Smart Service: Independent Subaru Maintenance and Repair - Completely Independent of Subaru and it's Dealers!

Mike Mike's Corner

Mike left the dealership network in 1999 to start Smart Service. He wanted to get back to the basic premise of a face-to-face relationship between the customer and their mechanic, which just wasn't a possibility at the dealership level. Mike is currently certified as an ASE Master Technician and has over 13 years of prior Subaru dealership training and experience. He has over 21 years of overall automotive experience and attended the Shoreline CC Automotive training program in 1985.

T'was the night before Christmas

T’was the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring not even a mouse…. Actually, the real story goes… it was about a month before Christmas and inside a 1996 Subaru there WAS a creature stirring and it wasn’t a mouse at all.

It all started on a normal afternoon at the shop. Thomas, our service advisor, handed me the phone with a customer on hold and said “you’re gonna love this Mike”. I picked up the phone and it was Charlene, one of our customers. She asked me if there was any way a rodent could get out of her 1996 Subaru Outback? I was a bit perplexed. Get out of the car?? We often get calls asking if there was any way a rodent could get in the car, but not out of the car. I thought about it for a moment and replied that the only way it might get out is through the heating/ventilation system. By now I was just a bit curious. Why would my customer ask if a rodent could escape her car? I had to ask. She quickly brought me up to speed. It was her daughter, Annelise’s 12th birthday. Charlene was transporting home what was to be a special present for her daughter that evening. It was a hamster (later named Frodo after the Lord of the Rings character)! It turns out Frodo was on a quest for freedom. Somewhere between the pet store and home, Frodo tenaciously gnawed his way through 2 cardboard boxes and escaped inside the car. From the sounds of the pitter-patter, the hamster had made it into the heating system behind the dashboard.

As any loving, dedicated mom would do, Charlene determined there could be only one option. Rescue the hamster for her daughter’s birthday. She called me and asked for any ideas. I told her she might be able to gain access if she removed the heater fan blower. She collected up her tools, flashlight and portable phone and set out on her mission. I talked her through removing the glove box assembly to access the heater blower. After a few minutes and some contortion under the dash, she was able to get the heater blower loose, but it just wouldn’t come out all the way. As I was helping her along she would update me on the scratching behind the dash. “He’s on the drivers side”, He’s up by the windshield, claw, claw, claw…”

I had talked Charlene as far along as I could, but we both agreed it was about as far as we could go with over the phone instruction. It was time to get serious. I went into the shop and chose the lucky technician that would be enlisted to head our hamster rescue operation. Bruce Ganyo was our man. I wish you could have seen the look on his face when I briefed him on his mission. Once Bruce realized that I wasn’t off my rocker he headed out to Charlene’s for the rescue. Upon arrival he was able to hear the hamster loud and clear. He was impressed by the work Charlene had done so far. She disassembled her vehicle to the point of having blower motor ready for removal. Bruce tugged and twisted the blower motor the rest of the way out but by then the little birthday boy had gotten smart and headed for higher ground. He was holed up clear on the other side up under the dash. Bruce acted quickly, moving to the other side of the car, completely removing the speedometer/tachometer housing in record time.

Once the speedometer was removed Bruce was able to see that his little friend had worked his way out of the heater to a little nest of wiring up under the dashboard. Bruce was a bit shocked when he first saw the hamster. Frodo was much bigger than Bruce ever remembers hamsters being. Bruce thought to himself, “There’s no way I’m going after that thing with my bare hand!”, especially once hamster began to hiss and growl now that he was cornered. Bruce then wrangled up an old ski glove to attempt the extraction. With a stick in one hand, a ski glove on the other and Charlene standing close by with a new escape-proof box, Bruce moved in swiftly. He pinned the hamster down with the stick while he blindly maneuvered his hand up into the crevasses of the dash. The growling, hissing and squealing built to a feverish pitch and then, with the swoop of the glove he was caught. Bruce moved swiftly to put fierce Frodo into his new box before the layers of ski glove were chewed through.

Bruce and Charlene both breathed a sigh of relief. Mission accomplished. Bruce began the task of reassembling the dashboard while Charlene went to put the hamster inside the house. By the time he had the dashboard was reassembled Charlene had a plate of freshly made chocolate chip cookies waiting for him. Fortunately for the rest of us waiting on pins and needles, Bruce brought them back to share while he told us his story.

Merry Christmas and a happy holiday to all of you especially all of you hard working moms that will go to any length to see their children happy!

Mikes Sig