Trainer’s Corner



With his own brand of instruction and special knowledge, veteran trainer and ASE certified pro, Rick Carroll, brings credibility,flair and levity to GM Parts Training clinics.

The workday is over, you’re ready for a cold one, and you want to get home.

Rick Carroll knows how you feel. He’s been there. But he wants your attention for a couple of hours.

Standing 6-foot-4, the baritone-voiced teacher usually gets it. When he doesn’t, when the hour gets the best of Independent Service Center (ISC) techs attending early evening GM Parts Training Clinics at sponsoring GM dealers, it’s time for deep-knee bends, mock slaps for your neighbor and a dose of humor.


“You look for the eye-droopers,” jests Carroll, GM Western Region Powertrain Instructor. “That’s where my high-school and junior college automotive technology teaching experience comes in handy. You learn how to keep moving around the room, change the inflection of your voice, throw out a joke here and there, and basically keep things interesting.”

But that is rarely needed. The reason: Carroll knows the subject matter inside and out, and early on he convinces any doubters that he’s got information that can make their lives easier. Over 15 years of leading clinics for GM Customer Care and Aftersales (GM CCA), he’s developed a deep knowledge of GM engines and transmissions. An ASECertified Master Technician, Machinist and Specialist whose resume includes a 10-year stint as a Cadillac line mechanic, he knows how they work, what their components do, and how to reliably diagnose, service and repair them.

That’s no easy task anymore. As powertrain systems and tools used to diagnose problems have grown more capable, they’ve also become more complex. But in knowledgeable and skilled hands, modern powertrain systems are a godsend. It’s Carroll’s job, and that of fellow
trainers who teach dealer clinics in the other regions, to simplify the complex.

With 36 years in the automotive service field, Carroll has developed a special interest in vehicle diagnostics. Knowing the vital importance of techs getting that right, he’s refined techniques for teaching the subject and has even helped develop new diagnosticsoriented clinics for the program.

“There are some misconceptions about diagnostics that it’s just a matter of plugging a vehicle into a computer,” Carroll says. “Modern computers give you a lot of information via circuit status indicators that indicate whether the circuit is OK, shorted, fault or open, but techs still need to know how to interpret the information in the scan tools and track down problems.”

Basic electrical knowledge comes into play when techs work with diagnostics, leading Carroll to observe that “Techs can get hung up on this electrical stuff because they’re not using it all the time and they get rusty. It’s critical, he says, that “they be able to understand what they’re seeing and to have confidence that the wires are transmitting good data.”


In teaching clinics with names like Smart Power Management, Effective Use of Diagnostic Resources and Supplemental Restraint and Safety Systems, Carroll drills down deeply into the diagnostics function. Over the course of two to three hours, he uses plenty of visual aids, clear language, audience participation and refined teaching skills. A typical class of 40 techs gets the information needed to understand and use advanced GM automotive technology to the full benefit of the ISCs and their customers.

Carroll, who earned a B.A. degree in Industrial Arts, knows it’s not always easy to get tired techs into a learning mode. But the lure of a pre-clinic meal, some fellowship and his reminder that technology is only beneficial in knowledgeable hands usually does the trick. That, and the presence of trainers like Carroll who clearly know their subject and their audience, usually
translates to satisfied techs, many of whom Carroll sees again and again at subsequent clinics.

“What I want to see at the end is them coming away with a better knowledge of diagnostic and repair concepts and a greater understanding of how these amazing systems work,” he says. “Using factory-recommended techniques and system information, my hope is they take something back that they can use in their shops.”