Do you remember diesel cars in the 1980s? They were noisy, sluggish and smoky and were of little interest to anybody apart from fleet buyers or skinflints. However, the introduction of both turbochargers and common rail injection transformed the cars into the economical and powerful machines on the road today. It’s no wonder that, in 2011, UK sales of the oil-burning machines overtook those of petrol cars for the first time.
Despite this, there are still plenty of workshops that won’t touch diesels and, regrettably, some that do that probably shouldn’t. There is a fear of the technology itself, as well as a fear of contaminating the sensitive parts and both of these problems were something OE parts maker Delphi was keen to overcome. This is why the firm set up a ‘diesel centre’ scheme for garages and it is the latest signatory, a garage named Nev’ll Fix It in Tonbridge, Kent, that we have visited this month.
Interestingly, one of the reasons for wanting diesel parts to still be perceived as reliable after the car has entered the aftermarket, stems from the vehicle manufacturers themselves. Robert Stevens, a manager at Delphi explained: “Our OE contracts stipulate that we’ll provide aftermarket support. As vehicles move into the aftermarket, we want to make sure that the repairs are a cost effective service. One of our challenges is that there are a number of garages providing diesel service that are not properly trained. That’s why we decided to get involved with setting up diesel centres, so garages can buy the components, fit them properly and still deliver a cost effective solution.”
The way it works is fairly simple. Interested garages that Delphi feels are worthy of becoming diesel centres are issued with some signage and several items of specialist tooling – notably, a sealed rail diagnostic kit as well as a ‘false actuator’ kit (see box on second page for details). Technicians from the garage are then booked onto a number of training courses, which may take place either at the workshop or in another location, such as Delphi’s new training centre. There’s no need to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on flow benches or other really high tech gear – each centre is ‘partnered’ with places up and down the country that have these facilities.
Garage owner Neville Smith explained his decision to join the programme by saying: “Delphi is one of the frontrunners in the diesel market and we felt that partnering with them would provide the sort of service that we wanted to give our customers. For us it was important to provide that. We see a lot of French and VAG group vehicles at this garage – the majority of which have Delphi systems.”
Smith continued: “We see a lot of diesel vehicles coming in and, because we are the biggest independent garage in the area, we do a lot of training to keep our skill levels up. We see work coming in from independents and franchised dealers that cannot handle the technology. We’ve carved ourselves this niche to ensure our longevity in the market.”He added: “There are a lot of garages that are going out of business now because they haven’t invested or done the training.”
Other benefits that swayed Neville Smith to sign up included access to a technical helpline and the use of a piece of software named ‘Direct Evolution’ that is compatible with the latest pass-thru protocols to help technicians get the most up to date information. “Being able to pick the phone up and get information is also very good – there is a lot of information there.” While not part of the diesel centre package, on our visit Smith had just taken delivery of the Delphi DS350 scan tool, something he said he had ‘only just started to scratch the surface with.’
“Delphi offers a number of good training courses – we’ve just booked onto a couple. The parts are also good, of course – we want to always fit the best possible parts”.
Interestingly, Nev’ll Fix It is already part of the Bosch Car Service network but Stevens insists there is no conflict of interest. “No one is going to retrofit a car with another brand of diesel equipment!”he points out. Neville Smith says: “The two companies use very different systems – we’ll continue to train for both as it’s important that our technicians understand all of them. As your readers will be well aware, the systems change so rapidly, it is most important to invest in the training from all sources,”he concluded.