Newest technology requires higher level of service-readiness
Overland Park, Kan.—With more computing power than the latest fighter jet, some of today’s vehicles more closely resemble “complex data networks with four wheels,” said Chris Chesney, senior director of customer training at Advance Auto Parts-CARQUEST Technical Institute, at the Vision Hi-Tech Training & Expo.
He urged attendees to be “service-ready” for the latest technologies now, not after the vehicles launch.
“My focus is getting your eye on tomorrow and the day after tomorrow,” he said, showing what technologies will emerge in the near future, and some that are available in showrooms today.
“In the next four years we are going to see more change in technology, more change in business models, and more change in education models than we’ve seen in the last 60 years in this industry,” he said. “Cars are going to get tougher to work on, and you’re going to have a harder time finding technicians.”
Two-year college programs should move from teaching a broad knowledge of automotive systems, just as they did for simple ’70s vehicles to programs that are “an industry-driven, focused-education model.” Shops hiring those graduates should offer defined mentorship structures that will attract more bright individuals to become technicians as they see a path of growth and success.
“Quit growing technicians, and start growing mentors,” Chesney said. “Every position in your company should be a mentor to the others in your company. When you bring on a new technician, his mentor should be that next position up. And if you keep that cycle of mentorship built into our processes, you suddenly create a culture of growth and success in your business.”
Powertrain designs defy conventional logic
Much of the new technology turns conventional wisdom on its ear, Chesney said, including technologies such as compression-ignition gasoline engines — diesel engines fueled by gasoline. It’s a technology he said Mazda believes will be ready for market in Japan next year and the following year in the U.S. Cold starts are handled with conventional spark-controlled ignition, and the transition to full compression ignition mode when it’s warmed up is “instantaneous and seamless.”
More manufacturers are employing a combination of technologies to produce a lot of power and efficiency from a small package, including electrically driven compressors (think of them as a centrifugal supercharger with a motor), belt-driven superchargers, and turbochargers.
And the 2019 Infiniti QX50 will include a 2.0L variable compression ratio, turbocharged gasoline direct injection (GDI) engine, which instead of a connecting rod being the direct connection from the crankshaft to the piston, it unconventionally includes a bellcrank attached to an eccentric shaft that is fixed in the bottom of the block.
“That can be computer-controlled and moved with a control actuator to raise or lower the pivot point,” he said, which, respectively, lowers or raises the point of upward travel of the piston in the cylinder. The compression ratio thus can be adjusted from a low of 8:1 to a high of 14:1.
Failures that are commonly seen in many GDI engines today are caused by low-speed pre-ignition, Chesney said, which fractures piston ring lands. But with variable compression ratio, the computer can lower the compression ratio in low RPM, high-load situations to “save the piston. And I can now shove more air into the cylinder and have more power. So you have to start thinking about technology and theory just a little differently than we have in the past.”
Chesney noted that development of 42-volt systems, proposed in the late-’90s, halted when manufacturers didn’t realize the expected return on investment in lightening up wire harnesses. Revived, but now called a 48 volt system (because of charging voltage instead of nominal system voltage), the higher voltage allows not only stop-start technology, but in some applications to instantaneously spin an electrically driven compressor to 150,000 RPMs to boost performance, even at low engine RPMs. The technology will first be seen on Volkswagen and Audi diesels and domestic-produced Asian nameplate vehicles.
The role of ADAS in vehicle service
The complexity of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) available now and in the near future differ with various models, but repairers need to be prepared for them, as more vehicles become equipped with them and as OEMs move to installing one key ADAS component, autonomous emergency braking, on nearly all vehicles by September 2022. Calibrating ADAS-equipped vehicles for even what used to be a simple alignment can be complex, with vehicle-specific procedures and targets often required. Many dealerships are not even service-ready for this, which opens the door to enterprising independents to perform the service, Chesney said. Light detection and ranging, or LIDAR, will mean simple automatic calibration.
“LIDAR is the missing link,” he said. “It can see everything, but it’s $4,000 for every car right now.
“You’ll see it come down in price, so we have a small window of time in technology before we automate all of that.”