Category Archives: Wrench

Only At Times

When a auto tech hears the statement “it only happens now and then” it makes their blood run cold. How do you repair a problem when it is not there all the time? It is doubtful that the problem will ever occur when test equipment is hooked up but one you remove the equipment it will act up. These are the facts of life in the auto repair world. Many shops have a policy that they will not work on vehicles that are not exhibiting the problem when brought in. I think this is a disservice to the customer. At the very least some visual checks and a quick couple of tests should be offered. Of course it should be explained to the owner that this is a quick check and may not identify the problem and that there will be a charge and what that cost would be. In today’s high tech world of auto repair many techs forget that a visual inspection and a quick sniff of electrical equipment can reveal numerous problems that can be verified with further tests. Even a slight tap with a hammer can start a motor engage a clutch or break a relay connection loose. Too many shops relay on test equipment to be there magic cure and forget to check the basics first. Many times after testing at length did I clean the battery cables or clean a frame or body ground and repair the problem. When several systems exhibit problems it is usually a ground problem. Many of these grounds along with most connections, in the crowded engine compartment, are difficult to check but remember it is usually the one that is buried that is the problem. The battery in my wife’s car is under the back seat and I have not checked it, always plan to but never get to it. So remember KISS and check the basics before panicking and when in doubt take a break it often helps.

Lab Scopes

A lab scope is not as complicated as it sounds; it shows an electrical occurrence digitally. The cathode ray tube was the first scope in the early years and it made the mechanics, they did not call them techs then, job a lot easier. It would show a defective spark plug or wire among other things. After some time and experience there were many problems you would discover when using the scope. They came with some accessories that were also helpful a vacuum pump among them. I used to have an early 50 Sun scope and I wish I had kept it but you have to draw the line somewhere I already have too much junk and this machine was huge compared to today’s.The next generation digitally converted the trace and made it easier to read. This can create some problems as it tended to miss some of the small glitches, there are ways to capture glitches but I still prefer the live trace. They also had many add ons like vacuum transducers and O2 sensor modulators. I have an old tube type scope only in my garage I use on occasion; starting a new tech out with this makes an excellent teaching tool. The lab scope is the one in general use today it is tiny by yesterdays standards and can do almost anything as it has many add ons. Also there are several lab scopes built into scanners and test modules made by Snap-On and Mac among others. Modis is among them and it performs exceptionally well but it is almost too easy to use and techs start to depend on and lose sight of diagnostic procedures. They have to remember to check the basics first as this will solve many problems. I have gathered the info necessary to call a help line and on many occasions have solved the problem. Remember KISS and I don’t mean Gene Simmons, keep it simple stupid.

Tool Box With Fridge

A new stainless steel tool box from Kobalt has a MP3 and satellite ready sound system and a fridge. What next a portable AC unit. Some of these boxes are getting to be so heavy they almost need a small motor to move them from place to place. I remember when we used to get upset about some stupid thing in the shop and we would say that’s why they put wheels on tool boxes so that are easy to move to a new shop. Today it requires a flatbed to move them. Don’t get me wrong the proper tool is a absolute necessity and as complicated as today’s vehicles are becoming today’s techs need all the help they can get and you might as well be comfortable as well. I remember my first box was a 3 drawer craftsman and I had to spread out my tools to make it look full. Now I have 3 drawers just for test equipment and I am retired. Sorry couldn’t find a price for the box. News source: Kobals tools

BeCareful

GRAND RAPIDS — It was not uncommon for 62-year-old Frederick Schmidt, of Grand Rapids, to come to his auto repair and body shop on Sunday, authorities said. But no one expected him to lose his life there. Schmidt was at J&F Enterprises, the shop a relative said Schmidt owned for years, when a jack holding up a car apparently fell and the vehicle landed on him about 10:30 a.m. Sunday. A friend who came later to the business, at 1940 Turner Ave. NW, found Schmidt. Rescuers called to the scene attempted CPR, but Schmidt could not be revived. Grand Rapids Fire Department officials found a jack stand tipped over next to the car. It had been holding up the right rear of the vehicle. A directory service lists J&F as a repair shop that refurbishes vehicle tops, bodies and upholstery, as well as repaints vehicles. News source: MLive

Bad legislation

Fear is a powerful motivator. Perhaps that is why a recent “My Turn” essay by Dick Cole entitled “Don’t Let Dealers Have a Lock on Auto Repair” resorted to emotion and speculation to make the case for so-called “Right to Repair” legislation. Facts, in fact, undermine his argument and the unhappy future he imagines for car owners and independent service and repair shops. Consider: – All information necessary to service and repair motor vehicles is available to motor vehicle owners and independent repairers. – More than 70 percent of all non-warranty service and repair work done today is performed by independent repairers. – Vehicles today are more technologically sophisticated than ever. – Because of the technical complexity of today’s vehicles, those in the service and repair industry must invest in the tools needed to quickly and accurately diagnose and repair these products. Right to repair legislation is a solution in search of a problem. Unfortunately, the innocently-titled “Right to Repair” bill advocated by Mr. Cole does more to confuse than to clarify the real challenge facing the service and repair industry today. No amount of information will help if technicians are not prepared to use, or do not know where to locate, up-to-date service information. Nor will legislation remedy problems associated with diagnostic tools that are not equipped to identify problems that could arise on each and every vehicle that passes through the shop door. News source: Concord Monitor

Right to Repair

If your car’s “check engine light” starts glowing on your dashboard, chances are you won’t be able to fix it yourself.And unless your local mechanic has invested thousands of dollars in equipment and computer software, he might not be able to either.Blame it on computer codes such as P1122 and hundreds of others that your vehicle might generate to inform a mechanic why your car is sick.”You’re pretty well oars out of the water if you don’t have that information,” said Doug Callier, owner of Callier’s South Main Gulf, an auto repair shop in Concord.Several national organizations representing independent repair shops have been pushing Congress to adopt the “Right to Repair Act” to require car makers to make available all codes needed for repairing vehicles. Similar efforts are underway in Maine and Massachusetts.”Now with computers, the do-it-yourselfer is pretty well left out in the cold,” said Dick Cole, executive director of the New England Tire and Service Association, which favors the move and counts about 35 members in New Hampshire. News source: Union Leader Around 1990, the federal government required on-board diagnostic systems for all vehicles manufactured and sold in the United States, Cole said. This would allow for more repair shops to perform mandatory emissions tests.Sometimes, when repair shops fix problems, car owners still need to visit a car dealer, Cole said.”It still doesn’t allow the vehicle to recognize it was repaired,” he said. “You still have to go back to the dealer to get the computer reset,” he said.”Will people go out of business? Absolutely, if they can’t perform a lot of the work they’re doing now,” Cole said. “In the long run, less competition means higher prices to the consumer.”But automotive consultant George Dykstra said that information is out there for independent mechanics — for a price.”I think they’re blowing it out of proportion,” said Dykstra, who’s working for state automobile dealer associations in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. “They’re looking for something that’s for free that’s not even given to dealers for free.””It costs everyone money. Get over it and buy it,” the Chichester resident said by phone from New Jersey on Friday. “The manufacturers don’t give it away, even to dealers.”Your vehicle, especially if it’s a newer model, can feature 15 or more computer processors that monitor everything from anti-lock brakes to the transmission. They are linked by a network and communicate among each other.”Everything is sophisticated in automobiles,” said Daniel B. McLeod, president of the New Hampshire Automobile Dealers Association. “Everybody who wants to fix automobiles has to participate in that complexity and that costs money.”Jeff Boucher, co-owner of Granite State Tire & Battery in Manchester, figures he pays between $1,500 and $2,000 a year to a private company for access to the codes, which he receives quarterly by way of 14 DVDs.”It does come at an expense because we have to invest in that” software and scanner equipment, Boucher said.He uses a hand-held scanner that usually connects under a car’s dashboard on the driver’s side. The device retrieves a code and a bare-bones explanation. Then, he goes to PC in office and gets an explanation and suggestions for testing the car.The same car make and model with the same engine type would have the same set of codes. But within that particular set, the transmission and ABS brake systems would have different codes, he said.”P1122,” for example, refers to a “throttle position sensor” used by the powertrain control module to determine the throttle plate angle for various engine management systems in a 2005 Chevrolet Impala with a V-6 engine, according to Boucher’s software. The reference material also provides an overview of the sensor and a nine-step process to remedy the problem.”They’re pretty good giving us information,” said Boucher, who needs to send customers to dealers only once or twice a year. “If you don’t have that information, there would be a lot of testing.”A study released last year of more than 1,000 repair shops nationwide indicated 70 percent of independent repair shop owners, service advisers and technicians had no confidence that car companies will always provide access to the needed information and tools for repair.Nearly half of respondents purchase repair information “as needed” and about as many “never” buy repair information from car companies, according to a study commissioned by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, which backs efforts to force car makers to be more open about computer codes.”I can understand where the automobile manufacturers are looking to protect their franchises with guaranteed income. It appears that way,” said Steve McGrath, vice president with marketing at Tire Warehouse, based in Keene.His company has invested heavily in equipment to keep up with the technology and rarely has to refer a customer to a dealer, said McGrath, a board member with the New England Tire and Service Association.Auto dealers do look to their service and parts department to boost profits, McLeod said.”I would certainly hope that dealers are paying for their building and their heat and their lights from profits from their service and parts department,” McLeod said.Callier spends $200 a month to get updated code information and recently acquired a $12,000 scanner.”It used to be, open the hood, take a look at it and give you an estimate,” Callier said.Now, mechanics need to run a diagnostic test, that can take a half hour or more at a $75 per-hour rate.”A lot more stuff can go wrong” with today’s cars, Callier said.

Exhaust tampering

It is against Federal law to make any changes to the exhaust system. There is a very heavy fine and possible imprisonment for violating this law. Furthermore it is illegal to sell a vehicle with tampered emission systems. So if you trade it in, at a dealer, on a new car, they will probably report the violation to the EPA.If you sell it to a private individual, they would be obligated, under the law, to report it. Also there would be no way the vehicle would pass inspection.By law I can’t help you tamper or modify the emission systems in any way.