Another acronym being thrown around is ADAS, short for Advanced Driver Assist Systems. I think everyone is stuck staring at those four letters without understanding the liability that those 4 letters represent for the future of the automotive industry, regardless of how much safer they make vehicles on the road. As one of the first facilities in NJ to purchase and utilize the ADAS calibration system from Autel, we have some really unique experience with it and want to pass on some information you should be aware of when considering whether or not you want to jump in.
Facility Is Too Small - Size matters, A LOT with ADAS calibrations and if you have less than 2500 sf of space with a booming business... chances are you don't have the room to perform calibrations. Your exact business configuration will help determine this, but you ideally need a location where you can pick up 10 feet of open space all around a vehicle for most calibrations, but some calibrations may require 20 feet or more. Floor Isn't Level - If your floor is uneven, you can't perform ADAS calibrations, period. Can't Program? - If you are not experienced with programming modules or updating vehicle modules, you will not be able to perform a fair amount ADAS calibrations. Can't Diagnose? - If you don't have a team that can efficiently and accurately troubleshoot the vehicles already coming into your shop, ADAS isn't going to be any easier, it's going to be significantly harder. Who Needs OE Information, I have "X"! - Replace X with All Data or Mitchell or even the instructions in your scan tool. What happens when the manufacturer updated the information on the procedures yesterday and they didn't share that information with anyone yet? We've already encountered steps missing from the Autel scan tool... Minimum Insurance Policy Is More Than Enough - We have more than double the minimum and we are worried it's not enough. With lawsuits that settle into the tens of millions of dollars, we're not sure what enough is anymore. Don't Document Your Process? - This is where a lot of people will scoff. Who has the time? Save pictures and files, where am I supposed to do that? Who's gonna pay for this? We've figured this out and more importantly... we get paid for documenting. Do you? Mobile Calibrations? - Besides the fact that you're trying to transport $20,000 of equipment needed for calibrations in a van, this one is so serious... we couldn't give you a 2 sentence paragraph, read below. How are mobile glass services, like Safelite, performing calibrations on the go? We don't know, but we have A LOT of questions surrounding this. A recent calibration of a 2019 Toyota C-HR, after a windshield replacement, has some really interesting requirements. Requirements which we are used to, but we want to know... how is a mobile tech handling this? These are the requirements that must be met prior to starting a calibration:
It is our experience that once a windshield has been replaced, the vehicle should not be moved for a period of at least 2 hours (weather dependent) in order to allow the glue to harden properly. So, what's going on? Is the mobile glass tech filling up the vehicle prior to replacing the windshield? How many of you had a windshield replaced and a vehicle calibrated with a fuel tank that was not full? We don't know how many corners are being cut and where they are being cut... but what we do know is that the above requirements have been there in every vehicle we have calibrated at this facility thus far.
Lastly, pay particular attention to this requirement in this photo...
*Calibration should be performed in a window-less environment with no bright lights or reflective materials. Ensure no other black and white patterns similar to the calibration pattern should be behind the calibration pattern.
In a world where reducing liability is at the forefront of most public discussions, there are sure a lot of companies undermining their insurance policy in the field.
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Breaker, Breaker… In my many years of repairing cars I’ve helped out a countless number of other shops with their electrical problems. Some shops I would see a few times a month, and others only once in awhile. This was years before the internet was around, and cell phones were only a fad and way to expensive to have. So, most everything was done by a land line or over the CB radio. Back in the mid 80’s and 90’s I had one shop that I talked with nearly every day. Great guys, but not so great as mechanics. The owners name was Joe. His shop was small and seemed to be a place for wayward towed vehicles and obscure customers looking for dirt cheap repairs. His main business was his tow service, and the repair shop seemed to be there just to fill in the gaps on those slow days. One afternoon I got a call from Joe about a car his crew had given up on. They threw the parts cannon at it, but couldn’t get this car to come back to life. Joe was with tows, and needed the mechanics he had to drive the other tow trucks. This particular car had been in his shop for quite some time and I don't think the customer was too happy about it. So, to speed things up a bit, he dropped it off at my shop. “I’ll be on the road all day. I've got to get back out there. I've got tows lined up all day. If you get it going, could ya run it back to my shop,” Joe said, as he made a dash for his tow truck. “No problem Joe, I’ll get right on it,” I said, just as he drove off. The car was an 80’s GM. I could see all kinds of shiny new components under the hood, and could tell they put a lot of effort into swapping parts to find out what was going on. The symptom was; if you flipped the key to the crank position it would immediately start, but die just as quickly. The parts they changed were the predictable parts cannon fodder that the typical parts slapper would try. Tune-up parts, an IAC, TPS, MAP, ECM, etc… etc… all of which might, could, should’ve, probably, maybe, and of course, eventually with enough darts thrown at it, could have hit the target and fixed it. But it didn’t. I wasn’t about to go that route. Time for some real diagnostics and not just shoot from the hip. Why not start with the basics- fuel, air, and fire. Spark was good, timing looked good, and the intake had a good air pull. I gave it a shot of carb. cleaner, and as long as I kept spraying… it kept running. Ok, time to check the fuel pressure. Interesting... there was pressure. Hmmm, now what to do? The next obvious thing (to me) was to check fuel volume. I disconnected a fuel line and gave the key a flick into start. The fuel shot out into the drainage bucket, but then trickled to a stop. I did it a second time. Not as much fuel made it out this time, but the scenario was basically the same. It was always a quick burst followed by a trickle. Maybe I should look at that gas gauge. Well, wouldn’t ya know it, the gauge is ready E. It had just enough in the tank to pressurize the fuel lines but not enough to keep it going. Might as well grab a gas can, and put some in the tank. I’ll try it again… vroom, vroom, vroom, alright! It’s running great! Looks to me as if the entire problem was that it was out of gas. However, with all the new parts they installed, I couldn’t be sure if this was the 'only' problem or an after affect of having the car in the shop so long while trying to solve another problem. It could have been any one of the other components (within reason) they changed that really 'did' need to be changed. Later that day I drove the car back to Joe’s shop. He wasn’t there, but his dispatcher was in the office sorting out tow tickets and monitoring the CB with the volume up full blast. In the background you could hear the CB chatter from all the area’s tow companies. About then I heard Joe’s voice over the CB, “Did Gonzo call yet? Need to check in on him, we need to get that car back to the owner.” “He just walked in Joe, over,” the dispatcher told him. “So what was wrong with it,” Joe asked between the squelch of the CB radio and all the other chatter from the other tow companies. The dispatcher turned to me and pointed at the mic. So, I told him . The dispatcher, with a stunned look on his face, said, “I can’t tell him that. He is going to be so pissed.” “I don’t think you should either. At least not until he gets back,” I said, while breaking into an ear to ear smile. The CB comes back to life with Joe’s voice again; “So what did he find out, over,” Joe's frustration was showing through as his voice barked out of the CB speaker. The dispatcher said to me, " Old Joe sounds pretty pissed." I don’t know whether it was the way his day was going or how much time and money he's spent on this car. Either way, he’s not going to like this answer. “Go ahead… tell him,” I said to the dispatcher, still sitting there hold the mic button, “He wants the answer, so let him have it.” “Alright, Joe, are ya ready for this, over?" the dispatcher said, then waited for a response from Joe. "Yea, go ahead, over." "It was out of gas.” A dead silence came over the CB. No chatter, nothing, not another sound for what seemed to be an eternity. Then, all hell broke loose. Tow drivers from all over the city were razing poor Joe. The CB was full of laughter and goof ball comments, but not a word from Joe. Poor Joe, you asked for it, and now you got it. “Tell Joe to stop by the shop, he can settle up with me then,” I said, while trying to hold back the laughter. As I walked out the door, the CB chatter could be heard all the way to the parking lot, and the comments were still flying. It was one of the funniest moments I’ve ever had for doing nothing more than putting gas in a car. When Joe came up to pay the bill I told him I had a little something for him. I handed him a little tiny gas can on a key chain. I figured it might be a good reminder for him to always check the basics before loading up the parts cannon again. After all these years I’m sure he hasn’t forgotten about it, and I’ll bet he doesn’t tell too many people where he got that little gas can key chain from… but now, it wouldn't be so much on the CB, but over the internet.
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By Joe Marconi
I am writing this on my last day of vacation in California, spending time with family. It took me a few days to totally relax, but made it a point to not look at emails or call the office.
We all need downtime. I know there will be a ton of work to be done when I return, but I also know that the time away has recharged my batteries and I will be more productive.
Being away from business and spending time with family puts things into proper perspective. You realize that a lot of the things you stress over, are really not as important as you think.
Take time to enjoy life. We all know how quickly time passes us by. And remember, no one on their death bed ever said they wished they spent more time at work.
By Joe Marconi
I recently made a call to my Internet provider to discuss and issue I was having. After multiple attempts at trying to explain my problem, the customer service rep on the other end of the phone had no clue how to solve my problem. She was nice, extremely polite, and had the voice of an angel. She was well-trained, but not in the art of problem solving.
Great customer service is not about being nice to people, it’s all about understanding the customer’s needs and coming up with solutions to their problems. Train your service personnel in the art of proper etiquette, but also in the art of problem solving. Empower your people to also make decisions. Set limits, but give them the authority to solve issues without every problem reaching your desk.
The Darndest Things...
The misunderstandings and second-hand information that get passed around by car owners when it comes to automobile repair are endless. Although, a trained technician or an understanding service writer can work through a lot of these issues. But, there are times the explanation of said problems just make ya wonder if there really is any common sense left in the world.
Here’s a few timeless stories from the service bays.
Customer: “Four hours to replace my radiator is way too much. It’s a simple procedure that shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to do. It only has two hoses hooked to it!”
Mechanic: “The labor rate is what it is. We charge by the hour based on the labor time. Some radiators are easier and some are not. Yours is not.”
Customer: “There should be a cheaper way to do this. Something I can afford.”
Mechanic: “So, how are you with hand tools? You could do the job yourself ya know.”
Customer: “I’ve got the tools but, I just don’t know how.”
Mechanic: “Even if it’s as simple as you claim it is?”
Customer: “Can you have it done today?”
Repair Without Diagnosing
Mechanic: “I found your stalling problem. It’s an elbow shaped vacuum hose on the back of the engine hidden under the intake manifold. It’s going to take a bit of work to get to it and the dealership parts department is the only place that has this specially shaped hose. Your estimate is $xxx.xx. That’s the labor, parts and diagnostic fees all included.”
Customer: “OK, I’m fine with that except for the diagnostic part. You should give that to me for free. Because I’m not paying you to do diagnose it just to fix it. I don’t see why you guys have to charge just to find the problem.”
Mechanic: “Well, I guess we could do what you suggested and that’s to replace the entire engine. That would be $x,xxx.xx. Which is why we discussed diagnosing it rather than assuming it needed a complete engine. So, which would you prefer?”
Customer: “No, I think the diagnostic charge is just fine. Go ahead with the repair.”
Closing Time Repair
Caller: “I’m calling about a car I needed fixed on Friday and you guys were too busy to get to it.”
Service writer: “Have you been to our shop before, and did they tell you why they couldn’t get to it?”
Caller: “No, I’ve never been to your shop before, and yes they did tell me why they couldn’t get to it. It was 5 minutes before closing time and all the techs had already gone home for the weekend.”
Service writer: “That’s understandable it was a rather slow day for the techs. We would have got to the car on Monday.”
Caller: “I took the car to another shop that was open on the weekend and they messed it up. So, I’m calling you to take care of the bill.”
Service writer; “What bill? You didn’t have the work done here.”
Caller: “I’m talking about the bill from the other shop. You’re going to take care of it!”
Service writer: “I don’t think that’s going to happen sir, and I’m sorry your car didn’t get into our shop. As far as the bill and the work that was done you’ll have to take that up with the other shop.”
Caller: “I’m never do any work with your shop ever again!” CLICK
Mechanic: “Good morning, how can I help you?”
Caller: “Yes, I have a coupon for an oil change.”
Mechanic: “Ma’am, we don’t and never have had, a coupon for an oil change.”
Caller: “Yea, it’s a coupon for one of those discount oil/lube places. But, I actually can’t find it. I made a copy of it with a program on my computer.”
Mechanic: “I can’t honor another shops coupon, and I don’t think they’ll honor a homemade copy of their coupon either.”
Caller: “I know, I tried to use it there. It’s a fake coupon and they knew it. So, can you take my fake coupon for an oil change anyway?”
Mechanic: “Your fake coupon is only good for a fake oil change. Neither of which we’ll do.”
Gas Mileage Gone
Customer: “I just bought this car and now it doesn’t go.”
Mechanic: “It’s out of gas ma’am.”
Customer: “That’s impossible! The guy that sold it to me said it would get better gas mileage than my old car!”
Mechanic: “The tank is empty ma’am.”
Customer: “My old car could go a month without gas. This one only went 3 weeks. How in the world is that possible? My old car holds 22 gallons and gets 10 mpg and I filled this one up and it holds 15 gallons and it gets 12 mpg! ”
Mechanic: “Ma’am, 22 gallons times 10 miles per gallon is 220 miles per tank. But, a car with a 15 gallon tank that gets 12 mpg can only go 180 miles per tank. You simply ran out of gas.”
Customer: “I just don’t get it. I think you’re making this all up and are siding with the guy who sold me the car!”
Customer: “Can you check brakes here?”
Service writer: “Yep, we sure can. What kind of car is it?”
Customer: “It’s a Mercedes.”
Service writer: “OK, where are the keys? I’ll have one of the guys pull it into the service bay.”
Customer: “I walked here.”
Service writer: “Well, as soon as you can get the car to us we’ll check it out.”
Customer: “You said you could check my brakes, so I need to know how bad they are and how much it will cost.”
Service writer: “I’ll need to see the car to give you an estimate.”
Customer: “How do you guys can stay in business saying you can check brakes at the same time not being able to tell me how bad the brakes are on my Mercedes?”
Service writer: “I could send a tow truck for the car.”
Customer: “What car?”
Service writer: “Your Mercedes.”
Customer: “I don’t have a Mercedes. I told you I walked here.”
Service writer: “I mean your Mercedes you want us to check the brakes on.”
Customer: “I don’t own a Mercedes. Whatever gave you that idea? I just want an estimate on fixing them.”
Service writer: “If they’re in awful shape, it will cost whatever the parts are plus whatever the labor would be. If they’re in perfect shape they won’t need a thing done and you wouldn’t have to spend a dime on the brakes.”
Customer: “Thanks, that’s all I needed to know. I’m going to go find one with good brakes then.”
Everybody has their own unique way of explaining things. Some on point while others are so far off that even if you could give a logical answer, the answer isn’t always exactly what they wanted to hear at all.
Just goes to show, that some people will say the darndest things to the person behind the counter. For the professional mechanic, it’s just another day in paradise.
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