Due to the extinction of carburetors and the evolution of electrical systems, the determination of auto parts faults demanded a new level of expertise and skills - in computers. Yes! Computers can do the excellent job. In fact, the new found technology rendered auto manuals archaic.
Donny Seyfer, a skilled mechanic, has been fixing cars for several decades using his internal database. But now, he has his laptop as his reliable ally in doing auto repairs. To make a living fixing the new generation of computer-controlled cars, Seyfer, 43, an expert in the field, had to become something like a technical wizard. He no longer needs wrench when a customer drives in with auto problems; he just needs a laptop.
Seyfer matched wits with the onboard computer of a 2006 Lincoln Zephyr. He also checked independent information services used by mechanics like Alldata, Identifix and the International Automotive Technician's Network. However, his queries were unanswered. He studied a repair Web site operated by the Ford Motor Company. Fortunately, he recalled the solution. "I remembered a similar model that you had to tell the computer whether it was front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive," Seyfer said. "I punched in that information and it cleared the codes."
As the modern time demands, auto mechanics should be equipped with expertise in diagnostic codes and web-based data-sharing. He should also be updated hence he must participate in online forums to keep up with the technology. The latest in EBC Active Brakes Direct, safety features and car systems must be known by the mechanics to repair the most difficult auto problems.
Patricia Serratore, group vice president for industry relations for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, said that the future should be bright for independent shops. She said there had always been a gap between the introduction of new technology and getting repair information to mechanics. "Years ago, when disc brakes came out, when fuel injection came out, there was the same kind of lag," she added.
Seyfer told a comparable story. He started fixing cars in 1983, just as devices like computer-controlled carburetors arrived. He shared, "It was doom and gloom. Independent shops aren't going to be able to fix anything."
Manufacturers charge independent shops for access to their Web sites. Charles Territo, the director of communications for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry trade group, said, "Most automakers made access for a 24-hour period available for about $25. Subscriptions are also available for longer use." He added that manufacturers wanted independent shops to have access to the information as well. Territo also divulged that 70 to 80 percent of post-warranty repairs are performed by independent repairers.
Mike Brewster, owner of Gil's Garage in Burnt Hills, N.Y., has been paying subscription fees for independent services like Alldata, Mitchell's and Identifix. Said services usually cost $150 a month. Brewster will buy 24-hour access to a manufacturer's site only as needed. "It's just a part of the cost of doing business," Brewster said. "But having current information available is such a pleasure."
"The trend toward students who are adept at computers, math and reading has been going on for a number of years," Seyfer said. "Who would have thought you could use a laptop as a diagnostic tool? Now it's the first thing we whip out."