BULLSHIT

According to the Bureau of Automotive Repair’s website, the BAR’s purpose is to:

“To protect and serve California consumers by ensuring a fair and competitive automotive repair marketplace and administering a model motor vehicle emissions reduction program.” -http://www.bar.ca.gov
What they actually do, however, is charge automotive shops $200 a year for the mere title of being “BAR-certified,” and then never talk to them again. I’ve worked at plenty of shops that hand out exorbitantly overpriced estimates only to never replace a single thing in the car, and other shops where the customer comes back multiple times only to be charged every time the shop attempts to fix their car.
There are no “secret shoppers” to investigate, evaluate, and otherwise expose the customer-raping practice of these crooked shops. There are no estimate evaluations done. The only time you’ll hear from them is on the rare occasion when the customer finds their phone number, one that’s almost never found on the estimate or invoice given to the customer by their repair shop because, most of the time, the shop’s BAR account number is listed to small that you’d need a fucking magnifying glass to find it, or the shop itself rip the part of paper with the BAR number off and tells the customer, “Sorry, the printer chewed the invoice.”
Shops pay $200 a year to give their customers the illusion of peace-of-mind. The one time I actually met an agent from the BAR, one of my bosses was selling timing belt replacements but was really only changing motor oil—minus the required filter change—and shipping the cars. The BAR Agent’s admonishment:”Just give them back half of the repair and they’ll go away.“So now a $900 oil change—since they never got the timing belt replaced—got reduced to $400.50. Thank you Bureau of Automotive Repair.
In my opinion the place should be shut down, or forced by the U.S. Government to actually begin regulating the industry like they were assembled to do. Because for at least the past ELEVEN years that I’ve been fixing cars, they’ve done nothing other than charge shops for the privilege of fucking as many people as they’d like in a way that’s Bureau of Automotive Repair-certified.

DEAR CUSTOMER

Before I begine let me say I know that it’s been a while since my last update and I apologize for that. There’s been a lot going on. That being said, let me be the first to welcome you to http://www.CINELLIthoughts.com, the only place where you can find out the truth about the automotive industry. My name is Federico Cinelli and I’ve been in the industry for the past ten years. While I can’t say I’ve “seen it all,” I have worked at both dealerships and independent shops across the country and can say with confidence that I’ve seen enough to know that it’s time for change. That’s why I’m choosing to speak up. -Federico Cinelli

The one question no mechanic wants to hear? “If I buy my own parts, can you just put them in?” The fact of the matter is, it’s ridiculous for a customer to go out of his or her way to Google search a cheaper part because all you’re really finding is every bullshit after-market part “made for your car,” instead of the part that is supposed to go into the car. That those same customers will still want me to warranty their job with that in mind is absurd. That’s not how it works. Have you ever gone to a restaurant with your own piece of meat and asked the cook to prepare that for you instead of the food they have on hand? Or to a hair salon with your own water, shampoo, or scissors to use it for the sake of taking money off the bill? Of course not. So why would you expect a mechanic to bend his or her standards, or get mad at them when they refuse to? Because that’s what your question is essentially asking them to do…

Some mechanics still stand by their work, still use quality parts, and still expect the same courtesy to be extended back to them. While I grant that a lot of mechanics shouldn’t even be allowed to even sit in a car, let alone fix them, it’s up to the consumer to find one that he/she can trust, especially in a marketplace where no one is holding mechanics/shops/dealerships accountable for the work. Will there always be a cheaper option somewhere? Of course. But you have to understand: the parts that you find on the internet aren’t the quality of the OEM parts that are estimated. No matter what anyone tells you, the parts are cheaper for a reason. Try to think of it as having a professional body shop paint your car as opposed to you sanding it down with a brick and then painting it with a brush. There’s a difference.

Kind of like the difference between a professional mechanic diagnosing a car and a customer walking into a garage and declaring, “It needs a ; I read it on a forum,” and then demanding an estimate. How in the world can you trust some kid on a forum who has never seen or driven your car? How the hell could he possibly know what set your check engine light off? He can’t. Which makes it all the more infuriating when the part that the customer originally brought doesn’t fix the car, and the customer comes back demanding the car be fixed for free. After all, I’m the asshole that replaced the wrong part. That customer always seems to forget that all I did was replace what he wanted replaced using the instructions that he brought me from the web forum, all so he could insist on not having to pay a diagnostic fee. Maybe XxMechanicMETALxX666 from carfixers.com should pay for it the second time around? Because I sure as hell am not.

What I’m trying to say is this: please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t disrespect your mechanic unless he/she deserves it. Some of us work hard at what we do, and we’ve spent a lot of time with our heads in the books, studying up in classrooms while developing our skills in real-life garages under real-life cars.

IT COULD BE

If I had it my way, the industry pay-scale would be turned inside out. Fuck flat-rate, bullshit pay, and fuck anyone who agrees with it. Let’s pretend it was never implemented; let’s say it went like this.

  • Technician Pay – a flat salary that the owner and mechanic both feel comfortable with. For instance, a not-so-decorated mechanic might be worth $40,000 a year. Seems like a good start, but the mechanic would be entitled to keep his end of the bargain: hustling, working, and not standing around counting wrenches in his/her toolbox just to milk the clock. Anyone that’s worked in a shop knows there’s always something to do.
  • Time Worked – The first thing people think of when they hear salary is eighty-hour work weeks. Instead, the owner and mechanic could agree on a mandatory number of hours worked to complete a “work week,” say six days, forty-five hours. The technician would still be required to run a time clock, punching in and punching out for lunch, etc. And when the technician got to forty-five hours, the week would be over until the next work week began, unless they both agreed to put in the overtime.
  • Vacation – Salary means getting paid every week, no matter what. Shop owners like to think that it’s only salary if you’re present in the shop, mean it’s more like “weekly” or “daily.” I say that’s bullshit.

For some reason, shop owners think that they’re untouchable and no one can fuck with them because no one’s pushed back yet. Things have to be even if a shop is going to max out its earning potential. Tension will rip apart a shop. I see it happen every day: mechanics work with their boss’s bullshit comments in the back of their minds and break things; they drag their feet just to piss the boss off because they’re not getting what they want; they refuse to help coworkers with jobs because they think they should be getting paid more… no one wins. It’s called a TEAM for a reason. Mechanic, technicians, and co-workers should be working together, not against one another to try and look better in the boss’s eyes when the next payday comes around. It’s sad, STOP MAKING IT A COMPETITION! WE’RE ON THE SAME TEAM! Workers should push each other to do better, not hold one another back. They should be collaborating on difficult diagnostic jobs and discussing what’s going on, figuring out problems together. As for shop owners, when a worked breaks something, they shouldn’t make him/her pay for it. They make you how much money? Give me a fucking break. Mistakes happen.


Imagine if the industry ran like this. Mechanics would go to work every day knowing that money was the last thing to be worried about. They could finally relax, clear their heads, and fix cars, instead of racing the clock or listening to another bullshit story about how they’re “costing the shop money” when the fact of the matter is even if they were to make thirty dollars an hour, flat-rate and a job paid ten hours of labor, and then lets say that the shop labor charge was one-hundred dollars an hour. A tech would have to work on that one vehicle for thirty five hours before it “cost” the shop any money at all. And that’s not even accounting for the money the shop owner has made on parts’ markups.


Could it work? With the right people? Absolutely. And I guarantee, if everyone were paid their worth, even if it were based on a hands-on testing or some kind of entrance exam to determine one’s basic understanding of necessary systems and orders of operations, it wouldn’t be such a cut-throat market to be a part of. Customers could walk into a shop and see everyone smiling, not just the asshole behind the desk counting the money in the safe for the umpteenth time. …fuckers.

SIX TENTHS

Before I begin, just in case you aren’t familiar with the term “flat rate” here’s a quick rundown.

The rate of pay for a technician is broken down into tenths of an hour where each tenth is equivalent to six minutes (ex. 0.2 hours = 12 minutes and 1.5 hours = 1 hour and 30 minutes.). Thus, his/her pay is accumulated by hours earned during the given pay period.

For example:

Employee’s flat rate wage

 = $20.00 per hour.

Given/Assumed time to remove and replace front brake pads and rotors

 = 2.0 flat rate hours

Employee’s actual time spent on job

 = 0.5 hours 

Employee pay

 = 2.0 flat rate hours x $20.00 per hour = $40.00 for their 0.5 hours of actual labor


On paper the system can’t be beat.
But, if an employee were to spend 10.0 actual hours on the job the pay still remains at 2.0 flat rate hours. 

The workers in the industry refer to the total number of hours accumulated as “flagged hours”.

Also, a technician isn’t given base pay. If there is no work and he/she hasn’t fixed a car, then the technician receives a check of $0.00 at the end of the pay period. To keep this from happening, most technicians end up stick to one type of job—something they can complete routinely—instead of testing themselves, unlock their potential, and expanding their expertise.

The flat rate system was put in place to keep workers productive, the logic being the more a technician works, the more he/she will make. The suits and the instructors at all the schools alike love to say the same shit: “the faster you are, the more money you’ll make; the quicker you diagnose and fix a problem, the more hours you’ll flag; make damn sure you up-sell everything and make more fucking hours; TIME IS MONEY! WORK FASTER!” Drilling that into the head of a eighteen year old college kid who doesn’t know shit about wrenching to begin with—who can barely install a license plate frame with confidence—will never improve  anyone’s diagnostic skills, especially not while being a part of your bullshit amazing eight-month program.
In reality, the above attitude has effectively helped create a very hostile working environment for an already stressful position. In my opinion, is the leading cause of the huge number of crippling comebacks, wheel-off, and oil-outs.

Vocab. Lesson:
comeback

: when a customer returns to the shop with the same complaint [within the 12-month / 12,000-mile warranty] after the shop has already attempted to fix the issue but obviously failed.

wheel-off

: when the technician forgets to tighten one or more wheels on the vehicle and it falls off while the customer is driving. 

oil-out

: when the technician lets the car leave after an oil service is performed and the oil cap wasn’t put back on or they forgot to put oil back into the engine after draining it)


AND I ALMOST FORGOT: The technician doesn’t get paid for the job the second time around, and nine times out of ten they’ll be the ones paying for anything that’s been broken or parts to fix the vehicle correctly.  Even when techs move to a weekly salary, the first thing out of every greedy, piece-of-shit-boss’ mouth is either, “You know that job only pays 2.0 hours and you’ve been at it all day?!,” or the lovely, “We’re losing our asses on this one, pick it up.” Personally, my favorite is, “You should be paying me this week; you haven’t made me shit.” Naturally, the tech says, Fuck it becomes upset, rushes the diagnostic and/or the repair-in-progress, pieces the car back together with chewing gum, puts the extra parts in the glove box, looks over at the boss and says, with a smile, “It’s ready for wash, sir,” just for the customer to come back a week later, completely pissed (and rightfully so), leaving the tech right back where he/she started.

The rub? When the customer comes back with the same problem, the boss will yell at his mechanic, usually in front of the client, to make him/her feel that the boss is on their side, that they’re punishing the employee that screwed up even though that same fucking boss—and an arbitrary number on a computer that dictates how long any given job “should” take– was the cause of the employee rushing in the first place. The repair SHOULD be free of any charges, but now that the boss is “on the customer’s side,” and that they’ve gained his/her trust back, they start talking jargon that is so complicated and convoluted the customer won’t remember any of it long enough to Google when he gets home. Instead of a free job, the customer then gets hit with another bill on top of the first one. Hook. Line. Sinker.

Now, while all of that sinks in, you’re probably thinking, “How the fuck could anyone work under those conditions?!” or maybe a little of “That can’t be legal!!!”. Truth is the system is one-hundred-percent for the owner since the owner doesn’t have to pay anyone that isn’t producing, and when the guys in the big seat are making money hand over fist, nothing will change. The bad times never hit him unless things are so slow for so long that the reserve funds were eaten-up by his rent.

But, this never happens because having a car is a necessity. People would (and do) rather cancel their health and dental insurance instead of lose their vehicle.

The shop owner doesn’t pay the mechanic for being there, and he doesn’t allow you to go home when there’s no work. The only time he’ll add money to your paycheck is when you make him money by completing a job (and it’s only considered completed when it’s picked up and paid for by the customer). And, if you mess up, then you start from the beginning, for free, and the part they broke most likely will get deducted from their pay.

In the next entry I’m going to be discussing a system that I’ve developed but just haven’t found the right crew to test it with yet. This system shows a way to allow the technician to be completely relaxed every day and still motivated to work. You’ll see what I mean.
To be continued…

PRIME EXAMPLE

Sorry it’s been a bit since my last post but I’ve been busy, wicked busy setting up shop for CINELLI Motorsports LLC.
 
You might think I’m “full of it” and that it can’t possibly be this corrupt on the other side of the fence. If that’s the case then try this one on for size.

The past month I’ve been working on this 2011 Audi A4 Quattro 2.0t Custom Project. I did a custom tune on the engine, lowered the suspension about an inch and a half, and quite a few visual modifications like the front bumper, the grill and front plate holder, the brake calipers, the headlights (custom built by CINELLI Motorsports LLC). 

After it was all said and done the customer came and took the car. Called ten minutes later and just started screaming about how much better the car had felt and how happy and excited he was to drive it. The next day he noticed the air conditioner wasn’t blowing cold anymore. Mind you, I didn’t touch anything on the car even remotely close to the A/C on vehicle. With it on my mind I kept thinking,”maybe I slipped and hit a plug or pinched a wire somewhere.”. I took the car back and did the whole job over, without taking anything off the car, and visually inspected everything. But still, NO A/C. I checked all the wiring to be one hundred percent positive nothing was broken / pinched. It all checked out. But still NO A/C. I found a broken connector under the center console where the radio guy had been but it still wasn’t completely broken. I fixed it, and still NO A/C. Finally I told the customer to bring it to the dealership (since it’s still under warranty) and have them take a look at what’s going on.

The first dealership he brought it to in Santa Monica, California stated that they refused to work on the car because the headlights had been modified. WOW.

The next dealership said no cause it was lowered. WOW.

But then, FINALLY, a dealer decided the modifications had nothing to do with the A/C so they’d take a look.

The 2011 Audi A4 sat there for a week. They ended up FINALLY coming to the conclusion that the A/C Compressor was broken. So, they ordered and replaced it and BOOM, A/C. Thank god. 

This is where it gets good.

When he went to pick up his car and divorce his rental the Service Writer at this Audi dealership sat him down and told him. “Whoever it is that you’re having work on you’re car doesn’t know what he’s doing and you should come to us for all your needs with your B8 (chassis code for the current generation A4 body).” My client looked back in shock asking “why what’s up?”.

“The TECHNICIAN that replaced the A/C compressor said that the headlights were coded wrong and he blew the compressor because he didn’t know what he was doing. But they covered it for him anyways to do him a favor.” (They wont replace someone’s blown out suspension which is a HUGE safety issue but they’ll replace an A/C compressor that’s roughly fifteen hundred dollars for free, just to do this kid a “favor”?!!). 

When the client left the dealer he called me and told me the story. I kind of chuckled and got off the phone and immediate called the dealer that had worked on the car.I got the Advisor on the phone and just asked about the job and wanted to know what happened to the old A/C Compressor.

SA – Service Advisor (Thinks I’m my clients brother)
FC – Me (Proving a point)

SA: When the MECHANIC that worked on the car coded in the headlights he did it all wrong and blew the compressor.
FC: How would he have done that?
SA: It’s a complicated story and you wouldn’t really understand unless you’ve been through our training. Is there something in-particular that you were wondering?
FC: Well sir, I’m the MECHANIC that worked on the B8, and that’ actually impoossible?
SA: Well SIR, our TECHNICIANS are factory trained and certified to work on these cars. Theres no reason for him to lie and there’s no way he could be wrong.
FC: Ok. Then being factory trained he should understand that the module that controls the headlights is the Central Electronics / Body Control Module – 09. And if he looked at the A/C he would have found that it has an Automatic Climate Control which is computer controlled. Therefore having it’s own module as well. Now if the A/C Module (HVAC module) isn’t ONE HUNDRED PERCENT happy with the values it is getting from the Engine Module and Body Control Module then there’s NO FUCKING WAY it’ll turn on the A/C unit.
SA: How do we know you didn’t just try to jump the A/C unit when you coded it wrong in order to check it and shorted it out.
FC: There’s no clutch on the Compressor, it’s running all the time just a matter of how much which is judged by one bi-directional wire called a LIN bus going from the HVAC module to the A/C Compressor.
SA: This conversation is over sir.
FC: That’s fine, but next time your so called “factory trained” TECHNICIAN tries to point a finger at someone so he looks better in the bosses eyes and I lose a customer why don’t you tell him to read a fucking book first so he doesn’t look like an asshole when his shit is put on blast. Fuck you, and Goodbye sir.
SA: …. ….
SA: ….
FC: ……. .

The guy actually listened to my whole rant at the end. It was a really enjoyable moment for me and I couldn’t wait to post the story.

It’s not that I think I know everything cause beleive you me, I don’t. I just can’t stand the pointing of fingers where no one can take fault.

And to top it all off. On the way home, my client was on the highway driving about eighty miles per hour and the protective panel under the vehicle had fallen off and was dragging under the car forcing the driver to pull over, call a tow truck, and ship it back to the factory trained TECHNICIAN to try to install it properly the second time around.

Stay true.

——————————–

If you’ve got a question on an estimate you got from a shop or dealership iit double checked feel free to scan it and I’ll grade it for you.
-or-
If you want to know what to do in case you have a reoccurring problem the shop keeps saying it’s something unrelated every time you go back and keep getting charged, Type out the situation, and get any documentation they’ve given you together and send it over. I’ll go over all of it and tell you what’s going on and what you can do about it.
-or-
If you just need to know what to look out for. Just ask.

TECHNICIAN // MECHANIC

Some people say “I’m an automotive technician.” Others just stick to the basics and refer to themselves as “mechanics.” For some reason, the two are looked at as being on opposite ends of a spectrum, like one is better than the other, is more intelligent, or has better hands. Here are the facts:

According to technicians, mechanics are the guys who get greasy: the guys with the beat up hands, the dirt under the nails, mouths like sailors. Mechanics are the assholes. And according to mechanics, technicians are the guys that love to talk all kinds of shit about being good but can’t diagnose his way out of a paper bag. They’re the pussies. The truth is, any technician/mechanic can have an over-inflated sense of self, and neither title really means sweet fuck-all.

A squid (or rookie mechanic) will walk into a garage with his “starter kit” and his chest puffed out, talking that inflated talk about how he built a nine-thousand horse power Camaro engine out of an Erector Set and empty beer cans and put a turbo on his buddy’s Honda blindfolded. According to them, they know how to work on EVERYTHING and how they can diagnose ANYTHING.

Talk is shit and usually they last a week. Six months at the most.

Technicians get their bullshit early, too. It all starts with those pieces of shit thieves that run technical institutions. They fill these kids’ heads with stories of how they’re going to learn everything they need to know in 2 years and come out a Certified Automotive Dealership Technician in six to eight months, as if that really meant anything anyway.

It takes a time to grasp the understanding of how the systems operating within an automobile and how they communicate with one another. And you have to internalize the logic behind it all to be able to accurately diagnose anything. This shit’s chess sometimes, it ain’t checkers. And the Institutions couldn’t give a shit less if you really learn anything. I’ve know firsthand that in order for T.I.’s to receive their government grants, at least ninety percent of the applicants have to pass the program. Of course they’re going to push kids through who aren’t ready when their funding is on the line. Theoretically, you could just stand around with your hands in your pockets, dutifully go through the motions, and get you’re Certificate of Achievement.

 /*This floods the industry with ignorant fucks that think they know 
     something because some twenty thousand dollar piece of toilet paper tells them so.*/

Most frustrating is that these kids always get into the business because they had nothing else to do. Working on cars was the last way out. There the ones you can pin-point just by asking them a simple question, “So do you and your kid work on cars together?”. And nine out of ten respond,”Fuck no. My kid will NEVER be a fucking Mechanic.“.

Mechanics at least have the passion for it. Most have participated or at least watched racing, and plenty have competed in engine-building events. They frequent car shows, swap meets, and club events, and get pissed when they can’t solve a problem or understand a system. They eat the same bullshit lunch every day –Brakes ‘n Burgers because the grease adds flavor—and do their homework after-hours. These guys have been spinning wrenches since they were little. And if you know these cats, you’ll notice a tiny ball-peen hammer with a wooden handle about seven-to-eight inches long inside their toolbox’s hammer drawer (and yes, I own one). They know where everything in their box is, no matter how clean or unorganized. They’d rather make-out with their own grandmothers than lose a tool.

These men are the backbone of the industry. These are the guys who no one ever really appreciates because their hands are dirty. While the guys running the show, who think they know everything, try to tell them (and you, the customer) how to fix a car “because they’ve been working at the dealership for twenty three years,” except they’ve been sitting behind a desk.

For mechanics,, this isn’t a job. It’s a lifestyle.

———-

Either way, the two will never get along on a professional level, which is probably a shame.

WARRANTY GAMES

I think maybe I should just stop looking at peoples reviews that they put up on the Internet concerning how they feel about the vehicle that they had purchased new. No one really seems to understand what’s really going on and I really don’t fucking know how it can be just ignored as a possible senario and everyone just points the finger to the manufacturer. 


Here’s the game

Lets take Mercedes-Benz as the company to talk about since thats where my most in dept training at a dealership level lies. 

You purchase your new Mercedes and get the factory bumper to bumper warranty of 4 years / 50,000 miles. You get it serviced regularly at the dealership that you bought it from. Nothing ever seems to be wrong and then the second it’s out of that warranty your slapped upside the head with a five to ten thousand dollar bill and say “They design these cars to just fall apart the second it’s out of warranty, what bullshit, those fucking thieves.” If that was possible and mechanics could put a pinpointed failure on a component I’d be a billionaire. 

The truth really is that under the vehicle there are these big plastic panels covering the bottom-side of the engine and transmission called encapsulation panels. There put in place for “added protection”. A  1/4 inch piece of plastic really isn’t going to do much protecting in my opinion. Well, The panels are actually put in place to catch any oil that may leak so when you bring the vehicle into service and the panels all come off the and the technician sees an oil leak and calls over the shop foreman / manager to add a line to the repair order to fix the failed gasket or component the person in charge declines authorization. Yup, 100% true. Believe it or not, even if there’s oil pouring onto the exhaust manifolds and could cause a fire there all told by their superiors If the customer isn’t complaining about it then clean it all off and ship it.” 

So, if the vehicle was regularly serviced and your intervals are 10,000 miles between requested maintenance then we can safely say if it was leaking before that and that dealer is the only place you’ll bring the vehicle to,  then the previous technician did the same thing. As long as they remember to top off the oil level you’ll never even know that there was a leak. Now, it took roughly 10,000 miles to get it back to the point that it’s at now. And your next service you’re vehicle will be out of warranty and what would have been a warranty repair will be brought to your attention and aggressively sold to you by the Service Advisor. And he’ll mention all the safety issues and harm it could possibly do to other components. This get you to do one of two things. Pay the money to fix the vehicle or just trade it in for a penny [since it can't be worth shit if it's got all these problems now] and get into another vehicle where the whole game starts over.

Dealers across the country do this with all types of repairs not just the one spoken about above. I’ve been forced to let worn ball-joints, leaking transmissions, failing engine pulley’s, etc, all go so they could save their numbers. It’s completely disheartening to a mechanic that wants to better things and fix cars.

This is the dealership way all the way across the board. It’s done to keep warranty repair numbers down and customer pay number up. Dealers with the lowest warranty repairs are usually rewarded with some sort of bonus [at least the managers are]. So next time you see that big estimate at the end of your car’s warranty period. Know, that you just got fucked and it’s not just a coincidence because the car has been falling apart the entire time little by little, they just neglected to bring it to your attention to make themselves a little extra. 

Still not convinced? Next time you go to get your vehicle service at your lovely dealership and you know you have a leak and are positive it’s going to be covered under your factory warranty, don’t bring it to their attention and see if it’s handeled



# Federico Cinelli
# 09/09/11
# This is in no way directed to the company’s and / or persons spoken about.

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