CAR CARE: Technology keeps maintenance challenging

Technology continues to change and the automotive industry is not immune to the advancements.

?Basically about everything on a car is run by a computer anymore,? said Harold Schultz, service manager at Irv Schroeder County Motors, Hillsboro.

Computers tell the car such things as when the fuel tank is getting low.

Joe Vinduska, service manager with Wright?s Chrysler/Plymouth/ Dodge/Jeep, said with the new technology, ?routine? maintenance and tune-up procedures have changed a lot.

Schultz said even though vehicles require less maintenance now, maintenance is still critical.

?A lot of that hasn?t changed with newer vehicles,? agreed Kim Kaufman, service manager at Hillsboro Ford Mercury.

For instance, it is still important to change the oil regularly and rotate tires.

Vehicle owners should look in their manuals to determine what kinds of maintenance to do and when to do it.

Schultz said when a problem does arise, it can be more difficult to determine what it is because the electrical aspects of the vehicle result in more intermittent factors to consider.

Schultz said his service technicians don?t have a lot of problems with electronics, but when they do it?s tough to determine what it is.

With the new technology, the vehicles have a code in the computer system. Kaufman said the technicians must look up the code to see what they should look at to find the problem.

He added that the diagnostic process continues to become more involved. In the early 1980s, when electronic technology first began to be used, there were fewer than 50 codes. Now the codes number between 300 and 400.

Although the process pinpoints problems more closer, it also requires more work to look up the codes.

To keep up with the changing technology, technicians receive ongoing training.

Kaufman said Ford technicians have seven specialty areas they are trained in. The training includes Ford Multi-media and Ford Star System, as well as classroom training and self-study materials.

Vinduska said at Wright?s they are continually training to keep up with changes in technology.

Schultz said technicians for Chevrolet and General Motors vehicles do most of their training at the dealership via satellite with an instructor. The employees are doing some kind of training every week to keep up with developments.

One thing fairly misunderstood by car owners, according to Kaufman, is the ?check engine? or ?service engine? light on cars.

The light indicates when something is wrong with the computer and is constantly monitoring itself. If the light comes on, it does not necessarily mean something is wrong with the car.

?As long as the car is running OK you can keep driving it,? Kaufman said.

He said the light is there as an early warning. If comes on only once and goes back off, Kaufman said, probably nothing is wrong. But if it continues to come on or stays on, the vehicle should be looked at.

Schultz advised people to check with their dealer if the check engine light comes on because there could be a problem.

Vinduska said nine times out of 10, the technology in the car can identify the problem.

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