Do Dealers Need Electronics Technicians?

jlflemmonsjlflemmons Member Posts: 2,242
edited March 2014 in Audi
... technicians to be employed by dealerships? As more and more sophisticated data busses and processors are added to motor vehicles, the mechanical technician is having to rely on factory support on electrical problems. Do you think it is time for the dealerships to employ a "specialist" for these systems much the same way that an automatic tranny guy is used, or a major engine repairman? Your thoughts, please


  • vidtechvidtech Member Posts: 212
    top notch "auto technicians" currently have training in electronics.that's what separates the technicians from the grease monkeys.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I think you can only specialize so much in car repair. An electronics "specialist" also has to know how to take off door panels, disassemble dashboards and dig into engines.

    So I think the guys/gals on the "front line" of a dealership will always be majoring in auto repair and some might "minor" in electronics.

    Besides that issue, there is the problem of the electronics systems changing all the time. In a sense, there is no sense in becoming so masterful in one system only to have the 2003 cars come out with a different system. Better if you have a good overview and let the really tought and weird problems go to the factory techs I think. Also, these new online databases will help the tech.

    A good tech doesn't have to know everything. A good tech only has to know where to look for answers.

    So I'd spend more time improving the information databases, not training the techs to perfection.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    I have said it before, a mechanic (sorry, hate the word tech) is only as good as his sources.
    That means information, parts, training and etc.

    The days of mechanics who "guess" are just about to the point where the ones who guess may be finding jobs at one of the chain shops for $9.00/hr.
    There are still some of those shops out there who hire "parts replacers", but the trend is going toward mechanics who can figure out the problems. With the advent of the 42 volt system, it will become even more evident, because it will be new territory and the mechanics who can't figure things out, will be heading down the road.

    Just my opinion.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I think mechanics, at least the real pros, have a very difficult and demanding job and deserve a rate of pay equivalent to any other highly trained specialist. I'd rather pay some brainiac $100/hr to fix my car than some bumbler $15 per hour, because the $100/hr will be cheaper.

    I can tell which one I've got about ten minutes after he/she has touched my car.
  • jlflemmonsjlflemmons Member Posts: 2,242
    After talking with the service manager and lead shop foreman at a HUGE dealership chain, I am convinced that before the factories give the needed information and tools to repair the electronics on these new vehicles, the factories will have the shops plugging a cable into the dataport and will diagnose problems long distance. The GM SI2000 is the first step in this direction.

  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    That is all. How a mechanic uses it, is a different story.
    But, there is more mechanics using tech hotlines than ever before.
  • jlflemmonsjlflemmons Member Posts: 2,242
    But according to the mechies, wiring diagrams and harness routing are no longer offered in the manuals. Most repairs call for testing with "A known good part." Many times a part will be pulled from a vehicle in stock to see if the diagnostics gave the correct determination. I guess the factories feel this is cheaper and easier than teaching electronics.

    Either way, I stand by my earlier statement that troubleshooting will be done via modem within a very few years.

  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
    It's already here. I took a tour of a technical school Toronto a while ago. Toyota is one of their sponsors, and they had installed a chassis dynamometer which is linked directly to their engineering department in Japan. Allows their engineers to troubleshoot problem child drivability concerns, etc, in real time.
  • brucer2brucer2 Member Posts: 157
    Delaerships will not employ electronic technicians. The automotive systems do not lend themselves to low level diagnostics and makers do not provide the information needed to do it. Most electronic "technicians" don't have the skills to do low level trouble shooting anyway. (When was the last time you saw a computer tech use a logic analyzer, scope, DVM, or any instrument for that matter?) Dealer techs will depend on diagnostic readouts and the built in self test modes designed into the systems.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Any piece of equipment is only as good as the person reading it.

    I'd certainly hope for a continuing trend toward remote diagnostics, and training the mechanics to know how to access this information properly. Technology is simply moving too fast for one person to keep up on his own.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Any piece of equipment is only as good as the person reading it.

    I'd certainly hope for a continuing trend toward remote diagnostics, and training the mechanics to know how to access this information properly. Technology is simply moving too fast for one person to keep up on his own.

    Another problem is that so much of automotive engineering is not standardized. Not only is it different make to make, but often model to model and year to year.
  • jlflemmonsjlflemmons Member Posts: 2,242
    a "computer technician" with a trained electronics technician. One does diagnostics using a keyboard, the other can diagnose and fix the keyboard. :-)
  • tboner1965tboner1965 Member Posts: 647
    where I work, so we don't fix them. It is cheaper to replace them.

    Usually the problem is the loose nut behind the key board. Usually can't replace those 8^)

  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
    How do you verify wheel speed sensor outputs without scoping the signal line?
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    But according to the mechies, wiring diagrams and harness routing are no longer offered in the manuals. Most repairs call for testing with "A known good part." Many times a part will be pulled from a vehicle in stock to see if the diagnostics gave the correct determination. I guess the factories feel this is cheaper and easier than teaching electronics.
    What mechies? Certainly not this one and I am certain not Alcan either.
    The information I use has wiring diagrams and harness routing.
    And ALL the testing flowcharts I use, NONE of them suggest replacing with a good known part. NOT ONE.
    See, that is the problem I see in a trend for new mechanics, they aren't mechanics or even techs, they are parts replacers. That is not fixing cars.
    Testing the part and knowing how to test it, then replacing it when you know it is bad, is THE ONLY WAY.
  • brucer2brucer2 Member Posts: 157
    Yes, you can use a scope (so long as you don't need AC for it, or have a long extension cord). However, because I was curious, I checked the FSMs for the Mercury Mystique ('96) and Nissan Maxima ('91) to see what "the" proceedure was for checking wheel speed sensors. Ford calls for, "Rotunda New Star Generaton Star (NGS) Tester 007-00500", and Nissan has the, "Nissan ABS-Checker KV999P1000". Niether one calls for a scope, or gives the specs on the "expected" wave form. About the only general purpose electrical instrument I see called for in manuals is a VOM.
    In reality, I don't think anyone (mfg's/dealers/drivers) wants to pay for someone to diagnose electronic problems, because it takes to long and costs too much. Just think about what some dealers charge to "pull" an OBD II code. We have parts changes, becuase that's what's become most cost effective.
  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
    To me, verifying a clean wss AC sine wave is basic and fundamental to ABS/TCS diagnosis. Since most speed sensors (wheel speed, trans input & output, vss) are simple AC pulse generators, they can easily be tested with a scope. A portable scope such as a Snap-on Vantage set to waveform viewer takes the guesswork out of verifying intermittent faults such as a dirty signal induced from sensor shock (EMI from mechanical vibration in the vicinity of the sensor). Also handy for viewing PCM sensor inputs when chasing down intermittent driveability problems. As far as paying for diagnosis vs replacing parts, most later model GM cars as an example use integral front wss/wheel bearings at about $300 a pop. Replacing them without verifying the fault gets expensive fast.
  • brucer2brucer2 Member Posts: 157
    I never said a scope wasn't useful. It's very good for all the things you mention, and many more. The problem is I don't think many automotive techs know how to use one, or that many shops even have them.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    I think more mechanics than you think know how to use them. Most of the shops I know have them.
    The problem I see, is that dealerships emphasize speed and replacing parts, especially when the vehicle is under warranty. The customers are starting to squawk about these jokers replacing parts until they find the right part.
    They talk about losing time and all. But if you stop and think about it, if you take the time to do the diagnostics, usually it is quicker in the long run to diagnose properly and replace the correct part. That time is chargeable and the customer is happy, cause you haven't replace 10 parts on their car to fix the problem.
    Personally, I don't see where the problem is, with the correct information, the diagnostics is easy. Gravy work. You test with a flowchart and diagrams and replace the correct part the first.
  • opera_house_wkopera_house_wk Member Posts: 326
    I was on another site a while back and there was this article about a tech that diagnosed transmission solenoid problems with a scope. He said he looked for gull wings. Now I'm an electronics designer and it even took me a while to figure out what he was talking about (no pictures). A solenoid has an inductance value which is different when it is in from when it is out. If you remember from physics, the inductance of the coil resists the flow and current builds up slowly. Fast for us, but a scope can see this current rise easily. When the solenoid core pulls in the slope of this current also changes. If you see that the slope changes, you know that the solenoid is not stuck. The tech better know how to trigger a scope! I also use this method when I need to know the actual operating speed of electro mechanical devices. So did any of you understood this. If so I will tell you more stories. Still, maybe replacement is easier if it isn't a home job.
  • alcanalcan Member Posts: 2,550
    The term used around my neck of the woods is current ramping.
  • 79377937 Member Posts: 390
    You don't even need a scope to do that trick. Take one old fashioned analog multimeter and set it to its lowest ohms range - 200 ohms will do but you can experiment with other ranges. It all depends on how good your multimeter is. Take a known good solenoid. With the core out, dab the meter probes onto the terminals of the coil and note how far the meter kicks up. Push the core in and do the same all the while noting how far the meter kicks up.

    Now do the same to the suspect solenoid and compare readings. Of course you can only compare like with like but it beats having to take out a solenoid and finding out there is nothing wrong with it. A bit of experimentation with known good solenoids will allow you to build up a data base for all the solenoids you are likely to encounter.
  • opera_house_wkopera_house_wk Member Posts: 326
    And so are those solenoids your testing. I haven't seen a solenoid with that much inductance in a long time and where are you going to find an analog meter. The trend is going toward more PWM (pulse width) with low inductance coils that you can drive hard and fast, like fuel injectors. I've designed high speed solenoid drivers and in these solenoids there is almost no inductance change. I was squirting glue at .002 sec on and .002 sec off with 45V on a 3V coil. Ford's IAC valve is PWM with an internal kickback diode. I wonder what would happen if that internal diode failed. Sure it is probably redundant in the computer but not able to handle the current over a long period. We actually built a device for a company that made clutches for AC. They had an internal diode that needed to checked for proper electrical crimp. We pulsed the coil and measured the voltage kickback.

    Back to technicians. I have interviewed many electrical techs with "experience" and found most that lacked even basic electronic knowledge. I used to give a short 20 question multiple choice (4) test on actual real world problems. I mean this test was stupid with no hidden meanings. Simple ohms law stuff. 35% was a good score. Some even ran out of the building. I had to reduce it to four questions to get people to finish it in a half hour. These are the people that you are going to get at the car dealerships. I'm sorry, but give me a cheap part puller.
  • q45manq45man Member Posts: 416
    When working on fuel injectors, fuel pumps, fan motors even checking starters [measure the compression of each cylinder], alternators, looking/[storing] at the current waveform is an art in itself.
  • 79377937 Member Posts: 390
    Yeah, where am I going to find an analog meter that will do that? When I think of those meters I'm thinking Simpson and AVO. Something in the range of 50k ohm per volt. Not these little "pocket" analog meters. The right meter will do the job I'm talking about. If anybody has a Simpson or AVO just cherish it. An analog meter is still tops for nulling or peaking a circuit. I suppose I am a dying breed. My handle is 7937 and that is my birthdate. I was born in 1937 you see. As I said, a 12 volt dc solenoid has enough inductance to kick a good analog meter. I certainly wasn't thinking of pulse width solenoids.
  • opera_house_wkopera_house_wk Member Posts: 326
    I love it but sorry, I'm digital. I've dumped those meters and never looked back. OK, I do have an original Weston vtvm with the one cent warrantee card. Like newton said - If you can't express something in numbers, you know very little about it.
  • 79377937 Member Posts: 390
    Analog is great. Give me an analog watch over a digital one any day. It's tough to admit but our perceptions (hearing, sight) are all analog. I'm all human. Next thing you'll be telling me computers and digital robots can think better than humans. Hey man, us analog creatures created them.
  • 79377937 Member Posts: 390
    An afterthought - did you also dump your scope? It is after all an analog measuring device.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    Simple ohms law stuff.
    Were you looking for a mechanic or a college grad??
    Don't get me wrong, but I have seen mechanics who were some of the best electrical guys around, who could NEVER pass a test on electrical theory.
    Why? Because they never had the schooling on it or couldn't understand the gibberish in the schooling. Give them the system and diagram and they can tell you how it works, what it does and how to test/fix it.
    That is the "new generation" frame of mind, only digital will work. LOL!
    If only that were true, I could dump half the tools. LOL!
  • opera_house_wkopera_house_wk Member Posts: 326
    of some American cowboy who spits on an electrical connection and makes it work in time to save us from some terrorist. There is a difference between a basic electrician and an electronic tech. I know TV repairmen that can fix a TV but they have no idea how they work. They were told when you see this, you replace that. They don't have the ability to analyze a new problem and work a solution. And yes I have still hired these people and they don't have the slightest idea of how to fix anything. These people went to school and couldn't figure out ohm's law. I was repairing electronic organs when I was just 15. I learned everything at that age by just reading books. So, none of this crap about them "good ole boys." The thread was, do dealerships need to hire electronic techs. My experience is that you couldn't afford to hire the ones that could actually solve complex problems.
  • 79377937 Member Posts: 390
    Fact of the matter is that TV repair has gone the way of all things digital. A few chips have repaced hundreds of discrete components. There aren't even any trim pots on most modern sets for twiddlers to adjust. The few trimpots that may be there have a life of 5 turns or so. The days of finding faulty transistors with your analog multimeter have passed. In other words, repair is being discouraged by the setmakers. If it croaks, throw it away.

    And that is where car repairs are heading. After 100,000 miles or so, throw it away. It's no wonder that with all the complexity of modern car electronics plus the hassle of dealing with irate customers that so few new recruits are willing to take the plunge and become mechanics.

    There are far better prospects for people with electronic aptitude in more lucrative fields.

    Talking about electronic organs - about 25 years ago I had a Yamaha organ that had discrete components throughout. Without exception all transistors were garden-variety type and could be bought at any Radio Shack. I challenge anybody to repair a modern electronic organ without any hassle today. I promise you that all IC's will be unknown types to the average repair person. And you won't find info on them in any data book.

    For sure, electronic diagnosis and fault finding is becoming a lost art. Just blame the digital revolution for that.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    You clearly have no idea what I do for a living or who I am.
    You see, I deal with several hundred mechanics.
    Some of these guys are extremely good with electronics/electrical. Some of them, while very good at building, testing and repairing these systems, couldn't take a test to save their lives. Not because they don't have the knowledge, but because they just can't take tests.
    Others, like I said, because the know how the system works, why it works and how to analyze it, but have never deal with the theory of relativity or Ohm's laws.
  • opera_house_wkopera_house_wk Member Posts: 326
    Take for instance, electric windows. Detroit is currently working on 3 phase motors for electric windows. Yes there will actually be a 3 phase converter for each window. The reason is that the converter is cheaper and more reliable than brushes. Add to that the next generation of smart wire devices that are beginning to dominate the automation industry. Every device contains complete diagnostic capability. Currently these are 3 wire devices - power, ground and signal. In the future they will be only ground and power, with RF commands imposed on the power line. Think how nice that will be - Only one wire in the car. The scanner will get all diagnostic information on the window switches and the motors. Think of the switch as having its own web site. So we will all become just parts replacers. Plugging the car into the factories web site in Japan will be the future. The manufacturers will want data just like the supermarkets are obtaining profile data on you now with the shopper cards. And why not, dealerships and techs are not aware of a lot of TSBs now. The factory data base would always have the latest and greatest. Computers should be doing the diagnostics.

    OBD-II is an example(a rather bad execution)of the attempt to develop diagnostics for pollution control. Projects like are collecting real world data correlating to eliminate the need for a dyno emissions test. We'll be plugging in our cars to get our plates renewed. At this time the only thing common in OBD-II is the connector. When the auto industry gets down to one communications standard, the rest of the electronics industry will be ready.

    If we had all these talented techs, I wouldn't be reading all these posts of people taking their cars in six times and they are still not fixed. Diagnostic electronics is the way to go. My pet peeve is the poor technical training many schools give and then these individuals go out and become parts replacers even in industry. I too suffer from test panic and every effort was made to ease this. unfortunantly, many are just not competent at their chosen profession.
  • 79377937 Member Posts: 390
    On paper all these ideas seem wonderful. Last night I was trying to download the latest update from Microsoft onto my computer. Well, for some reason or another, the installation was aborted and now I have an annoying window that pops up when I start-up which tells me to reboot. Soooo.... I reboot, and.... the window pops up again and tells me to reboot. Sooooo....I reboot, and.....the window pops up again and tells me to reboot. Shall I carry on?

    What's the moral of the story? Thank heaven for booze.
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    I never said that there shouldn't be better trained mechanics. But to say all mechanics aren't good, that is wrong, plain and simple.
    You see, I take offense to that, as I am sure there are a couple others who do.

    Besides, we are back to the same old thing. Don't blame the mechanic, blame whoever is the one who should be providing the training to them, whether it is the shop owner, the dealer or whoever.
    The training is available, someone has to pay for it though and low paying mechanics can't afford it, some shops and dealerships won't pay for it, so you have a vicious cycle.

    Computers should be doing the diagnostics.
    Really?? So, the computer is going to tell you where the wire has rubbed and is shorting?
    It will tell you where the connector has come loose and isn't making a good contact?
    It will tell you where the system is losing its ground?
    WOW!! I want one of those. To think, all these years I have been checking wiring and testing voltage drops and things like that when a computer could have done it all for me.
    You forget that the wiring will be subject to the elements, like oils, abrasives, varmits and man.

    Seiously, as long as there are moving parts, it ain't likely that the computer is going to be able to tell you what to replace.
    It is just like OBD2 codes (hey, you brought it up), the trouble codes don't tell you what part to replace, they tell you what system to direct your attention to. There are tests to determine the closest point of the cause, whether it be the sensor, wiring or whatever. It doesn't tell you replace this or that.
    The problem that you bring up with the dealer and having to go back several times isn't so much the mechanic, as the way that dealers do things. It is especially pronounced when the vehicle is under warranty. Time is money and for them, since it is a warranty, they replace the most likely parts, saving time and hopefully fixing it. As usual, it doesn't.

    Also, until computers are "really" that reliable, someone is going to have to do the actual testing and diagnostics.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I would agree that without the "knack" for diagnosis, all the theoretical knowledge in the world won't make you a good mechanic.

    Case in point, during WWII, it was found that some of the best cryptanalysts (code-breakers) were not mathematicians, but rather musicians and chess players. The talent really necessary for success was the ability to "think out of the box", which is very hard if not impossible for a computer to do (yet!).

    So, like the codebreakers who needed people with both the discipline of the scientist and yet the imagination of the musician, I think the best electronics diagnosticians, especially working with cars, are not necessary the ones who can pass electronics exams. Sure, a decent grounding (har, har) in theory helps a lot, but there's more to it than that.

    For instance, not every mechanic would think to discount the brand new part he just put in (oh, that can't be bad, I just replaced it). Or not every mechanic would listen closely enough to the symptoms. "When it rains and my dog is in the car"....and he only hears "when it rains", never realizing that the dog is seating in the back seat under which lies the battery which is shorting against the seat springs (true story---Audi!)
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    Audis and VW bugs! LOL!!
    The back seat gets real warm when someone heavy sits in the back. LOL!!
    Then they start saying they smell something burning. Aw, the memories. LOL!!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    I have very little training in electronics but I knew immediately what happened to my friends BMW 750IL when he said "I drove over one of those parking lot barriers and then my engine had no power".

    I knew he had knocked off the crank sensor on one bank of cylinders, because I remembered that that sensor sits right at the bottom of the bell housing (duh, BMW!).

    My point is that if you even knew the function of every sensor and its location and the symptom that manifests when that sensor malfunctions, you'd be able to solve quite a few problems (not all, of course) without touching anything more than a VOM.
  • 79377937 Member Posts: 390
    "Plugging the car into the factories website in Japan will be the future," says opera_house_wk.

    I can just imagine a hacker getting into that website and laying some nasty virus/worm in your vehicle. Coupled to the fact that we have now only 1 wire running around the vehicle controlled by the computer, we can imagine that the conversation in future cars will be something like this,

    "Honey, why is it that when I push the brakes the windows wind down?" Only kidding... only kidding..
  • lawnboy101lawnboy101 Member Posts: 4
    I detect a little hostility towards technology. I, for one, like the fact that I can spend my weekends doing something other than tuning up my car. I say that the more IC's you can cram into a car the better, as long as they improve reliability, fuel economy, safety and driveability. I used to have a mid 70's Fiat 124 Spider and it was a pain in the [non-permissible content removed] to maintain. It was a pleasure to flip the top down and spin around the hills on Oahu but it was murder to have to static time the damn thing once a month. I realize that Fiats have never been reliable but I remember other old cars I've had that were maintenance intensive even when new. By way of comparison: I was trained as an electronics tech by the US military. I switched to computers for the $$. In the mid 80's PC's required a very savvy person to crack the case and venture inside. Today, I run a service center for laptop PC's. I hire kids off the street at $10 an hour to do hardware work. Computers are more reliable than ever before. They are also more modular. Any one with a manual and a set of small screwdrivers can completely disassemble and reassemble a Laptop. In my opinion, this is good. I think cars are headed that way too. I will most certainly call BS on anyone who tries to tell me that cars before the IC age were more reliable. It just ain't true.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    No, but cars before IC may have been more interesting and fun to play with. I think if you view a car strictly as practical transportation, a "people-mover" if you will, then the argument to make it as efficient as possible, even at the cost of character or individuality, might be a good one. But for those people who really love cars for their very individual quirks and charm, and who like to restore/fiddle with, modify, etc., making cars in rows and rows of impersonal perfection might not appeal as much as the older vehicles do.
  • opera_house_wkopera_house_wk Member Posts: 326
    I live in a greater metropolitan area of about a million people. Diagnostic skills are a special talent and when you match that with a good technical background, a lot of doors open for you. Auto repair has a hard time competing with the cushy jobs. And what are those dealers going to do out in East Podunk to find people! In my work at an ISO registered company I have to write test procedures with rather detailed procedures of what components are suspect when a test fails. My responsibility also includes reviewing all repair forms to spot failure trends. I almost always notice that more parts are replaced than are needed. This tells me that the techs are using the shotgun approach rather than analysis. One of the worst part time techs actually teaches electronics at a local vocational school. These people do perform a cost effective function. The needed work does get done. The skills these people provide is part identification and soldering.

    If a dealer did hire an electronic tech, my experience is that the tech would not bring any additional diagnostic skills beyond that of a good mechanic. Money would be best spent on training. Many mechanics today are working quite effectively today with complex electronics on a system level. Twenty years ago, Detroit went to the electronics manufacturers and wanted them to increase reliability. Your car stopping is far more annoying than than the TV going black. There will always be some cars with some unique electrical problem. Diagnosis of these problems realistically can cost over a $1000 or more and take several days to perform. These cars should go to regional factory repair centers. Perhaps we will need some new electronic lemon law in the future modeled after pollution controls that are warranted for 100K. A friend of mine had a drain hole drilled in the AC housing of his JEEP. A factory recall and after that the message center never worked right. After returning to the dealer four times, they never could fix it and he just gave up. I hear stories like this all the time. How can the dealer ever be interested at warrantee repair rates.
  • 79377937 Member Posts: 390
    Well I'm by no means hostile to technology and I'm glad my car is computer controlled. In fact there is nothing to adjust on my car at all which makes me happy. My car is also very reliable. More so than any other I have owned. My beef is the fact that too much is expected from ordinary people when it comes to maintaining these new systems.

    I stated earlier on that I was born in 1937. I was a radio ham for many years and rolled my own coils, ground my own crystals for single side band filters and, built my own transmitters and recievers plus a doing a host of other satisfying tasks connected to my hobby. Sadly, the hobby has changed. Very few radio hams build their own equipment today.

    I owned and ran a TV repair shop for many years. I am employed at the moment in the high tech industry. The company I work for produces research systems for major research facilities. We build the biggest and most powerful resistive electromagnets this side of superconducting electromagnets.

    So, I feel that I do have some background to be able to make a comment on the subject. I am at this moment looking at a modern circuit board. The print is multilayer and the tracks are hair thin. The components are all surface mount and extremely tiny. The integrated circuits have been shrunk to a miniscule size. The circuit board is defective. What am I going to do with it? Dump it of course! Who in their right mind would want to do fault finding and repair on that?

    By all means let the manufacturers make products like that but they musn't expect ordinary people to repair their creations. Either they make them 100% failure free or give enough free supplies of those products to people who must service whatever and wherever they are fitted in.

    The manufacturers created the "throwaway" society so let them maintain it. I for one refuse to be part of it. That is my beef about it all. I enjoy modern technology - as long as it works!
  • lawnboy101lawnboy101 Member Posts: 4
    Mr. Shiftright
    I do, in fact, look at cars and trucks as people/stuff movers, mainly because I can't reasonably afford an AMG Mercedes. I used to care a lot more about performance and style, but back then I drove a Sentra and spent a measly 6 grand for a Kawasaki ZX-7 motorcycle which would blow away any car I was likely to encounter this side of Hockenheim. Then I grew up. Not to disparage hobbyists and individualists, but they are not who Honda, Toyota, Mazda or even Ford and GM are targeting. They are selling to me, a mid thirties guy, with a wife who doesn't check oil or tires, and a less than 6 figure salary. My 94 Ranger XLT and my 98 CR-V fit my needs exactly. They are trouble free, as long as I follow the basic maintenance schedule. Other than oil changes, fluid top offs, wipers, bulbs and air pressure I have never done any do it yourself work on those two vehicles. I just bought the CR-V but the same applies to the 96 Saturn that preceeded it. I probably spent less than $500 on maintenance in the 3 years I owned it (I got it in 98 with 50k miles and brand new Firestone FT70 tires) The dealership fixed the cracked head it suffered at the 79k mark at NO COST TO ME because it was under a TSB. I traded that car in last weekend at 113k miles and got $2300 for it because it was in great condition. I sympathize with you gearheads because I sometimes feel the same way about PC's but we have to realize that convenience is what the market wants. I'm curious though; why doesn't a person who really likes to work on cars just restore a vintage automobile and fulfil their jones that way? Finances permitting, of course
  • opera_house_wkopera_house_wk Member Posts: 326
    I had a Toyota Supra that the ignition module went bad in. I went to the dealer and asked the price $186. I thought to myself, "Hey, who won the war! I'm smarter than that." Opened up the ignition module and saw a large open transistor on a ceramic substrate under a thick layer of silicone goo. It had the consistency of warm sticky jello. Peeled it back as best I could and soldered three wires on with a BIG iron. Then made a five transistor darlington from some (they were small) high voltage transistors. A buddy had given me them from Borg Warner Motor Controls. I know it worked for at least 100K.
  • 79377937 Member Posts: 390
    You don't get lucky everytime! As long as it's my stuff I'll have a good stab at repairing it. I should pass my 8mm camcorder on to you. Its croaked. Have you ever seen how chock-full of goodies those things are? And how tiny the components are?

    Well I gave up on repairing that thing and went one step deeper into the doodoo and bought myself the teeniest lil ole digital camcorder. I'm horrified at the thought of what lies buried beneath the covers and how tiny everything must be.

    You see, that's the problem with your hi-tech motorcar too. Everytime you drive it you wonder if and when it croaks (and it will) what's it going to cost to repair and how long it will be in the shop. At least with low tech cars that had points and condensers and carburators you knew where to jiggle things and where to tap on the float bowl to get things rolling again.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    So what I'm hearing is that most of you want at least some SYSTEM in place, beyond just the local line mechanic, to assist in the diagnosis and repair these new cars, but the question is what will this system look like? Will it include the mechanic in the process or simply by-pass him every time deep electronics is involved?
  • 0patience0patience Oregon CoastMember Posts: 1,712
    Well that explains alot, you have got to be an engineer.

    I'm not hostile toward technology, but be realistic, its track record isn't that great.
    When you look at some systems on multimillion dollar machines that do highly specialized, dangerous things, they have reduntant systems. Now, why do you think that is? It is because when something fails, it swiches to another circuit, system or whatever.
    I have watched vehicles go from points to electronics to computers.
    Which was more reliable? The points. Reason, if it broke, you could fix the system with a screwdriver, file and vice grips.
    Now, I realize that is far from the point, but here just my input.
    And I feel that I am more than qualified to comment on this, as electrical systems is my area of specialty.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Technology does a number of interesting things, some good some bad.

    For one, it can help you make mistakes faster.

    Also, as Opatience suggests, it can render you both powerful and powerless.

    It's true, electronic ignition/distributorless ignition, whatever, is extremely efficient and trouble-free, but when it breaks you, the operator, and that $40K high performance car, are rendered completely helpless. So for this "reliability" you pay $600 to fix it rather than $3.99.

    Astronauts need this level of complexity. I'm not whether we do or not. I'm not sure when we slip from "grace" (as in "a blessing") to just useless "gadgetry".
  • opera_house_wkopera_house_wk Member Posts: 326
    I have a 92 Explorer that the idle would race on (1500 rpm) when I had been driving the car for 4 hours hard on the highway. Then it just started doing it around town in normal driving. The idle air control valve was being driven hard open. This is pulse modulated and not a stepper like some. Being winter, I never did drag the scope out. The IAC wire to the computer was already cut. I would disconnect it on trips when it acted up. Now that it was acting up all the time, I inserted a klixon thermal switch in series and ty-wrapped it to the heater hose. To increase idle speed, I connected a lamp to ground for a small current. I like to believe that the positive temp coefficient of the lamp would raise the idle a little when its cold. Really, I just like using lamps for resistors. I was going to rebuild the computer or build an opto isolated driver. Sometimes its best to let sleeping dogs lie. Transmission went out a week later and bought a 97 Explorer. So the old one went in storage till I rebuild the transmission myself. My dentist rebuilds them so it can't be that hard.

    Opry, next you will be calling me Nashville. Opera House Works originates from the Opera House Cup sailboat races on Nantucket. There was this Opera House on the second floor of the ship owners association building. Time has a way of glorifying things and I think it wasn't much more than a brothel. Second, I started out rebuilding nickelodians and player pianos. I have no ability to play any musical instrument. Still, I have a player piano and a 12 rank (1000 pipe)Cassavant organ made in Michigan during the twenties. It plays player piano rolls. It was from an estate auction that I left so I wouldn't be tempted to buy it. Somehow, it still made its way to me.
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