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Ouija Board Diagnostics - You're doing it wrong if your Ouija board is your go to diagnostic tool


Gonzo

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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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Since I've been teaching lately and not under the hood, I'm seeing a whole different aspect to automotive repair.  When new prospects show up at the school and I'm free, I'm usually the one to walk them around and show them the college grounds.  It never ceases to amaze me how some snot nose kid will walk around with me and tell me, "I already know everything there is to know about how to fix cars.  I've been doing it since I was 15. I'm just going to this school because I can't get hired on anywhere."  Really...??? you already know everything???  Dammmmmm!?! I can't understand why you can't get a job.... (chuckle, chuckle)  Then when they're in the class room they're the ones that can't understand lefty loosey-righty tighty.  so so so typical.  They're also the ones that usually flunk out of the program too.  LOL 

It's actually kind of funny in some ways that the majority of the students don't know who I am or what I've accomplished.  Once in a while they pick up one of the magazines in the front lobby and see their teacher.  Then, they have to show it to me....like they've just discovered something that I didn't know.  Too friggin hilarious. 

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Great article , Great points. One problem is as the cars get harder and harder to fix we buy more and more expensive equipment to fix them. Isn't it funny how the guys that can fix them are the poorest and the ones that BS their way through drive the nice cars, go on long vacations,  and eat out all the time .. oh yea and make youtube videos  LOL.. 🤔

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

         5 comments
      I recently spoke with a friend of mine who owns a large general repair shop in the Midwest. His father founded the business in 1975. He was telling me that although he’s busy, he’s also very frustrated. When I probed him more about his frustrations, he said that it’s hard to find qualified technicians. My friend employs four technicians and is looking to hire two more. I then asked him, “How long does a technician last working for you.” He looked puzzled and replied, “I never really thought about that, but I can tell that except for one tech, most technicians don’t last working for me longer than a few years.”
      Judging from personal experience as a shop owner and from what I know about the auto repair industry, I can tell you that other than a few exceptions, the turnover rate for technicians in our industry is too high. This makes me think, do we have a technician shortage or a retention problem? Have we done the best we can over the decades to provide great pay plans, benefits packages, great work environments, and the right culture to ensure that the techs we have stay with us?
      Finding and hiring qualified automotive technicians is not a new phenomenon. This problem has been around for as long as I can remember. While we do need to attract people to our industry and provide the necessary training and mentorship, we also need to focus on retention. Having a revolving door and needing to hire techs every few years or so costs your company money. Big money! And that revolving door may be a sign of an even bigger issue: poor leadership, and poor employee management skills.
      Here’s one more thing to consider, for the most part, technicians don’t leave one job to start a new career, they leave one shop as a technician to become a technician at another shop. The reasons why they leave can be debated, but there is one fact that we cannot deny, people don’t quit the company they work for, they usually leave because of the boss or manager they work for.
      Put yourselves in the shoes of your employees. Do you have a workplace that communicates, “We appreciate you and want you to stay!”
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