Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2007   by

What you should know about NASTF

If you haven’t used the NASTF web site yet (, chances are you’ll need to in the not-too-distant future.

The National Automotive Service Task Force site is one of the fastest and easiest ways for independent shops to access the OEM tools, training, flash downloads, and service information they need to fix cars.

That’s critical in these days, when independents are fighting for the "right to repair" all vehicles, and when even the simplest of jobs requires access to current and accurate service information.

Remember the lessons learned during the introduction of tire pressure monitors? Almost every shop broke at least one monitor during routine tire service. The result was increased costs and frustrating delays. And, as if the expense of replacing the sensor wasn’t enough, some of the replacement sensors had to be "learned" or reprogrammed to the vehicle, creating an even bigger headache for everyone involved.

With a little information and OEM cooperation, these hassles could have been avoided.

And tire pressure monitors are relatively benign. There are other technologies being introduced on new cars which are far more volatile. Being unfamiliar with them can cause much more than just added cost and delays. Technicians can be seriously injured or killed working on vehicle systems they don’t fully understand.

Many consumers are comfortable bringing their cars – even the newest ones – to the independent sector of the aftermarket. So it follows that these independent shops need access to the most up-to-date service information available. Keeping up with the latest tools, equipment, and training is essential.

Many shops have developed "work around" solutions, using back-door connections to get the information or tools they require. But working back-door deals and relying on favors from dealerships is not only tricky and time-consuming, it’s beneath the dignity of many respected business owners and technicians who have established themselves as legitimate professionals.

And that’s where NASTF comes in.

The NASTF site is an alternative to asking a local dealership for a "favor." NASTF provides an easy way to get this information quickly and affordably, by simply logging on and following some pretty straightforward navigation.

It’s one-stop-shopping for the independent repair shop.

Well, not exactly one-stop. Not for Canadians, anyway, where a significant amount of OEM information remains elusive. But there’s enough there to attract thousands of Canadian users, who have the same tooling, training, and information needs as their American counterparts.

It’s not a perfect process, but NASTF’s web site can be a real help if there’s something you need to know or something you need to have in order to service a vehicle. You go right to the source and get your information first-hand like a respected professional should.

Here are some of the basics of the NASTF web site to get you started, and details on how to make things better for everyone involved.

The web site itself is easy to navigate since the information is organized into well designed sections, listed along the edge of the screen. Even novice computer users will have little trouble navigating the site.

There aren’t tons of graphics which means the web site loads quickly even on older machines. There’s an information section (or matrix) for service information, another for training (manufacturer training courses), another for tools, and even one for collision work. Programming and calibration downloads are also available, along with information about how to program the device in question.

Each matrix has links to a manufacturer’s information, and it includes details on how to order or access what you need. There may be a fee. Simply enter a credit card number and the download starts immediately – if all goes well. As previously stated, some information is still not available to Canadians, so a Canadian credit card won’t get you far.

If it works, though, you can buy a temporary subscription to a particular manufacturer’s service information web site – usually at a very reasonable price (certainly less than the cost of lost time spent phoning around asking for favors).

The matrix also lets you know if the manufacturer isn’t sharing their information (some don’t – not even to American independent shops).

A few hours of surfing should give you a good idea of the scope of the site, and may even bring you face-to-face with some of its limitations.

The most notable limitation is the problem of manufacturers not providing information on their products. True, the web site’s information is continuously updated but sometimes the information is just simply not available – even though the manufacturer has it listed. Or there may not be any information listed for a certain area at all.
That’s where technician input can help.

The single most important thing technicians can do to help with this problem is to report problems using the links available on the web site using the "Contact Us" link. Taking the time to report problems or request information is worthwhile because registered complaints are what make the web site an even better resource for everyone involved. (And we all know that automotive technicians are usually pretty good about complaining when things are unfair.)

Canadians should particularly lodge complaints when their credit cards fail to work and information they need is denied them. The "Right To Repair" campaign is underway here as it is in the United States, but we are a fair ways behind our American neighbors, and the only way to change that is to be heard when we are locked out of repair information.

The complaints aren’t just ignored or filed away. They are routinely investigated and taken up at the next meeting of the "Congress of Automotive Repair and Service held each year in Las Vegas. If there are few complaints, everyone will assume things are working quite well, even if the reality may be something else entirely. So make sure your concerns are registeredý and heard! Consider it as a way to ýgive back’ to your industry.

By the way, if you go to Las Vegas during what is commonly known as "Industry Week" (the Automotive Aftermarket Parts Expo and the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association show are held simultaneously and certainly worth attending) take an afternoon out to attend the annual NASTF meeting. It is open to all, and all the major players are in the room with you. If you’ve got kudos or criticisms, the right person will hear them.

Whatever your thoughts on the "Right to Repair" issue facing the industry, the NASTF web site gives technicians and shop owners the ability to make some of their own choices regarding three of the biggest obstacles in the industry: access to tools, access to training, and access to service information. True, some shops and technicians get by without any of these. But rather than relying on favors or "back alley" methods to access information or tools, NASTF strives to make the three things easily accessible and affordable – even free in some cases.

The NASTF web site is important to independent shops and technicians because it gives them control over their futures and gives them options for getting crucial service information for even the simple jobs they encounter every single day.

ASE certified technician Claire Newman has been licensed since 1994 and has attained GM Grandmaster status since 2001. She has worked at a number of dealerships and independent repair shops, including a specialty race shop.

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  1. godfrey o. progress says:


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