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Mechanics go hi-tech

Published:Sunday | February 28, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Laranzo Dacres, Gleaner Writer

Gone are the days when a mechanic relied solely on his practical knowledge of motor vehicles to diagnose a mechanical problem.
With the introduction of computerised vehicles on the world market comes the critical need for mechanics who have been established as experts using the traditional methods of problem diagnostics to advance their knowledge of how to use technology -if they wish to remain relevant.

"I personally don' t own a scan tool for computer diagnostic, but I believe that it is the way of the future ... reason being the newer cars are more computerised," said 12-year-mechanic veteran Byron Richards.

"Customers have carried vehicles to me and there are times when I reach a point where I can't pinpoint the problem and this is where a scan tool would be needed. And, I don't have one, so I refer the customer to a friend who has one. So I believe it is the way to go for all of us mechanics, or else those with scan tools, will get all the work."

Fredrick Guntry, automotive technician of Auto Tech on Shortwood Road, St Andrew, who owns two scan tools, says traditional methods of identifying mechanical problems are becoming obsolete.

"Traditional methods of finding problems have gone through the window, because those methods are not effective with newer models of cars," he told

"The use of a scan tool for computer diagnostics eliminates guess work. In fact, it's more accurate, convenient and drastically reduces diagnostic time, while improving work efficiency," he said.

Good knowledge

While expounding the importance of owning a scan tool, Guntry advised that it was important for a mechanic to have good knowledge of the engine management system before he or she bought such a tool.

"It accurately points you to the problem and for that reason it is an invaluable tool to have when working on the newer vehicles. It is not a maybe, but it is a must-have, as motor mechanics need to be a lot more tech savvy and do a lot more research on these new systems to increase their efficiency," he said.

Richards is ready to move ahead on this matter as he told
that he sees the importance of equipping himself with the necessary knowledge and tools to carry out computerised diagnostics.

"The younger automotive technicians are offering computer diagnostics, so the veterans in the business have to catch up and get familiar with the computerised systems, because if we don't, we won't get much work!" he said.

Despite seeing the benefits of acquiring his own scan tool, Richards is of the view that he can still be effective in his job without the scan tool, noting that as a good mechanic, one should be able to identify mechanical problems from experience and expertise.

"My friend has an X-Trail that shut down on him and wouldn't start. I did not have a scan tool, but because of my experience I knew the common cause of such a problem. So I told him to buy both crank and cam sensors, because those are the sensors that would normally cause a shut down in those kinds of vehicles. And when he got the new parts, the car worked," he explained.

"Computer diagnostics is the future still, but you have to possess the knowledge to back it up. As mechanics, we have to evolve with technology and not be intimidated by it," he added.

Guntry explained that scan tools cost between US$500 and US$700 each, but in order to offer professional service, the mechanic should acquire both the Japanese and American models.

"Some car computer systems have different protocols that one scanner might not respond to, so it is good to have both," he stated.