Oakes: Simple mistakes cost shops billable hours

One of my more favorite events occurred at the end of June.

By now, we are all familiar with the reason for ADAS: It’s the mechanical foundation to the autonomous vehicle (AV). And with manufacturers promoting the initial, “hands-free” driving option, everyone is wanting to have that option on their daily driver. Unfortunately for some manufacturers, the mechanics are in place, but the software development is lagging. Over-air or dealer-installed software updates are coming online to fulfill the brand-customer’s desires; keeping the customer loyalty within the manufacturer-family of vehicles. Ford is no exception.

In this specific incident, the shop was experiencing a two-fold issue: a tablet that needed updating and not checking TSB updates. It started when the customer received a Ford letter stating their vehicle was now able to ride down the highway in semi-autonomous mode — (Ford bulletin: Optional Product Improvement Program 21G01).

But as with life, the customer didn’t read the letter in full or understand the process. All the customer understood was that he could not drive down the highway with “no-hands” on the steering wheel, and “there’s something wrong with my truck!”

Instead of going to the dealer, the vehicle owner showed up at his mom-and-pop “go-to” shop, complaining that the hands-free highway function was not working.

The shop verified the customer complaint, and, yes, the highway hands-free was not functional. So, the technician moved onto the scanner, skipping the electrical integrity check.

Despite a tablet that hadn’t been updated in weeks, the pre-scan showed that all ADAS functions were code-free. So, the technician decided to perform a dynamic recalibration. (Ack! Without checking alignment specifications, first!)

That process went without a hitch, yet the highway function was inoperative. Then, the tech moved forward with checking component levels, ground and power, which passed.

At this point, the shop had spent five, unbillable hours only to be sitting at the same diagnostic spot as when the vehicle entered the bay.

That’s when I got called into the mix.

The first step, verifying the customer’s complaint, well, that’s where the diagnostic flowchart fell apart. The technician in a rush to push the vehicle through the process — coupled with the little ADAS knowledge of that year, make and vehicle model — was where the real breakdown occurred.

While it is important to verify a properly functioning electrical base, it is equally important not to invent the wheel and check known, factory TSBs, because that is where this “repair” would have stopped hours beforehand.

Taking a few minutes to research the Ford documents, the technician would have seen the bulletin/customer letter stating that the software update was not instantaneous: dealership or customer OTA (over the air) install.

If the technician had followed the flow chart, they would have stopped and asked more questions, because when it comes down to it, we all know that most customers suppress information, believing that giving us the straight skinny is going to cost more in diagnostics.

In the perfect automotive world, a Q&A is a time saver for the customer (billable hours), and offers faster vehicle turn-around time in the bay (more volume).

How could you turn wrong went you have the right information base?