In this follow-up to a previous article on hybrid vehicle service, Bob discusses the types of hybrid vehicle repairs being performed by independent shops and how to decide on the kinds of repairs you’ll want to tackle.
In the previous issue of Auto Service Professional, we discussed how the number of hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) on U.S. roads has increased exponentially over the last 12 years, and the kinds of vehicles we’ll be seeing in the marketplace. The terms used to describe the various kinds of electrically driven vehicles seen will vary from one manufacturer to the next. You can refer to the accompanying chart for an explanation of the differences between a battery-electric vehicle, a plug-in, and so forth.
In this article we’ll outline what shops are currently doing to diagnose and repair hybrid vehicles, how often, how critical and what basic knowledge, tools and equipment you’d need if you want to get started. We’re talking specifically about servicing HEV high voltage systems. This information is important if you’re thinking about getting into hybrid vehicle high-voltage systems and component service. If you’re serious about keeping your customers (with hybrid vehicles) happy, or just thinking about getting into hybrid-vehicle service, read on.
Are there hybrids in your future?
What do hybrid vehicle Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) consider important?
We think you’ll find the results of the included analysis important to your professional future. In it you’ll discover what other shops have been doing in the way of hybrid vehicle service and repair. See if any of the services described sounds interesting to you. If so, this should help give you direction in deciding your professional future.
Some time ago, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) decided to sponsor a “Light Hybrid Vehicle Focus Group/Exploratory Workshop” (see sidebar). They invited some of the country’s leading hybrid vehicle OEM and aftermarket trainers and repair shop owners (considered SMEs) to share their opinions about what kind of work they saw being performed on HEVs. The information learned was then entered into a database by ASE staff, and the resulting information is shared in the charts accompanying this article. The SMEs determined that most of the work specific to light-duty hybrid vehicles being done by shops falls into six major areas of repair. These are:
A. Safety and general maintenance;
B. Battery packs [typically high-voltage];
C. Internal combustion engine (ICE);
D. Drive systems;
E. Power electronics;
F. Hybrid [vehicle] supporting systems.
Breaking things down further, within each of the six major service areas, the SME focus group identified various procedures being performed on hybrid vehicles. For each procedure, the group then went on to identify:
• The applicable drive system type (Types 1 through 4 — see previous ASP article in July/August 2011).
• The frequency of repair (i.e. how often the procedure is done).
• The criticality (or importance) of each procedure; and
• Who is doing the repair(s); i.e. the technical knowledge and skill required.
Some of the country’s best and brightest hybrid vehicle service experts are telling us what they are doing to keep HEVs running. You can benefit from their findings by studying them carefully.
In no particular order, here’s just a sampling of the kind of hybrid vehicle service the best shops are offering:
• Determine if vehicle ICE is in crank mode or run mode.
• Force ICE to enter service mode (disable idle stop).
• Locate and safely disable/enable safety interlock.
• Diagnose and repair HV battery pack heating and cooling systems
• Perform high voltage disable (safe down)/enable (power up) procedure.
• Repair or replace HV battery pack internal components.
• Diagnose AC/DC inverter overheating; determine needed repair.
• Reset inclination sensors.
I don’t know about you, but I find this kind of service absolutely fascinating. If you agree, find out if your local market has the potential to support doing these HEV repairs. Knowing what the experts are doing will likely help you decide what to do in your market area.
The information will also help you get an idea of how much training and tools you’ll need to plan for.