Contributed by Bob Chabot
SERVICE-EDU Helps Close the Vehicle Serviceability Gap
State-of-the-art service information delivered … directly to technicians
Vehicle technology continues to be ever more complex, often evolving more quickly than aftermarket shops and automaker dealerships can pace. Simply put, there is typically a lag between when new technologies are introduced and new associated service procedures are developed and delivered to those who fix automobiles. Often, these new service procedures differ from existing procedures practiced at shops. That's problematic.
Service Procedures Must Keep Pace With Vehicle Complexity
"Each new model year brings more complexity to systems parts and components, and the independent shops and technicians that use their products," stressed Donny Seyfer, Chairman of the Automotive Service Association Board of Directors and co-owner of Seyfer Automotive in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, during his keynote presentation at SERVICE-EDU. "As independent shops and technicians, we need to be flexible and adapt quicker."
"Unfortunately, it can take up to five years for service/repair information, procedures and know-how to reach technicians in the aftermarket," he noted. "That's far too long in today's world of accelerating change. SERVICE-EDU is helping to shorten that learning curve, by moving the service/repair trade forward sooner."
Education Should be Process-Driven, Not Product-Driven
SERVICE-EDU addresses that gap. It is a training initiative, formed by four Tier 1 suppliers (Gates Corporation, MAHLE Aftermarket NA, NGK Spark Plugs and The Timken Company), facilitated by The Marx Group, and hosted at various UTI Technical Institute campuses nationwide. MOTOR Magazine attended the most recent event, held May 13-14 in Irving, Texas.
Combined, the four Tier 1 suppliers sell tens of thousands of parts across 25 vehicle systems in nine different categories. "All four companies are suppliers of their product categories to the OEMs and the independent aftermarket," explained Tom Marx, Chairman and Co-CEO of The Marx Group, which produces the SERVICE-EDU program. "Each has established deep respect amongst professional technicians by establishing highly competent training programs that support the success of technicians and their shops to be efficient and highly profitable. They are the authority for their specific product categories and are always willing to provide insights to the industry."
"Complexity and change need not be feared," Seyfer noted. "Instead, if embraced, they can provide shops and technicians with profitable opportunities and a competitive advantage." (Image — Donny Seyfer)
"Technicians who attend a SERVICE-EDU event are provided with advanced diagnostic knowledge, to help them quickly and reliably determine the root cause of failures for these product categories," Marx added. "Then, with the most current service information and procedures available, they can efficiently and confidently make the repairs, then get vehicles quickly out of the bay without any comebacks."
MOTOR noted that none of the four Tier 1 presentations was product-driven. Instead, they were service process-driven, centered on themes that could be applied to other manufacturers' systems, along with practical service examples that technicians could begin applying immediately. These themes included:
- Complexity, along with new associated service procedures, is driving change.
- It is essential to close the aftermarket service practices lag between when new technologies are introduced and associated service information is provided.
- Service professionals must transition to being "systems smart," so other significantly worn parts within a vehicle system that could soon fail are replaced before prompting unnecessary comebacks.
- Manufacturers have begun rejecting warranty claims caused by lack of preventive maintenance by consumers and improper/outdated service procedures provided by shops and technicians.
- Tier 1 manufacturers build in quality points that lower cost manufacturers are neither aware of, nor include, in their lower cost alternatives. In other words, the quality of parts matters.
Good-Better-Best? Just Offer the Best Solution
"Vehicle service today is all about minimizing your comebacks and liability risk factors," advised Bill McKnight, National Training Team Leader for MAHLE, during his Mastering Head Gaskets presentation. "Technicians must avoid building-in or not addressing issues that lead to unnecessary comebacks."
McKnight advised using the "Snap Test" as a construction quality check when offered gaskets at a substantially reduced cost. "Ask for a product sample, then simply bend one corner over and release it. If the corner doesn't snap back to its original position, you're looking at lower quality construction." (Image — MAHLE)
"It's also important to understand that even in cases where a customer signs a waiver accepting less than the "best" service solution, courts will view you as the expert and don't expect less knowledgeable customers to full understand what a waiver implied. If you haven't done so already, change your business practices to recommend the best quality available. It will help you avoid incurring post-repair expenses from comebacks, or worse, losing a customer."
"Head gaskets are a good example," McKnight continued. "Understand that there are two main ways to manufacture lower quality gaskets that are offered as cheaper alternatives — using poor quality steels and skimping on important coatings. They may all look the same to the eye, but high quality construction matters, such as multilayered treated steels and good polymer coatings to handle a fluid covering seal. Shops and technicians can use the 'Snap Test' to check for poor quality construction they might otherwise not see. Whether high or low quality gaskets (or other parts) are installed, shops and technicians are responsible for what happens when they leak two months after install. Is that an expense either can swallow?"
Sometimes, Service can be Like Navigating a Maze
"There's a link between parts and components within vehicle systems," shared Michael Durocher, NGK Technical and Training Specialist in his presentation, Spark Plug and Ignition Advancements. "For instance, to achieve the desired performance, technicians must be aware of a vehicle's type of ignition system when recommending a replacement spark plug.
To achieve the desired performance, technicians must be aware of a vehicle's type of ignition system when recommending a replacement spark plug. (Image — NGK Spark Plugs)
It's critical that we educate technicians about the differences between spark plug designs, especially new ones at introduction to the market. Details matter, such as what applications are they best suited for, the correct tools to use and how to find the proper service procedures to follow. For example, improper torque — over or under — is the leading cause of spark plug damage claim rejections, yet it can be easily avoided with training."
"Recommending the correct spark plug is vital to proper engine operation," Durocher continued. "For many technicians, it can seem like navigating a maze. Initiatives like SERVICE-EDU help address this. When new technologies are introduced, typically little information is available. That's why, whether an established or brand new line of spark plugs, technicians are welcome to call our tech support line (877-473-6767, option 2) for help with the performance calculations necessary to recommend the best spark plug for a customer's application."
Service Shortcuts and Cost-Cutting Are Recipes for Disaster
"Vehicle systems don't have to be elaborate," explained Richard Domin, Timken's Senior Product Analyst during his Light Vehicle Bearings and Hubs Technical Training presentation. "For example, although relatively small in size, tapered bearings and hubs — hardware, seals and lubricants — are high precision systems, designed and engineered to manage and distribute loads."
Wheel end hubs have evolved. Size and space have decreased, while performance specs have become more demanding. To ease installation and optimize performance, wheel end bearings are increasingly self-contained, pre-set and pre-greased. (Image — The Timken Company)
Domin shared a number of bearing and hub system service examples, providing attendees with insights only the manufacturer knows. "For example, if you're going to replace a bearing, replace the cup also, because they're matched and go together. Not doing that will come back to haunt you. Also, don't neglect proper torque. Like many other manufacturers, setting incorrect torque during install is the leading cause of rejected labor claims. In addition, using the correct amount of lubricant is critical, whether for street, offroad or racetrack performance. Too much or too little is problematic."
"The bottom line is there are no shortcuts if you want to be successful long term. Servicing bearing and hub systems is meticulous and exacting. The stakes for what you do rise once the vehicle you've just serviced hits the road again. To help shops and technicians gain a more thorough knowledge of servicing bearings, hubs, lubricants, seals and more, I suggest you register for the free Timken Online Tech Training Series to learn the technical and analytical skills to help you do the job right the first time and earn customer trust."
Systems Awareness Matters: There are Consequences for a Lesser Approach
"A dangerous service trend is developing today: The lack of the latest service know-how is resulting in premature failures," stated Bobby Bassett, national training director for Gates Automotive. In his presentation, titled We Can't Do It Like We Used To, he shared many examples from research conducted by the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA), the Automotive Service Association and others, revelations that demonstrated why an approach of just replacing failed parts needed to transition to a systems approach that involved checking other system components for wear. For instance, coolant contamination alone accounted for 40 percent of radiator failures and 95 percent of water pump failures.
The consequences to consumers for postponing maintenance are also now being recognized by federal agencies, consumer watchdogs, automakers and others. For instance, the Federal Trade Commission has posted the above auto repair consumer information caution on its website. The message: Neglecting even simple routine maintenance may invalidate a vehicle owner's warranty.
"It's no longer reasonable to expect manufacturers to accept warranty claims for service errors like these, regardless of who is responsible," Bassett noted. "Increasingly, warranty claims are now being declined by manufacturers." He explained a number of factors fueling the trend:
- Incorrect and incomplete service — Replacing only failed parts, rather than being systems smart and checking system integrity, can lead to near future problems for the accessory belt drive, water pump, cooling and other vehicle systems in customers' automobiles.
- Compromised service and parts — Technicians and shops not following the latest service procedures or using lower quality parts, components and other supplies can void warranties.
- Parts store employees are also behind the curve — Moreso than shop technicians, parts counter people have less 'systems aware' knowledge. Be aware when ordering parts.
- Preventive maintenance not being performed has a cost too — "We have to wake our customers up," Basset stressed. "They own the car, we only fix them. With warranty claims being rejected, we can no longer accept the financial risk and liability of only partly fixing or postponing the complete fix for their cars."
The manufacturers involved with SERVICE-EDU are trying to get that knowledge and service information directly to technicians — earlier than it's traditionally made available. They noted that dealership service departments often don't have new service information and procedures soon enough either. Their collective message: As service and repair professionals, there are many cases where we can't do it like we used to. Being accurately and earlier informed is a competitive edge.
That's a game changer — whether you choose to adapt or not.
[Editor's note: For the latest diagnostic and automotive service insights, read MOTOR Magazine's June 2016 issue.]