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You're Probably Better Off Seeing Your Mechanic Than Your Doctor.

Updated: May 6, 2019

I am sure it has happened to you. You are in a hurry, you hop in your car, turn on the ignition, and your vehicle starts making an unusual sound or flashes an ominous ‘warning’ light. This happened to me just last week. An orange warning icon I’d never seen before suddenly appeared on my dashboard. My frantic review of the driver’s manual revealed that when illuminated, this orange light meant the vehicle required immediate evaluation for a potentially urgent problem. I don’t speak ‘mechanic’, so I did exactly what I was instructed to do…drove straight to the service station.

Since this was not a planned event, I did not have an appointment. The beautiful thing is that it didn’t matter. My vehicle had an urgent issue which needed immediate evaluation, and they would work me in. I found it challenging to explain my story to the mechanic. Their dictionary doesn’t contain the words “thingy” and “doohickey”. He first intently listened then asked me detailed questions, all the while taking notes. He searched the computer database and reviewed the entire history of my vehicle’s 12-year life span…every maintenance visit, every hiccup…everything. Only after he had a clear understanding of the nature of my vehicle’s current “symptom” and had reviewed its detailed history did he ask me for the keys to begin his examination.

After nearly one hour, the mechanic emerged from the service garage unscathed. He was confident he knew what the problem was but wanted to perform ‘diagnostics’ to confirm his suspicions and identify other potential problems. “Your vehicle is a complicated machine with thousands of moving pieces and parts” he told me. “The orange warning icon is a sign of possible pressure issues in your gas tank. But, because this could be affected by a lot of other things, we need to check everything”. Of course, I agreed. I didn’t even ask about the cost because not having a functional and safe vehicle to drive was not an option. Believe me, there’s no price tag for safety and sanity when it comes to driving, especially in South Florida!

Three hours later, my vehicle was cured. Not only was the orange warning icon gone, but everything related to the original problem had been identified and fixed. It turns out that there was more than just one issue contributing to the overall problem. However, without a thorough evaluation of the entire car, these other issues would have gone undiagnosed. I was extremely grateful to the mechanic for his thorough, multidimensional approach to diagnosing and treating my vehicle. His expertise indirectly saved my life!

As I drove home, I pondered some of the incredibly important observations I had made throughout this ordeal:

1. When I saw there was a problem with my vehicle, I didn’t ignore it (even though it screwed up my plans for the rest of the day). Instead, I took immediate action knowing that continuing to drive an unsafe vehicle was NOT an option!

2. The service station worked me in even though I didn’t have an appointment.

3. The mechanic listened to every word I said and conducted a thorough review of my vehicle’s history before he even took the keys.

4. After his initial evaluation, the mechanic did not give me a set of sunglasses and say, “Awww, just ignore that pesky little light. These sunglasses will help. It will eventually go away.” Nor did he say, “Are you sure you see a light? I don’t see anything. Maybe you are just stressed out or need to have your eyes checked.” Oh no, the mechanic actually realized that even though I didn’t know what the problem was or what was causing it, I still knew there was a problem!

5. The mechanic new exactly what was going on and where to look for other hidden issues before he even touched my car. He simply used the ‘diagnostics’ to confirm what he already knew.

6. The mechanic did not focus his attention simply on turning off the orange warning icon. He popped the hood and examined everything, not assuming the problem was coming from only one thing. In so doing, he identified and corrected other major problems that were contributing to the original problem.

These observations reminded me of how similar the auto and medical professions truly are. The only difference between them is that one treats vehicles while the other treats people. So why are our experiences with doctor’s completely subpar when compared to our visits to the mechanic?? Moreover, if our doctors are as good as our mechanics, then why do so many of us feel like crap? Would you drive your car if it had a potentially serious problem? What would you do if your mechanic just told you, “everything’s normal, it’s all in your head”.

I could go on a rant, but instead, I am trying to understand why our vehicles receive better ‘medical’ attention than we do. Here are some possible explanations I can come with:

1. Mechanics don’t take ‘health insurance’ for vehicle maintenance or treatment. (So nobody can tell them what to do or how to do it!)

2. There are no prescription drugs to band aid the symptoms of an ailing vehicle. Symptom = diagnosis = treatment. That’s it.

3. Mechanics don’t have the same time constraints as physicians. They can actually spend more than 5 minutes with each vehicle.

4. Mechanics understand there is always a reason for that annoying sound, the orange warning light, or the leak. They don’t give you ear plugs, sunglasses, or band-aids so you can just ignore the problem. They will search and search until they figure out what the problem is…no matter what it takes.

5. Mechanics understand that a vehicle is a complicated arrangement of millions of pieces and parts that must work together. When there is a problem, they don’t isolate their search to only one spark plug. They approach the symptom with a wide-eyed view of all the possibilities, no matter how unlikely they may be.

Perhaps medical schools should throw in a few courses in mechanics as they train the next generations of doctors….

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