Today’s auto mechanic rides the wave of an industry that’s ever evolving
With well over a hundred years of collective experience under their belts, one might assume the parts and service crew at Orangeville Chrysler has seen it all, done it all and knows it all.
Not a chance.
With each car company coming up with novel new technologies at what seems like breakneck speed, a mechanic can expect to be on course up to 12 times a year, just to keep pace.
In fact, times are changing so dramatically that even the term “mechanic” has become outdated. Last year’s Class A mechanic is this year’s “auto technician.”
Orangeville Chrysler parts manager Ken Ishii has been in the business for over three decades and has been at the dealership for 20 of those years.
Even this veteran admits that, when it comes to many aspects of the business, he is still very much a student.
Ishii figures that today’s vehicles are about electronics as much as they are about actual mechanics. “The majority of a car is electrical, now,” he says. “It’s almost has the same technology as an aircraft.”
(An airbag control module could explain a car crash nearly as accurately as a black box when a plane goes down).
Take sensors, for example. In the early 1970s, there were likely a number of competent, skilled mechanics that couldn’t tell you what a sensor was.
Today, entirely new electronics functions such as exhaust-gas monitoring, active suspension and integrated traffic guidance systems are standard stuff on most vehicles.
These innovations are driven by the need for manufacturers to come up with dazzling new bells and whistles to stay competitive, as well as meet more stringent safety, environmental and economic demands.
Today, it’s not uncommon for a car, or truck, to have around 100 sensors monitoring everything from ignition to windshield wipers to those seat heaters that keep your buns nice and toasty.
Ishii also points out extensive and ongoing training is necessary because electronic malfunctions are not visible to the naked eye.
If a car doesn’t start because the piston rod’s been blown, for instance, it can be known by simply popping the hood and taking a look.
A malfunctioning electrical device, on the other hand, could appear to be, at first glance, in good working order. A technician needs to be expertly trained to be able to anticipate and locate the problem.
Bruce Thomlinson is Orangeville Chrysler’s service manager. One doesn’t reach that position without knowing what cars are all about.
He recalls a time he left Chrysler for two years. When he returned, he says it took him close to a year to catch up; and this is a guy who had been in auto mechanics for 27 years.
At a recent interview, Thomlinson pulled out a calendar and listed the guys who were scheduled to go on course in December and had been away on course in the prior two months.
It pretty well included technician in the shop. These guys are veterans in every sense of the word.
Count up the years of experience they have with the dealership: Pat O’Neil (18 years), Darryl White (20 years), Sean Shaw (15 years), Thomlinson (14 years) and Ishii.
“If you can’t adapt, and you don’t try to learn,” Ishii reasons, “you’ll be left in the dust.”
Written by Reay Jespersen