AKRON (Aug. 31, 2009)—Mishandling and/or abusing test leads is a recipe for disaster in any service department.
Service shop owners and managers need to recognize mistreatment and stop it promptly. Ultimately, abused test leads can hurt the business' reputation via misdiagnoses and comebacks.
If you've paid any attention to diagnoses in progress back in the bays, you know that a certain amount of wires and cables are unavoidable. After all, these wires—large and small—carry data and electrical measurements from the vehicle to the test instrument(s).
Although wireless technology has reduced the number of test leads in some instances, that's the exception rather than the rule. So if we're stuck with leads, let's try to work with them wisely.
In some instances, the tire dealership or service shop owns the test equipment or meter in question. Other times it's the technician's own. Some techs I've met sorely need to be taught how to handle test leads correctly—even on their own meters and scan tools.
Remind them politely and professionally that treating leads more carefully saves them money and makes them money. It saves by reducing the frequency of test lead failure. It makes them money by increasing the odds that the equipment's ready to go first job, every job.
Damaged test leads may do more than hamper tech efficiency and productivity. They may cause inaccurate diagnoses or a diagnosis that takes considerably longer than normal. This eventually leads to unhappy customers who may not come back again.
A little common sense goes a long, long way toward preventing damaged test leads. First, avoid picking up any kind of tester or instrument by its test leads, even if only for a moment. Basically, leads aren't designed to support the weight of the tester. Doing this is a good way to fray or break the fine copper strands inside the test lead wire or cable. Then the tester may work intermittently or quit working altogether.
Worse yet, damaged leads may cause what appear to be intermittent data or voltage readings from the vehicle. That's a condition that can send an unsuspecting tech running in a circle for hours.
Never force a tester back into its storage case with the leads attached when there's inadequate space. Doing this stresses the ends of the leads and may loosen connections inside the tester.
Finally, avoid wrapping cables and leads into figure-eights or into extremely tight bundles for storage. A tech may do this for years and never encounter a failure, but I've seen this common approach cause plenty of cable and lead failures.
Where necessary, I prefer creating enough storage so that I can stow wires and cables in relatively large loops or circles. The larger loops don't stress wires or cables. “Relaxed” wires seldom break.