The Art of Automotive Repair
Introduction: Automotive Repair
Vehicles today have become very sophisticated with many new features and capabilities. Fortunately, they are much more reliable than vehicles from the 1970's. That is great, but when something does go wrong, this complexity can make repairing and trouble-shooting problems very difficult. Being able to repair any system is tough, as the list is long
Here are some things to consider when repairing or trouble-shooting your next problem.
Most people would not argue that having some automotive knowledge and training in repairing vehicles is required to do just about any repair or to trouble-shoot a specific problem on todays vehicles. But how much training is required? Well, as you can imagine, it varies with the difficulty level of the repair job you are attempting.
Doing an oil change is something that most people attempt as their first repair. This procedure seems soooo easy for people who has been changing their own oil for years.
But even this seemingly simple procedure requires some training if to be completed correctly.
The list of issues with this "simple" repair is long.......
Reading the owners manual and getting a quality repair manual is the first step if you want to become familiar with your vehicles systems. Factory Service Training publications are also available for your Audi. Go to the Technical Literaturepage for information on repair manuals and other service training materials available for Audis.
Many local community colleges or other private facilities provide basic automotive training during the evening if you are interested in learning more about how your vehicle systems operate. They also offer training on doing specific preventative maintenance (oil changes, tune ups etc) so that eventually you can be doing your own vehicle repairs.
For people looking for a career in Automotive Repair, there are schools located across the US that offer training through paid tuition. GM sponsors the ASEP program through many community colleges which combines college training, automotive training, and work experience for the next generation Technician.
Most Dealerships offer training to their technicians as a requirement by the vehicle manufacturer and require ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certification in the many areas of Automotive Service and Repair.
Go to the Automotive Service Excellence Web site for details.
Many aftermarket and OEM parts companies (Bosch etc.) offer their own training classes at local Hotel/Motel/Convention centers for free or a small fee.
Of course there are many books available for learn about Automotive Design, System Operation and Repair. Go to Technical Literature page for more information.
Ah.......Tools........I love to buy tools..............and this is a good thing, because they can be expensive and repairing todays vehicles for a professional mechanic/Technician requires investing anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 in hand tools.
More and more "special" tools are required as well as a plethora of electronic diagnostic tools. Digital Multi-Meters, Hand Held Scan Tools, Digital Oscilloscopes, and portable exhaust analyzers have become a requirement for most repair shops and in many cases for an expert mechanics tool box. Go to Test Equipment page for details on this type of equipment.
Having the correct tool for the repair or trouble-shooting job you are performing is critical to having good success.
If you are just starting out, purchasing a "Mechanics Tool Set" from Sears or from some other brand is a good place to start and will provide some basic hand tools. These sets often come with 1/4 inch, 3/8 inch, 1/2 inch drive Metric Sockets, Drive Ratchets, Open, Box, or Combination wrenches, Screw drivers, Allen Wrenches, Pliers, wire cutters etc.
1/4 drive flex head sockets, 10mm, 12mm, 13mm, and a long 18-24 inch long extension, can make getting into tight spots very helpful. 3/8 drive Impact flex head metric sockets and a 2-3 foot long 3/8 inch extension are also very useful for getting into tight spots. 1/4 inch and 3/8 drive allen wrench sockets, 4mm through 13 mm are useful for working on the Audis. Some of the Audi drive axles use triple square type bits of various sizes.
Snap On, Mac Tools, and Cornwell Tool Trucks carry profession Mechanics handtools, which are great, but watch out for the price as they are designed to last under every day abuse.
Zelenda Tools in NY carries many of the VW/Audi Special tools required for many repair jobs, call them and get their catalog ZELENDA 1-888-892-8348
YOU CAN NEVER OWN TOO MANY TOOLS!
When doing a repair procedure, or when trouble-shooting a problem, "Experience" often can be much more import than any other aspect of vehicle repair.
When you work full time, 40-60 hours a week, for several years as a professional mechanic or technician, you get REALLY good at doing many aspects of vehicle repair. If you specialize on one make of vehicles, and work at a dealership or a specialized independent shop, eventually you know these particular vehicles inside and out. You see the same problems coming in day after day, week after week, year after year. You can diagnose problems in the parking lot without ever having driven the car or even opened up the hood. This used to amaze my friends when I would tell them what was wrong with their car, just by listening to the symptoms.
You also get very fast at completing specific repair tasks. Much of it is repetition, doing the same repair over and over again, you tend to find lots of shortcuts to speed up the procedure. Doing hundreds and thousands of valve adjustments, oil changes, tune ups, head gasket replacements, brake jobs, etc. gives you lots of exposure.
Trouble-shooting odd ball problems specific to one model/make vehicle requires very little time, ONCE you have found the problem before and can remember what was occurring. The first time you trouble-shoot these odd ball problems, can be very painful, as you spend hours and hours, to track it down.
The factory Technical Service Bulletins, (TSB's) are EXTREMELY important in this respect. They are compiled by the factory after getting feedback from the field repairs being done by technicians at hundreds and thousands of vehicle dealerships.
Go to the ALLDATA page for more details for getting these TSB's on CD ROM
Most people would consider it foolish to try and fix a system on your car, if you didn't know exactly how the system works, but very often this sort of repair method is attempted over and over again.
Many mechanics or technicians, just guess and start replacing parts that may or may not fix the problem. They call this the "shot gun" method of automotive repair.
Now don't get me wrong, in many cases when a mechanic or technician has years of experience on one model of car, they may know which part is bad without even opening up the hood just by listening to the symptoms. In all the other cases where something is no longer working, and you need to do some real trouble-shooting, understanding how the system works will ensure you can solve the problem and find the solution.
Many of the automotive repair manuals have trouble-shooting "trees" which branch out to test various items, and if one item tests ok, then you go to the next branch and test something else, it that part is ok, then you go to the next branch and so on. The only problem with these trouble-shooting trees, is that if you don't know how the system works in the first place, you may get to the end of the tree branches, and still not know why the system isn't working. You may also end up replacing some expensive electronic module that has nothing wrong with it.
A friend who worked as an Automotive Training Instructor for many years, and who was rated as the top instructor in the United States, called these trouble-shooting trees, "Feed the Monkey" trees, as many people using them, did not know how the system worked that they were trouble-shooting and were just blindly jumping from limb to limb.
It goes without saying that a mechanic or technician who understands how a system works, will always beat out a shot gun replacement mechanic or so called "Monkey" when some tough trouble-shooting is required.
The Bosch publications, have this sort of "theory of operation" info and go a long way to understanding how each system in your Audi functions. Go to the Bosch technical literature section for a listing of available publications.
Another very import aspect of successful vehicle repair, is the Vehicles Repair History. If the vehicle is having a problem, knowing what was done to the vehicle previously, can be VERY important to tracking down problems. Often times a previous repair may have removed a component during the repair that is now having problems. In some cases during the trouble-shooting of other electrical problems, some components or electrical connections may have been removed or pulled loose.
Often times after learning what was done previously, I can go right to the problem area and see what happened. This saves LOTS of time! Here are some things to consider when searching for the problem.
Getting good information about a vehicles problem from the owner is a challenge (especially if your spouse is driving the car regularly). It takes some good detective work by you, the service writer or the repair technician to get the info needed to find the problem.
Here are a few questions to ask the vehicle owner, or ask yourself.
Often times when trying to locate a problem, it helps to go out with the customer and watch them drive the car, and look for any correlation between the problem, noise, etc. and their driving habits.
Problems like, "The car rattles and pings when I get on the freeway". So you go for a drive with the customer and notice they shift into 5th gear at 30MPH and then floor the gas to merge onto the freeway.
Constantly Lugging an engine can be just as damaging as constantly over-revving it!
Other problems are driver related: Constantly wearing out front brake pads in 5-10k miles (driver rests their foot on the brake pedal in an automatic transmission equipped car). Manual transmissions go through synchros and bearings at an alarming rate (Driver downshifts through EVERY gear when they come to a stop.)
Hopefully, you have a new appreciation for what it can take to correctly
diagnose, and repair your vehicle.
Many times taking a break away from the problem vehicle for a day or two of quiet introspection can bring the solution to the forefront.
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