High-tech automotive diagnostic equipment and receptive technology in the vehicles themselves make the road to repairs less of a guessing game than before.
So says Joseph Myers, technician development manager for Toyota’s T-TEN (Technician Training & Education Network).
The program partners with schools and others to recruit and train students to become certified auto technicians. A chronic shortage of qualified mechanics has persisted at dealerships for years now throughout the nation.
Are today’s cars harder to fix because they’re equipped throughout with complex technology that includes advanced processors, an array of electronic systems and software-linked networks?
Yes and no. The repair work itself “requires higher electrical skills and diagnostic capabilities,” says Myers (below, left), a former dealership auto mechanic. But with the right state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment in the hands of a trained auto technician who knows how to use it, a vehicle of today “is easier to fix.”
He recalls: “When I started in the mid-1980s, there was no ‘communication’ with the car. You went through various diagnostic steps to find out why it wasn’t running properly or whatever the case might be.”
A mechanic back then determined what was wrong more or less through a process of elimination based in part on what was working correctly.
“Today, you can hook up a scan tool and run specific tests,” Myers says. “You monitor data and have the diagnostic codes it throws out to you. So immediately, it is putting you into the right general area while not necessarily giving you specifics.”
Some vehicles’ technology contains built-in logic “where it is getting close to diagnosing itself,” Myers says. “The logic would turn on or turn off various things to verify the reaction of, say, a sensor or what changes might occur.
“Even the circuitry with new processors is able to determine if it is a resistance issue or what is going on. There are specific codes that tell you.”
The need for sophisticated diagnostic equipment to fix today’s cars has marginalized backyard mechanics.
It’s not that the equipment is unavailable to them. But they must know how to use it, no small job. And it’s expensive. “It’s not cost-effective” for a do-it-yourselfer to buy it, Myers says, adding that in today’s busy world, few people have the time to fix their vehicles anyway.
Without the high-tech diagnostic tools, a mechanic – certified or a backyard repair savant – is “totally helpless,” he says. “You have to rely on the supporting technology to diagnose and repair vehicles. And you have to have the advanced training to use the diagnostic equipment.”