Service managers and shop foremen should correct technicians who mishandle test equipment cables.
It's easy to overlook this abuse and its consequences can be very costly for several reasons.
Any tire dealership or service shop worth its salt should have written rules requiring workers to handle all shop equipment properly and respectfully. For example, some companies put these guidelines in an employee manual and/or post them in the locker room or break room.
A discussion of abused equipment and its consequences could fill chapter upon chapter. But that said, I'd like to highlight one particular aspect of it: Scan tool and oscilloscope cable mistreatment.
The accompanying photos show a common example of the cable and cable connector found on these devices. Watch for the following conditions.
First, be sure techs do not carry the tool by the cable itself. Eventually, the weight of the scanner or oscilloscope may break some of the fine wires in the cable. Suppose these fine wires fray or break. If so, count yourself lucky if the tool diesthat is, fails to work at all. In many instances, the damaged wiring causes intermittent operation of the tool. Obviously, an intermittent problem is the most-frustrating kind.
Worse yet, a damaged cable could cause erroneous test readings. The bogus test readings, in turn, could waste untold time and money. They could cause a technician to waste hours chasing the wrong potential failures. They could cause a careless tech to throw one unneeded part after another at the vehicle's problems.
The photo above shows the outside of a common test cable connector. Always remove the cable by gripping the cable connector instead of the cable itself. And always carry the tool by its handle or bodynot by its cable.
Second, coach and cajole technicians into putting cables away as soon as they're finished using them. Failing to put test cables back into proper storage also can be costly. More than once, I've seen techs step on a test cable that someone left on the shop floor. I've stepped on cables, too.
It's not difficult to do when you're in a hurryand maybe the shop lighting isn't the best, either.
The second photo (at right) shows a costly double header of a mistake. A technician accidentally stepped on this cable connector, distorting the shell of the connector. Then he tried to connect it to a scan tool. The bent connector shell prevented the connector from sliding smoothly and easily onto the scan tool.
When this happened, the guy lost his temper and tried to force the cable into place. Trying to force a misaligned connector broke the pin inside the upper left corner of the cable connector. (A new cable cost a tidy $100!)
The photo also shows a crude but potentially effective way of saving a cable connector. Using a very slim pair of needle-nose pliersnot to mention lots of patienceyou may be able to uncrimp a damaged cable connector. What's more, you may be able to straighten bent pins with an extremely narrow pair of needle-nose pliers. Trust me; trying to straighten these is a crap shoot.
Hopefully, these experiences and the accompanying photos convince managers and foremen that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure on tester cables.