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My name is Kiley and I write for "The Return" in Ratchet+Wrench magazine. (For those unfamiliar, 'The Return' is more of a personalized review that gives readers the chance to learn about how a product works inside a shop that uses it as well as the shop's review of the product.)
My question to you all today is this: what tool has made an impact in your shop? If someone was looking for a product to add to their shop, what would you recommend? (This can range from shop floor tools, security systems, management systems, payroll, etc.) Thank you so much and have a great day!
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Where’s my 10mm Socket Deep or shallow, impact or chrome, 12 point or six point, ¼” or ½” drive, it really doesn’t matter, those 10 mm sockets have the ability to grow legs. Out of all the hundreds of sockets in the drawer, only the 10mm seems to be the one that disappears without a trace. Sure, it’s used a lot, and yes, it does seem to be on every car and in every form and fashion you can think of, but why is this most useful socket also the one with the escape artistry of Steve McQueen in the movie “The Great Escape”? They can vanish without a trace, leave without warning, or fall into an engine bay never to see the light of day again. One time I actually caught a glimpse of one on a mad dash for freedom. I was working under a car installing a few brackets with my trusty (trustee) 10mm socket attached to my ¼” air ratchet when the socket spun off the ratchet. It traveled along the top edge of the crossmember spinning like mad when it came upon a small hole in the center. It hopped straight up, still spinning, did a perfect pirouette and slipped right down the hole. It was like watching a cartoon character sticking their head out of the hole just long enough to say, “See ya!” and disappear out of sight. I never managed to fish the socket out of there, either. The hole was too small for anything but the socket and the ends of the crossmember were welded shut. That one got away, but I saw the whole thing myself. They really do try to escape. It’s like spotting Big Foot. I mean, who would believe ya when you tell them you just saw your 10mm socket make a break for it and escape down some rabbit hole in a crossmember? Ya might as well call one of those tabloid magazines and tell them. At least they might believe your story. I think the tabloids would put it all down as some sort of conspiracy anyway. It’s the only way to explain it. When I lose a socket the tool truck always has a replacement. For all I know, those fiendish little sockets are sneaking back on the truck, while I’m purchasing one of their buddies. Maybe they’re all out to prove something, or they’re all working with the tool trucks for a cut in the profits. We should start a 10 mm support group for all those socket sets and mechanics who are missing one. I can just hear it now. “I’m here to tell my story about my 10 mm socket. We were good friends, we did a lot together, but now he’s gone and I’m all alone.” The group could all get a T shirt that says, “I lost my 10mm socket. Can you help me?”, but knowing my luck, I’d probably lose the shir, too. Maybe I’ll just paint them all bright yellow, or buy them in bulk and keep so many around that I can’t possibly ever not have one handy. But, knowing those 10mm sockets the way I do, I’d bet they’d find a way to have a mass escape when I’m not looking. The next thing ya know, I’ll start a chain gang of 10mm escapees and have them all work on the worst slimy, greasy, dirty, nastiest part of the car I can find. Here’s the thing I don’t understand. Why doesn’t the 7 and 8mm socket make a break for it? They’re out and about just as much as the 10? As a matter of fact, why not use the 9mm socket or the 11mm a bit more often and give that 10mm guy a bit of break. Maybe then the 10mm won’t feel so over worked and have the tendency to walk off the job. Way back when everything was SAE instead of metric, I don’t recall having to put posters on the neighborhood telephone poles, “Have you seen this ¼” socket?” Most of the time it was right where I left it, and eventually I would wear it out to the point it couldn’t grip a bolt or nut anymore. But would I replace it? No, of course not. I’d put it back in the rack with all of the other sockets, only to remember how worn out it was the next time I needed it. But, that 10 mm, haven’t worn one out yet, because that guy will use any excuse to leave before it gets that old. I’m not saying all the other metric wrenches and sockets are exempt from trying to flee the tool box. Heck no. I’m pretty sure I stumbled onto one of their mass escape plans before. I came into work one day and somebody had moved my tool box. When I opened the drawer all the sockets were haphazardly scattered everywhere you looked. I’ll bet that 10mm socket dude got the other sockets all riled up and would have made good on their escape if it wasn’t for the tool box being locked. Then, there are those two sockets that rest on either side of the 10mm. They don’t seem to do much, they hardly get out of the drawer, and apparently don't take after that 10mm guy at all. You know these two, they're the 9 and 11mm sockets. Every now and then you'll find that one or two odd ball nuts or bolts that are specifically made for a 9 or 11mm socket. They seem to be content living in the tool box with this empty gap between them and they never seem to get lost or go AWOL. In fact, I somehow have a large collection of 9 and 11mm sockets that I don’t even remember buying. But that 10mm socket, that guy hardly ever ends up back in the box and is a bad influence on the rest of them. It’s out all night, can’t find its way home, rolls up under a cabinet and hides, or its favorite trick, finds the one spot in the very center underneath the car that you can’t possibly reach. It's also been known to take the suicide approach of avoiding going back in the tool box. It will take a dive off the edge of a fender and fall into a narrow crevice from which you’ll never retrieve it again. I’m starting to believe those 10mm sockets got it in for us mechanics. They’ll hide in plain sight or sit there shining up at us from some unreachable spot in the corner of the engine bay. I’m pretty sure I saw one scoot across the floor and under a bench once. Never did find him again, either. Maybe we should get Sherlock Holmes on the case. Maybe he could find the whereabouts of these elusive 10 mm runaway sockets. In the mean time I’ve got another problem to take care of. My new pocket screwdriver I just got off the tool truck has disappeared. Seems it’s been hanging around those 10mm sockets way too long, and has gotten ambitious about going over the wall on its own. Or maybe he’s stuck on the edge of the driver’s door again, but that’s another story entirely.
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Water Cooler Diagnostics We’ve all heard the phrase, “codes don’t fix cars, good diagnostics does”. Codes are merely a direction or path, not the answer as some might think. Those “codes fix it all” believers are usually at the bottom of the diagnostic chain. You know the type; those Neanderthals with little wrenches and big cheater bars, or the ones that follow the old adage, “When in doubt-rip it out” method of diagnosing a problem. It’s seems to me that car repair for a certain demographic of people has always been something related to hand-me-down repair information, not diagnostic skills. I believe it’s all because of the availability of cheaply made parts and bad information. Some of it is hearsay, but a lot of it comes from two guys chatting next to the water cooler at work, and neither one of them have any automotive diagnostics background at all. This latest case study is a perfect example of why swapping parts and paying attention to those water cooler experts isn’t always a good idea. A trained technician with diagnostic background and less time at the water cooler may be what you need. A 2007 Dodge 4.7L pickup came into the shop with a stalling problem. The owner had already stopped by the water cooler and made a trip to the code fairy. Since no codes were stored, there wasn’t much for him to do except follow the water cooler genius’ advice. He swapped out every sensor and computer part he was told about and a few more he could barely reach, just to be safe. All of which didn’t change a thing. Before writing up the work order, I had to listen to his story, which ended like most of them do, "I've already spent too much on this truck, and I don't want to spend a penny more." (I wonder what kind of commission the water cooler guy got from the part store for helping this guy spend all his cash.) The stalling was pretty predictable, usually every 15 minutes. Just as it would stall, the check engine light would rapidly flash, then the truck would sit silent. If you turned the key off and back on, the truck would run perfectly as if nothing happened, right up to the very moment the whole scenario repeated itself. Since the only odd thing was this momentary flashing of the MIL, I decided to hook up a scanner and wait to see if this odd failure would show up on the screen. Sure enough, code P0688 popped up momentarily, just as the truck stalled “ASD signal low”. Out of habit I reached up and cycled the key. Dang it, the code never stored and the truck is back to running correctly again. I’ll have to wait one more time and see if I actually had the right code number. Since it only occurred as it went through its death roll, catching this failure was going to be tricky. It was the correct code alright, but no signs of dropped voltage or weak connections anywhere to be found. It’s time to pull out the big guns. Break out the scope boys! With the scope hooked up to two different injector leads and the remaining channels on a couple of coils, I spent the afternoon watching the ASD voltage like a nervous hen watching her chicks. As if on cue, the truck died. Not a bit of change on the scope. I’m definitely going at this the wrong way. Something is dropping off, or at least I assumed it was. Instead of looking at the ASD signal, how about checking the injection signal and coil signals from the PCM? This time the scope did have a weird response. Just as it stalled there was a little extra squiggly line that didn’t belong in the pattern on the coil input leads. Very subtle difference, but enough of a difference that it needed closer attention. The voltage signal spiked a bit higher than normal just as the truck would stall, and then the voltage would drop to zero. It must be the PCM or a coil. Since the signal was only there for a brief blip on the scope, it wasn’t exactly something I could put my finger on just yet. Time for some old school tricks. Since the PCM was new, I could at least (with some trepidation) rule it out for now. I could test further, or I could try to create a problem that might mimic what I was seeing on the scope pattern, or with luck, if it was a spike that was coming from a coil, disconnecting it could show the problem. I decided to give this truck a miss of my very own and see if I could increase that little squiggle into a bigger one. I'll unplug one coil and watch the scope pattern. If I’m lucky, the truck will either stay running longer than it normally did, or it might show me a larger voltage spike. Sure enough, I found it on the third coil. As long as that particular coil was left unplugged, the truck ran well past the usual stall time. To verify it, I plugged the coil back in and watched the scope readings directly at that coil. A millisecond before the stall the coil spiked to the top of the screen as the truck shut off. Just as I suspected, if it was on the coil that was causing the problem the spiked voltage would show higher there than on the adjacent coils. The big question for me was why did it not set a code? The reason was the coil lead led straight to the PCM. The extra high voltage going back into the circuit simply turned the PCM off as if the key was turned off. There’s no codes for shutting the truck off, only codes for failures that make it shut off. The solution...replace the coil. Now and then there are problems that don’t follow the diagnostic steps laid out by the engineers. Even though you’d think every aspect and every type of condition has been tried and tested, or at least talked about around the water cooler. There are times when you’ve got to look past the “assumed” problem and dig a little deeper to find the cause. There's no doubt this repair is going to be another one of those conversations around the water cooler, but I seriously doubt anywhere in this story will the novice know-it-all admit that it took an experienced technician to locate his problem, not his water cooler buddy. Oh, and I don’t expect to hear him say as he leans on the cooler, “Codes don’t fix cars, mechanics do” even when there isn't a code.
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I'm throwing this out there to help those shop owners who are taking a beating. What do you guys do to remain positive? Recently we've had a couple backyarders open up undercutting every legit shop around, and customers are believing the magic promise of something for nothing. Others are going on a long trip in 15 minutes and want a full checkup for piece of mind, but no money. Then there's the guy who's inspection ran out 3 weeks ago about the same time his windshield broke and the steel came out of the tire, yet now he has an emergency at 5:45 on Friday because we won't give him a sticker. Its really starting to be difficult to just grin and bear it. Maybe I'll take up drinking.
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Perhaps one of the best ways to motivate employees is to give them regular positive feedback. Too often, employees only hear when things go wrong. And while we all need to know when we fail, it’s more important to recognize when things go right. People want to know when they win.
People also like to be included in on the progress of the company. It’s important that everyone in your shop feels that what they do really matters to the success of the company. This also promotes the right culture and builds a strong team.
Create a strategy where you give your employees feedback on their progress, especially positive feedback. Look for things you can point out that recognizes an action by an employee that resulted in recent success. This will help to reinforce the behavior you are looking for and will increase the odds of repeating that same behavior.
The feeling of accomplishment and being recognized for it is a powerful motivator in the workplace, perhaps stronger than money. People want to feel good about themselves. As shop owners, implement this strategy and ignite your workplace toward success.
Remember, your success is dependent on the success of the people around.
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