Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!





A Mechanic's Life - Tales From Under the Hood

1129130132134135163

Comments

  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,679
    I don't bother figuring out my cost per mile on our cars nor do I check gas mileage often. I figure it is what it is.

    When one headlight bulb failed after nine years on one of our CRV's, I changed both of them. I figured they were installed at the same time and rather than wait I just changed it ahead of time.

    I do that with car batteries too. Five years is enough and I want to do it on MY schedule rather than getting stranded some dark rainy night.
  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,441
    edited July 2013
    We all have our idiosyncrasies hobbies. :-)

    I'm sure Roadburner would have died of boredom if he'd been forced to drive my minivan for the last decade while I'm looking forward to packing it next week for another road trip.

    Assuming the last repair continues to hold up of course.

    Unfortunately to us frugal types, the $700 light bulb scenario has trickled down to minivans now. :sick: May as well lease a Bimmer and get the free maintenance for 4 years, rinse and repeat.

    Moderator
    Need help navigating? stever@edmunds.com - or send a private message by clicking on my name.

  • jipsterjipster Posts: 5,345
    ASE= Reputable, Professional, Trustworthy, Trained

    Bozo= Not
  • roadburnerroadburner Posts: 6,453
    Unfortunately to us frugal types, the $700 light bulb scenario has trickled down to minivans now.

    Actually, the bulb was $39.50 from Amazon. The unneeded ignitor was $95.40 from my dealer. Nine years and 155k miles from a bulb isn't all that bad, methinks.

    2009 328i / 2004 X3 2.5/ 1995 318ti Club Sport/ 1975 2002A/ 2007 Mazdaspeed 3/ 1999 Wrangler/ 1996 Speed Triple Challenge Cup Replica

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    I think the comparison is quite apt actually. Would you let a surgeon cut you open based on the high score on his biology examination?

    So what do they call the person who graduates last in his class at medical school?

    But no, I have not see the advanced testing. I was reading a typical test on brakes and suspension and noticed right away that the advantage goes to the applicant who knows how to read trick questions and how to outsmart the test.

    "We are working on that" is the best that I can say. When ASE pulls a team together to re-write a test, each question goes through some serious debate so that the team makes sure that being able to answer it correctly demonstrates competence in that small aspect of the career that the question is focused on. Trying to use testing to measure the kinds of skills that a tech has to bring to the job is a daunting challenge and of course the tests have to change all of the time or else someone really could study for them and then they lose some of their effectiveness.

    Today, if someone cannot pass the tests then they really aren't the people that the consumers need us to have in the shops. Being able to reason out the correct answer during testing in some cases is a measurement of the techs critical thinking skills.

    I towed in a Hyundai from a transmission shop yesterday. (approx. a 2000 iirc) I'll start working with it on Monday. The report is that it runs poor, stalls, and has little to no power at times and it also sets a code for one of the solenoid circuits going open in the transaxle. The performance issue (reportedly) wasn't present before the transmission failed and was rebuilt, and apparently we don't know if the solenoid circuit issue predates the transmission failure or not. The solenoid circuit failure is random in nature and it may be a week or more before it occurs and I could easily only get one shot at identifying the cause.

    ASE testing today is still a minimum standard, but its the only one we have. We don't have a way of measuring a techs ability to tackle the kind of problem that this Hyundai is presenting. The L1 comes close to examining the knowledge and the attention to detail that is required, but it cannot measure the disciplined approach that will be demanded. Certification testing measures how well someone has a grasp on things they have done repeatedly. The Hyundai will be the first and likely the only time I ever deal with this specific system, and failure isn't an option no matter what it takes. At the same time, someone selling tires, changing oil and hanging brakes will make a lot more money for the time that will be invested into this Hyundai, think about that.

    The drivability issue on the Hyundai will be gravy, but the transmission control solenoid circuit will require me to set as many testing points as I can and when the problem occurs, even if its for just for a fraction of a second over 100 miles of rural driving I have to have proof of what it is. Otherwise I'll have to change my test routine and wait for the next occurrence. These problems can only be beat with patience and a good plan, and quite often the good plan is yet to be figured out.
  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,441
    edited July 2013
    I lied - the one replacement headlight bulb cost me $11 in '05. The other OEM one is okay at 186k. The brake light bulbs are $1.50. But you do see stories like this one more and more. (He doesn't mention what car he drives).

    Need New Headlights? That'll Be $700....

    That's for an assembly but even so, the labor for simple bulb replacements is getting up there for some cars. It's funny how many hits you get searching for "$700 headlamp replacement". Seems to be the magic number.

    I do have some miniature instrument panel bulbs that are burnt out and they are hard to find. That was going to be my summer project but I've postponed it again. These days I don't drive much in the dark anyway.

    Moderator
    Need help navigating? stever@edmunds.com - or send a private message by clicking on my name.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,796
    I would agree with that. If you can't pass the ASE tests, you should have that wrench slapped out of your hand---at least if you are working on other people's cars.

    I tend to regard that ASE certificate on the wall as an indication of the technician's motivation and desire for self-improvement rather than a warranty that he'll fix my car first time every time.

    MODERATOR

  • fintailfintail Posts: 33,687
    I wonder what kind of car that was...replacing an assembly is not routine wear and tear - he bought a messed up car, and now gets to pay the price. Oh well. That's what junkyards or ebay are for. In a modern MB, the ones I know anyway, bulb replacement is easy, there is room behind the assembly, and usually a little door or cover to access the light.

    Sealed beam style lights must be the easiest and cheapest - but it's not 1968 anymore.
  • jayriderjayrider Posts: 3,287
    I haven't been to a service dept. lately but I remember seeing multiple certificates from ASE and in dealers, certificates in specific areas like A/C etc.
    do techs have to participate in regular updated training to keep the certification intact ?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,796
    edited July 2013
    for "Master Technician" certificates, you must re-certify every 5 years (tests A1 through A8) or you lose that status.

    MODERATOR

  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,441
    edited July 2013
    Where's Gimmee? Is this the norm for most provinces and territories?

    "Automotive Service Technicians must be certified to work in Ontario. The legislation that regulates this trade is the Apprenticeship and Certification Act (1998). This law states that all Automotive Service Technicians must have a valid Certificate of Qualification or be registered as an apprentice before they can work in Ontario. It is illegal to work as an Automotive Service Technician in Ontario without a certificate. Cerfitifed skilled workers in compulsory trades must be members of the Ontario College of Trades."

    Career Map: Automotive Service Technician

    Moderator
    Need help navigating? stever@edmunds.com - or send a private message by clicking on my name.

  • crkyolfrtcrkyolfrt Posts: 2,345
    I couldn't find better info than you did right there with that link, Steve. Some of what I read there seemed about right. I vaguely recall them getting more serious about certifying or having more definitive min requirements back in the 90's.

    In my mind, the rates between a plumber, electrician and auto mechanic have never made much sense to me...and that goes back long before the 90's. In fact as long as I remember. But that said, at least 40-50 years ago, vehicles were a LOT more basic. Probably the most complicated component of a car back then was the innards of an auto tranny. in terms of electrical knowledge needed, I would rate it a slot more demanding still tho than an electrician...so why such variations in rates? As for the higher pd plumber, well.. we all know they get paid to get pretty dirty at times..and it is the kinda dirt that I would take car repair dirt (and various auto related stenches) under my fingernails anyday over black water plumbing repairs.

    While I had a fairly mechanical backgrd as a kid growing up, I was shortchanged of course when Dad got killed when I was just starting to get the bug. And FF another 5 years or so and there was a time I considered an electrician apprenticeship. The reason I think I didn't follow through with that plan was the relentless boredom and lack of challenge that comes with that job. I will say though, as someone who has wired my entire house from scratch, done pretty involved auto and truck repairs, and all my own plumbing (and have done plumbing /electrical on the side since) the one really cool thing about being an electrician, is it is possible to do that job 100% fault free. (assuming you're careful not to over/undertorque connections...as just one example) With mechanics it can never be perfect. Same with carpentry, plumbing etc etc.

    My old GF's son did an electrician apprenticeship a number of years ago now...I guess about 10. He worked a couple years after his certification for a guy, but now has his own business. It is certainly the cleanest of the 3 big trades. But oh so booooring :sick:
    IMO, anyway..
  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    Did you ever nice that no-one ever dares write about the practices that drive a lot of the good techs from the trade?

    So then, who do expect to do that - go after the manufacturers/dealers who are putting together the unreasonable flat-rate manuals? Almost any entity that would try to do that (Edmunds, any of the big networks) would probably be threatened with a withdrawal of the ad revenues that many rely on to survive. Maybe someplace like CU that doesn't accept ads at all could do that. Or one of the big newspapers like the NY Times or Washington Post, that are big enough to face down a threat to pull ads.
  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    So what do they call the person who graduates last in his class at medical school?

    What do they call the midshipman who graduated last in his class at the Academy? Senator!
  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    I don't bother figuring out my cost per mile on our cars nor do I check gas mileage often. I figure it is what it is.

    My 2007 Caravan with 140K miles on it has only cost me 2.6 cents/mile for maintenance (tires, brakes, etc) and repairs.

    OTOH, the '87 '325 I had for 13 years set me back 8.2 cents/mile for maintenance and repairs.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    So then, who do expect to do that - go after the manufacturers/dealers who are putting together the unreasonable flat-rate manuals? Almost any entity that would try to do that (Edmunds, any of the big networks) would probably be threatened with a withdrawal of the ad revenues that many rely on to survive.

    One dealer tech describes this current round of cuts as the manufacturer waging war on their own product support people. This has happened over and over again through the years, and just about every manufacturer has taken shots at the techs, and then they turn around and try to paint rosy pictures like that UTI press release.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Written by one of the best techs in the country and posted in the iATN.

    With permission from James A.

    G.M. has lately been bemoaning the fact that the number of
    new techs entering the dealer ranks are rapidly declining.
    Also, new hires do not last very long and are leaving the
    dealerships in droves when they discover all the empty
    promises made to them during schooling were all false. When
    a new tech is thrown onto the line and finds that he cannot
    purchase tools and pay his bills on the meager times that
    G.M. offers for each job, he leaves for greener pastures.

    Here is G.M.'s answer to this problem.

    On Monday, July 15, 2013, GM finalized an agreement with
    Universal Technical Institute (UTI) to pilot a 12-week GM
    specific elective training program for UTI graduates. The
    pilot will begin December 2013 at UTI's Avondale campus just
    outside of Phoenix, Arizona. The program includes web-based
    training, instructor led training, lab exercises, virtual
    classroom training and training videos. It covers around 70%
    of GM Service Training Standards (STS) requirements. The
    program covers most automotive areas with a heavy emphasis
    on electrical training. This program is one of several
    initiatives targeted to recruit and retain the best
    technicians possible for GM dealerships; it's designed to
    complement GM ASEP. GM remains committed to ASEP and
    recently initiated plans that will increase its vehicle
    donations to ASEP schools by more than 400%.

    Why did GM decide to develop an elective program? GM has the
    oldest (aged 44+) technicians in the industry and more than
    35% of GM technicians are 50 years old or older. GM dealers
    currently need approximately 2,500 new technicians per year
    and GM ASEP currently produces approximately 500 graduates
    per year. Does this elective program compete with the GM
    ASEP Program? No, these two programs attract different types
    of students. ASEP students value the associates degree and
    in-dealership work experience. UTI students value the pure
    automotive focus and GM specific skills. How will GM ensure
    quality graduates from this program? The training for this
    program was developed by GM STC and extensive testing is
    incorporated to ensure knowledge transfer.

    G.M. has it's common corporate heads buried so deep into
    their a**holes that either they don't realize why techs
    don't want to work for them any more or they just don't
    care. The only thing that will induce techs to work for a
    G.M. dealership is to offer a fair living wage. Instead,
    G.M.'s strategy is to cut warranty repair times every year
    to save money on the backs of the techs. This has bred a new
    generation of thieves as that seems to be the only way to
    survive in a G.M. dealership.

    For example, let's look at a common G.M. car, the 2012 and
    2013 Malibu. That's basically the same car with few changes.
    There is no reason for the repair times to be different.

    2012 Malibu - replace ECM and program - .9 and .3 diagnostic
    time.

    2013 Malibu - replace ECM and program - .4 and .3 Diagnostic
    time

    2012 Malibu - replace electric steering column - 1.3 and .3
    diag and .3 if adj. pedals

    2013 Malibu - replace electric steering column - 1.3 no diag
    or pedal allowance

    2012 Malibu - replace and program SDM - 1.2 and .3 diag time

    2013 Malibu - replace and program SDM - .9 and .3 diag time

    2012 Malibu - reprogram ECM, SDM, HVAC or EBCM - .4 - no
    diagnostic allowance

    2013 Malibu - reprogram ECM, SDM, HVAC or EBCM - .3 - no
    diagnostic allowance

    This is occurring in ALL G.M. makes and models on a yearly
    basis. This will affect aftermarket time books also as they
    are based on warranty time times 1.4. Quite a few operations
    have dropped diagnostic times completely and pay a reduced
    time for the part replacement only.

    It seems quite obvious to me why G.M. can't attract any new
    blood into their stores. When graduates from this new
    training program enter dealerships after this whopping 12
    week program, they will find that they can't make enough
    money as a technician to pay their bills and support their
    families. The worst part is that G.M. vehicles are becoming
    more and more complex as G.M. is slashing repair times then
    they cry that they can't get customer cars "fixed the first
    time."
  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    Maybe you and James and a couple other independent techs should collaborate and put together your own estimate of reasonable repair times for some of the more common repairs.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Maybe you and James and a couple other independent techs should collaborate and put together your own estimate of reasonable repair times for some of the more common repairs.

    What good would that do? The manufacturers are still going to pay what they want to pay one way or the other. The dealerships have been increasing the door labor rates to make sure they are reasonably compensated for whatever repairs are performed and then leave the techs totally up to their own as far as trying to make a living is concerned.

    Fail to turn enough labor hours and the tech loses his/her job, whether the labor times paid are calculated correctly, (fairly) or not.

    Nobody has demonstrated any concern about these practices, that is until the techs start overselling maintenance items and get caught at it and then all the blame is placed on the tech. This is just another time around on the flat-rate carousel.

    If you were a manufacturer of a product and a truly effective service and repair of that product could limit your annual sales at what point would you try to manipulate that capability to ensure sales that meet your overall profit goals? What about if you were a dealer and made the bulk of your revenues from sales, would you also tend to not be as progressive towards the service department?

    If these forces have been at play for a long enough period of time without ever being challenged or exposed, just how much damage could they do to the trade?

    Where will it leave the consumer if they simply get to throw a big enough band-aid on the problem that they can keep bleeding the industry at both ends?
  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,441
    I thought it was the service writers who were on commission, not the techs.

    Moderator
    Need help navigating? stever@edmunds.com - or send a private message by clicking on my name.

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Flat rate is 100% commission. The original idea was that if a tech is efficient, and works hard he/she could learn to beat the times and earn a bonus. If the tech makes a mistake, only the tech was supposed to lose so the "system" had a reward/punishment aspect to it. When a car had to go back because it wasn't fixed correctly for what-ever reason the tech didn't (doesn't) get paid for the time that the subsequent visit(s) required. That was supposed to be incentive to really get it right the first time. When the times are developed in a fair and equitable manner a tech can make a good wage and afford to eat a loss here or there. But when the times that the jobs pay are nothing short of fraudulent the tech is punished for ever caring at all. Warranty times have been basically dishonest for decades and the line would be "you have to take the good with the bad". If you complained about how fair the system was, you would be labeled as having a bad attitude. Quite often instead of just getting rid of a tech who was burning out from the pressure the management would bury him/her with warranty work and the income loss would soon have the tech bailing out of the dealership for greener pastures and then they didn't even risk having to pay unemployment.

    Remember NBC's sting? All they caught was techs who finally caved into the pressure who started overselling services which rewarded the techs financially and made the dealer big bucks on top of it all. Then when the sting occurred the techs (and the writers) get blamed while the whole machine that created the situation simply got to be reset for another run. This GM school will only manage to throw more meat to the lions and just about anyone who doesn't have the scruples to walk away from the life will very likely end up next in line to be caught in someone's sting story. And the machine will just reset again with everyone's blessings.
  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,441
    It's been a long time since I've been to a dealer for service but I don't recall ever even knowing who the tech is, much less interact with anyone but the service writer. That's another reason to find an independent shop - stuff doesn't get "filtered" so much.

    Moderator
    Need help navigating? stever@edmunds.com - or send a private message by clicking on my name.

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    edited July 2013
    It's been a long time since I've been to a dealer for service but I don't recall ever even knowing who the tech is, much less interact with anyone but the service writer.

    The techs are playing beat the clock every second of the day. When a customer does get to command their attention, that is instantly unpaid time. On top of that, if you get to break their concentration you have just opened the door for mistake to occur which at the very least could cost the tech time to have to back track and attend to it if he/she catches it or cause that vehicle owner to have to come back if there is a problem with the car because of the mistake.

    8http://www.flatratetech.com/index.html
  • steverstever YooperlandPosts: 40,441
    So how are the techs upselling me again?

    Or is this one of those deals where they intentionally break stuff that you have to pay to fix?

    Moderator
    Need help navigating? stever@edmunds.com - or send a private message by clicking on my name.

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    That's just it, guys like James aren't and their standard of living is dwindling as the work keeps getting to be more difficult.
  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    What good would that do? The manufacturers are still going to pay what they want to pay one way or the other.

    Maybe nothing. Maybe a lot, if you get a number of indie shops to sign on to your's and Jame's flat rate book.

    BTW, the flat rate numbers you have been alluding to and that you posted from James - those are for dealer shops, right? Do independent shops have to follow those manufacturer provided flat rate estimates?

    Maybe there's a class action lawsuit brewing here, if it could be shown that the flat rate numbers are really pie-in-the-sky, fraudulent, and that consumers are being harmed by techs having to race and cu corners to meet or beat the flat rate numbers.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    edited July 2013
    BTW, the flat rate numbers you have been alluding to and that you posted from James - those are for dealer shops, right?

    Those are the rates that the manufacturers pay the dealers. One of the lines of BS that has been handed to the techs in the past is "Those times are not intended to set a technicians compensation for the given repair, that is a separate agreement between the tech and the dealer he/she works for".

    Do independent shops have to follow those manufacturer provided flat rate estimates?

    Not in the normal sense. There are no time studies done, aftermarket books do exactly what James wrote, multiply the O.E. times by a given amount and then publish them. In the cases of the labors listed, shops will be underpaying the techs with those rates. We do have problems that come from certain extended warranty contracts, some of those do use the O.E labor rates. Our choice then is do the work and bill the customer and they eat the difference or in some cases if a tug of war about who is going to pay what starts, we simply have to turn the job away or take the loss.

    Maybe there's a class action lawsuit brewing here, if it could be shown that the flat rate numbers are really pie-in-the-sky, fraudulent, and that consumers are being harmed by techs having to race and cu corners to meet or beat the flat rate numbers

    If only we could see that come to be. The lawsuit just won in California is the first of its kind, but even with that one there is still such a long way to go.

    We have to accomplish a few goals to gain the kind of support that it will take to make something like that happen. One of them is for people to realize that what we do and who we are doesn't match the stereotype that many still want to see us as.

    if it could be shown that the flat rate numbers are really pie-in-the-sky, fraudulent,

    Heck that one would be easy. Just try to do the jobs you saw mentioned here and see how long it takes someone. They are just the tip of the iceberg. Press the O.E's for how they create these labor times and you'll quickly learn phrases like "wrench time" as they attempt to justify impossibly low labor times. Do you see the ones that don't pay diagnostic time at all? In some cases for safety's sake it takes two techs to perform diagnostics, one to operate the scan tool, while the other one drives. How does anyone justify not paying both techs for that time? Oh yea, I forgot. We got to take the good with the bad, and we have to be team players.

    consumers are being harmed by techs having to race and cu corners to meet or beat the flat rate numbers.

    Well it has been shown that some techs will resort to overselling, and this is the real reason behind it. Media just likes to grandstand when they catch a tech that is doing it. The media doesn't appear to have any interest in really stopping it because as you said it could turn around and bite them in their add revenue streams. Heck for that matter by media focusing the blame on just the techs and writers the real cause just gets to keep on, keeping on and its almost as if the dealers and the manufacturers want it that way.
  • crkyolfrtcrkyolfrt Posts: 2,345
    I towed in a Hyundai from a transmission shop yesterday. (approx. a 2000 iirc) I'll start working with it on Monday.

    Did you get a chance to look at it today?
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Did you get a chance to look at it today?

    Not much more than a glance. The stalling, loss of power is from it being out of control, " too lean" at all engine loads. I'll be taking fuel samples and measuring fuel pressure.

    Maybe tomorrow I'll have some time for it.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    edited July 2013
    I got a look at the Hyundai, it will be headed back to the transmission shop. The goal was to make sure to be able to tell him exactly what the failure is. Details are here in the blog.

    http://johng673.blogspot.com/

    Now, that's enough to prove the fault is inside the transaxle, but it doesn't prove if the circuit is grounding, or if it's losing a connection. The question posed is how would you change the testing connections so that you have proof of exactly what the failure is before the transaxle is disassembled? ">
Sign In or Register to comment.