Type in the content of your page here.

QUESTION- How can I best prepare my senior/advanced students for post-secondary apprenticeships and college training with regards to electronic automobile systems diagnosis and repair?

RATIONALE- My own personal background is as an automotive technician. Most people call us mechanics. This is not a correct term. People in the trade know the difference between the two. We consider a person to be a mechanic when he is good at repairing and replacing parts and doing other basic tasks such as oil changes, tires, brake repairs, cooling system repairs, and some basic tune-up work. A person is considered to be a technician when he can diagnose problems. He must also have the ability to repair problems. We become mechanics first so this is a given for any automotive technician. Automobiles have become so complicated that you must have a good understanding of electrical systems and circuits, and even more important of electronic systems. Most components today have a module to monitor and control the system, even something as basic as lubrication (oil) systems. These systems now have oil life monitors for levels and pressure and oil use. They actually monitor how you drive, how far per trip, and even how you accelerate. To be successful and at the top of the game you must learn about these systems and how they control the cars’ performance, fuel economy, and pollution to the environment.
So from the previous paragraph you can get an idea of the difference between the two designations. In the working world the technician is at the top of the pay scale, and is in the most demand. You are in a position to dictate your own employment terms when you have learned and mastered these type of diagnostic skills. When I left my place of employment to become a teacher my boss searched for six months to replace me and finally gave up. He ended up hiring an apprentice. Five years have now passed and I have still not been replaced. There is a great need for technicians today.
I feel that if I can give my students a head start in this area that it will greatly help them to be successful and help them to move from OIL CHANGER to something more desirable in a much shorter timeframe. They will also have be better prepared when going to college for their training. I have seen apprentices struggle in the shop environment because of poor background training.
The regular curriculum does not focus on this type of training. At the same time I am constantly asked to check cars that have CHECK ENGINE, AIR BAG (SIR), and ABS lights on. I have the equipment to at least scan the car and have some idea of what is wrong. I also have information for most cars to attempt a repair. My big problem with this is that I have a policy in my Autoshop that goes like this- if the students can not be involved with the repair and service of customers autos then I will not accept the work. I see no value in booking work that only I can repair. I am now the teacher, not the student.
If I can successfully teach one or two of my seniors the basics of diagnosing and repairing electronic problems then this is all worth it to me. We are having a hard time keeping people in the auto repair trade and I feel that I would be doing my little part to help the trade, but mostly to have a positive and lasting effect on the students who intend to pursue this trade beyond their own garage at home.
CONTEXT- I am focusing on two of my senior/advanced students. They are the two that want to pursue this trade beyond secondary school. I will be teaching this material and training and practicing during regular classes for the remainder of the school year. I have already given them lessons on basic auto electrical circuits. We then moved into the basic electronics portion where they learned about sensors, variable resistors, diodes, relays, controllers and other components that make up these very important systems for the modern automobile. We have also learned about the Solus scan tool and how to use it on various vehicles and access information and trouble codes. The other part of this program is to teach the students how to use MITCHELL-ON-DEMAND. This is a computer program that is not specific to any one manufacturer. It was designed for the corner garage to have access to diagnosis and repair information for most car models. The program that my school board has provided is only good up to 2005 at the moment. This is alright though because most vehicles that are newer than this are usually still under warranty and we are not asked to repair them. The culminating task that will tell me how successful I was in teaching this material is when I ask a student to pull a code from a vehicle and he/she is able to hook up the scanner and input the proper information. They will then be able to pull the code and proceed to diagnose the problem with the circuit, sensor, or controller by using the information they have accessed on my MOD computer. I have also been teaching them the proper acronyms that are used in the auto industry such as TPS ( throttle position sensor), IAC ( idle air control) MASS ( mass air flow) etc. The list goes on and on, but this information must be learned because this is what these programs use.

MATERIALS- The materials that I am using are as follows:

Modern Automotive Technology 7th edition (2009) by James E. Duffy
Snap-On electronic diagnostic scan tool ( 2005 version)
Mitchell-On-Demand 2005 ( computer program with stand-alone computer)


Modern Automotive Technology

  1. chapter 8- Basic Electricity and Electronics
  2. chapter 17- Computer System Fundamentals
  3. chapter 18- On-Board Diagnostics and Scan Tools
  4. chapter 45- Engine Performance and Driveability

Modern Automotive Technology Teachers’ Resources Powerpoint CD

Solus (Snap-On) Scanner Users Manual

Mitchell-On-Demand 2005 Edition


There are a number of accommodations that I am using for these two students to help them along.
- no lecture-type lessons
- extra time to do seat work
- visual lessons ( using vehicle to show components)
- powerpoint when able
- video when available ( limited resources in this area)
- handouts of written work ( large volume of work for this type of training)
- simplifed flow charts for diagnosis when possible, using large font ( 16-20)
- breaking up lessons into smaller chunks ( 15-20 minutes, then onto live


- walk them through tasks before they start- until they are familiar
- one-on-one instruction when possible
- live demonstrations

This type of diagnostic work will not be modified in college or in a real shop situation.
These students that are involved are fairly bright. I am trying to treat and teach them as
if they have no disabilities as much as possible, so they will not try to fall back on them if
not successful ( as in the past). I am also trying not to modify so that I can stick close to

the curriculum when possible.


I will be teaching the required information to the students starting in March. I will continue until the end of the school year, and will have some results to post by the end of this course. Near the start of May I will be doing a summative type assignment with the two chosen students to see what they have learned. I will be bugging a car by disconnecting a sensor and then having them install the scanner and attempt to diagnose and repair the problem. From what I have observed so far they should have no problem with this exercise.


Assessment will be done mostly through observation of the students performing the final tasks of actually troubleshooting a bugged car. I will be able to assess their performance through this task. Everything that they have been taught regarding electronic diagnosis and repair will be used in these final tasks. They will have to hook up the scanner and pull the code from the cars’ onboard control module. They will then have to enter the information into the computer program, and then follow the flow chart and instructions given in the program to find the problem on the actual car. If they find the problem and solve it then they have been successful. If they do not find the problem or become lost at some point then they need more training.


The students are actually learning the material quicker than I thought they would. I think the hardest part was when I had to teach them to decifer a cars’ V.I.N. ( vehicle identification number). This is a 13 digit number that tells you the year, model, and engine size, along with the manufacturer, and also contains numbers to identify the individual vehicle. They almost gave up on me with this exercise. Once we got over this hump they really enjoyed using the scanner and extracting information from the vehicle.

Another challenge was learning the computer program. If you do not input the exact information it will lead you where you do not want to be. We had a few mishaps in this way but overall they learned to input proper information. One of the things that I had to stress over and over was patience. They thought they had to go as fast as possible. This is a good way to make mistakes, which can be costly if working in a shop situation. It can cost the customer a lot of money for nothing, but usually it is the technician that loses. Patience before speed was an important lesson. Learning to read a flow chart and follow the instructions is easy on paper. When they had to take the information that they had gathered and locate components and wiring on the car it is not so easy. Every car model is different. The biggest lesson here was that a wiring harness number that started with 1 was under the hood, 2 was inside the passenger compartment, and 3 was in the trunk area.
The students were able to learn how to diagnose fairly simple problems that I had created with the vehicles. I started by unplugging an oxygen sensor. They were able to follow the steps right up the sensor and then realized when checking the connector that it was not making contact. I kept it fairly simple, unplugging sensors or backing out connectors on sensor plugs. In this way they were able to solve the problems, which was very encouraging for them, and learn to use the equipment and the computer program. We will continue to practice this type of diagnosis and repair until the end of the year. I will also be making a summative activity for them at years’ end with these types of problems to solve.


In conclusion this was a very challenging project to attempt at OTLC. The two students that I chose were up for the challenge. I believe that I have given them a really good headstart in preparing them for life after secondary school. I remember what it was like working in a shop. Every time a new apprentice came in we had to teach them about scanners and electronic diagnosis from square one. After discussions with other Transportation teachers in my board I found that most of them did not spend much time in this area because it was time consuming and most students would not get it, or were not interested. I was in lucky situation, having a class of only four students, and one of them rarely shows up.
I believe that I learned a lot about what works and what does not work when teaching students with learning disabilities. You can never underestimate them just because they do not learn the same way that most do. I find that I learn the same way as most of them do, by doing hands-on activities. If you asked me last year if I thought I could teach this type of material to students at this school I probably would have said no. This is not to say that I do not believe in these students. I find that they are very personal, and extremely honest. They see things the same way as most of us. For them the journey is just done in a different way. I feel that if given the chance that my students will find their place in society, not as a burden to the welfare system but as contributing members.

All in all I must say that I enjoyed the challenge that was presented to me. In the future I will try not to limit what is taught in class, given the right students and circumstance.


Modern Automotive Technology 7th edition (2009)- by James E. Duffy
Solus (Snap-On) scanner ( August 2005 version)
Mitchell-On-Demand 2005 ( computer program with stand-alone computer)