New SMC auto teaching tool built for diagnostics, not speed – Leader Publications

DOWAGIAC – With a wheeled frame, an accelerator and a steering wheel, it looks like something Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor rigged up for bed-racing. Or, with its plethora of plugs, the mobile audio / visual cart which supplies your middle school with overhead projectors.

As with most things, though, first impressions can be deceptive. The newest addition to Southwestern Michigan College’s Automotive Technology program isn’t built for speed, but diagnostics. A $ 23,000 teaching tool, the performance simulator is manufactured by Megatech of Tewksbury, Mass.

The steering wheel displays a Chevrolet emblem because this trainer mimics a 2007 Chevy HHR, a compact sport utility vehicle reminiscent of the retro-themed Chrysler PT Cruiser if it had a body.

“Essentially, this is a four-cylinder, General Motors Ecotec engine,” said Associate Professor Jeff Robson. “What’s good about it is the body-control module and the engine-control module between fuel injection, the ignition system and the communication system. Cars today have 50 to 60 different modules. This one is integrated with an air-conditioning unit so that the compressor runs and students can watch the liquid and gas come out of the evaporator. It’s got electric power steering and automatic transmission and you can easily get to the components. ”

Robson is a graduate of Niles High School in 1980 after graduating from the industry in 1980, and at Ferris State University in 1982. Prior to teaching, he was a service manager for 25 years.

Robson flips up a panel and unlocks a key to disclose 12 “faults” to the test, such as robots programmed for nursing students to respond to practice in different scenarios.

“We can diagnose technicians for pick-up faults,” he said. “This switch interrupts the crankshaft position sensor. We can disable the fuel pump. The air conditioner for the compressor clutch. The fuel tank on the pressure sensor, so they can check-engine lights for diagnosis. Interrupt an injector. Throttle position sensor so it won’t accelerate. Oxygen sensor to interrupt the fuel control system. Manifold pressure sensor. Accelerator pedal position sensor. Air-conditioning refrigerant sensor. Coolant temp and intake air sensor. We can induce faults, lock it up and have them do the diagnosis. As well as a dozen different things, we can do with multiple faults. ”

Before, they used an actual car parked in the Jan and AC Kairis Building classroom on the Dowagiac campus.

“Portions, like the dash, had to be disassembled with wiring harnesses to get up to the connections,” Robson said. “This is easier and saves time. I teach Electrical and Engine Performance, and (Associate Professor) Kyle (Schrock) teaches the air-conditioning class and the Introduction to Engines class. Taking off a serpentine belt is probably easier with this. ”

According to Robson, 40 to 50 percent of his students have never touched a car before enrolling.

SMC offers both a one-year certificate program, which prepares students for entry-level positions, as well as an associate’s degree, which offers more job and advancement opportunities. SMC is still accepting students for the Fall 2022 class; Those interested can apply for free at

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