Do you hear the truck service issues I hear?

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A phone call in the store looks like this:

Driver: It makes noise when I release the pedal.
Technician: What pedal? What kind of noise?
Driver: The clutch. It makes a weird noise when I release the pedal. Like a growl.
Technician: When did it start?
Driver: Not sure, just noticed.

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This type of communication is familiar to anyone who has spent time in a store. When it comes to describing sounds, clients have many unique approaches. For one, the noise is a “grunt”. For another, the same sound is a growl or a squeak. It’s the same sound, but people hear it differently and describe it according to their own interpretation.

Words have one meaning, often several meanings. If I say “hot dog!” do i mean a frankfurter with a bun? Or am I making an exclamation of excitement? Or am I describing someone who brags? Or something else, like an overheated dog?

Thus, whatever word is used to describe a sound, it may or may not convey the sound to the interpreter of the word, most often the technician. Fortunately, the context in which the word is used usually helps us better understand what that particular word means.

What can you, as a technician, do to capture the full potential meaning of the words used to describe sounds and other features of a vehicle? Training the world to conform to your use of language would be wonderful, but that’s unlikely to happen.

“No sir! He doesn’t growl, he growls. No wonder I didn’t find the problem!

Obviously, telling a customer this about the sound being described will not help improve the conversation. The customer knows the sound but may not have the words to describe it in a way the technician will understand.

Teaching the world your technical sound language is done. Yet you still need to know how to interpret the words a customer uses to describe the sound. You might consider adopting Samuel Johnson’s approach.

Samuel Johnson was an 18th century scholar and writer who compiled a dictionary that standardized English spelling, defined words, and provided a sentence for each word in the correct usage context. Don’t worry, you don’t have to go to the local office supply store to buy materials to start building a personal dictionary of vehicle sounds.

Instead, take the premise from Johnson’s dictionary and find the context of the sound. Ask the customer a question that describes a word in a context that most would relate it to. For example, “Does the growl sound like a mad dog, a purring kitten, or a refrigerator crushing ice cream?” The answer might sound entirely different, but is more easily interpreted by having context-based common ground. Linking terms to other things or events helps provide clearer context and brings you closer to an accurate diagnosis.

So keep listening and asking questions – they’re key to getting good diagnoses.

Additional tips for repairing and maintaining Class 4-8 trucks can be found in the Mitchell 1 ShopConnection Truck blog.

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