By Chris Fields | November 20, 2017
What value does Predictive Maintenance really offer? There are many skeptics who believe it’s just smoke and mirrors. Allow me, a guy who knows nothing about technology, to tell you why I wish I had predictive maintenance on my car.
Growing up, we always had clunkers or junkers, whichever you prefer to call them, but these were old cars that broke down all the time. I had to learn early how to change tires, brakes, spark plugs, batteries, and even certain hoses. Being able to work on cars had a progression for me, at first it was exciting, then it was expected, when I got to college being able to work on cars made me look manly to the ladies, but then shortly after that, it just became tiresome.
When I became totally independent and began buying cars, I told myself that I never wanted to work on another car again. So, I would buy newer cars and make sure I keep up with my scheduled maintenance to try and prevent unscheduled repairs. Except for a few batteries, flat tires, and radiators, this was a success.
About three years ago in 2014, I bought a 2013 Nissan Maxima, not the platinum edition but still a computerized thing of beauty in my eyes. The car has a key fob, push button start, and all kinds of alerts and alarms. I thought, as long as I get oil changes, fluids flushed, and brakes checked that this car would never fail me - ever.
Fast forward to about a month ago. I am at the local grocery store doing some shopping and once I am done, I load up my beautiful black vehicle that is shining like a new penny because I keep him clean. I get in, all the sounds pop on, all the lights light up. I push the start button and I hear this chugging, failing sound “Kak, kak, kak, kaak, kaaak, kunk”. My first thought is what the hell is this? I thought it was the push start itself, so I use the key fob to start the car the “old fashioned” way and nothing happens. I pop the hood and I notice the headlights are on, so I am thinking it’s not the battery. Must be the car’s computer.
After looking under the hood I thought, who am I kidding, I can’t identify anything here; everything is covered and protected. Maybe a boost would help, so I tried flagging down fellow customers to see if anyone has any jumper cables. It turns out typical drivers don’t have those these days. I could not help but to think, if only my car had some sort of predictive maintenance technology that would have told me beforehand what was going on with my car. I suspected the battery, the battery cables, the alternator, or the starter, but no way of narrowing it down.
Eventually, I called a local dealer and convinced them (more like they had mercy on me) to come to the grocery store and perform a quick diagnostics on the car. They agree and said if it’s the battery then I would have to follow them back to the service shop and get a new one. “Deal”, no problem. After a short wait, the service vehicle pulls up and two nice and funny employees greet me. One of them puts a device on my battery, charged it up and low and behold the car started right up. So, I followed them back to the dealership and got a new battery.
Here are my takeaways from this experience:
- My car has a battery light but it never came on so I had no idea what was the root cause of the problem. With old clunkers you can tell if the battery is failing pretty easily, it makes a ticking (clicking) sound and nothing lights up…remember my headlights were on.
- With all the new tech features in my car, it didn’t predict or prepare me for battery failure.
- I am no mechanic. I had no tools in my car, not even jumper or booster cables.
- I spent about 3 hours dealing with this on top of having to pay $125 for a battery. Had I known my battery was failing I could have bought and installed one myself or gone to the dealership and gotten it replaced without having to sit in the parking lot for nearly 90 minutes troubleshooting, asking for help, and waiting for assistance.
Now maybe there are cars with machine learning, automation, and or artificial intelligence that will send a text letting the owners know if the battery is low, or if the battery cables are corroded, or if the alternator is bad, or if the computer brain is malfunctioning – but not my car. And regardless of what the naysayers of Predictive Maintenance say, I would love to have had Preteckt’s technology hooked up to my ride. I would have avoided the whole situation by being alerted well in advance of irregularities with my battery and would have replaced it. The money and time I would have saved definitely represents value to me. I can’t wait until Preteckt comes out with a unit for cars!