much harder to answer.  Some think we won’t be busy at all.  Most people are at Grandma’s house for the holiday.  Those who aren’t traveling will be at the mall shopping.  So regular Saturday customers will probably be busy.

However, with an enormous amount of people traveling by car, we could see some “my-check-engine-light-came-on-while-I-was-on-the-Interstate” concerns, some tow-ins, and maybe a few maintenance customers we have never seen before because they live somewhere else, but Grandma happens to live in Columbia.  An active afternoon is a real possibility.

I don’t remember what was predicted that morning before the doors opened.  But by the time the lunch hour rolled around, the amount of traffic through the shop was definitely on the decline.  The mood in the shop had gone from “relaxed” to “can we go home?”.  Hopefully, we’ll see a few stragglers in the afternoon, if for no other reason than to keep us awake.

Turns out, we would hear the stragglers before we would actually see them.  In fact, it was hard not to hear the really loud metal-on-metal grinding sound making its way through the parking lot.  Once I opened the garage door to allow the green ’99 Ford Expedition to crawl into the service lane, the grinding became positively frightening.  





Even though the answer to the question, “Hello, what can I do for you today?” appears to be somewhat obvious, I am obligated to ask.  Mr. & Mrs. Holiday Traveler, with platoon of kids and what appeared to be all their worldly possessions in tow were on their way home to Colorado and began to experience some trouble.  Mr. Traveler explained that he started hearing an unusual noise that, as his journey progressed, seemed to get louder.  When the noise started to resemble what he called “grinding metal,” he noticed that he was also having to put quite a bit of effort into keeping the vehicle pointed straight ahead.  The vehicle didn’t just “pull,” it “darted,” exhibiting uncommanded right turns while going straight.  With all this occurring right in our back yard along Interstate 70, he got our phone number, called to see if we were open and hoped he could make it.  

Looking at the vehicle as it sat in the service lane, I noticed what appeared to be a significant toe-out condition with the passenger’s side front wheel, despite the driver’s side front wheel pointing straight ahead.  Technician Conrad with repair order in hand started to drive the vehicle to his stall for diagnosis.  He made it about 3 feet, when the “Holy-Mother-of-God,-what-is-that?” expression appeared on his face.  Immediately, we all knew we were dealing with some kind of wheel bearing problem.  How bad the problem was remained to be seen.





Wheel Bearing 101 .  .  .
The front wheel bearings on a ’99 Ford Expedition 4x4 are of the bolt on design, as the photo below shows.





This style is referred to as a “hub bearing.”  In short, a hub bearing is comprised of several individual parts – wheel hub with lug studs, wheel bearings, ABS sensor, and mounting bracket - assembled together as one piece, as shown in the above photo.  The wheel hub (with lug studs facing away from you), is the round silver thing with a big hole through the center of it.  The front axle shaft goes through that hole, and is secured with a locking nut.  The long wire is attached to the ABS Sensor.  The actual roller-style wheel bearing is pressed around the hub at that big hole, and sits behind where you see the round black seals.  This assembly is bolted to the front steering/suspension via the three holes in the mounting bracket that face toward you, only two of which can be seen in the photo because of the ABS wire.

This hub bearing is a self-contained one piece unit.  The only way it comes apart is through a catastrophic failure.  Although possible, this normally doesn’t happen mainly because the noises and vibrations produced by the impending doom should be sufficient to let the driver know something is not quite right, and he/she needs to have the car serviced.  In other words, a hub bearing problem should never get to the failure stage unless the radio waaaaaay is too loud or the driver is deaf.

That “service” consists of having the amount of movement within the hub bearing assembly checked.  In this photo .  .  .





.  .  . a technician is checking wheel bearing movement of a Corvette.  With the vehicle in the air, he places his hands at the top and bottom of the wheel as shown.  Lifting up and down on the tire should result in very little, if any movement.  Generally, only a few thousandths of an inch of free play is acceptable.  

With Mr. Traveler’s Expedition in the air, Conrad performs that same test by grabbing the top and bottom of the tire and lifting upward.  Using his thumb positioned on top of the tire as a reference point, Conrad finds about 4 INCHES of movement, which explains the uncommanded right turns.  

Being fearful of what he might find, Conrad removes the right front wheel and brake rotor .  .  .





In the above photo, Conrad is holding what remains of the wheel hub.  Once he removed the locking axle nut, it fell into his hand.  The remainder of the hub bearing assembly is still securely fastened to the steering knuckle.  However, conspicuous by its absence is anything that resembles a roller-style bearing, which has been ground up and scattered somewhere along Interstate 70.  

Now keep in mind that the front wheel is attached to that hub via the wheel lug nuts.  With the bearing gone, the hub moves.  This is why Conrad had 4 inches of play when he grabbed the tire.  With the wheel that loose, in addition to the previously mentioned uncommanded right turns, stuff that should never come into direct contact with each othe, does just that.  Bad things immediately follow.  Take notice of the two deep grooves at the top of the brake caliper bracket in the photo below, (keep in mind that they weren’t there just a few mile earlier).





So at this point, Conrad’s estimate sheet shows one hub bearing assembly, one set of front brake pads, one brake rotor, and one brake caliper bracket.  He now turns his attention inboard , where he finds another problem.





Whether the C/V boot shown above disintegrated on its own over time or had some help from the symphony of grinding metal occurring next to it doesn’t matter at this point.  When the boot splits, not only does all the grease contained within the boot disappear, the fine particles of metal flying around in that vicinity now have a wide open path directly into the c/v joint, itself.  With that in mind, it doesn’t make sense to just install a new c/v boot.  The drive axle needs to be replaced.





Don't shoot the messenger .  .  .
As an advisor, it’s my job to find out from Conrad exactly what has to be done to repair the vehicle, review his estimate sheet, and calculate the total cost of all parts and labor.  At this point, I now become the bearer of bad news, the dealership's “Grim Reaper,” that person who wants to take all of your money.  It is this aspect of an advisor’s job that I would consider the most difficult.  A lot of customers think negatively about the dealer to start with.  In the case of a traveler who is stranded, you now to add that the element of “you’ve got me right where you want me.”  So, it is critical that any positives, no matter how insignificant, be emphasized.

The biggest positive I have on my side is that ALL the parts needed to fix the vehicle are sitting in our parts room.  Rather than just walking into the customer lounge and telling Mr. Traveler what he needs and how much it costs, I was prepared to explain exactly what failed and why, listen to his comments, and answer his questions as necessary.  Then the last thing I would say would be, “I’ve got everything in stock, and can have you back together in about 2 hours,” which would, hopefully, bring a smile of relief to his face.

My objective is purely psychological in nature.  Instead of Mr. Traveler thinking we are trying to kick him when he is down, I want him to think that he arrived at our Service Department with a big problem, and we solved it.  Yes, it cost a good bit, but it beats being stranded 700 miles from home.  While this may sound somewhat rudimentary, this situation occurs quite often due in part to the above mentioned negative view of the dealership service department that some customers inherently have.

Since Mr. & Mrs. Traveler were not going to try and trade the vehicle in – you would be surprised at just how often that happens with travelers – I headed into the customer lounge, and sat down in the chair next to Mr. Traveler.  This is another bit of psychology on my part.  I’m not trying to put myself in a perceived “position of authority” by towering over him while he is sitting.  My objective is to try and make him feel as comfortable as possible, given the circumstances.  

And, the conversation began.  I explained exactly what Conrad thinks occurred, and what components were damaged and needed to be replaced.  Mr. & Mrs. Traveler had a bunch of question, all of which I was happy to answer.  The key, here, is to be completely honest and detailed, but not confusing.  I want them to know that we are doing a proper repair and not just throwing parts at their car.  And I wanted them to know that we have everything in stock to get them back on the road.  With that statement, both of their faces lit up, just like I had hoped.

Now, the only remaining question Mr. & Mrs. Traveler had was where to get something to eat.  With the “fix it” authorization given, I sent the family across the street to Chuck E Cheese for a late lunch.  I then helped Conrad transport a shopping cart full of parts to his stall, where he performed the repairs like the seasoned veteran he is.  Roughly two hours later, I was shaking Mr. Traveler’s hand, and wishing everyone a safe journey the rest of the way home.  

Just like I had hoped, they left Machens Ford happy, having arrived with a big problem that we were able to fix.  Despite Mr. Traveler’s wallet being somewhat lighter, the family was glad to be back on the road, and grateful to us for our efforts.  

And with that, I have transitioned from the most difficult part of my job to the most rewarding.  A satisfied customer who is genuinely appreciative of the efforts we put forth always brought a smile to my face, no matter how bad the work day was.  There is something to be said about the feeling you get knowing that you just provided relief to a customer in a crisis.  It is this aspect of working in the dealership environment that I miss the most – feeling like my job actually had a true meaning and purpose, a benefit that I, currently, do not have .  .  .
« Last Edit: March 04, 2015, 01:13:20 AM by Oldcarsarecool » Logged

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« Reply #29 on: November 06, 2010, 11:58:09 AM »

Good story.

The way 70 is, I would have had a panic attack. Even though I live on one end, my inlaws live in the middle and the inlaws family lives in Columbia. But, its a busy highway, and most parts are just country miles. And people do 80-90 on  it. (sometimes me...  )

Poor guy, Im glad he got his car fixed and that he was in good hands.  Smiley
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