Every shop has their list of horror stories. I have a couple myself, but one in particular is branded in my mind.

It was a very nice summer day and things were going just great in our shop. All my techs were busy, so I took the very next customer. In drove a ‘94 Suburban. I knew it was on its way a block before it entered my parking lot. The cracked exhaust manifold just roared for my help. This gentleman was new to our shop and expressed his concern for his “exhaust leak.” “I am heading for vacation and I need my truck to tow our trailer.” Naturally, I wrote up his concerns on the invoice and pulled it over the pit, opened up his hood and saw his dilemma. This customer not only had a manifold broken in half on the driver's side, but he obviously had been driving it like this for a while, because he also had two burned plug wires (#1 and #3). The manifold was cracked between both those cylinders and the #3 wire was in two pieces.

Figuring that he would consider improving his towing ability, I recommended installing headers and upgrading his exhaust system. You would have thought I had just kidnapped his wife and kids, with his response. “I just want my @&**ing manifold fixed.” My gut feeling was to take his truck off the pit and wish him well, but I bit my lip and recommended just a new exhaust manifold. I made the calls and got the best price I could and let him know it would be ready by end of day. I really should have listened to my gut!

I ordered the manifold from a local supplier. I had a couple of plug wires from another Chevrolet truck, so I would not have to call him about the wires after his first explosion.

I did the work myself, because I did not want any of my great employees to feel the grief. I kept telling myself that he was probably having a bad day. The vehicle still did not run right, and I noted it on my invoice. I even noted that I replaced his two burned wires for free, so he could get down the road and on his trip.

The next day, guess who showed up at my shop calling me a thief, because I had his two wires? Never mind I will just tell you. It was that guy who gave me a gut feeling. I retrieved his burned wires, put them in a clean bag and he snatched it out of my hand. I had hoped that it would be the last I would see of him, but I just wasn't that lucky. I get a call, and I am told that I owed him a motor, because it just did not run right after I changed out the manifold. I explained that he probably had a burnt valve by driving it while the manifold was broken in half. Phone slammed down on his end and I thought it was over for sure. Good old gut was right once again. I get another phone call from this guy and I am told that he was coming by. He entered the office and started his tirade.

I said, “just a minute” and walked into the shop. I came back in and he started up again. I said, “just a minute” and walked into the shop. This happened a couple more times until he asks me why I keep leaving, while he is yelling at me. I pulled up his invoice and showed him that there was nowhere on the invoice that said he paid to abuse me. I said that if he could calm down and tell me what the problem was, I would listen. I was told that the new manifold was the problem. I asked him if he had it with him, so I could see what the problem was. He told me “NO” and now I owed him $10,000.00 for two new motors. He wanted me to write him a check right then and there. I gave him the number of the Bureau of Automotive Repair -- if he had a legitimate complaint. I said I would call the supplier of my manifold to see if there were any known defects.

My very next call was to my supplier and asked him who the manufacturer was, in case there was a problem. My supplier said he would need to see the manifold. Well, now I could get some answers for this man. I called the customer and said the supplier would like to see the manifold. I gave him their address, but what came next surprised me. The exhaust manifold had a casting problem, between cylinders #1 and #3. It was “totally blocked with cast steel” I was told by my supplier; and that “I was at fault and should pay for the motors, not the supplier.” I asked for his manufacturer and he would not give it to me.

My next visitor in regard to this casting problem was a very nice man from the Bureau of Automotive Repair. He had the notorious manifold in his hands and I finally was able to see the problem, using a small mirror and flashlight. This poor guy was stuck in the middle and had to let me know that the customer wanted $10,000.00 and the problem would be washed away. I asked him if I could keep the manifold if I wrote the check and was told, “Of course.” To his surprise, I wrote a check for the entire amount, made copies of all invoices he had, not even being sure they were legit on the owner's part. This B.A.R. employee is a good friend of mine now.

There is a good ending to this story. I told the B.A.R. officer about my supplier and he paid them a visit. I found the manufacturer, by doing a reverse search of the part number, gave them a call, and told them the story. I sent them the manifold and they sent a check to reimburse me for the entire amount, along with a letter of apology. The very best ending of the story is that I never have to see that character/client again.

Bad burrito or intuition- listen to that gut, it usually is right!