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SCIENCE/TECHNOLOGY : Computer May Soon Replace Manual for Trouble-Shooting Car Mechanics

December 01, 1987|David Olmos, Times Staff Writer

First there were computer chips that controlled the temperature inside your car and the amount of gas it used. Then there were computerized diagnostic devices to help mechanics trouble-shoot auto repair problems.

Now, if a Newport Beach company is successful, your auto mechanic may soon be gazing at a personal computer screen, socket wrench in one hand and a floppy disk in the other.

McAboy Yates, a computer software development firm, is working on a new program intended to help mechanics fix cars faster. That could be good news for consumers if it means savings on expensive repair bills.

The company is developing the computer system with help from the Del Mar Group, a Solano Beach software company. The two firms are working under a contract from Toronto-based Newgen Services Co., which intends to market the product.

The system would use compact-disk technology to store parts and repair information on most types of automobiles. A mechanic, for example, could display on his computer screen a diagram showing how to fix a particular problem and the parts needed to make the repair. The system would also allow the mechanic to attach diagnostic equipment to a car and view the results on the computer.

A key advantage of the product "is that mechanics wouldn't have to be up on the particulars of repairing so many different cars," said Lee McAboy, vice president of McAboy Yates.

But will mechanics be willing to trade their grease-stained repair manuals for a PC?

"From the indications we've had, they will," McAboy said. Prototypes have been shown to mechanics, car dealers and major auto makers, he said, "and the people we've shown it to have really liked it."

Because the cost of the systems will initially be "pretty high," McAboy said, the Canadian firm plans to begin by marketing the product to large car dealerships.

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