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Have you ever wondered how ASE tests are written? On today’s automotive podcast, are looking at how A.S.E tests are born. For those of you that may not know, ASE is the industry standard in testing automotive techs, as well as many other parts of the auto industry.

As you know, I spent several days in VA at a workshop for the A7 A.S.E test. This is a workshop where the A7 test is evaluated. Not only is it evaluated, but this is also the early steps of changing the test. So for all you dealer guys and gals, this is were we get rid of questions about vacuum controllers.

Today we talk about:

  • Who writes ASE tests
  • More about A.S.E. testing
  • How Questions are made
  • The rigorous review process
  • Fact checking
  • And More

If you are having trouble viewing, you can see the video on YouTube at “How A.S.E. Tests are Made

Like every episode, your comments are welcome on appreciated. I work hard to give you guys the content you are looking for. The best way to be sure of that is to let me know. You can either post comments and questions below, or use the contact me page.

Reminder
I will be traveling this week. That means there may not be a Thursday tool review, or a Friday show. I have a billion things to get set before flying to Austin for the USGP. I will do a blog post with more info about that as I get it.

Your inside look into the world of car repair and Volkswagen Dealer service

Before I start coming off like I am hating on the A.S.E certification program, I need to tell you that I am an A.S.E certified mechanic. 🙂 That stands for Automotive Service Excellence!

The A.S.E certification program is designed to test mechanics and show they are knowledgeable about fixing cars.  The way it works is, a mechanic has to pass a series of tests, and work in the automotive field for 2 years. Now based on that, its a great program. If nothing else, it shows that a mechanic has the motivation to be a top mechanic. Over the years, I have found that certification programs like that do not tell the whole story.

There are benefits to the program. I think that employers like it because it shows a commitment by the mechanic. If a mechanic is willing to take all 9 tests, which are NOT easy, they should have a high level of dedication to the profession. That coupled with the ability to say your facility has “CERTIFIED MECHANICS” can mean a lot for customers. When I worked at Carmax they displayed each mechanics certifications on a board for everyone to see.

I did a google search on the phrase “how to find a good mechanic”. In that search, almost every site says, “Be sure they are A.S.E. certified. The problem that I have with that is, it means almost nothing. The ability to pass these tests proves nothing about fixing cars. You can not use it to gauge a mechanics integrity. It doesn’t mean you can trust them, or the work that they do.

At the dealership level, the broad knowledge that A.S.E. test on does not apply. It is understood that a dealership mechanic should know the basics about cars. In addition to that they need to know that brand inside and out. That is why people take their car to the dealer in the first place. I think the brand certification carries much more value. There are only 206 or so master certified VW mechanics in the USA. That says a lot about the level of commitment it takes to be a master certified dealer mechanic.

I will say that no level of certification, even specific brand, will tell the whole story. Some guys are better at taking tests than others. Some guys just don’t care about a high level of certification. That doesn’t mean they are not outstanding mechanics. Here are a couple of quick tips to finding your great mechanic!

  • They should have some level of certification
  • Some experience is important, but not everything
  • Talk to the mechanic – Having a conversation with the mechanic will tell a much better story
  • Ask friends that drive your kind of car
  • Bring them cookies – I have said it before, bribery gets you everywhere

These are just some very basic tips. In fact, this is a topic that deserves a dedicated post.

 

Your inside look into the world of car repair and Volkswagen Dealer service

Next week my dealership will be adding a “Quick Lube” team. The team will actually be called our Service Express team. The idea behind the Service Express team will be to provide another option for customers to get their cars serviced.

The way my dealership works now is, 90% by appointment. Basically, you would call and talk to a service advisor, schedule a time and date to bring your car in for whatever it needs. They do leave some open times for a limited amount of walk-ins, or emergencies.

The Service Express team will be another option. Customers will be able to walk-in and get an oil change, a bulb replaced, or wipers changed. They will be a dedicated team that will ONLY do that type of stuff. The team will have 2 service advisors, and 4 or 5 mechanics(not sure if that is what they will be called but they work on cars, so I am cool with it).  VW has a full training program for this team. They will have a strict routine to follow to be sure every car is done the right way in around 30 minutes.

I think it will be a good thing overall for our customers. It will give a lot more flexibility for customers to get their cars serviced. It will also help us compete with the Jiffy Service type places. Our prices are better, now the service can be more convenient.

The talk around the shop however is on the negative side. When you tell mechanics that the dealer is adding more people, most see only 1 thing. They see work being taken from them and given to someone else. Our pay plan is similar to a commission based plan(post about that coming soon). So more mechanics means the work is spread out between more guys. To be honest, they are right. Even doing an oil change pays more that not doing anything.

My thinking is slightly different. It is not that I breathe the “corporate air” that comes along with programs like this, it is more about the bigger picture. The advisors have a habit of not taking walk-in customers(side note, there is not many things that piss me off more than that). Any work that the Service Express team sells, other than bulbs ect, will be divided out to the shop. More cars in the shop will equal more work for everyone. I also think the advisors will not want to give work up to the Service Express team. They will find a way to help customers that they “could not” find before.

If the quality of their work is as good as ours, I think it will be a great thing. What do you guys think?

  • Does having a “Quick Lube” style option work better for you?
  • Would you feel like the service would not be as good as a certified VW mechanic?
  • Do you think the price should be the same VW mechanic VS non VW mechanic?

Post your thoughts in the comments, I am really curious to see what everyone thinks

I started with Volkswagen officially in Nov of 2003.  One of my goals early on was to become a Master Certified technician(or mechanic).  I didn’t realize how hard it would be to achieve that goal. I never thought it would take 8 years!

When I started with the VW Academy, I knew that I was making a good choice.  It really jump started my certification. I spent 11 weeks training on nothing but VW cars.  In order to be a Master Tech, I had to complete over 20 instructor led training classes. Each class is 2-4 days.  That only counts the base classes, that doesn’t even include all of the new technology classes. On top of passing all of those classes, there are several web-based training modules that need to be completed. It is not a easy, or a fast thing to do.

After completing all of that training, there are 5 tests that have to be completed. On the surface, 5 tests at 35 questions each, seems easy.  I thought so, until I failed ALL 5 the first time around. It was  a humbling experience. Since I failed the tests, I had a 30 day wait time before I could retake them. VW takes the tests VERY seriously.  A member of corporate has to watch and make sure mechanics are not cheating.  I am not sure that I have ever taking tests as hard as these. How would I know “What is the wait time before working on a airbag system on a 1993 Cabriolet”? That is the style of questions that are on the test! FYI~the wait time is 20 minutes!

Well, as of 12/22/11, I am happy to say that I am a certified Master VW mechanic! Its cool that I am one of about 100 folks that have this level of certification. Now get some sweet business cards!  I also get some cool patches for my work shirts, I probably will never put on.

Thanks to everyone that has helped me out over the years! It has been a long, exciting, journey and I am glad to finally hit a HUGE career goal!

Charles

So, last week I was in Maryland at VW training. I have been going up there for the better part of 7 years for training courses that are lead by VW instructors. These type of classes required at least once every year to maintain Factory Trained status.  That means every year I go through some pretty intense training.

There is a strange thing that seems to happen almost every time I am at training, a complete wipeout of my confidence.  Now I am not the best VW mechanic in the world, but I feel like I do a pretty good job. I have my own way of diagnosing car, and it has served me well over the years.

Confidence is such a huge part of my job. I would say that it can influence the way just about any job goes. I have watched some really good mechanics “second guess” themselves in to spending hours diagnosing a car, that should be an easy fix. Heck, I have done it myself.

When I travel for training, it is usually a 2-4 day class.  Time is split between lecture and on-car training.  The instrutors seem to have a way to make me feel like I have been “doing it wrong” all this time. Making mechanics feel like they are “doing it wrong”, is not their intension, but they are REALLY good at it. I understand that instructors are trying to show us mechanics that there are “better” ways to do things.

The problem is, it makes you question every step in your diagnostic process. Second guessing is a one way ticket to letting a car kick your butt.  Mechanics need to have that, “trust your gut” mentalitly ALL the time.  I spend hours looking at the way cars behave. Looking at readings that show what the engine computer is seeing, and how it is responding.  After 7 and a half years of doing this, a good mechanic develops an internal baseline of what these numbers should be.  Spending 2 days of training basically reboots everything back to my first day.

Without getting overly technical (aka kinda boring), the class was about vehicle inputs and outputs. A vehicle input would be like the switch for the headlights.  The output side would of course be the headlights.  Years ago, this was a basic operation.  One that in a few minutes everyone would understand. Today everything is controlled by modules. The switch is not a switch, its a module.  In an effort to reduce vehicle wiring(the most expensive overall part of the car) things are controlled by modules.  A switch would have 1 or 2 wires for every function.  An old Cabrio window switch would have 20 or so wires.  Now that same switch will have 9, and 3 are for the lights in the switch.  This class was methods to diagnose theses types of systems.  The way I was doing it was similar to listening to a walkman.  Now I would be listening to music on an IPhone 4gs(which I want REALLY bad).

The class overall was really good.  I was able to learn some things, and it was a great refresher of some others. I will take me a week or so to get my confidence back and get in full swing of things.  This method of diagnosis will just be another “tool” in my tool box.

I hope this was a little insight into what training mechanics go through.  Does everyone have the same feeling when you go to training?  Post up in the comments and let me know how training is for you!

Charles