Auto Service World
Feature   March 3, 2014   by CARS Magazine

Are you up for the challenge?

Technicians need to keep up with change in order to communicate effectively with customers. Will you be ready to answer their questions?

Technicians need to keep up with change in order to communicate effectively with customers. Will you be ready to answer their questions?

By Terry Elm
Whether we like it or not, the world is changing.

And as automotive technicians in this fast-paced world of evolving technology, we need to be extremely proactive on many levels. With each passing generation, our world becomes more aware of the importance of protecting our resources and more responsible for the environment in which we live.

This heightened awareness has a major impact on the automotive industry.

Five years ago, I rarely thought of ethanol. When I did, it was in a negative way. You know, the usual: it’s not good for engines, it’s costly to produce, and it’s inefficient… everything the oponents of ethanol-as-energy wanted me to believe.

But then I moved from my home in London, Ont. to Pensacola, Fla. to work for my current employer Bobby Likis.

Bobby’s shop is a fully equipped diagnostic service and repair facility, and home to the first patented PreRepair service offerings. He’s been in the automotive service business for 43 years and grew his reputation on the Gulf Coast as a premier automotive expert. He is also well-known for his weekly national radio show.

Bobby is a big supporter of renewable fuels. His passion for ethanol is palpable when he speaks on the subject, and in the three years I’ve been working for Bobby, he’s completely changed my perspective.

Ethanol has important environmental benefits that I wasn’t aware of, and I found myself wanting to know more. Since my first talks with Bobby, I’ve read everything I could find on renewable fuel sources and even acquired the Alternate Fuels Certification from ASE.

Recently, Bobby invited me to participate in his presentation at the 2014 Ethanol conference. When we arrived at the conference, I was as nervous as I was excited. I had no idea what to expect. The first few minutes of that night’s meet-and-greet did little to dispel my anxiety as I found myself to be the lone uniform-clad service technician in a sea of suits. I glanced down at the ASE-certification patches on my shirt and then around the courtyard filled with executives, politicians and engineers. I couldn’t help but feel a little out of place.

But those feelings disappeared when it was time for us to deliver our presentation, "Engine Experts Talk Ethanol." I was the audience anchor and Bobby the moderator of a panel consisting of a scientist, a race engine builder, and a motorcycle enthusiast. We gave detailed information on how ethanol works in the harsh environment of an automotive engine, the amount of octane created, how much cleaner it burns from an exhaust emissions standpoint, and how motorcycles are using ethanol without engine damage.

As I looked out at audience, who were hanging on our every word, I knew I was meant to be there. The respect we were given by the audience confirmed to me the important role of technicians in communicating new technologies to the motoring public.

For me, changing the way I thought about ethanol changed the way I think about all the new technologies I come across. When there is a change in automotive technology, the general public should be able to go to their local technicians for trustworthy information. To them, we are the experts, and despite our personal opinions or preconceived notions, we have a responsibility to know the facts.

As our industry continually changes, the question is when — not if — these changes will affect our day-to-day practices. An open mind and an eagerness to learn will be the keys to success for tomorrow’s technicians.

Will you be ready?




Terry is an ASE-Certified Master Automotive Technician, with additional L1 (Advanced Engine Performance Specialist), F1 (Alternate Fuels Certification) and X1 (Undercar Specialist Exhaust Systems) designations. He also holds a Province of Ontario Motor Vehicle Mechanic’s license. Terry now works and lives in Pensacola, Florida with his wife, Andrea. Terry can be reached at

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