I may not fix cars for a living anymore, but I do make my living writing about auto repair. For me, training is absolutely essential to keep my knowledge up-to-date. So I can’t imagine how anybody who spends the better part of his or her day hunched over a fender can get by without it. Yet many technicians say they just don’t have the time for training. After an eight- to 10-hour day, they’re tired and don’t want to give up their personal time to learn more about their work.
I recently met quite a few technicians and shop owners who may feel the same way, but know better. They know training is well worth their time because it can actually save them time later on, make their job easier and help them earn more money. These people were at a 2-1/2-day training conference hosted by AST Training of Norton, OH (www.asttraining.com).
The conference offered a number of diagnostic and shop management classes. I wish I could have attended them all, but because many were offered in the same time slots, I had to pick and choose. So I chose a couple of classes offered by John Forro, the guru of OBD II diagnostics who has written two “Silver Bullets” books of quick fixes for common pattern failures, and the Bible on Mode 6 diagnostics (actually two Mode 6 books, one for domestic makes and a second for Asian makes).
John is certainly the “go to” guy for advanced diagnostics. His classes on “Quick Check Diagnostics” and “Interpreting Mode 6 Data” were excellent. John even gave out his personal cell phone number and e-mail address to everybody who attended his classes. My first thought was this guy must be nuts. People will be bugging him with all kinds of problems and questions they are encountering in their shops. Then I realized John wants people to contact him so he can use their problems to create more Silver Bullets and classroom case studies. Smart guy.
John said he has more than enough material to write a third book of Silver Bullets, but is reluctant to do so because of negative flak he’s received from some technicians on the International Automotive Technicians Network (www.iatn.net). He said when he first came out with his Silver Bullets books, he was praised as a hero for giving technicians quick-fix solutions for a lot of the problems they were encountering in their shops. But others said that kind of approach discourages diagnostic analysis and the thought processes that one should do as part of the repair process. Well, maybe. Time is money, and the faster you can get a problem fixed, the faster you can move on to the next problem. So I told John to write the third book. Technicians need all the help they can get, even if it means “cheating” by looking up the answers in a Silver Bullets book.
I also attended a class about OEM websites by Bill Haas, vice president of education and training for ASA. He said the OEM service information websites (which can be found at www.nastf.org) contain the same information that dealer technicians use, and can be accessed by anybody for a reasonable daily, monthly or yearly subscription fee. Typical access fees are $15 to $25 for a one- to three-day access, $50 to $300 for a monthly access, and yearly subscription fees that range from free to $3,000 depending on the vehicle manufacturer. The OEM websites are a gold mine of information and include not only all the OBD diagnostic information and PCM flash updates, but even body repair and training information. But the OEM websites are also underutilized because a lot of technicians don’t even know they exist (no excuse now after reading this!).
Another reason why the OEM websites are not getting as many subscribers as they should is because they are more expensive to subscribe to than an “all makes, all models” aftermarket repair information service. Another drawback is that the OEM websites are all organized differently, so it takes some time to learn how to navigate and find the information you’re looking for on most of these websites. But the OEM websites are the only place where you can get PCM flash updates and other information that is not available from the aftermarket repair information companies.
Another class I attended was on Ford Powerstroke diesels (6.0L, 6.4L and 7.3L) by Bruce Amacker (www.turbotraining.com). I’m not a diesel guy because I never worked on them. But technicians today have to know diesels because a lot of pickup trucks are diesel powered. What’s more, over the next couple of years there will be a whole new generation of diesel-powered passenger cars introduced by import and domestic auto companies.
Bruce really opened my eyes about all the things that can go wrong with the diesel injection system. Got a hard cold-starting problem? Most technicians would probably think the engine might have some bad glow plugs. But Bruce says these engines will start just fine with two or three bad glow plugs. More often than not, a hard cold-start problem is often due to low fuel injection pressure caused by leaky O-rings around the injectors. What’s more, if the center O-rings on the injectors of a first generation (1994-’97) 7.3L leaks, the 500 to 3,000 psi created by the high-pressure oil pump can actually force oil from the engine to leak into the fuel circuit and be pushed back to the fuel tank. The oil disappears from the crankcase and nobody knows why because the engine has good compression and isn’t smoking. These are the kind of details you need to know if you’re troubleshooting a diesel.
If you still think you don’t have the time for training, think again. Training seminars and clinics are available from various aftermarket parts and equipment suppliers as well as ASA and other groups. In fact, some of these same classes will be offered this fall in Las Vegas at the CARS Convention Nov. 1-3 (see www.asashop.org/cars07/ for details). This is the same time as the big AAPEX and SEMA shows in Las Vegas Oct. 30 to Nov. 2. So if you need a vacation, why not spend a few days in Vegas? Take in both shows, and take something really valuable home with you by attending CARS.