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FAQs about cars

May 14, 2014
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

No, for those of you who are not computer savvy, I didn't misspell the word "facts." It's a cutesy abbreviation for "frequently asked questions." The world is full of cutesy abbreviations. My favorite is "WDTSAAJSI", which translates as: "why don't they stop abbreviating and just say it?" Following are some of the FAGs (frequent answers given) to the FAQs received.

- FAQ #1: What kind of cars do you work on?

- FAG #1: Broken ones. The kinds that need work. Whatever makes it to our door: driven, towed, or pushed. There are two kinds of car repair shops: new car dealerships and independents. New car dealerships specialize in one brand of car. Independent shops specialize in types of work. You may have noticed places like AMMCO, specializing in transmissions, Midas, specializing in mufflers, Goodyear or Firestone, specializing in tires, Grease Monkey (I hate that name), specializing in oil changes, or MAACO, for body and paint work. They don't limit themselves to any one brand of car. Their special fields are used by all brands of cars. Most specialists will also do additional mechanical repairs outside of their specialty as needed, to satisfy customers and to keep the shop busy. New car dealerships, because of the warranties they must honor, employ specialists in each area to work under one roof on their one brand, and sometimes other brands to satisfy customers and keep busy. Independent general repair shops do all brands, and most specialties, up to a point, similar to a family physicians' practice, referring some problems to specialists if necessary.

- FAQ #2: Will you install parts that I buy at discount houses and bring to you?

- FAG #2: Usually no. There are reasons. Bacon and eggs are cheaper in grocery stores than in restaurants, but you wouldn't take your own into a restaurant. In the repair business profit margins are based on selling two things on each job: labor and parts. The industry average is 50 percent of each invoice is from labor and 50 percent is from parts, with small profits expected on each. If the shop works for labor only, they are working for half the normal income per hour. A slippery slope. It's true that some restaurants might cook your own fish for you. You'll notice that the meal will cost the same as their fish dinner would have, but you get to eat your own fish. If a consumer provided special parts that the shop didn't have, an exception might be allowed, provided the shop could make their normal profit on the job.

A second reason to allow the shop to provide the parts is the warranty on the repair job. If the shop sells a defective part, it is obligated to replace it with no labor charge. However, if the consumer provided the part, the shop would be entitled to an additional labor charge to change it again. That fee could be much more than the small amount saved by buying at a discount store.

- FAQ #3: Do you repeat yourself in your columns?

- FAG #3: Darn tootin', but I prefer to think of it as recycling. After years of one column per week, fresh ideas are tough. If you detect a repeated theme in a column, you have likely come full circle, and can now consider your car repair education complete, however the car world is constantly changing. Congratulations on your graduation, now, as a grad student, send me another question. Write or email the paper with your comments and concerns. We love the feedback. Have you had a bad experience with car repairs? Let's hear about it.



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