I walked into work a few weeks ago and heard my ASE Certified Mechanic on the phone. "Is it smoking? We'll send the tow truck to pick you up. An overheated engine could mean a kink in the cooling system. Did you have us check that the last time you came in? Oh, I see. You had to rush out that day. I only mentioned that because we could have probably saved you this inconvenience."
Oh, brother. Every year I ask my customers to bring their cars in for scheduled maintenance before it becomes an issue. Most do, but there are always a few who can't find the time to come in until their vehicle breaks down. During the warmer months, the cooling system can become a huge problem.
I watched the tow truck pull in. I was surprised to see it was a newer model car. Carrie, the granddaughter of a customer, was in the truck. She seemed upset. My guys got the car keys from her, and I asked if she needed a ride anywhere.
"No, I was on my way to class at Los Angeles Valley College, but it's over by now. I'll hang out until the car is done. By the way, my dad knows about the breakdown and is happy I called you, not someone else."
"Okay, Carrie. Let us look at it, and then I'll give you an update." I was hoping this would not be expensive for her parents, but you never know when an engine overheats.
Before my techs started the car, I double-checked with Carrie's father, Trevor, to ensure he was aware of the situation. He gave us the go-ahead to start the diagnosis. First, it was on to the overheating issue. Our technicians are instructed to address the issues that most concern our customer first and foremost. Then the technician puts the vehicle through our courtesy check, which is a visual inspection of 38 different points on the car. That checked out. We looked at various parts, including the following:
- Pressure conditions
- Cooling volume
- Radiator cap (to ensure it has a tight fit)
- Radiator hoses (checking for cracks and swelling)
- The engine belts
The radiator cap had a good seal, and the pressure and cooling volume checked out, as did the thermostat and belts. That left the hoses. Sure enough, there was a radiator hose that had started to deteriorate. To ensure Cassie had no other problems on the road, we replaced the hose then ran a Block Test to make sure that no internal engine damage resulted from the overheating. One very common failure is a cracked Cylinder Head Gasket which allows coolant to bleed into the cylinder combustion chamber(s) leading to potential power loss, misfires, and serious engine damage.
I found Carrie in our Customer Lounge, focused on her iPad. She didn't seem to notice me until I cleared my throat.
"Hi Jack, how's the car?"
"You were lucky young lady. We checked the cooling system, and a cracked radiator hose was causing your problems. To be sure we didn't miss anything, we looked at all the other components and drained and refilled your fluid. Next year, do me a favor. Bring the car in before the intense heat begins. That way, we can avoid this same scenario. You may even want to sign up for a regularly calendared maintenance check. That way, we can be sure to cover all our bases."
"You sound just like my dad, Jack. He's always telling me that I should plan ahead. I guess I haven't gotten the hang of adulting yet. I promise I'll make an appointment for next March or April to have it checked. How much do I owe you?"
"I'll send your dad the bill. It doesn't come out too much. Your father and I nag you about this because we are concerned with your safety on the road. Accidents happen, but at least with proper maintenance, you can be sure it won't be a car-related problem. Your safety on the road is our primary concern.”
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