The future of DPF servicing

Change can seem shocking at first, but is it the future?

By Frank Massey | Published:  08 May, 2017

Two months from now will bring my tenure in the motor industry to 49 years. I would like to think I have evolved, kept up with technology, enabling me to provide a professional service, enjoying customer respect and integrity. My focus has been the technical challenges, while my son David manages the commercial responsibilities.

This creates a wide role for me developing our training programme, internal research and development, bringing the focus of this topic to technical and legal compliance.

My chosen subject here is diesel servicing and repairs, specifically particulate filtration and emission control. It is something we have been passionate and vocal over for several years. it gives me no pleasure or satisfaction in seeing our prediction over the demise of diesel vehicles.

Diesel fudge

The future is now clear as to the changes our political lords and masters have in mind. This gives us a short timeline to get our house in order. My intention is to advise, help and warn what will happen if we all continue to fudge diesel particulate repairs as we currently do. Upwards of 90% of independent garages will fall into this category. How do, or should we service and recover diesel particulate filters? The choices are very simple!

1. Replace with a new OE filter

2. Replace with a non-OE filter

3. Clean and service off vehicle in factory controlled conditions

4. Clean and service off the vehicle in house

5. Clean and service on the vehicle

6. Remove the filtration system from the vehicle

Here is the problem; we as professional repairers are legally and financially responsible, and exposed for the advice and decisions we make. This is the case even if the customer agrees and or instructs us on a certain course of action.

Clear legislation is in place for the performance and fitment of diesel emission systems. Vehicle taxation is based on specific emission levels agreed with the manufacturers. I am sure I do not need to mention VW and Audi, but I will bet their corporate accountants have regrets. How long do you think it will be before the government bean counters look at us? Let's not fool ourselves enforcement will take the effect of stringent fines.

Everything

So what are we doing wrong? Pretty much everything. Please remember my words, help, advice and not critique.

We are breaking the law in removing legally compliant systems. MOT examiners will lose their licence by passing unauthorised emission system modification. You will become the first unpaid enforcers.

We are breaking the law further in polluting the water course, by power cleaning, or rinsing out cleaning agents into the drains. Utility companies have powers to set huge fines and often do.

We are also in breach of the clean air act by using some of the available cleaning agents that require the running of the engine whilst emitting all the contaminants back into the environment.

It is quite possible at this point some of you are about to rip out the magazine pages and offer an alternative use for them. Please reconsider, we are slowly killing ourselves.

Let's as an industry get together, think ahead of the curve and get our house and process in order.

Change

I recently visited CERAMEX in Slough, and before a handful out there suspect a paid endorsement here, I even paid my own travel expenses. I have been aware of several companies offering off vehicle cleaning, pressure washing, thermal cleaning in an oven, and ultrasonic treatments. My problem has always been, is the catalytic converter and DPF still fully functional and durable when refitted? How can we protect ourselves from future premature failure due to other indirect causes? Can we provide certification of test results?

Here is my opinion as to how we should address the blocked, cleaning DPF problem. Many of you will not agree, I do not care, this is how it should and eventually will be done. Reflect on the vast changes in the paint refinishing industry before you cry never!

The DPF is initially visually examined bar coded and weighed, attached by means of bespoke plumbing to what is in effect a big dishwasher (sorry Marcus my words) then filled with water. A short pause here, some of you will know water damages and degrades the precious metal wash coat. The purified water has all the damaging trace elements removed and is only used to restrict the clear DPF passages. Pressure waves, are then sent through the core, XPURGE for several minutes. I did question if this was in effect an ultrasonic process? This is not the case. The water does act as a transport mechanism for the waste material, including ash, which is flushed out, into a waste tank. The water is filtered, for reuse and the semi solids captured in large skips for reprocessing. It is pure carbon it would make an ideal fuel source!

The DPF core is then placed in electric air dryers where apart from drying the core, measurements are taken for flow rates and back pressure. Next a two-stage photograph examination is applied to detect face off and ring off cracking to the core. A second weight check is taken to ascertain the mass of soot ash removal. The next service is optional for small vehicle units, the cat and DPF are subject to a sample hot gas bench to establish the reduction of, CO/HC, finally being placed in a particulate bench where filtration is assessed and measured.

Certification

Certification and bespoke transport packaging completes the service. The recovery success is consistently above 90%. The cost is approximately half the cost of a new OE unit. No environmental pollution so your grandchildren will thank you and may avoid the huge increase in paediatric respiratory illnesses.

You will earn profit from a professional repair, enjoy the respect and integrity it brings, however not all customers will agree or want to pay, and that is not our problem.

Further information

Please contact Annette 01772 201 597, enquries@ads-global.co.uk for further information on upcoming training courses and events.

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  • blueprint for technical success 

    Have you ever wondered why it is that some technicians have an aptitude for complex diagnosis? You know the type of tech I mean. They take the seemingly unfixable, dive headlong into diagnostic battle and emerge triumphant time and time again.
        
    Not only that, but they’ll often do so in a time that makes other techs look on in awe! What’s their secret? And more importantly, can you emulate their success? Well, I’ve got some great news for you. You can, and knowing what to do is easy.  All that’s required is that you look to the past. History is a great teacher.
        
    I turned 50 this year, and one of the few benefits of increasing age is the ability to spot patterns, and patterns of actions that when followed culminate in your success. Patterns for success surround us, but sometimes you can be a little too caught up in the urgency of the now to spot them.
        
    I’ll show you the patterns great technicians use to triumph in the world of technical diagnosis, and how you can do the same. It’ll be your blueprint for success.
        
    You’ll like the blueprint. You’ll appreciate its simplicity, recognise the logic, and in all probability nod along as you read, agreeing with the steps that need to be followed.
        
    Here’s the deal though: You’ll need to implement it. Knowing the blueprint is easy, but knowing what to do doesn’t get the job done. It’s all in the implementation, and that starts with you taking small steps to achieve positive changes each day. Don’t forget one of my favourite sayings: “Progress NOT perfection.”
        
    I’m as much a fan of the latest technical gadget as the next man. I also love “cool” test techniques, but I’ve noticed that myopic focus on these can often be to the detriment of the long-term technical success of a technician. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t explore “shiny” elements in our craft, but you’ll find huge benefits in building a solid foundation that can be executed on every diagnosis. What do you need to “do well” then? Just these five steps.

    Step one – Systemise to win
    There’s always a right and not so right way to attack any given fault. One fundamental element is to have a defined system that all technicians use.  Without a rigorous system to follow, your diagnosis could be doomed before you start. Here’s an outline of our diagnostic system that just works;

    1 – Thorough questioning of customer, establish change point
    2 – Confirm and experience fault with customer
    3 – Visual inspection for obvious issues
    4 – Retreive fault codes, and gather data on what’s required to raise them
    5 – Inspect serial data. Note what looks wrong
    6 – Research technical bulletins and any technical information required for accurate testing.
    7 – Document what’s wrong and possible causes
    8 – Form plan and prioritise relevant tests
    9 – Carry out tests and draw conclusions
    10 – Bypass test to prove the conclusion where applicable
    11 – Repair as required.
    12 – Carry out postfix operations i.e. component coding.
    13 – Carry out tests to confirm repair

    Use our process and you’ll definitely be putting your best foot forward.

    Step two – Sound electrical knowledge
    Now you know what a great process looks like the next part of your blueprint is your understanding of automotive electrics. How quickly you can decide what to test, what tool to use, and what the answer should be is an essential skill that pays huge dividends once learnt. Key elements include:

    1 – Becoming comfortable with relationship between volts, amps and ohms
    2 – Using voltage drop to accurately find circuit faults
    3 – Series and parallel circuit diagnosis
    4 – Interpretation and use of wiring diagrams
    5 – Fundamental mechantronics test knowledge

    Armed with these, you’ll be able to find wiring faults, diagnose sensor and actuator circuits as well as build entry-level bypass tests to confirm your theories. These are skills you’ll use on the majority of diagnostic repairs. Learn these and you’ll reap the rewards for your entire career.

    Step three – Oscilloscopes; One tool to rule them all
    A little dramatic I know, but understanding how to use an oscilloscope competently is a game changer. It will bring to life all that has been learned in Step two (auto electrics), and when used skilfully will display this in a way that can confirm or deny faults in vehicle circuits, sensors and actuators.
        
    As an example, take just one quick connection (less than a minute on most petrol cars) to the switched side of a manifold injector and you’ll know;

    1 – That power supply to the injector is not open circuit
    2 – The ECU has control of the injector and is commanding fuel delivery
    3 – Time taken for fuel delivery to commence (injector opening)
    4 – Integrity of injector ground circuit
    5 – Time takes for fuel delivery to cease (injector closing)

    Add some additional test points for injector power supply, current and rail pressure (another couple of minutes) and you’ll confirm the integrity of the positive supply to the injector, the injector winding, and a great test for a quick look to ensure the injector is delivering fuel once open. Like I said - It really is one tool to rule them all!

    Step four - Generic systems knowledge
    With steps one through three in place you’ll now have the foundation knowledge to explore vehicle systems. This can be a little intimidating as there are so many systems and so much to see, which is why we advise attacking this in bite-size chunks. Your goal here is to become familiar with generic items that broadly apply to a wide cross-section of vehicles. While there’s no substitute for formal training, taking a few minutes on a regular basis to self teach is invaluable. Here’s some things for you to try:

    1 – Pick one system to start with. E.g. petrol engine management
    2 – Select a book or watch a video for some foundation learning
    3 – Focus on one part of a system. E.g. Loads sensors
    4 – Inspect serial data for MAF and MAP sensors across various load and speed ranges
    5 – Scope MAF and MAP sensors across load and speed ranges
    6 – Record your results and repeat on different vehicles on the same components
    7 – Repeat points one through six on different components

    Do this on a range of vehicles and systems and you’ll become incredibly familiar with what good looks like, as well as raising many questions that we’ll answer when you attend our training.

    Step five – Manufacturer information and tooling
    There’s one final piece to this part of the puzzle and that’s using the using the best information and serial tools.
        
    While I understand that generic information and tooling has its place, I also have too many real-world examples where my blood pressure would have been dramatically raised were it not for O.E. information and diagnostic tooling. My advice here is straightforward;

    1 – Select one manufacturer initially
    2 – Become intimately familiar with their information system
    3 – Learn to use their wiring diagrams
    4 – Explore their technical service bulletins
    5 – Use their repair procedures
    6 – Substitute a generic serial tool for the O.E. tool for a month
    7 – Explore all the serial tool has to offer

    We’ve been training technicians like you to use this equipment for many years. It’s had too much of an impact for those that have grasped the nettle for you not to give it a go.
        
    You now know what it takes to begin the road to technical success. All you need to do is start. Taking regular steps, and before you know it you’ll have not only reduced your stress but your time to a first time fix as well.


  • Diesel from a different direction 

    I want to discuss diesel servicing from a totally different direction, compared with the usual angle. Let’s also start from a different angle, compared with the usual view. Consider this; Servicing is a failure prevention strategy.  Conducted in accordance with the operating environment there should theoretically be no failures. Please note my careful choice of words, operating environment. Manufacturers always have and are still marketing their vehicles with inappropriate servicing regimes.

    The political focus is one based on a relatively short warranty period and tailored to business or lease company requirements. In my opinion, service intervals should reflect the operating environment rather than fixed values such as time or distance.
    The very activities established as suitable by the VMs fall woefully short of actual requirements. Vehicle owners are, I believe, misled by a whole group of agencies with regards to vehicle ownership and responsibilities.

    I also think the possibility of cradle-to-grave ownership is closer than we like to acknowledge. You rent or lease a vehicle over a two-to-three year period with all maintenance inclusive. At the end of the rental period the vehicle is exchanged with a consecutive end to end contract. No responsibilities for repair or servicing.

    With this in mind, how should we approach diesel servicing given the problems with premature component failure and excessive emission issues?

    Detailed knowledge
    Let’s assume we have a new customer. Our first responsibility is to understand how they operate the vehicle and their aspirations and value of operating and investing in what is the Holy Grail, i.e. reliability.

    Detailed knowledge of driving style, traffic environment, driving distance, fuel quality, should have a direct influence on how servicing should be applied. This would be a unique profile for this customer.

  • The secret behind Top Technician: Process 

    I guess it’s just human nature to want to take a peek behind the door that says ‘Private, Members Only’. What could be so special, and what are we missing out on? It’s with that in mind that I’m writing this article. In the next four minutes I’ll reveal what goes on behind the scenes in the Top Technician technical tests, and what it takes to diagnose a vehicle in 20 minutes. You’re going to love it!

    I first became involved with Top Technician as a judge in 2008, I was hooked from the start as it epitomised everything I loved about the industry. Watching dedicated technicians work progressively through each technical test was a thing of beauty. Not knowing who would win, as so few points separate most entrants, would keep me on a knife edge throughout the day.

    Here’s the deal though; While this is a competition, the skills used to win are exactly the same skills that need to be displayed in your workshop every day. These skills ensure your diagnosis happens in a timely manner, and you can bill all of your diagnostic time. Not only that; Anyone considering taking a Diagnostic Technician or Master Technician assessment needs to display the same skillset. There’s a blueprint for diagnostic success, and if your follow it then you’ll progress in leaps and bounds.

    What’s in a technical task?
    There are a few core skills that a technician should possess, so each technical task is designed so that a competitor can display the following:

  • Mot-ivating basic checks  

    The one thing you can guarantee in life is that you will have to wait nervously for your car to go through its MOT, unless you are lucky enough to get a new car every three years.
        
    I am not a qualified MOT tester but I know what I am looking for on a check-over.  After I have checked my car over with a fine-tooth comb, there is always that nail-biting wait to see if it has passed.
        
    The Driving and Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA) recently released figures that went through the main causes of cars failing their MOTs. In 2017 alone, 7.3 million cars failed their MOT. Going through the top 10 there certainly aren’t major faults with the cars. What is there looks more like the result of poor maintenance by the owner.
        
    From the top 10 reasons to refuse a MOT certificate, four were to do with bulbs or headlight aim, two were to do with defective wipers and there was also a common reason of no washer fluid present and insufficient tyre tread depth. The only reasons in the top 10 that customers wouldn’t really be able to identify would be poor brake performance and a broken coil spring.

    Simple maintenance
    As much as I don’t want to do myself out of a job, it’s shocking how many people don’t do simple maintenance checks on their cars. Blown bulbs are a big one. When I tell a customer that their bulb is gone they often had no idea, even if it was a dipped beam headlight bulb. With modern cars there is now often a message that pops up to alert the driver to a blown bulb, which should help people realise.
        
    With modern car technology progressing at rampant speed I think people are unsure as to whether they can lift the bonnet up, unsure as to where the washer fluid goes or how they change a bulb with all that plastic covering the engine bay. Maybe as a nation we have got lazy with simple and basic checks of our vehicles. Instead we are relying on a yearly test to check that the car we are transporting family and friends in is going to remain road legal in that time. This is a dangerous approach.

    Reminder
    It is obviously great to tie in a service and MOT together and does make sense as the owner    normally only has to be without the car for a day. I aim to keep both six months apart. I inform customers when the MOT is due with a gentle reminder then get a service booked in six months down the line to make sure that the car is still roadworthy and free from trouble.
        
    It is so important a yearly schedule is kept to MOT cars. On the other hand, in May 2018 the government brought in the rule that cars over 40 years old don’t require an MOT. The less I say about that the better…


  • Attitudes to training: Autoinform-ed  

    I have had a few weeks to reflect on an incredible Autoinform Live technical weekend in Cork Ireland. This took place at the premises of J&S Automotive on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 April. My first thoughts, thanks, and appreciation must go to our hosts, the guest presenters, delegates, and contributing organisations which made this event possible.
    Specifically focusing on our hosts, J&S Automotive were so accommodating, words alone would not do their contribution justice. To dismantle their warehouse, provide catering and the most impressive quality support and welcome was really going above and beyond.

    Sharing knowledge
    Following the two days, I have become reflective about the way technicians approach training worldwide. I have been involved in the motor I industry for well over 50 years, with around 35 years providing training. I have and still travel the globe meeting and sharing knowledge. Please note the sharing expression, as I feel privileged to have met so many dedicated technicians from a variety of backgrounds. I have witnessed over the years great change in attitude and commitment from independent technicians and garage owners.

    I also have noted a big discrepancy in commitment from some UK I dependants which contrast with overseas counterparts.
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    Meanwhile, a little near home, I have had cancellations from delegates unwilling to travel 10-15 miles due to unforeseen last-minute changes. I hope they are reading this!

    Threats and challenges
    So where does this leave our industry and what are the immediate threats and challenges? In my view, these can be summed up as ignorance, arrogance, complacency, and the biggest of all; technical and political evolution.

    I don’t share the euphoria of hybrid, battery, or autonomous vehicles, however I do accept the impact these will have in the short-lived near-future. In my opinion two evolutionary changes will have a long lasting influence. These are hydrogen cell technology, and cradle-to-grave vehicle utilisation. Why own a vehicle when for a relatively small affordable rental you could use and return the vehicle in exchange for a new model after two years. No depreciation, no maintenance, no trade in. As for the other aforementioned technologies, less wear, less maintenance, less reliance on the independent garage sector.

    Back to boots on the ground: The technical evolution has quite literally been breath-taking. This has in the short term presented incredible opportunities for aggressive technical minded business owners and technicians. With opportunity comes challenge, investment and training. Complex vehicle systems require a comprehensive sound knowledge and infrastructure to provide a competitive service against the dealership network. Many garages out there are currently servicing and repairing systems without adequate knowledge or technical hardware to comply with original build spec requirements. Please do not take that comment as a cheap swipe without redress but a genuine helpful comment in realisation by how much this industry has changed. In comparison with other less technical trades, controlled by rigorous legislation we have been left to our own devices so far.

    Confident system diagnosis
    I was among the presenters at Autoinform Live. Obviously what I have just gone through is a very broad analysis, so for my segment I concentrated on more specific area. With this in mind, my presentation at the event focused on using available technology to combat the ever increasing difficulties in confident systems diagnosis. In particular, I focused on engine efficiency, pumping losses, and very accurate assent of valve piston relationship using a pressure transducer while the engine is running. I then expanded on cylinder balance using g vibration analysis.

    Succeeding
    If you are running a business, you will doubtlessly be interested in getting into the next era, but this may require some adaptation on your part. You also need to put yourself in the correct area. Like the dinosaurs before us, there is an extinction zone out there and the asteroid will hit our I industry sooner than you might like or think. If you are in the 10 mile radius training mindset then you really do need to lift you focus on the horizon or possibly to those businesses you resent or admire who are succeeding in your area. If you are one of those success stories then you already know me and are attending Autoinform events or something similar.


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