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Diagnostic skills in automotive repair

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Executive Summary: In the world of automotive repair, customers depend on technicians with strong diagnostic skills. Skilled technicians can accurately identify and resolve complex vehicle issues. This saves time and money for customers. However, developing such expertise requires effective training. Training can be difficult due to time constraints and information overload. Microlearning is a valuable training approach for diagnostic skills. It creates meaningful learning interactions to ensure that the training translates to effective analytical and problem-solving skills.

In automotive repair, diagnostic skills are the key to unlocking efficiency and productivity. The diagnostic procedure can be visualized as a funnel (figure 1). The wide opening represents the various issues that can plague an engine’s performance. As possibilities are eliminated at different levels, the funnel narrows until the root cause is identified.

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Without proper diagnostic skills, technicians may resort to trial-and-error methods. This can lead to wasted time, incorrect repairs, and ultimately dissatisfied customers. Effective diagnostic skills enable technicians to delve deeper into the problem. It allows them to gradually narrow down the possibilities until they reach the root cause. This systematic approach saves time, effort, and resources by avoiding unnecessary repairs or parts replacement.

The journey to efficient repair doesn’t end with identifying the root cause. The technician must also verify the customer’s concern or problem. If the problem cannot be verified, the repair cannot be verified (Pearson Higher Ed). This prevents technicians from making assumptions. It avoids working on unrelated problems, ultimately leading to a more accurate and effective repair.

By swiftly identifying and addressing issues, technicians can reduce downtime. This improves their efficiency and productivity. Let’s understand more about efficiency in the auto shop.

What is efficiency in automotive repair?

The term “efficiency” can be defined as the ability to achieve an end goal with little to no waste, effort, or energy (Investopedia, 2022). Efficiency emphasizes optimal resource utilization. It involves minimizing unnecessary efforts and energy consumption to reach the desired outcome.

In automotive repair, though, it’s more specific:

Efficiency is about maximizing production within the time technicians work. This is by helping them work smarter, not harder, to make more money (Peugeot, 2019).

The benchmark for productivity is 90%, says Dan Gilley. Gilley is the director of RLO Training. In an 8-hour day, technicians should do income-producing work 90% of the time. That is 7.2 hours. That’s not an easy number to hit, he admits.

Most shops are probably running in the 50-60% range. This is scary to think about. That means that expensive, talented technicians are standing around 40% of the time,” said Mr. Gilley.

More productive technicians can bill more hours. This improves your bottom line (Hoyland, 2020). That’s why calculating automotive technician efficiency is crucial. It provides concrete data on productivity levels. This allows businesses to identify inefficiencies. They can then implement targeted strategies for improvement. Tracking efficiency enables better scheduling and workload management.

Let’s understand how to calculate technician efficiency.

How to calculate automotive technician efficiency?

Automotive technician efficiency can be calculated using this formula:

Technician Efficiency = (Actual Hours Worked / Hours Available) x 100

To calculate technician efficiency, follow these steps:

  1. Determine the actual hours worked during a specific period. This includes time spent on income-producing tasks. These can be repairs, diagnostics, and maintenance.

  2. Identify the total hours available for work during the same period. This includes the technician’s scheduled hours. These exclude breaks and non-working time.

  3. Divide the actual hours worked by the hours available. Multiply the result by 100 to get the percentage.

For example, a technician worked 6.5 hours on income-producing tasks. This was out of the 8 hours available. The calculation would be as follows:

Technician Efficiency = (6.5 / 8) x 100 = 81.25%

This means the technician’s efficiency is 81.25% for that specific period.

KPIs in the automotive shop-floor

Understanding KPIs in the automotive shop-floor is vital to gain better insight into efficiency. KPIs provide tangible metrics to measure and analyze performance. They help identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. KPIs serve as a roadmap. They guide organizations towards optimized processes, increased productivity, and sustained success. Let’s explore automotive KPIs below.

  1. Repair volume: By tracking the number of pieces technicians repair, organizations can evaluate their efficiency and output. A higher repair volume reflects their ability to effectively complete tasks and meet targets. This contributes to increased profitability and customer satisfaction. It highlights their skill in maximizing output, making them invaluable players in the automotive industry (Iuga, Maria & Kifor, Claudiu & Roșca, Liviu, 2015).

  2. Lead time: Lead time is the duration from order receipt to completion. Tracking lead time allows organizations to assess the efficiency of their processes. Businesses can identify potential bottlenecks. This enables them to analyze and optimize workflows. They can then allocate resources effectively and streamline operations (Iuga, Maria & Kifor, Claudiu & Roșca, Liviu, 2015).

  3. Quality of delivered products/Failure rates/Customer complaints (numbers, ppm): These metrics assess the level of product quality and customer satisfaction. By tracking the number of failures, measuring parts per million (ppm) defects, and monitoring customer complaints, organizations can gauge the effectiveness of technicians’ work. Lower failure rates, ppm defects, and customer complaints reflect higher quality standards. These contribute to enhanced customer loyalty and brand reputation (Iuga, Maria & Kifor, Claudiu & Roșca, Liviu, 2015).

  4. Average Repair Order (ARO): ARO measures the average revenue generated per repair job. Research shows the ARO of garages across North America stands at $473.36. ARO indicates the efficiency and profitability of a technician or garage. Technicians play a vital role in increasing ARO. They can accurately diagnose issues, and recommend additional repairs or services. This way, they can provide excellent customer service to build trust and encourage repeat business.

Strong diagnostic skills allow quick and accurate identification of issues. This leads to efficient troubleshooting and timely repairs. Technicians can reduce lead time and failure rates. They can increase ARO and repair volume. Let’s understand the key diagnostic skills for automotive technicians.

What core diagnostic skills are required for automotive repair technicians?

The diagnostic skills needed to be a good automotive technician are many and varied. For one job, you may need to listen to a rumbling noise as the car comes to the corner. For another, you may need to interpret an oscilloscope waveform or a diagnostic trouble code. As vehicles become more complex, the need for technicians with good diagnostic skills will always remain (Denton, 2006). Here are some core diagnostic skills for automotive technicians.

  1. Problem analysis: Many customers who take their cars to technicians lack specific knowledge about the problems in their vehicle. All they realize is the car is underperforming. That’s why technicians receive limited information to diagnose potential issues. Through effective problem analysis, technicians identify the necessary repairs and replacements. They can also identify components that should remain untouched. This reduces diagnosis time and improves repair accuracy. Additionally, problem analysis skills enable them to offer preventative maintenance. They can identify and address potential issues before they escalate. This helps them ensure optimal car performance and spares customers from future complications.

    Scenario-based training in microlearning is helpful for training in problem analysis skills. By immersing technicians in realistic situations, they are exposed to diverse possibilities. This encourages active application of knowledge, allowing technicians to test their answers in a safe space. As a result, they develop analytical thinking and decision-making abilities. This makes them more adept at resolving complex automotive repair issues.

  2. Technical proficiency: Technical proficiency is crucial for accurate diagnostics, efficient repairs, and safety. It enables technicians to identify complex issues, and navigate advanced vehicle technologies. They can also execute repair procedures effectively. By understanding automotive systems and components, technicians can troubleshoot problems, and reduce downtime. They can optimize vehicle performance. Technical proficiency is the foundation of skilled automotive repair. It allows technicians to deliver quality service, customer satisfaction. This maintains customers’ trust in the technicians’ expertise.

    Bite-sized training materials include PDFs, eBooks, infographics, etc. They present one training concept at a time. This way, microlearning ensures equal attention is paid to each intricate aspect of different vehicles. This focused approach allows technicians to develop a comprehensive understanding of each vehicle. This improves their technical proficiency.

  3. Diagnostic equipment operation: Modern automotive repair often involves using advanced diagnostic equipment. These can include scan tools and diagnostic software (Sharma, 2022). With specialized diagnostic gear, technicians can quickly retrieve error codes and data from the vehicle’s systems. The equipment also enhances problem-solving capabilities. With real-time data and performance parameters, technicians can develop effective repair strategies. Effectively operating modern diagnostic equipment improves the accuracy and efficiency of the diagnostic process. It also keeps technicians up-to-date with technological advancements.

    Short video modules provide clear demonstrations of various diagnostic equipment and tools. They can also offer instructions on the features and correct usage. Additionally, short quizzes allow technicians to test their understanding and reinforce their knowledge. This ensures they are well-prepared to operate modern diagnostic equipment and tools.

  4. Critical thinking: Critical thinking enables individuals to engage in clear and precise thinking when confronted with complex decisions and problems. Technicians with strong critical thinking skills can question the functioning of things. They can systematically identify, analyze, and solve problems. Critical thinking enhances the process of diagnosing issues. Technicians must know how to ask relevant questions to assess the reliability of the information provided. This helps them accurately diagnose the problem. Furthermore, adept critical thinkers can effectively estimate the time required for specific repairs. They can efficiently manage their workday to ensure timely completion of tasks. Being a technician also involves some investigative work: certain problems, particularly uncommon ones, may not be immediately apparent. In such cases, critical thinking skills become crucial. They allow technicians to persistently explore alternative perspectives or approaches to the problem.

    Spaced repetition in microlearning systematically presents automotive technicians with key information at optimal intervals. This reinforces their learning over time. Spaced repetition helps solidify critical thinking skills by continuously challenging their knowledge and promoting deeper understanding. By gradually building upon their knowledge base, technicians become more adept at analyzing complex automotive issues. This enhances their critical thinking abilities in practical scenarios.

  5. Communication skills: According to Mark Malizzi, Service Director for Fred Beans Ford of Boyertown, “Having people skills, a good personality, a professional appearance, and being respectful really go a long way in the automotive industry right now.” While a significant portion of their job involves working on vehicles, technicians also engage with customers on a daily basis. Customers rely on technicians to provide regular updates throughout the repair process. In many instances, technicians may also need to educate customers on new car technologies. In the modern world, being a technician involves much more than identifying problems and replacing parts. It requires the ability to communicate effectively with customers from different backgrounds, to cater to their needs.

    Microlearning incorporates interactive elements in diagnostic skills training. These can include simulated customer interactions, or exercises focused on explaining complex technical concepts to non-technical customers. Interactive components provide learners with opportunities to apply their knowledge in realistic situations. They can receive immediate feedback and refine their communication techniques.

Customers rely heavily on the expertise of automotive technicians. Their strong diagnostic skills help them accurately identify and resolve complex vehicle issues. This not only ensures customer satisfaction, but also promotes safety and cost-effectiveness. Microlearning is a valuable approach for diagnostic skills training. Its bite-sized modules, interactive elements, and accessibility make it a great diagnostic skills training solution. As a leading provider of microlearning solutions, RapL offers a comprehensive platform for diagnostic skills training. To discover how to enhance diagnostic skills and deliver exceptional customer service, contact us at

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