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Redline Detection's Smoke Pro Total Tech

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THE SHOP:

The building that houses MB Elite Service is the site of the first gas station in Newport Beach in 1935 and since then has housed numerous auto repair businesses. Steve Rorick moved into the 1,300-square-foot facility and made it into a strictly Mercedes-Benz shop, which fits with the demographics and vehicle mix of the market. MB Elite is the only independent shop in Newport Beach that has all of the factory equipment necessary to do certified repairs on Mercedes-Benz.

THE REVIEWER:

Rorick was groomed to be an expert in Mercedes-Benz repairs. He went through a unique two-year pilot training program with Mercedes that took in only four apprentices from each region. The program involved an $80,000 investment from the OE (although it was effective, the program later was abandoned after it was determined to be too expensive). After Rorick finished the program, he began climbing his way up the ladder at Mercedes-Benz and eventually became a trainer for UTI graduates interested in working for the company. Ten years ago, he opened his own shop.

HOW IT WORKS:

The Smoke Pro Total Tech is OEM approved and helps technicians detect, locate and repair leaks that are located in sealed systems. The Smoke Pro Total Tech puts out more pressure than a standard EVAP smoke machine and can locate small leaks that other machines may have missed. The system is portable and, according to Rorick, is about the size of a volleyball. To use the system, Rorick explains, the system is connected to the smoke hose and turned on. There is a regulated pressure adjustment gauge on the system. Rorick says the system works similar to a deflated balloon with a small hole: If someone were to try to locate the hole manually, it would take a long time and might not be possible at all. However, if air pressure was pushed into the balloon, it would leak out of the hole, making it much easier to locate.

Once the air is flowing, there is a gauge on the Smoke Pro that has a floating ball. The location of the ball will indicate whether or not there is a leak and how large the leak might be. If the ball stays at its baseline, Rorick says that means there is no leak. If the ball drops, there is a small leak; if it rises, that indicates a larger leak.

THE REVIEW:

Rorick saw a demonstration of the product in 2006 and believed in its capabilities right away. The product has evolved since then, and Rorick says that since his original model, Redline Detection has improved the Smoke Pro’s gauges and made it more portable by eliminating the need for a power cord. Rorick was always impressed with the product, but he remembers the moment that he knew he would recommend it to anyone else.

“I worked on a 2003 SL55 Mercedes-Benz and the owner came back and said that he kept hearing a whistling sound when he got past a certain speed on the highway,” Rorick says. “We couldn’t figure it out. I took the smoke machine and found that there was a small fuel leak that we wouldn’t have otherwise spotted.”

Rorick says the shop uses it several times per week. In the warmer weather, the Smoke Pro is used more often because the heat causes vacuum lines and exhausts to crack more easily. Rorick says that the shop will use the Smoke Pro on anything that’s fuel, purge or EVAP related.

“Without the Smoke Pro, you’re talking about spending hours trying to find a leak,” Rorick says. “With the Smoke Pro, diagnosis time is cut a quarter to a third.”

THE ROI:

Rorick says that the tool easily paid for itself in the first month. Being able to show customers the leak visually with the smoke has increased the shop’s ability to sell jobs. A customer that sees the problem is more likely to get the work done, Rorick explains.

“An average fuel pump job is $1,000,” Rorick says. “Now, we can easily do two more fuel pump jobs in a month. We might even see four in a week.”

Not only does the product help Rorick sell jobs, it also saves him valuable time. Without the system, it can take 30 minutes to fill an entire gas tank to find the leak. With the Smoke Pro, it takes three minutes. That extra time can be used to get more jobs through the shop.


Interested in knowing the impact of a particular auto care product in the shop? Send your suggestions to thereturn@ratchetandwrench.com.

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