Maintenance Knows no Limits - Tire Review Magazine

Maintenance Knows no Limits

Whether it's cars or appliances, some periodic care keeps things running smoothly.

It was so quiet in the lunchroom that you could almost hear a fresh layer of dust settling on the set of aged Chilton Manuals and a variety of old tire data books. The dog-eared reference books stood side by side like long-forgotten soldiers as they guarded the sagging bookshelf.

“How much longer?” Tooner’s hoarse whisper in my left ear broke the silence. I almost jumped out of my coveralls.

“Quiet!” I hissed, peering through the blackened glass of the coffee carafe. “I thought I saw another drip coming, but now I’ve lost count!”

He sniffed and straightened up. “Fine,” he growled. “By the time that piece o’ junk leaks out enough brew to fill my cup, coffee break’ll be over!”

Basil opened his thermos and waved it in Tooner’s direction. “You should follow my example and bring your own.” He grinned. “Much more reliable and palatable.”

I abandoned my hopeless vigil and fumbled in my pocket for some loose change. Soft drinks aren’t good for my health, but I needed my caffeine fix and it was obvious our coffee machine had nothing to offer. “Maybe it’s plugged,” I said. “When’s the last time we cleaned it?”

Beanie looked up from his tire magazine. “The coffee pot? That hasn’t been cleaned since I started working here!”

Quigley sighed in resignation. As service writer, it was his job to keep the java flowing.
“Okay, okay. I’ll take a look at it.”

Dragging ourselves back out to the shop, we resumed the jobs that awaited us. Beanie had the honor of changing the transmission fluid on an older model Buick. Hot, smelly oil spilled into the drain bucket as he partially loosened the last few bolts of the pan.

“Phew!” Beanie wrinkled up his nose. “That’s one burnt tranny. I’ll bet the filter is plugged up solid.”

“No doubt.” I glanced at the repair order stuck to his toolbox with a magnet. “That figures – this is Rep Tyler’s old car. He doesn’t like to fix anything until it breaks.”

Beanie shook his head. “Well, you should tell him that a little preventive maintenance is a whole lot cheaper than replacing the transmission.”

With the price of new cars being what they were, most of our clients had now bought into our preventive maintenance program. But Rep Tyler wasn’t one of them.

At noon we walked into the lunchroom, only to discover a bright and shiny coffee maker gurgling away merrily on the lunch counter. I stared in amazement at the steady stream of coffee draining into the carafe. “Quigley,” I gasped, “what did you do? Is this a new machine?”

Our service writer’s face was grim as he wiped his blackened hands on an old dish towel. “Nope, that’s the old one. But you won’t believe the crud I found in that thing.” He shuddered. “There was so much moldy residue inside, I’m surprised the coffee didn’t come out green!”

Tooner frowned. “Now that you mention it, it has tasted a little funny lately…”

I was thrilled at the transformation. “This calls for a celebration, boys!” I opened the fridge to look for some ice cream bars I’d stuffed in the freezer last summer. But when I tried to open the door of the freezer compartment, it wouldn’t budge. “Uh, Toon, have you got your small screwdriver handy?”

After much prying we finally got the door open, only to come face-to-face with a solid block of ice. Somewhere in the middle of it was my box of ice cream bars.

“Time for a little defrostin’,” grunted Tooner. “And I thought this shop was a preventive maintenance facility!”
After lunch I found an old ice pick in my toolbox and handed it to Quigley. “Here – you’re the appliance fix-it guy. Basil and I will cover the front counter while you chip.”

Loud banging and muffled curses emanated from the lunchroom as Quigley fought with the iced-up freezer compartment. I was about to check his progress when the front bell jingled, announcing Rep Tyler’s arrival to pick up his Buick. He was upbeat as he paid his bill.

“Heck, with that new tranny fluid and filter, I’ll bet the old rig’ll be good for another hundred thousand miles!”
I cleared my throat. “Ah, Rep, we need to talk to you about that. Have you ever heard about something called ‘preventive maintenance’?”

Rep’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Yeah, I heard talk of it. Sounds like a money grab, if ya ask me.”

“Not at all,” said Basil with a smile. “It’s a proven scientific fact that long-term effects and cost comparisons usually favor preventive maintenance over performing maintenance actions only when the system fails.”

We both stared at Basil in confusion. “Huh?” said Rep.

Basil was in his glory. “Of course, preventive maintenance is the logical choice if, and only if, the following conditions are met.” He held up an index finger. “One – the overall cost of the preventive maintenance action must be less than the overall cost of a corrective action.” He lowered his voice. “Of course, in the overall cost for a corrective action, one should include ancillary tangible and/or intangible costs, such as downtime costs, lawsuits over the failure of a safety-critical item…”

I stopped him before he could hit us with condition two. “Uh, let me call Quigley, Rep. He’s much better at explaining this stuff than we are.”

I hollered for Quig, and moments later he stormed through the lunchroom door, chest heaving and hair sticking out in all directions. Rivulets of sweat streamed down his face as he held the ice pick before him like a weapon. “Whaddya want now?” he snarled angrily.

I gulped. “Er, could you explain to Rep here about the benefits of…” I looked around, but our customer was gone. “Where’d he go?”

Basil pointed down the street, where Rep was sprinting away like a rocket on two legs. You’d think he’d seen a ghost. Or a madman with an ice pick.

We take preventive maintenance quite seriously around our shop, and do our best to convince our customers to take part. But next time, I’ll ask Quigley to leave the ice pick behind when he comes out to greet a customer – it tends to give the wrong impression.  

Rick Cogbill, a freelance writer and former shop owner in Summerland, B.C., has written The Car Side for a variety of trade magazines for the past 14 years. “A Fine Day for a Drive,” his first book based on the characters from this column, is now available for order at

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