Think Before You Grab The Scanner – UnderhoodService

Think Before You Grab The Scanner

Scott "Gonzo" Weaver tells the story of what can happen when you forget the basics as a technician.

An older gentleman came to the shop with wipers that would not turn off. This customer was insistent that it had to be a serious malfunction. He was so sure of himself that it made me think there was something seriously wrong with the car. If it was going to be a huge expense, he wasn’t going to have it fixed; instead, he would return the car to the dealer he just bought it from.

I drove the car into the shop with the wipers on full blast, wiping away on a very dry windshield. Just before I turned the key off I gave it a shot of windshield cleaner; the old guy had already gone through the entire bottle. I shut the car off and planned to take care of the fluid later.

The nice thing about newer cars is the factory scanners have the individual systems on the screen so you can check them without tearing anything apart or grabbing a test light. You can read the system on the screen and determine the fault without getting dirty — pretty cool if you ask me. I grabbed my scanner and plugged in all the car info. Next, I found the menu for sub-systems, “wiper diagnostics.”

According to the scanner, the switch override and main relay were both on. The low- and high-speed controls tested out OK. Even the washer pump could be tested, so I filled the reservoir. I pressed the button on the scanner to activate the pump washer and it worked. “OK, now what’s the problem?” I thought.

All the guys in the shop were watching me standing behind the driver’s door holding onto the scanner, dodging the windshield fluid spray as if it were incoming fire from an enemy sniper. As always, there were plenty of sarcastic remarks from the crew, and few choice words from me when I would get hit with the spray.

Reading the scanner is one thing, understanding what you are looking at is another. Here I was with the scanner, watching its command signals tell me that the wipers are on, and not once looking to check the position of the wiper switch.

So far, I had filled out an invoice, brought the car in the shop, got the scanner hooked up, played around with the scanner, but never checked the basics. I was feeling a little dumb at this point. The boss isn’t supposed to do stupid things like “not checking the switch” — that’s what the junior mechanic is supposed to get caught doing, not the old man himself. I was hoping nobody noticed the sly little movement of my left hand twisting the wiper switch to the Off position. A quick glance at the scanner’s information now showed “commanded signal–Off” and the wipers stopped. It was a miracle!

The old guy drove his car all the way to the shop with the wiper switch in the On position and I went straight for the scanner. You would think I would at least have looked at the position of the wiper switch before I did anything. It could have saved a lot of time.

I took the car around front and gave the keys back to the proud owner. He was busy telling another customer about me, how he knew I could fix “anything” on a car, and how I was always honest and upfront with all my services. When I told him “no charge,” he turned to the lady and said, “See, I told you.”

I was actually happier for myself than for the customer. Why, you ask? Because I didn’t have to explain to anyone in the shop how the boss couldn’t figure out the wiper switch was left on without consulting a scanner. You know, this new technology is great, and these new scanners are wonderful, but I have to remind myself every once in awhile, “Keep it simple, stupid.”


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