I don't know which is worse my own stupidity for listening to AutoZone Technicians twice, or their apparent complete ignorance about car repair.
1) Alternator or Battery.
My first run in was several months back when I had problems with my car. It was night, and the lights on my dash had dimmed and battery indicator was dropping fast. I had to call and have my wife jumpstart my car twice to make it the three miles to the nearby AutoZone, the only place open at 8:45pm. I explained to them what happened, then they hooked up their tester which seemed to give conflicting results as I watched. They then swore it was the battery, that was not taking a charge, and that the alternator was working. They replaced the battery in a few minutes, and I was on my way, hoping for the best. That lasted for about 10-15 minutes, when I observed the same symptoms had reappeared, so I went back. They tested again, the same way as before, and now claimed that it was the alternator. I spoke with the manager who insisted that it was both the battery and the alternator that were defective. Unfortunately, being late at night, I went home sulking that I had been potentially doped by them.
When I went to my regular mechanic the next day, they were doubtful too about the battery being bad. But since I did not have that battery in my possession, at that point they believed there would be no way to prove one way or the other, since it was probably trashed.
2) Wrong Cylinder
My latest run-in with the ignorance of their technicians was where my car was idling rough. Having had LOTs of problems with the defective design by Ford, where the spark plug wires get wire up in the carbon and are ruined. I suspect that as the problem. I stopped by my mechanic that Saturday, and he said that until my check engine light came on, the OBD may not show which cylinder had the bad cable. It would be easier to come in on Monday, if the light was on, otherwise we'd have to check each one.
On that Sunday after church, it began to miss more and finally the 'check engine' light came on. So I swung by the same AutoZone, as it is near my house, and had them hook it up to test it. Sure enough it was missing on a single cylinder, number 3, as I had suspected. Unfortunately, the location of cylinder 3 was something I had never really bothered to commit to memory.
I asked them if I could purchase just a single cable, thinking that might be easy enough to get and swap out. The sales/tech told me that was no problem. That was the first clue that he was clueless. The more technical person working that day pointed out that the length should be matched, as well as the type. So they decided to remove the cable and see if they had one in the back.
After the first one spent several minutes looking at the engine, trying to figure out which cylinder was number 3, I pointed out that I knew that it was in the repair manual, and that "I would just look in the book". Unfortunately ignorance and stupidity seemed to be in spades that day as they proceed through several technicians struggling to figure out how to get the wire out from the harness for the plug that they through was number 3. I also mentioned that the 'trick' to releasing the harness was also in the repair manual.
After 35 minutes of this they finally concluded that they did not have the cable, and they plugged my cable back in. Then they suggested they might have the 8 pack, so that I could get all of the wires. But not wanting to reward them for their ineptitude I declined and went on my way.
My own stupidity came from trusting that they really knew which wire it was. The reason I am ***, is because I followed their suggestion, and got a whole set. At least it was from a competitor ;-) But I bought it, believing that I was actually going to have to replace the wire from cylinder 3, since they had checked that it was not loose and put it back securely too.
When I get home to swap out the wire, I had this nagging fear that they did not really know which one was number 3, since they sounded like they really were a rather clueless bunch. Then when I pull out my own handy repair book, and through the use of that clever concept called an index, I flipped right to the page on the spark plugs. And low and behold to my utter disgust, I find that they had spent 20 minutes trying to get out the wrong wire. So I go check the real cylinder 3, and there it is, the cable is loose as a goose, so I checked them all and now all is well.
Unfortunately, I choose not to checked them all, because I had trusted those hapless technicians at AutoZone. Needless to say, I have no intention of ever giving them any of my business at any of their locations. I don't see any point in rewarding a company that employees who are not just unknowledgeable, but are unwilling to listen to reasonable suggestions like 'look it up first'.
Ticked at AutoZone
Monetary Loss: $50.