Friday, 19 April 2013

Mechanic Training!! Keeping Up With Technology!!!

Mechanic Training Skills Gap
Mechanic Training

It is no lie that the automotive sector is an area in which technology moves fast. New models of car roll off production lines around the world, equipped with technological upgrades almost daily. This creates a constant skills gap between technology and the Mechanics skill levels. 'Mechanic training' is key to narrowing this gap before the gap gets too great. 

As a mechanic it can be hard to know in which areas you should seek training. Currently nearly all Mechanic training is centered around electronics and diagnostics, it is then broken down into various sub-categories and each of these have their own sub-categories. Allow me to illustrate this.

Mechanic Training Breakdown
Mechanic Training Breakdown
This illustration by no means lists all available mechanic training, it only serves to show how each category can be broken down into different training modules. 

In an ideal world every mechanic would attend a course on every possible system, need I say this is impossible!!! The trick is to identify your own specific areas of weakness. In other words what do you feel you can learn through your own through experience versus, areas you feel would be best taught to you via training. 

There are various sources of mechanic training, these can include but are not limited to.
  • Research, the internet is a wealth of information and is often more up to date than books. 
  • Workplace training. Colleagues and employers could provide training within the workplace i.e on the job.
  • Attending training courses. 
I am a strong advocate of self learning through research. Not just because it is cheap or free, but because I can do it at my own pace, in my own time and I can tailor it to my own workplace. 

Unfortunately these self learning techniques are no substitute for recognised qualifications such as NVQs, Diplomas and Degrees, when it comes to obtaining a new job. Nor is it a substitute any mandatory training, for example F-Gas handling NVQ for air-conditioning.

Self learning can also be advantageous to anyone attending mechanic training courses in the near future. It is good practice to try and obtain a bit of underlying knowledge related to the course you are attending, this way you won't get left behind in the class. It can also help you to identify good questions to ask the trainer. 

As I have said self learning is great, however its un-certificated. It is hard to prove your knowledge when attending an interview without having any certificates to back it up. I still remains good practice to attend certificated mechanic training courses. You should however ensure that any course you are thinking of paying for yourself, is industry recognised, or at very least independently regulated. Anyone can produce a training course and hand out certificates, these certificates are for the most part useless apart from proving you attended a course. If the training is related to specific diagnostic tools, ensure if is either provided by the tool manufacture or providing the training on behalf of the manufacture.

I didn't want to make this article too long so i will leave it there for now. I shall return to this topic soon.

I hope this provides some light on mechanic training and how to identify areas you could do with training!

Let me know if you have an automotive topic you would like me to cover. I will do my best to write an article for you!!

More on mechanic training here. Mechanic Training Website

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

DPF Regeneration Instructions And How To Keep Your DPF Healthy!


If you came to this page because of fault/trouble codes you retrieved from a diagnostic tool you may find our iPhone/iPad or Android App useful.

Not only does it give you 'Fault Descriptions' but also gives you 
Possible Causes!! 

 Check it out on the App Store or Play Store!! 

DPF Regeneration
Your car is fitted with a DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter) and you have heard a lot of stories about expensive repair bills, regenerations and additives... So you look on the internet for how you keep your DPF healthy and how 'DPF Regeneration' is performed!! Good news.... Its not all doom and gloom when it comes to your DPF

Firstly, what is DPF regeneration?

Well to best answer that, let's take a look at what the DPF actually does.... The DPF is a particulate filter, fitted to the exhaust system on diesel cars, it is designed to trap harmful particulates in the exhaust gases. Once the amount of trapped particles otherwise known as soot loading becomes too great engine ECU senses this and carries out the DPF regeneration process.

Now we know that, we can better understand DPF regeneration.... A question I  often see is what is the point in the DPF trapping the particles if it's only going to chuck them out the exhaust during regeneration? Answer is, it does but it doesn't. What happens is the during regeneration the exhaust gets to a hot enough temperature, ideally around 600 degrees celsius, that through some clever chemistry, the harmful particles or hydrocarbons react with the catalyst inside and become less harmful particles. I'm sure we have all heard of our good friends H2O and CO2 otherwise know as water and carbon dioxide. 

So what can be done to keep your DPF clean and happy?

So it turns out, short trips and urban driving don't do your DPF and favours, only assisting in filling the DPF faster. This is because when an engine is cold it doesn't burn fuel as cleanly as when the engine is hot, another side effect is that the exhaust doesn't get hot enough for a long enough period of time to carry out the DPF regeneration. So how can you combat this. Well depending on how many short trips you do over a week or fortnight, the best thing you can do is get your car on the dual carriageway and then drive according to the following points!!
  • Ensure engine is at operating temperature.
  • Drive in fourth or fifth gear.
  • Drive above 50 mph.
  • Keep engine speed between 2000 and 3000 rpm.
  • Keep going for at least 20 miles. 
As long as the above is followed, if vehicle senses that a DPF regeneration needs to be carried out it will do so automatically without the need for any diagnostic tools!!! 

 Another thing you can do, is to use either the more expensive diesels such as BP Ultimate or other premium fuels, or a good diesel additive. This is because better diesel has a higher cetane rating, the higher the cetane rating the better the combustion quality or cleaner burn, in turn not loading the DPF as much, resulting in less frequent DPF regeneration processes. A good side effect of using better diesel is better EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) health and it helps to keep the engine internals cleaner.

Another step to take is to ensure servicing work is carried out at the correct time and to the correct standard. See here. What is a car service.
This is because some vehicles have an additive tank which needs filling with the correct additive as part of some service schedules.

So what actually goes wrong with your DPF. Well some common issues are...

  • The pressure differential sensor can fail.
  • Too many DPF regenerations have been carried out. (They have a limited lifespan).
  • The DPF has become overloaded and automatic regeneration is not possible. In this case you need to force the regeneration process using suitable diagnostic equipment.
  • The DPF can break apart internally. 
  • The temperature sensor can fail.
  • The additive tank can run empty. (If fitted).
There are other failures but these are the most common.

For some people the cost of DPF failure is too great, and in an attempt to prevent further failure they seek to remove the DPF entirely more on that here. DPF Removal.

I hope this helps in your mission to avoid large DPF repair bills! Have you had any DPF problems? Let us know in the comments!!!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Used Car Warranty!! Is It Worth It?

If you have just took out a 'Used Car Warranty' you may want to hit the back button on your browser... This may hurt a little bit!

It has become a regular occurrence at the Garage. The customer drops of their car explains the fault, then as they are about to leave they mention that they took out a 'Used Car Warranty'. This then usually leads to the customer asking if the fault will be covered by their warranty policy. 

Before we go any further let me clarify that this article does not include the warranty policies offered by the main dealer or manufacture, when you purchase a used car through them! This article covers the used car warranty you may be offered when buying a car through an independent seller or the type of warranty you can buy for any used car. Google the term 'Used Car Warranty' and you will find plenty.

I have dealt with a whole range of different providers, so I am not going to pick any individuals. I will tar the usual suspects with the same brush!!!

Lets take a look at an example of how it works when you would like to make a claim...

          1. The warranty company is called to report the fault with the car. This 
              This may be anything from the rear brakes to complete engine

          2. The warranty company responds informing us that the cause of the
              fault needs to be determined before a claim can be made. This 
              involves stripping the car down, locating the faulty component and 
              then have their assessor look at it and tell us if it is covered. If it is 
              not covered this will be at the customers expense.  
              Think cylinder head gasket, stripping the cylinder head off, finding 
              the cylinder head is cracked. The assessor 'determines' the cause of 
              fault makes the warranty void'. You would then be liable for all 
              costs up until that point, also you are liable for the repair costs.

          3. For a claim to stand any chance of being successful you will need to
              provide full and I mean full service history.

          3. The claim is unsuccessful and the customer feels ripped of by the 
              Warranty company.

 So why do people even bother to take out these seemingly useless 'Used Car Warranties'... Well for a start not every claim is unsuccessful. Be aware that most of the warranty companies will not cover you for 'wear and tear'. However they normally cover you for mechanical failure. Also there are some really reputable companies.

So you have decided that you want some warranty or at least find a reputable company.... Please, please, please do your research. Customer reviews, not on the warranty sellers website but on the forums around the internet are a treasure trove of information. Read and re-read the 'Used Car Warranty' sellers covered items and policy. Ensure you keep your car maintained to the standards that the warranty provider expects, this can mean, on time services and also ensuring the previous owner/owners had the car serviced on time. If not this will come back to bite you. Also ensure you have the money to pay for the repairs yourself and be prepared for hassle and stress when trying to make a claim, chances are it will be kicked out anyway if you have not done your research. If your car does breakdown stop immediately any further driving will likely void your claim. As mentioned before most used car warranties do not cover wear and tear. Also ensure your vehicle does not or is not likely to exceed the maximum mileage in the warranty sellers policy. Following the above will not guarantee a successful claim but it may help your cause.

Please also be aware that out of the last 10 claims I have dealt with only 1 was successful... That is a 10% success rate. 

If you want my advice put the money you were going to spend on a 'Used Car Warranty' into a separate bank account each month, earn interest on the money and you can pretty much guarantee a successful claim when you car breaks-down. Don't gamble your hard earned wages on a flaky warranty policy.

To save you some time here's the link to the Google results page for used car warranty: Used Car Warranty Results

Have you had any experience with used car warranties? Drop a comment below!


Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Injector Removal!! Using The Right Tool!

Injector Removal Removed and New
Injector Removal Can Get Complicated
If you landed on this page because you saw this picture of Facebook and wondered if there was a story behind it..... Yes there is! If on the other hand your looking for information on 'Injector Removal' then your also in the right place!

I'm going to preface this by saying that the article relates specifically to the Renault M9R engine. This engine is commonly fitted to Renault, Nissan and Vauxhall vans, however the theory can be applied to nearly every Diesel vehicle, on which Injector removal is proving to be tough.

So here's the background.... The vehicle (a Vauxhall Vivaro) was brought to the workshop because the engine management light was indicating a fault, also the engine was misfiring. A quick code read revealed error code P0204, tests were carried out to ensure the wiring and ECU signal were not at fault and we quickly established that the number 4 injector was indeed faulty. 

We had only just carried out a simple Injector replacement on a Vivaro that was a year older than the current one in the workshop, it was assumed that this would prove to be just as simple. Well we was either just wrong or plain stupid!!! 

Now I have witnessed some conventional methods of Injector removal, and some less conventional. Anyway methods can include:
  • Disconnecting the Injector wires, slacken the clamp and turn the engine over. This uses the engines own compression to loosen the Injector and make removal easier. (Not Recommended)
  • Using the method above but leaving the Injectors connected, then running the engine to loosen the Injector. (Not Recommended)
  • Soaking the Injector in a substance designed for to breakdown corrosion (think WD40). Leaving to soak for an extended period and then trying again.
  • Making a puller and using the puller to remove the Injector.
The way I usually remove a stuck Injector is a combination the first and forth methods. This though is not possible on some solenoid and piezo Injectors. So I resolved to making a puller however without quick access to high tensile threaded rods this proved to be unsuccessful.

After exhausting various methods, it was time to spend some cash. The first tool purchased was a Sykes Pickavant Universal Injector Removal Pulling Kit. We purchased this with the pump, in total costing circa £1,500. See here Hydraulic Injector Removal Puller Kit. Initially our supplier was out of stock and this needed to be ordered in. We waited.... It finally arrived a few days later. The kit was eagerly opened, like an early Christmas present we got rather excited to try this tool out! (Sad I know but as a Mechanic we look forward to things like this...) 

The kit was set-up in minutes and we started to pull the Injector. Bit by bit we applied pressure, stopping to apply impacting blows to the Injector body. BANG!!! We thought we had loosened it. Further inspection revealed... Nope.

Top Of Injector
Top Of The Injector
 We had only succeeded in removing the Injector pipe fitting and destroying our chances of removing the Injector in one piece. This unfortunately was the limitation of the Sykes Pickavant kit which by the way was non-returnable once used. Back to the drawing board, we came across Darwin Diesels. They claimed to have the kit specifically for M9R engine Injector removal. See here Pichler Injector Removal Kit From Darwin Diesels

Again costing in excess of £1000 for the full kit, it was not ordered lightly but the guys at Darwin Diesels seemed confident in the kit and even supplied full instructions explaining with pictures how to remove each part of the Injector if it breaks in nearly every conceivable place. The kit arrived and it was fully loaded with everything from the hydraulic cylinder which conveniently was compatible with the pump from Sykes Pickavant. In-fact here is a picture.

Injector removal kit
Injector Remaval Kit
Unfortunately this Injector was stuck so bad that it even pushed this kit to the limit. First when trying to unscrew the Injector body from the nozzle it snapped flush with the rocker/cam cover. Using a big drill bit though we were still able to utilise the thread cutting taps provided in the kit to drill and thread the Injector body, using the puller to remove which ever part wanted to come out at the time. We would then repeat the process... Removing the Injector in many pieces then following the detailed instructions, to successfully remove every single part of an Injector that put up a good fight, but one it was never going to win.

So there we have it... The story of the picture! 

Hopefully the moral of the story came across but just in-case it didn't.

Using the right tool doesn't always save you money but it will save you time. For example you can not remove the cylinder head on many engines without first removing the Injectors. 

Got any tales of Injector removal yourself. Tell us in the comments below. I would love to hear them. Also if you have any ideas on how to get the £2500+ back to cover the cost of tools? 

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Buying Used Cars! A Guide

Buying Used Cars
Used Cars
Unfortunately not everybody selling used cars was created equally. That is the most important fact to remember when buying used cars! You get the I'm having a baby, need a bigger car, honest type of people and the well respected used car dealer who has got many years of customer satisfaction under their belt. Sadly though at the bottom end of the totem pole you have the unscrupulous dirty little so and so who is trying to flog their used car with endless faults. These are the kind of faults that are not cheap to fix and in order to sell the car they have usually gone to surprising lengths to hide the faults, just long enough for you to road test the car and buy it.

So what can you do to spot these 'ringers' when your thinking of buying a used car? Well the truth is, there is plenty you can do before even going to view the car! Lets take a look at what these are.

First thing to do, simply call the seller and tell them you are interested in the car they are selling. Explain you would like to carry out some back ground checks and that you require the following information.

  • Registration Number
  • Chassis or VIN (Vehicle identification number)
  • The V5 (Registration document) number
  • The contact details for the garage they used to maintain the car 

If they are reluctant to give you any of these details, stop right there! This is not the car for you! Move on to the next seller.

If you get what you need use the details we have acquired to do some checks!

  • Check to MOT history of the car. 

Go to this site here MoT History Checker. On this site if you have the information above you can check the entire MoT history since MoT testing went computerised. Useful when buying used cars, as each MoT records the mileage, shows what the car has failed on each year and lists the advisory items. Best of all this service is entirely free and provided by the government.

Check the MoT history for the following things.

  • A rise in mileage each consecutive year. As and fall in mileage could simply be that the speedometer was faulty but could also indicate something far more devious like 'clocking'. 
  • Check the vehicle has a current MoT and is as long as the seller says it is.
  • Check the advisory items. See if they appear in consecutive years previous to the current MoT. If they do this could result in a failure at the next MoT. 
Another check to be completed making sure the car is not stolen, has no outstanding finance and was never an insurance write off. Unfortunately this can involve parting with a bit of money, the good thing is it will be a lot less than what is will cost if you buy the car and it gets either repossessed or given back to the owner or insurance company by the Police. One site I have found which appears to be recommend buy 'What Car' is here.
Used Car Buying Check through I recommend the Gold, this also comes with a £10,000 guarantee and a list of common faults. However if you would would prefer a £20,000 guarantee a Platinum version is available. You may be able to find these services elsewhere just look for good reviews when your looking.

Professional Tip! 

Ask the seller if you can take the car to a Garage local to them to have the car checked over. If the seller is genuine they wont mind this. Phone various Garages get a quote for them to give the car a once over on the ramp. Find the best price and take it to them. This can be cheap and allows you to get a professional opinion on the state of the car. If you are viewing close to your current Garage call them if your a loyal customer they may even do it FREE! You could also take a look at things like the RAC's checking service.

Call your local Garage and ask if they can provide a list of warning lights that are supposed to come on with the ignition, the location of the diagnostic socket and whether the car is EOBD OBD2 compatible this knowledge can be valuable when inspecting the car.  

If you made it this far and everything checks out, book a viewing with the seller. If the seller is private make sure this is at there home address and check to see if the address on the V5 matches the location.

 When you arrive you will want to check the car thoroughly. Ideally you could go armed with an EOBD OBD2 Scanner if they car is compatible. This can allow you to check for underlying engine management error codes as not every fault will bring the warning light on. See this article here

Next your going to need to inspect the car if you haven't opted to take it to a Garage or another checking service. Let me give you a list! This list is by no means exhaustive and highlights Key Points. I recommend you download this MoT Checklist and check out these two articles also:

  • Check all the warning lights come on with the ignition they should go off as the vehicle completes its self checks and definitely after a few seconds of engine starting.
  • Check everything works. Things like the heater blower on all speeds, air conditioning, windows, seats, dash illumination with the side lights and light switches are all things to consider.
  • Check the seat belts have now cuts and frays, check they have no warning flags showing that the 'pre-tensioners' have been activated. These can be expensive to replace and may indicate the car has been involve in an accident.
  • Check the mileage is inline with the information provided and the MoT history.
  • Check the steering and steering column for signs of tampering or breakage.
  • If you have an EOBD OBD2 Scanner, plug it in and check for fault codes.
  • Check the tyres are worn evenly, any uneven wear could indicate steering or suspension faults. Check the tread depth including the spare are well the above 1.6mm legal requirement. 
  • Check the VIN number, it is either at the bottom of the windscreen under the bonnet or under the drivers side carpet. Make sure it matches the V5.
  • Check the registration plate is the same as the V5.
  • Check the paint work has the same finish all the way around the car. Check that it doesn't bubble anywhere. And discrepancies could indicate damage repair and bubbles indicate rust.
  • Check convertible roofs for operation and condition.
  • Check all the doors work as intended and also the boot, bonnet and fuel cap.
       Under Bonnet
  • Check the engine oil level as described in this article. Also check there is no creamy gunge on the oil cap.
  • Check all fluid levels including things like Coolant (check it looks either Blue, Green or Pinkish this indicates it contains some Antifreeze) and brake fluid. Low brake fluid could indicate a leak or the brakes could be worn. 
  • Check the battery terminals for cleanliness and check the security of the battery.
  • Check for leaks around the engine and underneath the car.
  • Check the service history. Call the Garages that carried out the servicing to check it is genuine.
  • Only accept original paperwork. The V5 should be watermarked. 
  • Check for previous bills. This can be a sign that the owners took care of the car.
As I said this is by no means exhaustive but can really give you a head start when looking at buying used cars. I hope you found this informative. I'm sure it will save you money. Have you had issues buying used cars? Leave us a comment below.

For further reading check out these links here.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

How To Become A Mechanic?

So you finally finish school. Your parents are telling you to stop being so lazy and go get a job. Or maybe your one of the few who has known for a long time what they wanted to do when they left school. You have typed into Google 'How To Become A Mechanic' and you choose to click this page. Well first let me welcome and reassure you that you made the right choice! Not only with your decision to click on my page but with your choice to become a Mechanic.

It's a little bit harder to become a Mechanic in modern times. Not only are apprenticeships harder to come by technological advancements in the automotive industry ensure there is a whole lot to learn that wasn't necessary as little as ten years ago. But for those willing to learn and keep on learning there is always room for you in our line of work. People will always need their vehicle repairing whether that's a road car or some future mode of transport! 

First thing you need is a job placement. This is the hardest part of becoming a Mechanic. If your still in school you could always ask a Garage to take you on for work experience, work hard and they will remember you when you ask for an apprenticeship. However if you have left school here is a list of things you can try to get you on track.

  • Write your CV. Include all you school qualifications, list your strengths and weaknesses. I.e 'One of my strengths is persistence with a difficult task and always ensuring a job is done professionally. My biggest weakness is face to face confidence with new people.' Also it is essential to include which areas of a Mechanics job interest you the most. More on writing your CV Here How To Write A Successful CV
  • Next write a letter to every Garage that you could attend to work every day without being late. In your letter tell them that you would like an apprenticeship, what attracted you to becoming a Mechanic, mention your enthusiasm to learn new things and you desire to work in a rapidly evolving area of technological advancement.
  • If you find you have been declined ask for a weeks trial unpaid as a chance to show your enthusiasm toward becoming a Mechanic. If they accept, you will probably only get one chance with that Garage! Don't blow it!! 
  • Before accepting an apprenticeship offer ensure that their Garage can arrange you College education. Also worth checking if you can is whether or not the Garage is moving with the times. Do they have the latest Diagnostic tools? Do they take on electrical faults? It is worth asking because things like that are the way the industry is heading.
  • Contact you local Technology College. Ask them about Mechanic apprenticeships and whether they can find you a placement. A list of Colleges can be found here. Where To Become A MechanicJust type your postcode in and you will find a list of approved centres. 
  • This may sound harsh but be prepared for poor wages for a while when you first start being a mechanic. Due to people struggling to find apprenticeships it unfortunately has driven down wage rates. Stick with it for a couple of years and things will get better! I promise!
You made it this far in the article. Well done! But I have more advice for you. When I wrote the article I knew you search for 'How to become a Mechanic' and click my page in search of the answers. I don't want to let you go without telling you what's next. 

Well when you get your job and start going to college things will be completely different than when you were at school. I'll tell you what I had to do and what my feelings were on attending a Mechanics College.

I'll do this with a few more bullet points.

  • It took me three years at college to gain my NVQ level 3. You can gain an NVQ level 2 in two years but you'll find yourself in a better position when looking for a pay rise or new jobs with and NVQ level 3.
  • I also took an evening class for two years in workshop management to gain a lower degree in the subject. Yes it did cost but you'll reap the rewards of your investment later in your career.
  • You may be offered training courses in College for things like Hybrid vehicles. Take every course you can get. It all makes for a great CV.
  • College is a lot different to School people are there because they want to be. People respect that and learn so much more.
That's about enough reading for now. But please if you have any further questions on 'How to become a Mechanic' Please leave a comment of drop by our contact us page and I will answer your questions!

For further reading see this article here How to become a Mechanic

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

How To Check Oil Level? 10 Steps You Should Follow!

Its one of those things, you know it needs doing but you don't quite know if your doing it right! Well I've got you covered, here's the answer to 'How To Check Oil Level' 

I'll break it down step by step.

        1. Park the car on a level surface, switch of the engine, remove the
            keys and leave to settle and cool down.

        2. Gain access to the engine bay. This can vary from car to car but if the
            engines under the bonnet / hood open the bonnet / hood, if the 
            engine is in the boot / trunk open the boot / trunk.

        3. Locate the engine oil level dipstick. If you are unsure were this is, 
            you may need to refer to the owners manual. 

        4. Remove the dipstick fully and wipe the entire length with clean lint 
            free cloth or kitchen towel. Ensure you can throw this away after use.
        5. Refit the dipstick and pull back out. Inspect the oil level on the 
            dip stick. It should look similar to this.

How to check oil level
How to check oil level


          6. If the oil level is between the Min and Max marks this is acceptable 
              there is absolutely no need to keep oil level on the Max mark.

          7. If the oil level is below the Min mark then to oil needs topping up.
              Select the right engine oil for your car either from the owners              
              manual or from here How to check oil level which oil for your car.

            8. Locate the engine oil fill point, you may need to refer to the owners
              manual. Put engine oil a little bit at a time. I.E place 200ml of oil in
              engine. Leave for 1 minute. Refit dipstick. Pull dipstick. Check 
              engine oil level. If below Min mark repeat process. If between Min 
              and Max job is complete.

          9. If Oil level was above Max mark it is not recommended that the 
              vehicle is driven until excess oil is removed from engine. If you 
              don't know how to do this, I highly recommend you call your
              mechanic as it is isn't a job to be tackle without the correct 

        10. Once oil level is between Min and Max mark. Ensure dipstick is
              Refitted and oil cap is back on. Close and secure engine access 

If you have any doubt's about checking your oil level. Please consult a trained mechanic as they will be able to advise you best if they know what make and model your car is. 

Thanks for checking out this How to article aimed at answering the question 'How to check oil level?'