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lou's garage

Still receiving receipts for auto repair work scribbled on the back of a business card, or barely legible, handwritten repair orders that make your doctor’s scrawl on a prescription pad look like fine penmanship?

Let’s face it, that’s what the independent automotive repair landscape has historically had to offer. As younger, tech savvy people get into the auto repair business, we have slowly seen a shift away from manually created invoices to ones that are at least computer generated.

While I still know a few older automotive business owners who still haven’t discovered computer generated invoicing, for the most part they are now the minority. I was an early adopter, as my invoicing has been computerized for a couple of decades, but as of late, I have felt that I am falling behind. Not wanting to become the old-timer myself, unwilling to change, I researched and prepared to migrate my business’s software to a newer Digital Vehicle Inspection (DVI) based system.

Communication between the technician working on your car, service writer and customer has always been cumbersome. Anything that improves and demystifies the repair process is welcome in our industry that still struggles with criticism and high consumer disapproval ratings.

In addition to regular data and vehicle history storage, the DVI systems allow for digital storage of pictures and videos. Pictures and videos that a technician has captured in-bay while working on your vehicle. These files are uploaded and automatically attached to the estimate your service writer generates. Once the estimate is completed, the customer can be at the office, in a meeting and quietly receive a text where they can approve and decline repairs.

For most consumers, reviewing a comprehensive estimate with pictures of brake pads that are worn or video of an engine oil leak offers assurances. Doubts are minimized for the vehicle owner, further affirming that their vehicle genuinely requires the work that is being recommended to them. It’s the next best thing to being out on the shop floor with the client.

In a time when most people rarely, if ever want to have a phone conversation any more, receiving estimates that one can peruse and approve on their phone is becoming increasingly valuable. Both the consumer and repair business benefit from the clarity and ease of communication.

I switched my business more than a year ago to a DVI system and most of my customers have gone out of their way to comment on how much they like this new system. While the invoicing system that a shop chooses doesn’t dictate how honest they are, it does make it easier for new clients to develop trust earlier in the relationship. Transparency is one thing our industry has had a hard time figuring out; I believe the DVI system is a huge step forward.


Your automotive questions answered

Lou, I can sincerely say that I hope you are wrong in your prediction that CVTs will become more prevalent in the future.

In 45 years of driving in umpteen different vehicles, the only transmission I have ever experienced trouble with was a CVT, which barely lurched its way to 130,000 kilometres. I will never buy another.

I should note that I do service my automatic transmissions regularly and I believe this is the primary reason I’ve had great luck with them. The CVT was serviced too, but it didn’t help. The Internet is overrun with stories of failed CVTs, most not reaching much over 100,000 kilometres.

This is one technology that deserves to die, and as you note, perhaps electric cars will deliver the blow. I enjoy your column.

Best regards, Dave G., Calgary

Thank you, Dave.

I agree, early Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVT) were problematic and boorish to drive for anyone who enjoyed their time behind the wheel. But, as long as Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) are being manufactured, CVTs will still be relevant. The fuel savings offered by a CVT will guarantee that.

Fortunately though, stories of prematurely failing CVTs are also slowly becoming old news. Latest generation CVTs are pretty slick, meaning the average driver can no longer tell what kind of transmission their vehicle has without looking at the sales brochure for clarification.

While interest in electric cars is coming on strong, especially with our abhorrent fuel prices of late, we are still years away from them being in every driveway. You may not have a choice, Dave, if you are not going electric any time soon, your next vehicle may have a CVT.


My 2001 Hyundai Elantra keeps shutting off the gas pump when only half full. Instead of paying for diagnostics, is there a way I could narrow down whether it’s a clogged vent hose or the EVAP?

Thanks for your help.

Lisa Ann

Unfortunately, there is no way to properly solve your issue without diagnosis. Your only remaining choice is to do what I refer to as: throwing parts at a car. Most DIY’ers scour the Internet for the most probable solution from other DIY’ers and replace those same parts hoping to fix their problem. No judgment here, the collective knowledge of Internet forums is reasonably accurate. I’m also surprised at how many professional auto repair shops work on this same method to supplement their diagnosis.

So, if I were going to guess at which part to replace first according to your description, I would replace the Canister Purge Solenoid.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail globedrive@globeandmail.com, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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