Auto Service World
Feature   January 1, 2008   by Mike Cleary

make you dangerous

Technically Speaking; A little knowledge will; -- and a force to be reckoned with

It’s a privilege for me to be invited by the editorial staff of this magazine to come on board and share my thoughts with its most precious commodity — you, the reader.

This being my first article for Service Station and Garage Management, I thought I would introduce myself to you, so that you will learn that you and I share a common bond. That common bond, as you will come to find out, is that we are both automobile technicians, and I am not just some guy writing an article whose face you see at the top of this page every two months.

I’ve spent plenty of time in this industry, starting out in a service station (back when they really were service stations) in Whittier, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. I was fortunate enough to work for two knowledgeable guys (Jay and Allan) who were willing to share their knowledge of cars with me and wouldn’t get upset (most of the time) if I damaged something. Of course, parts weren’t as expensive then as they are now. After working there for a short period of time, I decided I wanted to make automobile diagnosis and repair my career.

I continued my journey through my high school and college years (I received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Industrial Technology from California State University, Fresno) working part-time in different service stations and independent shops, continuing to learn the different skills necessary to become proficient in the trade. I was very fortunate to be able to work for people who were quite willing to share their knowledge with me.

And the rest, as they say, is history. I have 31 years of experience as a hands-on working technician, ranging from small to medium size independent shops and service stations (19 years) to dealerships (12 years). I started and run two separate businesses now, one of which is my own shop, Cleary Automotive, where we specialize in high-tech driveability and electronics repairs on Ford Motor Company products, and the other is an international automotive training business, Automotive Technical Support Services (ATSS), which specializes in high-tech Ford vehicle systems training. Last, but certainly not least, I write automotive diagnostic articles for industry trade magazines.

Along the way, I’ve obtained ASE Master Technician Status in both the Automobile and Heavy Truck Categories, as well as obtaining certifications in both L1 and L2. I earned a certification from the State of California as a Licensed Advanced Emissions Specialist. While working at a Ford dealership, I became an eight-time award winning Ford Motor Company Certified Senior Master Technician, Powerstroke Engine Specialist, Hybrid Escape Specialist, and CVT Transmission Specialist. It was at this time that I was selected by Ford to serve on two separate Ford Technician Advisory boards, traveling to Detroit countless times to consult with Ford Engineering on issues such as vehicle serviceability, service publications, parts distribution and availability, future products planning, and technician training, retention, and recruitment.

Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? All of the awards and accolades are meaningless to me if I cannot pass on to you the experiences and information I have learned along my journey, which is why I enjoy teaching and writing. I acquired this attitude, this willingness to share, I suppose, from all of the people I encountered in this industry who were more than willing to help me out along the way. At every stop I have made during my journey, I have taken a little something from each experience, which I feel has made me a better person, a better technician, and a better instructor.

What I will share with you in upcoming issues are technical topics that I hope will be of interest to you; information that you can immediately put to use in your everyday work environment that will make you more efficient and profitable. I will also provide you with numerous technical tips and shortcuts, that I have learned or developed myself throughout the journey, that will make your jobs easier. My goal is to stimulate your thought processes in order to help you develop your own personal diagnostic strategy.

What will you have to look forward to in future columns? I plan on delving into a variety of subjects. The following is only a small sample of what you have to look forward to. I will address electrical diagnostics. This column will include voltage drop testing, Ohm’s and Kirchoff’s Laws and how they apply to electrical diagnostics, and how to organize complex wiring diagrams in order to simplify circuit diagnostics. This column will later be followed by a column covering electronics diagnostics. One month I will cover diagnostic strategies for success, in which I will uncover the secrets to becoming an expert diagnostics technician. Some of these will be taken from personal experiences, and some will be tips I have learned from others. Another column will analyze actual case studies of different diagnostic situations in order to help you become more skilled in diagnosing a variety of scenarios.

Also upcoming will be topic issues specific to a particular vehicle line, for example, there will be columns in which I discuss Ford Powerstroke Diesel Troubleshooting, covering both the 7.3L and 6.0L engines. These columns will cover a variety of no-start, hard start, and performance problems. My Mode $06 column will teach you practical applications of Mode $06 data, particularly as it pertains to intermittent concern diagnosis. Anti-Lock Brake System Diagnostics will be a basic overview of anti-lock brake system theory, operation, and strategies.

There will be many others. Stay tuned.

That said I feel that this is not my column, it is our column. If you have an observation on a topic I cover, or have a concern or criticism, please make sure you contact me. I highly encourage a dialogue of communication. If there is some topic you would like me to cover, and I feel I am qualified to cover it, I will do so. I will never pretend to know something that I don’t. My credibility and integrity are two personal attributes that I value highly.

Let the journey continue. Thanks for coming along!

Mike Cleary, a certified Ford Motor Company Senior Master Technician and Diesel Specialist, has 25 years of knowledge and experience working in the automotive repair industry. Currently, Mike serves as Driveability and Electronics and Diesel Specialist, Shop Foreman and Technician Training Coordinator in a California Ford dealership. He can be reached through his Web site at www.atsstraining.comor at


Editor Introduction:

I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce our newest columnist, Mike Cleary. SSGM first met Mike when he came up to Canada to give a set of diagnostic presentations at CarFix World Canada in 2006 and we got to know Mike even better when he came to Canada again for Automechanika. All of us at SSGM were taken with Mike’s open personality and the fantastic wealth of technical and mechanical knowledge he has accumulated over many years in the industry as a Master Technician. We are proud and honoured to have Mike come and write for us at SSGM, to share his expertise and experience with our readers. Mike will cover a range of technical and diagnostic issues over the next months with SSGM’s readers. His first column will give some background about who he is, and a few of the topics he will cover for the magazine. And we also encourage our readers to take the time to contact Mike with any questions you may have about what he has written. This is a great opportunity to learn from one of the best in the industry.

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