By Dave Worden
If you’ve been an avid reader of my “Tech2Tech” articles for the past year, you know that I’ve always written from the technical perspective and for technicians. However, this article is not only aimed at technicians, but also dealership owners and manufacturers. I will address tools (needs versus wants), training (needs and why), and warranty (the importance to manufacturers). And then, I’ll try to tie it all together.
All gear heads, motor jocks, mechanics and techs are always being told they need the next big thing in tools. We have all been besieged by the rolling tool jockeys stopping by to show us the latest and greatest tool that will make our jobs easier and more efficient. This usually leads to the dealership owners getting annoyed because the truck stops by and spends a lot of what the owners may perceive is a waste of their valuable time and money. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t stop by, but it may be in everyone’s best interests to schedule, if at all possible, an appointment for first thing in the morning or at lunch or at least notify the owner that the truck is stopping by! The other time we hear about the latest and greatest in tools is when we are attending an update seminar or training school. Then, we need to have these tools because they are shiny, new and sport the corporate logo on them, and we all know that means we will be able to fix anything!
Now, I realize this may sound a little harsh and “against the norm,” but I believe as techs we need to evaluate the tools at our disposal, and start to make decisions to save time and money, as well as perhaps a night of sleeping on the couch! (You single techs may view it as less beer money!)
What constitutes a good tech? Some will say it lies in what they have invested in tools. Others will say it is how much knowledge they have regarding their trade. I say it’s both, as well as the desire to continue to sharpen your skills and knowledge and how you invest in tools. We have all seen the Snap-on, Craftsman and Kobalt toolsets that can run thousands of dollars. They have every known tool to man, or so we believe, and we take the plunge and purchase these sets. Then, after we start using them, we find that we are always short that one “special” tool or tools that make the job easier.
The other side of tools is the manufacturers’ “special” tools. We have all attended an update seminar, a factory-sponsored field school or a factory training class, where manufacturers promote their tools to help make our jobs easier — and the majority of them will. One of the downsides is you could be led to believe that the tool from Manufacturer A is better than the same tool from Manufacturer B, and the difference usually comes down to price. Now to be fair to the manufacturers, the majority of them are not tool manufacturers; they simply need to purchase a certain quantity of tools to reach a point where they can offer them to you at a reasonable price. One suggestion that may help you decide if the tool is worth the expense is to ask yourself, “How often will I need this tool? Will this tool save time? Will it make the procedure easier?”
The dealership can also offer to invest in the tool for the entire shop and write off the cost of the tool as part of “shop expenses.” This would require that the techs be trained and have a procedure in place to have access to the tool with all parties agreeing that it is a company tool. The dealership should also ask if the tool can save time, as is the case with electrical test equipment. Ownership must also realize that the reimbursement on warranty service may require the use of the “specialty” tool.
This may all sound familiar and reasonable. The point I am trying to make is that when it comes to the need versus want of a tool, the technician must ask, “Does the tool’s need justify its expense, or is the tool a want that looks cool but will not pay for itself in a reasonable period?” A partial list of tools that technicians need appears following this article. This list was developed by surveying dealerships, vocational schools, technical schools and manufacturers.
Once you or your dealership owner has made the investment in a “specialty” tool, take time to learn how to properly use, care for, and store said tool. All too often, I have been to shops claiming to have a “specialty” tool “somewhere in the shop” only to eventually find it dusty, covered in grease, or stored improperly. This can lead to unnecessary downtime and delay in conducting a profitable repair. There has been some talk by distributors and dealer associations of looking at making some of the more expensive tools available on a rental program. I’m not sure if this is a feasible option, but it shows that there is some interest in using the proper tool and at least the thought of a solution.
Every year, manufacturers develop various types of training seminars, they may include but are not limited to: hands-on, sales, marketing, and in-house factory schools. These programs are vital and necessary to manufacturers as they help them understand market share, service issues, and hopefully improvements to their products. Those technicians who think that these are not necessary are the same ones who when asked how the meeting was, respond, “The food was good!” I am not going to preach the virtues of the sessions; those that go with the “I always learn something of value” approach are already ahead of the rest.
There are many reasons that a dealership should evaluate and participate in the service update and training offered. I believe the trick for dealership owners is to ask the supplier about the school’s aim. To me, a seminar is an “update” when it covers a broad range of information such as new products, service issues, marketing and sales. This type of school may require the attendance of more than one person per dealership — perhaps the service manager and lead tech. If it’s a “hands-on” service session, then it is obvious that all technicians should attend. If you cannot afford to send all of your technicians, then it is of the utmost importance that you send the tech that will do the best job of taking notes, asking questions, and sharing the information with fellow techs.
For the manufacturers, they are also obligated to make sure that they explain the type and purpose of the session, as well as help promote the session in the appropriate manner. If the material is geared more toward dealership owners, then it may be best to let the dealership know this. It is also important for those manufacturers that have master dealer status for their dealers to see that credit is given to the dealership and to make sure the appropriate people attend. There are times when someone is sent just to meet an obligation and that is of no benefit to either party.
We could spend a great deal of time debating the pros and cons of these sessions. As a technician, one thing that can be difficult and frustrating is attending a session taught by an instructor who reads verbatim from the book and won’t “man up” to not knowing the answer to a question, saying, “I don’t know, but I will follow up and get back to you.” It’s also frustrating to attend sessions where the instructor spends more time on sales information and warranty procedures and little time on service issues. Manufacturers that spend a lot of money on these sessions might be wise to ask that program presenters be certified themselves. I don’t necessarily mean a certified tech but a certified trainer.
The last area of training for manufacturers has to do with providing updates on DVD/video. The advantage is that you save money on the travel and the associated costs. The biggest downside is the interaction between the dealer and the public. Your dealerships are the link between your products and you, and how they feel about handling issues with customer. The dealership must empathize with customers and try to resolve their concerns to the best of their ability. This does not happen by sending a DVD or a video with the belief that this will make it better. There is value in having the material on a DVD or video because it can be shared with those techs that did not attend or are new to the company. There are companies that offer Webinars for dealerships. Some manufacturers tape the presentation and then make the link available to their dealers so they can sign on and review the session at a later date. This type of session also allows for a survey or questions to be answered at the end to see if the material was understood. It also allows the shop the ability to contact the manufacturer for clarification.
What does all of this mean for the technician? If you thought that your learning stopped when you left school and that all it takes is the latest and greatest in tools and training, you would be wrong! It takes the right tools, the right attitude in training, and pride in wanting to do the best you can. Look at the publications that serve this industry and the information that they contain; they try to give you all the tools necessary. Someone in our great industry once said, “Service is the lifeblood of any organization; everything flows from it and is nourished by it. Customer service is not a department, but an attitude.”
Dave Worden is program director for SkillsUSA and current president of the Equipment and Engine Training Council (EETC).
General Shop Items
Storage for tools
Air ratchet – 3/8” drive
Drill – 1/2” variable/reversible
Drill – 3/8” variable/reversible
Impact socket set – 3/8” drive (standard & metric)
Impact socket set 1/2” drive (standard 7/16”-1-1/8” & metric 12 mm-32 mm)
Impact guns – 3/8” & 1/2” drive
Master puller set
Oil filter wrench
Snap ring pliers set (external & internal) (inside/outside)
Tap & die set (SAE)
Thread repair kit
Combination end wrenches
Ratchets with extensions
Standard socket set (SAE & metric)
Tire pressure gauges
Needle nose pliers (6” & longer)
Dead blow hammer
Air blow gun (OSHA)
Hex wrench set (SAE & metric)
16 oz. ball peen hammer
Plastic tip hammer
Slip joint pliers (water pump)
Center punch set
Pin punch set
Carbon scraper – 1”
Screwdriver – Impact driver set
Screw Extractor Set
Soldering iron (25-watt pencil)
Tire inflator chuck
Twist drill set (1/64”-1/2”)
Torque wrenches (in. & ft. lbs.)
Needle nose pliers, bent tip
Screwdriver set (common, Phillips and off set)
Adjustable wrench (6” & 12”)
Hex wrench set (SAE & metric)
Cold chisels (3/8”-3/4”)
Magnetic pickup tool
Lock jaw pliers, assorted
Side cutting pliers
Tapered punches (3/8”-1/2”-5/8”)
Gasket scraper (1”)
Battery Service Tools
Battery load tester
Battery tester (refractometer)
Side terminal adapter
Battery terminal puller
Battery jumper cables
Hydrometer, temp. corrected
Battery terminal pliers
Precision measuring tools
6” steel ruler
Cylinder bore gauge
Inside micrometer set 0-6” (SAE & metric)
Micrometer (Depth) (SAE & metric)
Feeler gauge set
Ball gauges (Small hole)
Dial calipers (SAE & metric)
Dial indicator with flex arm