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Dog Day

Today I had three service calls, one install of two new tv’s, two consults. Each of the three households had at least one canine member. The first was a huge dog, some kind of Labrador mix, quiet and friendly but not overly. She followed her master everywhere. The second was a tiny ball of fluffy fur with endless energy, she never merely walked when bounding was possible. Two dogs in the third household, one border collie-ish, the other like a smallish Samoyed. The collie greeted me at the driveway and I gave her a cookie. She carried it around in her mouth, without biting it, for several minutes, then trotted over to a nearby hedge and buried it.

I love dogs and I feel like they tell me a lot about their human companions, what kind of people they are. All the dogs I met today, they all had good humans. Good people.

Happy Frigid New Year!

It’s 2018 and StereoMan is back at work, dealing with the frigid weather as best as possible.

On a day like today (25 mph winds, expected high temperature of 23) it’s impossible to work outside, so I have to call and cancel my appointments. I regret the inconvenience, but thankfully my customers are understanding and willing to take a time slot on another day.

I’m so grateful to be working inside today! Besides the warmth and comfort of the Great Indoors, I’ve been able to spend a few extra minutes with each phone caller, of which there have been a half dozen already today, and with each walk-in customer, of which there have been almost as many! Not getting much bench work done just yet, but there’s still six more hours to my work day.

What Price Happiness?


I can’t be happy if my customer is not happy, no matter how unreasonable his request(s) may be. So if a customer orders a $500 stereo and then after I order the radio changes his mind and wants a different model so he can have Apple Car Play, what the heck? I’ll sell that first radio to someone else at some point, right? Get the customer what he wants!

And, of course, if anything happens to my customer’s car while it’s in my shop, I must take responsibility for it. After installing thousands of car stereos over two decades, first time ever the customer’s dashboard cracks when I’m taking out the factory stereo. What can I do? I have to pay to have the dash replaced. It’s mighty expensive, but it’s a no brainer. I have to do it. But oh boy was the customer pissed!

So the dash work done and paid for, it’s time to put the radio in, and I get it all done, it looks great, works just like it should, but the customer isn’t at all happy about having to plug his phone into the USB in order to use Car Play. He’s mad at me for not telling him that. We discussed it all in advance! he insists. I don’t recall that, but it doesn’t matter, I show him online that there is only one radio available right now that does Car Play wirelessly, and it’s not a Pioneer. I offer to install it for him if he wants to buy it, and take back the one he ordered. But he’s so pissed at this point he doesn’t want me to do anything for him.

The job ended up costing me about half what I make in an entire month, but I would come out of it satisfied if my customer came out of it a happy customer. But he didn’t. So I didn’t either.


I try to commit at least one miracle each week, and this week I managed to get two. First one was a 15 year old Cadillac Escalade that someone had cut all of the wiring out of the console. It had a Bose sound system in it, and there was no information on the wiring anywhere on the internet. I figured out how to get an Apple Car Play stereo to work through the Bose system without the fancy interface some other shop had sold him that didn’t work in his car at all.

I got nearly to the end of my day today before I committed the second miracle. I repaired a factory car stereo cassette deck. Yes, a cassette deck. Took it out of the car, stripped it down (about 25 screws and three circuit boards thanks for asking), replaced the broken belt, reassembled, and reinstalled in the car. One hour, five minutes.

The punch line: the woman I did the work for was not the owner of the car. She had borrowed it from a friend and the stereo broke while she was using it.

Saturdays … gotta love ’em!

I’m often in the shop by 8 a.m. even though I’m not officially “open” until 10. Gives me time for coffee and a little breakfast, tidying up, finishing paperwork, that sort of thing. Plus if one of my customers needs to drop off a vehicle, it’s convenient for them to do so before their work day begins. But I never make a 9 a.m. appointment.

This morning I was puttering around, cleaning the bathroom, emptying trash, around 8:30 someone came in, said “I’m your 9:00 appointment, I’m here early.” Heh. I thought for a second, then I said “OK, let’s get ‘er done.” So I gathered the equipment for the job and by 9:30 I was finished. Meanwhile, around 9:15, my 10:00 appointment showed up early. “Hang in there for a few minutes,” I said, “while I finish with this one.” I was done with the second job by 10:15.

The down side is that my breakfast got cold. And it looks like maybe my microwave is crapping out. On the bright side, I am ready for the usual Saturday onslaught of walk-ins without having to feel all apprehensive about getting my scheduled work done while I’m fielding their questions and making appointments with them.

Saturdays. Gotta love ’em.

Delayed Voice Mails

Jan 26, 2017

It seemed odd to me that when I got back from my Monday hike, there were no voice mails on my phone. But then this morning, like magic, they turned up. An hour later, I’m finally finished returning the calls!

The 20 Degree Backup Camera

Jan 8, 2017

Yesterday was the coldest day by far in recent memory, with a high temperature of about 24 degrees. But I had made an obligation to an elderly lady with an older Toyota Sienna to get her backup camera working, and considering how heavy my current backlog is, it was an appointment I did not want to break. I had taken a cursory look at it a few weeks ago when I was at her home resolving an unrelated stereo problem, and determined that the camera itself might be defective, but I did not have a spare with me at the time, nor the proper equipment to make a sure diagnosis, nor for that matter enough time to do the work. So yesterday I spent an hour shoveling snow out of my driveway at home, drove the treacherous icy roads to the shop, and spent another hour clearing enough space in my parking lot to park my own car and work on her van, should she turn up at the appointed time.

She did. I advised her that the repair might be time consuming, because the camera had been installed by someone else and I might have to take a lot of interior body parts off to resolve the problem. She was content to wait, with her sister for company, as I proceeded to bundle up in my colder-than-the-coldest-cold attire and began to dismantle the interior of the van. It took about fifteen minutes for my fingertips to begin to freeze. I went inside to thaw them.

I had to removed the panel from the back hatch, and the trim around the back window and the driver side windows and doors to expose the wiring. I found that unlike every other aftermarket backup camera I’ve ever seen, there was no connection at the backup lamp in the rear hatch, even though it was only inches from the camera. Instead, the installer had spliced into the factory wiring in the front driver side footwell. Strange choice, but I confirmed that it was working, in other words that was not the problem. Again I had to retreat from the cold outdoors to thaw my fingertips.

I brought out my spare camera and hooked it up at that point, and connected it to the rear view mirror monitor, confirming that the monitor worked when the vehicle was shifted into reverse. I then hooked up my own monitor to her camera and confirmed that it was not working. I had examined the wiring and found no apparent fault, but it was still possible that there was a break. I cut the wire harness at the back hatch and tested each wire. Apparently there was a break somewhere, but I couldn’t see it. No matter, there was only one choice remaining – install a new wire harness, and by necessity the camera it was designed for. But first, back inside to thaw.

By this time I had spent two hours working on the van, but my customer was patient and understanding. I installed the new camera and wire harness, connecting it to her existing mirror monitor, and it worked like a charm. All that was left was reassembly of the interior trim. As soon as I thawed out my fingers.

In all it took me about three hours to complete the work. I charged her for 2.5, and she was happy to pay and grateful for the work under far less than ideal conditions. Before they left, her sister made an appointment with me to look at her conversion van.

Two Tough Installs

Aug 24, 2016

Two tough installs today – a Jeep Wrangler and a Mercedes C Class. Mercedes is always challenging, the way they’re put together, the hidden surprises … the fake wood grain on the console that likes to crack when you try to get the radio out. The Jeep has speakers in the roll bar, overhead. Not far over, just a couple of inches. Which makes it extra hard to see what you’re doing when you’re changing them out. Add to that, they’re about a quarter inch shy of being standard size. So the aftermarket speakers don’t quite fit the factory mounting holes. You have to drill new ones. Without tearing up the padding.

Six o’clock jumped up on me right as I was finishing the Mercedes. I had to rewire the speakers twice because it had a factory amp (surprise!) and the levels were off whether I used the speaker outputs or the line level preouts. I figured out a solution though, and it sounded great when I was done. I took my time finishing. No choice. I couldn’t have hurried if I tried. Too tired!

Too Much Of a Good Thing

Aug 17, 2016

Yesterday I worked on a 2016 Kia Soul that had been brought to one of my competitors for a major sound overhaul, and they had made a major mess of it. I spent three hours straightening it out, only to find that the 5-channel amp they had installed was damaged, probably due to being improperly wired. Why didn’t the owner bring me the car in the first place? Because I was too busy to get him on my schedule in a timely fashion.

I really, deeply, appreciate the level of trust that the Asheville community has placed in me and on my work. I make mistakes too, believe me, but people know I will stand behind my work 100% of the time, and take care of any detail that isn’t quite right, small or large. As a result, I am consistently booked up two weeks or more in advance, and I have a shop full of unfinished repairs, despite working 55-60 hours a week.

Again, I am so grateful for this community, and for being given credit for my skill and integrity. I regret though that I am not able to provide my services more widely, or in a more timely fashion. Call it “too much of a good thing”. Thank you for being patient with me, I will get to you as quickly as I can. I am led to believe it’s worth the wait.