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A Mechanic's Life - Tales From Under the Hood

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  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 4,294

    A voltage drop test should tell you all you need to know, if there were no obvious corrosion.

    So you have the vehicle today and volt drop test the cables during cranking and they pass the test at less than .8v. Three months from now the vehicle doesn't start and the same test shows an excessive voltage drop on the negative cable. That's just a car doing what they do, break whenever they darn well want to.
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioPosts: 760
    edited September 16
    andres3 said:

    TCO being the same across the board? If only that were true! Remember, the clunkers are not worth anything after 3 years, but the good cars retain their resale value because they are good.

    I've never had a cheaper car to run than a 10-year old high mileage Honda. Part of that is almost no depreciation.

    Small cars are out. Do you know the value of a small older car on the market? Zilcho. no one wants it. It doesn't matter if it is a Honda or Toyota.

    Cars are like guitars. The "in" ones maintain their value, which is really trucks. The rest are hit or miss.
    andres3 said:


    I've never had a cheaper car to run than a 10-year old high mileage Honda. Part of that is almost no depreciation.

    Year 10 is when the problems start. If you Buy a new Honda and sell it in year 10, after having done absolutely nothing to it, it may be the cheapest car to own. If you keep it as the planned obsolescence kicks in from year 10-20, your entire TCO advantage will go out the window. Of course if you replace it with a new one, you will be adding in the premium that you pay for a Honda into the TCO.

    You could have gotten a much better TCO by purchasing certain domestic car used and fixing them up.

    TCO = a game with no clearly defined winner.
  • roadburnerroadburner Posts: 10,287
    edited September 16
    guitarzan said:



    TCO = a game with no clearly defined winner.

    I tend to buy CPO BMWs, pay them off in a couple of years, and then drive them of another 7-8 years minimum. I've never figured TCO, but I had an "expert" tell me that leasing a new BMW every three years was the cheapest way to own one. I crunched the numbers and it turns out buying my 2004 X3 and driving it for 12 years was actually $32,000 less expensive than a perpetual $550/month lease- and yes, I did figure in depreciation.

    Mine: 1995 318ti Club Sport / 2014 M235i / 1999 Wrangler / 1996 Speed Triple Challenge Cup Replica Wife's: 2016 i3 REX/2009 Cooper Clubman Son's: 2009 328i

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,602

    A voltage drop test should tell you all you need to know, if there were no obvious corrosion.

    So you have the vehicle today and volt drop test the cables during cranking and they pass the test at less than .8v. Three months from now the vehicle doesn't start and the same test shows an excessive voltage drop on the negative cable. That's just a car doing what they do, break whenever they darn well want to.

    A voltage drop test should tell you all you need to know, if there were no obvious corrosion.

    So you have the vehicle today and volt drop test the cables during cranking and they pass the test at less than .8v. Three months from now the vehicle doesn't start and the same test shows an excessive voltage drop on the negative cable. That's just a car doing what they do, break whenever they darn well want to.
    Well I don't think Snap-On makes a crystal ball! :p

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,602

    guitarzan said:



    TCO = a game with no clearly defined winner.

    I tend to buy CPO BMWs, pay them off in a couple of years, and then drive them of another 7-8 years minimum. I've never figured TCO, but I had an "expert" tell me that leasing a new BMW every three years was the cheapest way to own one. I crunched the numbers and it turns out buying my 2004 X3 and driving it for 12 years was actually 32,000 less expensive than a perpetual $550/month lease- and yes, I did figure in depreciation.
    Well after a certain age, and presuming the car doesn't fall apart, the TCO is all gravy for you. There comes a point when an old car depreciates....what?....maybe $1,000 a year if that, and you aren't going to beat that with lease payments.

    But there's no telling. A 12 year old BWM for some folks could be hell on earth, too. The trick is to buy them new, or near new, take really great care of them, and if misfortune strikes anyway, to know when to bail out.

    Many folks aren't as pragmatic as you are. They just want a new car, TCO be damned.

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  • MichaellMichaell ColoradoPosts: 59,090

    It's Over.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-mechanics-strike-settled-20170917-story.html

    This should send repercussions through the whole country.

    Key word there is "should". Are there any similar unions in other parts of the country?

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,602
    Private sector unions are almost dead in the USA. I think union membership is down to around 6% of all private sector workers in America--something like that.

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  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 4,294
    Michaell said:


    Key word there is "should". Are there any similar unions in other parts of the country?

    The union agreement will cause a trickle down to other dealers with one of the biggest issues of getting paid correctly for the demands of the job especially with regards to warranty work. That's what the "forty hours" is all about. Currently if you would show up at the dealer with some random issue the tech only get's paid for checking it out if the diagnostics lead to a repair and then that is a whopping .2 (twelve minutes) regardless of how much time is actually spent.

    Another common issue would be for a dealer to overstaff so that there are more than enough people on hand to take care of the busiest times but that means that techs often end up standing around with nothing to do during the slow times. When it's slow and the tech isn't assigned to a repair, they don't get paid for that time. For the dealers it was a win/win when they have the staff to really put out a lot of work when it is busy, but it wasn't costing them anything if nothing showed up on a given day. Now they will have to pay the techs when they fail to keep them busy.

    There is a lot more to this, but this is the start. Other dealer's will have to pony up and match this or lose their techs which is why this goes beyond the union.
  • andres3andres3 Southern CAPosts: 9,211
    guitarzan said:

    andres3 said:

    TCO being the same across the board? If only that were true! Remember, the clunkers are not worth anything after 3 years, but the good cars retain their resale value because they are good.

    I've never had a cheaper car to run than a 10-year old high mileage Honda. Part of that is almost no depreciation.

    Small cars are out. Do you know the value of a small older car on the market? Zilcho. no one wants it. It doesn't matter if it is a Honda or Toyota.

    Cars are like guitars. The "in" ones maintain their value, which is really trucks. The rest are hit or miss.
    andres3 said:


    I've never had a cheaper car to run than a 10-year old high mileage Honda. Part of that is almost no depreciation.

    Year 10 is when the problems start. If you Buy a new Honda and sell it in year 10, after having done absolutely nothing to it, it may be the cheapest car to own. If you keep it as the planned obsolescence kicks in from year 10-20, your entire TCO advantage will go out the window. Of course if you replace it with a new one, you will be adding in the premium that you pay for a Honda into the TCO.

    You could have gotten a much better TCO by purchasing certain domestic car used and fixing them up.

    TCO = a game with no clearly defined winner.
    I think you misunderstood me, and I think we still agree to disagree. We owned a 10 year old Honda, bought at 10 years old in 2002 ('92 model with 165,000 miles or so). We only kept it for 2 years (years 10-12), but got it close to 200K miles in that time. While it wasn't perfect, it didn't suddenly fall apart either. Things that broke or needed replacement were lower cost items. Thanks to low depreciation, we sold it for only $800 + fees/taxes less than we paid for it, while putting in, I'd say around $1,000 or so in "unexpected and expected maintenance." That's some cheap ownership for the amount of miles we drove!

    Remember, tow trucks and down time are expensive too. Some people value their own time highly, and dealing with constant breakdown on a less reliable car adds to the "time" expense of ownership, even if the parts and labor are somehow cheap (which it almost never is). Tow trucks are expensive too.
    Toy '16 Audi TTS quattro AWD, Commuter '16 Kia Optima LX 1.6 Turbo FWD, Wife's '17 VW Golf All-Track SE 4-Motion AWD
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastPosts: 1,622
    Key word there is "should". Are there any similar unions in other parts of the country?
    The union agreement will cause a trickle down to other dealers with one of the biggest issues of getting paid correctly for the demands of the job especially with regards to warranty work. That's what the "forty hours" is all about. Currently if you would show up at the dealer with some random issue the tech only get's paid for checking it out if the diagnostics lead to a repair and then that is a whopping .2 (twelve minutes) regardless of how much time is actually spent. Another common issue would be for a dealer to overstaff so that there are more than enough people on hand to take care of the busiest times but that means that techs often end up standing around with nothing to do during the slow times. When it's slow and the tech isn't assigned to a repair, they don't get paid for that time. For the dealers it was a win/win when they have the staff to really put out a lot of work when it is busy, but it wasn't costing them anything if nothing showed up on a given day. Now they will have to pay the techs when they fail to keep them busy. There is a lot more to this, but this is the start. Other dealer's will have to pony up and match this or lose their techs which is why this goes beyond the union.
    This type of thing is why I work fleet.
    But the only reason something like this is even working right now is, this industry as a whole, heavy equipment and automotive mechanics, is because our industry is becoming a dying breed. There is not an influx of techs, as fast as us old techs are retiring.

    We have had tech positions open that have taken 6 months to fill. It wasn't mostly a money issue, as it was getting qualified applicants.
    One position was more or less filled with an apprentice, because he was good.

    As time moves forward and technology increases, the demand for qualified techs will increase. In today's market, if I were to not have a job at the end of the day, I'd be at work somewhere else tomorrow morning.



  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,602
    I wonder if, as technology marches on, the automotive technician will become more like the computer tech or IT tech, thus attracting young talent to a more "respectable" career?

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  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 4,294
    The talent won't come unless the career is perceived to be respectable first. There are still a lot of issues that will have to be dealt with to make that happen.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 4,294
    0patience said:


    This type of thing is why I work fleet. But the only reason something like this is even working right now is, this industry as a whole, heavy equipment and automotive mechanics, is because our industry is becoming a dying breed. There is not an influx of techs, as fast as us old techs are retiring.

    Part of the reason for that is that the average standard of living for technicians is too low.
    0patience said:


    We have had tech positions open that have taken 6 months to fill. It wasn't mostly a money issue, as it was getting qualified applicants.

    The usual entry level wage for an apprentice technician who has graduated form a tech school is less than what that same person could make at McDonalds.
    0patience said:


    One position was more or less filled with an apprentice, because he was good.

    Ten years from now if he works and studies hard he could be a decent journeyman, it will take another ten after that for him to become the master technician everyone is always looking for. But even then the learning never stops, for a technician there is no finish line to the need to learn something new.
    0patience said:


    As time moves forward and technology increases, the demand for qualified techs will increase. In today's market, if I were to not have a job at the end of the day, I'd be at work somewhere else tomorrow morning.

    Ditto, that is one thing we do have, we could get a job anywhere in a heartbeat but what good is a job when what today's techs really need is a career?

  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastPosts: 1,622


    Part of the reason for that is that the average standard of living for technicians is too low.

    This is where heavy equipment/truck techs and automotive differ.
    The pay scale for heavy is considerably more than automotive.


    The usual entry level wage for an apprentice technician who has graduated form a tech school is less than what that same person could make at McDonalds.

    Again, this is where automotive and HD differ.
    And pay scales for HD can be more for an apprentice who has an associate in diesel technology.

    As for trade schools, I don't put a lot credence in them.
    They need to spend more time on the basics, teaching techs how everything works, so they will better understand why it isn't working. Most trade schools lack that.


    Ten years from now if he works and studies hard he could be a decent journeyman, it will take another ten after that for him to become the master technician everyone is always looking for. But even then the learning never stops, for a technician there is no finish line to the need to learn something new.

    No question about it. The learning NEVER stops. And technology moving as fast as it is, you have to keep up or get left behind.
    I tell young techs that if you are good at what you do, you can go anywhere and make good wages.
    It is the techs who think they deserve a good wage, because how long they've been doing it, without proving themselves, that I don't think they will make it.


    Ditto, that is one thing we do have, we could get a job anywhere in a heartbeat but what good is a job when what today's techs really need is a career?

    In the last 30 years, I've worked at 2 places.
    The first one, I was 23 and with in a couple years, handled the heavy truck repairs and a few years after that, became lead, then went to heavy equipment and by the time I was 30, was lead.
    Second job, I handle 150+ pieces of equipment and vehicles as a field tech.
    20+ years on this one and I still am happy with it.

    I've worked marine (fishing vessels), automotive (sorry, but hated flat rate) and heavy.
    I prefer heavy, but still have light fleet I'm responsible for, so I have to keep up.
    The young guys coming into the industry first need to learn the basics, then they need to learn humility.
    Once they have learned both, they can be great at what they do.
    I tell people, if I knew everything, I wouldn't be a mechanic and the day I know everything, I better retire, because I will be too arrogant to work with anyone.

    Wow, that was long winded. LOL!
  • MichaellMichaell ColoradoPosts: 59,090
    0patience said:


    Part of the reason for that is that the average standard of living for technicians is too low.

    This is where heavy equipment/truck techs and automotive differ.
    The pay scale for heavy is considerably more than automotive.


    The usual entry level wage for an apprentice technician who has graduated form a tech school is less than what that same person could make at McDonalds.

    Again, this is where automotive and HD differ.
    And pay scales for HD can be more for an apprentice who has an associate in diesel technology.

    As for trade schools, I don't put a lot credence in them.
    They need to spend more time on the basics, teaching techs how everything works, so they will better understand why it isn't working. Most trade schools lack that.


    Ten years from now if he works and studies hard he could be a decent journeyman, it will take another ten after that for him to become the master technician everyone is always looking for. But even then the learning never stops, for a technician there is no finish line to the need to learn something new.

    No question about it. The learning NEVER stops. And technology moving as fast as it is, you have to keep up or get left behind.
    I tell young techs that if you are good at what you do, you can go anywhere and make good wages.
    It is the techs who think they deserve a good wage, because how long they've been doing it, without proving themselves, that I don't think they will make it.


    Ditto, that is one thing we do have, we could get a job anywhere in a heartbeat but what good is a job when what today's techs really need is a career?

    In the last 30 years, I've worked at 2 places.
    The first one, I was 23 and with in a couple years, handled the heavy truck repairs and a few years after that, became lead, then went to heavy equipment and by the time I was 30, was lead.
    Second job, I handle 150+ pieces of equipment and vehicles as a field tech.
    20+ years on this one and I still am happy with it.

    I've worked marine (fishing vessels), automotive (sorry, but hated flat rate) and heavy.
    I prefer heavy, but still have light fleet I'm responsible for, so I have to keep up.
    The young guys coming into the industry first need to learn the basics, then they need to learn humility.
    Once they have learned both, they can be great at what they do.
    I tell people, if I knew everything, I wouldn't be a mechanic and the day I know everything, I better retire, because I will be too arrogant to work with anyone.

    Wow, that was long winded. LOL!
    Well thought out commentary, @0patience

    My son's best friend works as a heavy duty mechanic for a striping company. Pretty decent wages, but long hours (I think he's on call if something happens to one of the trucks).

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,602
    I bet there is a fair amount of pressure working on heavy equipment. Downtime is lost money.

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  • MichaellMichaell ColoradoPosts: 59,090

    I bet there is a fair amount of pressure working on heavy equipment. Downtime is lost money.

    Yes. They put him on salary a year or two ago and gave him a company truck, but it wasn't working in his favor so they've returned to an hourly wage (plus OT, I believe). I want to say he's making around $70K/year, and he just turned 31.

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  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastPosts: 1,622
    To give you an idea of the differences in automotive and heavy equipment, where I work, we are union. I know, someone will have issues with that.
    But automotive techs make about 15% less than heavy equipment techs and heavy equipment field techs make about 5% more than that.
    I am salary, but get overtime. 

    As far as what can be made as a heavy equipment tech, let's just say $70k/year would be average without OT. 

    Unfortunately, automotive gets left behind in the wage wars. There is a mentality that automotive techs are monkeys, who just turn wrenches, which really needs to change. People do not realize that today's vehicles are so far advanced technologically. 
    IT guys make,more money, yet there are way more systems and programming in today's cars, yet people still don't see a mechanic as a computer specialist,

    I see this, because diagnostics and electrical are kind of my specialties. I trained folks on diagnostics, electronics and computer systems.
    Heavy trucks and heavy equipment if today have as much computer systems as cars. In some cases way more.

    Imagine if you had small computers controlling every separate area of your house and all of them needed to talk to each other and every day, you are walking on the wiring, the dog is chewing on the wiring and the elements are trying to destroy the wiring.
    That is today's vehicles.
  • andres3andres3 Southern CAPosts: 9,211

    I bet there is a fair amount of pressure working on heavy equipment. Downtime is lost money.

    I like watching the incredible race car mechanics do things in minutes that Joe Schmoes might take a long time to do. It is funny what a human is capable of when they are focused to the task at hand.
    Toy '16 Audi TTS quattro AWD, Commuter '16 Kia Optima LX 1.6 Turbo FWD, Wife's '17 VW Golf All-Track SE 4-Motion AWD
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,602
    Oh, man, you screw up in auto racing and you are out the door.

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  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 4,294
    edited September 22
    In auto racing each mechanic has a specific set of responsibilities.  In a professional technician's world specializing can enhance their standard of living at the risk of limiting their chances of mobility when the need for greener grass arises. 
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 4,294
    andres3 said:
    I bet there is a fair amount of pressure working on heavy equipment. Downtime is lost money.
    I like watching the incredible race car mechanics do things in minutes that Joe Schmoes might take a long time to do. It is funny what a human is capable of when they are focused to the tak at hand.
    You can't compare what goes on in racing to what is done by a regular shop. 
    Tire rotation for the family truckster  at a shop might be ten bucks. A four tire change for NASCAR costs thousands of dollars. 
  • andres3andres3 Southern CAPosts: 9,211


    andres3 said:

    I bet there is a fair amount of pressure working on heavy equipment. Downtime is lost money.

    I like watching the incredible race car mechanics do things in minutes that Joe Schmoes might take a long time to do. It is funny what a human is capable of when they are focused to the tak at hand.

    You can't compare what goes on in racing to what is done by a regular shop. 
    Tire rotation for the family truckster  at a shop might be ten bucks. A four tire change for NASCAR costs thousands of dollars. 

    Fair enough, so you mean those guys don't get paid by the hour at the pit stop :smile:

    in CA you are lucky to find a tire rotation for $20, usually higher.

    Do most technicians hate being watched while working by the client? I know many shops have signs in the garage that say "customers not allowed for insurance reasons."
    Toy '16 Audi TTS quattro AWD, Commuter '16 Kia Optima LX 1.6 Turbo FWD, Wife's '17 VW Golf All-Track SE 4-Motion AWD
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 57,602
    I never do that to a tech unless he invites me in to look over something. But I do sometimes ask to see the removed parts so I can learn something. I just toss 'em the keys and say "call me when you're done". Sometimes I bring doughnuts. B)

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  • roadburnerroadburner Posts: 10,287

    I never do that to a tech unless he invites me in to look over something. But I do sometimes ask to see the removed parts so I can learn something. I just toss 'em the keys and say "call me when you're done". Sometimes I bring doughnuts. B)

    I've brought doughnuts to both my BMW and Mazda dealers. I always gave them 10s on the surveys(because they deserved it) as well. I also believe it helps to bring in a car that is reasonably clean. Every now and then we get a car in the service and the interior looks like it was used as a dumpster.

    Mine: 1995 318ti Club Sport / 2014 M235i / 1999 Wrangler / 1996 Speed Triple Challenge Cup Replica Wife's: 2016 i3 REX/2009 Cooper Clubman Son's: 2009 328i

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 4,294
    edited September 22
    andres3 said:


    Do most technicians hate being watched while working by the client? I know many shops have signs in the garage that say "customers not allowed for insurance reasons."

    I can't speak for most technicians but I can attest to the fact that an owner helicoptering around his car while it is being worked on can very easily force a technician to have to split his/her concentration on the work that they are trying to perform. When a customer is in the bay they inevitably ask questions about what and why the tech is doing what-ever. That takes time to answer that is not accounted for in the labor guide. Every step of a repair must be performed correctly and even the simplest error at the right time caused by some distraction can have a serious result and end up with a failed routine that may have to be completely redone.

    Quote: "A well timed interruption can cause the dumbest and often most catastrophic mistakes".

    When I am working I move very quickly and change directions just as fast. Anyone trying to watch will usually find themselves standing in my way over and over again. It's almost comical at times because if they stand still, I'll motor right around them, but if they move the odds of them continuing to block my path are quite high. People often forget that techs are usually paid by the job, not by the hour. So beating the clock even if it is only by a few minutes per hour is second only to being "perfect" with the execution of the repair. Trying to watch, especially up close does a real good job of interfering with both of those goals.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 4,294

    I've brought doughnuts to both my BMW and Mazda dealers. I always gave them 10s on the surveys(because they deserved it) as well. I also believe it helps to bring in a car that is reasonably clean. Every now and then we get a car in the service and the interior looks like it was used as a dumpster.

    I have many times denied service when a car was in such a condition as to qualify it as a bio-hazard.

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 4,294
    0patience said:

    To give you an idea of the differences in automotive and heavy equipment, where I work, we are union. I know, someone will have issues with that. But automotive techs make about 15% less than heavy equipment techs and heavy equipment field techs make about 5% more than that.

    I thought about doing heavy equipment but that one word "heavy" was a tough one to get past. Had to laugh though, a guy called me up earlier this summer with some electrical issues on a lift vehicle that were driving him nuts. It took less than two hours to investigate the situation, devise a plan of attack and solve the problem with him doing the testing that I set up for him.
    0patience said:


    I am salary, but get overtime. As far as what can be made as a heavy equipment tech, let's just say $70k/year would be average without OT. Unfortunately, automotive gets left behind in the wage wars. There is a mentality that automotive techs are monkeys, who just turn wrenches, which really needs to change.

    I emboldened your last sentence there. The whole reason I ever bothered to spend any time here and in other forums was to work towards that very goal. You haven't been posting here for a while, did you see some of the routines and data captures that I have posted here to give everyone else some samples of what techs have to be able to do today? FWIW I spared them some of the really hard stuff. The Nissan that had multiple module's failed (suspected lightning strike) was one that I mentioned but didn't go into detail on just what really had to be done in order to figure out every failure on that truck and restore the vehicle to full operation.
    0patience said:


    People do not realize that today's vehicles are so far advanced technologically. IT guys make, more money, yet there are way more systems and programming in today's cars, yet people still don't see a mechanic as a computer specialist,

    Just wait till we start getting into cars that don't have steering wheels or brake pedals. The robotics that are in today's cars (and especially tomorrow's) make them some of the most complex machines man has ever created. It takes decades to learn all of the skills that top techs have to master.
    0patience said:


    I see this, because diagnostics and electrical are kind of my specialties. I trained folks on diagnostics, electronics and computer systems. Heavy trucks and heavy equipment if today have as much computer systems as cars. In some cases way more. Imagine if you had small computers controlling every separate area of your house and all of them needed to talk to each other and every day, you are walking on the wiring, the dog is chewing on the wiring and the elements are trying to destroy the wiring. That is today's vehicles.

    These days I spend far more time teaching than wrenching which given my health and age is a good thing. To that end I still average some twenty hours a week in the shop wrenching and study some four to six hours every day. With that level of effort I can honestly say that the changes in today's cars are far outpacing my ability to keep up with. Specialization to a certain degree is an absolute necessity for younger technicians today. The day's of the all makes and all models tech are long gone and bumper to bumper even with limited manufacturers are right behind.

  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 10,925

    The Nissan that had multiple module's failed (suspected lightning strike) was one that I mentioned but didn't go into detail on just what really had to be done in order to figure out every failure on that truck and restore the vehicle to full operation.

    So you got it back on the road! What was the final tally? Also, what was the customer's response to all of that (mine would have been a certain level of disbelief....!)?!

    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
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