The story so far:There were clunking sounds from the front suspension when driving on patchy pavement, unpaved roads and such. After ignoring/thinking about it for several months, I took it to a mechanic in Yuma who said I needed to replace the Pitman arm and idler arm and it would cost $900. His markup on parts was outrageous, so I ordered the parts from RockAuto.com and had my mechanic friend, Forrest, install them. That took care of most of the clunking, but I still needed an alignment. I went to an alignment/suspension/chassis shop in Yuma where the guy examined my steering and said I still needed new inner and outer tie rod ends, which I knew was a possibility. He never got back to me with an estimate, and after watching a couple of YouTube videos I figured I could do that job myself. Shortly after, I relocated to Why AZ to hang out with Lou again. I ordered and received the tie rod ends. I gathered the parts and tools and got under the van to start work. I immediately discovered I didn't own a certain big-ass wrench. Neither did anyone else at the campground. Rats. Okay, I'd have a mechanic do it. The man everyone recommended was Ernie, in Ajo.
I suspected Ernie might be a good guy because he was jovial on the phone and had no issue with installing parts he didn't get to mark up. In fact, he said, "People can save a lot ordering online." He was still happy-go-lucky when I arrived for my appointment.
"Let me check the tie rod ends first to see whether they actually need replacing."
He and his assistant jacked up the Rolling Steel Tent and started pulling, turning, levering and shaking things.
"I don't see anything wrong, except one nut that's kind of loose." They tightened it and repeated their inspection.
"Really, man, it all looks good to me. I think you'd be wasting money replacing the tie rod ends. You need an alignment, though."
"Yeah, I knew that. Can you do it?"
"Naw, I'm not equipped for that."
"Okay. How much do I owe you?"
I tried to get him to accept something, but he refused. Imagine that. I thanked him, wished him well, and went in search of an alignment.
There's another mechanic in Ajo. He could do an alignment "sometime late next week." He was also surly. I told him I'd probably be gone before then. He recommended a place in Gila Bend. So I hit the road.
The shop in Gila Bend was also booked up, so I continued on to Discount Tire in Buckeye. Tire stores are set up to crank out as many customers a day as possible, but even they were jammed up. They suggested the Brake Masters shop next door. They were able to take care of me.
1. A slow moving mechanicIt turned out to be the second, with maybe a little of the first. They showed me the printout. Not only had he adjusted toe-in (the driver side was way out of spec), he'd also checked and adjusted caster and camber. Okay, I figured that was worth my time and seventy bucks.
2. A very thorough mechanic
3. Malfunctioning equipment
4. A mechanic who didn't know what he was doing
"The handling will still be a little wonky because of the wear on the tires." (I knew that would be the case.) "So you might want to go next door and get new ones."
"Next paycheck," I replied as I took my keys and waved adios.
I stopped back at Ernie's Garage to thank him again for not doing unnecessary repairs. He and the guys had wrapped up the day's work and were sitting around, jawing, and enjoying beers. He offered me one, too.
Ernie said, "Yeah, there are a lot of mechanics who'll lie to you and take your money. I can't do that. I have a conscience."
I told him I was going to say nice things about him on the Internet.
He laughed (he laughs a lot) and said, "Sure, if you want, but I have enough business. Besides, if they google me they won't find anything. I don't advertise. I'm not listed. I just use word of mouth."
Okay, so here's my word of mouth:
Northeast corner of Highway 85 and Snyder Street