Anthony... for nearly 40 years I have been in this trade.... Currently I am
the shop foreman for a growing dealership... 7 bays at present with 7 more
on the way...
Now, I do want to apologize for "going off" like that.... but, man.... I
can't find words for what it makes me think and feel....
I realize that you must be young and new to this trade so allow me to offer
First and foremost.... the modern automobile is built around electronics. A
tech needs a sound basic knowledge of electricity, it's principles, proper
testing, selecting the proper test and deciphering test results. Get a good
quality DMM and learn how to use it properly.... Three voltage drop tests
are all that is required to almost isolate the concern.... know when to set
the DMM aside and use an incandescent test lamp or a powered, low impedance
test lamp or even a sealed beam headlight with test leads attached - each
and every one of these tools has a use - depending on what we are doing will
have us select the appropriate "weapon". Without a solid knowledge of
electrical, a tech will be doomed to guessing, wasting time and will be
denied the "cat bird seat". In Canada, we have an apprenticeship porogram
that takes care of things like this... in the US, you will likely have to
attend a college or trades school but this knowledge is vital if you desire
to be a good tech.
Second... documentation.... Without the manuals, everything is going to be a
guess.... very possibly an expensive guess.... If I feel that I am
unfamiliar with an electrical circuit, I look at the wiring diagram first...
Thursday, one of my junior techs came to me.... he had over two hours into
an ABS light.... I had him show me where he was in the pinpoint test.... a
glance at the circuit diagram and I had him look at all the connectors in
that circuit with the advice of which connector I would look at first... the
growing green death told the story. It was a retail job so we tried cleaning
and protecting the connections rather than replacing harnesses... One happy
customer. Knowing how the circuit works is a prerequisite for repairing it
in a timely and efficient manner.
Sticking with 'documentation' for a bit.... todays engines and such are
pretty "high strung" compared to their older brothers.... Proper assembly
techniques and close attention to torquing fasteners is more important than
ever... and is only going to become more important in the future. Workshop
manuals will guide us through these techniques and show us when and where we
will require special tools.....
And that brings us to tools.... A good DMM, specialty tools as required by
our "customer base", a good and capable scan tool and the time to "play"
with it in order to understand it's capabilities (as well as our own). We
should regard our manuals as "tools", as well... Without them we might as
well be without a hammer or a ratchet...
Fourth (tools was third, OK?)... knowledge.... we should endeavour to gain
knowledge from any source we can. Aftermarket manufacturers often have FAQs
on their websites... auto parts stores often have some sort of teaching aids
on their websites NAPA, I am sure, is one.... KEM used to have some stuff on
their weebsite... others are likely similar. SnapOn and MAC offer courses...
yes, they are usually thinly disguised sales seminars - but there is
knowledge to be gained... and knowledge is truly power... Knowledge....
build a simple circuit with a lamp a switch and a battery... practice with
your DMM on this circuit... add a resistor to some point in the circuit to
learn what happens when a wire or terminal corodes... put the swtich in the
hot side to see how it works (DMM-wise) put the switch in the ground side
(few automotive circuits are power side switched on late models) and see how
that looks on the DMM. Good shop manuals include a subsection in each
section called "Description and operation".... put down the Spiderman
comic - lay Dean Koontz and Tom Clancy to the sode... read "descrition and
operation" until your eyes hurt. Join i-ATN... read the forums.. check out
the areas of the site that you are allowed to view... BATauto has some
decent stuff. Look around... there's some good stuff - by no means is it
everything you will need but it will be a decent start.
Now, this part could be "lastly" but there is a lot of things I haven't
mentioned... so we'll call it "next".... your employer... and yours is one
that needs a special sumthin' from the sound of it..... A good boss will
desire his techs to learn and improve... he will endeavour to find the
training that his techs need... he will give them the manuals they need and
have specialty tools available.... If he doesn't do this, you will remain
stuck in a dead end job.... you will never have the chance to be as good as
you can be.... and you wont advance in your chosen field. The rewards are
there to be had for a tech that is good at what he does and makes customers
happy.... I have two diesel certified techs that will make an obscene amount
of money this year because they are good at what they do and I am there to
ensure that our customers are happy.... and not a BG flush to be had... I
wont put up with that kind of crap...