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Picture This ---- I learned a little something when I was teaching a little something Picture This
(A lesson learned while teaching)
Years ago my younger brother came to work for me. He didn't know a thing about cars, but was willing to learn all he could. Teaching new techs is an art that most shop owners have to learn to do, but teaching your little brother can be a chore and can test your patience. I muddled thru it all and taught him what I could. I was sure at some point in time the two of us would butt heads like brothers will do, and he would take his new found skills and move up in the rank and files of the automotive technical world, but in the meantime it was his turn to learn from his older brother.
When he first started I would walk him thru each step of how to diagnose a certain system in a car. A lot of times he would have questions, and I'd do my best to answer them. He learned quickly and was really sharp at picking up some of those little details that are harder to teach, because you tend to forget to mention them while you're teaching. Mainly because you are trying to get to the solution as efficiently as possible, and you neglect to bring it up. Such as: "always test your test light connection before testing what you're testing, or don't forget to check for all your tools before you pull the car out of the shop…." Things like that.
One day we had a truck come in with dual fuel tanks on it. The gas gauge wasn't working and needed some attention. This was a perfect opportunity for Junior to learn a few of my short cuts on these old models. It was an older Ford, in which the tank gauge ran thru the tank switchover button. It was rather easy to pull it out of the dash and connect to the gauge from the back of the switch.
Luckily it was the typical problem I've seen a hundred times in the past. The switch connections would melt and the tank wouldn't switch from the front tank to the rear, and of course the gauge wouldn't move either.
After locating the correct leads to the gauge and to the tanks I decided to show him how the gauge worked. I hooked up the one of the tanks to the crossover lead that would supply the signal from the tank to the gauge.
"Ya see this, that's the lead to the fuel gauge in the dash, and this is one of the tank wires. I'll connect these together and we should get a reading on the dash," I told him.
He was watching intently, taking in all the wiring diagram information, the location of the wires, and how I was bypassing the switch. He was fascinated with the flow of the current and the way the gauge would respond. I even went as far as moving the gauge from full to empty by opening and closing it to a ground signal. While I had his attention I filled him in on the two types of gauges that were used back then (bimetallic and magnetic) and how low resistance on a bimetal type gauge would read near a full tank, while a magnetic gauge would read close to empty. Change the resistance and the gauge would/should read accordingly.
"So, if we put gas in the tank the gauge should move right? That way we could check the sending units in the tanks too," he asked me.
"Great idea, grab a gas can and let's add a few gallons," I said, excited that he was so interested in the project.
He grabbed a can of gas and poured a few gallons in the tank. I was watching the gas guage carefully, but there was no movement. I knew I was on the right wires, but nothing was happening. Now what? Are there more problems?
"Crawl under there, and check to be sure the wire color is correct," I yelled from the cab to him.
"Yep, it's the right wire on the tank."
"Well, we might have to pull the tank; it's not changing the gauge readings up here."
"Before we do that let's add some more gas, maybe we didn't add enough," Junior tells me.
I thought I better go back and help hold the funnel, while he poured the gas in the tank. Unknowing to me, all this time my wife (who was the office manager) was listening in on the whole thing. She likes to keep tabs on me, and make sure I'm not going into one of my usual rants or having a fit because I had to explain something over and over again to little brother. This time she was standing at the corner of the shop just behind the truck with a camera. "CLICK", I heard the camera shutter go off and she was back there laughing like there was no tomorrow.
"What's so funny?" I asked her.
"You two idiots have been putting gas in the wrong tank. You're on the front tank, and you're putting gas in the rear tank," my wife answers, laughing hysterically.
About then the camera "clicked" again… this time it was an action shot taken at precisely the exact moment when these two idiots had that dumb struck look on their faces and realized what they just did. The shot had both of us on our knees, one holding a funnel and the other with the half empty gas can, and both of us staring right into the camera lens. Couldn't have set it up any better if you tried. The picture clearly showed the side of the truck with both fuel tank doors visible and there was no doubt which tank we were putting in the extra gas. I guess it was one of those things I should have mentioned when we were checking the tank senders… make sure we are both on the same tank.
For years that picture hung over her desk, and anytime I thought I was so smart she would point at the photo. Usually with that typical smirk, usually shaking her finger at me and of course the laugh… she had to laugh, but it wasn't all that funny until she had me laughing about it too. Ok, Ok, I'm not perfect... and now my little brother knows it too. These days he's a top notch tech at a dealership, and I have to call him on occasions for some help on how to solve things once in a while. Oh the photo… uhmmm… what photo?? Somehow it's missing… haven't seen the darn thing in years. But I guess I really don't need to see the photo … the wife has a pretty good memory... she reminds me just how smart I think I am every chance she gets.
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Where’s That Machine?
Even in this age of electronic gadgets, voice recognition systems, and cell phones, there are still a few things that require the dexterity of a human being. For some skilled and unskilled jobs the physical work or mental intuitiveness hasn’t been entirely replaced by machines, microprocessors and LED’s, just yet. Automotive diagnostics and repair is one of those fields. The modern mechanic is still very much a part of the repair equation. But, go to any repair shop in this country, and you’ll probably hear somebody at the service counter ask the service writer, “You guys do have one of those machines that tells you what’s wrong, don’t ya?”
Yeah, we have one of those machines. It’s that guy in the service bay leaning over your car right now. You know, the mechanic. Oh, you know who they are. They’re usually the guy you spot in the elevator or at the supermarket who has more than a few grease spots on his clothes, scuffed up shoes, a pocket screwdriver, rough calloused hands, and wearing a shirt with his own name on it. He’s generally not a college graduate, probably doesn’t know the difference between Harvard and Yale, and probably doesn’t care either, but intelligent just the same. Yes, a machine all right. A walking, talking, hardworking, diagnostic and mechanically inclined individual who uses tools and equipment to solve your car problems.
Look how the tools of the modern mechanic have changed over the years, such as scanners and meters. They are an aide, a machine, a tool if you will, but they don’t give out answers. Although, these tools can do so much in the way of diagnosing a problem in the hands of an expert mechanic. They show the technician a code or information in regards to the internal aspects of the vehicle. Code numbers and definitions are a strategic direction for the repair. This allows a trained technician to know which pathway to take in making the repair. To put it in other words: the real machine that finds out what’s wrong with your car is those two hands and brain of the very guy with his name imprinted on his shirt. Not some box of transistors and relays, but people still ask about and believe there is this magical mystery machine that does all the work.
The automotive field isn’t what those reality TV shows portray it to be, either. Most of these shows highlight the automotive industry as a place for stupid, filthy, disorganized-knuckle dragging fools who can’t read or write, and wouldn't know a dentist office if they stumbled in one. It’s just one more reason why it’s so hard to find sharp, young talent to take up the trade.
Car technology changes so fast these knuckle draggers can’t keep up with the true professional mechanic field and what goes on in a real repair facility, but for some reason somebody at these networks think reality shows of guys taking old non-computerized cars apart is what we want to watch on television. I for one would rather watch something useful like reflashing a GM than what it takes to weld in a new quarter panel. You want to get the next generation interested in the field…show em’ something of interest in the way of a modern computer driven vehicle.
The vast number of computer systems, hydraulics, electrical, radar/navigation systems and mechanical aspects of the modern car are constantly changing. This means continual education is a must for the professional mechanic. A modern mechanic is more like a surgeon than a brick layer is to one. Even though both are considered laborer trades, one is more artistic in nature while the other is more technology driven.
For some people, the mere thought that somebody out there knows more about their car than they do is quite disturbing to them. They seem to think they are far more intelligent than the engineers, designers, and the mechanics combined. In their interpretation of the automotive repair world, the mechanic has to be an idiot to even think they can make a living fixing this stuff when it’s just as easy to fix it yourself at home in the garage. I’ve been told more than once by an irate customer that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to fix a car, so it shouldn’t cost that much.
So, why would these types of people even want to talk with this guy who has his name tattooed on his shirt? Why not bypass him altogether and go right to the mechanized technical wonder they can’t seem to find at the local part store. You know, that machine. That thing-a-mabob that tells those dimwitted Neanderthal mechanics what part to change and how to make their car all better.
As far as they are concerned, diagnostics are not needed, because following a path laid out in a diagnostic chart isn’t a skill that’s required when making a repair. Just read the results on the scanner, order the part, stick it on, and then get back to their own lives with as little interruption as possible. All they want to pay for is what they consider the main reason for going to the mechanic in the first place. You know, let them get greasy, change some widget and make their car run like new without costing them a fortune, and if it doesn’t… blame the mechanic, and not that dime store diagnostic machine they relied on.
Where the idea of a machine that can answer every type of automotive problem by simply plugging it into the car is beyond me. I suppose, some of it comes from growing up with the TV and watching sci-fi shows, but reality doesn’t come across as real with a portion of the driving public. They’re still stuck with the notion that Mr. Spock will break out his Tri-corder and inform them about the composition of material making up their engine block, and the exact cause of their engine misfire. Seriously people, get a grip on reality. The idea that this perfect machine actually exists is simply absurd, but the mystery of it all still lingers in the minds of those tried and true believers of all this technical wizardry of which they don’t understand. In their minds that “machine” is real, and any mechanic that doesn’t know about one is a fool.
In the near future, even this mythical, magical machine may actually be more fiction than myth. Telematics and remote diagnostics may make the vision of a “one machine can fix-all” far more real than we can imagine. Not that I believe there really will be a “fix-all” machine capable of re-gapping a worn out spark plug, but I do believe a lot of systems will be diagnosed, and possibly electronically repaired by remote intervention. Although, those tough diagnostics that can’t be sorted out will still require the skill of a good diagnostic mechanic to accomplish them.
Maintenance and wearable item repairs will most likely be the commonplace activities at a repair shop in the future. Needless to say, the days of a home mechanic with a set of tools picked up at a garage sale may soon be a thing of the past or left up to the hobbyist working on antique vehicles. The modern technically advanced vehicle of the future may become too far advanced for anyone except for the skilled mechanic.
We may be in a technically advanced computer age, and there’s no doubt there are further advancements to be made, but the trained mechanic is still a big part of the future. So, the next time someone asks, “Where’s that machine?” tell them it’s where it’s always been, in the service bay, and you’ve been talking to it all this time… your mechanic.
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By Bruno Tabbi
New member here.
I wanted to pose a question to the forum here.
Which types of leads are most likely to turn into sales for you? Put another way, what is your best source for generating new business? I don't want to know how you advertise, I want to know know for example if phone calls are more valuable than web leads, or which types of leads have the highest closing ratio for you?
For most people here and in most industries, its unanimous that word-of-mouth and in person interactions are your most likely sales but besides those what is the most reliable? Web leads, phone calls? And when you do advertise do you push people to the form of contact that your most likely to close?
The reason I ask is because I see people just advertise their website with no phone number sometimes or some people really push people to call.
Do you find that people who call your shop are more likely to come in than people who might come from a web lead such as an online form?
Thanks in advance for any input.