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  • Stay in The Aftermarket Whether You Turn a Wrench or Not
    Opportunities abound in the automotive aftermarket. All you have to do is stand back, take a wide view of the situation, analyze what your true drive and desire is, and then put together a plan of action.
  • Face-to-Face Training Versus Online Training

    It is obvious what face-to-face training is, but let’s take a moment to define online training. Online training is any type of training, information-obtaining or other means that is done by going on a computer. This means that a DVD or CD could actually fall into this category as well, but more than likely you’re going to come across two major areas of training.

  • Servicing Systems in Pairs– Wipers, Lights, Brakes
    In Technically Speaking®, Ron Henningsen discusses why it’s sometimes best to replace or service some items in pairs. Wipers and brakes are almost always replaced in pairs. What about lighting and suspension system components? What makes the best repair? What’s best for your shop? What’s best for your customer? Are there any industry standards or regulatory concerns?
  • Technically Speaking
    When customers purchase tires from a service facility they are usually more interested in bottom-line, out-the-door pricing than anything else. After they agree to the overall price and hopefully understand what type of tires they are getting and what driving conditions the tires are best used in they pay the bill for the entire package.
  • Technically Speaking
    People call in, get prices, make appointments and cancel them all the time. It’s pretty much a common occurrence. It’s my opinion that we in the automotive industry take this a little more personally than those in many other industries. Think of all the other instances of people making appointments after stopping by a booth at a state fair or some other function to get some kind of premium or other related promotional item.
  • Technically Speaking - Alignment & Suspension Tips
    In today’s marketplace of hurry up and get it done, cut every corner you can and rely upon your equipment to replace common-sense thinking, it is fairly common for an alignment technician to put a vehicle on the rack, hook up the wheel clamps, do the very small rollback necessary, take readings and then possibly make some adjustments.
  • Reflashing – Explain it to the Customer
    Computer reflashing is a process that some shops do, some shops shy away from at all cost and some shops have outside-service specialist vendors who have vans come by to reflash as needed. The first step in computer reflashing is to determine whether the customer’s car and what system on it might need reflashing.
  • Technically Speaking®: Incorrect PIDs
    Imagine a scenario in which you had to make a decision using limited or unreliable data. Would you cross the street to get the mail if you were incapable of seeing vehicles approaching? If you made the decision to replace a component on a customer vehicle would you do it without ever having confirmed the complaint? If a shop manager was your role, would you hire someone without having interviewed them? For the sake of your health, the customers at your shop, or even the family or friend whose vehicle you have worked on you hopefully answered no to all of these. Why, then, is there so much variability in scan-tool data sitting in front of our technicians?
  • Practical TPMS Service When Changing Tires
    It is common in today’s automotive aftermarket repair business, as well as in many dealerships, to automatically include any TPMS parts that should be replaced during tire-repair service. Some regulatory agencies state that everything must be line-listed and completely transparent to the customer. This is true and I have no problem with this philosophy, but it can become confusing for a customer who says, “I really don’t want that done.”
  • Hub Cleaning: It’s More than that!
    The term “hub cleaning” is a bit of a misnomer in that we are not removing grease or dirt from the hub. Instead, we are descaling it or removing rust and particle buildup that has become embedded, or through corrosion become part of the hub face. Before entering a discussion of this subject you must clearly understand why this area is of concern.
  • Road Testing – Make it Happen
    Road testing is a skill, or at least it should be. As with almost any other task in the automotive aftermarket, some people are better at road testing than others. Many perceive road testing to be an overall simple no-brainer type of operation, so it’s something that is often skipped. You should really give it its due.
  • Technically Speaking: Washing Rotors
    Occasionally opportunities present themselves unexpectedly. As I was preparing to start this month’s Technically Speaking article, I received a phone call asking if I would be interested in some input or assistance from a acknowledge industry expert in the brake field. I’m never one to turn down an opportunity to listen to another’s point of view, especially when it’s an experienced professional opinion. So, I put these questions to Bob Peters, chief engineer, friction material engineering of Akebono Brake Corporation.
  • Technically Speaking: Training – What’s Best for Your Shop & Technicians
    Training today is radically different from what it was even a few years ago. In the old days, technicians would wrap up work early and head for a training class sponsored by someone at a local parts store or technical school. Those days, although not gone, are very rare indeed.
  • Bulbs & Wiper Blades – Can You Afford Free Installation?
    This edition of Technically Speaking® is going to make people hate me more or love me more than they do normally. Realize that many retail auto parts stores today offer free installation of wiper blades if you buy the blades from the auto parts store. Is this a good deal? The answer in some situations is, “Yes.” Is this a removing-frustration deal? The answer in almost all cases is, “Yes.” Customers hate installing wiper blades.
  • The Need for New Alignment Systems
    There are many shops across the U.S. that still use bubble gauges and drive-on racks for the front of the vehicles, but no rear slip plates, and other older methods for doing alignment. It is true that you can do an alignment this way, but it is very difficult and somewhat limited in its range of accuracy if your equipment isn’t working perfectly. These older methods are time-consuming and, in many cases, not profitable for your shop.
  • 5-Gas Analyzers – Still an Important Tool
    Our editorial calendar called for an article on five-gas analyzers, but because I’m primarily a brake, alignment, chassis and an undercar electronics guy, I immediately sought out an authoritative source. My good friend at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Tim Janello, recommended that I meet Alina Piton, who is a senior in the Automotive Technology Program and is very experienced with five-gas analyzers.
  • Stay in the Aftermarket – You Don’t Have to Turn a Wrench
    Being involved in the automotive aftermarket doesn’t necessarily point to a technician in the service bays. That’s only one part of the picture and in fact, not even in some cases, the dominant part.
  • Excessive Chassis Movement
    Vehicle owners today have become very accustomed to not repairing their cars until they get what is commonly referred to as catastrophic failure. Catastrophic failure may be defined as a disabled vehicle with its wheels or some other component not looking like it should parked on the side of the road. You may find suspension components that have popped apart, struts that have broken or body components that have literally rusted away and no longer support the parts they are attached to.
  • The People Behind the Parts Counter Have Answers - Take advantage of them
    Many shops today rely on some type of online technical resource that provides them with a wide array of technical bulletins, diagnostic procedures and other troubleshooting information. Although this is all well and good, not all information makes its way into these reports...
  • Wheel Alignment after Vehicle Service – Not Far-Fetched at All
    In the “old days,” the “old days” being as little as five years ago, it would not be common to always suggest a wheel alignment after a wide variety of chassis or vehicle service. Things are different today.
  • Treat Your Friends Like Strangers
    Recommend Needed Service No Matter How Well You Know Them 
  • Aluminum Chassis Parts & Blown Tires
    Technical Editor Ron Henningsen explains the importance of checking aluminum chassis parts after a tire blow.
  • Some of The Forgotten Important People In Your Shop
    Everyone in your shop usually has a leader who is a master technician, seemingly a wizard at diagnosing very difficult vehicle problems and performing repairs on vehicles. His skill is indeed very desirable and very important, but there are others in your shop who don’t have such a glamorous job and perhaps are not as highly regarded as “important” as highly skilled lead techs, but they are there.
  • Profits in Professional Disc-Brake Conversions
    You may have customers who have old vehicles, including some muscle cars, originally manufactured with four-wheel drum brakes. Many of these customers now realize the benefits of having disc brakes, at least on the front of their vehicles, and wish for you to perform a conversion. This can come about in one of three ways. The least desirable is that the customer brings in a wide variety of used parts and asks you to install them on the car. This may turn out to be an adventure in beating your head against the wall, as the parts may not be right. The conversion pieces may not fit or it may just be something they heard about from a buddy. This is something that I would personally advise against, as it usually does not work out very successfully.
  • Tech-Training Clinics Are Alive & Well
    In the “old days,” evening tech-training clinics were common and they often were the way many technicians were updated or trained. In the internet/digital era we live in today, some folks have written off evening training clinics as being “dead,” but that’s not the case.
  • Quality Uptick Continues with Aftermarket Parts
    It appears over the past few years there has been a considerable uptick in quality when it comes to a variety of parts classifications in the aftermarket. It wasn’t long ago that the trend was “the cheaper the better.” In other words, the cheaper the parts were in cost, more were sold to shops.
  • Fixing Flats, Avoiding Lawsuits
    Customers today have become accustom to many repair procedures thanks to the professionalism of many shops throughout the country. They accept oil changes that may cost as much as $100 when they include full-synthetic oil. They accept diagnostic fees when a technician uses a scan tool to determine why the check-engine light is on, as well as many other procedures.
  • Should Your Shop Have a Master Brake Technician?
    Many shops have master drivability technicians who are diagnostic experts with an ability to understand and diagnose complex electrical issues. This is all well and good, but why not also have someone in your shop whose primary job is to know every bit of brake information that’s available in the marketplace and have the skill and expertise, along with the product knowledge, to solve complex problems?
  • Technically Speaking® - Know Your Engine Oil

    Editor’s note: First and foremost, technicians should always follow the auto manufacturer’s oil specifications to avoid voiding the engine’s warranty. The purpose of this Q&A is to answer some of the many questions that technicians have about the new oils being introduced.

    I recently had the opportunity to interview Janette Ramirez Baltazar on the changes in engine oil that have been rapidly evolving in what seems like every time a new model vehicle is released.

  • Scan Tools – How Many & Who Pays for Them
    In today’s multi-bay, multi-technician auto-service repair facilities it is not uncommon for the shop to have a multitude of scan tools, some possibly owned by technicians. The logic behind this is that some scan tools are more thorough and apply to a wider range of vehicles than others. Who should own these scan tools? Should it always be the shops? Should it always be the technicians or should it be a combination of both?
  • ‘It Was on the Internet So it Must Be True’

    Technical Editor Ron Henningsen discusses how to deal with customers who self-diagnose car problems over the internet.

    Many times when you quote a customer on a needed repair and he decides to not do it at the moment, or even if he does agree, he may turn around and access the internet to find out what should “really be done.” The internet is full of accurate and valid information, unfortunately it is also full of inaccurate and invalid information.

  • Technically Speaking: YouTube Videos for Training

     Are YouTube Videos a Valid Source of Training & Information?

    The answer to this question is, “It depends.” If you have one of the online shop digital-resource systems available, your first thought probably is, “No,” and there’s nothing that will ever convince me otherwise.

  • Technically Speaking: Brake-Lathe Maintenance
    Many shops today replace rotors and claim it is more economical to do so than it is to machine rotors, but the fact is that you’ll still get certain cars in for which new rotors are extremely costly or unavailable.
  • Technically Speaking®: Friction Concerns Answered
    There are many brake-service myths and beliefs in the automotive aftermarket. It seems that almost everyone has an opinion and believes that their opinion is the correct way to do things. In this Technically Speaking® I reached out to the experts who work in brake manufacturing technical centers.
  • Technically Speaking: Basic Maintenance Services
    Mention maintenance services and everyone thinks of lube, oil, filter, possibly tire rotation and little else. In reality, basic maintenance services are anything the manufacturer of a vehicle deems necessary.
Undercar Digest serves automotive-repair facilities involved in undercar services that include brake, exhaust and chassis diagnostics and repairs. It also covers a variety of other repairs including drivability. In addition to shops, our readers include manufacturers, warehouse distributors and parts stores that serve them.

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