Tag Archive | "Mechanic"

Good Communications Result in Thorough Inspections

For the inspection process to be thorough and completed speedily and efficiently, effective communication is of utmost importance to all parties involved – the vehicle owner, the warranty company, the repair facility, the technician and the inspector. I started my inspection business in 2000, after working for 20 years as a line technician in independent shops and a GM dealership, ten years as shop foreman at the same GM dealer, then ten years as a service manager in two different GM dealers. During these last 14 years, I have performed too many inspections to remember and have experienced all the communication breakdowns that occur in this business.

These communication breakdowns cost the vehicle owner frustrations and expenses because their vehicle is not repaired speedily. The warranty company experiences frustrations and incurs expenses from delays or inspections that have to be repeated. The repair facility experiences frustrations and incurs expenses because they have bays or lifts tied up waiting on claim approval. The technician experiences frustration and a loss of income because his stall or rack is tied up, or he has to spend his time repeating the testing to demonstrate the failure. The inspector experiences delays in the daily scheduling of his workload, and often has to juggle appointments because an inspection is delayed.

Take this real life example: I received an inspection request from the warranty administrator to check a vehicle’s seat heater grids. I called the dealer to confirm that the vehicle was present at the shop, and the technician was present to demonstrate the failure. The service advisor assured me they were both there, so we set the inspection time at 10 am. I arrived on time at the dealer for the inspection. The service advisor paged the technician to come to the service drive. When the technician arrived at the service drive and retrieved the keys, he said, “Let’s go out to the vehicle.” Once in the vehicle, the technician turned the right and left seat heater controls on. The LED lights illuminated, but only stayed on for approximately 45 seconds. The technician stated this as failure. I asked what part in the system was the failure; he replied that it was the heated seat grids. I then asked what the resistance value of each grid was. The technician said he had not checked them, but thought that must be the problem. I explained to the technician that I was tasked to verify the failure to the seat grids, and to document that failure with photos and videos. He said he would have to remove the front seats to gain access to the connectors. I informed the service manager of the situation, and told him to call me when the technician was ready to demonstrate the failure, and I would return to the dealership to document it.

That was on a Monday morning. Finally, I received a call from the dealership the next Friday at 4:30 p.m., stating they had the seats out and were ready for me. I informed the dealer I was already on another inspection and could not get back to the dealer by the close of business. The service advisor said she had to put the car back together because the customer wanted the vehicle for a trip. I told her to call me when they were ready to demonstrate the failure to the heater grids. The warranty administrator then cancelled the inspection.

The next week, on Thursday, I received a re-inspection request from the warranty administrator. I called the dealer again to confirm the vehicle was present and they were ready to demonstrate the failure. I arrived on Friday morning at 9 am. The technician was upset because he had to remove the seats again. I asked him to check the resistance of the seat heater grids with a digital volt ohm meter. When he tested the seat heater grids they were both within the GM’s specification. The failure was in the memory seat module, not the heater grids.

My contention is this: If the warranty administrator had effectively communicated to the dealer to be prepared to measure the resistance of the seat heater grids on the first inspection request, we would have solved the owners concern two weeks earlier.

Good communication in this instance would have saved the dealer the expense of two dis-assemblies, the owners untold frustration, the technician from double work for the same pay, the warranty administrator extra expense on rental car, huge customer dissatisfaction, and the inspector two trips, two weeks apart, to the dealer while only getting paid for one. If this were a one-time situation it would be different. However in my experience, I have seen vehicles repaired and returned to the owner and have arrived at the the shop only to be provided with a box of used parts. I have also arrived to find a vehicle diagnosed and reassembled, and even had a shop say a vehicle was ready for inspection, only to find no dis-assembly at all when I arrived. I have arrived at repair facilities where the shop was anticipating that I was there to tell them what the failure was. I have arrived at the dealer to find extensive modifications to the vehicle, obvious abuse by the owner, that if the dealer had disclosed, the warranty administrator might have reconsidered the expense of an inspection. All of the cases above are the result of poor communications in the inspection process.

Good Communication between the dealership and the warranty company

The service personnel must give full disclosure and detailed information concerning all failures that they expect the warranty company to pay for. For example: abuse, neglect, modifications, ball joint measurements, DTCs and any tests that have been run. Also, they should let them know if the vehicle has already been repaired.

Warranty adjusters must give the dealer full disclosure of their expectations during the upcoming inspection. For example: their need for ball joint measurement and specifications, their need to know the point of failure, any and all dis-assembly required to get to the point of failure, or any testing which the shop will need to demonstrate to the inspector, thereby demonstrating the failure, any fluid sampling they will require, and notify them that for road testing, the dealer personnel are required to drive the vehicle.

Good Communication between the warranty company and the inspector

Warranty companies have the responsibility to communicate their needs to the inspector in a detailed manner. For example: what they are looking for, if they need fluid samples, the time line for the completion of the inspection, how the warranty company is to receive the inspection information, required measurements, and if they prefer video. Most warranty companies no longer work directly with inspectors, which means that the same good communication needs to occur between the third party broker and the inspector. Inspectors cannot read minds!

Good Communication between the inspector and the dealer to schedule the inspection

The inspector must promptly contact the dealer to schedule an inspection, confirm that the vehicle is at the facility, has the required dis-assembly, that the technician who diagnosed the failure is present to demonstrate the failure, and if a rack is required, confirm the dealer will have one available. It is good to inquire if the dealer has dial indicator equipment if measuring ball joints, and equipment to check the codes! Ask the service advisor for the full service history, as well as the used car inspection repair order and check-over sheet. Be sure to view the technician’s notes on all documents, as these items often reveal preexisting conditions.

Good Communication between the inspector and the technician during the inspection

In the experience of this inspector, good communications between the inspector and the technician is the most critical aspect in a thorough inspection result. The inspector must be familiar with the systems or items that he is requested to inspect, in order to ask the proper questions. If he is not familiar, a little time reading the service manual on the vehicle prior to arriving for the inspection would be a huge asset. There are a lot of services online that can be used to access the data as well.

Asking the proper questions assures the technician that your not the “hatchet man” and are truly interested in helping get the claim paid. The proper questions will reveal if the technician did in fact follow the proper diagnostic procedure to come to his conclusion of the failure. Asking the proper questions also reveals if a technician has the skills to properly diagnose the failure. Being friendly, helpful and asking the right question often times leads to information from the technician that: a.) he may have forgotten from his initial diagnosis, b.) he failed to provide the service advisor, or c.) he intentionally left out of the shop request for an inspection. Communicating that the inspector is willing to “go the extra mile” in allowing the shop to duplicate or demonstrate the failure builds confidence in the inspector’s value to the technician as well.

Good Communication between the inspector and the service advisor/manager after the inspection

Communicating with the service advisor or service manager about what you were able and unable to verify, and the reasons why, builds confidence between the inspector and the service personnel. This also communicates what will be reported to the warranty company. In simpler terms, “no surprises” that will leave the advisor or manager feeling the inspector tried to pull one over on him.

Good Communications between the inspector and the warranty company adjuster after the inspection is completed 

The inspector should communicate the failure and the cause of that failure, as well as all tests that were used in determining the cause of the failure with the warranty company adjuster. Communicating observations, denoting any subtle signs of abuse, such as constant curbing, which would contribute to premature ball joint failure. This includes communicating in both your verbal and written reports the measurements of any suspension modifications. In my opinion, photos and videos are an excellent means of communicating what you have seen. I take multiple photos in varying light conditions, as well as varying positions of an item, to give the adjuster multiple views of the failure. My reports average 40 or more photos, and I have reported as many as 160 photos for one inspection.

I encourage everyone in the inspection process to apply good communication skills to each and every level of the inspection process. The result will be thorough, quality inspections that will result in the satisfaction of all parties.

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Don’t Forget the Basics

Before I begin, I would like to express my respect for technicians. They have a difficult job and many are highly skilled and reliable. However, as an inspector, I have noticed that technicians far too often rely on technology and past experiences rather than the basic fundamentals of diagnostics. The actual problem can be overlooked due to technicians depending on high tech equipment and the multitude of modules that are standard in most of today’s vehicles. Starting with step one – doing an overall check of the vehicle – seems too simplistic and is often bypassed, even though it takes very little time and usually does not require specialized tools or equipment. Therefore, an inspector should never assume the basics have been checked. Although it is not an inspector’s job to diagnose the problem, taking the time to do so can sometimes reveal the actual cause of failure or a potential pending failure. Below, I have chronicled times when this has occurred in my own personal experiences.

  1. The technician claimed a vehicle’s overheating was caused by no coolant flow in the radiator due to a failed water pump impeller very rare. The actual problem was caused by a worn radiator cap that was not pressure tested.
  2. The technician claimed the failure of a front wheel bearing was due to excessive play at the wheel. The wheel was very loose. The C/V axle nut did not appear to be threaded all the way on to the shaft. After asking the technician to tighten the loose nut, the play was eliminated.
  3. When inspecting a diesel with a supposed fan clutch failure and a code of “circuit failure/no communication,” I found the problem to be a severed harness at the connector caused by, none other than the fan itself! The technician never checked the connector!
  4. The technician claimed that no voltage to the alternator was due to failure to the harness. He came to this conclusion because “they see it all the time.” Failure was actually due to a very loose battery cable end at the battery. The technician actually thanked me for discovering the loose cable because he was not looking forward to replacing the harness.
  5. The technician claimed that all TPMS sensors had failed because they all had codes and would not reset. The vehicle was a ¾ ton truck with new tires that required 78 psi in the front and 55 psi at the rear, as stated on the tire placard. All four tires had 45 psi. After inflating the tires to the proper pressure the warning light turned off.
  6. After replacing the left rear folding seat back motor on a van, a technician found that the right side would not raise properly, even though it had been working when he lowered it. Therefore, he claimed it also needed a new motor. The failure was actually caused by the headrest binding on the front seat back because the technician had not removed the headrest before lowering the seat.

Other basic checks that are often overlooked are fluid levels. This is an area that should not be overlooked by the inspector because it can, at times, reveal the cause of failure. Examples of these occurrences are included below.

  1.  The technician claimed failure to the compressor was due to a severe leak. Only light seepage showed under the black light and amber lenses. I had noticed the cooling fan connector was loose and figured he must have checked the power to ground for an electrical issue that was keeping the compressor from engaging. After some questioning, I discovered that he could not get the compressor to operate, but since it was leaking, he felt it should be replaced. I told him I had found that the coolant level in the reservoir and radiator were empty, therefore, that sensor may not allow the compressor to engage. After topping off the coolant, the compressor engaged.
  2. The technician spent two days running tests to diagnose very rough engine vibration and some blow-by on a used replacement motor brought back by the owner after less than 30 days of use. After performing my basic checks, I told him that I had found the problem. The problem turned out to be the oil, which was very much overfilled. He drained ten quarts out of a five-quart system. The vehicle ran smoothly after the pistons were no longer being smashed into the oil. Even though it was the owner, rather than the technician who was responsible for the excess oil, the technician said calling the extended warranty company back was going to be the most embarrassing phone call he would ever have to make!

Checking fluids is a must on all transmission repairs due to possible intermix from ruptured transmission coolers built into radiators. This is a problem some vehicles are notorious for. I make it a habit to look in the oil filler when there is a direct view into the valve cover. Sludge and varnish can be detected at this time. I once came across a vehicle with intermix in the radiator, but also heavy intermix in the engine. After some questioning, I found out the shop knew of the condition but did not report it to the extended warranty company. I suppose being a transmission specialist shop might have had something to do with it!

It is obvious in all these examples that step one was skipped in the diagnostic process. It is for this reason that I feel an inspector should never assume the technician has done the basics.

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