Preparing today for tomorrow’s vehicles by keeping up with in-warranty technologies
Fremont, Calif.—By searching out as much information as he possibly can about automotive diagnostics and learning about the newer vehicles to try and stay ahead of the curve, John Jorgensen, the owner of The Shop Quality Auto Service, is diligent when it comes to this ever-changing aspect of his business.
As his customers bring him their vehicles for repairs and scheduled maintenance after their warranties expire, Jorgensen learns as much as he can about those models before they show up in his bays.
“It enables us to buy some time, because we know we’re not going to work on the newer vehicles for roughly two to five years from now,” he said. “There are a lot of shops out there that aren’t looking ahead and they’re falling behind in the area of diagnostics and they don’t realize it quite yet.”
Jorgenson, 47, has seen cars change significantly since he entered the industry more than three decades ago when computers were in their infancy and fuel injection was still many years away.
“Back then, cars broke down more and we would see our customers four to six times every year, but now we see them a lot less,” he said. “But, on the other hand, people can’t work on their cars anymore, either, so it’s a trade-off situation. The do-it-yourself days are over and diagnostics is the big reason why.”
Out of the 2,000-square-foot facility with four bays and four lifts, The Shop Quality Auto Service repairs approximately 100 cars monthly, a number that has stayed steady since Jorgensen took over the business from his former boss 17 years ago.
With some parts retailers offering its customers diagnostic codes off vehicles free of charge, Jorgensen is never really surprised when they eventually show up at his door.
“The codes are only the beginning,” he said. “They tell us what subsystems to look at, but they don’t tell us what the problem is. You can’t go to a parts store and pull a code and rely on it. We get a lot of customers here who pulled a code and thought they knew what the issue was, but they were wrong, because they don’t have the knowledge or the equipment.”
“You can invest in the right equipment to perform diagnostics, but if you don’t go through the proper training and stay up to date, you’ll be lost,” Jorgensen said. “It’s not inexpensive, because each carmaker uses a different platform and software. We always want to use the OEM scan tools, but Snap-on actually makes a very good generic scanner that is fairly complete.
“First, you have to purchase the scanners and then you have to pay additional fees for software. But, it’s important, because you have to know it, so you have to be learning something new literally every day. I am a very hands-on owner, so I work primarily with our Lead Technician Joseph Ortiz to do all of the diagnostics here and we’ve become adept at it. But we can never say that we know it all.”
For some of his colleagues in the Fremont area, Jorgensen is more than willing to help them with tricky diagnostic problems, even if they’re the competition, Jorgensen said. “We give them what I call our ‘buddy rate’ to re-flash a module for $100 or find a pattern failure that they could not find initially. When it comes to diagnostics, experience goes a long way. In many cases, we know where to look, because we see the same issues again and again.”
To access updated vehicle information, The Shop uses AllData and Identifix with good results. “They both have some really good things within their systems, so I wish we could combine them,” Jorgensen said. “The support that both of them provide is excellent and that’s why we call on them all the time.”
Jorgensen is happy with most aspects of this industry, but his No. 1 concern is finding usable aftermarket parts, he said. “The low quality that we’re encountering with the aftermarket is a major problem, because they are cheaply made. So, we always do whatever we can to use OE parts and we’ve been pretty successful. Sure, they cost us more, but in the end it’s worth it, because we give a 12,000/12 months or one to two years warranties, depending on the type of part. If I have to guarantee a part, I want the best part I can get for my customers.”