Take A Walk on the Lighter Side

What's the standard for a well-equipped and well-trained technician?


Rob Potter prides himself in doing his job right the first time. As an auto equipment technician, it is his responsibility to make sure the light duty fleet vehicles are in tip-top shape for the Verizon fleet he manages in Laurel, MD. Potter is very conscientious when it comes to being accurate, and he believes this helps the overall economy of the company. Every penny counts, especially with a national fleet of approximately 55,000 vehicles.

"Doing the job correctly saves money in the long run, and part of that is that you need to have the proper tools to work in an industry like this. It costs money to save money at the same time," he says.

Every day, Potter is responsible for an average of 30 vehicles, each with unique maintenance requirements, from preventative maintenance (PM) to transmission repair. He's already hard at work in the shop at 5:30 a.m., when most people are just waking up. An early start allows Potter to get ahead of the schedule, and he says an early start equals less downtime and increased fleet efficiency.

Occasionally, Potter has some additional vehicles in the garage that are not part of the normally scheduled repair workload, due to an impromptu-style repair schedule. Drivers call a toll-free number to report and schedule repairs, and those who are in the vicinity of his shop are dispatched to bring the vehicle to Potter's garage. Reports are generated and printed out in the shop, and either Potter or his co-worker make the repair, whether it is replacing a headlight or repairing a flat tire. He says this is especially helpful for a driver who encounters a problem away from their usual repair center, because they're able to simply stop in for service when they need it.

Potter's shop is sometimes dispatched at the same time a vehicle is en-route to the garage for service. Although this last-minute scenario doesn't happen often, Potter describes a recent situation that proves how the Verizon drivers rely upon technician expertise for on-the spot service repair.

What Potter recalls sounds like an a scene from a movie, but it was actually a very real and dangerous situation: a driver was on the road when the engine suddenly shut off. Potter says that the initial problem was 'minor', and could have been easily repaired if it was detected by a technician early enough. Potter's theory of what happened is that the driver most likely knew there was something wrong with the vehicle when he heard a noise, but didn't think it was anything to worry about. By the time the failure happened, it was too late.

When Potter inspected the vehicle further, he discovered the engine was overheating because the water pump was leaking and coolant ran out.

"The water pump was so noisy, it was horrendous. There was no way the driver couldn't have heard it," he says.

Potter replaced the water pump, but that wasn't the end of the problem. "Because the water pump was overheated, it blew the head gasket, so I had to pull the cylinder off. It turned into a major job," he says.

MISSION CRITICAL

Some of the tools that Potter uses in his shop help him with measurements. For instance, he uses brake micrometers to find the exact dimensions of the rotor or drum brakes. He says that using this tool helps him to determine if there are enough materials left to safely machine the rotors on brakes, which is important to have a quality braking system.

"Even on today's modern fuel systems and everything, you have to have more up-to-date tools to scan the systems to be able to get in and help diagnose what is wrong with the vehicle," he says. Potter also uses a MasterTech scanner which is a universal scanner for vehicle testing to determine if there are system problems for ABS or transmission issues, for example.

"You can view data to see what engine temperatures or coolant temperatures are on the car," says Potter. "With different sensors like oxygen sensors, you can view what voltages they are reading and sending to the computer," he continues. "Like the mass airflow sensors that measure the amount of air and the temperature of the air that's going in that the engine's using."

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