The power of NASTF

Jan. 1, 2020
I recently came upon a column in a periodical that, in summary, said continuing vehicle complexity is driving the need for service information, and without it, technicians will be unable to complete repairs and will cease to exist.

I recently came upon a column in a periodical that, in summary, said continuing vehicle complexity is driving the need for service information, and without it, technicians will be unable to complete repairs and will cease to exist. It might interest you to know that this periodical was published 1937. I have personally worked on a few vehicles from that era, and I can attest that without service information you have no chance of setting up the carburetor on a 1937 Buick with an inline 8 Cylinder correctly.

We were still dealing with carburetors, for the most part, in 1982 when the same concerns were voiced over the complexity of computer-controlled engine management. Never mind that it had been around since the late 1960s in some mass-produced vehicles.

This is something we're working on with our channel partners, the Activants and WHIs of the world. We're creating an integrated look up, so when I'm in the order entry screen, we're working with them to create a way to use the AAIA Internet Parts Ordering (IPO) standard to build a way to look at VIC, just like you'd look at other stores or your own warehouse. The manufacturer shows that part number in the quantity I want, and I go ahead and order it. Now when the ship notice comes in, you have a way to track it because the system generated the order, as opposed to an ad hoc process over the phone.

At that time GM was the big dog on the block. They started training independent techs to work on their vehicles computer controls through their ACDelco Tech Program, and other manufacturers followed. OE service information was very expensive at the time because most of the service manuals were model and year specific. Of course, aftermarket service information providers eventually solved our problem with a service manual that covered most of the popular manufacturers for several years at a time. It contained the majority of the information you needed to work on the majority of cars.

Fast forward through the history lesson to today. What has changed? Cars are still more complex, although I would much prefer to diagnose a body-control problem on a 2008 Buick than set up that 1937 carburetor. It’s easier.

Technicians’ tools have shifted to require an entire drawer of electrical diagnostic equipment where we once worked with a test light. We still get the majority of the information to repair most cars from the same providers that did it back in the 50s, only now it is by computer, and if you can’t find what you need you send them a message asking for more. If they cannot find it, you have the option of looking it up yourself by going to the vehicle manufacturer’s website. If you still can’t find what you are looking for, you can send a message or call the manufacturer and ask for it. If they cannot provide a mission critical piece of repair information, you can drop a message to the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) and a group of volunteers will make sure that it gets located, written, fixed, etc. Most of the time things get resolved in hours.

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However, sometimes a problem takes much longer. There is a situation with BMW USA’s not-so-new tool that causes it to work really poorly over the web. Many independent BMW service providers were dealing with this horrible problem, but nobody was saying anything. The NASTF service information committee received a formalized complaint and began working to solve the issue.
The service providers, NASTF and BMW have been collaborating for 6 weeks to identify the problem causes and resolve them, and we are seeing much progress.

BMW, their dealers and independent repairers are not 100 percent satisfied and won’t be until the next version of their system is released, but they went from being almost unable to get a repair performed to having speeds that the dealers’ technicians have. This type of solution was not available in 1937 or 1982. It comes from independents, manufacturers and their dealers taking a pretty big leap of faith to work together and understand each other.

I have never in 10 years of working with legislative bodies seen one that could get things done as efficiently as NASTF can. I support everyone’s opportunity to repair cars by investing in the necessary training and equipment. I spend hundreds of volunteer hours teaching technicians and working on solutions with other NASTF volunteers. Why would you want the folks in all the capital buildings coming up with solutions for you? Their track record speaks for itself. If you think that something needs to be done better, NASTF can always use more volunteers.

I recently came upon a column in a periodical that, in summary, said continuing vehicle complexity is driving the need for service information, and without it, technicians will be unable to complete repairs and will cease to exist. It might interest you to know that this periodical was published 1937. I have personally worked on a few vehicles from that era, and I can attest that without service information you have no chance of setting up the carburetor on a 1937 Buick with an inline 8 Cylinder correctly.

We were still dealing with carburetors, for the most part, in 1982 when the same concerns were voiced over the complexity of computer-controlled engine management. Never mind that it had been around since the late 1960s in some mass-produced vehicles.

This is something we're working on with our channel partners, the Activants and WHIs of the world. We're creating an integrated look up, so when I'm in the order entry screen, we're working with them to create a way to use the AAIA Internet Parts Ordering (IPO) standard to build a way to look at VIC, just like you'd look at other stores or your own warehouse. The manufacturer shows that part number in the quantity I want, and I go ahead and order it. Now when the ship notice comes in, you have a way to track it because the system generated the order, as opposed to an ad hoc process over the phone.

At that time GM was the big dog on the block. They started training independent techs to work on their vehicles computer controls through their ACDelco Tech Program, and other manufacturers followed. OE service information was very expensive at the time because most of the service manuals were model and year specific. Of course, aftermarket service information providers eventually solved our problem with a service manual that covered most of the popular manufacturers for several years at a time. It contained the majority of the information you needed to work on the majority of cars.

Fast forward through the history lesson to today. What has changed? Cars are still more complex, although I would much prefer to diagnose a body-control problem on a 2008 Buick than set up that 1937 carburetor. It’s easier.

Technicians’ tools have shifted to require an entire drawer of electrical diagnostic equipment where we once worked with a test light. We still get the majority of the information to repair most cars from the same providers that did it back in the 50s, only now it is by computer, and if you can’t find what you need you send them a message asking for more. If they cannot find it, you have the option of looking it up yourself by going to the vehicle manufacturer’s website. If you still can’t find what you are looking for, you can send a message or call the manufacturer and ask for it. If they cannot provide a mission critical piece of repair information, you can drop a message to the National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF) and a group of volunteers will make sure that it gets located, written, fixed, etc. Most of the time things get resolved in hours.

PAGE 2

However, sometimes a problem takes much longer. There is a situation with BMW USA’s not-so-new tool that causes it to work really poorly over the web. Many independent BMW service providers were dealing with this horrible problem, but nobody was saying anything. The NASTF service information committee received a formalized complaint and began working to solve the issue.
The service providers, NASTF and BMW have been collaborating for 6 weeks to identify the problem causes and resolve them, and we are seeing much progress.

BMW, their dealers and independent repairers are not 100 percent satisfied and won’t be until the next version of their system is released, but they went from being almost unable to get a repair performed to having speeds that the dealers’ technicians have. This type of solution was not available in 1937 or 1982. It comes from independents, manufacturers and their dealers taking a pretty big leap of faith to work together and understand each other.

I have never in 10 years of working with legislative bodies seen one that could get things done as efficiently as NASTF can. I support everyone’s opportunity to repair cars by investing in the necessary training and equipment. I spend hundreds of volunteer hours teaching technicians and working on solutions with other NASTF volunteers. Why would you want the folks in all the capital buildings coming up with solutions for you? Their track record speaks for itself. If you think that something needs to be done better, NASTF can always use more volunteers.