Giammalvo Files
Mark Giammalvo

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.
Mark is also a writer for Motor Age Magazine and is the past secretary of the Alliance of Automotive Service Professionals, (AASP).

Return To Our Articles Page    

  What's In A Real
Diagnostic Repair Order?

(Printed in the Journal of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP) 

Everyone writes diagnostic repair orders differently. A repair order for routine maintenance is one thing. Routine maintenance repair orders should offer a decent labor description of the labor performed and a clear break down of the parts used. Nevertheless, what really defines a well- written repair order for diagnostic service? It all starts with proper note taking and documentation.

One can learn volumes on the proper technique of note taking from the medical industry. In medical school, students are trained to take proper SOAP Notes. SOAP stands for Subjective, Objective, Assessment and Plan. As an example, a Subjective can consist of a chief complaint from a patient plus a medical and family illness history. The Objective will list current vital signs, visible condition and all test results. The Assessment, like a diagnosis, will list items that may be causing the initial complaint. The Plan serves as a prognosis and will list any future tests, treatments and follow up visits that they may need.

Although the current automotive service world has not embraced soap notes, it has come a long way. Only ten to twenty years ago we were handing customers one line repair orders. We all can remember those invoices totaling  four digits that simply stated: "Rebuild transmission." Not exactly a well-written repair order. In the past ten or so years the service industry has really evolved with some decent note taking. Often, shops will break the repair order down into three areas. Complaint, Cause and Correction. This makes the invoice much easier to read and understand. It also serves to show the customer the methodology of the repair shop as well as the technician's thought process.

Today, a well-written repair order should list a minimum of five items. The Complaint, Diagnostic Procedures, (inspections and tests performed), Test Results, Root Cause and the Recommended Correction. In addition, all invoices should display a proper heading identifying the customer's name and all contact phone numbers. Also, the invoice header should include the vehicle's make, model, mileage and date. The Vin number on the repair order is always nice to have but it is not mandatory if it is attached to the customer's file in the database.

In the past, employees have referred to my brother and I as "book writers." No, we haven't written any books on the automotive industry. At least not yet. We have gained that nickname due to how much information we type in on the average repair order. We believe that their can never be too much documentation on the repair order. Whether a customer is back with a new diagnostic problem or a service complaint, good prior documentation will speak volumes and put any questions to rest.

Recently, I was able to critique a diagnostic repair order of another shop. One of our customers had broken down in western Mass. with her Volvo. The customer had given my brother a copy of the recent repair order for service they had performed. Glenn was so impressed with the repair order that he gave me a copy.

The following is a copy of their repair order: (True names and places have been edited out for privacy).

XYZ Motoring
123 Any Street
Western, Massachusetts

A. Giammalvo Customer
1995 Volvo 850 Turbo
2 West Street
2.3 L In-Line 5 cyl
South Dartmouth, MA
Lic# 101X
Phone 508-XXX-XXXX
Wagon / Green
Miles 76,346
Vin# YV1LW5723S099800
Labor Description

Car had to be jumped. Check battery and charging. Was driving and battery lights lit up and radio stopped working. Car started when brought in. Did voltage drop test on battery terminal and cables, ok. No drop. Checked starter draw. Checked charging, ok 95A. Checked battery. A little low 12.3V, drops to 9.0V at 210A. Checked draw, ok. Charged battery and rechecked. Holds 10.0V @ 220A. Rechecked charging system. Ok. Battery recovers to 12.5V after 1 min. Battery is ok. Reinstalled battery in car.

*** Recommendations ***
No record of 60k mile tune-up service, Serp. belt has old routing and is all the way out. Both licence plate light bulbs are out. Due for oil change service in 210 miles. Left wiper arm is bent. Turbo seal leaky. Drain plug leaking. Radiator mount is broken on left side. Needs a radiator. Tires should be rotated.
1.00 Hour                                                     $ 64.63

Now, had I not seen the heading of this repair order I would have said that our shop had definitely written it. Well, I'm glad to see that my brother and I are not the only ones writing repair order books these days. Sure, it takes a lot of extra work but the history of the visit to the shop on that day does not get any clearer than that.

Anyway, the customer came in to have us check these items. Here is a copy of the repair order we gave the customer upon completion of our service:

Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service
1476 Purchase Street

New Bedford, MA 02740 
Tel:  508-999-3213   
A. Giammalvo Customer
1995 Volvo 850 Turbo
2 West Street
Writer: GG
South Dartmouth, MA
Lic# 101X
Phone 508-995-XXXX Miles: 76,487
Work 508-991-XXXX
Cell 617-822-XXXX

Invoice# 40893

Labor Description

Customer reports car needed to be jump started. Had car checked elsewhere but no problem found. Also check a list of items other shop reported needed.

60K tune-up/serp. belt and tensioner. Licence plate bulbs out. Left wiper arm bent. Turbo oil leak. Drain plug oil leak. Radiator mount broken. Tires need rotation.

Verify battery charge and load test battery resistance with Midtronics tester.
Battery tests good. Suspect something stayed on in the past that drew down the battery. Topped off battery fluid level.
Gasket 1.89

2 Bulbs  4.87@
Check/verify items on list; service records show 60k tune-up done on 12/02. Serp. belt looks ok and tensioner not yet at end of travel. Licence plate bulbs were both burnt out. Replaced both bulbs. Left wiper arm was bent up, keeping wiper blade from reaching glass at far left of travel. Very common problem. Bend arm back down into position. Some oil is leaking from area of turbo. Not sure if it is a significant amount. Oil drain plug was leaking. Replaced gasket and verified leak resolved. Drivers side mount flange is broken off radiator. Tied radiator in place to remove stress from right mount. However, over time this may be a concern. Tire rotation done at 72,685 miles and will be due at next service.
6 qts 10W30 Oil 2.00@

Filter 9.70

Change oil and filter. Lubricate chassis and door hinges. Top off all fluids. Inspect belts, hoses, air filter and tire pressure. Lube power antenna. Inspect exhaust for leaks. Inspect CV joints for rupture. Inspect ball joints and tie rods. Antifreeze good to -60F. Inspect wiper blades.  Inspect windshield for cracks. Reset maintenance reminder.

Perform four wheel alignment inspection. Inspect for wear and damage on all steering and suspension components. Set vehicle up on hunter computer alignment rack. Measure front caster angle. Inspect front and rear camber and  . Verify provisions for all necessary adjustments are available from the manufacturer.

Adjust rear toe-in to factory specifications.

Adjust front toe-in to factory specifications.
Road test vehicle.
Parts, Labor & Tax

Ok, I'll admit, I'm hooked on the topic of writing a complete repair order. Why give your customers anything less?

Kudos to all shops out their who continue to write those books. I mean, repair orders.

 Return To Our Articles Page.