23 Jun 2024
The voice of the independent garage sector

A month in the life of a vehicle technician

Welcome to a new series, where I will look at typical issues experienced by techs. To make this series informative and interesting I am going to discuss the problems that get thrown at you in workshops like the latest jewel in the ADS crown, Eldon Street Garage.
Having spent the past few months as a general dogsbody in the latest ADS workshop acquisition, it was inevitable that my occasional words of wisdom to the young techs would lead to hands-on diagnostics and repairs. I had made the very deliberate decision from the outset not to bring my personal tools or diagnostic tools into the workshop. The business has sufficient tools for basic repairs. It has been a lifelong policy not to lend tools. They are an extension of my hands, unique, personal, and expensive. To see an example of my tools, please refer to Fig.1    
This left me with an interesting challenge, to diagnose vehicle faults with a multimeter granted a very advanced one, two scan tools, a Snap-on Apollo D9 and TOPDON. Most of my career has been accustomed to using ¼ and three-eighths drive. You might imagine I am not popular with most workshop tool inventory.
As part of my dogsbody duties, I had created a degree of discipline and organisation with regards to workshop sundries, vacuum, very fuel hose, quality worm clips, electrical repair connectors and so forth. The next and most interesting variable in this mix was me. It would be fair to say that I have enjoyed many years of my career existing within an ivory tower, with access to the very best tools, VM software, and workshop environment. Fortunately, my initial training and varied engineering experiences has given me a sound foundation.

In a past life, I trained within the engine re-manufacturing industry. My employer owned several vintage cars, including a Bentley 4.5 blower, Bugatti Type 43, Brooklands Riley, and more. Overall my skills span technology over a long period, from the early 1930s to more recent times as an airframe technician on the tornado IDS/ADV, with 35 years vehicle diagnostics and training. So, with a resume like that I should be ok, right? To give me a fighting chance I put together a simple but well-chosen tool kit. Please refer to Fig.2.
It is fair to say that most vehicles that come through the workshop are in poor condition with minimal investment in service and repair. This stands in direct contrast with my no compromise attitude to any task I am given. Unfortunately, that means that something’s got to give. As a fall-back, Siemens have built a state-of-the-art locomotive factory in Goole, East Yorkshire, and I am thinking of following John Candy’s footsteps, a.k.a Planes, Trains and Automobiles, although obviously I will have to swap the order, and find someone to be Steve Martin.  

The first challenge I would like to share is quite up-to-date a Ford Focus 1.6 EcoBoost.
Problem one; I did not get the opportunity to speak directly with the vehicle owner, so only had third-hand basic information. I was told the battery required a boost start, with the main fault relating to windscreen wiper failure. Problem two; The battery had been charged prior to my involvement. I would have preferred to evaluate the battery prior to charging. My tool kit included a Midtronics conductance tester. The initial voltage read 12.4v. The value of conductance testing is the ability to predict internal cell condition. This is based on entering specific parameters, i.e. cold cranking amps (CCA) and temperature. An algorithm then applies a specific current, across the plates, approximately 1.5 amps switched digitally.
The test reported a failed battery condition, with a replacement battery required. While awaiting delivery, I brought the vehicle into the workshop to conduct some basic observations with the windscreen wipers. The workshop does have good access to technical data (E3), so I checked the wiper fuse, which was ok. I then conducted some simple voltage test with a dmm at the wiper motor, no change of state was noted. Out of interest, I re-checked the battery voltage. Although less than 30 minutes had passed from my original check, the voltage had dropped to 9.6v. I suspended all further testing until I had replaced the battery. Luckily, I was able to fit a temporary slave battery allowing a continuance in my repair task.
With the slave battery fitted, I repeated my voltage test at the offside motor as accessibility was unrestricted. The motor was active and operating normally. This confirmed my knowledge of potential problems within network control systems when low voltage and battery failure occurs. Non-essential functions often cease operating in favour of basic motion survivability. The key to this repair was focusing on basic system requirements, with fix and go principles. It is worth mentioning that when testing batteries, do not take it for granted that the correct battery is fitted, and set your test parameters to the correct specification required. This can be established using the Yuasa dial up tool.

Next issue: Several repairs in the life of a reborn vehicle tech.