The right tool for the job depends on you… and if you can use it as a hammer

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“The right tool for the job.” It’s a saying that my father used quite a bit.

It’s a saying, “the right tool for the job,” that’s so popular it’s been co-opted by other, non-trade industries, but I never fully appreciated it until recently.

From experience, I’ve learned it basically means “If you have the correct tool for the job, you probably won’t ruin things, and you’ll curse much less.” For my decades of putting tools to the test, it all comes down to one thing… can I use it as a hammer?

Of course, by that I mean, “Which tool will be the highest quality, most durable and the best bang for my buck?” But also, I’m probably going to use it as a hammer eventually, either because of frustration, rage or pure necessity. There are so many places to find yourself the perfect pipe wrench, drill press, or miter saw for whatever job you’re tackling, that it’s mind-boggling to think about. I’ve narrowed it down to 3 categories to help you decide not what tool is best, but what tool is best for you.

Homeowner tools

Congratulations, you just bought a house! You’ll need tools for up-keep, and repairs. Just go Craftsman, hit up Sears, or find a nice K-mart special-30 piece tool set. That’s all you really need. No need to spend a Corvette’s worth in tools for light-bulb fixtures and table leg repairs. Done.

DIY / hobbyist / garage-r tools

You’re a serious DIYer. You need a quality tool for the job but you don’t need the best tool on the market. I’ve worked on my car since I Corey's Dad-Tool Box purchased it at 14 using whatever tools my dad had. They usually weren’t the best quality, but I still use some of them to this day. Go Craftsman for hand tools or better. Their wrenches, pliers and hammers are perfect for everyone from the weekend track racer to the most Ron Swanson of us all. The higher initial price is out-weighed by the lifetime use of the tool. Just check for the warranty so you can replace it if necessary.

Full-time trade and craftsman tools

If you make a living off your tools, you’re going to want something that will pay for itself over the years. You need power, precision, and durability. The hands down consensus is that if you want the best tool that’ll last a lifetime, you want Snap-on.  If your company is paying, or if you can afford it, Snap-on is the best bang for your buck for any dedicated, daily wrench jockey. They have consistently beat any challenger for best in the business. If that isn’t a possibility, brands like SK, GearWrench, Matco Tools and Mac Tools offer replacements with warranties that are just as good with only a minor sacrifice in strength and durability.

Still not sure which tool is right for you? Start simple and build up from there. You may find that, most of the time, you need the basics but for a few specific jobs, it’s worth investing in the right tools. Like my dad always said, “The right tool… “

Porsche Apprenticeship Program and UTI Are Driving Student Success

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Exclusive. World-class. Unprecedented. These are the words that describe the Porsche Technology Apprenticeship Program (PTAP), a partnership between Universal Technical Institute (UTI) and Porsche Cars North America (PCNA). PTAP is a graduate training program that provides Porsche’s 188 dealerships in the United States with uniquely qualified entry-level technicians.

UTI, a top-notch technical education institution, has 12 locations in the U.S. It is the only school to offer the PTAP. Since 1965, UTI has been headquartered in Phoenix, AZ, and has graduated over 200,000 students.

Porsche, the iconic sports car manufacturer, has a staff that is known to consistently offer outstanding customer satisfaction. Furthermore, the technicians demonstrate an expertise that only a motivated, expertly-trained technician can deliver. That level of professionalism starts with PTAP.

Award-Winning Automotive Training

David Rogers, the national program manager at UTI, said, “UTI launched the PTAP program with Porsche Cars North America in 1999. UTI…has partnered directly with manufacturers of more than 30 top brands to create…sophisticated education programs in the automotive, diesel, motorcycle, marine, and motorsports industries.”

The two training centers are located in Atlanta, GA, and Easton, PA, and offer an array of Porsche-specific courses.

PTAP’s Curriculum and Facilities

Rogers said, “PTAP is an exclusive 23-week, manufacturer-paid advanced training program that accepts only the best of the best for extensive training.”

A prerequisite is completion of UTI’s Automotive Technology Program that is certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation. PTAP’s courses include Porsche Heritage and sports car servicing, Cayenne & Panamera V6 and V-8 engines, and Carrera/Boxster/Cayman Pre-DFI engines.

“Students undergo an extensive evaluation and interview process,” said Rogers. The class enrolls only 12 students – “one of the best student-teacher ratios in the industry,” according to UTI representatives. Students use Porsche-specific tools, workshop equipment, and Porsche models built over the previous seven years. Graduates of the program are eligible for employment with authorized Porsche dealers.

In 2015, UTI’s student body totaled 13,200. Almost 97 percent of the students are male and about 80 percent are ages 18-24. Adult learners (career-changers) total 20 percent and veterans account for 10 percent of the students.

Rogers said, “However, Porsche does require that graduates from the program work for a Porsche dealership upon graduation  with a minimum one year commitment.”

Success Before and After Graduation

Daniel Addie, 22, had a 4.0 GPA from UTI. He said, “I chose PTAP because it was the hardest thing to do and I like a challenge.” Currently, he is working at a Porsche dealership and pursuing additional certification. “I love my job,” he said, exemplifying the value of the program both to Porsche and students alike.

The PTAP program began almost 17 years ago and it’s an example of how UTI partners directly with manufacturers to create real-world programs that provide effective training solutions. With this proven record of success, students can feel confident about their decision to learn from two industry leaders.

 

Carlos DellaMaddalena, the director of external communications at UTI, is acknowledged for his assistance and commitment toward the development of this post. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Value of an Automotive Apprenticeship

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There are several very good specialized automotive training schools, and many community colleges and tech schools offer associate degree programs in auto technology. However, it is hard to simulate in the classroom the experience that most auto mechanics will have at their first job in a repair shop. Automotive technology classes and programs offer important introductory training in auto repair, but students who combine classroom training with apprenticeship at a commercial repair facility will give themselves an advantage in getting their first jobs as auto repair technicians.

Classroom auto tech programs provide important training and skill development that are a foundation for the knowledge base of an auto tech. This includes basic hand tools use, proper vehicle lifting, shop safety, chemical spill containment and cleanup, and power tool and shop equipment use. An introductory program will provide training in the various vehicle systems including, brakes, steering and suspension, engine, drive train, air conditioning, electrical systems, vehicle electronics, and engine performance. A good training program can offer a broad and comprehensive overview of vehicle systems and service procedures, but in a limited class period and in an often sterile school workshop environment it is hard to replicate the dirty, unpredictable world of auto repair.

A job as an auto mechanic apprentice provides a valuable experience giving the student a chance to see how a working repair facility operates and how a business runs. In a working shop setting an apprentice will get to experience a real automotive repair shop environment, see real-time job completion, witness customer interaction, see the work flow from vehicle drop-off to pick-up, and get to see real-world vehicle problems that are hard to simulate effectively in a shop class situation.

Automotive education programs usually have as part of their curriculum an internship credit which can offer the student credit toward a certificate or degree program for holding a part-time or full-time job as auto mechanic apprentice. This experience is highly valuable as an introductory position in automotive repair. The responsibility of the apprentice will primarily be to observe and assist repair technicians and then begin doing basic vehicle services starting with vehicle inspections and oil changes. More responsibilities will be given as skills are learned providing a solid introduction to automotive repair work.

In my experience at small repair shops there is always a need for an apprentice level employee and it is a mutually beneficial employment situation. The repair shop gets an inexpensive worker making probably only minimum wage, and someone who can do various jobs around the shop including cleaning and running errands which allows the higher skilled and higher paid technicians to be kept busy doing vehicle service work. The apprentice gets a paid trainee position for which he or she may also receive credit towards completion of a degree or training certificate, and gets valuable introductory work experience that will help prepare for a first job as an automotive repair technician.

 

Photo courtesy of: Automotive Training Institute (ATI)

The Constantly Evolving Role of Technology in Auto Repair

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The business of automotive repair and the work of the auto mechanic have changed greatly in recent years. Driven by the need to reduce harmful emissions and increase fuel economy, vehicles are becoming increasingly electronically controlled. The work of vehicle repair which once consisted mostly of disassembling and repairing mechanical components is now becoming increasingly the work of computer diagnostics.

The U.S. government first began looking at environmental pollution from vehicle emissions in the mid 1960s, and the first fuel efficiency standards for passenger vehicles were passed in 1975. The earliest means of controlling vehicle emissions were mechanical devices aimed at containing fuel vapors and limiting pollutants from the exhaust pipe. These systems had limited effectiveness. To meet increasing fuel economy standards in the late 1970s and early 80s vehicle manufacturers also needed to more precisely control engine combustion. They did this through the use of computerized engine control. Simple electronic fuel injection systems had been used in a few vehicles beginning in the 1960s, but when increasingly complex electronically controlled fuel and ignition systems became standard equipment on vehicles twenty years later, the world of automotive repair began to undergo a dramatic shift.

The earliest electronic engine control units were simple circuit boards used to meter fuel more precisely and adjust ignition timing for optimum engine performance and efficiency. Today, cars and trucks may have dozens of individual control devices, or computers, to operate and monitor the various functions of the vehicle. The decreasing size and cost of microprocessors as well as the sensors that monitor vehicle operations led to their rapidly increasing use in automotive applications. Since their start as a way to meet increasing fuel economy and emissions standards, computers now operate nearly every system of the vehicle. From engine and transmission control to brakes and steering systems to cabin climate, power seats and mirrors, computers control all aspects of vehicle operation in order to maximize fuel economy, safety and comfort. With the recent popularity of hybrid-electric models and the reintroduction of electric vehicles, the complexity of vehicle electronic systems is now developing even faster.

Auto repair and maintenance has become a business employing technicians skilled in operating computerized tools to interface with the complex electronic systems of modern vehicles. A tool box full of wrenches and hammers now also contains a laptop computer or handheld scan tool along with the many other scopes and meters that are necessary to diagnose problems with vehicle systems. The diagnostic data of the control modules in cars and trucks is accessed using handheld scan tools or PC-based interface units.

Working with all of these systems has changed the auto mechanic into an electronics technician.

Auto Repair Increasingly Starts at the Computer

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An auto mechanic today spends nearly as much time at a computer screen as working on a vehicle. With the increasing complexity of vehicle systems and huge volume of diagnostic and service information, almost every vehicle repair begins at the technician’s computer. As a result, computer skills are becoming as important for the auto mechanic as the basic manual skills of automotive repair.

For years, repair manuals were stored and accessed via a series of books on a shelf that were printed by the vehicle manufacturers or aftermarket companies. Over time, that information moved from books to floppy disks, floppy disks to DVDs, and today, it’s almost entirely web-based. Instead of maintaining a library of paper manuals, every repair shop needs computers for technicians to access the information needed to perform their job on a daily basis.

For the repair shop or individual certified auto mechanic, websites like iatn.net and identifix.com offer subscription services that include access to archives of vehicle repair histories. They also provide communities of mechanics that’ll help you solve problems that cannot be solved by archive search alone. With rapidly advancing vehicle technologies, using these sites as a reference can be a critical first step in solving a complicated or unusual problem. Some of them even include online or telephone support from top-skilled auto technicians.

Auto techs often network with peers for help or support on a troublesome repair problem. We all have friends or other mechanics that we’ve met who may specialize in a particular make of car or aspect of repair work. While we may have at one time made a phone call or driven across town to get some advice, now we are just as likely to send an email or look for support online.

As we spend more and more time on the computer, either for vehicle repair or running our business, online networking becomes increasingly a part of the standard toolset a technician is required to have. Having an online presence and interacting with other technicians has become as common as as loosening and tightening bolts.