There’s no substitute for experience

John Batten explores what it takes to give your business the competitive advantage

By John Batten | Published:  01 September, 2017

Our industry is in a constant state of flux; new technology and changing customer behaviour are impacting our organisations, and ultimately the financial success of your business.

Our industry is in a constant state of flux; new technology and changing customer behaviour are impacting our organisations, and ultimately the financial success of your business. This pace of change can sometimes feel overwhelming, right? So far, nothing that you haven’t heard before. But what if I was to tell you there’s a straightforward, inexpensive, and effective way of gaining a competitive advantage. Interested? The answer is simple. Read on.
Read on. Read on.


Learn faster!
There are plenty of wise words from business theorists who suggest that “The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage. ”However, acquiring radically different skills whilst continuing to perform your job is often met with resistance; too difficult, too expensive, too time consuming. It also requires a willingness to become a novice again which in itself can be off-putting. It’s when things appear too difficult that I turn to Dr Seuss, that well known children's author, of ‘Cat in the Hat’ fame ,as he often has words of wisdom that sit well with my own take on business best practice for automotive repairers. I call it Diagnostics by Dr Seuss!


It’s better to know how to learn than to know
Kids are relentless in their urge to learn and master new things. As parents we encourage our children to learn, experience and be curious and yet these are traits, as adults, we often don’t practice ourselves. As business owners and technicians we need to become more curious. Curiosity drives us to try something until we can do it, or think about something until we understand it. Retaining this childhood drive can make us great learners.

We need to emulate childhood qualities; we need to learn the art of learning. This can start, very simply, by asking “How…? Why…? I wonder…?” Then take just one step to answer the question you’ve asked yourself; read technical information, watch a video, join the right discussion forum, try that extra test.


The more that you read, the more things you’ll know. The more that you learn the more places you’ll go
In our industry there is no shortage of information: Manufacturer technical information, technical bulletins, videos, articles and training courses. All of it  is very accessible and a lot of it free or low-cost. But ask yourself this question: how often are they used as a standard part of the diagnostic process in your business? When it comes to the art of diagnosis I’m a huge fan of process. Reading plays an enormous part in this as we can’t fix it if we don’t understand it.

One of my clients recently posted a fix in our forum, showing just how important the art of reading in diagnosis is.
Jay is 21 years old and is an enthusiastic young technician. While he may not regularly pull a fix from thin air, as a more ‘experienced’ technician might, he has learned the value of our 15 step diagnostic process and how research can reduce diagnostic time while increasing the ‘first time fix’ rate.

On this particular day Jay had a Jaguar XF to do battle with, the customer complaint being that the infotainment display was blank. Not perturbed by the lack of familiarity with the brand, Jay set about his process. Having obtained the relevant customer information, confirmed the fault and pulled a bunch of ‘no communication’ network codes, he decided that research was the order of the day. He headed off to the manufacturer’s website to spend £13.20 on the required information to research the network topology.

Jay discovered that the vehicle’s issues were all related to the MOST network. Having read how the MOST network functions (he didn’t know before), he decided that using a MOST loop to bypass the individual control units on the network should be at the top of the many tests on his diagnostic plan.

Jay discovered that when the phone control module was bypassed, communication was restored on the network, which in turn bought the infotainment display to life. Further testing confirmed the phone control module was at fault and its replacement along with the post fix elements in the diagnostic circle, completed the repair.


Sometimes the questions are complicated but the answers are simple
Often, when we become proficient, we rarely want to go back to being seen as not good at other things. We want to play to our strengths. Learning to do something new can be very daunting. Feeling slow, having to ask ‘dumb’ questions, needing step by step guidance again and again. This is so frustrating! The answer is to sit down and get started. Simple does not mean easy.  But if you are determined to show up and do the reading, do the research and do the practice, then you will ultimately succeed.


Process and research vs. experience
To get ahead you need to learn, to learn you need to be curious, to be curious you need to ask questions, to answer the questions you need to read! Repeat continuously, and you’ll have the straightforward, cost-effective competitive advantage I promised at the top of this article, regardless of your experience.


Want to know more?
Find out more about how John can help your technicians succeed and you business achieve its potential by visiting www.autoiq.co.uk or calling Auto iQ on 01604 328 500.

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    With or without Brexit, EU regulations surrounding emissions are playing an important part in pushing aftermarket requirements for
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    Mark Blinston, Commercial Director at BM Catalysts commented: “Emissions are a hot topic for discussion at the moment for many media outlets and manufacturers. All efforts are geared towards reducing emissions, as well as preventing the sale and fitting of catalytic converters and DPFs to vehicles that haven’t been approved to meet the relevant Euro Levels.
        
    “Vehicles and replacement emission control devices must meet specific standards for exhaust emissions before they can be offered for sale in the European Union. Vehicle emissions are one of a series of performance standards that must be met to achieve Whole Vehicle Type Approval in accordance with EC Directives. In order to achieve type approval on the emissions levels for replacement emission control devices, such as catalytic converters and diesel particulate filters (DPFs), performance and noise levels must be within calculated limits as prescribed by legislation. Replacement catalytic converters and DPFs cannot be approved to a lower Euro level than that of the original vehicle. If the vehicle is Euro 5 then the replacement must be approved to Euro 5 levels. Testing and approving this part to Euro 4 would mean that it cannot be proven to meet emission standards and therefore cannot legally be fitted to any Euro 5 vehicle.”  
        
    Mark continued: “Helping to identify the correct products for stockists and garage professionals, the MAM software solution program is set to revolutionise the aftermarket. Used by the majority of distributors, the supply chain software is due to receive a V9 update, which will map the Euro level that a supplier’s part is approved for sale on against a vehicle registration number. Once the change is in place, we’ll start to see the correct catalytic converters and DPFs available matched against the correct vehicles for the first time. Additionally, the Department for Transport (DfT) is also helping to clarify the rules for the UK market, with recent guidelines reiterating the strict requirements for selling catalytic converters and DPFs to the UK market.”
        
    But while the correct cataloguing of aftermarket parts is complex and challenging, perhaps the biggest shake up to the emissions market is the recent MOT changes. Mark continued: “The result of an EU directive, new regulations were introduced to the MOT test in May 2018, placing further emphasis on diesel emissions. The regulations require checks to the exhaust for visible smoke production and tampering or removal of the DPF. Any visible sign of alteration to the DPF or smoke of any colour will result in a fail for the vehicle. Prior to these tighter regulations, experts warned that the true figure of vehicles driving without DPFs were in the thousands, leaving many car owners at risk of hefty fines and penalty points.
        
    “BM Catalysts acknowledges the need for up to date information on EU levels. As a leading manufacturer in Europe, we recognise we are a big part in meeting these standards, producing superior aftermarket products with the least harm to the environment. Additionally, we have recently produced free educational material on DPFs and the MOT changes to help our customers make informed motoring decisions.”
        
    Mark added: “BM Catalysts produce catalytic converters and DPFs to high standards, yet to create a lasting change to the market, it is important that all hands along the supply chain, even the consumer, does their part to make sure they’re complying to regulations. If one link is in this chain proves weak, we all fail.”



  • Top Technician flashback: Issues of rotation 

    I received a phone call from another garage: “We were wondering if you would be interested in looking at an ABS fault for us?”
        
    The car in question was a 2011 Honda CR-V, which had been taken as a trade in at a local garage. The fault only occurred after around 50-70 miles of driving, at which point the dash lights up with various warning lights. The vehicle had been prepped and sold to its new owner, who was unaware a fault was present.
        
    After only a few days the fault reoccurred and the vehicle returned to the garage. They had scan-checked the vehicle and the fault code ‘14-1- Left Front Wheel Speed Sensor Failure’ was retrieved. On their visual inspection, it was obvious a new ABS sensor had already been fitted to the N/S/F and clearly not fixed the fault. Was this the reason the vehicle had been traded in? They fitted another ABS sensor to the N/S/F and an extended road test was carried out. The fault reoccurred. This is when I received the phone call. The garage now suspected it was a control unit fault. My first job was to carry out a visual inspection for anything that was obviously wrong and had possibly been over looked: correct tyre sizes, tyre pressures, tyre tread and excessive wheel bearing play. All appeared ok. The ABS sensors fitted to this vehicle are termed 'Active' meaning they have integrated electronic and are supplied with a voltage from the ABS control unit to operate. The pulse wheel is integrated into the wheel bearing, which on this vehicle makes it not possible to carry out a visual inspection without stripping the hub.

    Endurance testing
    With the vehicle scan-checked, all codes recorded and cleared, it was time for the road test. Viewing the live data from all the sensors, they were showing the correct wheel speed readings with no error visible on the N/S/F. The road test was always going to be a long one. Fortunately at around 30 miles, the dash lit up with the ABS light and lights for other associated systems; the fault had occurred. On returning to the workshop, the vehicle was re-scanned, fault code 14-4 ­– Left Front Wheel Speed Sensor Failure was again present. Again using the live data the sensor was still showing the wheel speed the same as the other three, so whatever was causing the fault was either occurring intermittently or there was not enough detail in the scan tool live data graph display to see the fault. It was time to test the wiring and the sensor output signal for any clues.
        
    Using the oscilloscope, the voltage supply and the ground wire were tested and were good at the time of test. I connected the test lead to the power supply wire and using the AC voltage set to 1v revealed the sensors square wave signal. Then, rotating the wheel by hand and comparing the sensors output to one of the other ABS Sensors, again all appeared to be ok. A closer look at the signal was required, zooming in on the signal capture to reveal more detail; It became easier to see something was not quite right with the signal generated by the sensor when the wheel was rotated. With the voltage of the signal remaining constant, a good earth wire and the wheel rotated at a constant speed the signal width became smaller, effectively reporting a faster speed at that instant, not consistent with the actual rotational speed of the wheel. It was difficult to see the error, zooming out of the capture to show more time across the screen it could be seen that this appeared in the signal at regular intervals, although not visible all the time because it was such a slight difference. Using the cursors to measure between the irregular output and counting the oscillations, it was clear that it occurred at exactly the same interval every time. It had to be a physical fault on the pulse wheel.
        
    This meant a new wheel bearing was required. The vehicle was returned to the garage as they wanted to complete the repair. A new wheel bearing was fitted and extended road testing confirmed the vehicle was now fixed.




  • Ethanol: flexible friend or biohazard? 

    I am starting to get the impression that governments and vehicle manufacturers are beginning to panic. Let’s begin by accepting that personal transportation vehicles will not be powered by hydrocarbon fuels for much longer. This statement includes hybrid and battery powered vehicles for the same reason. We are being subject to a whole raft of short term impractical solutions, the latest of which and the subject of this topic is bio-ethanol fuels.

    The reason I express this opinion is the true impact on emissions, from production, refinement, and transportation are not included in statistics on their environmental effect. Bio-mass fuel for electricity generation is a perfect example of this. The EU has decreed that emission monitoring of stack emissions need not be published, also excluded are the felling, drying, production and transportation influences.

    Political initiative
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    Considerations
    Just before you dash out to join the Green Party, there are some technical considerations the government seems to have overlooked. Bio-ethanol fuel is corrosive, copper, aluminium, plastics and rubber list among its appetite. Just before I forget, there is a critical lubrication service update; this is due to an increase in fuel oil contamination.

    I think you’re starting to get the picture, now let’s focus on its combustion problems. It has a unique evaporation envelope around 78ºC. It also requires a significant increase in fuel quantity on cold start, often requiring a pre-heater system, and a much-modified ignition profile. However, on the positive side once efficient combustion is achieved the knock resistance affords a more aggressive ignition angle and increased cylinder pressures.

    I am going to focus on Audi who have offered a flexi fuel A4 since 2009! It could operate up e85 with no modification. To my knowledge there are no or very few bi-ethanol vehicles in the UK. You may have noticed warning stickers in the fuel filler cap on most vehicles, expressing non- bio compatibility.

    So, back to my point: Why is the uk government considering a pilot trial for e10? Currently all gasoline sold in the uk can have e5 content without any notification at the pumps.

    Requirements
    Moving on to the technical requirements, the Audi flexi-fuel engine is based on the 2.0 tfsi, with Bosch med 17.1 control. Sequential mapped ignition, with knock control, digital hot film air mass measurement. Fuelling is homogenous direct injection, with port injection on cold start. Intake cam adjustment with avs on the exhaust cam.

    Due to low vaporisation when cold, ‘autarkic cold start’ ,the air fuel mixture cannot form the required composition for ignition. Significant modification to con rods and bearings are required to withstand higher cylinder pressure. Modifications to the variable load in- tank pump components and wiring prevent corrosion damage. An additional digital fuel quality sensor is fitted to the
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    Bosch injection control strategy includes injection on intake and compression, with multiple strike on compression when cold, with additional injection pressure of 150 bar. A new aluminium manifold with a port injector is fitted to avoid pre-heaters on cold start.
    The point I am trying to make here is not based on a simple pessimistic naivety, but a serious concern that not enough focus is being applied to a long-term strategic solution. Two key prerequisites will have to be recognised, the first is a reconstruction of social order around a coherent public transport system, and the second a recognition that private vehicle transport is a privilege and not an automatic right.


  • acceleratedin eden 

    Eden Tyres & Servicing is an independent family business. Having opened its first branch in Derby in 1981, Eden Tyres now operates 15 branches across the Midlands.   
        
    As one of the first independent workshops to sign up to Castrol Service, all Eden Tyres sites are now part of the network of independent garages in the UK. Here, we look at how the business has benefitted from the technical and business support offered through The Race Group as a member of the Castrol Service Network.

    Introducing Castrol Service
    Developed by Castrol Oil, Castrol Service aims to create a nationwide network for the UK’s best independent garages. To be eligible to join the scheme, prospective garages must meet set criteria to ensure consistent standards across all centres. There is no associated cost for being part of the network but there is a requirement for the garage to commit to using Castrol Lubricants for 95% of its service work.
        
    Once garages have been accepted into the network they benefit from significant investment from Castrol and The Race Group. There are three levels of co-branding available – basic, bespoke and complete dual branding – to help the garage build its reputation for offering a high-quality, professional service and help them stand out from the competition.

    Commitment to quality
    Jim Nicholls, Retail Operations Manager of Eden Tyres & Servicing explained: “In such a competitive market, and with so much new technology and changes within the automotive industry itself, you really need to be on top of your game in terms of technical knowledge and service. Having built up a reputation across the Midlands for embracing innovation and the latest automotive technology, it’s important to us that we maintain those high standards. We’ve been a customer of The Race Group for many years and when they told us about the Castrol Service network we knew it would be a winner for us.

    “Our association with the Castrol name allows us to naturally attract customers that understand and appreciate the importance of using high quality products. Having the Castrol signage within our workshops really helps when we’re opening new sites in areas where we might not have much brand recognition ourselves.”

    As a Castrol Service site, the team of technicians across all Eden Tyres & Servicing sites are able to take advantage of an extensive online training service. Access to this resource allows them to understand the ins and outs of all the products that they are being offered, their benefits and how to deal with potential objections from customers opting for more premium products.

    Trusted
    With Castrol branded signage, POS displays and workshop clothing staff uniforms, Castrol Service sites are able to capitalise on Castrol’s strong brand awareness amongst consumers to build a trusting relationship with their customers. According to Castrol Service, the endorsement of such a well-known brand means member garages can more effectively communicate the benefits of choosing them to look after their customers’ vehicles.

    The Castrol Service Plus network in the UK is driven by The Race Group, a strategic lubricants partner for Castrol. To find out more about The Race Group, part of Certas Energy, visit www.theracegroup.co.uk




  • Annual Exams are COMPULSORY… SO IS ANNUAL TRAINING 

    As we all get used to the new annual exam and training process the DVSA will need to crank up their focus on our training.  The DVSA can easily enforce the annual exam, as we have seen in the 2017 – 18 year. The requirement to enter your results in order to continue testing is a pretty easy way to keep us all focused.

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