‘Top 10 Tools?’ As cars change, so do tools, training and information needs; sometimes the question bears repeating.

April 5, 2013

As automotive repair tools have become more capable, complex and oftentimes more expensive for shops, purchase considerations require a deeper understanding of how they work and more training. As we at PTEN have learned more about the considerations shops need in buying tools and equipment, it became evident that an overhaul of our monthly shop profile feature was in order.

Last month, we introduced a new feature titled “Top 10 Tools.” Long-time readers recognized this as part of our monthly “Shop Profile” feature; each shop profile listed the company’s top 10 tools. In March, we replaced the monthly shop profile with an expanded version of “Top 10 Tools.” We did this to help readers make better tool and equipment purchasing decisions.

The reason for the change

Understanding our reader needs is as important to us as knowing your customers’ needs is to you. To this end, PTEN surveys readers regularly to determine what information shop owners and technicians need. We learn this through written questionnaires, both online and in print. We also conduct live interviews, over the phone and in person.

Reader concerns vary from year to year, but readers consistently tell us they use the magazine to make better buying decisions for tools and equipment. As vehicles change, tools change. As tools and equipment change, new information is needed. And as new formats become available for providing information, PTEN finds new ways to deliver the information readers need.

In other words, as your tasks evolve, ours do as well.

What defines a tool?

A tool might seem like a simple thing to write about, but PTEN readers have different questions they want answered about tools.

What’s more, not every reader defines tools the same way.

Every so often a shop owner, when asked to list his top 10 tools, mentions his employees as his most important tools. Some mention training as a top tool. A tool, after all, is something that helps you do a job. Employees and employee training fit this definition.

This very subject was recently raised by David Lang, owner of Vehicle Service Inc. in Albuquerque, N.M., this month’s Top 10 Tools article on page 18. Lang was able to rattle off his top 10 tools fairly quickly. But some days afterward, he contacted me with additional thoughts about his top 10 tools. In retrospect, he noted that his most important tool is training. And the reason he didn’t mention this at first is because training, besides being his most important tool, is also a shop owner’s most forgotten tool. He readily pleaded guilty to this oversight, noting it is common among many shop owners.

Lang stated his ideas about training better than I could, so I will paraphrase him on this subject:

“Training is at the base of what I do and is required for the future success of automotive repair. Tools don't fix cars, technicians do, and training is what makes good technicians. One of the reasons that I attend the trade fairs and expos is because they frequently offer training over the same time period.

“Every year I take at least 100 hours of classroom instruction by the best and brightest of our industry. It is training that allows for the effective implementation of tool use. Technical training is not a profitable endeavor for the suppliers and is a sacrifice of time and money for technicians, yet without it, the aftermarket will not reliably repair cars coming out of warranty.

“Some large parts suppliers like WorldPac and Ramac offer customers training at their expense while small dedicated organizations like Automotive Training Group, Automotive Video Institute, and Automotive Technician Training Services offer excellent trainings for a fee throughout the country. Bosch Corp. offers inexpensive in-depth technical training culminating in Bosch Certified Master Technician recognition for their Bosch Service Center partners.”

In support of training

Feedback from Lang and other readers has led us to develop training resources for shops and technicians. Through our online entity, VehicleServicePros.com, we offer training videos, “Tech Tips” and “Ask the Expert” instructional articles on our Website, as well as live training seminars.

But for the purpose of our monthly Top 10 Tools article, PTEN defines tools in the physical sense. 

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