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By Jay Huh
Saw a Tesla the other day at the mall with it completely stripped down.
Has tires with tie rods connected to the steering column and a self contained motor at the rear.
No oil, no spark plugs, no moving components.... everything electronic.... NOTHING to replace but tires and possibly brakes every 100,000 miles.
Is this the future? How long, in 20 years? 15 years? I'm 30 and I think I will be good by the time I retire but a completely different story for the next generation. Gotta think too, as we start transitioning over, there will be less and less work for the numerous number of automotive shops out there. Just in my shopping center alone, there are 5 major shops and 1 more across the street. In our 5 mile radius, there has got to be more than 20
Mad Max of the Future
I’m a big sci-fi fan. Everything from Star Trek to the Road Warrior movies, and anything else in between. If the story line is good, well, that’s a plus, but what I like to keep an eye on is the technical aspects of the movie and compare it to the technology we have today. You know, see if they’ve improved on the technology we already have. For example, the communicator in Star Trek can easily be transitioned into the modern cell phone and other technology like that. It’s just one of the ways to look at past and present technologies, but a lot of times these movie plots don’t follow the progression of technology. In fact sometimes they get it entirely wrong.
In the Mad Max movies we’re to assume the movie is set some time in the future after the fall of society. However, all the engines appear of the 70’s era. They’re all carbureted engines. I mean, how did they skip over decades of computerized vehicles and end up with carbureted cars with a shortage of gasoline? I’m pretty sure none of those four wheeled creations in the movie are running on a PCM or ECM. Where’s the check engine lights? Where’s all the scanners? Where’s all the DIY hackers? Did all the electronic and technical creations end up useless after a gigantic solar flare wiped them out?
It could be, as the movie goer, you’re just supposed to accept the fact as to which cars survived. In a realistic view, those engines would have been all but worn out by the time the apocalypse came around. But, it is just a movie. Then again, what would happen if we moved the time frame of the movie up a bit and relied on today’s advanced technologies.
Hmm, well it’s not likely anything has a working computer. Who’s going to flash the crazy thing? No internet and obviously no manufacturer’s website to get the info from. That puts the likely vehicle to be a pre-software controlled car, or maybe it would be a full electric car. Sure why not? There’s still solar and wind power around, and maybe one of those cyber geeks/mechanics was able to figure out how to rig up some sort of software bypass that could get these technically advanced cars back into running condition.
So, what kind of modern technically advanced car would Mad Max be zooming through the desert in then? I think I know. Let’s go to the opening scenes of “Mad Max of the Future” movie.
It’s years after the world as we know it has fallen apart. Chaos is rampant, there’s no internet, no infrastructure, and nothing but insanely radical and delusional characters running around. Now, for the movie buff, seeing Mad Max flying down the highway in his modified hot rod equipped with a huge blower and nitrous is part of that testosterone movie appeal, but that’s not around anymore. He would be more inclined to be driving something that he wouldn’t have to deal with the gas shortage. What if Mad Max’s car wasn’t a snarling gas guzzling combustion engine from the late 70’s, but a car of the here and now? I know the perfect car that fits the criteria. How about a Toyota Leaf.
Let me set the scene for you. We see Mad Max disconnecting the battery pack from his solar array as he crams himself and all his sawed off shot guns into his little Leaf. A wide shot pans across the car showing a huge stack of auxiliary batteries strapped to the roof that Max can use just in case he needs that extra jolt of energy.
The next shot shows him heading down this lonely stretch of desert road when the “Ayatollah of Rockin’ Rolla” and his henchmen comes into view over the top of the next ridge. They’re baring down on him so, Mad Max punches the pedal to the floor and heads straight for them. When he gets up to speed, he flips the safety cap off of the switch and hits the button. The camera zooms in on the internal cells of the batteries strapped to the roof. The camera scene moves with short quick motions as the viewer goes for a ride with the current as it passes through the electrical veins to the drive motor. Max is jolted back into his harness as the electricity sends him zooming down the road at lightning speeds. Of course, there wouldn’t be the roar of the exhaust or the whirl of the blower belt.
More like a loud whine as the electric motor whizzes to its full potential.
Sure it could happen, but I suppose, even in the future downfall of society the roar of a powerful engine is still far more dramatic as a movie scene than the whiz of an electric motor. Which brings up the thought that even if the world collapsed into utter chaos, technology would still be a part of it. At least I think so, and somebody somewhere would have to know how fix it and who would that be? Who else but the modern mechanic, of course. If there was a great upheaval of the world as we know it, mechanics would still be in demand. Let’s just call it “future job security”. Even Star Trek had their engineer, Scottie. Which just goes to prove you can’t leave home without knowing where a good mechanic is.
To say the writers and producers of these sci-fi flicks got it wrong isn’t all that important, but it does make you wonder how the lack of gasoline became the theme in a lot of these movies. I don’t know about you, but for me, I’m a bit of the macho motor guy who loves to hear the roar of a big motor and I wouldn’t want any other way.
Someday there might actually be anti-gravity cars or teleportation. For now, I’m glad to see some of this old iron still belching exhaust in these wacky movies. Maybe not the most “environmentally friendly” type of cars, but they sure do make for a great chase scene. Then again, maybe they’ll make a “Mad Max of the Future” movie with hybrids, electric cars, and of course Max’s hopped up Toyota Leaf.
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Back in the Future
Who remembers carburetors? Or, the first years of fuel injection systems? How about the first cars with computers in them? They all seem old news these days. In fact, the modern car has far surpassed those early attempts of bringing the family car into the future of modern electronics. Back then, it was futuristic, stupendous, and more than a little intimidating to the old school mechanics of the time. That’s where advanced training brought everyone up to speed.
I’ve been around long enough to see all these changes, and have had to adapt my personal “expertise” to those ever changing systems just to stay up with what the customers are bringing in for repairs. As one customer told me, “It’s like going back in the future of old car technology when you work on those older models.” I’d have to agree. Working on those early systems takes an entirely different diagnostic approach than the modern car.
Today’s cars require a lot more diagnostic time and varied equipment to perform some of the basic and essential tasks that a few tweaks of wrench used to do. For example: “Cam to Crank correlation” or “Passenger presence reset” never existed years ago. But, now it’s as common place to program or calibrate engine and/or body components as it was to adjust the idle on a carburetor. These calibrations or programming issues can either be in regards to getting the car to run correctly, or to get a system such as the air bags to operate without having that silly service light glowing back at ya.
Even with all these modern tools, techniques, and scanners there are still things that happen because of some previous work improperly done. The difference is how the computers in the modern car interpret those incorrect parts or faulty workmanship. In the past, without computers getting in the way, things either worked or they didn’t, but now the communication between the different control modules can lead to entirely different circumstances than I think the engineers could have ever anticipated. Sometimes a signal blocks the entire data stream and the car won’t start or multiple systems won’t work. Other times it’s a battery drain brought on by plugging the wrong connector into the wrong socket.
In years past I’ve had cars come in from body shops, or off the street right after a customer bought it, and a different rear hatch or door was installed. Now something related to that hatch or door isn’t working. Could be the brake lights, or a power window, or anything else connected to the replacement piece. 9 chances out of 10 the door or hatch fits perfectly, painted perfectly, and closes or opens just like it’s supposed to. But, the wiring harness in the door is different. It’s usually a part off a different year or a vehicle equipped with a different option package.
The last one was a ‘06 Chevy 3500 with the wrong door on the d. side. The customer didn’t bring it in because the door was wrong, he brought it in because the battery kept going dead overnight. The problem was the door wiring. It had an earlier model door on it, but whoever installed and painted the door made the assumption since the door connected to the service box all was good. Not a chance. The power window would work, but the wiring and terminal positions for the door ajar and door speaker were completely different. Thus, the BCM never saw a signal that the door was ever opened. This left the radio on, and worse yet, there was a crossed up signal through the speaker wiring, causing the BCM to never allow the system to go into its sleep mode.
Now, that same kind of problem wouldn’t have happened on a truck 10 or 20 years older. They didn’t use a computer to determine the door position, just a jam switch. But, ya can’t dwell on the way it was done in the past; ya gotta get back in the future with the scanner to check these systems. These older models are nothing like today’s models. Needless to say, today’s mechanic (and bodyshop techs) have to be more aware of the complexities of the various systems, and not assume it’s correct, “Cause it fits”.
The modern vehicle is more computer than ever before. Now with the hybrids and full electric vehicles getting more and more popular, I’m sure there will be many issues for modern technicians to deal with. And, let’s not forget about the autonomous car. Just wait until they’re in the mainstream of the repair shop and body shops.
The days of the stereotypical high school dropout who starts pumping gas and eventually starts turning wrenches is all but a memory. The job and the qualification for the modern mechanic is more of a college graduate with a PHD than the stereotypical grease monkey. Times are changing, and so are the challenges in the automotive repair industry. It takes a lot more than wrenches and hanging parts to fix these modern cars.
Whenever I’m asked by someone whether or not their son or daughter should take up the trade of auto repair I tell them, “Absolutely, if they like cars that’s even better, but liking cars and working on them are two different subjects entirely.” What I find is most start up mechanics are basing their skill levels on cars from years past. Most of which the paying customers who come into today’s repair shops have long given up on trying to keep them on the road, and have purchased those cars with newer technologies in them. I commend anybody who likes working on cars and has had experience on the older models, but if you really want to be a modern mechanic... ya need to get back in the future.
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Hey Everyone! My name is Vince.
Just started browsing this website and it seems very informative with lots of useful information. I'm currently looking to connect with any others that can relate to a situation I am in.
I am a second generation future shop owner currently struggling with family matters and butting heads with the current older generation that is running the company. I am 30 years old with currently 9 years in the industry. Looking for information or tips on how to push forward or just someone to talk to that can relate!
Looking forward to getting to know everyone here!
By Joe Marconi
Business has been up and down the past month or so. Some shop owners say that business this past winter was ok, others complain that the lack of a real winter hurt business. My advice, forget about the past and plan for the future.
The world of auto repair and servicing has changed. We need to be proactive, not reactive. For those old enough to remember the 1970s and the 1980s, cars broke down at an alarming rate. Being proactive was unnecessary. There were broken cars lined up in front of our bays every day.
Well, the good old days are gone. Today we need to be proactive. Every customer is an opportunity to build a relationship. Speak with your customers. Make sure you find out what their auto needs are. Create an amazing experience that tells the customer: Please return.
Explain the benefits of preventive maintenance. At car delivery, discuss their next service, book their next appointment, and let them know of any upcoming needed repairs. Little things such as informing customers about their next tire rotation, next wheel alignment or next scheduled maintenance can make a big difference. And of course, send out those service reminders.
Remember one thing: Every car in your shop today will need futures services and repairs. Will they come back to you?
In other words, become more proactive and not wait by the phone for the customers to call you. That may not happen these days.