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lou's garage

For the last several years, I have managed to be unaffected by the skilled trade shortage that has affected so many of my business neighbours. For a while, I thought I was special. I even thought I might be immune. That all changed six months ago, when I lost one of my younger technicians to a grass-is-greener-elsewhere scenario.

Forced to revisit my hiring processes and go on the hunt for replacement staff, I realized just how small the pool of qualified, available auto technicians actually is. Unfortunately, the retirement rate is outpacing the new recruit rate by a long shot. All trades are different, but my sense in the automotive repair trade is that it takes approximately four to five years to develop and be proficient enough to be able do the job completely unsupervised, and another five years to become great at it.

Nowadays, many young technicians who’ve hit that initial five-year mark (and who’ve subsequently passed their certificate of qualification (CofQ) exam), tend to celebrate by looking for a pay raise. Rightly so, as they have earned it and should be compensated for their achievements. Full of self confidence, their expectation is that they should receive the same pay, if not more, than the seasoned veteran working beside them. Discouraged when they don’t get the money they are expecting, they become open to the idea of moving on from the employer that just trained them.

Here is where the problem is, in my opinion. When I was at the same stage of my career, there wasn’t a trade shortage and employers had choices. Employers knew that the young buck was capable of getting the job done, but that the mature technician with 10 plus years’ experience, a new family and mortgage was usually the more stable choice. Hiring someone who’s focus was on feeding their family and reliably showed up to work every day would win out every time. This lack of demand for the young technician settled them, allowing them to stay put, mature and further develop their skills.

Not so anymore. Employers are desperate and will take anyone with a pulse that meets the minimum criteria. This creates an unsavoury environment for the employer of recently-certified young technicians. The youngster forgets that the employer who sponsored them and trained them did so at a cost, as the first several years of their employment were done under supervision by a journeyperson technician. Every time they required assistance, that senior technician had to stop what they were doing and go and help, killing their own productivity. Whenever that young employee broke something, the employer had to foot the bill. The employer banked on the newly licensed technician staying on for a few years after their training was completed, which would allow shop productivity to rise and allows them to recoup their initial investment.

I’ve heard this complaint from many of my experienced technician friends. When the young, newbie staff earns the same amount as the veteran, the veteran goes looking for a pay raise themselves. When they don’t get it, they too get frustrated and leave or retire prematurely from our trade, further exacerbating the shortage. What’s the solution? I don’t see it. I’m worried that it is only going to get worse. And when it does, the consumer will ultimately bear the brunt of it.

Your automotive questions, answered

I purchased a 2020 Lincoln Aviator. Overall, it has been a pretty good vehicle. There is one issue with it that the dealer cannot solve, and it involves the radio. The radio allows you to have preset/preselected stations. There are five banks of preset/preselected stations available on the radio. In our vehicle, when you select a station in one of the banks, it picks a completely other station in another bank. Lincoln and the dealer have no idea why this happens, but I am the one left with guessing what station I will get when pressing a preprogrammed station on the radio. The dealer tells me that with electronics it can be very difficult to find and correct the issue. Told them their problem should not become mine.

Bob M, Oakville, Ont.

I have found that software issues are rarely unique to a single vehicle, and what you are experiencing is a software issue within the radio. The radio will have been manufactured by a third party for Lincoln. Therefore, the dealer won’t be able to fix it like a typical electronics repair shop would, all they can do is reflash or replace the radio. That is, of course, until enough owners make similar complaints leading Lincoln to contact the manufacturer of the radio and request a fix. This fix will likely come in the way of a software/reflash update. Stay on the dealer, ask them to check their internal Technical Service Bulletins (TSB’s) for literature and any updates specifically relating to the radio. You can push the dealer, requesting a radio replacement, however it may or may not have the same problem. These things usually get sorted out – eventually.

I need your help and advice on my car problem. I recently bought a used Toyota Camry Hybrid 2007 model, mileage is 117,000. It is in good shape but with a VSC check signal on. I have experienced very high fuel consumption, and it makes me worry because hybrid cars are supposed to be fuel efficient.

What do you suggest I do to reduce the fuel consumption?

Akin A

The Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) works in conjunction with the Antilock Braking System (ABS). Its job is to reduce power whenever a driving wheel loses traction. It does so by using wheel speed information gathered from the ABS wheel speed sensors, located at each corner of the car. When a wheel slips, whether it be locking-up under hard braking or under acceleration, wheel speed differential is detected by the ABS system. This information is shared with the VSC system where it will reduce engine power as needed to regain control of the car.

One possible scenario is that there is a problem within the ABS or VSC system. For example, it is possible that a wheel speed sensor has failed and needs to be replaced.

The other scenario is that a problem exists elsewhere, such as in the engine or transmission management systems. On older cars such as yours, the VSC warning light sometimes illuminates for the oddest reason. It may come on as another visible que, warning you that there is a problem, even though that problem may not be specifically in the VSC system.

Without providing any details of your actual mileage and fuel consumption, I’m going to go with the latter, and suggest that something is wrong. Hopefully, your fuel consumption will sort itself out once a fix is completed. Unfortunately, with the information you have provided, all I can do is guess.

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

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