By Joe Marconi
In my 40 years as a shop owner, I have battled the age old dilemma: Is it my car count, my customer count or some other reason why some weeks I find it hard to hit my sales goal.
It always comes down to production. Now that's really simplifying it, I know. But, when you look at the numbers, with the right jobs and a balanced schedule, the ARO goes way up and car counts become not as important as we thought.
Another thing to consider, this is not 1995. Cars do not come in 5 to 6 times a year for an Oil Change Service. You are lucky to see some customers every 10,000 miles as they wait for that Oil Change Percentage light on their dashboard to tell them...NOW IT"S OK TO GO TO YOUR REPAIR SHOP. Isn't it funny how so many people will listen to the dash board light, and not you!
Anyway, what are your thoughts. How do you reach your weekly sales goals and what KPI's are important to you?
Zombie Cars “Brains, Brains, we need Brains!” Zombie cars? What’s a zombie car? Way back, when we used points and condensers and later the basic electronic ignition systems, cars didn’t need brains (ECM – Electronic Control Module), but that all changed in the mid 70’s on some imports and pretty much on everything else by the time the 80’s came around. Some of these brains were only cursory, and didn’t actually control the car, but merely watched for emission issues, while others played a major role in the actual ignition spark or fuel delivery systems. Most of the engines in those early years, still used the same basic type of distributor setups (with a few exceptions) as their earlier counterparts that used the old tried and true points and condenser type of ignition systems. During those cross-over years it was rather easy to slap a different distributor in it, or change the existing points distributor over to electronic ignition (which worked quite well by the way). These days...it’s not that easy. These computer systems have become so entangled into the engine functions and nearly every other system that it’s impossible to bypass the fuel or ignition systems as we did years ago. However, there are still a lot of people out there that have hung onto some of the cars from that era. Most likely they've been kept parked alongside the garage as a future project or hung onto for some sentimental reason. Some (very few) are in great shape, others… well, they look like zombies already. What makes them zombies? The brain… the brain… they need brains! Just this past week I had several of these faded paint monstrosities lined up in the parking lot. (They never come alone… always in a pack.) For starters an old dilapidated 1986 Dodge pickup with a slant six. This old rusted, tilting to one side relic had been at another shop for a tune-up, but as the story was told to me by the owner, the other shop tried to start it when a fuel line ruptured and caught the old truck on fire. Luckily, they managed to get it out, but the damage was already done. The main harness from the firewall to the distributor, coil, charging system, blower motor, oil sending unit, temp. sender, and the starter wiring were completely melted into an unrecognizable mass of plastic and copper. It was my job to bring this dilapidated hulk back to life. However, the original spark control computer had melted as well, and was unusable. Worse yet, the brain was discontinued eons ago with no replacement parts anywhere to be found. This zombie needs a brain, and there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to get one. At this point the only solution was to do away with the electronic brain and try to refit the old slant six with a much simpler ignition system from a decade earlier if at all possible. A lobotomy if you will. (Dr. Frankenstein would be envious.) Then there was this 2002 Mustang that moaned and groaned while dragging one foot into the shop. It needed a new BCM (Body Control Module). Call the dealer, call the parts warehouse, call everybody! Anybody! Is there a brain for this car? Nope, discontinued. Seems this particular BCM was a rather rare brain out there in zombie land, and at the time, nobody was setup to rebuild them. It seemed this car was destined to wander the city streets with the rest of the zombie mobiles. At the same time this was going on, in comes a 1982 Ford Bronco with the original Variable Venture carburetor still on it. Ok, not a brain, but just as bad. It qualifies as a zombie for sure. Trying to find a suitable replacement these days is a challenge. Ten or twenty years ago this would have been no problem to find a carb. kit (if you dared) or the Holley conversion kit for it, but not today. This trend of bringing back the dead looks like it’s only going to turn into the next zombie apocalypses. As these electronic systems get more and more complex the likely hood of your family truckster turning into a zombie is just a matter of time as each new model comes out. In some ways, I believe the manufacturers have thought this out long before there was a potential of these cars becoming zombies. In my youth it was nothing for me and a few friends to grab an old car out of a junk yard and raise it from the dead. Ya just had to throw a few shots of gas down the carburetor, add a few wires and a fresh battery and fire it up. The rust would fly, the engine would clatter, the smoke would billow out from under the hood, as the exhaust roared out of every crack in the manifold. Those days are long gone now. They may have engineered a longer lasting engine, better paint, and for the part, the interior can hold up to the ravages of time, however, the electronics, are their weakness. Although, these zombie mobiles seem to be coming out of hiding more often than ever before. Reviving some of these early electronic zombies may happen, but on the other hand, it may be a futile effort. The truth of the matter is… these resurrections are not as easy to do as it was so many years ago. There are countless problems that have to be overcome to bring some of these rusted heaps back among the living, especially if you’re in an area that requires emission testing. Just trying to bypass some of those early electronic brains when a replacement part can’t be found can be a real challenge. The good news is that there are a lot of guys out there tearing these brains apart and rebuilding them. But even then, there are some zombie cars that will never make it and eventually die from the lack of a brain, while others wander aimlessly from shop to shop still searching for their elusive electronic gray matter. Even after you manage to find a brain for these living dead vehicles it’s likely something else is going to go wrong. After all, being cast aside for so long, all the hoses, belts, and gaskets have dried up. Something will more likely fall off just like you would expect from any other zombie wandering around. And, you know, just as soon as the latest zombie joins the living something will undoubtedly come tumbling to the shop floor. Whether it’s coolant, oil, a belt, or perhaps no#2 connecting rod, something is not going to stay in place. Just like in every zombie movie I’ve ever watched,.one of them will always have an arm or leg falling off. It sure seems that these zombie cars follow right along with that same affliction. It’s safe to say, these relics of the early electronic era of the automotive world are in some respects the car equivalent of a zombie: half dead, half alive…and in search of a brain they may never find. So don’t be surprised if you’re at the next traffic light when an old faded-rusty-dented car with a shattered windshield, screeching brakes, with plumes of dense low hanging smoke creeping along with it, don't be alarmed, it’s just another car beginning its transformation into a "ZOMBIE CAR".
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In the market for a new lift. Looking for something that will work well for low vehicles but can still handle light trucks. 2 post, clear floor 10k lbs capacity range. I see a lot of manufacturers offer a bi-symmetrical lifts now. I've never used one. Thoughts? What do you have and like? I had mohawk's for the last 20 years, exploring other brands. Not going to get full time shop usage. Looking for the best bang for the buck but not anything that isn't ALI certified.
What do you have that you like and can easily get sports cars on (a problem for my asymmetrical mohawk without blocks of wood to drive on)
The following are posts I made on the AOCA website outlining an issue(potential nightmare) we had on 2017 Chevrolet Colorado:
Joined: Dec 21, 2011
Total Posts: 83 Feb 8, 2018 3:03 PM Unfortunately, I believe this is exactly what this may turn into for shops and consumers. We recently had a report of an oil filter failure on a 2017 Chevrolet Colorado with 13304 miles on the truck and the issue occurred 400 miles after our oil change. Customer had a check engine light come on so he headed right off to the dealer to have it checked under warranty. It had a VVT code stored and the dealer started looking into the issue. They found the filter failure and sent a picture of the image off to the customer. We used a Performax P0171 filter. The customer sent me the attached image of the obviously failed filter. I am immediately highly concerned, but the dealer is being unusually understanding of the failure. We spend some time with the service manager and find out that their appears to be an issue starting to show up on these vehicles, where the stand pipe in the filter housing is coming off with the old filter and being disposed of without the techs knowledge. We had great video of the oil change and their was nothing visible with the old filter as it was removed. The premises is that without the standpipes restricting/diverting functionality in place, full oil flow is blowing out the filter and the everything flows right down the filter housing port into the cylinder heads and remainder of the motor and plugs up components and passages. We asked for a picture of the filter housing and received image 2 attached. This appears that it may be a problem starting in 17 model year, but i can't be sure of that yet. I am digging for additional info now and will update as more information becomes available. Randy_Lucyk
Joined: Dec 21, 2011
Total Posts: 83 Feb 9, 2018 7:59 AM This appears to be both a GM issue and a in-shop issue.
Now that I see the notification GM released last week, i believe this issue occurred at the original oil change prior to the one we did. As I said, we had great video of the open end of the old filter as we removed it from the vehicle and I don't believe this stand pipe could have possibly been inside. Their is also no evidence of the tech struggling with anything "down in there" other then the normal A/C line interference issue. .
Looking at the design and the A/C line interference, I suspect that the stand pipe is being knocked loose as the filter is being "angled" around the A/C lines to get the old one out. I suspect the oring on the stand pipe is the only thing holding it in the oil filter housing. Once the standpipe is disposed of, the housing has to be replaced, as the stand pipe is not available separately. The housings are in short supply with only three left in the country on dealers shelves and none in Gm distribution centers. Their is a new part number for the housing and those are not available yet. Original pt# 12675707 and new pt# 12682014.
Looking at the attached illustrations and notice, it would not be easy to completely miss the fact that a problem was evident. The stand pipe looks too big to me to be easily missed. I suspect it is plastic and the words "housing cracked" was mentioned in the conversation with the service manager. I wonder if the stand pipe is actually cracking during removal of the filter, making it difficult/impossible to reinstall. If we did not do it, then why the old filter had not failed yet ours did, comes into question. Cold weather "full oil flow" was also mentioned in the conversation with the service manager, and those were the conditions at the time of the failure.
The images also create some questions for me. The new housing does not appear to be identical to the OE installed housing, so is it an already redesigned housing? The filter bulletin in the Napa/Wix box talks about an update to the filter to include a check valve in the top of the filter. Our old filter does not appear to have this check valve, the Napa/Wix does and our new stock P0171 filters also have it. Looking at the design of the stand pipe in the new housing, it would almost appear that the small nipple on the end of the stand pipe might make more sense if it fit into the open hole of the old filter. The stand pipe design almost seems wrong for the filter with the check valve, unless it is shorter than it looks and never reaches the upper end of the filter. Would be great if the next shop to have one of these off would post some additional pics to try and help reduce confusion.
Based on the notice from Gm, this does indeed look like it could get ugly. Although, this dealer covered all the extensive engine repairs under warranty(heads pulled, all new timing components, cleaning passages), i am not convinced all dealers will take that approach. In my case, it was nice(incredible?) to see GM step up and take responsibility. It helped that my customer (owner of the Colorado) retired from a GM primary supplier dealing with issues exactly like this for the later half of his career. He knew the right people to call to get the info needed to drill down to the root cause.