Get well-grounded in electrical training

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Updated Feb 28, 2016
TMCSuper Tech 2015 competition units will be used during Optronics’ free lighting courses for fleets and distributor locations.TMCSuper Tech 2015 competition units will be used during Optronics’ free lighting courses for fleets and distributor locations.

Some of you may have read that Optronics is offering free technical training to fleets, distributors and jobbers.

It looks like everyone benefits. Optronics may get some sales leads while others get some beneficial lighting and electrical training which can go a long way.

As a mechanic, I learned years ago that diagnosing electrical problems can be some of the most difficult. It’s been 20 years, but I can still recall a friend and fellow mechanic in the shop tracing a wiring diagram for an ignition system.

He was showing me the ropes, or rather wires in this case. I was amazed by the complexity of the wiring diagram. It reminded me of a bunch of well-organized veins and capillaries. Everything was laid out nicely on paper and all color-coded.

Karl explained that it was now just up to the process of elimination to find the problem. Only thing was, if anyone’s ever worked with a wiring diagram, then you know that the bundles of wire in a vehicle aren’t laid out nearly as nicely as they are in that wiring diagram. In fact, they’re not even close. Thick, black looms bundle wires together and send them through tough rubber grommets in the firewall to God knows what on the other side.

But Karl was patient and explained how he could trace the path of a wire from one component to the next. He wasn’t stressed in the least.

Diagnostics, or troubleshooting, is key to correcting a problem. Too many times folks will reach for the easy fix and throw in a new component which may not be getting to the root of the problem.

Just about everyone has probably gone through this with a repair shop. Unfortunately, you can no longer trust them because they let you down with a costly, temporary fix.

Most of the time, I work on my own vehicles. About a half-hour ago before I started writing this, I finished fixing a bad ground on my SUV. Thankfully, the job was pretty easy. I mean, to be honest, I ‘m thanking the Big Man upstairs because some electrical issues are a nightmare.

As my son held the flashlight, I could see a small, hair-line crack on the negative battery clamp close to the fastening bolt. The crack was only visible by twisting the clamp in the light just right. Looks were definitely deceiving, because while it looked tight on the post, you could pull the clamp right off.

Because of that hairline crack, I had to deal with charging and start issues. Admittedly, I got off light this time. The fix was easy.

Doubtless, there are a lot of challenging electrical problems that vehicles can develop. They’re exposed to wet, freezing, jarring and hot conditions that can take a toll on a vehicle’s electrical system.

For example, I had to replace a fuel injection harness because the insulation around the wires had hardened with the heat, became brittle and fell off in places. That one was interesting. The engine fuse would blow when we hit a sizable bump or pothole. Turns out two wires on the injection harness were crossing just enough when the vehicle was jarred.

Optronics’ TMCSuperTech 2015 competition units will also prove challenging and insightful. I was happy to read that Optronics will training folks on these advanced competition units. What a great opportunity for anyone who needs to learn what makes a blinker blink and how to fix it when it goes on the blink.

We didn’t have anything like that in the shop where I started. I had some great teachers and plenty of manuals, but it would have provided a real leg-up if I had a chance to fiddle around with one of those lighting boards.

Here’s a little more background that Optronics provided on the TMCSuperTech competition:

The TMCSuperTech competition features professional commercial vehicle technicians competing for top honors and valuable prizes as they demonstrate their diagnostic abilities through a series of skills stations. The annual event is organized by TMC’s Professional Technical Development Committee (PTDC).

The PTDC chose Optronics to engineer and manufacture ten lighting and electrical testing boards used in the TMCSuperTech 2015 competition. Now, the same TMCSuperTech testing units used by the nation’s top vehicle technicians will be used by Optronics to train a wide variety of industry professionals.

“Optronics was honored to be chosen by TMC’s PTDC to bring the TMCSuperTech competition boards to fruition,” says Marcus Hester, vice-president of sales and marketing for Optronics International. “We’re so excited to repurpose this same sophisticated technology within the industry, and we think folks will be excited to use the same equipment that the pros used in their competition.”

I’ll certainly be looking for the Optronics booth next week at the Work Truck Show in Indianapolis. I’d like to take a closer look at that competition board.

HWT related: Optronics offering free technical training