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10/22/2012 8:00:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Opinion: Rx Minus Diagnosis = Maintenance Malpractice

This Opinion piece appears in the Oct. 22 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

By Michael Buck


MCB Fleet Management Consulting

It’s flu season again, so for the sake of an analogy, imagine for a moment that you feel something nasty coming on. It’s nearly impossible to get a timely appointment with a physician, but you find one new to the area who is willing to squeeze you in.

When you arrive, the physician’s staff seems far more interested in your wallet’s health than yours. Nobody asks for a medical history or, once you’re in an examination room, takes your vital signs. In your mind, red flags are waving furiously. It doesn’t help that when the doctor finally joins you, he gives you a quick once over and writes a prescription he “thinks” will help . . .  probably.

What you are thinking is: “I need a second opinion!”

Unfortunately, many automotive maintenance technicians, like that problematic doctor, will jump heedlessly into troubleshooting mode rather than following a methodical diagnostic process, perpetuating the sad industry statistic that one out of three times, parts are replaced in error.

Just as a good doctor should check vital signs, review medical history, discuss symptoms and order appropriate lab work before making a diagnosis and handing over a prescription, a maintenance technician should follow a specific process when diagnosing what ails a vehicle. And, like the doctor, the technician must be able to allot enough time for gathering data and checking the basics.

The recent Technology & Maintenance Council-sponsored SuperTech competition is a case in point. The technicians who wound up competing were those with the intestinal fortitude to pick up a manual when they didn’t know something and apply a methodical process to their diagnoses, instead of just throwing parts at the problem and hoping one will be the cure.

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