DIY Diagnosis, a Recipe for Frustration
I get a call from a customer that asks if I can program a key for his Mazda. Sure, I can do that. He purchased a new key from the dealer. So I am thinking this will be a slam dunk. I run over to the customers home. I connect to the vehicle with the Auto Pro Pad and I get no communication. I am thinking that this vehicle may be a hole in the coverage. So I grab the Autel. Still no communication. I run a vehicle wide scan and the picture becomes clearer.
I had come out to the location with the assumption that the customer wanted to have a second key. After seeing that the engine computer was not communicating, The vehicle would not crank or start. I was then told that was the reason he called me out. Grrrr. I had spent 45 minutes working under the wrong premise. So now I tell the customer that there is no communication with the PCM. He asks, so do I need a new computer? I say maybe, but it could be a wire or a fuse or something else. I am fearing at this point I am going to be there a while.
We pop the hood and I look around. DIY repairs are everywhere. Grabber screws holding the air filter box together, glue and epoxy galore. Oh what fun. I decide to get out the big guns. I get out my power probe. This way I can make sure the PCM is fried even if it was not before. I attempt to check my first fuse. I push down hard. All of the sudden, the throttle body comes alive. WTH? I did not do anything. I went inside the car and turned the key. The once dead vehicle came to life. So the customer says, so I am good to go now? My response is, I would not risk it. There is something awry in your fuse box. I suggested that he buy another box from the wrecking yard and change the whole thing. Chances are that there will be a repeat failure without the exchange.
So I ask if he still wants the new key programmed. He reluctantly says yes. I am wondering if he thinks the service call is free if I don't program the second key? After all, I did not do anything. So we get it programmed and all is well in the world. He starts up the car multiple times and then moves it into it's spot. I am paid and I can then move on.
This is why I prefer to work with shops. Most of the time they are able to give me enough information to have a plan. They don't hand me a part and say "install it and things will be good." It was my fault for not spending more time finding out the whole story. In the end it all worked out.
Not sure which fuse I probed first. I was just going to check them all. The problem seemed to be deeper in the box. It was strange that the first place I probed woke the PCM up.
FWIW I enjoy your stories,rants,raves and lessons. Never stop.
Most of the "Service calls" I've been on in my career contain some kind of surprise! That being said I just charge appropriately for my time and move on. I never let an office person dispatch me to a service call without me personally talking with the customer in order to allow me to come armed as best as possible. As a good friend of mine would say "It's all pensionable time".
This can be avoided with a few probing questions you should always ask - who, what, where, why and when. Why do you want the key programmed may have given some information. What happened to make you think the key was bad? When did the problem start, and so on THEN, you can give an estimate to inspect, test and advise - including programming if needed.
Michael - i bet more than 75% of customers (Not Other Shops/facility's) that ask me to program a module end up fixing nothing... It is kind of a joke here--- we remind them several times the fee $ is the same rather it works or not we do the programming as they requested then sell the diag..... My favorite one recently was a GM with a intermittent stalling condition the Customer guessed that it…
Happens around here to im told from the local programmer.He makes people pay before he even hooks up to the car.
It happens. I have a cheat sheet for when a customer calls and I still forget to follow it sometimes.
My response to customers asking me to directly work on their car is they need to take it to a repair facility. I have 10 of my better shops that I recommend depending on location. Let the shop handle the customer and I handle the car lol