Shop Press

Shop Press is the news and idea hub for everything related to working on cars and trucks, focusing on repair, technology, and wrenching lifestyle.

From the creative minds at:


Hot Off the Press

The pros (and more than a few cons) of chrome

My Shop Press colleague Lemmy and I have had an ongoing debate about chrome. Since I’m a lover of antique cars, particularly Tri-Five Chevys, you can guess that I’m a pretty big fan of chrome. I think it makes any car look luxurious and stylish. Lemmy, on the other...

PSA: Make sure your Loctite isn’t fake!

Loctite’s threadlocking compounds are used by automotive professionals everywhere to secure critical fasteners. Unfortunately, Loctite's popularity has resulted in a wave of counterfeit products that can look remarkably like the real deal. Everything from the bottle,...

TECHNICIAN CHALLENGE: Can you identify these dash lights? (VIDEO)

Description Think you know your dash lights? Shop Press contributors Keith, Miriam, Chris, and Greaser try their best to identify all kinds of lights, symbols, and indicators. Some are easy, others obscure, and a few are even fakes. How many can you identify?

Dash warning lights: feature or bug?

Warning lights are something we’re all familiar with—all too often, they’re the reason a customer steps into your shop. Mechanics of a certain age will remember a time when the phrase “idiot light” was used to describe a dash light. The derisive term referred to the...

PSA: Check that cabin air filter

Most of us know that we should change the filter in our home heating and air conditioning system monthly, but why? What does it do? The role of the filter is twofold. First, it traps dirt, dust, pet dander, pollen and other allergens and helps keep the air you’re...

The seven words you never want to hear from a customer (and how to avoid them)

by | Aug 1, 2023

Picture this: it’s an unremarkable day at work, and you’re busy crossing lines off your to-do list. Suddenly, a recent customer returns and ruins your day with the following words. “Ever since you worked on my car…”

Look, nobody’s perfect. If you make a mistake that results in a problem with a customer’s car, you resolve the issue, deal with the consequences, hopefully learn a little something from the experience, and move on. But your responsibilities don’t end there. As an auto repair professional, you’ll see and know things about a vehicle that its owner(s) never will. And unless the vehicle in your bay has never been serviced or repaired anywhere else (including DIY repairs!), you need to pay attention… or pay the price. Here’s a cautionary tale to consider.

A coworker recently walked out to her crossover, only to find an ominous puddle of oil underneath it. When the dipstick revealed that the engine oil was dangerously low, she had it towed to a local shop for repairs. (Let’s call them Shop A). A different shop (Shop B) did an oil change on the vehicle a few weeks previously, which may or may not be relevant here. Shop A’s diagnosis? A crack in the oil pan had caused the sudden oil loss. This was surprising to my coworker, since she hadn’t done anything with the vehicle that would crack a pan. No offroad trails, no sweet jumps, no accidents. Also, she does not work on her own vehicle.

Leaking oil plug

Overtightening a drain plug is a rookie mistake. But hiding a mistake from a customer, or the boss, is not the solution. Photo: Mike Apice.

My entire job is focused on broken car parts, so I asked my coworker if she could have Shop A leave the broken pan with her so I could look at it. When the oil-soaked box arrived at my desk, I flipped the pan over to look for a hairline crack, a defect in the materials, or some sign of impact. Instead, I was greeted by a fat smear of RTV, a partially rounded oil drain bolt, and a heavily punished crush washer. I do not believe this pan died of natural causes.

A new oil pan and a few quarts of oil saved this crossover’s engine, but this situation never should have happened. In the first place. One simple rule could have avoided a lot of cost and frustration, not to mention a loss of trust. That rule? “If you see something, say something.”

Stripped oil drain plug

Your customer should know about damage like this. And your shop shouldn’t be blamed for someone else’s hack job. Photo: Mike Apice.

So, how can you implement these ideas into your own work? Here are five ways to protect yourself and your shop.


It’s easy to get tunnel vision when working on a specific problem on a vehicle. Don’t forget to take in the big picture and make a note of any obvious repairs that are needed.


Be quick to recommend work, but slow to place blame. You don’t need to play detective to earn a customer’s trust.


Make sure that both you and the customer have some record of the issue. Requiring a signature is a good way to indicate that the customer has seen your documentation of the issue. It may be necessary to have the customer sign a waiver before the vehicle leaves your bay if the problem is bad enough. Examples: dodgy aftermarket audio wiring, severe chassis corrosion, a vise grip on a brake line that’s “always been there”, etc.


Make sure your shop has a policy, even an informal one, that encourages techs to flag trouble when they see it. A culture of vigilance protects everyone.


If you own the shop, make sure you have a solid understanding of your liability policy. A customer threatening legal action will be required to prove that you are at fault, and your records are your first line of defense.
With these steps, you may hear a happy twist on the dreaded seven words. “Ever since you worked on my car, I’ve had a lot more confidence in it. I feel safer knowing that you looked it over carefully and fixed some past problems that I didn’t know about. Thanks!”

The articles and other content contained on this site may contain links to third party websites. By clicking them, you consent to Dorman’s Website Use Agreement.

Related Articles

Shop Press Comment Policy

Participation in this forum is subject to Dorman’s Website Terms & Conditions. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

Notify of
Inline feedback
View all comments

Get Articles In Your Inbox

Subscribe to receive a monthly email summary of our latest Shop Press stories.

Shop Press

I agree to the above privacy statement and T&Cs

Thanks! You're now subscribed.