Don’t miss the first step in problem-solving

"When it comes to fixing a problem with an automobile the first step is always to verify the problem."

Sometimes the obvious is not so obvious.  When it comes to fixing a problem with an automobile the first step is always to verify the problem.  One man’s “shake” is another man’s “rumble”.  The problem now is as clear as mud.

Many automotive problems are only communicated to the auto repair shop by phone, email, written message, or sticky note on the steering wheel.  The problem with these communication methods comes in the very first step of the diagnosis.

When the technician who is going to diagnose the problem gets in your vehicle an attempt must be made to verify the problem.

In an ideal situation the customer is present with the vehicle and the problem can be immediately replicated by the customer for the technician maybe even without a test drive.

In many cases the technician must interpret the email, written message, or worse the person (service advisor) who made the appointment’s interpretation of the issue.

Unfortunately most shop environments use the last method most frequently.

Admittedly many problems are straightforward.  “Headlight is out.”  Then there are the not so straightforward intermittent problems.   Sometimes the verification process is less than successful.  “Intermittently the vehicle shudders while accelerating.”

Problems that are the feeling type described by  words like shudder, shake, vibration, growl, and pulsation present a challenge to your technician.  A road test with the customer is mandatory.  The problem must also present itself during this road test.  When the road test ends with “it just isn’t doing it now” it will be very difficult for diagnosis.

Sometimes the technician has experience with a similar problem with the same type of vehicle.  The technician will attempt to solve a problem that is known to be common to that vehicle with similar symptoms.  Sometimes this works but not always.  The technician is taking a risk with this method especially if the repair is expensive, does not fix the problem, and therefore results in an unsatisfied customer.

Some vehicle have problems that their respective owners do not even recognize.

These problems can lead to more problems down the road but repairing them before they manifest themselves in a more serious problem will not necessarily produce a satisfied customer.

Ultimately the best result will be obtained when customer and technician agree on and experience the problem to be solved.  Sometimes getting this to happen will take time and as we know time is money.

When the problem cannot be verified many times it makes sense to follow through with the second step of any diagnosis.

That is an actual physical inspection.

The temptation in this computer age to simply diagnose with high technology instead of using your eyes, ears, and nose is always there.  It is easy to forget to just lift the hood (so to speak).  Many problems are solved this way.

The steps taken to diagnose and repair without verifying the problem are fraught with problems.  Missing that first step can make a solution a much more drawn out affair.

Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. He will write every other Thursday. E-mail:

Just Posted

Adrian Moyls is the Selkirk College Class of 2021 valedictorian and graduate of the School of Health and Human Services. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College valedictorian proves mettle in accomplishment

Adrian Moyls is a graduate of the School of Health and Human Services

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

The pilot of this single-engine propeller plane was unhurt after crash-landing in a Como Road orchard Friday, June 18. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Plane crash lands into Grand Forks orchard, pilot injured

RCMP have secured the crash site, pending investigation by Transport Canada

Author John Vaillant joins Lisa Moore and Fred Wah for Elephant Mountain Literary Festival’s Alumni Reading on Friday, July 9. All three authors were featured at the inaugural festival in 2012. Photo: Submitted
FESTIVAL TALES: When 2012 meets 2021

The Elephant Mountain Literary Festival will include authors from the event’s inaugural year

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Bella Bella is on B.C.’s Central Coast, accessible only by air and ocean. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
B.C. provides $22 million for Heiltsuk development on Central Coast

Elders care home project, tourism, lumber mill supported

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

Most Read