Hi, I'm Debbie Nol, and I married a car guy. My 14 years of working at Arie Nol Auto Center has been an incredible journey, building amazing relationships with customers and learning so much from our experienced technicians.
Now I'm launching a blog to share what I've learned about cars and some of my most memorable customer stories. Hopefully you will find my blog both helpful and entertaining!
There has been a lot of talk about the automotive technician shortage. If you don’t work in a trade, you may not be aware of how few students currently enter a trade field. The push for a college degree is important but not all high school students need to pursue a degree to achieve their goals. If your son or daughter likes to disassemble items to see how they work, hopefully they'll have the opportunity to use that skill in their job if that's what they enjoy.
Ken joined our team bringing a lot of experience as an ASE certified technician with twenty-four years of experience at dealerships and several years as an independent. Ken is our Volkswagen and Audi go-to guy. He enjoys working on German vehicles the most. I have learned a lot from him as he is very adept at explaining what transpired as a vehicle part was failing.
I’m fortunate to work with a great bunch of professionals that love what they do. Customers will sometimes ask about the technician that worked on their vehicle. I decided that I would do a Q&A with our technicians so our customers would get to know a little bit about them.
One of the things that many people ask is, “What is the number one thing I can do to prolong my car’s life?”
I've always been amazed by the damage that can happen inside an engine compartment or on the suspension of a vehicle. The technicians always let me know when they have some car part carnage for me to take a picture of before they repair it.
Sometimes l will be thinking about my blog post content. I will be set on a topic and then something happens here that causes me to change the topic.
This week a vehicle came in with a broken ball joint. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know I have an unnatural fear of broken suspension parts. I’ve seen too many vehicles towed in and the accompanying story of the sudden stop or loss of control.
So, we should discuss the triangle of safety. This is steering, stopping and stability. These all play a part in your ability to control your vehicle in a stopping or maneuvering situation. The other triangle is who it affects. It affects the driver, any passengers and anyone else on the road with you.
If your brakes are worn and not operating correctly, you affect everyone on the road around you. If your ball joint breaks, you will come to a sudden stop. If your shocks aren’t operating within certain perimeters, you have less tire-to-road contact. Worn parts don’t’ just affect ride quality but also your ability to avoid accidents.
Wear and tear can be based on miles or the age of your vehicle. Having a certified technician inspect your vehicle’s suspension is a wise choice. You are keeping yourself, your passengers, and potentially other drivers on the road, safer by taking this step.
And always remember, ask questions if you aren’t sure why something needs to be done. It’s important that you feel comfortable about your vehicle’s repairs, and while you may not understand all the vehicle parts and systems, your certified technician does.
Picture going into a dentist office, telling them you have pain in the lower left side of your jaw. You had a friend that had the same symptoms and that person had a cavity. You precede to tell the dentist you would like him to figure out which tooth needs to be filled without x-rays or looking in your mouth. You think you know which tooth it is and tell him that’s the one he should start drilling.
There is a good chance you are going to be disappointed with the outcome of this scenario. This isn’t the recommended oral health care choice. In the automotive repair business, as diagnoses becomes more complicated, we deal with this sometimes. Back in the day most people could diagnose their vehicle or their neighbor could. That isn’t true anymore. There are many more complicated electronic and computer systems that exist in your car.
We work with our customers to educate them as to why diagnosing the problem in many situations is less expensive than just beginning to replace parts hoping you hit on the correct malfunctioning part. The technician feels confident after the diagnoses that he is correctly repairing your vehicle, and you will be happier because the actual issue will be addressed.
Like a dentist who has to purchase his x-ray machine, train a technician to correctly and safely take an x- ray, and then read the x-ray while taking into consideration your symptoms, there can be a lot involved in a car diagnoses. Knowledge, equipment and listening to the customer all need to happen to correctly fix the problem.
If a service writer is explaining that the technician needs to spend some time checking into the problem, it isn’t a way to inflate the cost of your repair. Today’s vehicles are filled with complicated systems. Our goal as an automotive repair and maintenance facility is to keep your vehicle running. And when it isn’t, our goal is to repair it correctly and get it back to you as swiftly as possible.
We’ve all heard the term ‘grease monkey’. I never thought about it until I married an automotive technician. If I hear it used now, it irritates me. Here’s why.
I know how much education, intelligence and hard work it takes to excel in this field. As with any other career, there are varying degrees of aptitude. Some people are born with the natural ability to comprehend the complex systems that run today's vehicles. Through constant education, they are able to maintain and repair essentially “computers on wheels.” They may have started out learning at their father’s side in the garage. They may have disassembled an engine because they knew through trial and error they'd be able to fix it and have it back on the road. These are the technicians that love the challenge of their job and enjoy the constantly changing technology.
I do not have this capability. I've learned a lot and understand a fair amount of how and why your vehicles run. I can identify many parts and their function. I have never taken anything apart or cared to. I read a lot about the industry, cars, etc. but don't ask me to fix your engine. We’ll both be very sad by the end of the ordeal.
The automobile industry is suffering from a severe lack of qualified technicians. I think because many times people don't see it as a viable career for a student contemplating their future. They should. If your child or someone you know likes to take everything apart or has an interest in cars and how they run, automotive technician should be an option for them. It isn't the low- paying, no skill, dirty job people picture.
Spending a day or two at several different repair facilities as a job shadow is a good idea. Checking out different educational opportunities is key. It's rare that you'll be hired without some type of education in automotive technology.
Love what you do and you'll never work a day in your life!
Technology changes in vehicles; therefore, we need to upgrade our tools and training. At the same time, our software and hardware also change and need to be upgraded. Computers, phone systems, security systems, etc. need to be kept running efficiently as well as taking advantage of upgrades to increase our productivity.
Who would have imagined thirty-five years ago that not only would there be phones without cords but we would have Bluetooth? A device that sits in your ear and you can answer the phone while driving, walking, eating or perhaps even while you’re at the mall? Each of our technicians has an iPad they use to communicate with the service writers. No more paper and pen. They’re able to take photos which the service writers can then email or text to the customers. This keeps the customer aware of what is happening with their vehicle.
I’m not an IT person and have no desire to become one. We were fortunate enough to be connected with a great, local, small business owner, Kevin, who keeps our computers and other IT related systems running. He also answers lots of questions that begin with, “So, I did this and then this happened and now it isn’t working”. I know he has to, like us, constantly upgrade his skills to keep current with technology.
We connected with him through our website developer that we met at a conference on small business. Networking leads to terrific people that utilize their skills to make your business better. Small businesses have many moving parts and finding great people to work with you makes all of that a little bit easier.
We’re thankful Kevin uses his IT skills to keep us up to date and moving in the right direction. He keeps his sense of humor when training us on something, and for that, I’m very thankful!
The search for the perfect Christmas gift is on, something the recipient will use and appreciate. It’s normally tough to find something in my world that both men and women would consider a great gift. I've been on tool trucks, and I don't really find items that make me think, “I've always wanted one of those!” They do have telescoping wands with a magnet on the end that I did get for my kids when they were younger. Technicians use them to get metal items that may have been dropped in the course of a job. A bolt that has fallen many times is unreachable without this tool. Not so high tech but necessary. Also a fun gift for little kids, as long as they stay away from the computer hard drives.
Last year a vendor came in with a “newish” item. It's a box about the size of an e-reader. It jump starts a car and powers any mobile devices. We commonly use a jump box to start cars that have a bad battery or alternator, or to start a car that has been sitting for a long period of time. Although they are mobile, the jump box tends to be bulky, heavy and takes up space. The new portable power bank jump starts your car as well as powers any mobile devices. You simply clamp the power bank to a battery and push a button.
I'm a bit of a pessimist but I bought one for myself and used it. I kept it charged and used it to power my phone and tablet. The techs used it to jump start cars. I had it in my car one weekend and was hoping I'd be at the mall and see someone in need of jumper cables. I could just hop out and jump start the car. (It does have jump starting directions in the case). It didn't happen, but I was hoping. I also brought it when traveling and driving a rental car, just in case.
It's a great gift for almost anyone. Having it in the trunk of your teenager’s car ensures they’re able to start their car if the battery has been drained. It's also probably on every zombie apocalypse preparation list, so you've got those people covered too!