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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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Article: The Rules Of Physics - Rules are rules, however physics isn't one of those rules you can break...but customers still ask you too.By Gonzo
The Rules of Physics
There’s something to be said about having rules. There are some rules we follow because they’re laws, and rules we all follow out of respect, because it’s the polite thing to do. While other rules are just common sense. However, as they say, “Rules are made to be broken”. That may apply to most rules, but the rules of physics are not something that can be tampered with, although some people think they can. Here’s my list of customer antics that definitely require a refresher course in basic physics.
Rotational differences in an arc
A customer asks for an oil change and a tire rotation. After the tire rotation the customer is out in the parking lot examining their car. He motions for the mechanic to come out and look at the car. For some reason he is livid about the valve stems and white lettering on his tires. Apparently the letter or the valve stems aren’t in perfect sync as they were when he arrived. Obviously, the mechanic is at fault and needs to correct it. Somebody contact my physics teacher.
Gravity and the defrost duct
In the haste to get ready for a special dinner party a diamond ring was laid on top of the dash. In a flash the diamond ring slid down into the defrost duct and was gone, completely out of sight. The next day the mechanic was told to gently tip the car over and shake the diamond ring out. Yep, just lift the car up, toss it upside down, and that little ring will just fall out, and since gravity is your friend the ring should just fall out. I’m just wondering whose holding the car upside down… the mechanic?
Coolant can be hot, and don’t let the pressure get to you
Even with a temperature gauge showing the actual water temp. It’s virtually impossible to get through to some people that you shouldn’t take the radiator cap off a hot engine. Even in this modern era with plenty of warning labels clearly visible, somebody is going to twist the cap off and get a face full of hot coolant. Of course, it’s even harder for some people to understand the physic behind how pressure and the coolant mix affects the boiling point of water, or the fact that the radiator is under pressure for quite some time after you shut the car off. Oh, and by the way, water boils at 212° and most car coolant systems run at a much higher temperature than that.
All brake pads are the same
Have you ever wondered how much time the engineers and scientists spend on developing brake pad materials? Did you ever stop and think that some of their attempts weren’t the best, but still had some merit? There’s a lot of physic involved. I’m sure there were a few awesome ideas that still failed to be considered as the top notch part. So, where do those ideas go? Especially the pads that don’t last as long, or squeal, or chatter, or just plain aren’t that great. They usually end up as the discount store’s cheaper line of brake pads.
You know the ones, the ones that have poor heat coefficient, or a glue that breaks down and causes the pad to slide off the backing. Somebody had to wholesale them, somebody had to market them and somebody had to price them to sell. Never fear, Mr. Discount is here! He’ll buy them up and sell them to the DIY’r market and tell them how wonderful they are. Not to worry, it’s pretty clear no one in the store knows how to read those DOT edge codes anyway. They’ll find somebody else to blame for their early brake pad failure, it’s surely has nothing to do with their decision to buy the cheapest part.
Increasing mileage by decreasing fuel
Has there ever been a time that the first thing people wanted to know about their new car wasn’t the gas mileage? When I was a kid, and muscle cars could be purchased right from the showroom there was still that sticker on the window with the miles per gallon clearly visible.
I’m not sure if gas mileage was the big concern, but every crackpot inventor since the beginning of the internal combustion engine thinks they’ve come up with the holy grail of mileage-increasing-fuel-saving device that is going to turn even the biggest gas guzzling muscle car into the next fuel economy giant. From adding magnets to the fuel lines, to some sort of wind turbulence device stuffed into the cold air inlet.
The physics dictates the impossibilities that at some point the return on the energy consumed surpasses the rate of energy produced, but on we go with the next grandiose idea to save fuel by some superific idea maker who got it approved by 9 out of 10 experts. You know the ones, “those experts” ya know. The same experts you hear about on all those TV commercials. I’ve often wondered who the 10th expert was and why in the world didn’t they just say 9 out of 9 experts and skip the 10th guy all together. Too presumptuous I suppose.
Have ya ever noticed these mileage ideas only show when the price per gallon goes up? I guess were all too busy driving around and can’t think up any new fuel saving ideas when the price is low, or we were listening to that 10th expert, and momentarily forgot about the other 9.
For every reaction . . .
One of the laws of physics states that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. Now it’s not likely if we all stood on a chair and jumped off at the same time that we could disrupt the earth’s rotation or knock it out of alignment with the other planets, but ya know, somebody has probably thought about doing it…. besides myself.
Car crash studies have known about this action reaction thing for a long time, and have found a way to lessen the sudden impact by dissipating the force with crumple zones strategically placed in the body panels and components. This also means that in the event of a minor collision you may actually have damage in other areas of the car that were not directly involved with the actual collision.
However, there’s a limit to this “inclusion to my collision”. Hardly a day goes by that somebody at some body shop will try to slide an extra dent or two from an unreported accident in with their latest fender bender. Some are very subtle, while others are noticeably and blatantly trying to take advantage of the situation. Anything to get somebody else to pay for their lack of watching out for the neighbor’s mailbox which was sticking out from the curb, or the telephone pole that jumped out and creased the side of the car after a late night at the bar. There’s one for the automatous car theory. If you’ve had too many, who’s the designated driver now? And, whose reaction and actions dictate who’s allowed behind the wheel… if there is one?
We’ve only scratched the surface of what physics can tell us about our cars. It never fails to amaze me how some people make it from one day to the next without a basic understanding of the world around them. They just seem lost in their own little made up world in which gravity doesn’t work, or where two objects can occupy the exact same spot on planet earth. Am I surprised? No, not hardly. Some people will believe anything. It all comes down to physics and your interpretation of the rules, and as we all know, the rules of physics doesn’t apply to some people out there. Just hope they’re not stopping by the shop anytime soon. I need a break from the last one who wanted 13” tires on 15” rims.
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By Joe Marconi
One thing I often repeat over and over again is this; "Back in the 1980's, there were three things that made repair shops successful; General Motors, Ford and Chrysler." Those cars broke down a lot, and there was an endless supply of cars that required a lot of profitable work.
Well, those days are gone. Cars today are build better, last longer (thankfully), and have ever-increasing service intervals. Consumers are also conditioned to think that their cars don't need maintenance. It wasn't that long ago when your customers were coming to you 4 to 5 times a year for service. Now, you are lucky to see those customer twice a year for their routine LOF service.
The point here? You must take a proactive approach and promote preventive maintenance. You must inform your customers of their next service and any other future service recommendation or repair. You must do all you can to get your customer to return to you. Which means providing the absolute best customer service with quality repairs.
Even the term "repair shop" needs to redefined.
Be proactive and you'll be successful!