The 21st Century Mechanic
The Evolution Of The Vehicle
The rapid advancements in the automotive industry and the constant evolution of the vehicle have created a huge shift in the day-to-day job of mechanics. In the past, a person who knew the motor inside and out would make for an excellent automotive mechanic. The same held true for a transmission expert who could rebuild a manual transmission with their eyes closed. Since then, the industry has seen a massive shift into the electronic world of vehicles and has drastically changed the requirements of the automotive mechanic.
Pre OBD I
In the past, cars primarily ran with mechanical components that did not require any type of on board electrical systems. Prior to OBD (On Board Diagnostics) I, technicians were only required to have a strong understand of how the mechanical components of a vehicle worked and how to troubleshoot and fix mechanical systems. The cars produced today are being built with more electrical components than ever before, creating a huge shift in job of a mechanic.
OBD I is the term referring to a vehicles self-diagnostic and reporting capability, which came out in the early 80’s. With the new OBD system, vehicles could now indicate a warning light to the driver that a problem has arisen. This advancement sparked the beginning of the electronic world of vehicles, requiring electrical knowledge and diagnostic skills that were never needed before.
In the mid to late 90’s, OBD II came out which created a huge shift yet again in the job of the mechanic. The new OBD system now incorporated DTC’s (Data Trouble Codes), which went a step above the warning light. Now vehicles had the ability to indicate a warning light that was specific to each component of the vehicle to give the driver even more information about a problem that had arisen. In 1996, it was required that all vehicles manufactured in the U.S. incorporated the new OBD II system. Shortly after, it became industry standard for mechanics to be certified in electrical systems in order to perform any type of work on electronic vehicle components.
Vehicles produced today still incorporate the ODB II system, however, it has become much more complex. Vehicles now have a sensor for just about every mechanical component on them and even have the ability in some cases to show the driver the severity of the issue. For example, when most vehicles sense that they have low oil pressure, they will indicate both a low oil pressure light and a flashing check engine light to warn the driver to shut the vehicle off immediately. If the vehicle senses a relatively minor issue such as a leak in the EVAP system, it will only display a check engine light to the driver.
The Need For A Qualified Mechanic
In today’s world, mechanics that do not have a strong understand of all of these sensors and components will have a very hard way to go. Most of them have probably watched their position being filled by techs who have put in the time to learn how the new systems function and how to fix them. Mechanics who are highly skilled in electrical systems are extremely valuable to repair shops and in most cases will be the “go to” guys any time an in depth electrical diagnostic is needed.
So next time your vehicle needs diagnosis on an electrical component, remember that it is not an easy job and can often be extremely difficult and time consuming to figure out. If you are looking for a shop you can trust, make sure to ask about their certifications and ensure they are up to date with all of the latest vehicle systems.