True story: A customer brings his car to a repair shop and asks for a wheel alignment. After the alignment’s done, the customer comes by to pick up his car. While he’s paying the bill, he says to the service writer, “Well, let’s hope that takes care of the vibration I was getting at 50 MPH!”

Um, no, it probably won’t. Improper wheel alignment generally won’t cause a high speed vibration. That’s almost always a wheel balance problem.

So the customer spent a lot of money for a service that won’t fix his complaint. The shop did nothing wrong: They performed the service the customer asked for, and did it extremely well. The problem was that they didn’t know there was a problem, so they had no idea they were trying to fix something.

Think that’s a one-ism? Something unusual? Ask any service or repair technician in pretty much any industry: They all have similar stories… stories that end with customers paying for work they didn’t really need, all because they tried to diagnose the problem instead of trying to explain the problem.

Sometimes it works… sometimes the technician is smart enough to question the request and learn what the problem is… and sometimes it just ends badly for everyone.

There are a lot of reasons this happens: Sometimes it’s because the customer thinks he knows about cars. Other times it’s because the customer is hoping to avoid paying for diagnosis, so he tries to bypass that part of the procedure.

If he guesses right, terrific. But guessing isn’t a good diagnostic strategy. If that’s your thing, try going to the track: If you win, you’ll be ahead, and if you lose, well, at least you had fun.

But when it comes to car problems, you’re better off letting the technicians do their jobs. Explain the situation and let them handle the diagnosis and repair. It’s what they do.

The technicians at Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care are well versed in today’s cars and trucks, and they understand the systems that keep them running. Explain the problem to them and let them handle the diagnosis. You’ll get better repairs and save money in the long run.