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Hybrids: Business of the future for repair shops

Thursday, November 6, 2008 - 00:00

Hybrids are not a fad, but the future for repair shop owners says a hybrid trainer and AAPEX speaker Craig Van Batenburg.

"I hope you walk away with the idea that if you aren’t thinking about hybrids, you are missing the boat. This is the next emerging technology. If you want to stay in business, you have to learn,” says Van Batenburg, owner of the Automotive Career Development Center in Worcester, Mass., during his presentation, “The Current Hybrid State of Affairs,” held Thursday morning during the AAPEX show in Las Vegas, Nev.

Van Batenburg detailed the four most common hybrid models — Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry, Honda Civic and Ford Escape — and how to identify them when they come into a shop.

“If you open the hood and see any big round cables that are bright blue or bright orange, that is a hybrid. If you go into a Honda engine and see IMA, that is a hybrid. But most cars actually say hybrid on it, except for Lexus, because the manufacturer always uses letters and numbers. So if a Lexus has a small letter ‘h,’ it is a hybrid,” Van Batenburg says.

Technicians must also be aware of the hazards associated with these vehicles, which mainly stem from the electric current motorizing most hybrids. Systems including high-voltage batteries and cables, capacitors, electric air conditioning compressors and electric 4-wheel drive systems pose the biggest safety challenges, Van Batenburg says. “You want to be aware of how dangerous these cars can be because of electricity,” he notes.

Proper tools and systems needed to effectively work on and repair the vehicles was also discussed, with Van Batenburg offering some suggestions on how to begin outfitting a shop with the proper equipment. “You need to know how to get started at your shop, how to be perfectly safe when working on cars and the equipment you need,” Van Batenburg says.

He also highlighted the training opportunities he offers, which can be found by visiting Yet despite training availability and the predicted popularity of hybrids in the future, not all shops will rush to teach their technicians how to work with these eco-friendly cars.

“Really, training is up to the owner. Some don’t like hybrids and don’t want to get involved,” Van Batenburg says. “Twenty to 30 percent of the shops out there won’t get involved, even though there has been a consistent growth and training has become international.”

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