WHY NOT THE DEALER?
Are you looking for hybrid repair in Berkeley? Why not take your hybrid to the dealer? Aren’t they the experts? Well, first, it’s not “the dealer” it’s “a dealer”. Each dealership is an independent entity, just like independent garages. Some of them are great. Some of them are OK. And some of them are just plain awful.
I teach hybrid repair at Contra Costa College and many of my students work for dealerships. Sometimes a student will come in and teach me something new they’ve learned in training, which is really cool and makes me proud to see them learning and sharing. Other students aren’t having such a good time. I had one tell me their dealership was discouraging apprentices from attending training because they would get an increase in pay as they became certified in different areas. Can you imagine the culture at a dealership like that? A policy like that is so short sighted and misguided. I certainly would never want my car to go to a place like that!
To be clear, not all dealerships are bad, and there are many very skilled mechanics working at dealerships. However, dealerships tend to be more expensive than independent shops, and you’ll need to do your research before selecting one.
EXPERIENCE IN HYBRID REPAIR
Just because some dealerships are bad doesn’t make Art’s Automotive good. So, why should you bring your hybrid to us? One reason is that we’ve been doing this for a very long time. We’ve been repairing Japanese cars in Berkeley since 1980, and servicing hybrids since 2002 — just 3 years after the Honda Insight was first sold in the US. I suppose it’s possible we’ve been doing a poor job of it for the last 18 years, but I don’t think that’s the case.
LEADERS IN THE INDUSTRY
As I mentioned, I teach hybrid repair at a local community college. I also helped write the ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) L3 test for hybrid competency that is used worldwide. In addition, I’ve done technical writing for several publications, including publications distributed by two Japanese auto makers. I also have sat on community college advisory boards and participated in NATEF (National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation) accreditation audits.
I’m not the only person at Art’s that has an impressive resume. Chris is also a published automotive tech writers, writing for Nissan TechNews magazine. He has also worked with ADM (Automotive Media Data) on a training video. We have six ASE certified Master Technicians and everyone here has been trained to work with what the automotive industry considers high voltage.
HYBRID TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT
The most important tool for repairing hybrid vehicles (or any vehicle for that matter) is a factory scan tool. Any car made in the last 5 years is going to have at least 20 control units connected on different networks. A generic OBDII scan tool connects to one control unit, and can only access about 20% of the information on that one control unit. Without a factory scan tool, a mechanic will be lost and all he’ll be able to do for you is waste your money trying to figure out what’s wrong. Even some basic maintenance can end in serious problems if attempted without a factory scan tool.
FACTORY SCAN TOOLS
We have a factory scan tool for every make we repair, several for some of the more popular makes like Toyota. We do most hybrid diagnosis from the driver’s seat these days. Not while driving the car, but by pouring though the data recorded by the car’s control unit both before and after the problem occurred. Without a factory scan tool, you may as well use a Magic 8 Ball for diagnosis.
HIGH VOLTAGE CHARGER
Some Toyota hybrids can discharge the high voltage battery pack if the gasoline engine won’t start. Not even the dealerships had a charger in their tool kit in the early days. We commissioned a high voltage charger, which we still have and use to this day. If you’re interested in the story, you can read the story in PDF format here in an article I wrote for Master Technician Magazine back in 2010. Master Technician Magazine is now gone, but the publishers are still going strong — http://automotivetechinfo.com/
We also have equipment for testing for isolation faults, which are a relatively common problem with hybrid vehicles. All automotive high voltage systems are isolated from the body of the car for safety. If a high voltage system shorts to the body of the car, a self-diagnostic routine will usually catch it and set a P3009 or P0AA6. Often, the computer disables the car for safety once it has come to a stop. We have a tool typically called a “megger” or “megohmmeter”. Both of which are sort of like “Kleenex” — a brand name that’s become the most commonly used term. The generic name is a insulation tester. Anyway, we have a couple of these.
ELECTRIC MOTOR TESTING
We also have equipment for motor testing, which is uncommon for dealerships and extremely uncommon for independent shops. One of these tools is the milliohmmeter, which measures very small resistances such as motor stator windings. The other tool is a tool called the AllTest Pro. This is a tool that measures impedance (the combined effect of resistance and reactance) as well as being able to test permanent magnet rotors.
KEEP YOUR WARRANTY INTACT
One of the big fears people have is losing their warranty coverage. Many dealerships will play on this fear and imply (buy usually not say outright because it’s not true) that taking the car to an independent will void the warranty.
To maintain your warranty, you’ll need to do the service outlined in your maintenance guide. You can’t skip items or do them late. If you use cheap parts and they cause a problem then the manufacturer isn’t responsible for the repair. However, any licensed repair shop can do the maintenance on your car. As long as they do all of the required work correctly with quality parts, your warranty will remain intact. We look up the maintenance items on the manufacturer’s website so there is no doubt the car is getting at least the minimum required to maintain warranty.
BEYOND THE MINIMUM (WITH INTEGRITY)
We also may recommend additional service based on our experience with a particular vehicle or based on our opinion in general. However, we don’t try to confuse the two. We let you know which items are required for warranty and which items are things that we here at Art’s recommend. It’s your car. You can choose your own maintenance philosophy and we’re not here to bully or guilt you into doing things our way.