How Many Technicians Understand Electricity?
Over the last few months I have had three occasions where I was asked to diagnose no start that ended up being a fuse. These were shops with seasoned technicians. Two of the occasions were due to DIYer's that brought in their vehicles after they would not start when doing their own repairs. When I asked the technicians if they had checked all the powers and grounds they all said "Yes". How is that possible when the fuses are completely gone? I am happy for the work to do. What I am concerned about is the lack of ambition on the part of the technicians assigned to the vehicles.
Today I was called to program keys for a 1998 Ford Explorer. I went through the PATS timeout and attempted to program the keys. At the end there was no joy. I then read the codes and discovered that the key was not being recognized. I cut new keys, tried again, no joy. I unplugged the PATS antenna module and checked the leads coming from the PATS main module. There was no RF voltage coming to the antenna module. After checking continuity in the wires between the two, I condemned the PATS main module. I was called out to program keys. I ended up doing the diagnosis and programming then having to come back after the new part was installed. Do you think the customer wanted to pay for the diagnostic? They figured it was part of the deal.
There are quite a few technicians out there that do not know how to read a schematic or diagnose electrical problems. how can we as an industry improve this? How many parts are installed only to find out it was only a ground or a fuse?
to answer your question, Not the many techs have a clue about electrical work, I also do a mobile diagnostic, and found many things that I just scratch my head about it.
when I took classes, my teacher toll me that the auto industry was going to be short on techs, because all the new generation was more inclined to video games, and computers.
I have worked at Chrysler dealerships for 30 years. There are very few technicians, I have known, that understand electrical. The first thing I tell other techs is to check for power and ground. I have found most of them are afraid of anything to do with wiring on cars. No one seems to want to learn how to work on electrical problems. I would like the answer to this question as well.
When I started out as a line tech, one of my first jobs was a 1998 Ford Ranger with a 4x4 issue. Something was missing a power supply (can't remember what now). I concluded there was an open wire somewhere behind the dash, so I started to pull out the dash. One of the older techs inquired what I was doing and I explained. He asked if I checked fuses - "Of course I did". With a smirk, he said "Did you check for a missing fuse?". That old guy was right, I had a missing fuse.
It was embarrassing at the time, but it was a great lesson. Just today, I diagnosed a 2001 Silverado where the BCM would not communicate due to a missing fuse.
Unless there is some sort of technician requirement, you're not going to force those guys to learn. For now, I think we just need to set a positive/professional example in this industry and hopefully inspire others to learn.
You can't make them attend training if they don't feel they need to, and most of them don't. And their is no regulation requiring licensed automotive electrical techs.
I was going to comment similarly, then I saw yours. I believe they most both don't want and don't need to. It should as simple as, incompetent person = no job. But, that is not how our pathetic system works. The worst among us still have jobs, and vehicle owners actually choose to have their vehicle serviced by these hacks. In this area, at least, people who are in … financial condition still patronize shops which are absolutely disgusting in appearance and where the staff regularly consume alcohol on the job. I visited one recently, and the business owner was beating on a car while his open brown bottle sat on the lift. When the people who actually pay the bills have are willing and eager to support sub-par service, we are severely hampered in our efforts to make the business what it should be.
My opinion is that the industry needs to start mentoring. I make an effort to pass on critical thinking skills at every opportunity. The effort needs to be put forth "out there".
In general there is a culture where testing is frowned upon by customers and owners. The tech that blasts parts is perceived as hard working and profitable.
We should allow ourselves and others around us to make mistakes. Ego driven top dogs belittling idea's or mistakes shuts down anyone with uncertainty real quick.
Shops should not except incorrect parts and labor being charged to the customer. That is easier said than done, because we are all at varied stages of ignorance. Some shops do not even see incorrect parts replacement as an issue though. It is part of their process.
Probably never going to change from any actions we take really. The newer vehicles are going to weed out incompetence quickly. I think our efforts will be rewarded soon, and the less savvy will be leaving the trade.
You bring up some wounds from the days I worked in the shop. I worked really hard to learn diagnostics. I invested in expensive scopes and diagnostic tools. I thought that the money would come rolling in. What I found is that the shop structure was not tuned to diagnostic but flat rate tasks. So instead of getting brake jobs, front end work and CV axles, which you can double your expended time on. I was getting intermittent problems, driveability and work that was not being bid or billed in a fair fashion. Maybe techs see this and rather than learn electrical, they get known for being bad at it and get the gravy to slurp all day long. The diagnostic techs should be the highest paid techs. They should get paid in a way that compensates them for their skills along with the work being completed. Maybe when diagnostic techs are elevated and compensated their jobs will be desired instead of loathed.
Do you know any mobile Diag in South Fl. I could use a few till my young techs get upto speed. We have started to on purpose unplug a thing or two and have them diag it .If it takes them more than 15 min to find a fuse or ez plug we give a few clues but dont fix it. So far its working. Ollie G
That's a great idea. I couldn't tell you of any mobile diag I trust, since I do my own diagnosing. There are some guys who take classes to meet the required 16 hours of yearly continuing education, and alot of them are mobile techs. So anywhere they might provide those classes can be great places to find them. I would do mobile diag but only after hours of my day job. Hope this helps.
Tell me more about the 16 Hours CE requirement. Is this for educators only or for all technicians in Florida?
Actually it's only for Miami Dade County, not all of Florida. It's a requirement for the renewal of your annual mechanics license. 16 hours of classes per year. When completed you are given a certificate that you must show to the county. Shops with no licenses are penalized. And some actually pay off a school to get these certificates believe it or not. I for one attended these classes until I relocated out of that county, and learned a ton.
I see this with other techs I work with. I think part of it is just laziness and the second part is they get complacent, you always here "It is almost always this that fails" so they don't go any further. One tech in particular relies on Identifix and if he doesn't have a code he is stuck.
I'm a new tech and always get told you don't have to test everything it takes up to much time. I personally will not say a part is faulty unless I have evidence to prove that it is faulty. Our shop pays us all hourly but the others guys all came from flat rate and I think that is what caused their bad habits.
Good Morning Gentlemen
To answer Michaels question.....not enough. If I may say, I was part of an ugly situation awhile back as I was seeking a job position at a Dealership and during my intro to the service manager a tech was in process of blasting a service writer for his time on a vehicle that was a potential buy back. After the smoke cleared and we got back to the situation at hand....I jokingly said to the manager "Its most likely a simple fix ..like a missing fuse!" not realising how volatile the situation was at the dealership......according to well referenced sources.... a relay was reinstalled in the incorrect position. I know that its definitely not the norm .....BUT.....powers and grounds would have fixed it and with the understanding as to know what your working on...make ,model and year....don't take others information for granted , as a tech myself.....I proceed to start a baseline of known FACTS before I pick up a wrench but that's me......having traveled the hard road of lessons learned. How do we fix this is asked....Start at the beginning by providing support to your local High/Vocational programs, attend every advisory meeting, and preach the right stuff and most of all get to know the instructors by their first name letting them know you are available anytime to talk. If I may continue on to say as how to "Influence" change I was asked to do a presentation several weeks ago to a Vocational Automotive group my presentation was ...."What's in your wallet!"......I guess they never heard lifes ways put in that kind of context...with that being said I will end by saying that if a technician is not up to a standard in electrical/electronics he or she is missing out on a fantastic future in the most advanced section of our economy and it would be a shame to see them miss it knowing that... we... could have done....something.
Techs need training but they have to want the training. Less than a week after a very good ATG electrical class one of the guys I work with got a truck with the passenger power window not working. He checked it out and sold a window motor, didn't fix it. It was a ground wire that was mostly broken, he had tested power and ground with the connector unplugged with a meter.
Is it really any different than it has always been? Didn't the classic middle America town have ONE guy that rebuilt alternators while every single service station did radiators, brakes, tires, and "lubes"? Electrical as a whole is a rather abstract subject, you can't take it apart and look at it. It's like Math. It's a lot of paperwork. There are a lot more people that just don't get it than do. That won't change.
As to how our industry can get more techs to understand it, the answer is just training, (like anything else), but somebody has to pay for that.
Maybe part of the problem is the traditional way of teaching electrical. We teach in the classroom put up charts and diagrams. We use electrical trainers (test bench for electrical) and create a bug in a circuit. In the real world you are faced with a ten year old vehicle full of aftermarket devices connected to the loom with scotchlock connectors.
Yesterday I was called to program a PCM on a 2008 Ford Ranger. The dealer told the customer that the PCM was bad. We connected the replacement PCM. Guess what? No communication. So the "Dealer" or more correctly the tech at the dealer hooked up the IDS and saw there was no communication with the PCM. He then used his pencil artistry to game as much time as he could and hoped the customer would buy the job. So luckily the end user decided not to go with the new $1000 PCM. My challenge today is to find out what the real problem is. The first thing I did yesterday was scan the truck. I noticed that the cluster can be communicated with by the scan tool but it is not talking to the PCM or ABS. The mileage is also displayed as hyphens. I suspect a bad cluster. Before I go there I am going to study the wiring diagrams and try to understand what would cause a breakdown in communication. I am sure there are multiple ways to skin this cat. Being lazy and using a code reader like a sales clerk in a parts store parking lot is not one of them. I will try to document this and write an article.
I see using a DSO and a GMM as taking electricity apart and looking at it. For me it’s the fun part of the job but it doesn’t pay like the gravy. Maybe shops should have specialists to handle the diagnostic jobs requiring scopes and meters. Maybe school counselors should route students interested in electrical and electronics into auto shop classes.
It s definitely the fun part of the job.
I try to help the guys that I work with but when they don't put in the effort to learn, on their own time, it bugs me. Or when they go in the wrong direction and do open circuit testing right after the ATG electrical testing class, it bugs me. Makes me want to not help them, but I keep trying to help them anyway.
You just described my job here Eric; "specialists to handle the diagnostic jobs requiring scopes and meters". (Scan tools too.). But there isn't near enough to keep me busy, even working half-days, so I still get stuck doing gawd-awful things like brakes once in a while. I'd actually rather go home than do brakes, but when the shop really needs the help, I'll stay and do it.
I truly feel like part of the problem is the kruger-dunning effect. Mechanics work on cars every day, so of course they FEEL like they know the systems they're working on inside, and out. Unfortunately that just isn't the case.
As a dealership shop foreman myself, I fell victim to it. I was the top guy in the shop for years. What did I need to learn? That was until I got an apprentice who came out of school that had scanner danner as his teacher. He was asking me questions that I didn't know the answer to. Being "the guy" in the shop, I was embarrassed. I didn't even know who scanner danner was. So I found every video, or article on advanced diagnostics I could.
I'm still wanting to go to live training outside of the O.E.M training that I've been going to throughout my career. I was dead set on going to the training event next month, until realizing that I'll be in Florida at Disney with my family. Unfortunately there isn't really ANY local small training events that I have been able to find.
And speaking of O.E.M. training. I really, really wish they had classes geared towards the diagnosticians in the industry. I go to class, and the teachers are extremely intelligent people. But the classes never feel like they are geared for people who are like me.
Very simple fix really: Owners don't require techs to train. Owners won't charge for the time techs spend on diagnostics. Owners won't pay to send techs to training at night, much less in the daytime. Owners will pay techs to "throw parts", so techs do what they get paid for. Since a pattern??
Techs will do what gets them paid by the owners. If owners paid for diagnosis, paid for training, required training to have a job, and didn't pay for "throwing parts", techs would, again, do what gets them paid. It all comes down to management and owners and how they run the shops.
Today I went to a shop to update a Ford BCM. It was a simple process. It took about 10 minutes for the actual programming. What I did not get was the time paid to the technician listed on the TSB. It was .2 hours. So the tech gets paid 12 minutes to go out to the lot and bring the car into the shop, check the complaint against TSB's, Get the shop IDS from the tech using it, Connect a stable power supply to the car, program the car, verify complaint is fixed and return the vehicle to the lot. This is exactly why techs do not want to do diagnostics. They just don't get paid for them like they should. I was at the shop for about 1/2 hour total. The diagnostic was done before I got there. So maybe we could add an additional half hour. Customer pay for programming is usually around an hour. 12 minutes as opposed to 60 minutes is quite different.
I believe that we are headed, however slowly, to where parts changing will be far more expensive than training. But until we get there, techs may stay ignorant. Now instead of requiring training by force, by means of requirements, laws so on and so forth. I think training should be of such good quality, that techs will line up to get into them. Cars aren't what they used to be and neither should the training. Once we see the simple cars diminish from our roads, and start seeing complex cars become the norm, people won't have much of a choice but to start studying and training. Owners will have to get with the program, if they see their techs are incapable of handling these newer, more complex cars. At the moment, they'd rather find and hire a rock star tech, than to create one. For many reasons too, they may not want to invest in a tech that may just end up elsewhere. Instead of making the grass greener in their own shop, they rather squeeze all the juice they can out of each new hire. When owners begin to respect quality, whether it's technicians, or parts, or training, then they'll choose quality over the bottom line. The biggest motivator for a tech, is not only the challenge, the accomplishment, or cars themselves. I believe it's the light at the end of the tunnel. If they see it as nothing more than a job, then that's all they'll invest into it. But when they see the long term, the bigger picture, and prize at the finish line, that's when they'll keep their eyes on the goal, and strive to achieve it. A techs rhythm is highly affected by this, you can tell who's happy, and who isn't. Most who aren't, tend to see it as just a job. I'd like to not have to worry about retirement, wouldn't you?