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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Check Out

I checked out a used car for one of my customers and her daughter this morning. The car, a 1998 Oldsmobile, ran very well. The owner of a used car lot brought it in for the check. I’ve known this guy for over thirty years, and he’s sold cars to many of my customers. He told me right off in the first minute this was his last year in the business. I’m filling out the invoice while he’s talking, and looking over the car. It was a real beauty, inside and out. Then, my salesman acquaintance started down a line of rather strange dialogue.

“Bernie, you can’t believe how many cars I’ve had checked out, and the mechanic bombs the deal. Then, I sell the car, and the buyer gets years of trouble free driving.”

“If the car checks out as good as it looks, I’m not going to kill the deal just for the hell of it. My customer needs a car for her daughter, and this would be a good one.”

Then he hits me with the second piece of news I didn’t like the sound of.

“I changed out the broken digital dash on this, so it has about thirty thousand more miles than it says. I told your customer that too.”

“You do know that’s illegal, right?” I’m not a stickler for this particular bit, because the digital dashes on these crap out all the time. I can usually tell if the mileage is close to accurate by the looks of other parts on the car.

“Well, they can’t reset it. It’s digital.”

“They do it all the time,” I correct him, but I’m pretty sure he knew it already. “I change digital dashes frequently, and when they need to replace the odometer, it’s a state law the original mileage has to be put back on it.”

“Oh… okay, well call me when you’re through.”

“I will, thanks.”

My computer scan reveals numerous airbag history codes, but no engine or ABS brake codes. The car is running trouble free on the scanner, and everything works: lights, air conditioning, heater, radio, even the cassette deck. Under the hood, many of the regular maintenance items have been replaced, like the multi-accessory belt and hoses. The spark plugs reveal about the mileage on the car the salesman said. I look at the underside of the oil cap; and there’s a creamy white substance covering it, which can only mean one thing: coolant getting into the crankcase. Then I pull off the upper engine cover, finding signs of oil leakage at the manifold. The Olds has a 3.8 liter V6 engine, and they have a lot of problems with intake manifold leakage. If the gaskets are changed in time, the engine is usually fine. Unfortunately, it’s a gamble. If coolant has been present in the crankcase for a long time, it can mean engine damage showing up later. I took digital pictures of the cap and oil leakage, after completing the undercarriage check, and transferred them to a fact sheet. I erased the air bag codes and they did not reset. The undercarriage looked real good, so if the bags deployed it may have been a simple fender bender, or false codes set when the battery was changed.

My salesman buddy was not happy.

“I forgot to tell you. I steam cleaned the engine. The stuff probably got on the cap then.”

“Nice try; but no, and if you’re steam cleaning cars with these electronics, it’s a miracle any of them run. I’ll tell the lady it’s a gamble. If you give her a break for the intake manifold repair, maybe she’ll gamble on it.”

“Man, that’s around $1200.”

So, he’s not as ill informed as he pretends.

“Better than selling it to someone, and have the engine blow a couple months down the line. It may anyhow, depending on how long the crankcase has been getting coolant in it. The oil’s brand new, so…”

“I never changed the oil in it.”

“Yea, okay, whatever you say,” I reply. “You can take it now. Here’s the copy of the fact sheet and invoice.

I hand him my picture sheet and invoice copies. He’s really not happy now.

“You took digital’s,” he observes mournfully.

“It’s part of the check out,” I don’t add the obvious, concerning him running back to the lot, and wiping out the evidence.

“Great, I’ll… talk to you later.”

Not if you can help it, I’ll bet. :)


Jordan Summers said...

Well at least you know what kind of salesman he is. :( Glad you were there for the clients. :)

raine said...

Sucks, sucks, sucks.
I'm saying that, of course, because I'm going to need to buy a good used car soon.

Bernita said...

A knowlegeable and honest mechanic is gold; but geese, cars are complicated these days.

BernardL said...

He’s a funny guy, Jordan. I know customers who were happy with the cars he sold them. I think he made a bad deal on the Olds and decided to pass it on.

If you have any questions, Raine, don’t hesitate to ask. One key to buying a used car is maintenance records. If the sellers say they don’t have them, it’s probably because they never did any. Over the years, I’ve found when people take good care of their cars, they keep the records.

You’re right about that, Bernita, they are complicated. Back in the early seventies when I first started fixing cars, it would have been science fiction to think I’d be flashing car on-board computers with an Internet up-link and a notebook computer. :)

Virginia Lady said...

Great post, bernard. It's amazing what people will try to pass off these days.

Those on-board computers though really help narrow problems down some though. Saves a lot of aggravation, at least some of the time I would think.

Virginia Lady said...

Great post, bernard. It's amazing what people will try to pass off these days.

Those on-board computers though really help narrow problems down some though. Saves a lot of aggravation, at least some of the time I would think.

BernardL said...

They do indeed, VL. We have to keep from jumping to conclusions when a certain code or missing cylinder shows up on the scanner. The computer narrows down the problem area, and from there we have to put the rest of the puzzle together.