Firing the “Parts Cannon”

May 17, 2018

Have you ever heard of a term called a “parts cannon?” It’s something that sounds like a power tool or piece of machinery, but is simply in the mind of a mechanic or technician. In short, the parts cannon refers to guessing on a repair and throwing parts on a truck or a car until the issue is fixed. A lot of us have fired the parts cannon at some point in time or another.

The thought process behind the parts cannon goes something like this: “Ive been through all of the diagnostics steps twice, called a help line, asked another technician to look at it, phoned a friend, but nothing would fix the issue!” Light the fuse, fire the parts cannon!

All too often the situation is presented as, “my vehicle does this, what’s wrong with it?” or “I put a set of injectors, a pump, new turbo, new computer, new sensor etc, and its still not working.” My response is simple: Why? Why were these parts put on the truck?

Anyone can change parts; all it take a set of tools, two hands, and lefty loosey, righty tighty. Today’s complicated cars, trucks, and equipment need competent technicians. Technicians replace parts based on evidence they find during a thorough diagnosis. They need to know if  the part they replaced caused the issue and are big proponents of cause and effect.

Technicians can tell you why your diesel truck needs a new set of injectors and what caused the failure. We all might have fallen victim to a mechanic who made use of the parts cannon, but hopefully on rare occasions. If you were a customer and I, a technician, told you I would like to charge you $100 to diagnose an issue and then found that a shorted wire in the harness was the root cause, most people would be upset that it cost them $100 to find and fix a faulty wire. You might be not like that it cost you $100, but you would be happy to have the issue resolved.

On the other hand, parts cannon mechanics who don’t take a diagnostic approach to repairs may look and feel around for five minutes and tell you that you need a $50 part. After that doesn’t work, a $75 part. When this doesn’t fix the issue they throw another $250 part. Then, finally, after all this time has been wasted firing the parts cannon, the mechanic decides he or she needs a computer and it will be $700 and the dealership needs to do this because they have to program it as well. At this point the customer’s eyes are rolling back into their sockets and their vehicle is still not fixed! This is firing the parts cannon. The mechanic has wasted the customer’s time, money, and patience. This very situation gives real technicians a bad name.

Parts cannon mechanics do not make it very far in the repair industry, technicians do. Always keep the parts cannon fuse locked away as much as possible.

 

From the Desk of Brett Ritchey, Diesel Technology Department Head

For more information about the Diesel Technology program at Oklahoma Technical College, please visit our website.