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The Best of the Best
Overland Park Convention Center, Kansas City, Missouri is the place for the Vision HiTech training convention. I try to attend every year, take some classes, browse the expo, and meet up with some old friends. Classes range from Hybrid service, scope and scanner reading, diesel and gas engine drive-ability, to shop management. Some of the top instructors gather at this convention and put together some of the best classes I’ve ever attended. Whether it’s your first year or your 40th year in the repair business you’ll learn something new from attending the Vision HiTech convention.
My first class was on hybrid battery servicing. Really great stuff, lots of insight on what is involved, the theory behind the technology, and how to properly recharge, discharge and tests each cell separately. Most of the classes were all day, the morning half was lecture and familiarization with the tools and specifications while the afternoon session is actual hands on. Exceptional information and instruction.
I also sat in on a scope reading class, diesel diagnostics, and spent some time in the hybrid diagnostic class. Every one of them was top notch. Then, with time to spare, I made the rounds through the expo and talked with several vendors and suppliers. Lots of things to see, from tires to tools to demonstrations, there was something there for every form of automotive repair.
Every aspect of the classes, seminars on future technology, luncheon speeches, live pod-casts, and “think tank” discussions panels was well received and attended. But, for me, not only was the expo, the seminars, the class instructors, and the various college level instructors from across the country that were impressive it was the guys and gals that swing the wrenches down in the service bays from across the country that were just as impressive.
These are the guys and gals that have taken on this thankless job as a career. Sure, we all have those customers that really appreciate what it takes to do this job, but it’s sometimes hard for some people to comprehend the amount of ever changing knowledge a person has to retain to be a professional mechanic. Most of the time, the general public doesn’t have a clue as to what it takes to be a professional mechanic. These guys and gals do.
This convention brings out the cream of the crop, and those individuals who are seeking to become a better technician as well. These are the individuals, shops, and service centers that want to do a better job for their customers. One thing is for sure, you don’t go to one of these conventions to learn to be a parts changer, this is the real deal, this is the type of convention you attend to become one of the best of the best.
An email I received said it best. “I learned a lot at the convention and now I’m back at my job and have to deal with all of these not so educated guys from other repair shops all over again.” What I believe he meant to say was there are so many variations of the word “mechanic” out there that a lot of people just lump them all into one term... “Mechanic”. (It almost sounds like a four letter word to me when somebody is at the service counter and says, “My friend already told me what’s wrong, cause he’s a mechanic just like you.”) In my opinion, what they are really telling me is there “mechanic” either doesn’t have the tools to perform the necessary repair, or they have never taken any training on how to perform the repair. (Or they ran out of parts to swap.)
These are the “mechanics” (there’s that four letter word again) that give the rest of the auto industry a bad name. Parts changers, guess-and-go repair shops, and the preverbal, “I had the codes checked at the parts store.” (Codes are NOT parts people!)
For the guys and gals attending these training conventions it’s all about learning or updating their skills, not about changing parts. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean that if you didn’t attend you’re not one of the top notch mechanics out there, heck no... If you’re reading this then you obviously are thinking along the same lines as the guys and gals that had the opportunity to attend the convention, and I’ll bet you probably would have liked to have gone but for whatever reason you weren’t able to. I’m talking about those “mechanics” that don’t attend, don’t read the latest technical articles and procedures, don’t keep up with the technology and don’t want any part of learning up to date practices because they either think they already know everything or are to dang stubborn to think somebody might know more about it. (You’re never too old to learn something new.)
The other part about attending conferences and conventions like Vision is the “meet and greet” side of things. Think about it, you’re at a convention where likeminded individuals are in attendance, you’re on common ground. They understand the daily grind, the diagnostic and tool issues, the grease and grime, and what it’s like to deal with every aspect of trying to make a living from the underside of a hood. Each and every one of them has a story to tell, and it wasn’t uncommon to see techs from different parts of the country get together at the nearest watering hole and swap their latest stories. When the evening came to a close, every one left with a new found respect for their trade, themselves, and the other attendees.
So there’s a lot more going on at these conventions than classes and sales pitches at the expo. It’s a place for the best of the best to meet the rest of the best of the best. I’m never disappointed after spending a few hours with some of these guys and gals at these conventions, and I plan on continuing to do so.
Until we reach a point in the far reaching future where all this car knowledge can be surgically implanted or is taken over by some weird futuristic robot control, attending a few classes to increase your knowledge is one sure way to keep up with the best of the best.
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Sci-Fi or Our Future Reality?
The year is 2168. Bob is on his way to pick up his car from the repair shop. It didn't need much, just a new phase shifter for his low orbit cruise control. His buddy, Tom was happy to give him a ride to pick it up. His new car is equipped with the new ½ light speed option, which really speeds up his travel time.
As they arrive at the service center, Tom says, "So this is where you get your car serviced?"
"Yea, sure is," Bob tells his buddy, "I've been coming here for quite some time."
With the economy just now getting back on its feet, and a good amount of nostalgia in all the advertisements, most of the car manufacturers have decided to use retro names for their new models, like Camaro, Thunderbird, Road Runner,Mustang, just to give them more of that old muscle car feel from the mid-21thcentury.
For years there's been a hold on how much power the government would allow in a private car, but that's all changed now. With the restrictions lifted on the TTP (Total Thrust Propulsion) every car geek out there is going for these super-fast cars with the classic names, and with a few modifications you can just about make it to full light speed. (Like Tom's car.) Pretty cool stuff for the modern hot rodders.
Nobody drives on the old concrete and black top highways anymore. All those early muscle cars have been moth balled into sealed rooms for public view and private collections. So, there's no need to maintain the road systems anymore. Everyone uses the transportation lanes at different altitudes rather than down on the old, dilapidated highways. Gravity is still a factor, but not so much for the transportation industry. Since gravitational balance was obtained about 100 years ago, there's really no need for ground travel options on modern cars. (Tires are such a waste of natural resources anyway.)
Oh sure, there's still a lot of people out there driving around with old mag-lift technology, but they can't get any higher than the second level on the transportation lanes. They're just too slow and unpredictable. (Tom and Bob both agree that people really should look at getting newer cars; you know…,something with a jump speed for interstellar travel.)
"Gotta go Tom, thanks for the ride," Bob says to his buddy, as he pulls out of the service center parking area. "I'm heading to Parizolas-1 in the Pexar galaxy to see my family."
Bob flips on the navigational system, programs his destination, applies the auto directional pilot controls, and sits back for a relaxing ride across the space highway. It will have him at his parents' house in no time.
Tom decided to stick around a bit and check out the service facility. He waved goodbye to his buddy, and watched him gain altitude towards the outer orbit on ramp for the IGS (Inter-galacticSpace-way). After Bob was out of sightTom took a stroll through the service center, watching all the displays change images, and listened to the specials being offered. He peered through the glass enclosures at the cars entering and leaving the service bays, and watched the technicians make adjustments to the programs.
The service bays are completely automated. Robots handle all the fluid changes and major work, but there's still a technician in the bay to manage everything that is going on. As a car enters the service bay the technician starts scanning the car from the front to the rear. In just a few seconds he can see the results on his view screen and knows just what needs to be taking care of. Most of the on-board systems in the car will repair things themselves, but there are occasions when the nano-bots in the car's matrix overlook something. That's where the full scan at the repair shop is needed.
The technician orders the needed repair parts from the storeroom and assigns the appropriate task robot to make the repairs. While Bob could have waited for the repairs to be made on his Camaro, he thought he would save time by having the car deliver itself to the repair shop. The technician at the service center can send your car back to you, or like Bob, you can pick it up yourself. You can also schedule the next service based on the information you provided. You won't even know your car is at the shop. It can program itself to arrive at the service center when it's the most convenient for you. But, don't worry… the car will inform you of its travels as soon as you enter the car the next time. These days, cars and people are almost on the same level; it knows your moods, it knows where you go, when you need transportation, and can perform most of these tasks with nothing more than a thought from you.
Tom was really impressed with the shop. It's a lot nicer than where he's been going. He decided to enter his cars' diagnostic log chip into the shop's memory unit, so his car would automatically use this shop instead of his last one. All the service records are automatically sent to the new facility, and any components on order will be shipped directly to the new shop, too. As Tom gets ready to leave, he had to show off his hopped-up hot rod for the service techs. He hits the override control and plants the throttle to the wide open position. With a shower of cosmic particles he speeds off into the distance.
Sounds farfetched, doesn't it? It's not our reality; it's science fiction to you and me. But imagine what it would have been like to explain to someone from the early 20th century about a car from 2012? They probably would've had you committed, or something worse than that. That doesn't mean they didn't have their far into the future thinkers, they certainly did. In fact they had their own visions of the future too, from futuristic movies like; Buck Rogers and space travel to Mars, to stories about a man landing on the moon. Why, they even had Dick Tracy in the comic strips, who could talk to his wrist watch with a 2 way video screen. Now take a moment and jump back to 2012 … think about it for a second…most of those early ideas have already been accomplished.
So, if you would have told someone from the early 20th century that by 2012 your car could not only avoid getting into a crash, it could park itself, and could be started without you even being near it, do you think they would have believed you?
It's simply amazing how those thoughts and ideas from the turn of the century end up being today's technology, but I'll bet in 2168 they'll say the same thing about our "historic" tries at technology too.
So, for all you far out into space thinkers, keep looking over the horizon because there's a good chance what we think of as automotive fantasy today will become common place in the future.
Look out year 2168... we're coming your way! ! !
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