The Reed Era: Laying the Foundation for Mitchell 1 Auto Repair Information

Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of a history series tracing the evolution of Mitchell 1 and individuals who have contributed to the company’s success for over a century.

The one element in life that can be counted on is change. Even so, how that change emerges varies greatly. Take a look at the evolution of the automobile industry and the skills required to diagnose and repair cars with each passing era.  Obviously, the cars were lightyears less complex than modern high-tech vehicles containing multiple computer-controlled systems.

If you look at a car from the early 1900s, the powertrain appears amazingly simple. Very few wires or hoses mar the barren under-hood area. In fact, most cars lacked even the most basic necessities, or at least those considered necessities today. A technician today could not even imagine a new gasoline-powered car without a starter or alternator, or even a battery! Yet, at one point in automotive history, those electrical systems were new technology.

More than a few cars could be found where the ignition system was powered by a Magneto. Or try to find a tech today who has adjusted points or set the dwell using a meter. Without a doubt, even old technology is challenging when one knows nothing about it.

Recognizing the power of information

Although the automotive industry continues to evolve, the steps to understanding and repairing automobiles remain remarkably similar to the days gone by. Over the years, the people at Mitchell 1 recognized the need to innovative and provide solid information to skillfully diagnose and repair the complex automobile.

Published Aug. 8, 1926 in the San Francisco Examiner

Samuel Payne Reed knew the value of information when it came to grasping the complexities in automotive electrical systems. Sometime around 1916, Reed – who was then head of the Automotive Department of Heald College in San Francisco – started collecting electrical specifications along with wiring diagrams for cars.

This effort lead to the release of the Reed Service Manual in 1918. In the preface of the 1918 edition of the “Reed Service Manual,” Reed claims, “A study of these pages will show that the material herein contained may be used as a guide to give ‘service’ on automotive electrical equipment wherever found, as on tractors, trucks, aero-planes, motor-boats, motorcycles, etc.”

In effect, Reed suggests that having a foundation in how an automotive electrical system works can be carried over to service other vehicle types, and as the case may be, new emerging electrical technologies.

With a background in electronics, Samuel Payne Reed clearly held a passion for technology. More importantly, as an educator, Reed displayed a heart for sharing his passion for technology.

Principles of bygone eras that resonate today

In 1923, Reed published the knowledge gained in the automotive industry into a textbook titled, “Generating, Starting, Lighting, and Ignition of Automotive Vehicles and Gas Engines.” Within the preface to that work, Reed lays out seven service elements – four of which are highlighted below – that remain foundational for technicians and the repair information that Mitchell 1 continues to provide.

Published May 20, 1923, in the San Francisco Chronicle

First, Reed reveals that the textbook “gives those principles that cannot be obtained in the shop.”

As we look at cars on the road now, it will quickly become clear that no technician could possibly comprehend every aspect of one car much less all of them. However, with the right experience and information, technicians are empowered to carry over that knowledge to other systems.

Secondly, Reed makes known that, “The main issue is to know what to do and how to do it,” adding that, “No man can do intelligent good work with satisfaction to himself or employers or customers unless he really knows what he is doing.”

This issue goes well beyond simply fixing the car. For instance, posing the questions of:

  • How do I attract customers as a shop?
  • How can I manage the flow of work through the shop?
  • How do I address the parts needed for service?

Mitchell 1 strives to resolve those issues through service information, along with a host of productivity tools that enable shops to bring the best customer experience possible.

Thirdly, concerning textbook assignments, Reed points out that “trading of papers is recommended.”

Mitchell 1 is aware that the technicians who use its products are equipped with a significant amount of knowledge and experience.

The SureTrack Connection: Real-World Fixes

ProDemand’s SureTrack provides technicians with real-world solutions from other technicians. SureTrack provides a comprehensive solution that allows technicians to quickly and efficiently solve problems by accessing the collective knowledge of other technicians. This includes the ability to view how others have resolved issues, as well as the option to ask for solutions to new and unusual automotive problems.

Lastly, Reed shares a key element to diagnosing and repairing electrical systems: “In electricity the work is mental. Parts are replaced or adjusted, but they may not need replacing. To do electrical work right, you have to use your mind. To do mechanical work right, you ought to use your mind. The use of the mind is the main item in any work.”

The diagnosis and repair of today’s complex computer-controlled cars demand a logical approach that follows a procedure to identify faults efficiently. Samuel Payne Reed recognized in 1918 that the modern automobile demanded a deep understanding, and sought to provide and enhance automotive knowledge for countless technicians.

At Mitchell 1, we carry on this proud legacy by constantly innovating to help our clients maximize their efficiency and profitability.


About the Author

Jake Schell

Jake Schell is an editorial consultant with Mitchell 1. Previously, he served as Product Manager for the Commercial Vehicle Group from 2002 to 2023. Prior to joining Mitchell 1, Jake spent 20 years as a technician. He holds a Chevrolet Master certification in the transmission category as well as ASE certifications in both cars and trucks.