North American Council of Automotive Teachers (NACAT) conference

nacat conference

The 42nd North American Council of Automotive Teachers (NACAT) conference was held at Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Illinois, July 20-24. A welcome reception was held at the host hotel on Sunday evening, July 19 to help jump-start the week’s events. Over 200 automotive instructors from the United States and Canada attend this yearly event. The most important feature of this conference is that it includes more than 20 hours of update training required by instructors whose program is certified by the National Automotive Technicians Education Federation (NATEF). The update technical and educational seminars presented by vendors, technical trainers or even the members themselves all at no cost to the organization. A typical day at NACAT included:

  • Breakfast at the hotel and then travel to the college for the first session, which started at 8 am.
  • Coffee break from 10:00-10:30 AM allowing time to talk to others between sessions.
  • Second technical/educational session was held from 10:30-12:00 noon.
  • Lunch on your own at the college café from 12:00-1:00 pm.
  • 1:00-2:30 pm- The third technical/educational session.
  • 2:30-3:00 pm- Break that usually included great cookies and other waist-busting food, as well as bottled water and soft drinks.
  • 3:00-5:00 pm- The fourth technical/educational session of the day.
  • The evenings were also planned (except for Monday evening) and included a BBQ on Tuesday evening, the trade show with pizza on Wednesday evening and the banquet on Thursday evening.

The trade show, held Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, was setup in the huge shop area of the automotive department at Joliet Junior College, which was air conditioned and well lighted with LED overhead lighting. The trade show had vendors from most of the suppliers of automotive service equipment and training aids, as well as all of the automotive textbook publishers. Pearson Education had a booth located in a high-travel area and had many instructors stop by to see the latest editions of the automotive professional technician series texts.

The conference ended Friday morning with a closing business meeting.
The NACAT conference will be held at San Jacinto College, in Pasadena, Texas which is near Houston, the third week in July of 2016.

Editors’ Note – This is a guest post by Jim Halderman, an esteemed automotive repair textbook author and contributor

ASE Industry Education Alliance Instructor Training Conference

ase conferenceThe annual ASE Industry Education Alliance Instructor Training Conference was held at the Westin Hotel at Crown Center in Kansas City, MO, on July 27-31, 2015. The conference was very well attended by over 300 participants that included over 250 automotive instructors. The event was enhanced by many corporate sponsors who help fund the many excellent meals and breaks.

  • Monday, July 27– A welcome reception was held at the host hotel from 6:30-8:30 PM.

  • Tuesday, July 28– The conference started with breakfast and a general session. A large group sessions of general interest to most secondary and post-secondary instructors followed.

  • WednesdayThursday, July 29-30– After breakfast each morning, the participants had a choice of nine technical sessions covering all aspects of automotive service and the latest technology. These sessions were either 90 or 120 minutes depending on the schedule allowing the trainer to tailor their presentations to the allocated time that best met their needs.

  • Wednesday Evening- 5:30-9:00 PM was the instructor diner and recognition banquet held at the host hotel.

  • Friday, July 31-The morning activity was a networking field trip to the Kansas City Automotive Museum, which was the last of the schedule activities for the conference.

What I learned:

From the presentation from ASE/NATEF, I learned

  • There are 350,000 ASE certified technicians
  • There are currently 135,465 students certified under the student certification program.
  • There are 2,357 NATEF certified automotive programs with 35,000 students.
  • The Automotive Training Manager Council (ATMC) was created in 1984.

In other presentations that I attended, I learned many details on the German ZF six and eight automatic transmissions as well as latest news and products from many vendors who were present and gave technical presentations.

What I presented:

Curt Ward from Joliet Junior College and I presented two 90-minute presentations. The first was a standing room only presentation from 1:00-2:30 on Wednesday afternoon and repeated on Thursday morning from 10:30 until 12 noon. We received many good questions and comments both during and after each presentation. Our presentation was titled “Diesel Diagnosis for the Gas Instructor”. This topic was in response to questions from automotive instructors at previous conferences who did not know what to teach or what was needed to teach light diesel engines. Light duty diesels are used in many European as well as Chevrolet, GMC, Ford and Ram pickup trucks and are being produced in large numbers. This presentation resulted in many good questions and much discussion on how the instructors could start teaching light diesel in their classes.


The ASE Industry Education Alliance Instructor Training Conference offered very informative presentations, with great food and was held at super nice hotel in neat city. It does not get much better than that.

Editors' Note – This is a guest post by Jim Halderman, an esteemed automotive repair textbook author and contributor to  

Why don’t more People ride Bikes? Simple, Prices are Ridiculous!

why are bikes so expensive

Some of the most common questions I get asked as an auto writer and discussion I get into with people are actually not about cars but in fact ways someone could not use or own a car.  This includes topics like ride sharing and car sharing services.  You know companies like RelayRides, Lift, or say using public transportation, riding a bike (bicycle), etc.  One discussion I have fairly often with people is, “Why don't more people use bikes?”  The benefits are pretty clear;

  • It's good exercise
  • Gets you there faster than Walking or Running
  • Reduces dealing with traffic
  • You save on gas
  • Less wear and tear on your car
  • Less air pollution
  • It can be fun (if there are not too many big hills)

There probably are some more advantages I'm missing. If you feel I'm been left out anything leave a comment below.

So if the benefits are clear and most people know how ride a Bike (I think) and we all know riding a bike is great exercise, why don't more people do it?  Simple answer, road bikes are too damn expensive.

While this is an automotive website I thought it would be interesting to share my experiences with looking into a buying a bicycle recently.

Getting into Cycling

Since I've gained a good bit of “muscle” around my mid section during the winter I've been trying to figure out various physical activities to keep this muscle on. 🙂  Like most Americans I thought, “Hey, why don't I get a bike? It's great exercise.”  It makes sense since around here they've added a bunch of designated bike lanes on the roads to try to make bike commuting easier.  So why not get into cycling?

Before embarking on the journey of actually looking into a bicycle I decided to whip out my old Trek.  This Trek is a pretty good mountain bike that still shifts ok and the tires and brakes work fine. I started riding around trails and roads a little bit realized those knobby tires were slowing me down and it would be more ideal to get a road bike for more serious riding in the city.  The mountain bike would still works ok if I wanted to ride trails though, so I'd keep it for that.

I decided I'd like something that I could commute around town with, add a bike rack and possibly fenders in the future, and maybe do a triathlon If I'm really ambitious.  I started Googling for information and to see what bicycles were available in my price range.

Bike Prices at your Local Bike Shop

Lurking around on various bicycling forums and seeing what people suggested most recommend going to a local bike shop to see what's available because of the service and knowledge.  For those reading this that haven't look around at buying a beginner road bike in awhile you might be… well… floored by the cost.  There are some entry level road bikes but honestly I didn't see much besides hybrid bikes at my local bike shop in my price range.  Still I went into the bike store to see what they had.

“Most people come in here and spend $2,000.” is what the salesman told me when I asked about what road bikes they had in available at one bike store.  This obviously was way above my budget and what I felt like spending on my first road bike.  He assured me though of all the “technology!” on these bikes.  My eyes kind of rolled when I heard this. “Technology? What technology? It's a bicycle!”

Still I test rode a Sirrus Specialized equipped with hydraulic disc brakes.  Technically this is what is considered a hybrid bike since it had flat handle bars but skinny tires just like a road bike.  The price for the Sirrus is $700 but I should add the local bike shop includes a 2 year maintenance plan with a fitting session.  Not a bad deal just still slightly out of my budget since ideally I'd like to spend less than that on the actual bicycle and add any bike accessories or upgrades I feel I need.

I stopped at another local bike shop and the energetic salesman showed me a few models they had. He thought a Trek 7.4 hybrid would fit my needs which was $800.  A road bike he showed me was a Trek One series which he thought is ideal for city use and something like a Triathlon.  The Trek Cross Rip was another model priced at $1,000 which he said is extremely popular and hard for them to keep in stock.  They did have some other more expensive bikes on closeout that for $1,300 that he said was comparable to the Cross Rip but offered a lot more value in terms of components.  All were nice bikes, but still this is more than I wanted to spend on a road bike.

Since all the shops knew my budget and didn't offer any solutions outside of buying expensive starter road bikes, in my opinion, I thought I'd keep looking.

Buying a used Road Bike

With spring moving into summer I, like a lot of people, probably have considered getting buying a bicycle and using my car less.  Still I thought there must be people doing spring cleaning and getting rid of bikes they haven't used that have just sat around in their basement or garage.

So like a lot of people suggest, if you aren't sure you can afford what a local bike shop sells beginner bikes for check online local classifieds like Craigslist.  Well… I've been looking around on CL for an adequate beginner hybrid or road bike. So far I've come up empty and haven't seen anything that would work. It's either people that want too much for garbage or trashed bikes, something that might work but the size does not fit me, or pros looking to offload some crazy expensive road bike for thousands of dollars they don't need anymore. Honestly I feel I've wasted more time scouring Craigslist and other places to get a used road bike than was really worth the effort or time.

Why are bikes so expensive?

For the price it costs to get a supposedly “decent” equipped road bike according to some of the cycling snobs it seems you must spend at least $1,500-$2,000 dollars these days. Let's be serious for that amount of money I don't feel like riding a bicycle, but I'd rather buy a scooter or used motorcycle.  These have much more components, parts, as well as technology behind them. Are you seriously f$%@ing telling me that there is more research and development behind a bicycle than a motorcycle or scooter with an engine?  No, there isn't and don't try to tell me there is.

This is a fairly long video by Martin Horn, an ex-pro racer, that explains that for the recreational cyclist spending a ton of money on a bike doesn't make sense.  It won't make go that much faster nor does he believe the components are that much better.

Horn makes a good point that the Ninja motorcycle he bought was $3,000 dollars which has an engine, hydraulic brakes, a transmission with a clutch, and an electrical system.  This is waaay more technology than a road bike no matter how you cut it.

Pretty much to answer the question, “Why are bikes so expensive?” Bicycle manufacturers and companies are charging these prices because they know the can.

Buying a Bike Online

The company that Martin Horn bought the bikes in his videos from is known as BikesDirect.  I have not ordered from them but I'm considering using them or another company like Nashbar, BikeShopWarehouse, or Performance Bike (they have retail locations too).

The most expensive bike he has is the Motobecane Grand Record which cost $650. He also has the Windsor Wellington 2.0 which cost $350 which he believes is an incredible value for the a bike of that price.  Horn has only replaced the wheels and tires and rode the Wellington for tens of thousands of miles.

I'd love to buy a bicycle from the local bike shop but I don't know, I feel like they are out of touch with recreational cyclists and people just getting started. I'm strongly considering ordering online.

Bike Co-Operatives and Collectives

In some cities you can find bike co-operatives and collectives.  They offer shared workshop spaces for working on bicycles and rebuilding them for those that don't have a lot of money.  They have training and classes for those looking to learn to repair their own bicycles in addition to parts for those looking to build their own.

While the collectives are a great idea but I think most people prefer to buy a ready to roll bike.  I might buy one online through a company like BikesDirect and then see if someone at the local bike coop here can help me make sure everything is good to go.  These bike co-operatives are a great solution for those who want cheap transportation and are looking to pick-up skills to work on their own bikes. To bad they don't have these for cars… of course think of the legal issues there. 🙂

Should the Bike industry rethink their pricing Strategy?

It seems like the industry has freewheeled into thinking they can charge whatever they want for bikes.  To be honest I guess they can as a lot of people pay these ridiculous prices.  Of course a lot of people won't so they never buy a bicycle or get into cycling.  Is this a positive for our society and bike shops?

Even if we were to look at some of these carbon fiber top-of-the-line bikes… how much material does the bike use? Compared to cars… little.

Talking with a friend about buying a bicycle and how expensive they are, and my experience trying to buy a one he said, “I bought a bike for $50 from Wal-Mart!”  Granted this was for his son and was a few years ago when he was smaller but illustrates the point that Americans generally are not keen on spending a lot for bicycle.

As Martin Horn pointed out in his video those really expensive bikes doesn't really make you go all that faster, unless you are really good at pedaling.  Most people are not so you'd probably be fine with going with an aluminum frame road bike.

Also keep in mind there are really only a few places that make bicycles frames and components these days and they are all in China and Taiwan.  They can be made with different tolerances, materials, and such but if they are all coming from the same place why do they charge so much?

I've noticed the amount of people use bicycles for transportation, at least in this city, still seems to be laughable low.  If the cycling community and manufactures wants to see a serious uptick in the amount of riders using bicycles for transportation or leisure fitness I think they need to take hard look at their pricing model and radically change.

I'd be happy to hear reader thoughts, what do you think of bike prices? Are they justified or completely out-of-whack?  Do you believe that local bike shops are justified charging a grand for a beginner road bike?  Would you get a bike if it was less expensive?

Own a piece of Top Gear history, Richard Hammond’s BMW M3 up for sale [VIDEO]

richard hammond bmw

Do you love Top Gear? If you read Adam's Auto Advice we are sure you do. Well you have a chance to own a piece of Top Gear history and a nice car too.  The BMW M3 (E36) driven by Richard Hammond on the wildly popular car show is going to be coming up for sale.

The Bimmer was used on the Top Gear segment “Cheap Car Super Saloon Challenge” where the three hosts battled for 4-door supremacy in a Ford Sierra Cosworth, a Mercedes 190E Cosworth and obviously Hammond's BMW M3 sedan. This Top Gear challenge featured the Stig racing each car around a track, a fuel economy showdown, fitting an entire brass band inside each car.   The best was probably the road safety test which concluded that Hammond’s BMW M3 was the most unroadworthy of the three cars and a bit of a deathtrap.  The inspectors said the BMW M3 had in an accident at some point prior to the car being on Top Gear and the repairs may have not been done professionally. Still, we doubt this will affect the value.

The BMW M3 driven by Richard Hammond on Top Gear will come up for sale next month and will be auctioned by Classic Car Auctions at the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre, UK on June 6th. The car is expected to be sold for £7500 to £10,500 British pounds, which is $11,500-$15,300 US dollars.

Want to be the next Top Gear Host? Jeremy Clarkson dismissal prompts Open Casting Call

top gear

Ever dreamed of working on Top Gear? How about being a host on Top Gear? Well here's you chance.

Top Gear and BBC producers announced yesterday that they are holding an open casting call for the wildly popular TV show about cars.  After the dismissal of the well known and charismatic Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson earlier this month.  The reason Clarkson was let go from the show seems to be the fact that he threw a punch at one of the Top Gear producers.

Even though Jeremy Clarkson has left Top Gear, the show must go on and the Top Gear production team has decided to run open casting calls. What does that mean? Basically anyone with some automotive media experience and a desire to be the new Top Gear host can apply.  They are inviting people to send in applications for the job via the official Top Gear website.  This is a bit unusual as a position as important as this usually isn't how producers find a replacement. You would expect the BBC and Top Gear production would reach out to potential hosts to fill Clarkson's role with the other hosts James May and Richard Hammond.  Inside sources have reported that the producers for the BBC and Top Gear have been scrambling to find a replacement and this statement by Andy Wilman stated on the application page shows why they are doing this;

“Initially we were only holding discussions with a select few we thought would be ideal to replace Jeremy Clarkson. However, due to scheduling or contractual requirements none of these hosts will work for next season's Top Gear in the short term.”

Once the page went up on the Top Gear website announcing the open casting call, the website was flooded with traffic and applications.  It brought down the server for several hours last night but the Top Gear web hosting and site team seems to have resolved any issues now.  The site and page is back up and running. It's been reported from several sources that there have been tens of thousands of applications since the open casting announcement.  An update on the page reads;

The Top Gear producers put some requirements here but many seemed to have been ignored by the excitement over this open casting call.

Still the requirements are pretty open considering choosing a new Top Gear host is no easy task.  On the page it says, “The new host should ideally be British but we are open to considering a new host who is not from the United Kingdom.  However, you must be a native English speaker and have grown up in a country where English is a native language.”  I assume this includes the United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and some other countries.

Ideally applicants should submit work showing 3+ years of past work within the auto media industry.  This can include written work in online or print publications, radio, TV, or online shows.  Credentials with an auto media organization are also preferred.  Andy Wilman says does say;

We will look at anyone who we think can truly fill Jeremy Clarkson's shoes.  Experience is preferred but does don't matter.

Another part of the application is submitting a video of yourself hosting and talking, explaining why you should be chosen.  You will need to be good on TV after all and obviously you will have to have good on air chemistry with Richard Hammond and James May.  They are planning on doing screen tests for potential hosts at the end of the summer.

Letting Jeremy Clarkson go has put the BBC in precarious position. Top Gear isn't just another show for media conglomerate, since it funds lots of TV shows they produce which do not make money.  Top Gear is arguable the crown jewel of the BBC as has hundreds of millions of viewers across the globe and is broadcast in many different countries and varied languages.  Top Gear is a huge cash cow an revenue machine for the BBC.  The production team is worried letting Jeremy Clarkson go and leaving Richard Hammond and James May could potentially not work.  Top Gear USA was cancelled due to a poor ratings and high productions costs. The BBC and Top Gear want to avoid the “Top Gear America disaster and horror” as one producer put it.

It's hard to know what Top Gear producers are looking for but it seems they are trying to cast a wide net and see what they turn up.  I imagine they will continue to be flooded with applications in the coming weeks.  The window for applying closes at the end of this month, so that should give any potential hosts out there a chance to apply to be the next Top Gear host.

Will you be applying to be the next Top Gear host? What would you do if you replaced Jeremy Clarkson?

Happy April 1st Everyone! 🙂