Archive | November, 2013

Thatcham urges Government not to tinker with apprenticeships

Thatcham urges Government not to tinker with apprenticeships

Thatcham-EscribeThatcham has urged the Government to take caution when making changes to the automotive industry apprenticeships.

It added that while it is in full support of the programme and putting employers in control, the current system employed by the sector is working well.

Peter Shaw, Chief Executive at Thatcham, said: “It is pleasing to see apprenticeships firmly on the Government agenda but we believe that the first priority should be in ensuring that apprenticeship schemes remain fit for purpose, easy to access and properly funded.”

Thatcham has its own academy running a number of apprentice programmes giving young technicians first hand experience of the latest technology from working in its repair technology centre.

Shaw added: “Thatcham has the resources in place and a successful track record in promoting and administering apprentice schemes, and we think that shifting the emphasis to already cash pressurised employers, who rely upon the expertise and leadership from training institutions, would be a mistake.

“Employers undoubtedly have an important role to play in making sure apprentice programmes remain relevant and teach the kind of skills that the next generation of repair technicians will need. That’s why we continue to work closely with all of our employers and regularly encourage their feedback.”

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Expect Genge to factor in the answers

Jgenge-BWJohn Genge gets to grips with some common questions from the aftermarket. Here he looks at the value of apprentices and appraisals.

Can my business really benefit from an apprentice?

The simple answer is yes, but only if you are prepared to invest a little time and effort into getting and keeping the right ones. Many employers are cynical, and this cynicism is often based on their experiences: “The guy was lazy, didn’t want to learn”; “I spent all this time developing them, and they left”; “Why should I spend all this money training staff for someone else to benefit?”
I have heard all of these and more, and it may explain why there are now so few trainees and apprentices in our businesses today, despite the Government’s efforts to encourage more school leavers into this pathway.
I hold a different view and this is based on my own experiences. True, in my time I have shared all of the above complaints, but, more often than not, I have trained people that have become key employees and stayed with me for many years. Moreover, employing trainees and apprentices makes good economic sense since their cost of employment is low and their potential return high.
But to get the best from your trainees and apprentices, you must follow a few simple steps.
Don’t take what’s given, go and find the best ones. Talk to schools and find students keen on learning your business. Get close to the Heads as they will often know the best suited to the trade. Take them on a work experience placement and if possible, give them holiday work and even Saturday mornings if it suits. You will soon find the ones with the good work ethic.
Speak with their parents. Involve them and gain their commitment towards their child’s development. Their support is beneficial if the correct attitude and motivation is to be maintained.
Have a training plan. If you make it up as you go along, the trainee ends up a spare pair of hands, doing odd errands and unskilled jobs and in everyone’s way. They will inevitably undertake mundane tasks, but explain to them the significance and importance and ensure that the plan is adhered to.
Finally, give them feedback. Ask them to summarise what they have done, what they have learned and give them feedback on what they have done well, what needs to be improved and what new development tasks they now have. This can be done informally in a short meeting or, during a proper appraisal.
Treat them like a valued employee, and they will likely become one.

Why should I bother with appraisals?

Some say waste of time, some undertake them just to comply with policy but get little from them, while some gain a massive benefit from them.
Of course you should be constantly talking and listening to what your team members tell you, but an appraisal is different. This activity is for the benefit if both of you ask:

  • What is this person employed to do?
  • How effectively are they doing it?
  • How can they improve their performance?
  • What are they capable of developing into?

If your appraisals do not ask these questions, you aren’t maximising their use. Don’t ever use an appraisal to discipline staff, tell them if
their job or responsibilities are changing, or talk about yourself or the company.
All of this activity should be done away from appraisals since an appraisal is all about the staff member, their role and nothing else. Done properly they will be motivational and provide a clear focus for the employee and your relationship with him or her.
Take time to research the best appraisal methods. There is plenty of information out there on the best methods but simply put, these are the essentials:

  • Prepare. Give the employee a checklist of things to consider and allow them to prepare.
  • Review. Look back over the employees past performance. What have they done well, what needs to get better?
  • Structure. Decide what you are going to say and how you will say it. Ensure that you find positive things to say or, positive actions the employee can take to improve.
  • Listen. Let the employee speak. Let them say whatever they want. It is their appraisal. Ask what you can do to help with their issues to make them more effective in their job.
  • Summarise. Have a checklist of action points which are agreed and summarised between you both.
  • Follow through. Don’t just let it fizzle out. Whatever are your action points, follow through and make them happen.
  • Finally, do not exclude anyone. Every employee deserves this opportunity. No one is too senior nor too unimportant.

If you have a question for John, send it to or

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CAT Garage Lives: Walker Cutting

Walker-Cutting_inside-3Joint owner Mark Walker talks to CAT about realising his dream of owning a garage.

From the age of 14, Walker has wanted to own a garage, after working at a backstreet workshop helping out.

By the time he was selling new cars for Peter Gilder Audi in Sheffield, he believed it was a dream he no longer wanted.

Walker says: “It got to a point where all that was beneath me, and I thought I am not going to get dirty for a living. I am selling cars and driving nice Audis.”

He continued working for dealerships and made the move to Hartwell Vauxhall soon after where he met up with his future business partner, Gary Cutting.

Walker soon made a huge decision to start up his own business selling cars from a plot of land in Chesterfield. In 2004, Cutting wanted to start his own enterprise, and both he and Walker formed a partnership.

Mark-Walker_1“We wanted more than a plot of land and a portacabin, we wanted some bricks and mortar to go with it,” he adds. “We got the opportunity of a showroom and workshop in Kimberworth and that is where it all started.

“It was coincidence that I ended up in Kimberworth, where I grew up, with a garage.”

From thinking he no longer wanted to run a workshop, Walker was suddenly employing three technicians to work on cars. It was almost a dream come true he says, but needed a little extra to get there.

The business continued to grow to a point where they had to find bigger premises, and in 2009 they secured a unit in the centre of Rotherham. The move also saw Walker and Cutting, join Bosch’s Car Service Network.

“We knew where technology was going, and we knew we needed to be part of something,” says Walker. “We needed our staff to be part of some form of training, we needed to invest in them as well.

“We looked at Bosch Car Service, but our old site wasn’t really good enough. So we took the plunge in 2009. It was a big, big investment, and all of a sudden the recession hit, and it was very hard, as nobody around here was investing in this trade like we were.”

The first two years under the Bosch scheme were very tough for Walker & Cutting as they continued to invest in the business and the staff, and they suffered the pinch of the recession and zero profits.

“We are quite proud of it to be fair,” says Walker. “We made the decision that if we made someone redundant, we would both feel like failures, so we kept paying staff despite no work coming through the door and not pay ourselves.

“There is nothing worse than coming to work, working hard and not earn any money for two years. We made a decision that we have an obligation to our staff not legally but morally, as they look to us as their source of income.”

Walker explains that during the recession they had to look for other forms of income, as it wasn’t possible to rely solely on work coming through the door. The garage picked up a lot of work from council staff, as well as pitching for contract work.

Walker says: “Since moving here, we have developed the fleet work we do, so 30 percent of our business is now company car drivers, big fleets and leasing companies. Through ourselves and a few other Bosch garages we also developed the Bosch fleet programme as well.

“A lot of these leasing companies won’t just send you work, you have got to start doing a few jobs for them. Gradually you start building it up to the point where you start getting two to three jobs a day in, and it has worked out like that.”

Looking back Walker acknowledges that all the hard work put in is now seeing the garage begin to reap the rewards, as Walker Cutting is having its best year to date.

Walker says: “I just can’t believe how being that little lad at 14 who wanted his own garage to thinking I am too good for this sort of thing, and I am not getting dirty for a living, back to living in Kimberworth with a garage, you just couldn’t write it. It was so strange that would happen and now we have ended up with a fantastic business.”

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Lowering engine oil viscosity is no longer sufficient

Lowering engine oil viscosity is no longer sufficient

281113miloilsMillers Oils has issued a warning to the industry that simply lowering the viscosity isn’t enough to meet increasingly stringent emission targets.

It says innovative oil development will help reduce friction which is responsible for 20 percent of the engine’s carbon dioxide emissions.

It’s a challenge the industry as a whole is facing while trying to increase durability.

Martyn Mann, Technical Director at Millers Oils, said: “Compatibility with changing, sensitive emissions technologies, smaller sump capacity, fewer and smaller crank bearings, high specific power output and increased low speed torque loads are just some of the areas that traditional oils struggle to address efficiently.

“The expectation of increased service intervals, hybrid drives and aggressive thermal environments necessitates thorough lubrication development, and manufacturers must resist the temptation of reducing oil viscosity.”

Millers believes that the need to adopt a different approach is down to drivetrain advancements. It says focusing on oil technology is essential not only to help OEMs create reliable downsized engines and alternative powertrains, but to maxmise the potential gains made by these developments.

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Technicians need to be properly qualified says IMI

Technicians need to be properly qualified says IMI

Qualified-TechnicianThe Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) has said that technicians have to be appropriately qualified to deal with modern day vehicles.

Research carried out ahead of the launch of its Professional Register, shows that around 175,000 people work in garages on vehicles, but the IMI can only verify 27,000 who possess the necessary skills and competencies to carry out servicing and repair work.

The IMI has cited the lack of proper licensing in the industry as the reason why the number is so low.

Steve Nash, Chief Executive Officer for the IMI, said: “Modern vehicles are complex and advanced pieces of engineering – even a ten-year-old car can have considerably more computing power than that which took man to the moon.

“They are not simple to service or repair and specialist skills are now essential. However, unlike other professions, there is no statutory requirement for motor technicians to prove they have these skills.

“This contributes to the sadly familiar scenario of repeat visits to a garage for a single fault, often due to poor diagnosis, and undoubtedly has ramifications around the safety of any work undertaken.”

Nash added it is a concern as the public are largely unaware the maintenance, service and repair sector is mainly unregulated.

The IMI currently has more than 40,000 members on its Professional Register, with 75 percent being technicians, and the hope is that it can expand its membership to 50,000 by the end of 2014.

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ECP finalises deal to distribute Run Motor engines

ECP finalises deal to distribute Run Motor engines

ECP to start doing collision repair parts

Euro Car Parts has signed an exclusive deal to distribute an unrivalled range of Run Motor engines to the aftermarket.

It will see the car parts giant being able to supply 450 of the most popular engine units in the UK, and are championing its unbeatable value, quality and delivery capabilities as its major selling point.

ECP will give garages three options to choose from, with the basic version including just the basic block, oil pump and crankcase, while the full option will also add a fuel pump, injectors and a timing case.

Supkhpal Singh Ahluwalia, Chairman of Euro Car Parts, said: “Run Motor is the third biggest engine supplier in Europe and their new warehouse in Hastings means we can offer UK garages an unrivalled choice of top quality engines with immediate availability.”

Ahluwalia went on to add that ECP will aim to deliver any Run engine order made before 5pm within 24 hours and if it is late the garage will receive a five percent discount.

Each engine will come supplied with a 12-month unlimited warranty, and technicians have access to a freephone technical helpline to aid the fitting process.

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Inside Line: Meyle

Sven Nielsen, Technical Director from MEYLE, says the following difficulties may arise with the Volkswagen Polo:

Worn out control arm bushings


Rubber mounts rank among the most vulnerable automotive components. Designed to absorb the high effective loads occurring during acceleration and braking and to stabilise the control arm, they are subject to critical levels of strain.

MEYLE Solution

Meyles-BearingUnder the loads acting on the bushing the rubber will crack causing the fissures to grow towards the part’s interior and along the surface. This can cause the rubber strip to break and the part to fail prematurely. As this can adversely affect the vehicle’s tracking stability, the condition of the rubber bushings is checked as an integral part of every general inspection. The pass certificate will not be issued unless the cracked bushing, however small the fissure, has been replaced.

MEYLE’s earlier bushing generations already featured four strips instead of the usual two to increase damping performance. Additionally, the company’s engineers have redesigned material dimensions to reinforce the part’s strip geometries and part diameters compared with the OE solution.

For the latest HD bushing generation local stress peaks resulting in premature OE part failure were eliminated using FEM (finite element method) calculation models simulating body stress and strain behaviour during operation. Based on the results of dynamic component tests made from a wide range of materials an entirely new part has been modelled using a design and materials ideally geared to the loads it has to bear. The newly developed solid HD rubber bushing features a rubber compound designed to reduce tensile loads while maximising part life and increasing roadholding characteristics. The new MEYLE-HD bushing fits a variety of applications including – besides VW Polo – many more VAG models like Skoda Fabia, Seat Ibiza, Skoda Roomster, Seat Cordoba and VW Fox.

Stabiliser links often worn out


Intense strain and high surface pressure wear and stress on the ball joint. This causes a premature failure of the ball joint and generates noise at the front axle.

MEYLE-HD Solution

Meyle_CorsaMEYLE in-house engineers increased the diameter of the ball head of the ball joint to 22 mm, in addition to using wear-resistant synthetic ball sockets with high-tech grease. The reduction of the surface pressure ensures a significantly longer lifetime.

Owing to the larger ball head the ball surface on MEYLE-HD stabilizer links has been increased by 50%. This way we have managed to significantly improve the part‘s load carrying capacity along with its service life. The blue clip-on plastic socket adds additional strength to the MEYLE-HD part.

Worn out brake discs


Worn out brake discs affect the braking behavior of the vehicle. Rust may play a major role in this case.

MEYLE Solution:

The MEYLE solution is a brake disc covered with a specially developed multi-layer zinc coating. The MEYLE PD coating simply provides better anti-corrosion protection.

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Inside Line: Castrol

The fourth-generation Volkswagen Polo was unveiled in 2002 with a range of 1.2-, 1.4-, and 1.6-litre petrol engines and 1.4- and 1.9-litre diesel engines.

Castrol points out that every engine in the Volkswagen Polo Mk4 range can run on fully-synthetic Castrol EDGE 5W-30 engine oil. The oil filler cap even carries a Castrol recommendation, serving to remind motorists and workshops what the best lubricant is for their engine.

It’s important that vehicle technicians top-up these vehicles with the correct oil specification. Technicians should note that older models within the range, those which pre-date the Polo’s 2006 facelift, can also run on Castrol EDGE 5W-40 engine oil in petrol and non-DPF diesel engine models on time/distance servicing. The more modern engines fitted to later models (2006-09) on variable servicing, or with DPF fitted, need to be filled with lower-viscosity Castrol EDGE 5W-30.

Any lubricant lacking the relevant Volkswagen Group approvals may ultimately reduce the efficiency, performance and longevity of the engine.

The service intervals for the Mk4 Polo are variable up to a maximum 19,000 miles, or two years in between oil changes – more than most motorists drive in a year. Workshops should therefore consider offering customers a one-litre bottle of engine oil in case they need to top-up their car’s engine oil between visits to the workshop. This can also help customer satisfaction and retention, as the workshop can demonstrate that they have their customers’ best interests at heart.

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Inside Line: Suplex

Volkswagen Polo (9N3) in production between 2005 and 2009


SUPLEX advises that Polo 9N3 models left the factory with one of three different suspension settings: standard, sports or rough road. Most vehicles will have left the factory with standard suspension but the factory sports option – standard on all 1.8 L GTI and 1.4 L TDI BlueMotion models – included uprated springs which lowered the chassis by 15 mm. All CrossPolo models were equipped with rough road suspension requiring special springs which increased ride height by 15 mm. When replacing tired or broken springs, technicians need to order the appropriate parts to avoid ride height and handling problems.

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Inside Line: RMI

VW Polo up to 2009

  • Both oil and charge warning lights illuminated intermittently, loose wiring loom socket on rear of instrument cluster.
  • 1.4 TD PD engine overheating issue, various reports of loose water pump impeller (plastic type).
  • ABS warning light on intermittent fault with no fault codes recorded, bad earth to pins 13 and 38 of the ABS module.
  • Scraping binding noise from rear brakes when reversing slow, replacing the pads only fixes for a short term – modified callipers available.

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