Top 10 Tools: David Lang, Independent Vehicle Service Inc.

Independent Vehicle Service, Inc. in Albuquerque, N.M. bills itself as a complete vehicle repair shop with an emphasis on Volvo, Mini and BMW repairs. Owner David Lang claims his shop can handle seven to nine percent of vehicles that are the most difficult to repair, ones that aren't repaired by the first three rounds of parts replacement from other shops. These are the jobs that are not the revenue producers: They are the reputation makers when properly repaired. Most revenue is produced by the brakes, suspension, service and maintenance which is the vast majority of work.

The shop's capabilities have enabled the company to expand in a challenging economy, and the shop recently moved to a larger operating facility which has one alignment bay and 16 lift bays serviced by nine technicians.

The bulk of the company's revenue comes from brake repair, clutch repair, maintenance services and alignments.

1)      Automotive Test Solutions Escope Pro 8-channel, twin-time-base labscope

Lang notes the importance of being able to view electrical circuits quickly in the cars that come into his shop nowadays. The oscilloscope has ten times the computing capacity of earlier models. "You need it every time you have a 'check-engine' light." The Escope Pro 8-channel (No. ESO1000) is a 16-bit, PC-based, adjustable-dual-time base oscilloscope.

The tool allows bi-directional control of electrical devices through the wiring, feedback equation (virtual replacement of electrical sensors) and more. The tech can scope eight circuits at the same time on two separate time bases. The tech can also view fast-timing signals and slow O2 signals on the same screen at the same time.

2)      Automotive Test Solutions Emission Five Gas Analyzer, No. EMS 1000

Lang says the gas analyzer provides the only way to know if the oxygen sensors on the engine control systems are displaying the correct information. "The user must compare the scan tool data to the reality of what gas is coming out the tail pipe."

With update rates from probe to screen displaying as fast as five seconds, the tech can locate fuel control problems, misfires, leaking head gaskets, no starts, hard starts and EVAP system leaks. The EMS 1000 comes packaged as a ready-to-run test solution, with all necessary cables, probes, connectors, hoses, and its own power supply.

3)      Automotive Test Solutions Emissfire Detector

This tool identifies camshaft timing problems through the spark plug hole, and misfiring cylinders from the exhaust tail pipe, Lang notes. The misfire counters provide information on which cylinders misfired and counts how many times the misfire occurred, alerting users to a bank misfire, random misfire or individual misfire. "The kit comes with additional pressure transducers. You can put the pressure transducers wherever you want. You'll know whether the cams are in time for the engine. You will be able to see non-invasively and dynamically whether the cam shafts are in time or not in time. You can tell cranking compression, idle compression, snap compression, tight valves, ring problems and more, all using the same piece. This can all be done without tearing the engine apart."

4)      Mitchell 1 ProDemand

The software combines service repair, maintenance and management information in an integrated source. Lang uses several aftermarket repair information services, but he prefers Mitchell 1 for wiring diagrams.

Depending on the search terms, as soon as the tech begin keying in data, ProDemand generates a list of components to choose from, or a filtered list of Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs), or a list of required maintenance items based on mileage. Diagrams, fluid specs and TSBs can be found easily. The system also has "legacy information" reaching back over the nine decades Mitchell 1 has been collecting data. 

5)      Streamlight Stylus Pro LED flashlight

"Despite all the lighting a well-lit shop provides, it's not enough when you are under a hood and you want to get to access parts such as fuel injectors," Lang says. "My theory is that everyone needs a flashlight that will fit in his mouth when his hands are full." Streamlight's Stylus Pro LED flashlight uses a .5-watt, high-flux LED, as well as micro optical system technology to deliver twice the light output of the Stylus penlight. Techs to carry it in a pocket or on a tool belt for looking under a hood or chassis. The Stylus Pro measures 5.3", weighs 1.64 oz and provides an output of 48 lumens typical and a continuous regulated runtime of 7.5 hours.

6)      Streamlight LED Strion flashlight

Lang says this LED flashlight provides two to three times the output of other LEDs. It offers three microprocessor-controlled variable light intensity modes as well as a strobe function. "I can use this to look any time I need a flashlight, even if I'm looking for smoke." The light features a multi-function, push-button tactical tail button switch, allowing for easy, one-handed operation of the light's momentary, variable intensity or strobe modes.

7)      PowerProbe III

Power Probe's Power Probe III features an easy-to-read backlit voltmeter for reading voltage at the tip. "You don't have to drag jumper leads around and look for power outlets. It is self-lit, so it replaces old lights, and it has a voltmeter." Pressing the unit's rocker switch forward provides a hot lead for powering up electrical components like cooling fans and relays. Simultaneous use of the hot lead and ground lead activate components right in the user's hand. With the polarity tester, positive, negative and open circuits can be identified without having to re-polarize or reconnect hook-up clips.

8)      Power Probe Hook

Lang likes the fact that the Hook can connect to systems from 12V to 48V and includes an accurate inductive amp meter. "You can see how much electricity a circuit is drawing." The AC voltage threshold sets the Power Probe Hook to automatically turn on and display amplitude and frequency when an AC signal is detected on the tip. Other features include: minimum/maximum voltage, current, and resistance measurements, along with peak-peak voltage, frequency counter, positive and negative pulse width and duty cycle and an isolated continuity tester.

9)      Automotive Test Solutions E-SmokePro smoke machine

This OEM EVAP-approved smoke machine locates all EVAP system leaks and vacuum leaks. "I use it the most for locating leaks in the evaporative system and in the induction system." The machine can also find exhaust and EGR leaks, under dash leaks, throttle-body component leaks, brake-booster leaks, turbo and supercharger leaks, head-gasket leaks, vacuum-subsystem leaks, injector o-ring leaks, wind/water leaks, oil leaks, air-injection leaks, MAP sensor leaks and more.

10)  Fluke 233 wireless remote display digital multimeter

Lang uses the wireless remote display digital multimeter for general electrical testing. The multimeter with removable magnetic display allows a tech to be 30 feet away from the measurement point. Lang finds that it will always tell what component in a circuit is bad. "It's always good to have an accurate meter that can also measure amperage accurately." The wireless feature eliminates the juggling of leads and the meter while stretching into a tight spot. The radio transmitter automatically turns off when the display is connected to the meter. There is an easy-to-read display with large digits and bright backlight.

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