Auto Service World
Feature   July 1, 2008   by Auto Service World

Automechanika Canada Showcases Business, Technical Training

Canadian service providers, jobbers, and technicians need to embrace change and remain on top of their training and new technologies in order to succeed in the coming years believes Bob Greenwood.

Presenting at Automechanika Canada in Mississauga, Ont., Greenwood, president of E. K. Williams & Co., said Canadian service providers have to embrace the changes coming, both in terms of new automotive technologies and global competitive pressures, or face rough waters ahead that could sink their businesses.

However, too many service shops lack the long-term strategic planning needed to move to a maintenance model for future success.

“We have an attitude of waiting for someone else to do something,” Greenwood said. “We have to implement the needed actions ourselves. Vehicles today are better built, last longer, and we (as an industry) have not transitioned our businesses from mechanical repair to maintenance. Just running around trying to get business is a recipe for not getting any business.”

Greenwood added that Canadian shop owners need to invest more in ongoing technician training and business management skills training in order to improve the industry’s poor profit record.

The equation is simple, he told attendees.

“A knowledgeable staff means you can have a higher door rate,” he said. “A poorly educated staff means you will have a low door rate.”

Kelly Bennett, owner of Business Training International, said shop owners also need to put a greater effort into improving the sales and customer relations ability of service writers in shops. More training is needed to find out who is best suited to work with customers and to better communicate with them, in order to build customer loyalty and increase sales.

“If they don’t want a lot of (technical) detail, don’t give it to them; other customers will want that kind of detail,” Bennett said. “People have different needs and personalities and we have to meet people on their own level. Not everyone thinks or talks the same.”

Automechanika Canada also featured a wide range of technical seminars. Mohammed Sammi, president of Sammy’s Auto Electric Service Inc. of Champaign, Ill., gave a small but interested group of technicians an in-depth look at today’s advanced starting and charging systems.

He warned attendees from the start that his was not to be a presentation for beginners.

“I am not going to talk to you about how a diode works and how a battery charges,” he said. “You should know that. I am going to talk about what is in the market and trends in design. If we know how something works, we know how to diagnose it.”

Sammi, who is also a long-time technical resource for the Automotive Parts Rebuilders Association, ran through a long list of diagnostic tips related to new starter and alternator construction– including connection failures that can leave an alternator in default mode and still able to charge the battery, but can cause a variety of seemingly unrelated malfunctions– as well as a number of other quirky failures that could stump a technician, should he try to use the same logic as on older systems.

One catastrophic failure that Sammi said may be of interest to technicians and jobbers, who may have seen cores that meet the description, involves the Delco PG 260 Starter 6449, which replaces the 3510 and is used in a number of vehicles, including most of the truck line.

“Sometimes, they have a damaged or missing nose,” Sammi explained. The place to look for the cause, he said, is nowhere near the starter. The fault in fact lies in the crank position sensor.

“The crank position sensor has a defect, and it will try to advance the timing as much as 25 degrees, so something has to give. So when you take the starter off and the nose of the starter is off, you have to get your scan tool and check for P0338, which is a dead giveaway that you have to change the crank position sensor,” he said, adding that this trouble code will not illuminate the Service Engine Soon light.

Overall, Automechanika offered more than a dozen technical and business training sessions,

as well as show floor exhibits and activities. The event is scheduled to return to the International Centre in June 2009. For more information, visit

Jean-Luc Sauriol of OBD3 Solutions led attendees through the often bizarre world of TPMS diagnostics.

However, given that TPMS is not yet a legislative reality here in Canada as it is south of the border, some in the room were initially skeptical of the necessity to learn the diagnostic nitty-gritty.

Sauriol took the doubt in stride.

“You’d better learn how to reset every car you see in your shops today, and take the time to actually do the work,” he said. “You don’t have many coming into your shop at the moment, but what happens in a year or two when every car in your shop is equipped with a TPMS?

“You’ll have to learn very quickly, and you’ll lose time and business.” Perhaps the most technically specific knowledge Sauriol was able to pass

along had to do with the business of changing tires, as well as that of putting various makes and models into their TPMS learn mode.

According to him, the world of the simple tire change–from summer to winter for example–is made much more complex with the proliferation of TPMS. Given the high cost of some systems, techs have to be very aware and very careful when taking a tire off its rim, so as to not break a $200 sensor. “If you turn on the display of a vehicle in your bay, and a TPMS light goes on, you know that client at least has a system installed, and you have to assume there is a strap sensor tied to the rim, so be careful stripping that tire,” he said.

Once the tire is replaced, according to Sauriol, that’s when the real diagnostic fun begins. Each manufacturer has a unique way for technicians to access the vehicle’s learn mode.

In going through the long list of on-off-on-off-on-emergency brake-seat belt click-horn honks procedure, Sauriol provided a complete look at maintenance and diagnostics in the emerging, sometimes bewildering, TPMS world.

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