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  Management Feature

'What Would You Do?'

Posted 9/10/2009
By T.J. Reilly, AAM

Every shop owner runs into ‘situations.’
How they handle them is important.

Editor's note: Shop owners run into "situations" all the time - situations that leave them scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to resolve the issue fairly for everyone concerned. They want to make the right decision in solving a dilemma, but things are not always black and white. Sometimes there are gray areas. Following is a good example of just such a dilemma. What would you do?

The following situation comes from a shop in Portland, Ore., that wishes to remain anonymous:

A good personal friend of the shop owner brought his vehicle in to have his air conditioner diagnosed. The shop's technician filled the system with refrigerant and dye and activated the electronic leak detector. The first place the technician tested for leaks was the evaporator under the dashboard. The leak detector instantly went off, so the technician recommended an evaporator, expansion valve and receiver dryer.

The customer has a technician friend who occasionally does auto repair work out of his house - for a lot less dollars, of course. So the shop owner's friend got that technician to do the work. After replacing the parts, he charged up the system and it immediately started spewing refrigerant from the condenser. He then replaced the condenser, charged the A/C and everything began working great.

It turns out the customer had hit a deer six years earlier and the condenser had a slight bend that eventually split. The tech claims he could find no signs of dye or leakage on the evaporator he removed and suspects that the original technician's leak detector was picking up refrigerant coming through the outside vents into the car.

Was the technician who installed the evaporator - without verifying that it was leaking - responsible, or was the original technician responsible for not properly testing the system?

What should the shop owner do for his friend? What would you do?

AutoInc. asked two ASA members how they would handle the situation. Their replies follow:

Steve Mancinelli• Steve Mancinelli, AAM, Mancinelli's Auto Repair Center, Denver - "To properly diagnose the A/C system, it must be charged. If the condenser were a problem at the time of original diagnosis, technician 1 would have heard it 'spewing' as well, before beginning his detection in the passenger compartment. Leak detection of the A/C system is done statically without the vehicle running because if you just lightly breathe on a detector, it will signal a false alarm. If the test was performed statically, any detection inside the vehicle near the evaporator would be correct. Is it possible this vehicle needed both items, but only one had failed prior to the repair made by technician 2? Sure.

"If the technician is certified, trained, follows procedures and has proper credentials, the owner needs to explain to his 'friend' how diagnostics are performed and stand behind the diagnosis of technician 1. If the 'good friend' still does not understand, he should be fired as a client.

"However, if the technician in question is not certified, properly trained and does not follow a set procedure, then shame on the owner for having him perform this diagnosis. All charges incurred at his facility should be reimbursed to the client."

Ron Haugen• Ron Haugen, AAM, Westside Auto Pros, Clive, Iowa - "Technician 2 also should have verified the recommended repair prior to replacing the evaporator. That is usually the practice of most professional shops that I know of, but in this case we are dealing with a technician who was working out of his home, not a professional shop. While he may be a great technician, he probably lacks training and experience in operating and managing a repair shop.

"Another factor is that we have a vehicle that was not properly repaired following an accident six years prior. Had this slightly bent condenser been replaced, this whole situation would not even exist.

"I would explain to the 'friend' that had he chosen a professional repair shop, the needed repair would most likely have been confirmed prior to replacing the evaporator. It is possible that the evaporator was leaking and the condenser was not when it was initially tested. I would also recommend he contact the body shop and insurance company involved in the accident repair to seek reimbursement for damage they did not correct the first time. Lastly, I would offer to inspect and pressure test the evaporator that was removed (providing it still exists) to confirm any leakage. If this person is a true friend, he or she will trust you and see that you are trying to help them resolve this issue."

How would T.J. Reilly, AAM, the author of this feature, handle the "situation?" Following is what he says:

"My Technician Procedure Manual states that the technician is responsible for verifying the diagnosis before installing any part. In other words, the technician does not get paid for the job if it doesn't fix the problem. It is the responsibility of the technician to inform his adviser that a disclaimer from the customer or testing time is needed.

"My Service Adviser Procedure Manual states that if another shop tests a vehicle and says a part needs to be replaced, we will install that part only with a clear understanding from the customer that they are paying us to install a part, not to fix their vehicle. We will guarantee the part we installed but not the results (unless they want to pay us to verify the diagnosis).

"That being said, the second shop really is responsible for installing the wrong part. The first shop told me that they would not have charged the customer for the evaporator when they found the mistake.

"The difficulty with this situation, regardless of whether the customer is a good friend or not, is the reputation the shop will build with the community.

"Since the original technician obviously made a mistake on the A/C testing, my recommendation is to give the customer a cash refund for the testing and in-store credit for what they paid to have the evaporator replaced."

Bob Cooper T.J. Reilly, AAM – the author of this feature – is the owner of Same Day Auto Service, an ASA member-business in Clackamas, Ore. His e-mail address is


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