Car Tech

Ahhhhh… back from my break.  And there’s nothing like a long stay at the lake to get you back to your roots.  That is, your auto mechanic roots… specifically when the boat won’t start.  You always feel good when you’re at the boat ramp, with the trailer dunked deep in the water, and you twist the key and hear… nothing.  Crap.

This was the first boat dunking of the year, and it turned out that somewhere over the long winter the power to the ignition was lost.  Likely a critter in the barn who chewed a wire in the harness somewhere.   Not a big deal, but a pain when everybody wants to go out on the water.  Not to fear, we had the full squad on the job:  Grandpa, me, and both of my boys.  Tools and meters were flying.  It didn’t take too long to diagnose the problem, but we spent way too long looking for where we were losing power.  Unfortunately, the path the wires take from the motor to the console is not readily accessible.

Finally, I suggested that since we don’t have power in the ignition, but we do have power other places in the console, we just patch power in where it’s supposed to be.  The boys listened intently while Grandpa and I talked it through and agreed it was a reasonable fix.  Grandpa headed back to the barn for some supplies, and my youngest proceeded to explain why he thought this was a good solution as well.  His rationale quickly faded from a restating of the plan to listing the technical resumes of his grandfather and I, and that if we thought it was a good idea, then he thinks it’ll probably work as well.  It was cute, but I’m still not sure who he was selling the pitch to as it was just his brother and I there.  Anyway, it worked, so I guess he was right.  And we were all on the water well before dinnertime.

In somewhat related news, the Senate voted in favor of a bill affirming that consumers should have more choice in where to have their cars repaired.  This is a big deal for independent repair shops and shade-tree mechanics alike.  If signed into law, it would require manufacturers to sell diagnostic data and tools to anyone at the same price they charge their dealers.  This is noteworthy on two counts.  First, it is a boon to consumers who are currently locked in to having certain repairs done by the dealer because no one else has the tech to work on their cars.  But almost as significant is that this was a pro-consumer move by the Senate which is decidedly not in the interest of big business.  Granted, it’s not like they stood up to an oil company, but it’s a start.

Audi CamThen in the TMI category comes the Audi Cam.  This is a well intentioned but misguided attempt to take the anxiety out of car repair.  Audi mechanics in Germany will start wearing helmet cams allowing customers to view and hear their car repair in real time from the mechanic’s point of view.  Now maybe German auto-techs are a different breed than their American counterparts, but I’ve worked in this business, and I don’t think customers should have a audio feed unless there’s a guy somewhere manning the censor button on a 7-second delay.  Further, while viewing the process might be informative to customers who know their way around a car, most will have no idea what they are watching.  I can envision the check-out process now taking forever as customers ask about that thingy they saw you remove and hook that other thingy with the wires to when the meter went boing-de-boing.  I feel for the techs.   It makes me glad the only ones I have to explain my fix-it actions to anymore are my kids.

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