Sure we would prefer to be addressed as automotive technicians or auto mechanics over ‘grease monkeys’ but in the end it really isn’t that important. We just want to maintain and repair your vehicles.
Definitely we spend a lot more time with clean hands at the shop computer or in the front seat of your vehicle with a laptop working on getting to the crux of your vehicle’s issue. The reason we do is the complexity of the machines we are working on. Just diving in and replacing parts is just not good for you or us.
As we all know cars are expensive and complicated. The parts that make up the car are complex and expensive. The labor to replace them is expensive. The diagnostic process is expensive. Skipping the diagnostic process and guessing (googling) is doubly expensive. Nobody wants to do a job with a sad outcome. Those are expensive mistakes.
Front seat diagnostics only gets your mechanic started but it is a very important step. The information that your vehicle can communicate to your mechanic is substantial as long as he/she has the equipment to process that information. We are not just reading a code. Our tools have the capability to command your vehicle to perform certain actions. We can turn on the fuel pump to measure fuel pressure. We can turn on the cooling fan to make sure it works.
If we are lucky our front seat diagnostics has provided us significant direction to solve the problem. Now it is time to get our hands dirty so to speak.
Vehicles are chock full of electric and electronic devices for sure but the mechanical element is still heavily present. Electricity is part of almost every system in a modern day vehicle. Most steering systems now are electric. Instead of a hydraulic assist provided by an oil pump driven by the engine your steering assist is a powerful electric motor.
The accelerator pedal in your vehicle is no longer attached to a cable that opens an air flap (throttle) that lets air into your engine. Instead that air flap is driven by an electric motor. The accelerator pedal is a remote sensor that sends a signal to the engine computer and then the engine computer sends output signals to the throttle to open.
A problem with the electric steering assist will require your mechanic to access that motor and test it wherever it might be buried within the bowels of your vehicle. He will likely get dirty getting there. Same thing applies to the electric air flap. The wiring to these units will have to be tested before condemning the electromechanical part.
Accessing parts/systems to test requires time and many times disassembly of parts. In today’s tight engine compartments or interiors parts replacement is many times not simple, fast, or easy.
Accurate diagnostics still do not eliminate the ‘dirty work’. Accurate diagnostics will make sure your grease monkey successfully and efficiently solves your problem.
Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org