With Garage Gurus, Federal-Mogul takes training to the technician

June 3, 2015

Federal-Mogul Motorparts Inc. is opening the doors to a network of training centers so automotive technicians, service writers and shop owners can brush up on their skills and get acquainted with the latest automotive technology.

The company’s first Garage Gurus centers, in the Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City areas, were unveiled during a week of grand opening events April 14-21, 2015. By the end of the year the company plans to open 15 centers across the U.S., including locations in Atlanta; Dallas; Ft. Lauderdale; Livonia, Mich.; and Rancho Dominguez, Calif.

In Skokie, Ill., the 15,000-square-foot space, located next door to Federal-Mogul’s sealing systems manufacturing facility, features two bays and classroom space. Plus, it serves as home base for service vans outfitted with interactive instruction tools. Those vans roll on the road and go straight to service shops to help automotive professionals troubleshoot and fix consumers’ vehicles. Every bit of training and product help is offered by ASE-certified technicians.

The centers are a training hub, and in the Chicago area Federal-Mogul is hoping its Garage Gurus center will work like a powerful magnet to attract the employees of the more than 6,200 vehicle repair businesses in the region.

Federal-Mogul CEO Dan Ninivaggi says the concept has been heralded as innovative, but really he considers it a return to the 116-year-old company’s roots.

“One thing we made a mistake in is we cut back in training,” Ninivaggi says. Helping technicians understand the advances in the industry, and giving them one-on-one assistance, makes them more useful to the millions of consumers who turn to them each year.

“Our job is to make you guys successful,” Ninivaggi told the technicians and shop owners who attended the opening of the Garage Gurus center in Chicago.

Ed Brewington owns Ed’s Carx in Chicago, and says he went to the grand opening in search of one thing: knowledge. “Any time I can learn something, it helps. I can help the customer quicker, help the customer better, and it’s more money I can make.”

Brewington spent time talking to Mike Hinderer, a technical product specialist who operates one of the “Gurus on the Go” vans. Brewington, who is 62, says he’s spent most of his adult life working on cars. But there are plenty of times the work “gets hairy,” and he needs some help. “You have to know where to turn.” With Garage Gurus, Brewington could call a help line for assistance or have the ASE-certified Hinderer come to him.

Garage Gurus says help is available “on-site, online or on-demand.” A mobile app gives users access to an easy search tool for parts, as well as templates to spec and quote repair work. Educational classes are available in a center’s traditional classroom, or online from any internet connection. Some topics are covered in webinars as well. The cost of in-person workshops is $125 for one-day classes and $250 for two-day classes. The most expensive courses are $500, and both are four-day engine courses: block reconditioning and sealing or cylinder head reconditioning and sealing.

The Garage Gurus curriculum guide breaks down its 100-plus diagnostic and repair classes into six categories: Steering and suspension, brake, ignition, engine and sealing, electrical and drivability. Jerry DeGelder, a technical product specialist who travels throughout the Chicago and Milwaukee metro areas says the company is launching a heavy duty service later this summer.

DeGelder says he asks technicians, “What are you seeing a lot of?” If someone identifies a recurring problem with a particular part, DeGelder asks to see one of the cast-off parts. Usually, he can diagnose the problem after inspecting the part. He then asks the technician to walk him step-by-step through the replacement process. “I’m not there to say ‘you’re doing something wrong,’ “ but DeGelder says he can make suggestions and ultimately eliminate a technician’s problem in the future.

To review class options, and to download an application for a $2,500 Garage Gurus scholarship to be awarded to part- or full-time students studying to become professional automotive technicians, go to www.FMgaragegurus.com.   ■

About the Author

Joy Kopcha | Managing Editor

After more than a dozen years working as a newspaper reporter in Kansas, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, Joy Kopcha joined Modern Tire Dealer as senior editor in 2014. She has covered murder trials, a prison riot and more city council, county commission, and school board meetings than she cares to remember.

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