Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.
Mark, who has been with the business for
over 20 years, is an ASE
Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE
L1 certification, and has an associates degree
in business management.
(Printed in the Journal of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP)
This summer did not exactly leave me yearning for next years a/c work. Back in July, we had a regular customer come in with his 12-year young, 110,000 mile, Mercury Topaz. A little over a year ago the customer had us replace an a/c line and now the car, was again, not cooling properly. A black light test revealed that a second a/c line was leaking. The customer was given a price to replace the line, and to evacuate and recharge the system. When the Topaz found its way back to us for its appointment, our technician installed the new hose and began his evacuate and recharge procedure. It was now near the end of the day and the customer was in the waiting area and looking foreword to driving his cool Tempo back home. After our technician completed the recharge, he started the engine to check the systems operation. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw clouds of smoke billowing out from under the hood. The customer saw the smoke too and was now staring at us owl eyed from the waiting room window. After a closer inspection we found that the smoke was coming from the compressor clutch. Most likely the clutch was slipping or the compressor was seizing. Evidently, the 110,000 mile compressor decided that it was too tired to push a full load of Freon. Now I had that wonderful daily task of breaking bad news to a customer. I brought the customer out and explained what had transpired. The customer questioned us as to why we did not know the compressor was bad in the first place. I advised the customer that the compressor was working fine, but now, probably normal wear and tear had finally taken its toll. Not really an unusual event in that the car had aged considerably on both time and mileage. Now the customer and I were, sort of, in a bind. The customer still owed us for replacing the new a/c line yet was not going to appreciate that repair since he still had no a/c. I called for parts pricing and gave the customer a more-than-fair estimate to repair the car. The normal list price on the compressor was 505.21. I told him I would install the part at our cost of 389.65, and he pays the labor. Then thee customer asked me the golden question: What other parts in the a/c system could fail in the future? I brought out a glossy flip chart of a generic a/c system and showed him some other items that had never been changed, namely, the condenser and evaporator. We discussed the approximate labor and parts cost to replace those items, if they failed down the road. At this point the customer made an interesting remark. He said that "had he known all these other parts could fail, he would not have repaired the a/c line in the first place." I could understand his point to some degree. Then again, we cannot possibly take the time to explain to every customer all the different parts that could fail in a certain system, or sub system, on their car. If we did, we'd be lucky to fix at least one car a day. As it is, we spend a lot of time with customers discussing their needs and repairs. More time than you get at the doctor's office, that's for sure.
At this point the customer called his wife and discussed the options. In the end, the customer decided not to replace the compressor. As a measure of goodwill, I reduced the price of the new a/c line to cost.