Electronic Technicians

Dan Sharron
Posted on April 1, 2003

How does continued Technical training affect your Transportations Department’s budget? Recently, the following service question appeared on an e-group that is a perfect example of where training dollars spent on your Technician’s continuing education saves money:

“Is anyone experiencing problems with the Cummins B series engine?

Specifically when you are driving down the road the check engine light comes on and then the engine shuts down. This has happened more than once. We took the unit to the local authorized service center. Their rule is if they can reset the code and it resets, nothing else can be done. They have done this twice with this unit and it just failed again today.”

One Mechanic suggested: “take it to another dealer and if that didn’t solve the problem, start throwing new parts at it.” Maybe in some situations, a hit and miss approach might do the trick. However, considering the cost of parts and labor, this is not a cost effective process.

It really doesn’t matter what brand engine it is, if there is a problem with an electronically controlled engine, the Technician must have a good knowledge of electronics to be able to diagnose and repair the problem.

In electronics you have to have a good understanding of what and how things operate. Electronic circuits are not like electrical circuits in that they operate at much lower amperage. A minor defective ground in an electrical circuit may still operate, for example, a dim taillight. However, if you duplicate the same defective ground in an electronic circuit, all sorts of things can happen. Many times grounds are also overlooked. DON’T FORGET THE GROUNDS. As in all circuits, there must be a good complete path for the positive terminal through the components and back to the ground or negative

What is neat about electronics, especially in computers with warning lights, is that the light is telling you there is a problem. Something has caused the light to illuminate. It doesn’t turn at random. There is a reason. To diagnose the problem you need to understand what operating parameters can turn the light on. I would be curious to know what the code was set on this school bus.

If you identify the code, you should be able to diagnose the cause. If the code is pointing a cam or temperature sensor, etc. think of the basics first. What I mean by this is do not overlook the obvious. Many Technicians go directly to the codes and try to fix the problem by replacing the component the code said was out of range. Again, codes are set based on operating parameters. If the parameters are not correct, then codes are set. All too often parts are replaced needlessly and after doing so, the problem remains.

Again, a Technician’s knowledge of how a system operates and what sets codes is money in the bank. You simply can not have enough knowledge considering today’s changing technical engines. Maintaining current knowledge is the cost effective approach to diagnose electronic systems and training is the key. Inadequate knowledge can - and will strain your fleet’s budget.

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