Home » Here’s How Mechanics And Service Writers Make Someone’s Day A Lot Better: COTD

Here’s How Mechanics And Service Writers Make Someone’s Day A Lot Better: COTD

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The business of keeping cars alive can be a tough one. Sometimes a car rolls into the shop with a problem that involves a convoluted repair that your shop isn’t equipped to make. Or perhaps you encounter a vehicle neglected far past the point where it is no longer safe to drive. These can be challenging situations, and sometimes you see mechanics or service writers go out of their way to rectify a problem. This not only makes someone’s day better, but maybe it could save them money, or their life.

Welcome back to Comment Of The Day! Every day, we read every single comment posted on our site and pick the one that made us laugh, get informed, or feel warm inside. You don’t have to go into our comments sections and write thousand-word stories about why you love a car so much, but a lot of you do, and that means a lot to us. So we’re highlighting some of the most excellent bits of thought that you’ve formed into words and digitized onto our website.

Today, Thomas published a story about a mobile mechanic that faced a moral dilemma. A customer reached out to Willie D. Jenkins in need of significant brake work for a 2007 Honda Civic. Well, significant is an understatement as the car didn’t really have brakes for at least four months. The customer intended on driving his kids to school the next day, but the car was so unsafe that Jenkins took matters into his own hands, temporarily pulling the ignition relay and fuel pump relay.

But Jenkins isn’t your typical mechanic. He’s on a mission to make sure everyone can drive a safe car. That includes fixing cars for cheap or sometimes even pro bono. From Thomas’ article:

He started his mobile mechanic business in March 2020, as the world shut down amid the worst of COVID, but when people still needed their cars serviced. Jenkins told us over Twitter messenger that he offers extremely low rates to a population of people who are often underserved and overcharged by shops in the area. His goal, he said, is to “make car care affordable to everyone,” and in addition to his low rates, he says he does a lot of pro bono work. “Elderly folks, college kids, poor people, that’s my clientele,” he told The Autopian.

For further context, the Civic in question had rotors so worn that one of them snapped off a whole four months ago, yet the owner continued to drive it. The owner continued to drive it even after it started losing brake fluid and still continued driving after it completely lost brakes.

Thankfully, the customer authorized a repair of the brakes. And to do things as cheaply as possible, Jenkins raided RockAuto for the many parts needed. In a response to this story, reader Mr. Asa told a story of their own. For the second day in a row, we have a heartwarming comment taking the COTD crown:

Worked as a service writer at Pepboys (I live in the Tampa area, if you’re interested)
While I was there, a tech sent out a car with the brake pads on backwards, steel on steel. Car came back, understandably, customer didn’t know what was up just that we did it.

Tech pulled them, slapped them back on, sent it back out. Did not surface the rotors, did not replace anything, did not get fired. Did tell me later that he was the cousin of the service manager. He stayed there until I quit.

I tried multiple times to call corporate on the bullshit that went on at that store before I realized they didn’t care and I’d just end up pissing them off. So I got creative and started fighting back my own way. Learned the system and got my customers every single benefit I could possibly get them.

The one that sticks with me most is a deaf man with a Mazda MPV (I think that’s what it was, at least) that had the alternator in such a place that AllData recommended dropping the subframe with the engine to replace it. There were many issues with this whole setup, 1) Pepboys 2) no one knew sign language and he didn’t always have an interpreter with him 3) there was an electrical gremlin frying the alternators and due to #1 we couldn’t handle it, 4) I was the only person at that fucking store left with a soul.
He came in three times to get that alternator replaced, no one would take the time to talk to him. Halfway through his second visit when he was visibly frustrated with everyone in the building, I motioned to him to hold on and wait one second, then I brought out a pen and paper.

We spent 20-30 minutes writing back and forth. I told him what was going on, he’d ask a question, I’d answer, he’d ask another one and I’d answer again and we did that until he didn’t have any more questions. For 20-30 minutes I didn’t say a damn thing. Service manager came over to ask me to help other customers, without looking at him I grabbed another piece of paper, wrote that I was busy with a customer and slid it over to him.
I did everything I could to put us on equal footing and then I just talked to him. I didn’t lie to him, I didn’t hide anything, I told him there was an electrical issue and I recommended a shop that we sent cars to when there were electrical problems. I let him know that once he got the gremlin sorted we could swap the alternator and send him off.
He was turning red in the face when I got to him, when he left he may not have walked out of there happy, but he did leave there satisfied.

There were good days, days when I could actually help customers, but they were few and far between.

I absolutely hated that place. The manager, assistant manager, and other service writers would routinely steal tickets from me, put their numbers on the tickets so they got the commission. Some of the mechanics wouldn’t deal with me for a variety of reasons, usually because I wouldn’t put up with the bullshit they tried to sell customers.
When your job is dependent upon commission, you quickly realize whether or not you’re actually a decent person.

Jenkins isn’t required to fix cars for dirt-cheap prices. And Mr. Asa wasn’t required to pull out a pen and paper to explain to a customer what was going on with their vehicle. Jenkins could charge the kind of money that those mobile mechanic apps charge and Mr. Asa could have just sent that customer away. But instead, Jenkins decides to do what he can to help people keep their cars safe. As a result, kids will get to school safely. And when nobody else was willing to do the work, Mr. Asa figured out how to talk to a deaf customer and worked with them to inform them about what was wrong with their car.

These two aren’t alone, either. My personal mobile mechanic, Jack of JET Mobile Auto Service is a lot like Jenkins.

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Mercedes Streeter

His repair quotes are far less than a traditional shop and he honors his quotes, even if it takes him longer to complete the job than expected. It’s because of him that my 2012 Smart Fortwo has been revived when no other local shop was willing to work on it. And it’s also because of him that my Volkswagen Touareg VR6 remains a beast. His work and his rates both cannot be beaten by any shop in a huge radius.

All of you are awesome and even though these are small acts in the grand scheme of things, they certainly make days better. So kudos to Jenkins, Mr. Asa, and everyone else who does awesome work like this.

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18 Responses

  1. Lots of mechanics go out of their way to help people out. It’s nice that Mr. Jenkins has the financial ability to do it all of the time. There are many that make a significant sacrifice every time they do. You can’t feed a family charging pennies on the dollar to the standard rate, especially in the current economic environment. I do appreciate that this place sheds good light on good mechanics. It gets old reading the tongue lashings on all mechanics.

  2. I took my stepbrother for a ride in my new ’95 Celica. He had physical & brain issues from a horrible car wreck 20 years prior. As he adjusted himself in the seat, the passenger dooor arm rest made a audible “crack” noise. Akin to stepping on a Tic Tack container. “Larry Dean! What do you do to my new car!?” Took it Village Cadillac Toyota here in Citrus County and related the story to the Service Writer. “No, you got in the car & discovered it had damage” Covered completely. Gotta love that kind of service.

  3. It’s nice to see an article saying something nice about the mechanics and service advisors who actually care.

    Having said that, being the owner of a smart AND a Touareg, you obviously still enjoy watching us suffer just a tiny bit.

    1. A Smart and A Touareg? Clearly, you don’t know Mercedes. She has 4-6 (I can’t keep track anymore) Smarts and I seem to recall the Touareg she mentions is the reliable one. A Masochist for sure, but a lovely and well written one!

  4. I’ve had my 67 Mustang since 1977. I recently replaced most of the moving parts in the front suspension, along with the whack-a-doodle power steering hydraulics. None of it was in dire need, but it was all ~30 years old and I figured it was time. The car was a bit . . . wiggly after the P/S parts, but I figured it was air in the system and made an appointment for an alignment. The alignment shop spent 2 1/2 hours on it, setting the car to my specs which differed slightly from the factory ones since modern radial tires didn’t exist in the mid 60’s. I looked in a few times, and two guys were working on it. When they finished, the lead tech told me I had left out a small, but vital cotter pin for the steering control valve’s ball stud, and the nut had loosened to only halfway on. My jaw dropped as I remembered being crouched down on my knees contorting my old carcass as I hooked everything up . . . except that cotter pin. Anyway, that shop saved my bacon, and only charged me $125 for the entire job. The car now steers better than any car from that era has a right to.

  5. I sold cars at a Porsche+Audi store. One day a fellow walked onto the lot, I introduced myself and asked how I could help him? He replied “I don’t expect you to tell me the truth, but….” I stopped him right there and said, wait a minute – you don’t even know me and you’re calling me a liar?

    I guess I caught him by surprise cause he was silent for a minute….so I said, let’s start over….my name is Dave, how can I help you?

    From that point on we got along fine, I sold him an Audi for his wife that day, later a new Porsche for himself, and cars for two of his kids over the next few months. and new cars almost every year after that – he turned out to be a great customer, he just got caught up in all the usual BS people drop on each other about car dealers.

    Or maybe I was a rarity in the business, a sales person that just didn’t find the need to lie to people. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. There are a lot of lying salespeople, and there are also a lot of bullshitting customers.

  6. Dealership parts guy, here.

    I’ve conversed with many deaf customers before. We had a regular when I was at a Bobcat Dealer who was very good at lip reading and speaking (I assume he was partially deaf, or lost his hearing later in life). But during the COVID days, we had to resort to note pads, as he could not lip read through a mask.

    I had a woman a few weeks ago who had just moved here (northern MN, I’m now at a Toyota dealership) from Mexico, and had brought her beloved Toyota Yaris with her. She was struggling with the terminology for what she needed (wheel liner and tail light), so I walked out to her car with her. Turned out it’s a version of the Yaris that is not sold in the US, and I cannot order any parts. I was able to decode her VIN using Partsouq and get her part numbers for what she needed, but I think her only option was to have someone buy them in Mexico and ship them up.

    1. Specialist Mental Health nurse here. I use a speech to text app when I have to wear a mask (often) and they have a hearing issue (also often) I can expand text to make bigger and it can work as fast as I speak. Use google to find a freeby… hint google does it too but I’m not shilling for anyone.

      Makes a huge difference in understanding!

  7. I had just loaded up a pile of manure (turkey) for our garden into the bed of my ’64 F100 crewcab. It was a hot load (temperature). While on the way home through Auburn CA, the right rear wheel bearing gave out a loud gnashing sound of death. Of course it was 6pm and the nearest shop was closing. I was about a half hour from home.
    Then I remembered that a new repair shop had recently opened, a 24hr auto repair shop. Yah hoo!
    I ground my way over there, talked to the folks and called home to get picked up.
    When I got back in the morning, they told me what they had done to do to fix my truck.
    They pulled off the axle on the left side easily enough as there wasn’t a keeper pin or whatnot internally to keep the axle in place. Friction baby, just friction.
    They spent many HOURS with a slide hammer pounding on the right axle to ever so slowly remove it from the housing.
    They only charged me for the book rate for the job, not by the hour. Very nice folks, but didn’t stay in business very long.
    Oh, by the way, a hot load of turkey manure WILL remove a layer of paint in the bed of a truck if left there overnight. We had lots of little light blue paint chips in our garden thereafter.

  8. The next most remembered day there that involved a customer interaction was a guy that was getting the run around on tires (the one that doesn’t involve a customer involved me tearing off my work shirt and throwing it on the ground while cussing out a trainee manager.)
    I was at a new store that did service only, no parts. A good friend of mine was the store manager. Much much less stress than from the other store.

    This guy was in the area from Louisiana, not sure if he moved there permanently or was just visiting. One of the other stores wasn’t honoring the road hazard warranty (big surprise.)
    He called my store and he was hot. I tried to get him to calm down, to let me talk to him, but he just wouldn’t (maybe he couldn’t, I’ve been beyond that mad before.) Finally it got to the point where I had to tell him as calmly as I could “Sir, if you can’t calm down and stop cussing at me, I’m going to have to hang up” and when he didn’t I hung up on him. Immediate call back, immediate cussing, listen for a bit and again “sir, I’m going to have to hang up if you keep cussing” and… well, yeah.
    Next call was him telling me he was going to come up there and we’d finish this conversation.

    I let the guys in the shop know to look for someone coming in angry and to make sure he didn’t kill me.
    Guy pulled in and slammed his car into park while still moving. Probably my imagination but I remember him getting out while it was still moving.

    Came into the store (quite literally) hopping mad. I let him yell and as quietly and as calmly as I could I told him that I could take care of his tire problem if he got me some paperwork. If he couldn’t get me some paperwork I could call the store he went to and get them to fax the info to us (at the time they were working on networking all the stores so customer records were visible across all stores, I doubt it ever got fully implemented.)
    I kept talking to him as calmly as I could and he slowly calmed down, I was able to get his information from the other store and we set up an appointment. It was going to be on my day off so I called my manager and let him know the story and that everything should be in the system for a tire checkup and potential replacement under warranty. When all was said and done the guy apologized to me, I apologized to him for hanging up on him. He came in a couple days later and got a tire replaced.

    A customer that I had completely forgotten was in the waiting room came up and expressed his amazement at how well I handled the situation.

    Never forget the person behind the problem. Everyone you meet is one or two steps away from a horrible day.

    1. This is something i try to remember when dealing with others. Sometimes people have reason to be furious.
      Ok,maybe not this guy.Pick someone who had geuinely huge injustice done to them.
      It definitely happens and you have to feel for the person

    2. Great stories. I feel ya. I put in ten years of customer service at a big orange home improvement store. Bad management, careless employees, rude customers. Every day for ten years.

      Looking back I loved that job because I managed to care about strangers and genuinely help people.
      I ran with that and tossed all the corporate BS over my shoulder.
      I used to look for the nearly red faced customers and try to help.

      It made the job more interesting and I enjoyed it more that way.
      Really caring and problem solving with strangers can be a fun job.

      1. Years ago I worked for “the phone company”. My favorite callers were the furious ones. I always let them rant, and then told them they were absolutely right. Then I fixed their problem. I loved this.

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