Category Archives: Tech

Mechanic Shortages

Mechanic shortages and find technitions is the new challenge in auto repair and service. What have you done to protect yourself? Tips from an insider.Mechanic Shortages? You Bet. Nothing is more serious than Labor issues. In Arizona the incoming Governor is poised to try to train skilled labor and set the bar higher for those jobs, which need filling. Everything from constructions to maintenance. For every 10 mechanics that leave or retire only three enter the market. Thus supply and demand is dictating increased wages, but not very much and certainly not as much as expected. Some is offset by low wage payers such as Wal-Mart oil changing technicians on the low end. But the Wyoming Automotive technical Institute tells me that there are many high paying jobs waiting for every graduate as a matter of fact they could never fill all the openings across the nation, they would need 10 campuses? Perhaps The University of Phoenix or some other technical college may fill the gap, but we need people now. Yes, our company, the Oil Change Guys needs them and so does the rest of the industry.The National Institute for Service Excellence has certified 430,000 mechanics so far, but many are already mechanics switching jobs and getting the certificate, same with the ASE program. One bulletin board in the Oil Change Industry is hammering on Wal-Mart for secretly visiting their facilities and leaving “come to work at Wal-Mart” cards around the shop, offering benefits, better hours, stock, etc. Quick Lubes are already seeing a price war brewing and some will not admit lost market share, but they have lost customers and should probably not blame the oil interval challenge or the economy as much and look at the big box store competition.Training on the low end for technicians to change oil is fairly easy, but a no-knowledge individual hurts production time and stands around and moves too slow, for at least a week or so, hurting volumes, sales and time to change. Most facilities are partnering skilled with unskilled in a mentoring program for one to tow weeks in the beginning, which usually has good results, we recommend a trainee to ride shot gun for one month before taking the truck units or van out by themselves on a scheduled fleet oil change route. It is serious business because whether fixed or mobile, you really live or die by efficiency.The average number of cars for the industry at a fixed facility is 41.1 cars a day based on a survey with plus, minus 10% accuracy done by National Oil News. I guess that sounds about right. However if you have a lube bay with competition down the street and a Super Wal-Mart, things could get a lot worse. We have seen prices as low as $10.99, but with average cost of goods sold at a Lube Facility estimated at $7.75 to $8.50 without labor or building where is the profit? There would not be any. So Wal-Mart is hoping for those oil change customers who spend an average of $82.22 during their one and one half hour wait to buy stuff in the store even if the average Wal-Mart is charging $12.99 for the oil change and making basically $ .50 on the oil change itself. Ouch.So what does this say to you, if you have labor, which runs slow or is not trained? It means do not expect high volumes, happy customers and repeats every 3000 miles. With G-4 coming and Jiffy Lube bundling everything in an 8-Bay facility with even engine overhauls. Where are you going to find labor? You are not, you will have to find nice. Polite, smart and good personality kids and train them yourself and then pay them enough to keep them. How much? You make the call based on your area. News source: 10000 Articles

3 Mechanics 1 Tech

Once there were four auto mechanics: Manny, Moe, Jacques and Aaron. They all went to the Columbia School of Automotive Engineering together, and they all began their careers on the same day at Honest Ed’s Auto Repair.Manny, Moe, Jacques and Aaron shared a common dream: Each wished someday to work on a race car at the Indianapolis 500.After their first week at Honest Ed’s Auto Repair, Manny, Moe, Jacques and Aaron thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a subscription to Autos & Axles, the auto industry’s leading trade publication?”But, alas, Honest Ed’s Auto Repair refused to pay for such a subscription.“Why don’t we get a subscription ourselves?” suggested Aaron.“Are you crazy?” responded Manny, Moe and Jacques. “A&A is expensive! Why, we each would have to give up one beer per week to pay for it! We’ll just wait until we’re making lots of money in Indianapolis, and then we’ll get a subscription.”“Well,” said Aaron, “then I’ll get a subscription all by myself.” And so he did.After their first month at Honest Ed’s Auto Repair, Manny, Moe, Jacques and Aaron thought, “It sure would be terrific to have a copy of THE ART OF AUTOMOTIVE REPAIR, by the legendary mechanic, ‘Mercedes Mike’ St. Michaels!”But the book was very expensive and, alas, Honest Ed said there just wasn’t money in the budget to purchase it.“I know!” exclaimed Aaron. “Let’s each pitch in a few bucks and buy it ourselves!”“Are you nuts?” replied Manny, Moe and Jacques. “Why spend good money to learn what we already know? We’ll wait until we’re famous mechanics at Indy, and then we’ll write our own book!”“Well,” said Aaron, “then I’ll buy the book myself.” And so he did.One day after their first six months at Honest Ed’s Auto Repair, Aaron said, “Hey, guys! Look at the ad for this new wrench! I understand they’ve just started using this at Indy! Why don’t we get one?”“Have you taken leave of your senses?” chortled Manny, Moe and Jacques. “You know Honest Ed will never pay for it.”“Why don’t we pay for it ourselves? It’ll give us a big advantage over all the other repair shops in town.”Manny, Moe and Jacques exchanged a weary look. “We’ve got better things to do with our money,” they said. “Once we get to Indianapolis, then we can buy all the fancy wrenches we want. But knowing what a sucker you are, you’ll probably go ahead and get it yourself.”And so he did.One evening after their first year at Honest Ed’s Auto Repair, Manny, Moe and Jacques came upon Aaron in Repair Bay #2.“Hey, Aaron,” they said. “C’mon, we’re going down to the Pump & Piston to get good ’n’ drunk.”“No, thanks,” said Aaron. “I’m trying to figure out a faster and better way to service automatic transmissions.”“Why?” demanded Manny, Moe and Jacques.“That way I could do a better job for Honest Ed and for our customers.”“What’s your point?” asked Manny.“Why bother?” snorted Moe.“We’ll be working faster than anybody in the world when we’re at Indy,” insisted Jacques. “But if you want to stay here and play with transmissions, go right ahead.”So Aaron stayed behind and missed out on an evening that was so much fun that Manny, Moe and Jacques threw up for the next three days.A year and a half after they started at Honest Ed’s Auto Repair, an excited Aaron came upon Manny, Moe and Jacques and said, “Hey, guys! Guess what! There’s going to be a big Auto Mechanics Convention next month, and all the best mechanics from Indy will be there to demonstrate –”And at this, Aaron stopped. Suddenly he became aware of the expressions on Manny, Moe and Jacques’ faces, and he realized they were laughing at him.He turned and, still holding his convention registration form, walked away.“Have a good time at the big con-VEN-tion!” Manny, Moe and Jacques guffawed.Several years have passed since that first day when the four novice mechanics began working together.Manny, Moe and Jacques still work at Honest Ed’s Auto Repair.They still laugh at suckers who buy books about auto repair, fools who subscribe to automotive trade publications, and jerks who attend automotive seminars and conventions.And every year they receive a postcard from Aaron… postmarked, “Indianapolis.” News source: DanODay

Lighting Strikes Vehicle

Q: My 2006 PT Cruiser got struck head on by a bolt of lightning on May 19, 2008. I had the car towed to the largest certified Chrysler dealer in Pensacola, Fl. It is now July 5, and it is not ready. I call every two to three days and am told that they are waiting for parts. They replace one part, and find another problem. I am concerned that a problem or two could exist after I pick up the car. Of particular interest to me are the airbags. How can they be tested? Please advise what I can do. Many thanks.John MesserliA: Wow! When lightning strikes a vehicle the results can vary widely. Considerable damage will likely occur to electronic modules and devices, in addition to wiring, as the bolt of lightning can contain up to 2 billion volts. What s surprising is that occupants inside a struck vehicle are relatively safe as long as they re not touching door handles or other metal parts. Many folks believe it s because of the rubber tires but it s actually due to the metal vehicle body directing the charge across its surface, similar to a Faraday cage (a conductive shield surrounding a protected area from static charge or lightning), and to the ground below through the tires. Corvette, Cadillac XLR and Saturn (pre-2008 and except Saturn Relay) owners are not afforded the same level of protection due to the use of composite body panels in their vehicles. Component damage can be readily apparent and sometimes take time to rear its head perhaps in a month or longer. My hope is your insurance company is familiar with this concern and will step up should future problems develop. It may be impossible to say for certain if a future failed component may fall under Chrysler s warranty or was due to this incident. Hopefully you won t be inconvenienced while the decision is juggled. I can appreciate your concern about the SRS (airbag) system. It does have self-diagnostic capability, which checks for general controller competency, complete and non-shorted circuits and installed components. It s difficult to know if the diagnostics are good enough to detect all possible faults in the controller, as the system doesn t become truly active until the instant it s needed. My hunch is the airbags could be trusted, as well as system wiring, as long as the SRS malfunction indicator stays off. It s the controller I d wonder about. Perhaps with enough persuasion this part could be renewed, if it hasn t been already. I m sorry to not be of more help. This is an unusual and iffy situation that I thought would be of interest to other readers. Please stay in touch so we can all learn from your experience. News source: Mercury News

Give It Sniff

Give it a sniff, when working on electrical components, IE computers, control units, PCM, ECM or whatever give the component a smell many times a defective item will smell burnt. As we used to say “the magic smoke was let out” This is also useful on tranny and PS fluid, there smell can tell a lot. Our sense of hearing can also help in diagnostics as well as giving everything a quick look. You will soon discover that using your senses will lead to a quicker repair for problems and don’t forget to stick to the basics.When replacing a defective electrical component check to see why it failed, in many cases it will come back to haunt you, when a device controlled by the component fries the part again. The common items that cause a repeat failure are injectors and IAC motors. I also believe there are many coils that could have been saved by replacing the plug wires.As any tech who has been zapped lately by spark voltage can attest to there is a lot of power and it has to go somewhere

Right To Repair

NewsCenter 5’s Pam Cross reported that every modern car has many computers, even in the tire systems. A repair shop recently replaced a tire pressure sensor on a Lexus, but the shop couldn’t reset the system with the equipment they owned. “So I now make an appointment and I drive to the Lexus dealer. They charge me a sweet $100 for a 10-minute operation that I should be able to do for my customer myself,” said Tony Koles, of Montvale Tire.Independent repair dealers are mad. Most own diagnostic computers and software, but said manufacturers won’t give all the information.”There’s that 10 percent that we just can’t have access to, which means you, as a consumer, you don’t have the choice,” said Barry Steinberg, of DirectTire & Auto.Consumers are sometimes forced to use a more expensive dealership for service. New legislation may require auto manufactures to divulge all their computer codes — something the industry opposes.”I think what it would do is create more hoops and create a government bureaucracy in a place where a government bureaucracy doesn’t need to exist,” said Charles Territo, of the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers.And some small repair shops like things the way they are now.”If Right To Repair is successful, I think the best these folks can hope for is to get a more expensive and bureaucratic version of what we already have,” said Rusty Savignac, of Paxton Garage.But other repair shops complain that they’ve spent money on computers and software that only works part of the time.”Business is business and the consumer is not given a choice. It’s really right on the border of being antitrust,” Steinberg said. News source: Boston Channel

Low brake Pedal

Troubleshooting Brake Problems – Brake Pedal Too LowYour brakes are probably the most important part of your car. Without an intake system, you’ll just sit there. But at least you won’t hit a tree while you’re just sitting there! Seriously, brakes aren’t something to play around with. If your car is having a braking problem, whether it’s weak brakes, a mushy pedal, grinding sounds – whatever your brake problem is, you need to troubleshoot and repair it as soon as possible. We’ll help you diagnose your braking problem so you know what repairs to make.Brake Pedal Goes Too Far Down to Stop. If you step on the brake pedal and it feels like it’s going too far down before you start to slow, you might have the following problems:Low Brake Fluid Level: Check your brake fluid.If it’s low, top it off to the mark on the side of the reservoir. Contaminated Brake Fluid: Even though your brakes operate in a closed system, contaminants can still work there way into the works. Air can enter the system through the smallest hole, and you can end up with water in the system from condensation and other means. There’s not really any way to check for this, but bleeding your brakes will remove the bad stuff and replace it with new fluid. Worn Brake Pads: Your brakes should never wear low enough to cause your brake pedal to feel low, they’ll scream at you before then. But if they do get very low, you might have this problem. Replace your brake pads as soon as possible. Of course, this can be avoided with regular brake inspection. Bad Brake Power Boost Unit Finally, if your brake booster goes bad you’ll have low brake pedal issues. Most brake boosters are vacuum controlled, so a special vacuum measurement device that connects to the brake booster is needed to check it. If it’s bad, you’ll have to replace the boost unit. News source: About Auto Repair

Solder or Crimp

The exhortation to “solder and shrink-wrap it” was drilled into my head as well during many of the electrical service training classes I sat through as a journeyman tech. At the time, a soldered joint was considered superior, more professional and certainly more durable than simply twisting the wires together and covering them with electrical tape or using one of the pliers-operated plastic splice connectors of the day. Much has changed since then, which is why many vehicle manufacturers recommend crimped, rather than soldered connections when it becomes necessary to make a repair to a wiring harness. Let’s look at some of the reasons for this change in policy. The first that comes to mind is electronics. Soldering takes heat, and many electronic components can be damaged by being exposed to too much of it. If your soldering takes place near an electronic component, heat sinks must be used to absorb excess heat and shield the adjacent component from damage. There are many locations where this just isn’t practical, which is why a crimped connection is preferred. In a soldered connection, the wires are stuck together by the solder. In a crimped connection, the pressure of the crimp removes the gaps between the wires and literally fuses them together. Though crimping effectively reduces the cross section of a wire by about 20%, the small resistance added amounts to an essentially unimpeded electrical flow across the crimp. With a soldered joint, there is only minimal contact between adjoining wires. Consequently, the main electrical path is through the solder, rather than the wire. The solder has more resistance than the copper wire, which means the solder joint creates a small voltage drop at that point. In large-gauge solder joints that handle high current loads, this voltage drop may create a “spark-gap” condition, where the heat generated by the solder’s resistance could be enough to melt the surrounding insulation and set it aflame. The heat of soldering also causes wire embrittlement, strand fatigue and corrosion. Wires tend to flex near soldered joints, increasing the chance of breakage and corrosion, particularly after heating. This set of circumstances probably caused the second failure of the wiring repair on your customer’s station wagon. The crimping pliers should grip the crimp connector, then compress it in a controlled fashion that fuses the wires into a solid mass. The wrong crimping tool may smash the connector instead, possibly damaging the crimped wire in the process and setting things up for a repeat failure. Prepare the wire for the splice. Remove only enough insulation to allow a snug fit of the exposed wire in the crimp connector. The wire must be clean and bright, and free of any corrosion or other contamination. The crimp connector must match the wire gauge of the wire to be crimped. If the crimp connector is too large, the crimping pliers won’t be able to crimp the connector sufficiently to create an effective joint. Smashing a too-large crimp connector in an attempt to match it to a smaller wire gauge won’t work. Use an uninsulated crimp connector and cover the finished crimp with shrink tubing. The tubing’s main job is to keep out moisture and electrically isolate the joint, but it also provides a measure of mechanical strength to the wire section it protects. A crimp joint protected by shrink tubing is less likely to flex and break. There are certain cases where no type of wiring repair, be it soldering or crimping, should be attempted. This would include air bag and ABS wiring, as well as shielded wiring for such components as speed or knock sensors. In the case of safety systems, damaged wiring must always be replaced with an undamaged wiring harness, to assure that the system will perform as designed under emergency circumstances. Simply put, your shop should not assume the liability for a safety system failure brought about by a faulty wiring harness repair. If the harness is damaged, insist on harness replacement and decline the repair if the vehicle owner objects. News source: Motor

How a Differential Works

A differential directs the torque of an engine to spin the wheels of a vehicle. The differential also helps the gears reduce the revolutions per minute of the engine to the various speeds at which each of the wheels is required to rotate. The wheels need to rotate at different speeds when a vehicle turns. The front and rear wheels have different distances to travel in the same time. This also applies to the wheels in the direction of the turn as opposed to the wheels on the far side. The free wheels can do this but the differential is needed for the 2 wheels on the drive as they both get equal power from the same source.There are many kinds of differentials. The simplest and most common is known as an open differential. It has a set of small gears called pinions and a ring gear in a housing. The input pinion or gear turns the ring gear, while the other pinions are stationery, when a vehicle with an open differential moves forward in a straight line. Both wheels on the drive rotate at the same speed while the other 2 wheels that are not connected to the engine and transmission, free wheel. The set of pinions make the wheel on the drive and in the direction of a turn, move slower than the wheel on the far side, when the driver wishes to turn and change direction. The 2 wheels that are not connected to the drive continue to freewheel. This makes the vehicle turn in a particular direction. The open differential, in this manner, enables a vehicle to either move in a straight direction, or to make a turn.The open differential applies equal torque or turning power to both wheels on the drive. This torque has to be commensurate with the traction or grip that the driven surface provides. The wheels will slip and the vehicle will not move if torque is more than traction. A vehicle in a situation in which one wheel on the drive is on a surface with greater traction than the other, will be stuck, as the wheel to which the differential applies too much torque, will slip. This shortcoming of an open differential is overcome by a limited slip differential.A limited slip differential is an advance on an open differential. A limited slip differential can apply varying levels of torque to either wheel, while an open differential can only apply equal turning force on both wheels on the drive. There are many kinds of limited slip differentials. A clutch limited slip differential has a set of springs and clutches. The springs fix the clutches against the housing of the differential and offer resistance to the gear system that applies different levels of torque to each of the wheels on the drive. This enables a vehicle to continue to move, albeit with reduced power when one driven wheel has better traction than the other, which may have a tendency to slip. Viscous coupling is another kind of limited slip differential used on all-wheel-drive vehicles. This kind differential can distribute or direct torque between all four wheels, depending upon which ones have traction. The Torsen differential is a variant of an all wheel differential, used for specialized application such as movement at high speed on surfaces with varying and low traction.A locking differential uses electric, pneumatic or hydraulic power to bind output gears or pinions in the housing. This enables wheels to rotate at the same speed even when on surfaces of varying and different traction. Locking differentials are used on vehicles that are used on rough or wild terrain without paved roads.Vehicles without differentials would be difficult to turn and would cause great strain and wear on various parts of the transmission and the axles. Such vehicles would also become immobile on surface such as ice that offer very little traction or grip. The differential makes for easier turning, reduces strain on the transmission and enhances the performance of a vehicle in off-road situations. News source: Car Pros

Old Parts Return

Auto repair facilities already have to give you your replaced parts if you ask for them, as long as you do so before the work starts. But should they be required to ask you if you want them?That’s the question posed by a bill being offered by Rep. Maurice Villeneuve, R-Bedford, a revival of a bill killed by lawmakers last session, which would require that customers sign a waiver to say they don’t want the replaced parts.Villeneuve contends that most customers don’t know enough to ask for them, and by the time the work is done — and want to see the old part, either to reuse it in some way or to check on the mechanic’s honesty — it has already been discarded, and it’s too late.“They’ll always find an excuse not to give it to you. This way, you sign a release form at the bottom of the work order if you don’t want the part,” he said.Last year, the House Transportation Committee unanimously opposed the bill because “of the limited interest in the motoring public of having parts returned,” but said it might reconsider the measure if it would help toward proper disposal of the parts. Villeneuve said he would add instructions on how to do so on the release form.Daniel McLeod, president of the NH Automobile Dealers Association, said he hasn’t seen the new bill, but the old one would have resulted in “another piece of paper” to create a “solution to a problem that we weren’t aware of.”Besides, he said, “sometimes you have to be careful what you ask for.” He worried that customers, who forget to sign the statement, might end up driving home with “worn tires in the back seat and break pads in their back seat.” And while the repair shops might not mind disposing of the parts in this manner, he said, “I don’t think customers will be too thrilled about it.” — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW News source: NHBR

Packing Idler Bearing

Below is generic information for most modern-day vehicles:Serpentine belt tension is set by the tensioner assembly, which consists of the spring tensioner and an idler pulley. Ideally, the tensioner assembly should be replaced when the serpentine belt is changed. In many cases, this is not the most cost-effective solution. Most people will replace the idler pulley, which costs about 25% of what the tensioner assembly costs. For the more frugal, or more performance-oriented individual, repacking the idler pulley bearing is an option. Since space is normally tight on this side of the engine, access may be improved by moving the power steering reservoir aside or by removing the appropriate wheel and plastic wheel-well liner. Here’s how to repack the bearing:1. Remove idler pulley from tensioner, normally by using a 15 mm combination wrench.2. Examine old bearing and ensure it’s serviceable.3. Remove bearing grease seals, using a small screwdriver, and soak bearing and pulley in kerosene. Ensure bearing is clean of all old grease and dirt.4. Inspect ball bearings, cage, and race for any signs of damage.5. Allow bearing to dry. Compressed air can be used but don’t try to spin the bearing or it could be damaged.6. Pack bearing with grease, thoroughly forcing grease into all crevices of the bearing. Approximately 25% of the inside space of the bearing should be filled with grease. I recommend using either Mobil 1 Synthetic Universal Grease, NLGI #2, or Amsoil Synthetic Multi-Purpose Grease, NLGI #2. 7. Remove excess grease and replace both grease seals.8. Button things up.The bearing should now be as good as, or better than, new. Goodyear recommends tightening the 15 mm mounting bolt 35 to 40 lb.-ft., on a standard NTN 6203 bearing, with a 17 mm inside diameter. This common bearing is frequently referred to as a “203” bearing. Crew Chief: I tried this and was amazed at how quiet the engine was compared to before.It’s not uncommon for the engine to now run quieter than ever before. News source: Ask Me Help Desk