- Author: Wayne Colonna, Technical Editor
From thousands of transmission technicians working in shops across the country, stories abound as to how each one found their way into the world of transmissions. With different ages, races and sexes occupying the trade, individuals come with varied levels of interest, education and ambition. As such, there come different levels of success in personal accomplishments and financial gain.
From conducting seminars across the country and speaking with technicians on the tech line, the opportunity arises to become acquainted with many of these technicians. As the years rolled by, it has been interesting to observe and compile the ingredients employed by those doing well in the industry, particularly those in the shop environment.
I began taking notice of successful individuals about 10 years ago when I met a man whose shop consisted of a full machine shop. He employed his own machinist so as to make full use of his equipment, giving him the ability to envision and have made a tool needed to perform a task more efficiently. He would take note of repeated mechanical failures within certain transmissions and overcome them with redesigned parts. With this resource, he was free of many confinements, allowing his mind to push into areas of transmission repair that others rarely visit.
On another occasion, during a seminar break, a couple of individuals came up to me and asked: “Do you have this kind of tech information for engines? We do mostly engine work but we also do transmissions, and your manuals and seminars help us a lot. It would be great if you could do the same for us with overhauling engines.” Later that same day another man approached me and asked: “Why don’t you do any tech on converter rebuilding? We rebuild our own torque converters, and it would be good for us to have more training in this area.” Through both of these incidents, and through the years, I have come to know these individuals more, and each has a very successful business.
I know of one man who expanded his transmission shop to have several businesses under one roof. He has a converter business as well as his own parts department. Each business operates independently, selling its individual services to his transmission shop. Each pays rent, and he is employed by all three businesses.
The shop where I once was employed has expanded its transmission business to provide a variety of underhood and undercar repairs. The shop is always busy with work. When transmission repair is down, other types of repair continue to generate revenue.
Wheel alignment is an aspect of the automotive-repair industry that dovetails nicely with the transmission-repair industry. Alignment work inevitably leads to front-end repair. Anyone who has ever worked in a dealership knows that it’s the wheel-alignment guy who is always busy.
In short, those I have seen who have been very successful without question share a common ingredient, and that is attitude. They have always displayed a certain liking or enjoyment for their work. It is from this attitude that they expanded their interest into other areas of the automotive industry. This resulted in diversified automotive-repair services, which yield steady work flow. Axiomatically, this equates to steady cash flow. Having the right attitude is certainly a disposition that lends itself to success.
Now when we consider the automatic-transmission business, it must be understood that it is NOT the automatic-transmission industry that is making rapid and constant changes; it is the automotive industry as a whole that’s experiencing these changes. Engines and transmissions, as we know, come together as one unit known as the powertrain. Consequently, one affects the other. Therefore, it becomes imperative for a transmission technician who desires to be successful to have some degree of knowledge regarding the powertrain and not just the transmission.
For example, Mercedes-Benz, which is owned by DaimlerChrysler, already has on the road in its new C230 Sport Coupe fiber-optic lines as a means of communication from one controller to another. It also plans to present a 42-volt electrical system in its vehicles in the 2004 model year. All of this is designed to improve engine performance. A 42-volt system makes possible the control of the engine valves by solenoids. This type of technology allows the computer system to tailor compression ratio under any driving condition. Obviously, this type of technology will find itself in DaimlerChrysler products and spread from there. With fiber-optic communication and 42-volt systems, there definitely will be a need for new testing equipment. And this will include the transmission having direct influences in terms of drivability concerns related to shift and converter-clutch strategies.
Just to cite two other examples of understanding drivability strategies, there are the up-and-coming integrated starter/generator systems that allow the engine to shut down at stops and restart when on-throttle command is detected. Can you imagine having a transmission that neutralizes at a stop combined with an engine shutting down and then restarting when the driver steps into the throttle? Perhaps this would cure the age-old problem of engines stalling when coming to a stop because of a defective converter-clutch solenoid – whatayatink?
Then there are the already-existing curve-recognition programs that alter shift strategy by detecting lateral movement via wheel-speed sensors. Their purpose is to prevent shift busyness on turns. Some of BMW’s AGS systems use this program, such as the 530iA and iTA with AGS version 7.32, and the 540iA and 740iA/iLA with AGS version 9.22. When tires are inflated unequally, there are different tire sizes or the tires have excessively uneven wear, a loss of 4th gear will occur after a highway run.
Having the right attitude and building a broader scope of the automotive industry will allow expansion into diversified automotive-repair services. Rather than ducking your head and closing your eyes, meet the challenge head on. Ya gotta love being in the trenches where you can smell the gunpowder.