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Brain Damage - - - "How many brains does it take to fix a car?"


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Brain Damage






Throughout the evaluation of the modern car there have been an increasing number of duties taken over by computers. These computers have not only made the engine more fuel efficient, but also more environmentally friendly. Nowadays, these systems are starting to think for themselves and make decisions for the driver. Things like parking the car, keeping a safe distance from the car in front of you, or avoiding accidents are just a small part of the capabilities of the modern computer driven automobile.


In some ways the car has become a thinking, reasoning, and quite capable robotic apparatus. You're not sure of that? Really? Let's define robotic function and a robot's task. A robot is a device that manipulates its surroundings by way of certain inputs, which are dictated by the software or information instructions set into its protocol. In a sense the information in its brain. Not all "robots" are in a form of the walking, talking version; a robot can be stationary and perform one task over and over again.


Take for example ABS (Anti-lock Brake System). This can be considered a robotic function. The ABS module (or brain) is given a task by way of its programming, and in turn watches for certain input signals from various sources such as the wheel speed sensors, brake pedal application, and engine and transmission inputs. It's a stationary robot in a non-stationary setting. If the system fails to follow the preset instructions it gives the human an indication of its condition by way of a service light.


The repair needed is still left up to the technician. I'm kind of glad for that, as I don't know if I'm up to dealing with the "Terminator" mentality of a walking, talking robotic device that inevitability figures out it's smarter than its creator.


These days a modern technician uses a computer to talk to the vehicle's computer. That makes it three "brains" involved in determining the reason for the service light: two cyber brains and one human brain. Each one of them has to do their job correctly. When one or more of these "brains" malfunctions, (and yes, I do mean the technician's too.), the whole process of figuring out the problem becomes a lesson in futility.


I recently had a car in the shop that wasn't communicating with any of my scanners. As the technician, aka "The Human Brain", it was my task to figure out why and where the lack of communication was emanating from. It wasn't long before I tracked down the culprit. Not only was the main PCM in the car dead, but so were several other processors as well. Looks like a case of brain damage to me. All the usual suspects for this type of problem, such as powers, grounds and communication lines checked out to be in good condition. The test results showed that the car had been struck by lightning. Looks like this little robotic wonder of modern technology had been done in by Mother Nature herself. Even in the electronic age…Mother Nature still rules.


But among the variations of problems a technician can run across there are those occasions where the car is fine, but its second brain (the "scanner") is damaged in some way. On occasions I've had to deal with an uncooperative scanner. After countless times of getting in and out of a car, the endless twisting and manipulating of the cords and connections, the scanner can come down with its own form of brain damage. Sometimes it's the service cord at fault, and other times it's the scanner itself. (I keep the shipping boxes just in case I have to send one in for repair.)


The big problem for the consumer these days is the modern car can't function without these computers, nor can the modern technician diagnose or repair a lot of the functions without a computer to talk to the car. We've become so dependent on the electronic wizardry of these modern conveniences that our world today couldn't function as we know it without them.



Sometimes I feel like I've got brain damage myself when I'm trying to figure out the multitude of problems brought on by all these electronic components. There are many numerous problems that only exist in today's cars because of all these technical advancements. You wouldn't see some of these problems in a car without a computer under the hood. In years past a lot of car components were rebuilt right in the shop,and most everything was a "hands-on" repair. A mechanic removed a part, and would take it down to its individual components, then replace one or more parts of the original component and reassemble it. Not so today; most parts are electronic or have been manufactured in a way that the individual parts can't be taken apart. A good example of this is the HVAC systems. It used to be cables and levers that operated the doors and temperature flow. Nowadays, it's sensors, drive motors and processors. Computers and these robotic functions have literally taken over our everyday life right down to the point of turning on the A/C in the car. You're not moving a lever or turning on the compressor, instead you're asking permission from the computer. It determines whether or not all the required systems are functioning properly. If they are…then "it" (the computer) will allow you to have the air conditioning on. You don't decide… the computer decides for you.


For the most part, today's automotive repairs require a high degree of understanding of electronics, as well as mechanical aptitude. You really need both to be a good tech these days. The stereotypical view of the local mechanic as some brain damaged, misbegotten youth with a rag sticking out of his pocket is all but gone; he's more of a brain surgeon than a grease monkey these days.


Our technical advancements and electronic world is moving closer and closer to a place our forefathers of just one generation ago would never recognize. It won't be long before the automatous car is the norm (which is nothing more than a robot on wheels.)


These innovations are enough to give me brain damage if I ever get a chance to stop and think about them long enough. As it has always been in this field… change is constant and dealing with those changes is what the technician has to deal with.


I'll admit I do find all these modern conveniences fascinating, as well as totally plausible…they make our lives physically and mentally less stressful, but I gotta draw the line somewhere. Some people like to bike, others like to hunt or fish, while my favorite pastime is golf. I do like using the GPS to show the yardage…but I'm not using a "Terminator" to hit the golf ball for me… Besides… it would probably keep score better than I do anyway. Even in this modern technical world there are still a few things this old, brain damaged tech would rather do without a computer involved.

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Computers can do many tasks Perhaps the next task is to design a computer that is capable of fixing and diagnosing itself. That would be the ultimate in computers! Don't think will ever see it in that form, but something better then what we have today!:rolleyes:

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Computers can do many tasks Perhaps the next task is to design a computer that is capable of fixing and diagnosing itself. That would be the ultimate in computers! Don't think will ever see it in that form, but something better then what we have today!:rolleyes:


that's a scary thought... it's starting to sound almost "Terminatorish" LOL

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My only fear about technology is removing the human element from a particular task. Us old timers can remember when we had to back into a system to see why the engine had no spark or no fuel. We did not have any of the advantages we have today. We had to understand the engine systems and used our "Brain" to perform logical tests and base decisions on those tests.


Now, most techs run to IATN, Indentifix and grab the scanner before they even attempt to logically think thru the problem. I am not complaining. The amount of information needed is mind boogling and I am quite greatful for the help and technology. But, when their backs are against the wall with a tough problem, that's not a known problem, it takes an old timer like us to walk them thru a logical step by step diag procedure.


As long as the human brain keeps creating other brains, we should maintain a step ahead and remain in control.....notice I said we "should".....



this is "should" is a big deal, and the running to Indentifix only makes the tech able to read and follow directions. Thus they are becoming subservient to the computer, while us old dogs still look at a problem without going there first. Excellent point Joe.

I'm afraid there is no way except to head to the "should" way of things. I just hope when the generation now is our age they have some old school capabilities left, or they may be looking into the archives of Identifix and IATN for answers. (Laughing now... but only because I can just imagine the problems in the future....)

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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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