1999 Mercury Villager Hooked up jumper cables backwards

Tiny
RANDALUSA
  • MEMBER
  • 1999 MERCURY VILLAGER
  • 3.3L
  • 6 CYL
  • 2WD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 101,000 MILES
Howdy. Kind of dark out, I hooked up jumper cables backwards last week. Helper car wouldn't start afterward. Taking a guess, I replaced fuel pump relay. That got 'er to start. But now the idle is erratic and she takes longer than usual to warm up. Plus after getting almost to temp, the engine surges to about 1500 rpm and stays there for 2-3 minutes before bringing itself back down. I did a lot of bi-directional tests using a Snap-On MTG-2500. Nothing showing wrong. No DTCs either. Care to take an educated guess and maybe end up hitting the right solution?
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Saturday, November 7th, 2015 AT 10:45 AM

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Tiny
CJ MEDEVAC
  • EXPERT
I FIGURED YOU WOULDA FRIED A FUSIBLE LINK (THEN IT PROBABLY WOULDN'T HAVE STARTED)

ONE WILD GUESS!

DISCONNECT MR. BAT-STREE

GIVE IT A FEW MINUTES

RECONNECT

THE MEDIC

IF NO RESULTS, RESUBMIT YOUR QUESTION, SOMEONE ELSE WILL MOST LIKELY ANSWER! (I'LL STAY OUT THIS TIME!)

THE MEDIC
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Saturday, November 7th, 2015 AT 6:25 PM
Tiny
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Interesting idea. Works for some issues with a PC and cellphone. Definitely worth a try. Thanks. I'll report back.
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Sunday, November 8th, 2015 AT 6:43 AM
Tiny
CJ MEDEVAC
  • EXPERT
ROGER THAT!

YOU MIGHT EVEN OWE ME LUNCH! (OR NOT!) LOL!

THE MEDIC
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Sunday, November 8th, 2015 AT 11:38 AM
Tiny
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If it worked, definitely worth a lunch at the very least. Alas, the engine remains troubled with the identical symptoms. Thanks for trying. If you've got any other possibilities, fire away.
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Sunday, November 8th, 2015 AT 12:48 PM
Tiny
CJ MEDEVAC
  • EXPERT
SO LIKE I FEEL SURE YOU CHECKED ALL OF THE FUSES?

YOUR CAR?

OR SOMEBODY ELSE'S?

THE MEDIC
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Sunday, November 8th, 2015 AT 7:18 PM
Tiny
RANDALUSA
  • MEMBER
Fuse checking is more difficult than it sounds. For one, dumbo Nissan went with the mini fuses that make probing the supposed access windows quite near impossible much of the time. After a few failures, I began pulling them out for a visual inspection. All good. Inside under the dash, I pulled out the 5 fuses that seemed possibly related. No issues with those.

Relays are another matter. There are 5 yet untested. The thing about a relay is it may not activate until ordered by the computer. So one is faced with a conundrum in certain cases. What I am pondering is just grabbing all 5 relays out of my other Villager, then just drive around for a couple days to ascertain whether the switch worked.

Obviously a very sloppy diagnosing method. But hey, I am barely a school trained tech and with no paid experience at all, not even one day on the job. Moreover, I am highly irritated about the string of occasions paying a professional $100 per hour and having them fail to find the issue or ask for more time on my dollar. Consequently, it kind of feels like swapping out the relays could be as good or better of a diagnosis as I am likely to get anywhere else.

Simultaneously I am searching Yelp reviews to maybe find a true professional like the guy on YouTube who always finds the exact cause and typically in less than an hour. If he were nearby, I would cheerfully pony up the going rate. The problem with Yelp or any other reviews comes down to how easily people are swayed into giving 5-stars when all they write about is how nice everyone was during a $25 oil change. Other than honesty and a bit of patience, I don't give two farts about whether the staff is all nicey nice or if the waiting room has a TV and free water. I want the flippin' car repaired properly.

Okay, bit of a rant there. Unless anyone can guess beforehand, I shall make the relay swap tomorrow. Afterward, perhaps the computer.

One hint before departing right now: The condition does seem to be temperature related. That might bring us around to the ETC sensor. But a sensor out should fire a code. Even just a ground wire to the sensor would disable the component and, again, fire a code. Or maybe not.

Thanks for trying. If you've got any more ideas, please fly 'em over.
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Monday, November 9th, 2015 AT 7:44 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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My, my, my! There are some things that need to be addressed before I get your derailed thinking back on track.

"I am barely a school trained tech and with no paid experience at all, not even one day on the job", says it all. $100.00 per hour is the going rate, but I used to hand out a full page list, tiny type, double column, of all the expenses a repair shop has to deal with before the owner gets a dime. For all of those "freebies" you mentioned, which they don't have to supply unless they care about their customers, they have endless government regulations to comply with, a dozen different taxes, many of which other businesses don't pay, multiple insurances, over-priced test equipment that becomes obsolete in a year or two, and online service manuals that are only rented for over a thousand dollars per year, all so we can work on your vehicle. Once you look at my list of business expenses, you will wonder how the shops manage to stay in business by charging only $100.00 per hour. And it's only the sweat and frustration of the mechanic's that they charge for. All the people in the office and parts department don't get to charge you for anything, but they seem to want a paycheck too.

If you want your car repaired properly, go to a two-year course at a community college, (none of that useless and grossly-over-priced UTI and Wyotech), learn the basics there, get hired as a mechanic, get ten to fifteen years experience, then see how you feel when ill-informed customers assume you're out to rip them off or you're pushing unneeded services and parts. If your van has only been worked on by you, I guarantee I can find a few safety issues with the steering, suspension, and brakes, but you will never believe me if I point those things out when I'm working on it for something else. I used to see cars every day that made me shudder to think the unsuspecting owners were risking a crash and lawsuit without even knowing it. And if that should happen, whose fault will it be? The mechanic's, because he didn't point that out and make you aware of the dangerous condition.

I know how misinformed you are by your comment about someone on the internet who finds every problem in less than an hour. We know that is not true. If he is so great, why does it take him an hour to solve the problem? I've been in tv / vcr repair for over 40 years, where we diagnose down to the component level, and I was a mechanic for 16 years before teaching Automotive Technology for nine years. One of my specialty areas was Automotive Electrical, and I can tell you, with all that experience, the only problems I could consistently solve that quickly were those I had built into my live "learning experience" donated cars. There were other problems I could get people started with the right troubleshooting steps so they could determine where to START the diagnosis, but a true professional will never say they can solve every problem in an hour. Even during my ten years working for a very nice family-owned Chrysler dealership, for warranty electrical repairs, we were only allowed one hour of diagnostic time. After that we needed to get approval before they would pay for more time. All it took to get that approval is they wanted verification that we were making progress. Now, there were mechanics specializing in electrical diagnosis, with manufacturer-supplied training on those specific vehicles, with lots of experience seeing the same models and problems over and over, with factory diagnostic equipment, and access to a support help line, ... And they STILL can't diagnose most electrical problems in an hour.

I have two former students working for my city's premier automotive electrical shop with a fantastic reputation. They would laugh at the notion that even a small percentage of electrical problems can be diagnosed in an hour. The last '99 Villager I worked on was with a friend, and together we spent an entire afternoon on it. It can take an hour just to get to some of the computers under the dash, before you even think about taking a voltage reading. So get that idea out of your head right now that some internet magician, whose results you can't verify, is the only "true professional". Only a mechanic with low self-esteem would have to make such claims to boost his self image. A real professional will not try to trick you with false claims of how great he is. He will prepare you for reality by warning of how hard it can be to find the causes of most electrical problems.

Now, to get to your relays, while I can't argue that you solved something by switching a relay, my first thought is what happened to the old one? There's a pair of contacts in it that don't care if the battery or jumper cables are connected backward. There's a coil in it that typically will have a diode or resistor across it to dampen the reverse voltage spike that occurs when current is switched off. If a resistor is used, as in GM's relays, those have no polarity, so they won't be damaged by connecting the battery backward. A diode likely will become shorted, because according to how the coil is connected in the circuit, that diode is "reverse biased", meaning backward. By being in the circuit backward, no current flows through it so it's like it isn't even there. When the battery is connected backward, that diode will now be "forward biased", and excessive current through it will instantly short it so it appears like a piece of wire. There's one problem though. Relays are turned on by something, and usually that's a computer. Fuel pump relays are always turned on by the Engine Computer, and no computer is going to do anything with the battery or jumper cables connected backward. So I have to wonder what turned the relay on and how did it fail?

As for testing other relays, I can easily overlook that for a do-it-yourselfer, but if you were a mechanic, two or three mistakes like that would get you fired. (I saw that happen to the guy working next to me after many of us warned him). You don't want to pay for our services, yet you're making the same type of mistake you blame us for. There's a limited number of ways a relay can fail. The contacts can become pitted, arced, or rusty. That has nothing to do with connecting jumper cables backward. The coil can become open, as in a break in the wire. That typically occurs near the terminals the wire is soldered to, but it's extremely uncommon. That diode I mentioned can become shorted. Current will bypass the coil through that short, so the relay won't click on, but most of the time that doesn't damage the computer. It's only those pitted contacts that can cause an intermittent symptom. 99 percent of relay failures result in it not turning on at all, and that means a dead circuit, as in a dead fuel pump or dead radiator fan. You're describing an intermittent idle speed problem. There's no relay involved with that.

I don't know how you plan on testing a relay, especially for an intermittent problem, but again, that's a way for a mechanic to get fired. Shop owners don't want to have to charge their customers for your labor time when there's more efficient ways to diagnose something. You're incorrectly admitting to a sloppy diagnostic method by swapping relays, but can you think of a faster way? Now, before you assume I also promote swapping sensors, that is not the proper way. Unless, that is, you have one in your tool box. We don't buy sensors to "try". It's faster to make one or two quick voltage tests than it is to wait for the parts store to deliver the part that may not be needed. For relays suspected of causing a dead circuit, just swap two identical relays and see if a different circuit is dead now. We could do that so quickly you wouldn't have time to watch our "free" tv in the waiting room. By the way, try running a shop without those freebies you don't appreciate, and you'd be amazed at the number of complaints, lack of repeat business, and bad word-of-mouth advertising. There's a reason you find free coffee, donuts, tv, and magazines in every waiting room, whether you appreciate the thought or not.

The best I can do for you with the coolant temperature sensor is to explain how they work. If you do have a running problem that appears to be temperature-related, that only proves that sensor is working properly. The Engine Computer changes some of the things it does at certain temperatures, and it has to get that information from the CTS. If the computer is changing the behavior of a circuit based on temperature, you can't say the CTS isn't doing what it's supposed to do.

If you have a temperature gauge on the dash, that will usually use a separate one-wire sensor. That's not the one this sad story is about. On newer vehicles the dash gauges get their information from the Engine Computer, but that wasn't the case on older vehicles. You're interested in the two-wire coolant temperature sensor. There's a 5.0 volt supply inside the Engine Computer. From there, current flows through a resistor inside the computer, out a connector terminal, and to the sensor, through it, through a ground wire that's common to multiple sensors, then to ground, but through the computer first. If you understand electrical theory, you'll understand that if you unplug the sensor, you'll find 5.0 volts on the feed / signal wire. Voltage readings for this type of sensor are only valid when it is plugged in. Then, the 5.0 volts divides up between the sensor and the resistor inside the computer. There's only one component inside the sensor so failure is extremely rare on any brand of car, except that Ford managed to have a huge problem with theirs in the early '90s. That component is a temperature-dependent resistor, or "thermistor". As its temperature goes up, it's resistance goes down. That means that as the temperature goes up, the voltage you'd measure there goes down. You can read that on your scanner under "Sensor Data" as "CTS Voltage".

When you watch that voltage, the acceptable range is from 0.5 to 4.5 volts. That's theory speaking. In actual practice you might find 0.7 to 4.2 volts. At issue isn't the exact voltage. What's critical to understand is the signal voltage will never reach 0.0 volts or 5.0 volts. Those are the conditions that set diagnostic fault codes. The only way to get 5.0 volts is to unplug the sensor or have a break in either wire. A break in the ground wire is very uncommon because it only goes a short distance before it splices in with the ground wires for other sensors. A break after that splice would set multiple fault codes for all of those sensors. The only way to get 0.0 volts is to ground the signal wire. Those conditions can be intermittent but the fault codes would stay in memory. You said there's no fault codes, so we can move on.

You'll actually find 0.2 volts on the ground wire. That's due to the monitoring circuitry inside the computer.

If you watch the CTS voltage on your scanner as the engine warms up, you'll see it drop from around, ... Oh, ... Lets say 4.2 volts to around 2.2 volts or a little less, at around 150 to 160 degrees. At that point the computer switches in a different series resistor to get more accuracy. The temperature reading will stay the same on the scanner, but the voltage will pop back up to, as I recall, around 3.5 volts, then continue going down again. I have to say, "as I recall", because other than when preparing "Notes Pages" for my students to teach them theory of operation, that isn't a test I would waste my time on when customers were paying for my time.

What you need to concern yourself with is if there's a fault code related to the coolant temperature sensor, and if it's reading the correct temperature. What a fault code may not tell you is when the sensor's voltage is within the acceptable limits, but it's wrong. As long as the voltage stays between 0.5 and 4.5 volts, you will not have a code for "CTS voltage too low" or "CTS voltage too high". You could, however, have a sensor reading minus 20 degrees when it's 50 degrees outside. Minus 20 is a valid reading even though it's wrong. Where that is supposed to be detected is when the engine has been off for typically at least six hours, the computer knows the coolant temperature sensor had better be reading the same as the ambient air temperature sensor, intake air temperature sensor, or battery temperature sensor. When they are real close, that's how it learns the personality of a new sensor. When people blindly replace multiple sensors at the same time, the computer can get confused and do weird things until it learns their characteristics.

I don't like the thought of replacing a computer, but given the circumstances, and since it sounds like you have one in another vehicle, it's worth a shot. Computers cause a lot less trouble than they get blamed for. They have diodes between the 12 volt feed wires and the ground wires, but they're in there backward, so they don't do anything. When the battery or jumper cables are connected backward, that's when the diodes will be forward biased and turn on. They are supposed to draw heavy current to force fuses to blow so the rest of the circuit, and the computer, is protected. I guess I'd be happy to hear replacing the computer solved the problems, but until then, I'm skeptical.
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Monday, November 9th, 2015 AT 7:15 PM
Tiny
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Re2 Caradiodoc from Nov 9, 2015.

Howdy. Okay, lots of info to address from your post here. First, I appreciate your having taken the time. I ll go in order, starting with the response to my ranting, then onto the mechanical issues you addressed.

1. You sound tired of hearing complaints about the $100 per hour car repair standard. As a result, I heard a sort of canned answer that is for the right moment completely reasonable. I am fully aware that we live under a government run by thieving control-freak neo-communist liars that barely masquerade as free capitalism. The regulations are immense. We learned them in class. Had to.

The reason I didn't go right out and work, by the way, is because my otherwise very skilled instructor for fuels and electrical kind of went to sleep during advanced engine diagnosis and smog. That left me feeling a need to take them over at another school before daring to do much myself or seek work.

At any rate, it is not the per hour that gets me so much as the series of failures I have paid for. A ford dealer after an hour proved unable to find out why the cruise control on my then 1993 Villager was refusing to engage, then asked for another hour despite there being only about 4 things to check.

The same dealer also took an hour of money from me to explain what was wrong with my AC. Their counsel was to pay $1100 for installing a new AC condenser, compressor and piping instead of what a customer should have been told. That vehicle was R-12. The service manager only recommended a completely new AC installation. I went to another shop. There a leak test was performed. No leak at all. Then 2 cans of R-12 were put in. End of story. Calling the Ford dealer back, they told me they don't have R-12, just R-134a. Okay, no problem. But if a customer PAYS for advice, that advice should include the fact that one COULD likely find a tech who would offer the R-12 refill, a refrigerant that REMAINS legally available for sale to this day on eBay. Anyone unwilling to present options should have never taken my money for the AC check upon realizing it was R-12. And everyone in the business understands that a 93 would very likely be R-12. This is all stuff I learned during the year afterward upon taking the AC course in school.

As for a comfy waiting area and a nice receptionist, other than having my ears pounded by dopey television shows when I generally bring my own radio with earplugs and prefer learning about the current events, my complaint is not about the room or the receptionist. The only problem meant by me is how so many customers fall into the trap of believing those features signify a competent diagnostic mechanic. The point was that consumers are all too often tricked by surface junk, smiling salesmen who listen real well. About 95% of Yelp reviews rave on about how nice everybody was or how quickly they got in for an oil change. None of that makes my life a day after leaving one speck better. But a rapid diagnosis and proper repair without soaking me for unneeded parts, that will float me along for months and months.

One other thought on the hourly rate. I am imagining how a shrewd shop owner would hire a couple of trainees with schooling to dissemble and pull parts rather than wasting the time of a top tech after he completes the diagnosis. That way, one guy's talent can be spread around and the customer's bill can be lowered. Sure, charge $100/hour for the diagnosis. Then drop the rate to $40/hour while the intern or apprentice works at getting the water pump or whatever out of there and puts it back in. These lower rates would allow for a cheaper shop off the main street because people will drive out of the way for excellence, thus paying for themselves while gaining adoration from amazed customers.

I toured Wyotech in Sacramento before entering a community college program. It was obvious there were serious flaws with the Wyotech program, the greatest of which being everything crammed into students in just one year (or was it 9 months?) As if that would be enough for the vast majority. The price, yeah, not real pretty either. Plus there was loud music playing in the shop all day long. I asked if that would be present during my entire year of study. Yup. No thanks.

2. The guy on YouTube, far as I have been able to observe based on my admittedly limited experience, is like the Babe Ruth of auto repair. Truly. He might reject such a description. But I am sticking with it for now. You should have a look. I did not mean to say every diagnosis takes him an hour. I meant they are all completed (or at least those I recall viewing) within an hour. Forty minutes is more typical. Some shorter, though he goes through other ways the diagnosis could have gone. And keep in mind he is talking to the viewer and describing what is going on in completely unplanned situations. There might be other mechanics that good around. The thing is there are tons who are inferior. And paying $100 per hour to shop around for the right guy really sucks.

This tech, for example, when not teaching at an automotive school makes money by driving to other repair shops on certain days and diagnosing problems that their mechanics give up trying to figure out. That kind of says a lot.

I feel sooo fortunate to have found his tutorials while in school because he was well above my 2 instructors there and 1 instructor at a prior school. All 3 of my instructors were very nice and quite knowledgeable. Different though. And none of them taught as well either. So this guy is not only Babe Ruth but a tremendous teacher at the same time.

3. I realize that swapping relays would get a guy fired. But I am a lowly vocational school trained student who remains in need of advanced tutelage still. So in comparison to $100/hour for a professional who might or might not be in the same league as Babe Ruth (and where I must pay to find out if he is any good), it represents a plausible option for me, an car owner with more time than money.

4. The relay I already swapped came from the one marked Air Cond. The reason I guessed fuel pump was due to the engine almost starting the first time cranking after the reversed cable hookup, then nothing but empty cranking afterward. I merely guessed the donor relay would be expendable during fire-up. Luckily, it got my car out of the red zone facing backwards in front of a library where I had pulled in to help jump another vehicle. Lots of lessons learned that night.

PS: Your reply was excellent in detailing the varying resistor design of an ECT sensor and in offering other ideas. At this point I have enough training to follow along, though still a ways short of really grasping it all enough to go try on my own. Maybe if I printed the procedure and kept with me on a sunny day when patient enough for poking around.

Being cold and very windy today, I put off swapping the relays out until perhaps tomorrow. Failing there, the computer effort will be in line next. Thanks for pitching in on my dilemma here.
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Tuesday, November 10th, 2015 AT 2:25 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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I have to clarify one issue, but other than that, I'm sorry to say we agree on just about everything. If you can figure out how to contact me by private message, (I can't figure it out), I can send you a link to my web site where there are many pages of wondrous electrical stuff for do-it-yourselfers, (which I incorrectly thought you were), and students, and I can send you some "Notes Pages" I handed out to my students. We had "class discussions", not lectures, and I told them to not take notes because you miss the three things that came next when you're busy feverishly writing.

What I wanted to offer a different opinion on is the use of trainees at a lower labor rate. I have run into some motorcycle shops that do that, but as a business owner, do you really want to advertise that you're putting your least-qualified person on the customer's vehicle? More importantly, most shops charge by the "flat rate" system. For anyone who doesn't know what that is, every procedure for every car model has a specified number of hours that are listed in a huge book. If a job is listed at 4.2 hours and the shop charges $100.00 per hour, you're going to be charged $420.00 regardless if it takes the mechanic six hours or if two people work on it together and it takes two hours. The mechanic who has more experience on that model will get the job done faster and with a lower chance of making a mistake. The mechanic who invests heavily in advanced training and expensive specialty tools will get done faster. So the variable isn't that the labor rate should be lower based on which mechanic works on the car. The variable is how long it's actually going to take to complete the job.

This is where you're right that the most-experienced person should be doing the electrical diagnosis because that can't be listed in flat rate. Every car and problem is different. The only thing that can be listed is the procedure to replace parts, but that's after they've been diagnosed as defective. The mechanics get paid according to flat rate too unless they're just starting out. Shop owners do that to protect themselves if a mechanic is slow, sloppy, untrained, or makes a lot of mistakes that he has to rectify for free. That also rewards mechanics who work efficiently and are careful to not make many mistakes. That is how a good mechanic can earn 110 hours pay or more in an 80-hour, two-week pay period.

I loved your comment too about the radio in the shop. I never allowed a radio in my shop, but mainly because it causes distractions during times we're trying to learn difficult concepts. Electrical and Suspension and Alignment are my two specialty areas where you have to visualize things you can't see. You can't see electrons flowing through a wire, and you can't see "caster" when describing suspension geometry. With electrical, I had two students per prepared car, and when they got stuck and called me over, my first question was always, "what do you know so far"? From there they used a diagram to show me how their thinking got them to where they were. All it took was a couple of thumps from a kid's radio to prove to his friends he had the better capacity to ruin his hearing than someone else had. Those thumps were sufficient to pop the thought bubble of those kids trying to understand what they were learning, then we had to start all over from the beginning. It was easier to just ban all radios. If anyone were to ever insist on having a radio in the shop, I threatened it would be on AM talk radio and Rush Limbaugh!

I think I know the type of person you're referring to in some videos. There is a fellow in Jolliet, IL who has a shop that specializes in the one out of a hundred cars that no one else seems to be able to figure out. His customers are mainly other shops. He networks with other people all over the country including corporate trainers from the manufacturers, then, when he figures it out, he builds a six-hour class around that. Carquest puts on very high-level training classes for the community where the mechanics from independent shops can get the same information dealership mechanics get. "Louie" came to my college once a month for each two-night class.

I know all the Chrysler trainers too who take care of all of Wisconsin. My college was one of three remote training sites they used. They had a nice training facility near Milwaukee where they held one and two-day classes, but in between they also would take in cars that defied diagnosis, and figure them out. That is where a lot of service bulletins come from. Those are informational documents that detail how to diagnose and repair commonly-occurring things that could be diagnosed in a few minutes, IF you knew what to look for. Those bulletins were meant to save a lot of the mechanics' time.

As for those Wyo-Tech guys, besides costing over $35,000.00 for nine months of instruction, you don't get any math, communication skills, and other support classes. The people who hire our graduates and sit on our advisory committee tell us all the time they want their employees to have that training. I worked with one Wyo-Tech graduate when I started at the dealership. Six months later he was a service adviser because he couldn't cut it as a mechanic. Our local Goodyear dealer hired two UTI grads, then he had to show them how to balance a tire and how to bleed brakes. Kind of makes you wonder what they got for their money.

Anyhow, I'll be watching to see what you come up with for a solution. Holler if you need any more of my wondrous advice.
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Wednesday, November 11th, 2015 AT 8:09 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
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I forgot to add, besides the Chrysler dealership I worked at, which has a dandy reputation, we also have a GMC dealer, a Cadillac dealer, and a whole pile of independent shops that have excellent reputations. Only the owner of the Chevy dealership is a well-known crook, and the same is true now of the four or five other dealerships he bought up in the last few years. He turned them into places where mechanics don't want to work, and there isn't much need for them because they don't sell many cars anymore. People drive 15 and 30 miles away to better dealerships if they want Fords or imports. It sounds like the dealer you were stuck with falls into that category too. Not all dealership people treat their customers the way you were treated.
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Wednesday, November 11th, 2015 AT 8:19 PM

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