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Article: Ouija Board Diagnostics - You're doing it wrong if your Ouija board is your go to diagnostic toolBy Gonzo
Ouija Board Diagnostics
I’ve often wondered why a lot of the driving public believes auto repair is something for non-thinking Neanderthals that have no ambition to do anything else in life. For all I know they think we (us mechanics that is) diagnose every problem by breaking out a Ouija board, while humming some ancient automotive chant. It could also be that a good mechanic just makes things look easy to the unaware and uniformed layman. With the right mechanic the whole thing can seem effortless, easy, and somewhat second nature when it comes to diagnosing a problem. To the armchair mechanic sitting at home watching the next new automotive reality show, it’s either – “Repairs are a no-brainer, I can do that”, or it must be some sort of Ouija board magic.
Mind you, the number of individuals who still believe anyone can be a mechanic is dwindling ever so slowly. Mainly because the car itself has gone past the point of parts swapping and a shade tree mechanic’s ability to repair the modern car. It’s no secret good old dad with the typical box of tools from a discount chain store can hardly change a spark plug anymore, let alone find them. Oh sure, you can still do a pad slap at home, and you can probably toss on a set of shocks, replace a bulb or two, but diagnosing a problem, especially one that involves some form of electronics… well… that’s a whole new issue to deal with.
It could be they need to master the Ouija board diagnostic scenario, or they need another round of You Tube videos. Every mechanic has undoubtedly heard the same thing from a well-seasoned You Tuber, “Oh I could have done that.” This usually leads to an even longer explanation of how you’ve done the entire repair wrong, but put the tools in their hands, and the results are pretty consistent. The car is either incorrectly put together, or they’ve lost some parts between point A and point B. Videos are great, but you still need to have some mechanical dexterity.
A good example of this scenario is when I was teaching a brake shoe replacement class the other day. After explaining the type of brake system we were working on, I removed the brake shoes from the car. Next, I reinstalled the same shoes, slowing down just enough so they could see how to use the brake tools. It probably took all of 20 minutes to explain it in detail and install the shoes. All the heads were bobbing and the usual consensus was they all had this repair procedure down pat, because, as we all know, anybody can do brakes. Well, as if it was no surprise, when the students got their hands into the job all I heard was one cuss word after another and the occasional student chasing a bouncing spring or clip across the shop floor. So much for easy, aye?
So, where do most of these unprofessional type mechanics and couch connoisseurs of the automotive world go for any information? Where else, the internet. The one place that doesn’t check the credentials of the person making the video, and the one place where anyone with a box of tools can be a superstar with a wrench. In their video they’re the automotive expert, camera man, sound man, director of content, and editor all at the same time. No need in researching the facts, looking up the proper methods, or any other various procedures, service bulletins, or the latest tools related to that particular job. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a video out there with a couple of guys surrounding one of those Ouija boards asking why the short fuel trim is higher on one of side than the other.
Ouija board or not, there are a few draw backs to internet information, but there really are a lot of super fantastic guys and gals putting out some very helpful videos on car repair. It’s just the few home brewed videos that make me cringe. Some of these back yard magicians seem to consult their Ouija board way too often. As if they conjured up some miracle answer right on the spot. Honestly, some of these videos are about as reliable as fake news. But, then again… that’s what some people think the professional mechanic does every day.
As there has always been, and there will always be, a shortage of trained technicians out there able to handle the job of repairing the modern car. I’m very sure we will never see the day when there is an overabundance of good mechanics who have to change careers because there is no room for them under the hood. It’s never going to happen. What does need to happen is the one thing consumers don’t want, and that’s cost of repairs most certainly need to rise, as well as the mechanics’ wages to keep up with all of these technical advancements. It’s not a maybe, it’s a must or the technology will run right past you. Ask any mechanic what they learned on a vehicle from 10 years ago vs. today’s cars, and you’ll find that nearly half of what they did back then isn’t applicable in today’s diagnostic procedures.
To be a good technician these days takes a lot of training, a lot of time spent reading, and understanding the latest technologies. New information comes from the manufacturers’ engineering departments just as fast as the cars come off the assembly lines, and to stay on top of things you need to study. I’ve heard people tell me, “Yea, I went to an automotive tech school to be a mechanic, but I didn’t learn anything.” Seriously? I’m sure you learned a whole lot. The problem isn’t the school training, the problem is you. Training doesn’t stop with your diploma, it stops when you stop wanting to advance your knowledge in the repair industry. School is a starting point, but to be a modern mechanic means you need to stay focused on the technology, take advanced training classes in your field of choice, and not expect answers from a You Tube video or your Ouija board.
There’s a lot to learn and retain. It’s not a trade where you learn one method and expect that skill to last you throughout your career. It’s an ever changing industry with ever changing technology. Learn the basics, then learn to diagnose the modern car. You can’t guess at a solution or consult that old Ouija board for the answers. It takes practice and a lot of hands on from a dedicated individual willing to get their hands dirty and diagnose an automotive problem. Then solve it correctly. Sorry, no Ouija board diagnostics allowed.
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Just a thought guys. I know I've seen shops where the operation runs amazingly efficient in terms of scheduling. The schedule is laid out where blocks of technician time is blocked off based on the in shop work as well as in coming appointments. Personally I have never gotten it to work well for me. We have a lot of inefficiencies with appointments mainly due to people breaking them. Customers generally do not respect appointments with auto shops as much as they do with doctors and dentists. I have tried every which way to make folks showing up for appointments as accurate as possible. The other problem is when vehicle inspections turn into big tickets with lots of hours. The third problem is blocking out time based on their efficiency %s but depending on the mix of work they might be extremely efficient or less efficient which will can throw a schedule into chaos.
How do you guys finding the use of a scheduler?
Ok here is a new one on me. Usually when a customer approves a repair large or small we either get verbal approval over the phone where we list the time and method of call (whether we called them or they called us) or written approval through a signed estimate, whether in person or by email.
Well a new customer brought us a 2001 F150 with severely worn timing chains and guides that turned out to be broken as well as leaking valves from kissing the pistons. Of course this led to a replacement engine.
After going back and forth for about a week with the options of a used engine (which did not last long) or a reman engine (which he chose) he finally approved the work. He brought in his deposit for the engine along with a contract for me to sign basically stating all that is getting replaced and the warranty involved. Nothing above what we agreed on but a little out of the ordinary.
Now the customer is an electrical contractor by trade so I'm assuming this is where this comes from. I signed the agreement since nothing was out of order and I wanted to make him feel comfortable since he is a new customer.
What are your thoughts on this?
PS- The main frustration with the customer comes from having to go through explaining what I could research as to the pros and cons of different brands of reman engines, only to end up ordering a Jasper unit like I quoted at the beginning. I have always had good luck with Jasper products and the one time I had an issue it was resolved quickly and painlessly.
By 5 Star Auto Spa
Does anyone currently use a digital menu board to display a list of their services at your repair shop? We are in the process of updating our menu board and were thinking about going to a digital display. I looked online and found these guys:
It's a company called truDigital Signage and the content that they have available in terms of videos that can display on the menu board looks pretty impressive. I was wondering if anyone is currently using these guys or a service similar to these guys for their digital menu board and if it has made a difference in terms of increased exposure/sales to customers?