Stay on top by keeping up the emerging technology in today's and tomorrow's vehicles
By Nora Johnson
In 2018, Scott Brown founded the Diagnostic Network, a collaborative platform where technicians and owners alike can turn to for a solution to any diagnostic challenge they may face.
“I decided to focus more on high-level diagnostics because vehicle technology has been growing so exponentially in the last 10 years, and I just felt like there wasn’t enough focus on the diagnostics aspect,” he says.
And according to Brown, diagnostics are quickly becoming part of everything we do in the industry. Newer vehicle advancements are coming together and complementing each other; the vehicle technology stack, growing infotainment items, and expanding advanced driver-assistance systems are all creating more software-defined vehicles.
“If you’re not diagnosing properly, you don’t have the ability to diagnose what is going on in that car before you provide any type of remedies,” Brown explains. “And then you may not be servicing the car properly for your customer.”
Diagnose the New Unknown
At any point in time, there could be four to five decades of vehicles on the road at once, and some of those could be coming into your shop. Although a majority of the newest models with the most up-to-date technology may not be entering your shop for a while, it is still necessary to have the tools and training to repair those vehicles.
One of the larger advancements that Brown has noticed in the past few years is the change in engine design, with a lot more variable valve timing—aimed at better efficiency out of the engine and lower emissions. But the added complexities have been creating issues induced by the lack of maintenance.
“There are methods and tools that can take a look inside of the cylinder and look at pressure changes in order to execute measurements and figure out when there is a set valve timing anomalies, and then do some forensics there,” he explains.
Another emerging advancement Brown notes is the multiplexing or network data sharing over multiple networks on vehicles. The data is shared on certain modules and can be mounted in a harsh environment, potentially taking a network down and resulting in all kinds of complications, like a no-start.
“These are fairly new areas to focus on, and technicians need to sharpen their pencils on understanding network diagnostics to learn how to break these and other new potential issues down,” Brown says.
Prepare for Upcoming Challenges
As vehicle technology and maintenance becomes more complex, the profile and background of technicians need to morph and change to fit the new advancing landscape of the industry. Whereas mechanics used to have to excel at taking things apart and putting them back together, they will soon have to possess a new set of technological skills regarding computers and new interfaces.
“The next generation of technicians will need a different skill set than in the past, with more of a computer science background to keep up with the increasing level of electronics, which could be a challenge,” Brown explains.
To prepare for the now, and the future, look to hire technicians with a more diverse and technical background. It is also vital to invest in proper training for current technicians and staff members to gain the needed skills and knowledge to work on the vehicles soon to enter your shop.
Immerse Yourself in Resources
There are many resources available to keep up with the changing and growing landscape of vehicle technology, from training to classes, to media, to technical institutes.
“Every professional, regardless of the field they're in, should have a feed of industry-related content in front of them daily,” Brown notes.
He recommends turning to publications, organizations, and tool reviewers to get a larger insight on what you need to know in order to keep up with the emerging technology.
“The risk of not preparing for future vehicles is that soon, these cars will start to show up on your doorstep and you won't know what to do with them,” he says
Preparing your team to fix more advanced vehicles also allows them to better communicate with customers about their vehicles. As more technology is incorporated in today’s vehicles, your average customer will have less and less understanding of what makes their cars work, or not work. This opportunity for customer education increases trust and overall retention.
Join a Community of Support
Education can go beyond traditional classes and resources, and sometimes, it’s best to learn in a community or group environment with a mix of both peers and experts. This type of community can be found through associations, online groups, and through networks.
One of the many resources is the Diagnostic Network which currently has approximately 13,500 subscribers made up of an eclectic mix of professionals in the industry.
“The Network members are engaged in problem-solving as well as sharing knowledge and information that they acquire along the way,” Brown says. “There’s plenty of tool and equipment companies on the platform as well, who share knowledge and information to keep others in tune with the trends and changes that are happening within the industry.”
Sometimes, vehicles can exhibit symptoms and conditions not fully covered in the service manual. Technicians may need to go outside of the box and try their own test plans. Some will document what worked and share with others through case studies or video demonstrations on the Network. Platforms like the Diagnostic Network open a space for technicians to share their base of knowledge with others.
Other online spaces, like Facebook groups, can be used as communities to share information and tips to keep up with emerging vehicle technology.
The industry is changing and changing quickly through technology. In order to stay competitive, you need to start putting forth your pathway to long-term success.