Written by:
Richard Young
Director of Aftermarket Content & Programs

Recently, a customer called to have a window regulator installed in his 2010 Ford 150. I asked if he wanted me to pick up the part before his appointment, but he said he had the part and would bring it with him. I was kind of confused as to why this particular customer, who is usually a pretty resourceful guy, called me to do what appeared to be a simple job. When he showed up with his vehicle and the new regulator, I noticed he’d placed wooden doorframe wedges between the door and the window to hold the glass up—he’s a carpenter by trade. I used a couple pieces of tape to secure the window glass and removed the wedges.

I always examine a new part, especially when the customer brings it in. Sure enough, it was a new window regulator in a box. I asked him where he purchased it, and he told me, “Online.” Although I had done a couple of these installations in the past, it had been a while, and I thought the new unit looked a little different. But my customer confirmed that, according to its catalog, the company assured him this was the correct part.

The customer was picked up by a family member and would return in about an hour. As I started removing the door panel, I noticed the insert that requires removal to gain access to the retaining screws showed signs of being disturbed, and one of the retaining bolts was loose. The deeper I got into the door, the more I believed someone had recently been into it. After removing the door panel, I started to remove the actual regulator and motor assembly. I could tell it too, had been recently disturbed. I got the old one out and sure enough, the cable pulley had failed. I then compared the new regulator assembly to the old one. It was similar, but not correct. I scrutinized the new one to discern if it possibly was a redesign. I could not determine a way to correctly install the new unit. The mounting bolt locations differed from the old unit, and the electrical connector pin configuration was a completely different design.

By this time, the customer was due back in about 15 minutes, so I called my local counterman at the parts store and asked if he had a regulator for the vehicle. He said he did not have one in stock, but could have it Monday morning; he just needed to know by 4:00 if I wanted it—by now, it was 3:30. I thought, “Ok, the customer should be back any time. I’ll discuss it with him since I don’t know the circumstances of the part he’s purchased, and its associated return policy.” The customer arrived around 4:10. Too late to order the part from my parts store.

Where’s the Customer Support?

I explained the situation: that the regulator he brought me was incorrect for his application. He said he wondered about that because he’d tried to install it himself and was unable to determine how it would work. He had contacted the online source where he purchased the regulator, using the only form of contact provided: Email. In the five Emails he’d exchanged with them, the company insisted it was the correct part for this application because it was the part number shown in the catalog. That’s when he made the decision to ask me to install it. I explained that since it was so late in the afternoon, I would not be able to get the correct part until at least Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning. He needed to use his vehicle and would not be able to bring it back until the next Saturday. He asked me to go ahead and order the part for him. I reassembled the door and installed his wooden wedges, and he left to return a week later. He also took the new, incorrect part, and was going to try to get the price refunded.

Saturday rolled around, he arrived and I installed the correct regulator. I asked if he had gotten the refund for the other regulator. He said not yet since they’d just ok’d him to ship it back a day ago. I finished the job in about 30 minutes and made out his bill. I included the time spent for both door panel removals and reassembles. He looked at it and wrote out the check for the amount, which was roughly double what I had originally quoted for the job. He also handed me 40 dollars in cash and said, “Here, go out and eat on me for all the trouble that incorrect part caused.” He left satisfied, and since it was the end of the day, I sat down and started to calculate just how expensive the incorrect part was.

Incorrect regulator was $62.00, shipping included
Charge for correct regulator, $110.00
Labor 2.2hr x $95.00 pr hr =$209.00

So, I only had the hard numbers before determining whether he was going to get a refund for the incorrect part. He had spent $381.00 for a job that could have been done for $205.00. I talked with him a few weeks later, and the online company did refund his money, but he had to pay to ship it back to them, which was $9.00. So with the refund, it still cost him $123.00 dollars more than it should have, and three weeks without a properly operating window. This does not even include the time it took him to take it apart the first time. In doing further research, I determined that the online company had the part number reversed in their cataloging, which was possibly just a simple mistake.

As automotive technicians, there are a few things we rely on to make our days flow smoothly. One of those is receiving the correct part for the application that we are ordering it for. If the part fits the vehicle but does not solve the problem, then it could possibly be a misdiagnosis, or a bad new part in the box. Either way, it’s best to start over in the diagnosis. I also frown upon using parts to diagnose with— always do a complete diagnosis. We have all lost time due to receiving the wrong part, or even getting a bad part out of the box. How much time do we lose to issues with catalogs? When the part is miscataloged, or the catalog data is insufficient, or in this case, the numbers reversed. These are the types of issues that make having a great cataloging system and an even better look up system very crucial for today’s manufacturer.

Catalog Issues = Lost Time & Lost Sales

I have seen multiple times where a faulty catalog has created ill will between the parts store and installer. Most of the time, just having complete and accurate data in the cataloging system will end those issues.

I had the fortune, or misfortune, however you want to look at it, to work within the cataloging department during my tenure with a parts manufacturer. I was assigned the task of mapping water and fuel pumps to their correct application. Mapping is the way a catalog professional takes large amounts of data about an application and then connects it to the correct part for that specific application. In my months of working part-time within the catalog department, I developed a whole new appreciation for the cataloging professional. If you look at it, they build the foundation for all product sales. If the catalog data is incorrect, or an application is left out, or if it’s just something as simple as transposed numbers, these types of errors translate to direct lost sales for the company, and no one wants that.

As a technician though, it can cause problems in many different ways, including lost time, because if you are supplying the part, you can’t charge the customer for the extra time. If it’s a cataloging issue, then it really isn’t the counterman’s fault, so they are not responsible for the lost time. I have on a few occasions over the last 30 years, had a manufacturer reimburse some of my lost time, but this is not the norm. Those manufacturers that had catalog issues and did not admit to them, were no longer my first choice, and because of that, it meant lost sales for them.

A Salute to Catalog Professionals

In today’s digital world, and with the ease of access to manufacturers catalogs, it’s no problem for the installer to look up the part number to order if their schedule allows. In this instance, it is even more important that a manufacturer have a catalog that is easy to navigate, and the data is correct and complete. It also increases the installer’s confidence if there are photos to compare with, and other technical information about the installation of the part.

An excellent catalog professional is a hero in my book when it comes to making the parts supply chain run smoothly. I have known several great catalog professionals over the years that were outstanding at a very meticulous and tedious job. I thank them for helping me appreciate what they do for the industry.

I know from experience a good catalog is a time- and business-saver for the technician, and without question, an often overlooked vital piece to the automotive repair puzzle.