Electrical Repairs: Activity Is Not Necessarily Progress

Dan Sullivan | September 28, 2010

Here's a perspective on how to get the most from investments in electrical training. Shop supervisors need to adjust their expectations to suit the unique nature of electrical diagnostics and give trainees opportunities to build confidence using new skills.

Diagnosing electrical-system problems and completing the repair is most challenging because the ways you spend your time on electrical systems and mechanical systems are inverted.

Mechanical diagnoses are very often (not always) pretty fast. The hose blew, the cylinder head cracked, the bearings failed. Even when it's not easy, you at least have a pretty good idea where to start.

So you start. You dig a little and the broken crank, or the metal shavings, or the water in the oil nails down the cause. The component is already coming apart and, while rebuilding it may be complex, you know what needs to be done and can estimate the time and cost to finish.

On a mechanical failure, diagnosis is generally about 10 percent of the job and repair is about 90 percent.

The reverse is generally true of electrical-system problems. Diagnosing most (not all) problems should take a couple of hours or more, but when it's done right the repair usually only takes a few minutes. Reading the manual and schematic to figure out how the affected circuit works is critical to the process, and it does take time. Meanwhile, the shop supervisor and nearby mechanics are wondering why the mechanic “isn't working.”

This pressure rushes too many mechanics through electrical diagnoses. People start getting torqued off when the parts changing drags on for a day or more, never realizing that if the mechanic had been allowed to concentrate on the research first, odds are good that he could have finished sooner with greater confidence.

A supervisor's primary responsibility is to help those he supervises do their jobs. Sending mechanics to electrical-system training is a good start, but if the foreman reinforces that effort by offering the technician electrical work, supports the use of “slow” methods, and keeps other guys off his back, then there will be successes. Within a year or so, the man will have matured electrically and then things really begin to click.

For more information about Dan Sullivan and his electrical-system training programs, go to www.brighterideas.com