Servicing Tips - Service Standards
Ethics of Automotive Repair
We're going to be talking about the ethics of automotive repair. It seems like news outlets really like hit-and-run reporting; they hit everyone from groceries stores to retail to physicians and the automotive service and repair industry hasn't been given a pass either.
Unfortunately, every profession has some bad actors that hurt the reputation of everyone else. On the automotive side, industry associations and professional licensing organizations are very committed to high ethical standards.
Yet some people remain uncomfortable with automotive service and repair. It may start with the fact that our vehicles are a big investment and we rely on them for so much in our lives. That alone guarantees our attention. And how well we understand the recommendations really impacts our comfort level.
If we understand what's recommended and the benefits of taking care of the work – and the pitfalls of putting it off – we'll have more trust in the recommendation. So communication is key. It's like going to the doctor; If the doctor is using medical jargon and takes a lot of basic medical knowledge for granted, we have a hard time following their train of thought. It can be like that with your automotive service advisor too. He's so familiar with all things automotive, he may forget you don't know a PCV from an EGT.
If you don't understand what your doctor's talking about: ask some questions. If you don't understand what your automotive service advisor's talking about: ask some questions.
Let's go back to those ethical standards; when we hear a repair recommendation, we always ask ourselves, "Is this really necessary?" Well, here's the industry standard:
If a technician tells you that a repair or replacement is required it must meet the following criteria:
- The part no longer performs its intended purpose
- The part does not meet a design specification
- The part is missing
For example, it you take your car in for a grinding noise when you step on the brakes, you may just think you need new brake pads. After the inspection, the technician says that you have a cracked rotor and need to replace it.
If you tried to get him to simply put new pads on, he would say that if you didn't want to replace the rotor then ethically the service centre would have to refuse the repair.
To just put pads on a cracked rotor would have been very wrong. The brakes could've failed at anytime and needed to be repaired – not just have a band-aid slapped on them.
Now, looking at something not so serious, the technician may suggest repair or replacement if:
- The part is close to the end of its useful life – just above discard specifications or likely to fail soon
- To address a customer need or request – like for better ride or increased performance
- To comply with maintenance recommended by the vehicle's manufacturer
- Based on the technician's informed experience
Of course, the technician has the burden of making ethical recommendations and properly educating their customers. For the customer, if you are uncomfortable with a recommendation, ask some questions. More information is always a good thing.
PO Box 16686 Hornby
New Zealand, New Zealand 8441
Speak Up: Talking with Your Oil Changers Service Advisor
About 80% of the vehicles on the roads today are behind on their preventive maintenance schedules. In the United States alone that translates to about 160 million vehicles that aren't performing as well as they could be - thousands right here in New Zealand. Some of the maintenance issues are minor. Others represent serious safety concerns.
There are a number of reasons drivers neglect their routine car care. Some of the more common ones are complacency, lack of confidence, lack of trust, and budget issues.
Modern vehicles are amazingly reliable compared to their older counterparts. They can run for years without any repairs, and we sometimes translate that to mean they don't need any maintenance. The trouble is that without maintenance, parts in the vehicle are gradually wearing out, fluids are getting dirty, oil is developing sludge — a lot of stuff is happening that we can't see, and it is destroying the vehicle. The first time we learn there is a problem, we have a major repair bill on our hands.
Older vehicles just couldn't keep going without frequent maintenance; they broke down without timely car care. Modern vehicles are designed to keep running even when they're not fully healthy. Unfortunately, that convenience has led some of us to become complacent and ignore car care — until we have to fix something, and fixing something today takes a whole lot more than it used to.
Some people don't feel comfortable taking their vehicles to their local service centre. They don't know much about engines or auto mechanics, so they don't know what questions to ask. They don't want to appear foolish or ignorant.
Your physician doesn't expect you to understand what a ligament is or how it works, but if you have a problem with one they're going to explain to you what it is, what's wrong with it and how it can be fixed. It's in their best interest as well as yours to do so. You'll both feel more comfortable with the treatment.
That's what you can expect from the professional technicians at Oil Changers. They have to be highly trained and work with a lot of complex, high-tech systems. They don't expect their customers to understand car care. So ask questions. You need auto advice from a service specialist, just as you need medical advice from a doctor and financial advice from a financial advisor.
Which brings us to the next concern: trust. A lot of rumors fly around about auto repair scams. You may have heard about some local auto shops taking advantage of customers and replacing parts that weren't broken. Frankly, this is just bad business practice. Service centres won't stay in business long if they're engaged in this type of activity.
It's in the best interest of these service centres to diagnose a problem correctly and fix it right the first time. That's how they keep their businesses open.
Trust must be earned. Just as it took time for you to establish a relationship and rapport with your doctor, it will take time to build a relationship with your service centre.
Also, realize that when your friendly and knowledgeable service advisor at Oil Changers recommends routine maintenance, he is generally relying on your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations. In other words, your trust lies both with your service advisor and your vehicle manufacturer. You'll find that most of the service recommendations from Oil Changers you receive coincide with what's in your manual.
Those recommendations were set up by the engineers who designed your vehicle, not Oil Changers. The team at Oil Changers is just offering you a friendly reminder — a helpful reminder really, since most of us don't post our owner's manuals to our calendars.
Money is behind most neglect of vehicle maintenance. First, they worry that they can't afford it. Second, they worry that they're being overcharged.
The simple truth is, car care is like health care. We can't afford not to have it. Preventive maintenance is cheap compared to repair work. It extends the lives of our vehicles and saves us on fuel. It also makes our vehicles safer to drive, which can prevent accidents. Putting off preventive maintenance can be very expensive.
Service centres have to be competitive. Like any business, they can't afford to overcharge customers or they go out of business. However, car care today does cost more than it used to. Vehicles are more sophisticated, complex and high-tech. That means technicians have to be better trained. They have to purchase high-tech diagnostic equipment and tools. They have to keep up with the latest advances in vehicle engineering and subscribe to computer databases. Like any business, they also have labour costs, insurance, rent, utilities, taxes, office supplies, etc.
If you are strapped for cash, Oil Changers can offer advice to help you keep your car running safely and manage your budget. For example, let's say you need new brake pads, transmission service and a new cabin air filter. A technician can't ethically recommend you delay brake service: that creates a safety hazard for you and other drivers. You need to get that done now, but they can let you know if the transmission service can wait a month and how long you can put off changing the cabin air filter. They can also estimate what these services will cost. That gives you the time and information you need to save up for the other services.
The key to modern car care is preventive maintenance. Our modern vehicles are safer, more fuel efficient and more reliable than ever before, but to keep them that way we have to be more proactive about caring for them. It's good to know there are knowledgeable professionals at Oil Changers who can help us do just that.
PO Box 16686 Hornby
New Zealand 8441
Customer Detective Work
One might say the most challenging part of being an automotive service technician at Oil Changers is diagnosing a problem before it can be fixed.
Cars are made up of a bunch of complex systems. There usually could be a number of reasons for any given symptom. So, it's challenging to track down the actual cause of the problem and it can be frustrating for the vehicle owner because it can take time and money to get to the bottom of a problem. If it's not something obvious, it's easy for the customer to focus on the fixing and not the diagnosing.
Let Oil Changers introduce you to something we'll call 'Customer Detective Work' – that is helping your technician find clues to what's wrong.
We start with the detective basics: What, Where and When. Play along with me; You come in to Oil Changers and your car is making a funny sound...
- Q: Where's the sound?
- A: Around the right front wheel.
- Q: What kind of sound?
- A: Kind of a clunk, clunk sound.
- Q: When do you hear the sound?
- A: When I turn and accelerate.
- Q: Right and left? Forwards and back?
Do you see where we're going? You're gathering additional information to help your technician know where to start. Based on your car and the tech's experience, he'll know where to look and can start with the obvious suspects.
You can see how that would be more helpful than dropping the car off with a note that says "making a funny noise".
If the tech can experience the problem personally, he's better able to make a diagnosis and repair, and then test to see if the repair solved the problem.
Ask us for details.
PO Box 16686 Hornby
New Zealand 8441
On Board Diagnostics For Your vehicle
Today we're going to talk about on-board diagnostics and the questions we hear from people who need answers about diagnostic services. They want to know what diagnostics are, what's involved and what the benefits are. They really want to understand the value of a diagnostic scan on their vehicle by a trained technician.
These are valid concerns. If you don't understand something it's really hard to know its value. Let's start with some history.
Since the mid 90's, all cars and light trucks use a standardised diagnostic system to help repair technicians determine what's wrong with your vehicle. The diagnostic system works with the vehicle's Engine Control Module – the computer that controls many engine functions.
The computer monitors dozens of components and processes. Depending on what the sensors read, the computer will make adjustments to compensate for conditions and minor problems. When there is a condition that it can't adjust for, the computer will turn on the check engine light.
It is also called the 'service engine' light on some vehicles. The warning light signals you to get into your local service center so that the trouble code can be read and the problem can be fixed. Your service center will have a scan tool and powerful software that will help the technician diagnose the problem.
If you've searched for check engine light on the internet, you may have seen that you can buy an inexpensive scanner to read the trouble code and tell you exactly what's wrong.
That's a common myth. The code itself doesn't tell you what's broken. It starts you looking in the right place. It tells you what engine parameter is out of range – but it won't tell you what's wrong or how to fix it.
Let's say you think your daughter has a fever. You take her temperature and it reads 41 degrees. You've confirmed a fever, but you don't know what's causing it. Is it a 24 hour flu, an infection, appendicitis or leukemia? A fever is a symptom of all of these medical problems, but it takes a skilled physician's examination and additional diagnostic tests to find out what is actually causing the fever.
An example of a trouble code could be: P0133, which reads 'Bank 1 sensor 1 circuit slow response'. This means that the front oxygen sensor has a slow response time to changes in the air-fuel mix. If that's all you knew about cars, you would think your oxygen sensor was broken and would replace it. Now, it could be the oxygen sensor – but it could also be a bad or contaminated airflow sensor, exhaust leak, electrical problem, an intake manifold leak or any of a number of other things.
You can imagine a lot of oxygen sensors have been replaced because of that code. So the on-board diagnostics point the way to where the trouble lies, but it takes some skill and high-tech equipment to actually pinpoint the problem. The cheap scan tools that a consumer can buy do not have the ability to retrieve some of the operating history that's stored in the engine control computer. That history's very helpful in diagnosing the problem. Service centers invest a lot of money in high-end diagnostic tools to help solve the mystery and get you back on the road as soon as possible without replacing a lot of parts that don't need replacing.
So, on-board diagnostics provide a powerful starting place for a highly-trained, well-equipped technician to get to the bottom of your problem. When your check engine light comes on, get it checked. If the light burns steady – don't panic. Get in as soon as possible to have the engine scanned. A flashing check engine light means that there is a severe engine problem. Get in as soon as you can – waiting too long can lead to very expensive damage.
PO Box 16686 Hornby
New Zealand 8441