Case for the Mobile Vagabond
I went down to Las Vegas this week to demo TEXA on supercars. It was fun to hook up to vehicles I could only dream of owning. It is about a 6 hour drive from the Ogden, UT area. It was early evening before I could get out of town so I stopped in Mesquite for a $7.99 Prime Rib dinner and got a room in St. George for the night. (all the cheap rooms were gobbled up by the senior games. grrrr) I had driven my van so I had all my gear with me. I decided to cold call shops in St. George. Most I had visited but it had been a couple of years. I made 7 cold calls. On the last one the guy said he had 3 programming jobs they could not get to. I told him I was locked and loaded. The first vehicle was a 2004 Nissan. It would go into limp mode on hard acceleration. It had a checksum error code. I checked the calibration and it was up to date. Not much I could do there. I condemned the PCM. Anyone know how to force a Nissan to take the same flash that it is loaded with?
Second vehicle was a 2010 Terrain. No Crank / No Start. Check engine lamp flashing rapidly. Can receive codes on all modules but PCM. Transmission last module before PCM. PCM last module on chain. Cannot read data on TCM but can read and clear codes. No communication with PCM. CAN signal not found at PCM connector. Customer had two PCM's both with same symptoms. After fighting with it for an hour or so, the customer explained that they had installed a new engine. After a test drive to the fuel station, the vehicle would not crank or start and the check engine lamp would flash rapidly. I did not have access to a lift. I made two suggestions. One, there was a wire loom that had been set next to the catalyst. Not melted but felt crunchy. I thought maybe some wires had melted inside. Two, there was a missing or loose ground. A main ground which backfed high current through the PCM and let the smoke out or a smaller ground to the PCM that was preventing it from communicating. At any rate I expect that the issue was created when the engine was exchanged.
Third vehicle was a 2003 Caravan. Customer had replaced the BCM and SKIM due to a no start situation. IMMO lamp was flashing. No communcation with PCM. After checking powers and grounds I reconnect PCM. The vehicle came alive. I disabled the SKIM in PCM. The vehicle started. I ran to my van and cut a new chip key. Came back and attempted to learn the key. My joy was replaced with frustration as the key would not learn and the PCM went dead again. I condemned the PCM.
So I just stopped by some shops and got some work. The programming jobs ended up being diagnostic ones. I suppose one could go around like Harold Hill diagnosing and programming their way around the country. I like that idea. There are logistics to figure out like the hotel thing. I can sleep fine in my van but really need a place to shower. Maybe a nationwide gym membership? I can't stand to cook when on the road. So food gets expensive. I suppose in some cases you could make part of the deal giving you a room and board. I have had invitations to dinner before. I have yet for someone to offer a room unless they knew me first. Another issue is that if it took a few days to get parts, what do I do in the meantime? It is too expensive to stay (if at a hotel) and it is expensive to go home and come back. Hand tools are an issue. I carry a few but what I really need is a technician that works with me. This may be something I need to ask for when making a planned trip. I have to admit it was fun to do. I got to be the hero for people who have never met me. I made some money on the road.
This is the second trip in 3 months where some cold calling got me work. On this trip I did not solicit diagnostic work. If this was offered, how much more work would I have? One thing that I did was show the shop managers and owners my mobile work center. I explained that I could do board level work on-site. I also had access to service information. They could see the plethora of tools, flashing lights and all sorts of gadgets. I try hard to back up my tools with some intelligent conversation. Most folks get it. Some don't. One can't be everything for everybody. There are personalities and egos to deal with.
There is some merit to this at least for me. It is sort of my dream job. I love to travel, meet people and fix cars.
Mike, check out this link, it may solve your food on the go problems: wisebread.com/cooking-great…
Jeff, I've done a similar thing for years now, especially when I was doing more work on paving and milling machines. I'd wrap my lunch up in tin-foil, wedge it into the exhaust manifold as I'm operating or running tests. Come lunch time it was cooked and a welcome warm meal.
We're a lot alike Michael. During the years when I was a mobile trainer at night, I'd spend my days at the shops of the attendees. I met a lot of great guys, I helped them hone their diagnostic skills and sometimes sell them some tools. It's a great way to fight motel boredom too ;-).
Love the hustle & hunger to do more. A great example to point out for when you hear guys cry about not getting enough work coming to them.
all I can say is, wish you stopped by the shop when you were here.