AAAAGGGHHH! Just typed for over an hour, and was just scrolling down to the "Reply" box and the power went out! Missed it by three seconds!
To try to reconstruct my valuable dissertation; Ball joints on Blazers are a real common problem and often need to be replaced every two or three years. Control arm bushings are also common. The steering and suspension systems should be inspected at a tire and alignment shop. They will also look at anti-sway bar links and bushings. These clues aren't exclusive but in general a sloppy ball joint will knock once when turning and again when straightening out. Control arm bushings tend to rattle continuously on bumpy roads.
Wheel bearings like yours commonly become noisy but they make a buzzing noise like an airplane engine. To cause a thumping sound they would have to be noisy for so long first that most people can't put up with the irritating buzzing for that many years. They would also cause other braking and handling symptoms.
Everybody assumes they are going to get ripped off when they take their car for service. One problem is most owners know very little about the machines they trust to get them back home. The second problem is mechanics speak an entirely different language than car owners, and third, we hold mechanics to much higher standards than doctors.
You might consider looking for an "Automotive Fundamentals for Consumers" night class at a community college. You won't learn how to fix your car, but you will learn how to know when a problem is serious and how to understand the explanations you're given regarding those problems and their solutions. You'll also know how to even ask the right questions. Service advisers greatly prefer to have conversations with people who know what's going on or at least understand the problem with their car. A person in any profession finds it difficult working with customers who know little about what's going on, and they will become uneasy knowing the customer suspects them of being dishonest. Most women know a bunch about hair and makeup. Imagine how a guy would feel if he had to discuss this topic with his wife's hairdresser. Imagine how comfortable the hairdresser would feel.
In this class you may also learn how auto repair shops operate and what the mechanics' daily routine is like. Why might your car be done in an hour but you got charged for two hours labor. (Hint: it is totally ethical and will usually save you money). Why do they recommend more parts than you were expecting? Why is one shop recommending a part that costs more than at another shop, and how to know which part is the best value. Why did they call and say you need more parts and labor after you approved the estimate and the repairs were started? (Service advisers really hate doing that, and they really really hate calling you a third time).
That brings us to the second problem; very poor communication. Doctors talk with other doctors very differently than they do with their patients. The same is true with mechanics. One mechanic can tell another one what's wrong with your car in two sentences and they'll both know the cause, the fix, and how to prevent a repeat of that problem. The mechanic gives that story to the service adviser who typically knows relatively little about cars but he has good communication and customer relations skills. He has to interpret the story and present it to you in a way that you can understand. Believe me things get lost in translation. That is not being dishonest but that's the perception, especially if, due to a followup complaint or request, the mechanic hears the customer's version of the story later. He won't even recognize it as what he originally told the service adviser. As an instructor, one of our common sayings is "what you heard is not what I said". We see this in every political ad how words can be manipulated and twisted to say one thing and mean another. (My favorite example: "Your beauty is timeless". "You have a face that would stop a clock"). Both people said the same thing but they sure don't mean the same thing. We see evidence here every day of the miscommunication and severe lack of understanding. Too often confused customers are suspicious customers. I will never defend a dishonest service professional, but of the many times I've been asked to explain a misunderstanding, about 95 percent of the time no dishonesty was intended. People post questions with quotes from their mechanics that even we can't understand, and the terminology is all mixed up. We know the story has changed between what the customer was told and what they remember being told. Often we have to drag symptoms and observations out like they're top secret. The funny thing is, you, along with a lot of other people make comments that imply you're asking us for advice because you want an honest answer. You trust us but we can't even see your vehicle and we don't know the service history of it. In reality, your regular mechanic is better-equipped to give you sound advice on your specific problem. We can only give you generalizations for the most part, but gosh we're good at it!
The third problem is we hold mechanics to much higher standards than our doctors. Doctors have to learn two models in varying sizes for their entire careers. A mechanic has to relearn dozens of new systems on dozens of new models every year, and if he only sees one of that model in a year and works on it for an hour, he is still expected to be an expert on every part of that car. People think you can learn to be a mechanic by going to a two-year Automotive program. That is absolutely not true. All our kids learn is the basics to get hired, then they need continuing advanced training for the rest of their careers. No one can succeed long in this field once they stop attending classes.
When a mechanic doesn't diagnose a problem correctly or doesn't solve the problem the first time, many people assume he is incompetent and they move on to a different shop. The worst thing you can do for us is to tell your friends and coworkers we messed up because we thrive on satisfied customers and word-of-mouth advertising. The best thing you can do for both of us is to come back and let us examine our work and correct any mistakes. When a doctor doesn't cure you on the first visit most people keep going back and do not assume he is trying to rip them off. They have it easy too. Doctors bury their mistakes. Ours keep coming back with their angry owners.
I should mention too while it's on my mind one typical reason a problem such as yours might not get solved the first time. As soon as an experienced mechanic sees "a thumpty nose when driving which seems to be coming from drivers side" printed on the repair order, he will likely think, "here's another Blazer with sloppy ball joints; third one this week". If he verifies that with an inspection, why would he keep on looking for that noise? Those ball joints might have been sloppy for a long time but the noise you're hearing is something entirely different that just started. Perhaps you didn't specify there are two different noises, an old one and a new one. Perhaps, ... And this is too common, ... The service adviser assumed he knows what's wrong because you described the same noise a dozen other Blazer owners described and he noticed those vehicles were solved with new ball joints. Instead of typing on the repair order, "locate thumping noise", he typed "check for noisy ball joints". Good service advisers are trained to not start the diagnosis process because that can cause the mechanic to concentrate on the wrong thing. No dishonesty was intended but it's easy to see how the process of solving the complaint can get derailed.
Another common source of frustration for problems not getting solved is temperature. Rubber bushings in particular can make squeaking or groaning noises that get worse when they're cold. After spending time searching for the source of the noise in the warm shop, he might stumble upon a squeak that can only be heard under the car and assume he found the problem. Regardless what parts he replaces, the noise will be gone on the test drive because the bushings are still warm, but when you hop in the car an hour or two later, the noise is still there. Intermittent problems are another source of frustration. There's no defect to be found when the problem isn't acting up but many people don't understand that. That's like asking your doctor to diagnose a headache you had two months ago.
I've been a suspension and alignment mechanic since 1984 and I know what failed parts make which sounds, but as an instructor I learned real quick to be amazed at what my students find when they inspect cars. I know to never say, "no, it can't be that because, ... " Until I see it for myself. There's way too many times I would have been wrong. We have the same problem when trying to diagnose your car over a computer. The best I can do is give you the more common things and the clues in identifying them. We know you aren't going to roll up your sleeves and start fixing it yourself. My goal is to make you a more-educated consumer. No one expects you to know every part on your truck and how they work. Instead, if you know the right questions to ask, and understand why they do some of the things they do, it will be easier for everyone to get the problem solved to your satisfaction. For example, when are used or "remanufactured" parts okay to put on your vehicle? Why is your 20-dollar part better than the same part for 15 dollars at your competitor's shop? What happens if I pay the amount on this estimate and the problem is still there? Do you have mechanics who specialize in this type of problem?
We can answer a lot of those questions here but few of us spend this much time going into long-winded explanations. I do because if it helps you understand why we do what we do, you'll be in a better position to make informed decisions about your truck's repair, and you'll be much less likely to feel taken advantage of. I always taught my students that I was their advocate in working toward their career goals, not their adversary as too many students think. Car owners should also think of their mechanics as advocates, not the enemy.
As a side note, I worked for my cousin for 30 years part-time in his tiny tv repair shop. He was so extremely honest and ethical it was embarrassing, but he made a comfortable living for 2 1/2 people in a little farming community of 2,000 people. All he needed was word-of-mouth advertising. I also worked for a couple of years at what had to be the state's most dishonest tv repair shop. He assumed customers were there to rip him off so he was going to stick it to them first. I learned a lot of tricks to watch out for, but those tricks often left the customers thinking he had their best interest at heart. Finally word spread and he ran out of customers in my extended community of well over 100,000 people. It was a shame too because he was a fantastic technician. I learned a lot from him and that's why I stayed for two years but I also learned tricks that would bring tears of envy to the Mafia!
We can not get away with many of the tricks he pulled in the car repair business because we have state laws the give the customers rights, and those laws protect the shop owners as well as the customers. Here again, it is helpful if you look at the mechanic and the service adviser as your team, not your adversaries.
We try to not get involved with prices and costs here because there's way too many variables but we can answer questions you may have regarding why they recommended certain parts or services, and whether they are a good value. I can interpret the numbers on the printout you should get after an alignment. I can really get long-winded too on explaining why and how things are done in the shop. Billing labor according to "flat rate hours" is a common question but face-to-face it takes me ten minutes to fully explain all the details and the drawbacks and benefits to the customer, shop owner, and mechanic. Many other business charge according to flat rate but they don't call it that. Barbers are good examples. No one watches or cares how much time he spends on each head. They all get charged the same.
I know you didn't ask for all this information, but I get on a roll when I read comments about "getting ripped off". Also, being female is no longer a valid excuse. There's a whole bunch of guys who can barely put gas in their cars. Also, two of my top students over nine years were girls. The guys had a lot of respect for them because they paid attention and studied hard. Both of them came into my program knowing nothing about cars.
If I raised any questions you'd like answered, I'll be happy to explain what I can, hopefully not with three pages of information. I don't think my fingerprints will hold up to too much more typing!
Wednesday, October 31st, 2012 AT 8:06 AM