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The Basic Tools Have Changed - timing lights and meters have given way to micro processors and sensors


Gonzo

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The Basic Tools Have Changed

 

 

What would you do if tomorrow all your scanners and internet connections just completely stopped. Would you be able to perform your job? For some, it would be quite impossible to even begin the day, let alone make it to lunch time. As for your car, well that’s a different story all together. In some ways, yes, in others… not a chance.

 

 

If such a thing happened, you’d hear the senior mechanics shouting, “Ya gotta learn how to use the old basic tools! Otherwise you’ll have to rely on those confounded computers for everything!” These days nearly every repair requiring any sort of data has something to do with a computer, whether it’s for checking service codes or looking up specifications. I doubt too many shops rely on the old hard copy book anymore. But, that’s the catch to this modern world of auto repair. The basic tools of the trade have changed. Sure, the fundamentals are still the same, but the tools, those every day diagnostics tools and those basic every day jobs have changed.

 

 

I’m sure the next generation of techs would find it hard to imagine a time when a dwell meter and a timing light were on the top shelf of every mechanics tool box. Back in the day, they were the “go to” testing equipment. You couldn’t walk through a shop without seeing the flashing strobe of a timing light, and I’d hate to even guess how many hours I’ve spent under a hood with one. But, times have changed, and those basic tools have been replaced with microchips and sensors.

 

These days, in most of the trade schools the emphasis is on learning to read diagrams, use scanners, and doing the hands-on under the hood training. Which is all good, and well worth it. I doubt a lot of time is spent on learning how to use some of those out dated and antiquated tools of the trade . . . if at all. There’s only so much you can fit into the classroom time. The instructor will probably mention them, spend a quick minute or two on them, but it’s not a tool most of the new students will even use in their future. There’s no doubt the technology has changed, not only the basic tools, but the teaching methods as well.

 

Just the other day I ran across a post on Facebook from a young tech who was trying to solve a problem on an early 80’s car. He was thinking the problem had something to do with the O2 sensors, but his ever reliable scanner wasn’t able to read information on that old of a car. As he put it, “Without the scanner I’m lost.” He didn’t know how to check an O2 other than using that “confounded” computer. So instead, he passed the job onto another shop. Probably one those shops with a few old timers around who still knew how to check one.

 

I can picture the whole scenario. The young tech takes the car to one of those shops that have been around since the earth was flat, and some old gray haired tech steps up to the challenge. He’s probably that same guy in the far corner bay who listens to 60/70’s rock music in the background and relies on a volt/ohm for everything, all the while sharping his ever shortening test light to a fine point. But, that young tech watches intently as the old timer shows him how to check it with those “old” basic tools of trade.

 

What if a car from the 40’s or 50’s showed up at your shop? Would you know how to repair it? There’s not too many guys left around from the generation of magnetos and 6 volt systems, and those tools and testing methods are getting lost with each passing year. For me, I’ve learned most of what I know on those old systems from the old timers in my life. The whole point of this is, “Should the new up and coming techs know some of the old methods of testing?” Sure some of them, if not a brief description of how to use those tools from a few decades ago. There’s still quite a few of those cars out there.

 

To put it another way, not everything you learn in this business is out of a book or from a classroom. Some of it comes from being around those who have experienced it firsthand. That’s really how knowledge is passed down from generation to generation, and that includes the use of those basic tools of the trade.

 

But, in today’s fast moving and ever changing automotive repair market, learning some of the old school methods may sound important, but at the same time a lot of those old procedures and basic tools are practically useless. Some of the old methods and tools have been improved upon so much by modern technology that the original basic tool is almost unrecognizable in comparison to today’s version of the same tool or procedure.

 

For example: holding a long screwdriver up to your ear and listening for a loose rocker arm, or checking a misfire by dead heading each spark plug wire with a test light could be considered dangerous, if not entirely unacceptable practices now. Besides, with most of these new cars you can’t even get that close to everything.

So, a little note to the old guys: Someday a young tech might come up to you and ask about the tools of the trade that you used back in the day. Give them a little schooling on the ways it used to be done. They might ask you what a growler is, or how to use a timing light, or how to bubble balance a tire. Show them, teach them.

 

But, keep in mind you younger techs, one of these days you’ll be the old timer in the shop, and you’ll be the one showing the next new generation your version of the basic tools of the trade.


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Great article !! luckily I came into this business at the end of the rebuilding of parts and all the manual checking of components. So I got the best of both worlds. Old cars not a problem points, condensers, setting dwell and timing bring it on LOL. One thing made me laugh the old Growler turn on the big magnet set your armature in it, place your hacksaw blade on it and turn it get a dancing blade a shorted armature ..Replacing the brushes using small drill bits or paper clips to hold them in place as you slip the armature in .. LOL yea none of the new guys would have a clue in fact I like pulling out the old tools every once in a while and quizzing the guys to see if they have any idea what it is or how to use it. Even some of the not so old tools like the off set 10 mm and 19 mm wrenches for the ford escort crank bolts and t/belt tensioners , the long torx bit for the ford van plenum... I can go on and on even a DVOM new guys would say "what is that" LOL

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yes, old tools. There is a lot of them around, some lost but for the most part can't be used in today's world, and have been replaced by a far better tools and as you know at a much greater cost then those old tools!

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

    • By Joe Marconi in Joe's Blog
         4
      Typically, when productivity suffers, the shop owner or manager directs their attention to the technicians. Are they doing all they can do to maintain high billable hours? Are they as efficient as they can be?  Is there time being wasted throughout the technician’s day? 
      All these reasons factor into production problems, but before we point fingers at the technicians, let’s consider a few other factors.
      Are estimates being written properly? Are labor testing and inspections being billed out correctly? Are you charging enough for testing and inspecting, especially for highly specialized electrical, on-board computer issues, and other complex drivability work?  Is there a clear workflow process everyone follows that details every step from the write-up to vehicle delivery? Do you track comebacks, and is that affecting production?  Is the shop layout not conducive to high production? For example, is it unorganized, where shop tools, technical information, and equipment are not easily accessible to every technician?  Are you charging the correct labor rate and allowing for variables such as rust, vehicle age, and the fact that most labor guides are wrong? Also, is there effective communication between the tech and the service advisor to ensure that extra labor time is accounted for and billed to the customer? These are a few of the top reasons for low productivity problems. There are others, but the main point is to look at the entire operation. Productivity is a team effort.  Blaming the techs or other staff members does not get to the root cause in most cases.
      Maintaining adequate production levels is the responsibility of management to create the processes that will lead to high production while holding everyone accountable. 
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