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Where'd the Electricity Go? - Confused? Yea, me too!


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Where’d The Electricity Go?

A while back a guy came in with a blower motor issue. Well, OK, the blower motor failed. But, this guy wanted a more in-depth explanation for its demise rather than the usual, “The motor has worn out.” kind of explanation. So, I proceeded to tell him how the brushes on the armature have worn down, and quite possibly the armature itself has worn down to a point that electric current can’t pass through the windings of the motor.

I thought that was a pretty good description of ‘your blower motor has worn out, sir.’ as I’ve ever heard. Apparently not, and he had his reason too! His primary concern was, “Where’d the electricity go?”

“Go?” I exclaimed, “It didn’t go anywhere. Your blower motor is just worn out. The electric is still there.” That bit of information fell on deaf ears. His understanding of direct current was that it flowed like water, and since the blower wasn’t working the electricity should be spewing out all over the floor of his car. Even though he had no idea what electricity was, and he proved that by asking, “So what does electricity look like? I’ve never actually seen the stuff.” (Me neither for that matter.)

I guess I wasn’t exactly following his line of thought, I took a guess and asked,” So, what is it that you’d like me to explain? Electricity?”

“Yes,” he answered. However, this guy wanted an answer that was the equivalent to a NASA rocket scientist’s explanation. OK, I’ll give it a try. I’m no rocket scientist but I might be able to hum a few bars.

My explanation began with lightning bolts, and how static electricity worked, then onto the atom and how they have the same number of electrons and protons. Then when an atom loses a few electrons it becomes charged. This in a sense is the basis of the formation of electricity. My dissertation was equivalent to a college professor’s lecture on the subject. But, apparently this guy fell asleep during the class and didn’t understand a word I said. I was either boring him with such details, or I wasn’t even close to what this guy really wanted me to tell him. Confused and bewildered he only had one comment on the whole thing. “It was working just fine yesterday, and today it won’t even come on.” (Like I haven’t heard that one before.) I don’t know where to begin or where to end at this point.

I guess some people expect some sort of warning when an electrical motor or system fails. Sometimes it does, but a lot of times it just stops working. Maybe this guy wanted a bit more of a drastic warning system. Maybe a little red warning flag that pops out of the glove box, waves at ya, and then writes a note on the instrument panel. I don’t know. I don’t know what to think! Look, the thing ain’t working, it needs a new one, and NO…, electricity can’t condense into a puddle on the floor! What more do ya want?!???

“Is it anything like steam then?” he asked. “Is what like steam?” I asked. “Electricity,” he then scolding tells me, as if I forgot what subject we were on. “Well, yes it is and no it isn’t,” I answered, “You can’t really see true steam and you can’t really see electricity, but they are both energy sources that have great potential.” That led to a discussion about the white smoke coming out of a steam engine and how that must be same thing as the smoke that comes out of an electric motor when it burns up. Sure, sure, it’s the steam and/or the electricity escaping. Whatever… let’s just move on from all this smoke stuff.

This guy still didn’t understand why the electric wasn’t spilling out. I pointed to the wall socket and told him that you don’t see anything falling on the floor there do ya? Oh, he had answer for that one. “That’s AC current, he said proudly, as if he knew what he was taking about, “It switches back and forth from positive and negative. Since it does that it never has a chance to fall out because there’s an equal push and pull of the two different polarities.” I can see where this discussion is heading. Somewhere between Crazyville and Lunatic City and I’m stuck in a taxi with the guy who knows everything about anything.

“So, what you’re saying is that DC current should be falling out somewhere?” I asked sarcastically. Oh sure, ask an idiotic question like that, when I’m supposed to be the smart guy to a guy who thinks AC current is held in the wall socket because of an equilateral force between positive and negative. Why don’t I just hang a sign around my neck that says, “Tell me anything, I’ll believe it!” Hang on; he’s working on a thought provoking answer. I suppose he just has to think this through a minute and get it into an illogical format that fits the rest of his story.

He stands there pondering for a minute, changes his stance and rubs his chin for a bit, then… he gives his final solution to this perplexing problem. “DC current isn’t all that strong. That’s why it’s used in cars, ya know. AC is way too powerful for them. Besides, they haven’t found a way to keep an extension cord dangling out of a car that won’t get all tangled up while you’re driving,” he proudly deduced.

All-righty-then… … … … I’ll just leave this discussion right here. I can’t top that one, nor, do I even want to try. I’ll just replace this guy’s blower motor and send him on his way.

He left the shop with a beaming smile. The kind of smile that someone usually has after they’ve won some sort of debating contest. He says to me as he walks out the door, “I just taught you something you didn’t know.” With that, my day is now complete. I’m so glad he stopped by. I couldn’t have made it another day without his wonderful explanation of electricity.

I guess everyone has their own theories but this one topped them all. Just to be on the safe side, I’m going to make sure all the batteries on the display racks have those little red and black protectors on the terminals. Wouldn’t want any of it leaking out, you know.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Auto shop owners are always looking for ways to improve production levels. They focus their attention on their technicians and require certain expectations of performance in billable labor hours. While technicians must know what is expected of them, they have a limited amount of control over production levels. When all factors are considered, the only thing a well-trained technician has control over is his or her actual efficiency.
      As a review, technician efficiency is the amount of labor time it takes a technician to complete a job compared to the labor time being billed to the customer. Productivity is the time the technician is billing labor hours compared to the time the technician is physically at the shop. The reality is that a technician can be very efficient, but not productive if the technician has a lot of downtime waiting for parts, waiting too long between jobs, or poor workflow systems.
      But let’s go deeper into what affects production in the typical auto repair shop. As a business coach, one of the biggest reasons for low shop production is not charging the correct labor time. Labor for extensive jobs is often not being billed accurately. Rust, seized bolts, and wrong published labor times are just a few reasons for lost labor dollars.
      Another common problem is not understanding how to bill for jobs that require extensive diagnostic testing, and complicated procedures to arrive at the root cause for an onboard computer problem, electrical issue, or drivability issue. These jobs usually take time to analyze, using sophisticated tools, and by the shop’s top technician. Typically, these jobs are billed at a standard menu labor charge, instead of at a higher labor rate. This results in less billed labor hours than the actual labor time spent. The amount of lost labor hours here can cripple a shop’s overall profit.
      Many shop owners do a great job at calculating their labor rate but may not understand what their true effective labor is, which is their labor sales divided by the total labor hours sold. In many cases, I have seen a shop that has a shop labor rate of over $150.00 per hour, but the actual effective labor rate is around $100. Not good.
      Lastly, technician production can suffer when the service advisors are too busy or not motivated to build relationships with customers, which results in a low sales closing ratio. And let’s not forget that to be productive, a shop needs to have the right systems, the right tools and equipment, an extensive information system, and of course, great leadership.
      The bottom line is this; many factors need to be considered when looking to increase production levels. While it does start with the technician, it doesn’t end there. Consider all the factors above when looking for ways to improve your shop’s labor production.
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