How creative we become, after all attempts to follow published instructions for a repair fail, helps define how good of a technician we are!
Frustration is a part of this game, or so I was told early in my career. I’ve learned to expect it so much so that when a job goes easily anymore, it’s almost scary! I start to retrace my steps, making sure every bolt and screw are installed and properly torqued. I look again and again for the unintended leak or that strange sound or maybe some other sign that would reveal what it is that I had forgotten. I scrutinize every data PID’s value so carefully to ensure all are displaying correctly. I end up spending a lot of time needlessly when a job goes smoothly, but if it’s not the norm then…
Vehicle: 1998 Ford Explorer, 4x2, 5.0L
Automatic Transmission, California Emission
Customer complaint: ABS Light on, DTC C1102
Vehicle history is unavailable because it was recently purchased.
It is this frustration that motivates me when I encounter those times when everything doesn’t go as planned. It consumes my thoughts, causes me to overly focus and sometimes even robs me of sleep. This frustration can be caused by an incorrect part, a procedure followed or a wiring diagram that doesn’t actually apply to the vehicle I’m working on or it could be caused by unknown forces. In almost all cases, it is completely out of my control. Have you ever felt like aliens have possessed the vehicle you’re working on?
The call comes in
Don owns a shop in a remote area of the county about an hour from my home. His shop has an excellent reputation. He and his technicians are known for being able to solve any problem on almost any kind of vehicle. The shop has serviced everything from go-carts to aircraft; once when I showed up, they were repairing a trailer-mounted BBQ/Smoker that was built by hand, made from — among other things — thousands of stainless steel disks welded into the shape of an eight-foot long armadillo that must have weighed thousands of pounds!
I assist with diagnostics and reprogram modules for them. Most of the time when Don calls me in, it’s because he has gotten frustrated by a vehicle that just doesn’t want to play by the rules. Have you ever had one of those? I know of no one who’s exempt from that! He is very methodical in the manner in which he diagnoses problems, and he’s quite thorough. I can’t remember ever finding something he missed that fixed a car in his shop! Now, that’s good!
Needless to say, he doesn’t require my diagnostic skills very often. So, when I do get a call from his shop, Don has a huge amount of information already documented, usually a long list of tests performed — along with the detailed results of those tests — and I can trust the basics have been covered to the point that I don’t even consider performing them again. We will work together to resolve whatever the problem is and in all cases, both will learn from the experience.
The other times when he calls on my services, he has performed a repair that requires a configuration using an OE diagnostic tool (that maybe he doesn’t have), or he’s installed a module and it needs to be programmed. Don has the ability to flash a variety of makes, but prefers to leave that stuff to me. He’d much rather be doing anything else as he just doesn’t like doing that kind of work. And that’s usually okay with me! Yes, I said usually. As a matter of fact, it was in his shop that I encountered a stubborn apparition-infested 1998 Ford Explorer, 4x2, 5.0L. This vehicle, which had an automatic transmission, California emission, “believed” it was a four-wheel drive but it had a two-wheel drive powertrain! Now, you and I both know this should be an easy fix! This should take a maximum of about 15 minutes when everything goes right. Piece of cake, I thought to myself on the way over. Boy, did I jinx myself!
A "simple" job?
I said Don’s thorough. He received this vehicle when the proud new owner brought it in for an evaluation of why the ABS light was on. Don tried to perform what I call “play 20 questions” — that is, when the customer drops off the vehicle you ask everything you can about the problem and the history of the vehicle. Unfortunately, the owner had just purchased the vehicle, knowing there was an indicator illuminated, and because of that fault, paid a lower price than what the dealer wanted. He thought he negotiated a great deal!