I was nominated to attend the 2013 National Subaru Technician Competition by our District Parts and Service Manager, Dave Hebert and Field Service Engineer, Bill Leigh. I was thrilled to find out my nomination was accepted. The next step was to submit a resume and a written essay-style paper about me, my qualifications, my family life, and why I felt I should attend. There was one technician from each district in our zone nominated and the submitted information was used to make a decision on who would attend. Some time passed and I was notified I would be attending the competition to represent our zone by our zone director, Jim Keebler. I was assigned an advisor, Jim Connor, from Philadelphia who was a Subaru Training Center Instructor and offered us help if we had any questions while getting prepared. I spent approximately three months studying and preparing for this competition. I invited my Dad to come with, we were allowed one guest. My wife was not available as she was with our children in Northern Minnesota. I had to leave half way through our vacation to attend the competition as it was previously scheduled. This actually worked out well because I think my Dad got more out of it than my wife would have. He was a mechanic as well, and now owns a wholesale transmission shop.
Day 1: We flew out of MSP to Philadelphia (my Dad and I). We got picked up in a limo. Got to the hotel starving (we had not eaten since 6:30am, and now 3:30pm) and grabbed a bite to eat. Had time to get cleaned up and was off to a cocktail reception, had pictures taken, made introductions, and listened to a couple of speeches. Sleep.
Day 2: Up at 6:00am, breakfast, and off to SOA headquarters. Got introduced by the CEO and COO of SOA to a crowd of people with much applause. Listened to a couple of speeches and had more pictures taken. We toured the SOA headquarter building and even where shown into both the CEO and COO’s office. Very nice and outgoing people, they where very in tune with all people in the organization. From there we toured two other buildings, including the building that houses our tech-line operators. The final building was the one where the competition was actually held.
We all ate lunch in the Subaru cafeteria (they make their own food). First segment of the competition: First start no start – the first to start their car and have it run with no check engine light for 10 seconds wins, but then points are also figured in. Are you neat? Caring for the car? Thinking in a logical manner? All add up to points. The technicians were all ushered into the shop like celebrities with their advisors and rounds of applause where given. The shop was packed with people. We all had our own stalls, cars, tools, and judges. The stalls were partitioned off from the others so no one could see each other. We all had big banners with out names above the stalls. Very exciting and very stressful. We were all put into place and given the rules. GO! Timers were set and to me everyone disappeared. Put on seat covers and carpet protectors, points. Verify problem, points. No crank. Install fender covers, points. Perform testing and explain to the judge who is following you and staring at you what you are doing as he keeps asking you “Why are you doing that? – points. We were only given schematics, no testing procedures. No scanner yet. Determined a starter relay was needed and explained three times why it was, then had to prove it. Again “Why?” – points. Install new relay, now cranks but won’t run – points. Hurry. Judge still breathing down your neck standing no more than two feet from you at any given time. Continue testing, now scan tool can be used. My scan tool won’t work, goes into a mandatory update! my clock stops. New scan tool, this one locks down in a mandatory update as well. Wait….. tick tock tick tock. Everyone else is still working – stay cool! Finally done and off we go! Timer back on (6 painful minutes lapsed).
Hurry. Test, test, test! No fuel. Fuel pump not running. Why why why? Tracked down disconnected wire from back of the fuel pump relay socket. “How did you find that? How did you test that? What are you going to do to fix it?” – points. Fix wire – points. Now cranks and starts but dies – points. Hurry! Tick tock tick tock! The first vehicle in the competition starts! Darn it! Don’t let everyone down! Quick set up scanner, graph key data points and try to start vehicle, notice that mass air flow sensor is not indicating any movement of air into the engine. Quick get up to go check the intake and sensor “Wait! What are you doing? Why? OK proceed” Quick inspect intake, nothing. Remove sensor and find a rubber glove finger taped over the sensor on the inside of the intake snorkel, got it! Remove blockage reassemble and start vehicle… Success! – points. Plug in blue flashing light on top of vehicle to indicate it’s running. Second vehicle running, but with time lapse of scanner issue I finished first! Yes! Reassemble vehicle and put covers away – points. Look around for the first time since the start and realize how many people where watching me. Wow.
I wrote this this way to give you a feeling of what I was thinking and feeling. One technician opened his car’s hood and froze for five minutes! Pressure…lots of it. 6 technicians did not get their cars started within the hour given. The advisors were also allowed to help after a half an hour of time lapsed. I did not make it to that point.
We had a short break and then were ushered into a class room. 60 question test, closed book. Covering anything Subaru, but primarily the last 5 years. One hour. Some did not finish. After that, back to the hotel. Went out with our advisors to eat, came back and tried to relax. Sleep around 11:00.
Day 3: Up at 6:00am, breakfast, and off to the competition immediately. Body electrical an mechanical: Same situation as before, but different issues. Finished first. Second event: Electrical. You are given a description of a circuit. You then need to draw it, then make it, then make measurements on the circuit you constructed. This one was tough, and I love electrical troubleshooting. The description of the circuit we were to draw was vague. Apparently this was on purpose to try and push us. Ugh! Moving on. Lunch. Third and last event: precision measurements. Use a vernier caliper to make precision measurements on a transmission to determine if a replacement part was needed. No problem. I purchased one just to practice with for this competition. No one uses this type of caliper in the industry anymore except in Japan.
Back to the Hotel. A little down time and get dressed up for the cocktail reception and awards banquet. Get dressed up in a nice suit and down we go. Mingle. Dinner. Listen to a few speeches. Anticipation is killing me, winner was supposed to be announced before dinner at around 5:30pm, now 8:30pm. We all get participation plaques. Speech. Finally. Second runner up, not me. First runner up, ME! Yeah!, but not first, kind of disappointed but still happy. Not everyone can win first place. First place announcement, and then lots of pictures! I received a trophy, money, and a cool top gun flight jacket for second place. Not a trip to Japan but still pretty cool! Spent the rest of the night chatting with people. To bed at 12:30am.
Day 4: Up at 6:00am, to the airport, breakfast, and fly home. Mentally dead!!!!!
I can’t begin to thank everyone enough for all of the support! From our technicians, to our general manager Charlie. Stacy upstairs, Dave (our DPSM), Bill Leigh (our field service engineer), Jim Keebler, John Talbot, Jim Connor, and so many others. I would like to extend a special thanks to Mandy Mikilochek my manager, for putting up with me stressing over this, and for putting the biggest smile on my face by sending me a book of good luck messages from all of the folks I work with. What an incredible experience and what wonderful people to make it all happen!
Guest Blog Post written by:
ASE Certified Master Technician
Subaru Certified Senior Master Technician