A game is being played every day that doesn’t have many fans filling the bleachers. It’s a battle between man and machine.
Yes, on playing fields across the country — whether it be one-bay garages, 12-bay shops or maybe just some far-off farms — the combatants line up, vehicles on one side and techs on the other. Their objective is to diagnose and repair said vehicles, while keeping their wits, sanity and all of their appendages intact.
Each game has some time limits already established by a ruling guide for labor hours, but this is only a guide. Additional time may be added if it’s deemed necessary for extended play.
Scraped knuckles and other small injuries come with the territory. No timeouts are allowed, unless said injuries require medical attention.
Delay of game issues come from every direction: parts need to be special ordered, a bolt is frozen in place, or customers have to authorize a repair before the game commences.
Success in this game starts with good scouting. Solid information about your opponent (the car) is the foundation for any successful game. Just one tidbit of information that’s omitted from the manufacturer’s pages (or poor descriptions and procedures written by their second string) can lead to a mechanical fumble.
Customers have the edge on offense. They bring the problem to the technician and start the action (and call plenty of audibles along the way).
“I want my brake fluid changed, and I want the brake pads looked at because the pedal feels spongy.”
Typically, these self-diagnostics lead to broken plays or, far worse, a full-on blitz. Then, it’s second and long, and the tech has the ball. He asks, “Is the fluid black, or contaminated in some way that you know of?” No yardage gained here; the customer was sneaking in an illegal play — the old “bad information from the Internet” play. That’ll be a 15-yard penalty, a loss of down and a full diagnostics charge.
The tech then goes on the offensive to diagnose the problem: worn pads and soft front brake line hoses. All that’s left is to run the play past the customer and let him or her make the call.
The call is made, there’s a slight hesitation, but we have a first down! The job is sold. Now on to the actual work.
All the preliminary tests are completed, the parts have been ordered and the halftime show is underway. The third quarter starts with the tech waiting for the parts.
As the players on the field scramble for position, pulling the parts from the shelves and making the delivery, several yards are gained and the end zone is in sight.
We’re down to the final quarter of this game. Can the tech pull this one off? Will the delivered pads be the correct ones for the application? Will the lines fit correctly? And did he make the right call? The play is made; the components have been installed. All the procedures have been checked and rechecked again. All that’s left is the replay review to confirm the action on the field — the test-drive.
Success! Move the chains! The tech proceeds to the service desk with the completed paperwork. The service writer checks the signs, gives a nod to the tech, makes a motion for the customer from the sidelines and the final play of the game is at hand. The transaction has been made, the customer is happy with the results, the service writer is smiling and the tech makes a run for the end zone. SCORE! The winner, and still champion, is the tech.
Unlike most sports, the rules of the automotive service game are constantly changing. These newer and more sophisticated systems change our playbooks, requiring technicians to learn and execute new plays in order to make the right repairs. The champions in the game of auto repair know that they don’t know all of the plays. And, the best techs have to go back to the locker room and study time and time again.
The game doesn’t get any easier the longer you play, either. What was a good offensive call last time may end up in lost yardage (and labor hours) this time around. Luckily, with the proper calls, quality plays and a lot of passion for the game, techs across the country will keep putting points on the board.
After all, techs play to win.