Tag Archive | "Walter Macias"

A Matter of Trust

There are many factors that make a good mechanical inspector. Along with knowledge and experience, high on the list of importance to agencies and administrators would have to be trustworthiness, integrity and reliability. When performing an inspection, I try to put myself in the place of an administrator/adjuster. I attempt to gather enough information and pictures so that when they are reviewing the report they can make a decision that they feel completely comfortable with; literally without any shadow of doubt. At the same time, I ensure that photos are clear and match the reports. I always feel the need to back up a statement with a photo. This builds the trust that is needed between the inspector and the administrators. For instance, if I said we test-drove the vehicle five miles, I take a photo of the mileage on the odometer before and after the test drive.

Today with modern cameras and tablets, which can produce high resolution video and audio, it is now possible to demonstrate and prove items that in the past were not possible – administrators had to rely on the word of the inspector. Now, movement/excessive play and abnormal noise or a combination of both can be demonstrated through video and audio. If pictures are worth a thousand words, then video and audio must be worth a million words. I try to use them whenever it is necessary or when it will help the administrator make a decision. But even with the technology today, there are still some things that cannot be completely revealed by picture, video, or sound and will come down to a matter of trust of the inspector.

One example that comes to mind is that of a transmission delayed engagement. Pictures can’t prove it, and unless the engagement is harsh enough where the clunk can be heard on audio and the jolt of the engagement shakes the camera, it is just going to come down to the word of the inspector and the trust that the administrators have in him. There are also some agency’s that don’t have video uploading capabilities. That is unfortunate because it can be an invaluable asset. I will never forget a conversation I had with a manager of an agency that was using my services for the first time. He brought home the message of technology and trust, all at the same time.

It just so happened that he answered the phone when I called in to find out if there was a way for me to send them a video of the failure since the uploader did not have video uploading capability. I suggested sending it by email. I told him the video shows the blend door only opening partially before binding and then the actuator starts making a loud tapping noise. That was the only way I could prove the failure without removal of the dash and opening the actuator for a still picture.

He responded “I don’t need to see no stinkin’ damn video. If I can’t trust the word of my inspectors to be honest and truthful with me, then I don’t need to be using them! Hell, the industry is developing nothing but a bunch of photographers! What’s needed is good quality and trustworthy inspectors. I will believe you until you give me a reason not to. At which point I will no longer call you.”

My first thought was “Wow! They broke the mold after he was born! How refreshing it is to find someone who still does business where your word is your handshake!” My immediate response was, “Fair enough! Lets do business!” I still disagree with him on the videos as being unnecessary, but we have maintained a good working relationship. And although I do everything I can to uphold my integrity when performing inspections, I somehow feel the need to take extra precautionary measures when performing inspections for that agency so as to never let him down and betray his trust since video/audio is not an option. Being completely honest, trustworthy and unbiased in performing inspections can sometimes come at a price for inspectors. We may be well liked by agencies and administrators, but not very popular at the repair facilities. The risk of never receiving an invitation to return to a shop is always present when your findings conflict with their diagnosis.

I remember once informing a manager of an agency that I could no longer go to the repair facility for the inspection he had just assigned me. He responded by saying he likes to hear when an inspector is no longer allowed in a shop, because that tells him that the inspector is standing his ground and not laying down for them! Not much consolidation for the inspector whom has to turn away the assignment and wages for having done good honest work. My friend, who is the manager at the agency that does not believe in videos, would probably say, ” there’s the repair facilities opinion and my inspector’s opinion and the repair facilities opinion doesn’t count!”

I would still take being excommunicated from a repair facility any day, over the alternative of being banned from an agency or administrator for giving a less than honest inspection. The latter scenario can be much more of a financial disaster to the inspector. I don’t intend to delve much further into that subject matter because I believe a person should not provide a grievance without a solution, and I don’t have a solution to add.

The complexity of the matter is vast. There are large amounts of money in play between the underwriters and the high volume repair facilities, and in the course of the conversation, the needs of an inspector is not even on the radar screen. Not to mention, is it really a good idea to force two people to be together under the same roof who have had personality conflicts in the past? And what liability is there if a conflict turns into an altercation?

An inspector once told me about a repair facility manager who was so highly upset with the findings of the inspection report, that not only did he refuse to sign the report, but while the inspector was calling in the report, the manager grabbed the inspector’s cell phone from his ear and slammed it to the ground creating impact damage! Aside from the Judge Judy show, where do you go from there? Even without a college degree, I at least know better than to call in a report in the presence of an already agitated repair representative!

No matter how you look at it, honesty is always the best policy when performing inspections. When enough trust has been built between the inspector, the agencies and administrators, and a failure or symptom cannot be demonstrated by photo, video or audio, hopefully they will be thinking to themselves “has he ever given me a reason not to believe him?”

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Don’t Forget the Basics

Before I begin, I would like to express my respect for technicians. They have a difficult job and many are highly skilled and reliable. However, as an inspector, I have noticed that technicians far too often rely on technology and past experiences rather than the basic fundamentals of diagnostics. The actual problem can be overlooked due to technicians depending on high tech equipment and the multitude of modules that are standard in most of today’s vehicles. Starting with step one – doing an overall check of the vehicle – seems too simplistic and is often bypassed, even though it takes very little time and usually does not require specialized tools or equipment. Therefore, an inspector should never assume the basics have been checked. Although it is not an inspector’s job to diagnose the problem, taking the time to do so can sometimes reveal the actual cause of failure or a potential pending failure. Below, I have chronicled times when this has occurred in my own personal experiences.

  1. The technician claimed a vehicle’s overheating was caused by no coolant flow in the radiator due to a failed water pump impeller very rare. The actual problem was caused by a worn radiator cap that was not pressure tested.
  2. The technician claimed the failure of a front wheel bearing was due to excessive play at the wheel. The wheel was very loose. The C/V axle nut did not appear to be threaded all the way on to the shaft. After asking the technician to tighten the loose nut, the play was eliminated.
  3. When inspecting a diesel with a supposed fan clutch failure and a code of “circuit failure/no communication,” I found the problem to be a severed harness at the connector caused by, none other than the fan itself! The technician never checked the connector!
  4. The technician claimed that no voltage to the alternator was due to failure to the harness. He came to this conclusion because “they see it all the time.” Failure was actually due to a very loose battery cable end at the battery. The technician actually thanked me for discovering the loose cable because he was not looking forward to replacing the harness.
  5. The technician claimed that all TPMS sensors had failed because they all had codes and would not reset. The vehicle was a ¾ ton truck with new tires that required 78 psi in the front and 55 psi at the rear, as stated on the tire placard. All four tires had 45 psi. After inflating the tires to the proper pressure the warning light turned off.
  6. After replacing the left rear folding seat back motor on a van, a technician found that the right side would not raise properly, even though it had been working when he lowered it. Therefore, he claimed it also needed a new motor. The failure was actually caused by the headrest binding on the front seat back because the technician had not removed the headrest before lowering the seat.

Other basic checks that are often overlooked are fluid levels. This is an area that should not be overlooked by the inspector because it can, at times, reveal the cause of failure. Examples of these occurrences are included below.

  1.  The technician claimed failure to the compressor was due to a severe leak. Only light seepage showed under the black light and amber lenses. I had noticed the cooling fan connector was loose and figured he must have checked the power to ground for an electrical issue that was keeping the compressor from engaging. After some questioning, I discovered that he could not get the compressor to operate, but since it was leaking, he felt it should be replaced. I told him I had found that the coolant level in the reservoir and radiator were empty, therefore, that sensor may not allow the compressor to engage. After topping off the coolant, the compressor engaged.
  2. The technician spent two days running tests to diagnose very rough engine vibration and some blow-by on a used replacement motor brought back by the owner after less than 30 days of use. After performing my basic checks, I told him that I had found the problem. The problem turned out to be the oil, which was very much overfilled. He drained ten quarts out of a five-quart system. The vehicle ran smoothly after the pistons were no longer being smashed into the oil. Even though it was the owner, rather than the technician who was responsible for the excess oil, the technician said calling the extended warranty company back was going to be the most embarrassing phone call he would ever have to make!

Checking fluids is a must on all transmission repairs due to possible intermix from ruptured transmission coolers built into radiators. This is a problem some vehicles are notorious for. I make it a habit to look in the oil filler when there is a direct view into the valve cover. Sludge and varnish can be detected at this time. I once came across a vehicle with intermix in the radiator, but also heavy intermix in the engine. After some questioning, I found out the shop knew of the condition but did not report it to the extended warranty company. I suppose being a transmission specialist shop might have had something to do with it!

It is obvious in all these examples that step one was skipped in the diagnostic process. It is for this reason that I feel an inspector should never assume the technician has done the basics.

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