Quantcast
Jump to content


Gonzo

Article: My All Time Worst Spark Plug R&R's --- simple job turned impossible.

Recommended Posts

My All-time Worst Spark Plug R&Rs

I’ve been changing spark plugs almost as long as I’ve been able to hold a socket wrench. I’ve changed plugs on everything from the family lawn mower to huge engines, and over the years there have been a few of them that are memorable only because they were such a pain in the toolbox to get out. A few were rusted into place, or the threads were stripped, and a few that broke off in the head, but the ones I remember the most are the ones that had you muttering to yourself that you’d never do another one again.

Now, I could mention the trouble with getting the spark plugs out of the Ford Triton 3 valve engines and how difficult those can be, but they are only tough because of the design aspects of the engine. Not that they are that difficult to get too. I’ve tried taking them out with the engine cold and with the engine hot. I prefer the hot method. Once I started taking them out that way I haven’t had near the hassle as taken them out cold (as per the procedure from Ford). Although, they are tough enough to extract, and a few choice words for the engineers may be in order, they don’t require the dexterity of a gymnast to get them out.

The transverse engines, any thoughts? Yea, I’ve got a few, especially the ones that half the intake has to be removed to get to the back plugs. What a genius design from a maintenance stand point. Yea, it sure does make for a compact engine bay, and yes, they don’t need changed as often as the older models do, but still.... what a hassle. Some of the transverse engines required you to remove the upper engine mount (the dog bone) and rock the engine in one direction to gain access the back plugs. A lot of guys would rock the engine back and forth, and when the engine was in the right spot they would jam on the emergency brake. It worked, but holy cow... dangerous! If the E-brake didn’t hold in the middle of your changing them, it could be even more difficult to extract the mechanic than just the spark plugs! The best method was to get the proper tool (Oh, gee another tool to buy) and use it to crank the engine to the right spot.

All those weird spark plug designs and sideways motor layouts had their issues, but nothing compared to the contortionist you had to be on other vehicles, or even worse how a job that looks to be only an hour or two turns into an all-day affair. One in particular that I remember so well is the mid 70‘s Chevy Vega. You know, the little car with the aluminum engine and the notorious oil consumption, yea that one. Well, there is another Vega that was available that didn’t have the little 4 cylinder engine in it. It came from the factory with a V8 squeezed under the hood.

Why do I remember this so well? I had a customer with one who wanted the spark plugs replaced. Back in the day, there was a national chain of tune up shops that was offering a 29.95 tune up for any factory original car. My customer had already asked me what I would charge and he didn’t like my price at all. The 29.95 looked like a bargain so he headed right over there.

A day or so later I got a call from the tune up place. They were questioning whether or not it was a factory set up, because they couldn’t even see the plugs. In fact, they couldn’t find it in their labor guides, either. The customer told them I did all his work, so they assumed I must have been the guy who “shoe-horned” this V8 in there. I laughed, and told them it was definitely factory assembly. The problem was the only way to remove all the plugs was to first remove the entire motor. Hey, they advertised it; they said they would do any factory car for that price, so do it!

They ended up pulling the motor and changing the plugs for the advertised price, but with one stipulation. Never to bring it back.

Another fabulous design that needs to be put on the list of all time dumb designs is the mid 80‘s GM 4WD van with a V8 engine. Now here’s one that you’ll get a work out trying to get to all the plugs. One from the deck lid, one from inside the wheel well, one with the dog house removed. Oh, and the last one... good luck. It’s buried in there to the point that you have to put your socket, swivel, and extension onto the spark plug in sections and then you might manage an eighth of a turn with the ratchet. You’ll need a change of clothes before going home on this one, because you’ll be covered in grease from head to toe as you bear hug the cross member, steering linkage, and countless other components just to get to the plugs.

It’s one of those jobs when the customer tells you they need a tune up the mechanic starts questioning their career choice. The customer says, “How come every time I ask a mechanic about tuning up my van they don’t want to do it?” Try it sometime… you’ll find out why.

What can be even more frustrating is when a car comes in with a misfire and it’s diagnosed as a faulty spark plug. The dead hole is the one that is just a fraction of an inch from the evaporator case. You can’t even see the plug, but you gotta get to it somehow. After what seems to be hours you manage to find the right combination of sockets and swivels to get that sucker out only to find the plug is completely shot. You suggest to the customer that it’s time for a tune up, and they tell you that it was just done a week ago. A little more investigating and you find that all the other plugs are brand new...except for the one you just wrestled out. Now, I have two people I want to have a little wall to wall conversation with. The engineer who designed this fiasco and the *#@^! mechanic who only changed 7 plugs.

I know I haven’t seen the worst of the worst, but I’ll bet there are mechanics out there who have run across worse ones than me. How about you guys telling me your worst of the worst? Send an email or text, and I’ll compile a list and put it into story form for later publication. If anybody knows which spark plug changes are the worst, it’s you guys and gals out in the service bays. Misery loves company, so think about your worst spark plug changes and let me know.

 

Click here to view the article

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


We allow visitors to read the first post of each topic. To continue reading responses, you must be signed in.

Edited by kenk
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Similar Forum Topics

    • Article: EGO vs. Abilities --- Sometimes your ego is your worst client

      EGO vs. Ability           For some reason, especially in the auto repair business,  there’s a tendency for the ego to overshadow the actual abilities  for a lot of mechanics. Sure, I can say my ego has stepped over  the line a time or two, but for the most part, the ever changing  industry usually keeps a person humble.             For some guys, there’s no stopping their ever-unchecked ego  from stepping out beyond their tool box. Especially, if they’ve  landed a position that is far above their abilities. Some of them  reach beyond the typical, “I know more than you do” level, to a  status where their ever-enlarging ego has no boundaries,  regardless if they are even qualified for such a position.            If you ever have wondered if you’re that type of person  or not, take this little survey and let’s see. Answer the following  questions as truthfully as possible. Answer each question – yes or no.    1.I know all there is to know about cars. 2.All the other mechanics are below my abilities. 3.Customers come to me because I’m the best there is.  4.Have you ever said to another mechanic, “Get out of my way, I’ll take care of this.” 5.I don’t need to take advanced classes, I should be teaching them.           If you answered any of these questions with anything other than ‘NO’, you probably need to check your EGO at the door.             It’s not hard to spot these egotistical mechanics though. We’ve all ran into one at some point in our careers. You know, that one guy that runs his mouth all the time, or walks by each service bay shouting louder than everyone else while making claims he could fix that problem faster than you can. That one guy who, when given some authoritative position, turns into a ‘mini-Hitler’. Or, the one who can’t seem to finish his own work, but at the same time, he’s awfully chummy with the boss. The kind that swings into action if the boss says ‘jump’, but never actually accomplishes a thing. Yes, we all know ‘that’ guy. Worse yet, is when these type of individuals break their ties to the tool box and move to other aspects of the auto repair industry. Like the front office.            When I was first starting out, I worked at a small local dealership as a helper. I wasn’t even what you might call an apprentice because I wasn’t assigned to a mechanic or strictly to the mechanic shop. I was more the guy who cleaned up the bays, held tools, and brought parts from the warehouse to the service bays. Everybody was great, and encouraged me to learn more and more. All but this one guy. It wasn’t long before it was universally known throughout the entire building that ‘this’ was our egotistical wrench head of the shop.            This guy had something to say about everything. You couldn’t even sweep a floor or roll up a hose without him saying something demeaning or repulsive. But, it only got worse. Apparently, his boisterous attitude made it all the way to the front office. But, being the ‘non-car-front-office-people’ that they were, and since this guy couldn’t stay in his own bay long enough to finish anything, they made the assumption he must be their gift from the wrench gods. Which, in turn, must mean he deserved a promotion to bigger and better things. They made him the shop super.            Now, his ‘little-Hitler’ mentality came out with a vengeance. Nobody was safe from the torrential down beating this guy dished out. Even with numerous complaints, the dealership head honchos still believed he walked on water. His greatest skill was not wrenching, or diagnosing, but getting rid of anyone that said anything against his ideas, or even remotely showed any signs of intelligence beyond his mental capacities. (Didn’t take much by the way)             It wasn’t long before his ever oppressive antics started to affect the quality of work and the number of customers that used the dealership service department. Soon, every tech that was left had had enough. They were all packing up their tool boxes and heading down the road. After a while, even the need to have some young kid sweeping floors and running parts back and forth wasn’t needed, because there were more empty bays than full ones now.            This egotistical maniac even thought he could teach the other mechanics and helpers something about the auto industry that apparently … only he understood. His method of instructing was appalling. It usually consisted of him shouting at the top of his lungs from the front of the room, while showing the aspects of some out of date process. He even had his own homemade jargon and squirrelly nicknames for these long forgotten components which only fit a cars that haven’t seen a service bays for decades. All the while, pointing a three foot long piece of dowel rod like if it were some sort of magic wand.            It was more like watching a circus clown trying to explain advanced quantum physics. His true attitude was even more apparent if you asked for help on something. Instead of helping, he would come over and take whatever it was you were working on and rip it completely back apart, then telling you that you did it wrong. Ya know, if you already ‘knew’ you did something wrong, how is starting over from the beginning ever going to help? Two wrongs don’t make a right, and you ‘still’ don’t have any clue what you’re doing.            But, as with a lot of these ego driven socket jockeys and little Hitler attitudes, it’s just a matter of time before upper management takes notice. However, for this dealership, it came bit too late. The place closed due to lack of work. Like ya didn’t see that coming.             So, why am I bringing this up? It’s not funny, it’s not technical… what gives? What’s the whole point of this story? It’s for you to consider the results of your actions when you’re talking with a customer or for that matter another mechanic. The fact that a customer or fellow mechanic doesn’t know what you know, is probably the very reason your customer or that mechanic was asking you for your advice.             You may find that technology is starting to pass you by because you’ve spent way too much time telling everybody that you know it all, instead of studying that very technology you claimed you knew. (You can only BS them for so long) Maybe, it’s time for you to eat a little humble pie and accept the fact that you need to advance your training just to be able to do what you thought you already knew how to do.            It’s easy to find yourself in this business thinking you’re above reproach. But, honestly, we all can learn a lot about the make-up of today’s cars and even more about helping other technicians and mechanics without going to the point of becoming the next little Hitler.            Years ago a mechanic’s job was all about turning bolts, twisting screws, and adjusting cables. Today, the stereotypical mechanic doesn’t really have a place in the service bay on a daily basis. Tomorrow’s tech is here today. That’s the guy or gal that is heavily involved with advanced electronics, data lines, and computer strategies, but they still need to turn those nuts and bolts just like before. Above all, the auto repair business is on the brink of being so sophisticated of a career choice that the shade tree adventurer will be hard to find.             Every mechanic needs to learn and understand today’s vehicles to be profitable and to be respected in the industry as well as with their clients. It may take a while to bring the world of automotive repair up a few notches from that old stereotypical mechanic we all knew. But, we could all start by showing a little more respect to others, as well as ourselves and especially to our fellow mechanics. 
      View full article

      By Gonzo, in AutoShopOwner Articles

      • 3 replies
      • 129 views
    • Joe Marconi Key Note Speaker Ratchet & Wrench Conference 2018

      If you are going to the Ratchet and Wrench Conference next week, I will be there to kick things off as the Key Note Speaker on the first day. I will also be making a presentation; Charging for Diagnostics on Friday, Sept 21.  If any member is attending the conference, please let me know and hopefully we can meet.  Here is the link to the conference: https://www.ratchetandwrench.com/articles/5651-ratchetwrench-announces-details-of-2018-management-conference Thank you, Joe Marconi   

      By Joe Marconi, in AutoShopOwner Announcements

      • 0 replies
      • 111 views
    • Consider Joining Family Service Day!

      At the Ratchet + Wrench Conference last month, I met Charlie Marcotte, owner of Amerian Pride Auto in Virginia and the founder of Family Service Day. After doing a little research, I joined the organization.   Family Service Day originated in 2009 with a Williamsburg, Virginia based company, American Pride Auto. The idea was simple: offer support to single parent families and deployed military by offering the gifts and talents we have been given, the ability to repair vehicles, for free. There are really no limitations — if you have desire to make an impact in your community, Family Service Day is a great way to get involved.   Getting involved in your community is the best way to make your shop stand out as the business that cares about people. Plus, it will get your staff involved which will boost morale. You can reach out to your vendors for help with parts and also get major businesses in your area to help sponsor the event.   Shop owners, I recommend that you find out more about Family Service Day. Below is a link for more information:   http://www.familyserviceday.org/

      By Joe Marconi, in Banner Programs & Franchising

      • 18 replies
      • 1,478 views
    • Changing business name?

      Hello, I am considering changing my business name as within past 6 months we have converted into mainly a truck and jeep lift kit, tire and wheel, and select auto repair and also accessories. My name currently is Defiance tie and auto. Defiance is the location. I want something more geared towards our unique specialties ( I think) so I can market this and grow.  This is simply the best profit maker and general awesome thing we love to do. Before we were working on old vehicles for pennies and now we charge premium rates for most services.  Any idea on names, experiences will be appreciated.  Website is www.defiancetire.com  and been in business 4 years 

      By defiancetire, in Marketing, Advertising, & Promoting

      • 3 replies
      • 419 views
    • Article: Picture This - - Hard to believe I wrote this 20 years ago.

      Picture This   Years ago my younger brother came to work for me. He didn’t know a thing about cars, but was willing to learn all he could. Teaching new techs is an art that most shop owners have to learn to do, but teaching your little brother can be a chore and can test your patience. I muddled thru it all and taught him what I could. I was sure at some point in time the two of us would butt heads like brothers will do, and he would take his new found skills and move up in the rank and files of the automotive technical world, but in the meantime it was his turn to learn from his older brother.   When he first started I would walk him through each step of how to diagnose a certain system in a car. A lot of times he would have questions, and I’d do my best to answer them. He learned quickly and was really sharp at picking up some of those little details that are harder to teach. You know things like how you held a certain wrench or used a certain tool, to you and me it’s no big deal. But to a novice, it’s a revelation, then you (I) tend to forget to mention those certain traits while you’re teaching. Mainly because you are trying to get to the solution as efficiently as possible, and you neglect to bring it up. Such as: “always test your test light connection before testing what you’re testing, or don’t forget to check for all your tools before you pull the car out of the shop….” Things like that.   One day we had a truck come in with dual fuel tanks on it. The gas gauge wasn’t working and needed some attention. This was a perfect opportunity for Junior to learn a few of my short cuts on these old models. It was an older Ford, in which the tank gauge ran thru the tank switchover button. It was rather easy to pull it out of the dash and connect to the gauge from the back of the switch. Luckily it was the typical problem I’ve seen a hundred times in the past. The switch connections would melt and the tank wouldn’t switch from the front tank to the rear, and of course the gauge wouldn’t move either.   After locating the correct leads to the gauge and to the tanks I decided to show him how the gauge worked. I hooked up the one of the tanks to the crossover lead that would supply the signal from the tank to the gauge.   “Ya see this, that’s the lead to the fuel gauge in the dash, and this is one of the tank wires. I’ll connect these together and we should get a reading on the dash,” I told him. He was watching intently, taking in all the wiring diagram information, the location of the wires, and how I was bypassing the switch. He was fascinated with the flow of the current and the way the gauge would respond. I even went as far as moving the gauge from full to empty by opening and closing it to a ground signal. While I had his attention I filled him in on the two types of gauges that were used back then (bimetallic and magnetic) and how low resistance on a bimetal type gauge would read near a full tank, while a magnetic gauge would read close to empty. Change the resistance and the gauge would/should read accordingly.   “So, if we put gas in the tank the gauge should move right? That way we could check the sending units in the tanks too,” he asked me.   “Great idea, grab a gas can and let’s add a few gallons,” I said, excited that he was so interested in the project.   He grabbed a can of gas and poured a few gallons in the tank. I was watching the gas guage carefully, but there was no movement. I knew I was on the right wires, but nothing was happening. Now what? Are there more problems?   “Crawl under there, and check to be sure the wire color is correct,” I yelled from the cab to him.   “Yep, it’s the right wire on the tank.”   “Well, we might have to pull the tank; it’s not changing the gauge readings up here.”   “Before we do that let’s add some more gas, maybe we didn’t add enough,” Junior tells me.   I thought I better go back and help hold the funnel, while he poured the gas in the tank. Unknowing to me, all this time my wife (who was the office manager) was listening in on the whole thing. She likes to keep tabs on me, and make sure I’m not going into one of my usual rants or having a fit because I had to explain something over and over again to little brother. This time she was standing at the corner of the shop just behind the truck with a camera. “CLICK”, I heard the camera shutter go off and she was back there laughing like there was no tomorrow.   “What’s so funny?” I asked her.   “You two idiots have been putting gas in the wrong tank. You’re on the front tank, and you’re putting gas in the rear tank,” my wife answers, laughing hysterically. About then the camera “clicked” again… this time it was an action shot taken at precisely the exact moment when these two idiots had that dumb struck look on their faces and realized what they just did. The shot had both of us on our knees, one holding a funnel and the other with the half empty gas can, and both of us staring right into the camera lens. Couldn’t have set it up any better if you tried. The picture clearly showed the side of the truck with both fuel tank doors visible and there was no doubt which tank we were putting in the extra gas. I guess it was one of those things I should have mentioned when we were checking the tank senders… make sure we are both on the same tank. For years that picture hung over her desk, and anytime I thought I was so smart she would point at the photo. Usually with that typical smirk, usually shaking her finger at me and of course the laugh… she had to laugh, but it wasn’t all that funny until she had me laughing about it too. Ok, Ok, I’m not perfect... and now my little brother knows it too.   These days he’s a top notch tech at a dealership, and I have to call him on occasions for some help on how to solve things once in a while. Oh the photo… uhmmm… what photo?? Somehow it’s missing… haven’t seen the darn thing in years. But I guess I really don’t need to see the photo … the wife has a pretty good memory... she reminds me just how smart I think I am every chance she gets.           Click here to view the article

      By Gonzo, in AutoShopOwner Articles

      • 5 replies
      • 678 views
  • AutoShopOwner Sponsors



×