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(apologies, as I know this has been covered before. However, I could not find much when searching...)

 

We are currently in the process of standardizing the time we pay technicians for diagnostic work. We currently have no standard, so a typical Check Engine Light diagnosis will vary between 0.5hr and 1.5hr depending on how complex it is. Most is an ad-hoc discussion with the service adviser on "what's fair?"

 

Naturally, we would like to standardize this to something firm. Curious if your shops have a set policy on this?

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Water Proof And Self Adhesive

I have seen level 1, level 2, level 3 implemented. I am not entirely sure if that is necessarily more profitable than a case by case basis approach. i have not implemented a level system however I was interested in trying it out. I can see how it can certainly clear up a lot of wasted time on debating on what should be charged. One thing is that you'll have to have a meeting to have everyone understand the system and your techs have to trust your SA's to charge appropriately. Weekly monitoring the progress of the system would also be important.

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As a tech that runs the shop I've got to say something that may be unpopular. There's no way to standardize diag time, charge by the hour. Trying to "book hour " diag times only leads to come backs and poor quality work. No if ands or Butts about it! Sure, if their dragging their feet on a simple diag, but don't lock down the times. Explain it's an initial hour of labor, at the end of that hour the tech and writer have a discussion on the additional time requirements, call the customer and get it approved. Just last week I had an f250 that took 4 hours to find a broken wire. Billed the customer 4 hours.

If you call an electrician and ask them to find the fault in a wall socket...Guess how long he charges you for?

If we keep up this standardized time push, it won't be long until no one's willing to work in this field.

If this comment is unappreciated - sorry just the way I see it!

 

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similar to ncauto here. Electrical diag and computerized diag is starting at 1 hour. Elec like broken wire tracing is however long it takes. 90% of check engine lights really only need an hour. We do half hour on leaks, noise etc as those typically dont take much time. If it does, we call the customer and explain it and havent had any problems to speak of.

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I use a graduated diag. fee based on a 5 year spread. Such as 2000 to 2005 is $20.00 cheaper than 2006 to 2010 so on and so on. Diagnostic time is also a separate charge as well. I try to keep diag. time to no more than 30 minutes. If the problem hasn't been located by then, then... it's by the hour, based on what the tech has found out in the preliminary 30 min. diag. time.

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You also have assess what your ACTUAL diagnostic capabilities are per technician. I battled with a tech for the better part of 2 years about diag time. I believe we charged appropriately however the tech was just generally slow and overly thorough... It is good to be thorough but not good if you are very slow! At the end of it all that technician wanted to blame the front end for not charging appropriately whereas this tech needed to take responsibility of being slow.

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You also have assess what your ACTUAL diagnostic capabilities are per technician. I battled with a tech for the better part of 2 years about diag time. I believe we charged appropriately however the tech was just generally slow and overly thorough... It is good to be thorough but not good if you are very slow! At the end of it all that technician wanted to blame the front end for not charging appropriately whereas this tech needed to take responsibility of being slow.

Very good point. We also have to take into account good days and bad days lol. I'm currently having a slow day where I'm not thinking clearly so my performance is sub par. I'll hopefully pick it up tomorrow. Point being is everyone has good days and bad days, if the problem is consistent then maybe address it. But charging accordingly covers the bad days. I'm to the point, I charge what I work on diag. If I'm slow, well the customer is welcome to take it elsewhere next time. Doesn't bother me a bit.

 

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I had two different master techs who just tested and tested and tested and never reached a conclusion. You would loose money with either one of these guys.

Was a conclusion ever reached? Or maybe I should say a repair ever implemented?

 

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Edited by ncautoshop
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IMHO if you start at an hour then you need better techs. You should easily find 95% of the issues in under 30 mins. I charge .5 and if I need more I call the customer to authorize more times.

I've got to disagree, many times we get an initial diag job, we spend 30 minutes with the customer, and a test drive, another 30 diagnosing a car. I do tend to take on jobs other shops turn down, so I may be biased. No job is the same, so we may complete in 10 minutes and bill accordingly. But on Initial visit most jobs I'm going to bill an hour.

The more I think about it, the more I realize there's a significant gap between the technical side and management side. A significant gap between properly diagnosing/repairing a car and keeping happy customers. Until this gap closes, we'll always have trouble finding good employees and in some cases offering a decent product!

 

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Edited by ncautoshop
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If you start at a half hour you are only covering your TIME and not enough for your equipment cost. I know when my Snapon scanners go down, it's a $400 flat fee for repair, and they have all needed something from time to time. EVAP machine investment and future repairs, multi/graphing meters, computers, etc...

 

I start at an hour and work on anything from a 1988 yugo to a 2015 f150. Some things take 10-15 minutes, others well over an hour. I remember being given a job from a customer for a rattle in the rear door. Been to the Cadillac dealer and another shop. Rattle in the rear door was actually under torqued subframe to unibody bolts. Took a while to catch that one. It's not always so cut and dry

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We start with charging 1/2 hour ($49). We make it clear from the beginning that we may need more time. We use a timer that we start from the test drive, and we don't go one minute over.

 

Starting at $49 keeps anyone from really complaining about the charge, but is usually enough to get started and catch simple things real quick. This means we get it on just about any complaint that comes in.

 

It also opens up the conversation early on that if it seems like a complex issue, we get approval for additional time (2 hours or so).

 

All that being said, I intend to increase our diagnostic rate in the near future, but remain at the 1/2 hour mark. Diagnosing at 1/2 hour intervals isn't as profitable as timing belts, trans service, etc.

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If it takes an hour I also charge an hour but that is very rare. Sure, when a car comes in and it's been to 3 different shops I am very clear to let them know that I'll charge time involved. But how many times do we actually have to yank a diagram out and start tracing x harness from the engine bay to behind the dash? Though if you do, I feel pity for you :P.

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I charge a flat diag fee, it equals 1.2 hours. The reason for this is to eliminate time wasting customers at the counter. Check engine light on, its $$ to find out whats going on. If they agree (about 90%) we are off on the right foot. In one hour we can determine what's causing the check engine light every time. Hold on, how is that possible? I didn't say we fix them in one hour, we just determine why the light is on. Say we determine a broken wire somewhere is causing an injector to not open, the diagnosis is complete and I call the customer with the diagnosis. You have a broken injector wire, to repair it will cost $xxx. I know by experience how long it will take to either find the open/short or run a new wire. Its not exact but if I charge 3 hours to fix an electrical problem I'm making money and the customer is saving the expense of 4 oxygen sensors AZ wants to sell them. If by chance we spend 3 full hours and still can't find the problem I rethink the problem. It means I was wrong, I'm not doing a proper repair, or the vehicle is a basket case that defies traditional logic.

 

Some techs don't get the whole picture, if there's a shorted wire its pretty easy to isolate what general area where the problem lies. Why spend hours or days trying to disassemble the whole harness when guaranteed its at a splice, connector, or loom that chafed through. Wires don't normally break inside protected conduit (weirder things have happened). Wire repair is not diagnosis, its a repair job.

 

I also urge all you folks to invest in a .99 squirt bottle, or repurpose your windex bottles. I can find a cracked ign coil or faulty plug wire faster with a squirt bottle than I can with my scope.

 

Sometimes we guess. What? Yup, we simply guess. Take a hemi that intermittently stalls driving down the road, then restarts no problem. No codes. Fuel pump pulls acceptable amps, everything else looks factory fresh. I'm going to guess and throw in a cam and crank sensor. Its a known problem, and trying to find the glitch on a scope is usually impossible. Idetifix and Mitchell confirm 200 times out of 201 its the problem, I'm not going to relive the 1st guys diagnostic nightmare. Which sensor is bad though, the cam or crank? It's a moot point, I can change both in less time than it takes to determine which one is bad and the parts are cheap.

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I charge a flat diag fee, it equals 1.2 hours. The reason for this is to eliminate time wasting customers at the counter. Check engine light on, its $$ to find out whats going on. If they agree (about 90%) we are off on the right foot. In one hour we can determine what's causing the check engine light every time. Hold on, how is that possible? I didn't say we fix them in one hour, we just determine why the light is on. Say we determine a broken wire somewhere is causing an injector to not open, the diagnosis is complete and I call the customer with the diagnosis. You have a broken injector wire, to repair it will cost $xxx. I know by experience how long it will take to either find the open/short or run a new wire. Its not exact but if I charge 3 hours to fix an electrical problem I'm making money and the customer is saving the expense of 4 oxygen sensors AZ wants to sell them. If by chance we spend 3 full hours and still can't find the problem I rethink the problem. It means I was wrong, I'm not doing a proper repair, or the vehicle is a basket case that defies traditional logic.

 

Some techs don't get the whole picture, if there's a shorted wire its pretty easy to isolate what general area where the problem lies. Why spend hours or days trying to disassemble the whole harness when guaranteed its at a splice, connector, or loom that chafed through. Wires don't normally break inside protected conduit (weirder things have happened). Wire repair is not diagnosis, its a repair job.

 

I also urge all you folks to invest in a .99 squirt bottle, or repurpose your windex bottles. I can find a cracked ign coil or faulty plug wire faster with a squirt bottle than I can with my scope.

 

Sometimes we guess. What? Yup, we simply guess. Take a hemi that intermittently stalls driving down the road, then restarts no problem. No codes. Fuel pump pulls acceptable amps, everything else looks factory fresh. I'm going to guess and throw in a cam and crank sensor. Its a known problem, and trying to find the glitch on a scope is usually impossible. Idetifix and Mitchell confirm 200 times out of 201 its the problem, I'm not going to relive the 1st guys diagnostic nightmare. Which sensor is bad though, the cam or crank? It's a moot point, I can change both in less time than it takes to determine which one is bad and the parts are cheap.

I don't subscribe to identifix and don't intend to lol.

I can say many situations this concept works well. However if you get a 6.0l powerstroke with an oil leak you could easily chew $1,000's searching for a hard start hot without proper diagnosis. I guess it all goes back to the disconnect between the management and the work. I've always heard that running a business and working in a business are two different things. It's become apparent lately that this goes both ways! The educational/training side is teaching techs to confirm the symptom, diagnose that cause, confirm the cause, repair the failure and confirm the fix. Meanwhile the management side is screaming "get it out, my money, my money! ". What really amusing is when it comes back, management always looks at the tech as incompetent.

Truth be known there's a balance of both. It keeps customer, tech and shop happy. I can say from my perspective I wouldn't want to be a tech for many of the owners who have commented here! Keep it up and you'll not have anyone to load the parts cannon! I think Alfredauto has the right idea! Sometimes we have to take guesses but the customer needs to know it's an educated guess, and the shop staff should all be in agreement that's the best route.

 

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Edited by ncautoshop
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      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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