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Five steps to solving the most difficult electrical system riddles

Friday, September 1, 2017 - 07:00
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Muscle car fans can be forgiven if they still feel a sense of childhood glee every time Dodge releases a new iteration of the Challenger. The technology under the skin might be modern, but the muscular, throwback appearance is the closest most classic fans will get to a true return to early 1970’s greatness, unless leisure suits and bell-bottom jeans come back into style that is (just kidding—everyone hated them). 

The Challenger isn’t without its critics. Some motorists complain that, like many other sport cars and some larger vehicles, rear visibility can be limited. Fortunately, today’s technology has come to the rescue with backup cameras that can not only give a clear view of what lies beyond the tail of the beefy retro-coupe, but can also help direct it safely out of harm’s way when moving in reverse. That is, unless the sensitive calibration of the camera unit has been damaged in an accident and overlooked during the repair. In these cases, the vehicle is just begging for another collision and trip back to a shop.

(Photo courtesy of GM Media) Motorists rely on sophisticated electronic systems like back up cameras to drive safely, but repairing these systems can be a difficult matter based on how prepared the shop is.

If your shop was responsible for the previous repair, you might be on the hook for this one.

Plenty of repairers openly worry about working on these and other sophisticated electrical systems. Chasing down and diagnosing problems can be a chore for any shop. Successfully verifying that all these systems are back to working condition following a repair should be the goal for every shop. Use the following five steps and guidelines to better prepare your shop to handle these chores.

Step 1: Find a specialist. Rick Zirbes is a regional I-Car Instructor for Advanced Electronics and Future Technology. He is also CEO and President of Smart Express Inc. (formerly Dick and Rick Auto Upholstery) in Minneapolis, Minn., which offers a number of services typically available mainly from dealers, including:

- Complete Computer Diagnostics

- Complex wire repair

- Wire harness repair

- Electrical connector replacement

- Module programming and coding

- Airbag system analysis and repair, and

- OEM level Diagnostic systems.

It’s his business to know how to untangle difficult electronic problems. Zirbes says the issues shops have addressing electronic challenges begin with staffing. “A lot of shops either don’t have people working on the mechanical side or trained to handle these problems,” he declares. “Sometimes you have techs doing work they aren’t used to and are missing key repair steps or working on new systems they have no familiarity with.”

If your shop does offer mechanical repairs (past ABRN surveys indicate that 50 percent of repairers do), most of the answer here lies in investing more in training, especially diagnostics. If your shop does not, sourcing other solutions can get tricky. You can either bring a specialist aboard, train one of your current employees to do the work, find an electronic specialist business like Zirbes (which can be rare in many areas) or create a shared work plan with a dealer.

None of these solutions is, of course, ideal. You’re either adding more staffing and hoping the investment pays for itself or working out arrangements with other repairers and hoping doing so doesn’t negatively affect cycle times. At the same time, doing nothing is the worst possible action. Keep in mind that adding a mechanical tech can add other value to your shop and bring in alternative revenue for other services. By making at least one of your current staff members a specialist, it can offer similar benefits as previously stated.

(Photo courtesy of Infiniti Media) Popular Lane Departure Warning systems often require complex repairs where every step is critical for a proper post-accident re-calibration.
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