Williams Diesel Prospers with Growing Service OpportunitiesPosted 6/25/2004
Typically, Williams Diesel services light-duty truck vehicles and engines. "In the past five years, business has increased 40 percent across the board among Ford, Chevy and Dodge," said Oliveros. "We work on a few passenger cars. We work on five or six vehicles a day, and if we could find more qualified technicians, we would turn out more vehicles."
Williams Diesel is a 10,000-square-foot shop that sits on two acres, has six service bays and employs 12 people. Of the 12, two are technicians for the shop's drive-through diesel service with the Bosch Diesel Service Center, and three technicians rebuild and calibrate injection pumps, injectors and turbochargers for the Bosch Diesel Service Dealer (DSD) aspect of his business.
Oliveros has been in business for 23 years and combined two shops into Williams Diesel Service 13 years ago. He first started in the automotive industry when he ran a backyard garage, repairing diesel fuel injection pumps found on the General Motors Corp. 5.7. He was the fuel pump tech, and his wife served as bookkeeper.
Oliveros said that there is plenty of work to keep his shop busy these days but sees a major need for more qualified technicians. In fact, he believes his biggest challenge as a shop owner is finding qualified personnel. "We have a great shortage of qualified technicians in this country, and I can't see any relief in the near future," he said. "We have vehicles that come in here all the time that have been worked on by people who think they know what they're doing but don't. Training makes a critical difference." In the past six months, Oliveros has sent three employees to four schools from Houston to Chicago to Greenville, S.C. He believes that training pays for itself.
As a light duty diesel specialist, servicing mostly pickup trucks, delivery vehicles, the occasional automobile and "big rig" Class 8 trucks, Williams performs engine and fuel system work almost exclusively. They will occasionally do some chassis or brake work if customers need it.
Much of the work that Williams Diesel does concerns fuel systems, which affects customer driveability. Williams frequently repairs, recalibrates or replaces injectors and fuel-injection pumps.
The diesel shop uses a scan tool similar to working on gas engines to determine whether each injector is contributing to the engine. Oliveros said that a lot of the diesel sensors, such as manifold absolute pressure (MAP), mass airflow (MAF), air inlet, coolant temperature and crankshaft position, are also common to gas engines.
"Just a few years ago, we didn't have scan tools but now diesel vehicles give diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) just like gas engine vehicles. You just can't work on late-model diesels without a scan tool or otherwise you are only guessing. There is no other way to take the readings," Oliveros said.
The evolution of electronic diesels with a common rail fuel system, which is similar to gas engines, started with the Ford Powerstroke in 1994. The Powerstroke delivers fuel through an internal passageway in the cylinder head, and fuel pressure is actually created by each injector. Caterpillar developed the injectors for this system.
With both the Cummins and Duramax, a mechanical fuel feed pump develops pressure within a common fuel rail, and the computer signals solenoid-actuated injectors. The mechanical fuel systems used on Dodge Cummins engines dating back to 1993 also were by Bosch. Oliveros said that his shop is now working on Dodge common-rail and earlier model Dodges dating back to 1993.
Noting changes in diesel service, he said, "The major difference is pounds per square inch of pressure in the fuel system. At most, today's gas engines run at 80 psi system pressure, but today's diesel engines run at 23,000 psi!" Mechanics working around current diesels must use more caution than with the old systems at 5,000 psi he said. He explained that they can no longer use the old technique of loosening an injector line to check for a dead cylinder. It could cost them their lives because the fuel will penetrate their skin and get into their blood.
Williams Diesel Service has a total parts inventory worth about $90,000. It stocks many Bosch, Ford, and Chevy parts related to fuel systems. About $10,000 in inventory is devoted to drive-through service with fast-moving parts, including oil filters and fuel filters as well as hard-to-find sensors that are replenished through local parts houses. The remaining inventory, primarily Bosch with some Stanadyne and Delphi, is devoted to the fuel shop with most parts unavailable from local automotive parts houses.
As for the larger picture, Oliveros hears that the light truck market is expected to grow from three million diesel vehicles today to 6.8 million vehicles by 2008. "Clearly, there is plenty of opportunity in diesel service," he said. "With the similarity between today's gas and diesel engines, all a good gas engine technician needs is the proper training."
To get the word out about the new services he offers, Oliveros has invested in different forms of marketing. Besides traditional advertising, he also does mailings and has a Web site. But word-of-mouth is still his best method for gaining new business.
Service dealers who successfully become members of the Bosch DSC program are chosen on the basis of location and accessibility, appearance, customer waiting area, technician training, number of service bays, tools and diagnostic equipment on site, and Bosch product inventory on hand. The DSC program is intended to augment an existing shop's operations, and these shops continue to operate as independent facilities under their own name by adding the Diesel Service Center capabilities and identification to their operations.
Thinking about it? "Virtually any ASA shop is a candidate for diesel service," Oliveros said. "We'd be happy to have some company."
Shop StatsName: Williams Diesel
Location: Ocala, Fla.
No. of employees: 12
No. of years in business: 23
Why did you join ASA?: I was invited to an ASA meeting in Gainesville [Florida] years ago, and I realized that I was among people with the same aspirations and desires to improve the perception and quality of the auto repair industry.
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