Mary Campbell                                                                            429-6833 or 5-6833

The types of vehicle concerns that I receive differ significantly.  There are some that can be handled quickly and others that are complex enough to last several weeks.  However,  one common question that I hear is, "With all the diagnostic equipment the dealership uses to determine what is wrong with my vehicle, why did it not get repaired correctly the first time?"  After I spoke with a Ford mechanic in an effort to get an answer to this inquiry, I decided it would be best if he explained himself.  I asked one of the local Ford mechanics to write an article to help enlighten all of us on this particular query.  Following is the article Mr. Dennis wrote in response to my request.  I hope this helps.

The modern age of automobiles has brought along with it some difficult challenges in the field of automotive repair.  Since the 1970's, the automobile has undergone radical changes in design.  With the addition of electronics, used to control almost every facet of the automobile, diagnosing and repairing vehicles has taken on a new venture.  Where once you could drive into the local gas station and "Ol Joe" could tell just by listening to the engine what was wrong, today is an entirely different story!  Where once a young man could spend a couple of summers working with his dad in the backyard and learn enough to enter the field of auto repair as an apprentice, today's entry level tech must have a trade school background or even a college degree just to start out.

Working as an automotive technician myself at various Ford dealerships for the past seventeen years, I have seen the degree of difficulty repairing vehicles transcend at an astonishing rate.  For the last six years I have worked solely as an electronic engine control specialist.  The one question I get asked the most is, 

"Why can't you guarantee me that my car will be fixed right the first time?".  

Since nearly everything on the car is controlled by computers, this also requires computers to diagnose and repair them.  We simply cannot disassemble and visually see the condition of the parts as we used to.  Today we see much more of the inputs and outputs of the electronic systems than ever before but one cannot actually see inside the microprocessor themselves.  Although they are far more reliable than mechanical systems of the past, it is virtually impossible to tell if or when they are going to fail.  No different than guessing how long the microchip in your home computer will last.

Many customers are under the assumption that all you need to do is hook up the computer to the car and it will tell you what is wrong.  It just is not that simple.  While these diagnostic computers are a powerful tool, the tech still needs to know what he is looking at, such as parameters being in the correct range for the given conditions.  Computers cannot see the mechanical failures of a vehicle and are often tricked into setting erroneous fault codes as a result.  This is where the training of the modern auto technician has to come into play.  He must decipher for himself if the information he is getting is accurate and determine his own diagnostic routines to find the solution to the problem.  The true key to diagnosing vehicles properly is studying and knowing how the systems actually work and how they interact with each other.

If a technician has done his homework correctly, he will be able to decide for himself whether or not the information he is seeing is correct or not, or maybe simply incomplete.  As a practicing technician, it does not take long to see what works and what does not.  Your customers will soon inform you if you are doing your job right or not, as well as the service advisor and your boss.  They too want customers satisfied, preferably the first time.  Obviously, not all concerns will be repaired the first time but a hard working and well trained service department can usually get to the bottom of the problem with a little additional effort.

To the customer, this can be frustrating but there are a few things you can do to help.  First, try to take notice as accurately as possible when the problem occurs.  For example, if you have an intermittent engine stall, indicate to your service advisor how and when the concern happens.  Does it die out only at slow speeds?  Does it die out suddenly at highway speeds?  Does it occur only when the engine is cold or only after warming up, or both?   Your valuable input can greatly help the service technician to narrow down the problem in short order.  Don't be afraid to ask questions of both the service advisor or technician if you are having trouble getting your concerned rectified. 

If you do not get a your issue resolved, demand to see the service manager or perhaps take your vehicle to another dealership for a second opinion.  Personally speaking,  if a technician is not willing to give you that extra time and effort, he may not be capable of fixing your concern.  I know for myself and many other good techs in the field, we consider it a personal challenge to repair all the vehicles we work on, no matter how hard finding the problem can be.