More mobile spannering tales in this popular new section.
Mike Humble shares a tale of how customers sometimes always come back, even if deep down you don’t want them to!
‘Boing’ went the Mini driver…
A tale of one City
For those readers who have never worked in the public sector or with the general public, you just don’t know how cushy you’ve had it. Over the years I have sold cars, repaired cars, repaired bus engines, driven buses and even done a stint shop keeping – albeit in High Street motor parts, you never cease to be amazed with your fellow man or woman.
Myself and fellow Rover man Steven Ward once stood in a field in Birmingham of all places, sharing stories about some of the buffoons, half wits and downright useless people we have dealt with over the years, while Keith Adams looked on silently in horror taking it all in. Most of your transactions go without incident, but a small percentage can be trying or just plain difficult and it’s these who remain ingrained on your memory.
I recall taking a phone call one evening from a lady with a Mini City who was looking for a price to service her little car and get it back on the road. With anything older I make a point of viewing the car in the metal to see what I am taking on, and to risk assess the situation as nobody wants to get saddled with a dog of a job which will be a nightmare to complete or erode your profit margins.
The following day, I rang the bell of a nice little property on the south side of town and was greeted at the door by a stern looking middle aged woman. After getting nowhere with a touch of Swiss charm and small talk, it was down to business and I was marched to the adjacent garage whereby she removed a stunning – and I do mean stunning G-plate Henley blue Mini City E with a staggering 9000 miles on the clock – in 2005!
Your typical modern day motor is a doddle to service, a 1.4 Rover 25 for example; requires nothing more than a strap wrench and a 15mm spanner to do a basic engine service. Older tackle like Metros or Minis require a plethora of items including feeler blades, grease guns and screwdrivers – more hassle maybe, but I so enjoy a good classic engine to work on. After asking what she required on the Mini, the lady barked at me that her husband had recently left her for a younger model (this explained her ice cold frostiness) left her this Mini and was looking to be independent. Now, to say she came over as bitter and twisted may be a touch harsh, but I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of her tongue had I accidentally split her drink in a pub – you get the idea?
The Mini was rarely used and her husband had made sure it was MoT’d etc but now it was her responsibility, she required it be fully serviced and fit for purpose. A phone call was made to price up some materials and a date was set for the work to be carried out, no tea and biscuits offered, I was simply ushered away. Fast forward a few days and I arrived at the property armed with a box full of bits on the dot of 9.30 and as I opened the gate, she was at the door waiting for me. Before I could utter a hearty good morning she quipped “I have decided not to bother” bloody great I thought, and she went on to say that she was going to do it herself. Obviously I was nonplussed at this, but at least I managed to lift a tenner from her by means of a handling charge for the parts I had bought.
Of course, I was on first name terms with the guys & gals at the local Unipart branch, and they gladly took the parts back but ten pounds hardly compensates for the loss of half a days work. About a week or so later there was a missed call on my mobile from you know who – Mrs Attitude. It takes a lot of guts to admit you are wrong and even more for her to ring me back and request my services once again, and regardless what I may have thought about her, work is money, so once again I hopped into my little black van and hurtled off to her middle class residence. The splendid Mini was sat on the drive which by now was spattered with oil drips; she greeted me this time with considerable civility and demonstrated the new party trick her gleaming car now performed. Have any readers watched the brilliant John Candy film Uncle Buck?
The poor little thing belched out more smoke than a Mississippi paddle cruiser, plumes of thick light blue coloured clouds of a nature even most breaker yard owners would not have seen engulfed most of the DL3 postcode, and straight away I had inkling what was wrong. Removing the dipstick and giving it a wipe confirmed the theory; the oil level was at the top, not at the top level but the top of the dipstick.
I whipped off the oil cap and the valve gear looked like it was under water, so I asked her just how much oil had she put into the car. Well, it transpired that she had successfully drained out the old oil into a bowl, changed the filter but subsequently added around 13 litres of oil – trust me I am not joking on this and she pointed to three bottles of Duckhams Hypergrade along with a Haynes manual beside them.
I asked her if she driven the car any distance, to which she said no, and I calmly asked her if she would like me to put things right. The lady said yes and spotting a tear welling up in her eye, I asked for a mug of tea – giving her chance to have a moment in solace to compose herself. After popping to a nearby hardware store for two buckets, all the oil was drained out again and a gallon was strained through an old tea towel and put back into the 998cc engine.
Obviously there was a chance every oil seal had blown, but upon burbling into life, the Mini seemed quite happy and after a few minutes running the blue haze faded away. I serviced the rest of the car the next Saturday, whereby she told me she kicked the backside of a work colleague for advising her that the oil level should be at the top of the dipstick!
Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications
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