Crammond Automotive Specialities

"Specializing in the repair and conservation of European Cars"

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Adding Value to Ownership - Thoughts From a Carguy December 2012

Posted on February 2, 2013 at 1:55 AM

You have saved, dreamt, planned, optioned, envisioned and created that dream day – the day where you take delivery of your BMW. Your car is meant to be a symbol of perfection and as odometer begins to tally, the next part of car ownership dawns on you – is that a new noise? Did that close as slow yesterday? Does the steering feel funny? Now you are at the next stage of car ownership and sadly, it’s the stage no one likes – maintenance and repair. Your mind fills of horror stories of crooked mechanics, draining your wallet, unnecessary repairs and sky rocketing costs. Honestly, much of the stories you read on the internet are sensationalized and the result of great amounts of miscommunication and fear mongering. So how do you safeguard yourself? What should you know? While I cannot speak for everyone, here are some topics that are best reflected upon prior to choose a repair shop or proceeding with a repair plan. Quotes While a quote allows a customer to budget for a repair or choose a shop, the quote cannot always address all aspects of the repair. Honestly, sometimes you have to remove components to fully understand what is required to fully repair a problem. Disassembly allows for a through and precise quote but can also be interpreted as a “pressure tactic” to force a repair, creating animosity so most shops avoid disassembly as part of the quoting procedure. A quote that is inexpensive but does not address the problem is really useless information so quoted amount are best seen as “go to” amounts and best case scenarios rather than absolutes. Internet Diagnosis Diagnosis by “google” is dangerous and rarely results in any value. Forums are full of arm chair mechanics that are willing to diagnose on a whim as they can advise and seem knowledgeable without any responsibility. Problems can be diagnosed with repair manuals and theory texts but also require context. When you have chosen a repair path share the thought with your Shop/Service Writer or Mechanic. Realize that if you request a certain part to be replaced rather than to have a symptom diagnosed, then you are truly paying for the replacement of the component rather than the diagnosis and repair of a problem. Parts and their origin Most people can now date things by its origin – “Made in Canada, oh that must be old” is an often heard and sad statement about the manufacture of goods. The Automotive Aftermarket is no different than any other business and will offer varying qualities at varying price points. “White Box” has become a term in industry for offshore low quality parts that do fit, but are not built to anything resembling Original Equipment Manufacturer standards. Reboxing has also become a trend in some areas with lower quality parts being represented as higher end parts. Misrepresented parts are easily sold if there is no method of return or guarantee, basically if bought of Kijiji or Mail Order internet companies that can hide behind distance and ambiguity. A mechanic is often the last line of defense in ensuring that you receive a quality part for a fair price and this is one reason that most shops will not install supplied parts. Flat Rate vs Hourly Yes, I am actually going to address this taboo. Flat Rate is often equated to piece meal labour – the idea that a job should take so long and if you do that job repeatedly, you will become more efficient at it but should still be paid the same. In an environment where a technician (yes that is now what we have become – you can thank Computers and sensors) is presented with a constant stream of like cars with similar problems, flat rate can be a fair and just practice. With a BMW 3.0 CS or an E30 M3 you begin to deal with components aging, rust and other unknowns. Some older BMWs have plastic clips and connectors have to be treated like glass and sometimes require heat and patience to remove and be able to reuse. Remember, manufacturers do not have to supply every component of your car beyond six years (last I checked) and to have a car “down” for weeks in the summer is not a viable option to the shop or the customer. In the end, the best way to find a Repair Shop or Automotive Service Technician (Mechanic) is to do research, get quotes (knowing that they are not absolutes), request references and speak to your service writer or technician about all symptoms that the car has presented. Car repair is truly a cooperative thing, even when hiring a professional.

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