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As auto technology evolves, so do the people who repair them

Modern mechanics skilled in areas that traditionally had nothing to do with auto repair

 Fenton — Mechanic Jim Coon hovered above the Volt’s engine Wednesday afternoon, making sure everything was operating smoothly. The all-electric car hummed at such low decibels that you had to focus to hear it. Sound, which has always been a mechanic’s indicator for car troubles, is not as prevalent when it comes to working on electric and hybrid cars.

 “Newer cars are so dead quiet. It’s not like older models that make a bunch of noise,” said Duane Curto, service director at Vic Canever. “They have a fit finish. The quality is so good, you have to be on top of it.”

 As cars evolve with hybrid and electric features, so to do the technicians who work on them. Today’s auto repairers must expand their skills into the fields of computers and electronics. High voltage engines, fuel economy components and regenerative braking are only a few of the newer features that mechanics repair. Working with constantly expanding new technology requires diligence and hours of additional training.

 “Some of the new parts are more in depth. There’s so much more technology,” Coon said. “With eAssist, you have a hybrid car with regenerative braking, which charges your batteries when you brake. You end up getting the fuel economy of a small engine but the boost of a V6.”

 In order to be certified to work on hybrids and electric cars, Coon has traveled to Detroit for specialized classes and takes web-based training for the latest repair methods. Tools for hybrid and electric cars have to be inspected and renewed annually. With so many high voltage parts implemented into the engines, the wrong snip of an electric line can prove to be fatal.

 “Anything red, you don’t cut,” Coon advises. “For the most part, there have been minimal repair problems with the Volt.”

 In the 12 years he’s been teaching automotive classes, Andy Michalik has seen the field of mechanics become more specialized, down to even the individual parts. Where brakes used to comprise of only rotors and pads, Michalik’s students are now using scan tools and meters for the computers used for braking systems
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