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Shift Happens - Diagnostics, diagnostics, diagnostics


Gonzo

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Shift Happens

Jo was a new customer referred by an old-time regular. Her little KIA had a transmission problem that seemed to be getting the best of the transmission shop. The story goes that the SUV was constantly in limp mode, and would never shift properly… ever. As it always seems to be the case when a simple problem can’t be solved simply, somebody started the diagnostics off in the wrong direction. Little did I know this was a simple problem…. But, as I see it, each and every type of diagnostic work that you do requires a certain step by step procedure that you must follow. Miss a step, or completely overlook a step, usually means you’re going to miss that simple problem all together. This was no exception.

From what information I could gather the person who diagnosed it at the transmission shop wasn’t the same person who installed it. So after the tech put the last bolt in the transmission, he set the car out front, and told the front office, “Got the transmission in that KIA.” The front office considered it done, and the call went out for Jo to pick it up. She didn’t make it around the block before she was back at the front counter in a “not-so” pleasant mood. You can just imagine the situation at the counter… not pleasant I’m sure. After some deliberation, and very little diagnostics the transmission shop came up with the conclusion that it must be a bad transmission. Luckily, Jo’s ride that had brought her there was still in the parking lot, so she left the KIA for them to re-do the whole job again.

A week later, it was supposedly done. This time a different tech had installed the second transmission. Unfortunately, he made the same mistake as the first tech. When Jo came to pick up her car the shop owner took her for a ride to be sure that the repairs were made to her satisfaction. It was a short drive… This time, the owner said he was going to pay for the transmission, and would even purchase one from the dealership just to be sure it wasn’t their mistake in rebuilding it. But even the dealer transmission failed to shift properly. The tranny shop was at a loss, they decided to make a few calls for some help, and that’s when my phone rang.

Now, I’m not one to diagnose anything over the phone. I just don’t think it’s a smart way of taking care of such problems, because you never quite know what you’re getting into. But the tranny shop owner sounded desperate, and now the repair costs were coming out of his pocket. From his frantic explanations of no codes, no shift, and no idea of the problem, he kind of put me on the spot … so … I suggested a computer. Heck, why not… ya’ changed the tranny 3 times for Pete’s sake, obviously that ain’t’ it. I probably shouldn’t have done that, but I think he wanted to try and save as much money as possible without resorting to taking it to another shop.

Well, a new TCM didn’t work either…. Now, the car is finally coming my way. Jo was a little unsure whether or not there was anyone out there who could find the problem, but her friend told her that it couldn’t hurt to let me see what I could do for her. I’ll give it a try.

When the car showed up at the shop I took it around the block once to verify the condition, and then put it up on the lift. While it was on the lift I decided to drop it into gear and check it against the scanner. To my surprise, it shifted perfectly. I’m not kidding… absolutely perfect. I dropped it back on the ground, and went for a ride again. I didn’t even make it around the first corner… stuck in limp mode just as it was before, this dang thing can’t pull itself out of a pot hole.

Back up on the lift, and wouldn’t ya know it, shifts perfectly… AGAIN! What’s the deal here? I did it several times, just so I could be sure of the results I was getting. After a few trips I checked the wiring to the transmission while it was on the ground. Oh, oh, the main ground to the TCM wasn’t there. How in the world was it there when it was in the air? AH HA! It’s moving the wire! Yes, it was moving the wire alright, and a few more than just the TCM ground lead. The locator page showed the TCM ground wire was bundled with several other ground leads that were all attached to the main chassis ground… which wasn’t attached to a thing, but was dangling by the battery box.

Turns out the whole problem started when she had her battery changed at a department store repair shop, and they didn’t have the right size to fit the car. They disconnected the chassis ground wire, so the taller battery would fit.

When I told Jo what I found, the two of us pieced together the how and why it happened. Her only comment was, “Well, shift happens”.

All said and done with, the transmission shop paid for the entire repair, and gave her back what she spent with them. Everyone involved was glad to have the problem solved, and the car back on the road as good as new. I like this gal, she’s become a regular at the shop these days. What a card! Always has some sarcastic comment for me, but at the same time a very understanding nature and takes life in stride. I’d love to have a couple of dozen customers just like her.

As she always tells me… “If you can’t live on the bright side of life… start polishing the dull one.”

 

 


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Last week I got an email from a repair shop in Ohio that used this story as a way to fix their customers car. Almost identical situation.

Makes a guy smile from ear to ear thinking that a silly little story helped out a fellow repair shop.

 

awesome.

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For the old timers around here, you've seen this story before. Ok Ok, got lazy this week... LOL didn't get anything worthwhile wrote down, but... this story kept me thinking of what the other repair shop did to fix the car. So, I thought I'd share it again.

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Gonzo, I loved it! You had me reminiscing about a 2006 Nissan Altima that came in with a crazy electrical problem.

 

I am an electronics kinda guy, so I will give the $1,000,000 dollar secret away to you guys. After I tell you about this Altima.

 

The customer came in and told us the car had been to the dealer and other numerous shop and they could not fix her car. The problem was that the car would go into limp mode from time to time and it would become "undriveable".

 

It didn't do it all the time, but just some times when it would rain or the weather was cold. There would be no codes, but when it failed it would light up like a Christmas tree and a whole slew of codes would pop up on the scanner.

 

When we checked it, the first thing I noticed was that the battery terminals were heavily sulfated. This was the first clue that the prior techs checking this car didn't do proper diagnostics. I also noticed that there had been some cosmetic repair work. I asked the customer if the car had been in an accident, and she said that yes, there had been a fender bender that required the car a/c condenser replaced and some other "front" parts.

 

I used Mitchell to find all the grounding points and found a plastic shim on one of the main ground points for the wire harness. Having seen a problem similar to this before, I took the car for a drive to see if I could reproduce the problem. I turned on all electrical loads and while driving on a vacant back road slammed on the brakes. Guess what, when the ABS activated the car when berserk, lights flickered and then shut off. I knew right then, I had an electrical grounding problem.

 

Limped back to the shop, cleaned the battery terminals and re-grounded the harness, went back out and did my little test, no problem. Had the master tech give it the "second pair of eyes" once over, and called the customer to pick up her car, She has been a regular for about four years, and has become one of our biggest fans.

 

So, the $1,000,000 secret is to always begin with the very basics, don't assume anything, always check for clean solid power, this will solve a good 80% of your problems.

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Last week I got an email from a repair shop in Ohio that used this story as a way to fix their customers car. Almost identical situation.

Makes a guy smile from ear to ear thinking that a silly little story helped out a fellow repair shop.

 

awesome.

 

Great story, and I agree - that's the best feeling in the world getting an email like that.

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Gonzo, I loved it! You had me reminiscing about a 2006 Nissan Altima that came in with a crazy electrical problem.

 

 

HarrytheCarGeek, I had a similar problem not to long ago, a 3.5 nissan don't recall if it was a maxima or altima, but it kept having multiple cylinder missfires that kept changing cylinders. The car had been two at least two other shops and along the way it had all the coils and plugs replaced the owner was told it had a bad computer.

 

I got the car in the shop took it for a test drive noticed two things right off the bat, when first started the instrument cluster was a second or so behind the starting of the engine (didn't register for a split second), then when driving the car it didn't feel right shifted a little funny just felt off.

 

Pulled the car back in the shop and started with basics power and ground connections, found that the ground cable from the battery goes to a little bracket bolted to the back of the transmission, the bracket and the cable end were very rusted. I took the bracket and cable off took them over to the wire wheel cleaned them nice and shiny gain took some sand paper cleaned the trans up applied a very thin coat of dielectric grease put everything back together presto car started fine gauges right in time with the engine and it drove great.

 

The customer came back two days after picking the car up and gave me a $100 dollar tip said he had spent hundreds of dollars trying to get the car fixed and I charged him 1.5 hours labor . He said the car had not run that well in a long time he was so pleased with the price and the out come. I find that now a days with all the electronics in cars a lot of people over look the basics and that is where we all need to start sometimes the strangest problems are the easiest to fix. We have to learn to crawl before we walk , start with the basics first.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

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      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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