Jim and Jade are preparing to take their children to visit Grandma and Grandpa (a four-hour drive) over the week of Thanksgiving. Their 2005 Honda Odyssey has been trustworthy for around-town driving and the occasional weekend trip. They’ve done a fairly good job of keeping up on maintenance and repairs amidst their busy schedules. However, they’re not quite sure the vehicle is ready for a long road trip and they know it’s due to be checked. On Friday, a week before they need to leave, they call their auto repair shop to schedule that pre-trip inspection for peace of mind.

Jim dials the phone. As usual, he hears Tina’s friendly voice on the other end.

“Tina, hi, I would like to schedule the Odyssey for a pre-trip check.  We’re planning to head out of town on Friday. Can I have the vehicle looked over and get the oil changed while it’s there?”


Tina responds, “I can get you on the schedule for Wednesday morning, Jim! You’re welcome to drop off in the morning and pick up in the evening if all we’re doing is inspecting the vehicle and changing the oil. However, I want to be sure you are aware that if the inspection turns up any concerns, we may need a few days to address them,” Tina offers. “If it’s all simple, we’ll have it done the next day. If we have to special order parts or do a major repair, it may be a few days.”

This is a pretty normal scenario for this repair shop. They are reputable and they value their relationships with their clients, just like they have with Jim and Jade. They want them to know what to expect and be comfortable before they make the effort to drop off the vehicle.

“Ok, yeah. Let’s schedule for Wednesday, then,” replies Jim, feeling good that there won’t be anything major to be concerned about. 

Jim and Jade drop off the vehicle at 8 am on the Wednesday before their trip. Per Jim’s main concerns, the vehicle is inspected and the front struts are found leaking. For safety’s sake, now is the time to replace them. Jim is notified of the problem.

“How urgent is this?” he asks after Tina explains.

“It’s definitely a safety concern. If it were our Mom’s car, we wouldn’t want her to take it on a trip without attending to it first. Those struts are a crucial component to the vehicle handling safely at high speeds in any demanding situations. For example, anything that might require you to get hard on the brakes or swerve quickly

“Ok, how much and how long?” Jim asks.

Tina discusses the budget estimate and time-frame. The struts are on special order, 2 business days away. This means the repair would be done on Friday – the day they were planning to leave on their trip. The shop can complete the work by the end of the day, but Jim and Jade made plans to leave early in the morning. So, from the time Jim picked up the phone to the time they would be able to pick up their vehicle, nine days (including the weekend) elapse until their vehicle would be ready to pick up, and they have a conflict with their desired departure time.

Now Jim and Jade are stressed. Do they take the vehicle on the trip and risk waiting to repair this safety concern when they get back? Do they rent a vehicle for their trip, adding to the cost of their travel budget?

Planning Ahead

About 3 weeks earlier, Larry and Louise are getting ready to visit their grandchildren on Thanksgiving. Louise calls to have their 2010 Toyota Corolla inspected and have some minor maintenance taken care of. Louise tells Tina that one of their main concerns is that in the past couple of weeks the engine has barely started a couple times. The shop is in a busy season so Tina schedules them for four days later. 

As it turns out, the alternator is beginning to fail, and the resulting low battery charge has barely been adequate to start the engine. Not wanting any further trouble, or getting stuck 3 hours away at their daughter’s house, Louis and Larry approve the repair.

They have two excellent options for high-quality alternators, but the lower cost option is a two day special order. They take this option and save some money. Two days later, the alternator arrives late in the business day and is replaced the next day.

All-in-all, from the day Louise picked up the phone to the day they picked it up from the shop, it took nine days (including the weekend). This gave them plenty of time to spare before their trip.

The Lesson

A reputable repair shop will often be scheduled at least 3-5 days out, sometimes more during busy periods as the holidays approach. Depending on the service needed, several days can elapse (in rare cases a couple of weeks) between the first phone call, a committed slot in the schedule, finding the source of the concern, preparing an estimate, receiving parts, and completing the repair. The shop, being reputable, will take the time to confirm the root cause and repair it the right way the first time. After all, you don’t want the issue to resurface while you are on your trip.

Even if you aren’t much of a planner, it is wise to think ahead when preparing your vehicle for a trip. We don’t like people to feel stressed with a tight timeline before they absolutely need the vehicle. We are also cautious about letting a vehicle with a safety or reliability concern leave our shop. While it is the choice of the vehicle owner, we will offer a litmus test – would we encourage  our mother to drive the vehicle in this condition? If the answer is no, then we will encourage you to take care of the issue while the vehicle is here. We want the best for you, your family, and the people driving around you. We want you to have a safe and enjoyable holiday!

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