What could it possibly be now!

Tiny
TEEJETER
  • MEMBER
  • 2000 BUICK CENTURY
  • 113,500 MILES
So I took my buick into the repair shop with the knowledge that there was a TCC solenoid issue and that is what needed fixed. Once I got there I wanted to have it placed back on the diagnostics machine just to have that reassurance that that was my only issue. Once the hood was popped I was brought back into the garage with the concern of having a collant leak which I was aware of as I was putting a gallon and a half in the coolant resevour once weekly. The showed me that the intake manifold gasket was leaking and it needed replaced immidiatly!- And that it was more important to have this part done 1st and also was possible that the coolant was leaking ontop of my solenoid causibg he clutch to act up once the car heated up. I literally just had it fixed yesterday and today I get in my car to make a run and the damn low coolant light is back on and the coolant is low again. How the hell is this possible when I just replaced the the manifold? What else could this be? Or was it just not fixed properly. Because as of now I am a very very pissed off customer. 800+ dollers I spent just to have the same pro lem only a day later?
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Monday, February 13th, 2012 AT 5:03 AM

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Tiny
JACOBANDNICKOLAS
  • EXPERT
That is a good question. The coolant could be leaking in many places. Make sure it isn't getting into the motor oil. Check the water pump, check the head gaskets, check their work. I would, however, take it back and have them redo their work.
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Monday, February 13th, 2012 AT 5:14 AM
Tiny
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Well I realize as a female some mechanics find it that some women are mechanically illiterate so idk if this is why the problem is still persistant. My thibg is. Why would they fix the manifold and not seek out other leaks? Is another leak something the could bave found while replacing the manifold? Where is it the other leaks can be comming from? Arent they supposed to check for contaminated coolant when doing such a job? If there is engine oil in the coolant will a flush take care of it?
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Monday, February 13th, 2012 AT 5:58 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Boy oh boy, where to start?

I'm so tired of hearing "I'm a female so I know I'm going to be ripped off". That excuse has run its course. Over the years I had at least six female students in my Automotive Technology program, and one of them was useless, ... Just like some of the guys. Two of them were among my top ten graduates out of over 150 people I taught. You are welcome to know little about cars but you don't get to whine and snivel about it being because you're a female. I had a hard time learning to make hard-boiled eggs. Do I get to blame that on being a guy?

Second, when you have the attitude the mechanic is your adversary, that's how YOU are going to treat him. He is supposed to be your advocate. I would be very surprised to find a doctor who said to himself, "I think I won't fix this person's ailment today so they have to come back tomorrow". What plumber would purposely leave a pipe fitting loose so you have to call him back? He's too busy for that nonsense. Only auto mechanics are held to much higher standards than doctors. Boy if you don't diagnose every problem, including those I'm not aware of, and fix them all the first time, I'm going to be "a very very pissed off customer".

What kind of work do you do, and do you get it right every time? You own a car that is well-known for having coolant leaks. The intake manifold is one possible location. Regardless, you already knew there was a leak. With that, normal pressure can't build up in the system so what exactly would force the coolant to leak out of a second, or third place? Now that the known and visible leak is fixed, it's likely pressure is building up and the coolant is being forced out of a different place.

GM is also famous for using "Dex-Cool", that red coolant we call "Dex-Mud". If you follow their recommended change intervals, it will not get changed often enough and acids will build up in the system. The accumulation of those acids, and the fact that additives in coolant that combat those acids wear out over time is why we need to change it every two years. Due to that acid buildup, corroded heater cores and leaking radiators are very common on GM products. Don't blame that on your mechanic. My friend had something new leaking every six months on his Buick. He knew it was "the nature of the beast" and just kept on replacing things as necessary.

Now, it IS entirely possible your mechanic did something wrong, but getting angry isn't going to help YOU get your car fixed. Most shops pay their mechanics on a system called "flat rate". Among the checks and balances, if he has to do over anything he just fixed, he doesn't get paid again and the shop owner knows he can't charge you again. Try getting that kind of free service from your doctor. The mechanic also loses by not being able to move on to the next paying job while he's correcting mistakes on your car. He loses twice. THAT is why it's in his best interest to do the job right the first time.

The most important thing that is likely being overlooked is it is common on most engines now to develop air pockets in the cooling system after the coolant has been drained. Most of the time they work their way out on their own after one or two warmup / cool-down cycles. Where do you suppose the coolant comes from to fill in those air pockets? That's why there's a reservoir. If that's all that happened, your mechanic could have taken your car for a long test drive, waited an hour for it to cool down, then check the level, but in my experience, more people get angry at having to sit in the waiting room longer than expected. Why invite that anger?

If the mechanic had filled the reservoir to the very top in anticipation of an air pocket, you can be sure it would have heated up and expanded to cause a huge puddle on the ground. I'm pretty sure he didn't want that to happen so he only filled it to the "full" mark which is near the middle. It doesn't take much to fill in air pockets and lower the level in the reservoir enough to turn on the warning light. All it will take to solve THAT is adding a little more coolant.

The service advisers at the dealership I worked for were supposed to tell customers that the coolant level might go down in a few days, and to just stop back if it does. Another problem is they have to worry about the freeze point of your coolant. That has to do with the percentage of antifreeze and of water. Once they refill the system after a service, the freeze point can't be tested accurately until it mixes thoroughly. Later they can adjust the ratio by adding a little water or antifreeze, but there has to be someplace to put it. If your reservoir is already full, where' that additional stuff supposed to go? Had this happened at my dealership, it would be entirely possible the service adviser just forgot to tell you to stop back. There could be nothing the mechanic did wrong, but you're fixin' to go in there angry. Who wins then? You'll get the coolant filled either way. Being angry just makes everyone else less likely to go above and beyond what is necessary to make up for the inconvenience.

There's nothing wrong with taking the car back to the shop to allow them to inspect their work. They will fix what they did incorrectly, or they will diagnose a different leak, or they will simply add coolant to the reservoir. If you show up angry, you can be 100 percent certain you will not get the best service you deserve.

You need to change this comment:

"Well I realize as a female some mechanics find it that some women are mechanically illiterate"

to: "most people" are mechanically illiterate. It's hard for mechanics to keep up with all the ridiculous unnecessary technology on cars that changes every year. No one expects owners to keep up with it. Doctors have it easy. They only have to learn two models in varying sizes. Just the cures change, and they bury their mistakes. A mechanic's mistakes keep coming back, and boy do we let them have it if they make one!

There is nothing wrong with not knowing much about cars, but it's interesting to note that those are the people most likely to get angry rather than seek a solution. People who know a little about cars or who understand how the repair business operates are much less likely to get angry. I wouldn't even fault you for getting upset if you had to keep taking your car back and were not getting satisfactory answers or service, but definitely not after one visit and not before you at least give the poor sucker a chance to see what happened. How can any reasonable person have anger as their first response before they even know what to be angry at?
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Monday, February 13th, 2012 AT 12:02 PM
Tiny
TEEJETER
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Ok #1 I am not using being a female as an excuse nor did I suggest I got ripped off. In my statement I ONLY meant that some mechanics dont find some females tohave significant knowledge when it comes to cars. So how you got this pissed off about a statment I have no idea. But im asking for your help not your lectures about a statment that I made as a joke or a stament that I mafe in sarcasm about bein an angry customer. I came to you for a second opinion, if I was that upset why would I be on the internet writing you for a second opinion bc I trust that you are very professional rather then going to the garage and having them fix it. I wanted an idea of where else I needed to start. Not be lectured about another comment. Thanks you for what part of your response I needed however
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Monday, February 13th, 2012 AT 4:27 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
I only responded to your comments that I copied and pasted directly from your post. I got the impression, (right or wrong), that you were on one extreme of the spectrum and your first response was to be angry before we even knew if there was something valid to be angry about. My response was at the other extreme of the spectrum, (like balancing a teeter totter), and reached for the things that could explain what happened and why there might not be anything to be worried about.

There was nothing in your first post to suggest you were joking about your being angry comment. As I told my students over and over when they wrote written papers for me, you can't assume anything about how a comment will be taken when I can't hear your voice inflection or see your hand gestures or facial expressions. If you don't write it, I don't know it. Actually, that's why we have to keep replying back and forth until we make our messages clear. I'm sure had we been speaking face-to-face, our conversation would be considerably different.

I'm sorry if I wasn't clear, but there are just as many guys out there who know nothing about cars. I suspect they get treated differently because of how they handle that lack of knowledge. I recently had to buy a new furnace that I installed myself. I don't know anything about furnaces other than what they do, and the salesman knew that, but I asked a lot of questions and apologized for my lack of knowledge. The salesman couldn't stop offering advice and information. As a former mechanic, customers often trotted over to their cars while I was working on them and asked a bunch of questions. If their tone was accusatory or looking to place the blame for a breakdown on someone else, I did nothing more than give a short, quick answer, then went about my work. (I hate to imagine how my attitude was perceived). The worst offenders were usually old guys who thought they knew everything because they fixed a car 40 years ago. Young girls didn't care what I was doing. They just wanted to get going. Women in their thirties, however, were almost always the ones with the most coherent questions and the ones who paid the most attention when getting an answer. You gotta understand it can be an ego thing too to be asked to explain how something on a car works. We get to show off our knowledge, just like my furnace salesman.

On a related side note, My dealership also held a class once a month for all their new and used car buyers to explain in greater detail how warranty, the service department, body shop, and parts department work, and how to maintain their cars. Very few guys showed up. Admitting that lack of knowledge is seen as a sign of weakness, I guess. It was the ladies who were interested in learning more about the thing we trust to take us places and get us back home. Who in their right mind would look down on anyone wanting to learn more?

A lot of mechanics love to share information, but you have to understand what's going through their mind when they do so. First of all, they speak an entirely different language than car owners. Just like doctors talk with other doctors differently than they do with their patients, accountants, airline pilots, and mechanics do the same thing. If you stood next to a pilot while he was talking with another pilot, no one would think any less of you if you didn't understand what they were talking about. You might assume they feel superior, but smart pilots know that you are an expert at things they are not. The next time you feel a mechanic is looking down on you for not knowing much about cars, replace that thought with something about what you're an expert at and the mechanic knows nothing about.

Most mechanics do not have good communication skills when it comes to speaking with customers, and dealership owners know this and try to keep them apart.

Second, related to that different language we speak, most mechanics have been burned in the past when one of their comments was mixed up in translation and taken to mean something entirely different than what was said. That's not so bad if the misunderstanding is noticed right away with followup questions, but if the conversation ends with that misinformation, you are likely to assume you were lied to, the mechanic doesn't know what he's doing, or something else along those lines. It can be easier to avoid the possibility of that miscommunication by just not saying anything other than that short, quick answer. THAT is the first thing I think about when someone types that they're angry. Of the customer complaints I witnessed at three different shops, about 80 percent could have been either avoided or been handled better if the mechanic / service adviser, or shop owner had taken the time to explain things better. The other 20 percent could probably be attributed to the car owner's bullheadedness and refusal to give up incorrect preconceived notions. Those are the people who just can't be satisfied, but getting angry back at them doesn't help solve anything.

Another problem is systems on cars are too complicated and interrelated to just provide simplified answers. You see how long-winded I get here. Now imagine that it took eight weeks for each of eight courses to teach just the basics to my students. Cooling systems are discussed in the Engine Repair course, Heating and Air Conditioning course, Electrical course, and Transmission course. Both student and instructor are going to have a hard time explaining multiple leaks to you without going into those related areas. When we try, we leave you hanging with even more questions, hence the unintended feeling you think we're looking down on you for not knowing more about cars. The reality is most mechanics are going to feel frustrated that they don't have the ability to give you a clear, meaningful answer without a lot of elaboration.

As a final note on this topic, keep in mind there is a joke mechanics like to share about getting your car serviced. Without trying to remember the whole thing, it goes something on the order of, ... How does a woman get the oil changed on her car? She pays 25 bucks to let someone else do it. How does a guy change the oil on his car? He saves money by doing it himself, plus he knows it's done right. 50 bucks to buy a set of ramps. Drives off the side of one ramp and bends the fender. Drains the oil into the 5-dollar pan he just bought. Spills on the floor. Grab a beer. Drives to the auto parts store for a bag of oil dry compound. Cleans up the mess. Finds the drain plug threads are stripped. Bangs head while sliding out from under the car. Drinks a beer. Drives to the parts store for a new drain plug. Gets arrested for drunk driving. Calls wife to pick him up from the police station, ... After she's done getting her oil changed! Who's the smart one?

The moral of the story is you might THINK you don't know much about cars, but you're smart enough to know where to go for help.

I realize too that you never said you felt ripped off. My referring to that is from previous replies where other people also told how angry they were. That's just a part of my explanation related to the issue.

Okay, now that I got that out of my system, what have you done to address the low coolant issue? Are there any signs of a leak outside the engine and / or on the ground? To nearly empty the reservoir there had to either be a big air pocket that is gone now or something is going to be very wet. Check the oil level too with the engine not running. If it is above the "Max" mark. Coolant could be leaking into the oil. That needs to be addressed right away because antifreeze will melt the first layer of very soft metal on the engine bearings. It can't be helped that a little coolant is going to run into the oil when the intake manifold is removed, so it is customary to perform an oil and filter change right after that service. There are times when one could be tempted to not do the oil change when it looks like no coolant ran into the oil but I wouldn't want to stake my reputation on saving my customer a few bucks.
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Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 AT 1:05 AM
Tiny
TEEJETER
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Understood & respected.

But no there are no signs of leaking on the ground. The inside looks relativly dry minus tge smell of coolant which id imagine may linger untill maybe it burns off. I called immidatly after reading your first response and got the explaination that "when a job as big as a manifold is done sometimes an air pocket is a result" however im not exactly sure what that keans or why that would cause my low coolant light to come on or cause the coolant level to be low?
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Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 AT 3:02 AM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
There are places in the cooling system up high where air can accumulate and not "burp" out when coolant is poured in. Sometimes that air will never come out without temporarily removing a plug or sensor, or opening a bleeder screw. Some air pockets deeper inside the system can't be bled out manually and we have to wait for the sloshing during normal driving to get those air bubbles to work their way out to the radiator. From there, when pressure builds up, it pushes the air into the reservoir. The radiator cap has a pressure valve built in to allow that pressure to release when it gets over 15 pounds. (Raising the pressure increases the boiling point of the water to over 250 degrees, similar to in a pressure cooker).

Some of that air only comes out because it expands a lot when the engine warms up. Coolant also expands but not as much. Later, when the engine cools down, the coolant and any remaining air contracts and forms a vacuum that draws coolant back in from the reservoir. A different valve in the radiator cap opens to allow that coolant to flow into the engine very easily. Since liquid got sucked in from the reservoir to replace any air that worked its way out, the level in the reservoir goes down. If that's all that happened on your car, that is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about except the level is low enough to turn on the warning light. As a point of interest, about 95 percent of cars and trucks don't even have a level switch or warning light to tell their owners when the coolant level is low. The reservoir doesn't have to be totally empty to turn the warning light on. It could take no more than half a quart to bring the level up to the "minimum" mark although GM reservoirs are usually pretty big so yours might take a quart or two.

If you had shown up at my dealership after I had worked on your car, the service adviser would begin by sending me outside to visually inspect my work before even writing up a new repair order. If no obvious leak could be observed, I would just add water or antifreeze as needed to get the freeze point as close to -50 degrees as possible and to make the level correct. At that point someone would spend more time with you than at your previous visit explaining what we think happened, how to recheck the level over the next few days, and to call back or stop in if the level continued to drop. They'd approach it this way because they know that most likely nothing is wrong except there had been some trapped air. They also know there's that tiny chance there is a new problem or something needs to be done over so they don't want to just dismiss your concerns.

To explain where that free antifreeze came from if some was needed, it is always sold by the gallon. If we need to put six quarts in your cooling system, the last two quarts is placed in the back seat of your car because you paid for it. When we do warranty repairs, the manufacturer pays for that coolant. When there's a little left over, we just hang onto it by our work stations. We use that to top off systems when cars come in for routine oil changes and other service. Sometimes we don't write on the repair order that we topped off a fluid because some service advisers want to bill you for it. Sometimes we DO record that so it will show up your car's history the next times you come in. If you come in for a leak, we have documentation that we had to fill that system previously too, so we know this has been an on-going concern. That is more important if the car was in warranty because, at least I know with Chrysler, if the car is out-of-warranty but the problem was documented while the car was in warranty, they will still cover it.

Sometimes we spill a little, and if two gallons aren't quite enough for your car, we use that extra saved-up stuff rather than bill another gallon to your repair order. Every mechanic has extra engine oil, antifreeze, washer fluid, transmission fluid, and gasket sealers for those times when just a little is needed and it's not appropriate to bill it to your job. Shop owners know that's part of why our work areas always look messy.

It's also interesting that most mechanics guard their extra chemicals like they have great value. "Sure you can have a quart of my antifreeze, but you're going to owe me a quart!" For times like that, especially when a customer is waiting, the parts department will just give us what we need, then bill it to a running shop ticket so they can show where it went and why it wasn't paid for. That shop ticket can easily run up to over a couple thousand dollars per month in chemicals and small parts that they give away.
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Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 AT 5:02 AM

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