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Mobile diagnostics can keep cars moving, costs idling

Monday, December 8, 2008 - 01:00

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An extra pair of hands in the bay usually can’t hurt, and mobile diagnostics brings in another technician without adding too much to your books and staff.

Mobile diagnostics is what it appears — a technician who comes into a shop solely for diagnosis and programming.

“The purpose of my mobile diagnostics business is to provide services for independent repair shops that gives them abilities that they don’t currently possess,” says Mark Olinger of Automotive Technical Services. “I do not perform any repairs or replace parts – I simply tell the shop what must be repaired or replaced.”

Olinger is a board member of Mobile Diagnostics Group, Inc., which for nearly two years has been one set of technicians offering its services around the country. Founded by Jim Garrido of Have Scanner Will Travel, the organization disseminates information about diagnostics, equipment and general business concerns between professional mobile diagnostic businesses, says Dave Savary, owner of Savary’s Automotive Testing Services.

“The group also acts as a central contact point between shops, tool companies and other various types of automotive related businesses and MDG members,” adds Savary.

Mobile diagnosticians could be a plus to repair shops looking to find ways to take new approaches to vehicle maintenance and repair in tight times. Bringing in someone on a regular basis instead of employing a full-time technician for diagnostics can save money on salary, insurance and other benefits you provide your staff. Training could be focused on other repair needs instead of diagnosing problems.

“We can be an asset to any repair or body shop who doesn’t have the proper training, the proper tools or in many cases, the proper amount of technicians,” explains Edwin Hazzard, of Automotive Tech Systems. “We save the shops large amounts of money on tools and training and a very important item – time. By not tying a tech up on a hard diagnostic problem, it frees him up to be able to do the day-to-day repair jobs that generate the shop’s revenue.”

Savary says the need for on-site diagnostics is going to increase over the next few years, and the benefits of the business model are many. First, the shop owner benefits by not spending money on equipment that might have a poor return on investment (ROI). But the ultimate beneficiary is the consumer.

“The availability of the mobile specialist can reduce the cost of repairs by furnishing an accurate and cost-effective diagnosis that may not otherwise be obtained from their favorite repair shop,” he adds.

“Now a shop owner has the capability of keeping the customer at his/her shop and getting the vehicle repaired properly. This business model actually reduces a shop’s potential equipment and technicians’ expenses, while at the same time potentially increasing revenue,” Olinger says.

What it takes
From the technician side, Savary says probably the most important qualification for techs to become a mobile diagnostician is to think in a logical fashion and put together information gathered in testing.

Hazzard also says a mobile tech should be ASE certified, have a good working knowledge of computer and networking systems and “be at the top of their game with the complex operation of today’s vehicles.”

Savary adds that the knowledge these technicians need to possess must cover a wide range.

“Another important qualification is knowledge of many different test procedures so his conclusion of a problem can be verified from a different prospective to formulate a (certain conclusion),” he offers.

“You almost have to be obsessed in your job to be a mobile diagnostic tech, but the results are rewarding,” says Hazzard, who trains and does research between 15 and 20 hours a month.

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