Jump to content


Gonzo

Free Member
  • Content count

    1,999
  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won

    121

Everything posted by Gonzo

  1. Semper Fi Bob was well into his late 80’s when I met him. He’s quite the talker, and he’ll never run out of things to tell you. I like old Bob. We have a few things in common, not much because of the years between us, but just enough that we can relate on quite a few subjects. We both served in the USMC. Of course, the years we served were decades apart, but even with the differences in time served, we still could “talk-the-talk” like two old veterans who just got their discharge papers. Bob had a problem with the horn buttons on his ‘92 Buick. It was the kind of horn that has its buttons and the air bag all built as one piece. He didn’t have the money to replace the entire airbag, but he did want to get that horn working somehow. I thought I could get it to work even if I had to “rig” something up, but that was OK with him. With his advancing years catching up with him, his hands weren’t the best. Most of his strength had faded with time, and so did the ability to straighten his fingers all the way out. I had to come up with a way that he could hit the horn button with the palm of his hand, rather than with a finger tip or thumb. Not a big deal, actually if he didn’t mind the look of an old style horn button attached to the edge of the air bag (so it didn’t interfere with the air bag operation) it could work just fine. Now Bob, being Bob, talking was his gift, and finding somebody with a little military background, and stuck in the driver’s seat of his car was all he needed to tell one of his stories. Bob hopped in the back seat and leaned over to watch what I was doing. As I worked on his new horn button, he told me all about his time in the Marine Corps. Fascinating story; I could have listened for hours. In fact, I made sure I took long enough for him to tell his story in full and without any interruptions. He told me about his time in Korea, in Inchon actually. It was a cold winter when he was there. A bitter cold wind and heavy snow was only part of the horrific condition he had to deal with. He went on in great detail how he was just a young kid who didn’t know a thing, and how you would be talking to someone one minute and the next minute the fellow Marine sitting right next to him froze to death. When he told me that part of his story I had to stop and turn to him to ask, “That really happened, just like that, Bob?” With a stone cold look on his face he said, “As sure as I’m sitting here talking to you, my friend.” I don’t think he was kidding. He was dead serious, but it was as if he was telling me a story from a distance, but at the same time, a story where he was actually there in the mountains of Inchon still fighting the bitter cold. I think it’s a way for time and age to allow a person like Bob to separate themselves from what was probably a terrible event in their life. I certainly have never experienced some of the things he was telling me about, like the chow, the hours of watching for the enemy, or how his boots didn’t have much in the way of insulation, so you put on as many socks as you could along with any straw or grass you could find. Bob made a point to tell me that if you needed to run to the “head” (bathroom for all you none GI type) … well, you tried to wait as long as you could, because exposing yourself in that kind of cold could be the end of you… and I don’t mean just “your” end that’s exposed. I finished up my little project and gave it a try. It worked just fine. “Hop up here Bob, and see if you can make it work like this,” I told him. Bob made his way into the driver’s seat and gave his new horn button a try. A gleam came over his face, beaming from ear to ear. He had to try it a few more times, and each time the smile kept getting bigger and bigger. “Don’t you know I needed that horn! Mercy, there’s some little kids in my neighborhood who get out in the street to play, and I just want to toot my horn to let them know I’m coming. Thanks partner, ya done me right.” The old Marine got out of his car and opened his wallet, “How much do I owe ya?” “Bob, it was an honor to do this job for you. I can’t take a thing.” “You most certainly are, Marine!” he said to me as he palms a twenty in my hand. “Thanks Bob, I appreciate that, but I really appreciate the stories. You know I write a column for a magazine, and I think I’d like to tell your story if that’s OK.” “Sure, not a problem. Go right ahead. I think I’d like that.” You don’t shake hands with Bob, because of his crippled hands; his way of shaking hands is to “bump” knuckles. Good enough for me. It’s the thought that counts. Then Bob turns to the car sitting in the bay just in front of his car. With whatever strength he had, he did his best to straighten one finger and point at the car in front. “I’ll never get over seeing this,” he said. It was a Kia Sportage in for a no start condition. I made the assumption it was because it’s a Korean car, and I thought it must be bringing back some of those painful memories he had as a young man. “I understand where you’re coming from Bob, it’s a Korean car. I understand completely; it’s something your generation had to deal with on the battlefield where your friends had died. I’m sorry it brings up some bad memories for you.” “That ain’t it,” he said as he walked closer to the car, and pointed directly at the name branded on the back door, “Killed – In – Action.” I think my knees buckled a bit when he said that. I didn’t know what to say next. Bob waved good-bye, and pulled his car out of the shop, and tooted his horn as he made his way down the street. I see old Bob once in awhile, still driving the same car, still tootin’ his horn. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his story of how he served our country. He’s one of the last of that generation, a much simpler time, before computers, before cell phones, and when KIA stood for only one thing. I’m proud to have served my country, I’m even more proud to have met a great man like Bob. We should all be as lucky, and we should all remember what his generation and many others have done to keep this country free. So the next time you see a Kia, think of it as something other than a car, think about my friend Bob. Then, say this to yourself: Semper Fi Bob, Semper Fi. View full article
  2. Semper Fi Bob was well into his late 80’s when I met him. He’s quite the talker, and he’ll never run out of things to tell you. I like old Bob. We have a few things in common, not much because of the years between us, but just enough that we can relate on quite a few subjects. We both served in the USMC. Of course, the years we served were decades apart, but even with the differences in time served, we still could “talk-the-talk” like two old veterans who just got their discharge papers. Bob had a problem with the horn buttons on his ‘92 Buick. It was the kind of horn that has its buttons and the air bag all built as one piece. He didn’t have the money to replace the entire airbag, but he did want to get that horn working somehow. I thought I could get it to work even if I had to “rig” something up, but that was OK with him. With his advancing years catching up with him, his hands weren’t the best. Most of his strength had faded with time, and so did the ability to straighten his fingers all the way out. I had to come up with a way that he could hit the horn button with the palm of his hand, rather than with a finger tip or thumb. Not a big deal, actually if he didn’t mind the look of an old style horn button attached to the edge of the air bag (so it didn’t interfere with the air bag operation) it could work just fine. Now Bob, being Bob, talking was his gift, and finding somebody with a little military background, and stuck in the driver’s seat of his car was all he needed to tell one of his stories. Bob hopped in the back seat and leaned over to watch what I was doing. As I worked on his new horn button, he told me all about his time in the Marine Corps. Fascinating story; I could have listened for hours. In fact, I made sure I took long enough for him to tell his story in full and without any interruptions. He told me about his time in Korea, in Inchon actually. It was a cold winter when he was there. A bitter cold wind and heavy snow was only part of the horrific condition he had to deal with. He went on in great detail how he was just a young kid who didn’t know a thing, and how you would be talking to someone one minute and the next minute the fellow Marine sitting right next to him froze to death. When he told me that part of his story I had to stop and turn to him to ask, “That really happened, just like that, Bob?” With a stone cold look on his face he said, “As sure as I’m sitting here talking to you, my friend.” I don’t think he was kidding. He was dead serious, but it was as if he was telling me a story from a distance, but at the same time, a story where he was actually there in the mountains of Inchon still fighting the bitter cold. I think it’s a way for time and age to allow a person like Bob to separate themselves from what was probably a terrible event in their life. I certainly have never experienced some of the things he was telling me about, like the chow, the hours of watching for the enemy, or how his boots didn’t have much in the way of insulation, so you put on as many socks as you could along with any straw or grass you could find. Bob made a point to tell me that if you needed to run to the “head” (bathroom for all you none GI type) … well, you tried to wait as long as you could, because exposing yourself in that kind of cold could be the end of you… and I don’t mean just “your” end that’s exposed. I finished up my little project and gave it a try. It worked just fine. “Hop up here Bob, and see if you can make it work like this,” I told him. Bob made his way into the driver’s seat and gave his new horn button a try. A gleam came over his face, beaming from ear to ear. He had to try it a few more times, and each time the smile kept getting bigger and bigger. “Don’t you know I needed that horn! Mercy, there’s some little kids in my neighborhood who get out in the street to play, and I just want to toot my horn to let them know I’m coming. Thanks partner, ya done me right.” The old Marine got out of his car and opened his wallet, “How much do I owe ya?” “Bob, it was an honor to do this job for you. I can’t take a thing.” “You most certainly are, Marine!” he said to me as he palms a twenty in my hand. “Thanks Bob, I appreciate that, but I really appreciate the stories. You know I write a column for a magazine, and I think I’d like to tell your story if that’s OK.” “Sure, not a problem. Go right ahead. I think I’d like that.” You don’t shake hands with Bob, because of his crippled hands; his way of shaking hands is to “bump” knuckles. Good enough for me. It’s the thought that counts. Then Bob turns to the car sitting in the bay just in front of his car. With whatever strength he had, he did his best to straighten one finger and point at the car in front. “I’ll never get over seeing this,” he said. It was a Kia Sportage in for a no start condition. I made the assumption it was because it’s a Korean car, and I thought it must be bringing back some of those painful memories he had as a young man. “I understand where you’re coming from Bob, it’s a Korean car. I understand completely; it’s something your generation had to deal with on the battlefield where your friends had died. I’m sorry it brings up some bad memories for you.” “That ain’t it,” he said as he walked closer to the car, and pointed directly at the name branded on the back door, “Killed – In – Action.” I think my knees buckled a bit when he said that. I didn’t know what to say next. Bob waved good-bye, and pulled his car out of the shop, and tooted his horn as he made his way down the street. I see old Bob once in awhile, still driving the same car, still tootin’ his horn. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his story of how he served our country. He’s one of the last of that generation, a much simpler time, before computers, before cell phones, and when KIA stood for only one thing. I’m proud to have served my country, I’m even more proud to have met a great man like Bob. We should all be as lucky, and we should all remember what his generation and many others have done to keep this country free. So the next time you see a Kia, think of it as something other than a car, think about my friend Bob. Then, say this to yourself: Semper Fi Bob, Semper Fi.
  3. Real or Reality TV Have ya noticed all the reality programs on TV these days? There’s a reality show for every subject you can think of... and probably a few you never would have thought of. From high society in the big city to the suburbs, and even some from way … way back in the woods. They can be quite entertaining, funny, and sometimes pretty strange. Now, I’m not much on which rich neighbor is doing what with which rich neighbor or who makes the best moonshine, but what I do know is a few things about the automotive repair world. I've been to check a few of those shows out. Although, from my side of the wrench, as a professional mechanic, I take a completely different view of them. In my opinion, some of these reality shows are far from 'real' reality, and I’ve certainly watched a few that I didn’t even make it past the first commercial break before I flipped the channel to something else. It’s not so much the cars; it’s how they go about restoring them that gets to me. They’ll start off with somebody flashing a wad of cash, and then they buy some old relic, tow it to their garage and present it to the crew. The crew will have this shocked look as to what was just dropped off or they’ll have their own ideas about how nuts their boss is for even thinking about taking on this relic as a project. That's about the time the boss gives them the lowdown on what his/her vision is of the latest acquisition. Which, usually consists of a full tear down and rebuild, but they only have a few weeks to do it all in. By the end of the show there's a gleaming fully restored work of art that (for the sake of reality TV) there is already a buyer or two ready to shell out some ridiculous amount of money for it. But the shows that really irk me are the ones that use the “all-nighter” approach to car repair. They’ll completely dismantle a car down to the last nut and bolt and in the length of one long commercial break they'll have all the mechanical, electrical, vacuum systems, interior, instrument panel, brakes, transmission, rear-end, engine, cooling system, heating systems, glass, and a full paint and body mod completed in less than 72 hours. (I can't find a lot of those parts in less than 72 hours) And, the best part, (or biggest guffaw on these shows) is during the final reveal. They drag the new or previous owner into a warehouse and surprise them with their refurbished car. Off to the side, just out of the primary camera view, is the entire crew that has spent the last three days with no sleep looking as fresh as a daisy. I'm in awe of the crew to say the least, not one of them is covered in grease, has half of their shirt untucked, no fresh cuts or scraps, not a single bandaid in view, and not one of them showing any effects from sleep deprivation. Simply amazing… gotta love it... must be some of that TV magic. I’ve done my share of all night marathon repairs before and quite frankly, by the time the sun comes up I’m not the most coherent guy with a lug wrench in his hand. Hey, they call it “Reality TV” but, as this arm chair quarterback sees it……. it doesn’t seem all that realistic to me. I’m sure the entire staff are some of the finest mechanics, bodyman, electrical gurus of the automotive world, but I highly doubt you can turn out a truly professionally restored vehicle in that short amount of time. There has to be a huge number of short cuts that are taken to meet the TV deadlines. On the other hand, there are a lot of great automotive reality programs on the television that go to great lengths to show how a modification is installed and go through the process of explaining those mods to the “nth” degree. Any show that portrays the reality of doing the job I do every day in a professional manner I'll sit down and watch it from beginning to end. You want to show me how you install some super cool new rear tail light lenses or wild looking front grill... awesome!!! Or, pulling an engine out of a classic and doing the necessary rebuild on it... super!!! Love that stuff. But, when you try to convince me that you're going to take some car that has been sitting for ten years in the back of some family garage totally neglected and raise it from the dead overnight... ya lost me. Come on, I do resto's all the time and the biggest hassle with any of them is and always been the parts availability. A job comes in the shop, y put it up on the lift and spin the drive shaft only to find out the differential or bearings are shot. It’s not like you're going to run down to the local parts store and pick up a set of bearings for a thirty year old low production car just like that. But, somehow, someway, some of these shows pull it off... (That's TV for ya.) Aside from all the mechanical woes, ya have to consider what the original reason was for the car to be parked for so long in the first place. Nine chances out of ten it's because something was worn out and the replacement part was hard to find, or really expensive to repair. Not every car in the back of the garage is there because someone was collecting it or saving it for a reality show to come by and restore it. In some ways it gives the novice car enthusiast the wrong impression of what it takes to restore a car. Lately I've been doing a lot more restoration projects than I've done in the past and I do believe it's a result of all these reality shows being aired. For that, I thank you. But, at the same time... shame on you! I can't live up to the overnight expectations that seem so possible on the big screen. Even though the customer doesn't mention they have been watching a reality show, you know... they're thinking … “This shouldn’t take that long. It didn't take that long for that guy on TV.” The idea that you're going to resurrect a dilapidated hunk of iron into a show stopper in a short span of time just ain't real reality. And, let's not forget the real big issue.... cost. Now there's some reality for ya! When the customer starts to see the costs, WOW!!! Then the reality of doing a restoration project starts to set in. Makes ya wonder if putting that old rust bucket back in the corner of the garage might be a far better idea than fixing it up. I'm certainly grateful for the few shows that have that “sit-down-with-the-customer” session explaining the cost of the restoration. It does add to the realism and makes it more believable. I’ve got a big “Thank You” to the guys and gals on these shows that portray the automotive world in its true form. It's a pleasure for me as a professional mechanic to see the artistry and talent of another professional on screen. Watching them dealing with a stuck bolt, rusty bodywork, or dodging the fumes from the soldering gun is all part of the real reality. But, I do have to give credit to all the other shows too, they are entertaining, and in some small way add to the resurgence in restorations projects across the country…. The only thing I ask is… keep it real. View full article
  4. Real or Reality TV Have ya noticed all the reality programs on TV these days? There’s a reality show for every subject you can think of... and probably a few you never would have thought of. From high society in the big city to the suburbs, and even some from way … way back in the woods. They can be quite entertaining, funny, and sometimes pretty strange. Now, I’m not much on which rich neighbor is doing what with which rich neighbor or who makes the best moonshine, but what I do know is a few things about the automotive repair world. I've been to check a few of those shows out. Although, from my side of the wrench, as a professional mechanic, I take a completely different view of them. In my opinion, some of these reality shows are far from 'real' reality, and I’ve certainly watched a few that I didn’t even make it past the first commercial break before I flipped the channel to something else. It’s not so much the cars; it’s how they go about restoring them that gets to me. They’ll start off with somebody flashing a wad of cash, and then they buy some old relic, tow it to their garage and present it to the crew. The crew will have this shocked look as to what was just dropped off or they’ll have their own ideas about how nuts their boss is for even thinking about taking on this relic as a project. That's about the time the boss gives them the lowdown on what his/her vision is of the latest acquisition. Which, usually consists of a full tear down and rebuild, but they only have a few weeks to do it all in. By the end of the show there's a gleaming fully restored work of art that (for the sake of reality TV) there is already a buyer or two ready to shell out some ridiculous amount of money for it. But the shows that really irk me are the ones that use the “all-nighter” approach to car repair. They’ll completely dismantle a car down to the last nut and bolt and in the length of one long commercial break they'll have all the mechanical, electrical, vacuum systems, interior, instrument panel, brakes, transmission, rear-end, engine, cooling system, heating systems, glass, and a full paint and body mod completed in less than 72 hours. (I can't find a lot of those parts in less than 72 hours) And, the best part, (or biggest guffaw on these shows) is during the final reveal. They drag the new or previous owner into a warehouse and surprise them with their refurbished car. Off to the side, just out of the primary camera view, is the entire crew that has spent the last three days with no sleep looking as fresh as a daisy. I'm in awe of the crew to say the least, not one of them is covered in grease, has half of their shirt untucked, no fresh cuts or scraps, not a single bandaid in view, and not one of them showing any effects from sleep deprivation. Simply amazing… gotta love it... must be some of that TV magic. I’ve done my share of all night marathon repairs before and quite frankly, by the time the sun comes up I’m not the most coherent guy with a lug wrench in his hand. Hey, they call it “Reality TV” but, as this arm chair quarterback sees it……. it doesn’t seem all that realistic to me. I’m sure the entire staff are some of the finest mechanics, bodyman, electrical gurus of the automotive world, but I highly doubt you can turn out a truly professionally restored vehicle in that short amount of time. There has to be a huge number of short cuts that are taken to meet the TV deadlines. On the other hand, there are a lot of great automotive reality programs on the television that go to great lengths to show how a modification is installed and go through the process of explaining those mods to the “nth” degree. Any show that portrays the reality of doing the job I do every day in a professional manner I'll sit down and watch it from beginning to end. You want to show me how you install some super cool new rear tail light lenses or wild looking front grill... awesome!!! Or, pulling an engine out of a classic and doing the necessary rebuild on it... super!!! Love that stuff. But, when you try to convince me that you're going to take some car that has been sitting for ten years in the back of some family garage totally neglected and raise it from the dead overnight... ya lost me. Come on, I do resto's all the time and the biggest hassle with any of them is and always been the parts availability. A job comes in the shop, y put it up on the lift and spin the drive shaft only to find out the differential or bearings are shot. It’s not like you're going to run down to the local parts store and pick up a set of bearings for a thirty year old low production car just like that. But, somehow, someway, some of these shows pull it off... (That's TV for ya.) Aside from all the mechanical woes, ya have to consider what the original reason was for the car to be parked for so long in the first place. Nine chances out of ten it's because something was worn out and the replacement part was hard to find, or really expensive to repair. Not every car in the back of the garage is there because someone was collecting it or saving it for a reality show to come by and restore it. In some ways it gives the novice car enthusiast the wrong impression of what it takes to restore a car. Lately I've been doing a lot more restoration projects than I've done in the past and I do believe it's a result of all these reality shows being aired. For that, I thank you. But, at the same time... shame on you! I can't live up to the overnight expectations that seem so possible on the big screen. Even though the customer doesn't mention they have been watching a reality show, you know... they're thinking … “This shouldn’t take that long. It didn't take that long for that guy on TV.” The idea that you're going to resurrect a dilapidated hunk of iron into a show stopper in a short span of time just ain't real reality. And, let's not forget the real big issue.... cost. Now there's some reality for ya! When the customer starts to see the costs, WOW!!! Then the reality of doing a restoration project starts to set in. Makes ya wonder if putting that old rust bucket back in the corner of the garage might be a far better idea than fixing it up. I'm certainly grateful for the few shows that have that “sit-down-with-the-customer” session explaining the cost of the restoration. It does add to the realism and makes it more believable. I’ve got a big “Thank You” to the guys and gals on these shows that portray the automotive world in its true form. It's a pleasure for me as a professional mechanic to see the artistry and talent of another professional on screen. Watching them dealing with a stuck bolt, rusty bodywork, or dodging the fumes from the soldering gun is all part of the real reality. But, I do have to give credit to all the other shows too, they are entertaining, and in some small way add to the resurgence in restorations projects across the country…. The only thing I ask is… keep it real.
  5. Clamps and Batteries (Some of the ways I've seen battery clamps installed on cars over the years... there are some positive and some negative aspects to them... ) The first time I saw a hose clamp holding the positive cable onto the battery I just couldn’t believe it. Nobody prepared me for things like this. It’s not the kind of thing covered in tech schools, or in one of those “how-to-fix-your-car” manuals. It’s something that will surprise you the first time you see it… but then it happens again. A few months later, I open the hood on another car, and low and behold… it’s a pair of grip pliers attached the terminal. This time I took the pliers up to the customer and told him what I found. He didn’t want the pliers back… OK, then… I’ll clean them up, and put them in my tool box. Now I’ve got a collection of these crazy battery clamp contraptions. They’ve kept showing up over the years without fail; from screws and nails tightening a worn out clamp to some foreign object taking the place of the original clamps. Ya just never know. I think the grip pliers are probably the most popular form of substitution. Not much use as pliers anymore, the teeth are usually worn or something else is wrong with them. But, I don’t want to just throw them away… I always think I’ll find some use for them later… never do of course. Wouldn’t it make more sense to replace the clamp when it’s time with an appropriate type of replacement clamp? And, it’s not like some of these “wiz-bang” contraptions were just put on yesterday, oh no… some of these creations have huge amounts of corrosion and “fuzz” built up on the terminals. There must be a misconception about how a battery clamp does its job? Has to be, why else would I see this so often, and it’s not always on the good old hunting truck or the farm truck that hardly ever makes it out of the fields. It’s the everyday soccer mom’s car or the exotic odd-shape-battery-style cars, either. Something else to think about… some thought has gone into these “home engineered” clamps. It took a lot of time and effort to accomplish these inventive forms of electrical fasteners. I’ve even had a car that someone had taken strips of a soda can and used them as spacers between the clamp and the post. This wasn’t just a quick little effort mind you. Somebody had to think about it, conjure up a plan… get a pair of tin snips, cut out strips from a soda can at just the right height to match the clamp and then carefully place a few of them into the gap. Before ya knew it, the clamp was tight again… a genius at work I tell you…a genius!… maybe not MENSA material, but a genius for sure. One time I had a car in where somebody used a high voltage connector for a battery clamp. The kind you would find on high voltage overhead electrical lines. It was a splice clamp used to hold two lines together. Apparently it was the only thing handy, and it did work; in fact must have worked for quite some time… I couldn’t tell what it was until I removed the almost two inches of corrosion build up. I don’t know what kind of material this clamp was made out of, but battery acid sure liked it a lot. Then there was this rocket scientist attempt at improving on the old battery clamp… he used a hacksaw blade and cut the post down the middle. Then put the clamp back on with a small steel wedge down into the crack he made with the hacksaw. From the pounding the top of the battery had taken it looked like the guy used a sledge hammer to knock the little wedge in place. Of course, it wasn’t long before the battery started to leak acid out of the post. What a mess… A real favorite of mine are the ones that tighten, and tighten, and tighten the bolt clamp until that little bolt won’t go one thread tighter. Then bring the car in thinking they have a major electrical problem, because at times the starter will click, or they’ll lose all power to the vehicle. The place I’ll always look at first are the clamps. 99% of time it’s a simple clamp problem, especially when I can remove the battery clamp off the post without turning the bolt. (Yo’ dude… that clamp is made of lead… it will stretch and deform out of shape. You can tighten all you want but it ain’t going to get any better.) Now let’s talk battery size… really… is this all that hard to figure out? If the battery in the car had the positive post on the right, and you put a battery in that had the positive post on the left… uhmmm… do ya think ya might have a problem? Ya gotta put the right size back in… just ‘cause it fit… doesn’t mean it “fits”. The old air cooled VW is one that comes to mind. I’ve lost count of how many of those I’ve rewired after a too tall battery was installed and burnt the whole back end of the car. It never ceases to amaze me how a simple thing like a battery or a clamp can become such a traumatic fiasco in a car. Just boggles the mind at all the variations of craziness I’ve seen over the years with battery installations and repairs. Many years ago a customer brought in a 75’ MBenz that his grandson had put the battery in backwards. The car was ruined, but not completely… it could be rewired and repaired, but the cost was more than he wanted to deal with. I bought the car off of him as is, and tore it down and rewired it. I drove it for several years, and then later gave it to my daughter to use. Battery replacement should be a basic simple repair; however, after seeing some of the creative ways people create their own connections or how they install them, looks like a complete loss of common sense to me. I’d like to think simple is the word to explain it, but simple doesn’t even begin to describe it all. These days I just laugh at the marvels of these back yard engineering feats. It’s hard to keep a straight face when you get back to the front counter to explain to the customer that a paperclip and two bread twist ties aren’t strong enough to keep the cable attached to the battery. It’s some of the best entertainment at the shop. Gotta love em’. Just to let ya know, I’ve already got enough grip pliers, old hose clamps, coat hangers, screws, wire nuts, small bench vices, ratcheting wood clamps, fence pliers, clothes pins, meat skewers, and c-clamps to last me a lifetime, so if you would please, come up with a few new ones for me… I’ve got room in my collection for more…Oh, and I could use a few more laughs too. View full article
  6. Clamps and Batteries (Some of the ways I've seen battery clamps installed on cars over the years... there are some positive and some negative aspects to them... ) The first time I saw a hose clamp holding the positive cable onto the battery I just couldn’t believe it. Nobody prepared me for things like this. It’s not the kind of thing covered in tech schools, or in one of those “how-to-fix-your-car” manuals. It’s something that will surprise you the first time you see it… but then it happens again. A few months later, I open the hood on another car, and low and behold… it’s a pair of grip pliers attached the terminal. This time I took the pliers up to the customer and told him what I found. He didn’t want the pliers back… OK, then… I’ll clean them up, and put them in my tool box. Now I’ve got a collection of these crazy battery clamp contraptions. They’ve kept showing up over the years without fail; from screws and nails tightening a worn out clamp to some foreign object taking the place of the original clamps. Ya just never know. I think the grip pliers are probably the most popular form of substitution. Not much use as pliers anymore, the teeth are usually worn or something else is wrong with them. But, I don’t want to just throw them away… I always think I’ll find some use for them later… never do of course. Wouldn’t it make more sense to replace the clamp when it’s time with an appropriate type of replacement clamp? And, it’s not like some of these “wiz-bang” contraptions were just put on yesterday, oh no… some of these creations have huge amounts of corrosion and “fuzz” built up on the terminals. There must be a misconception about how a battery clamp does its job? Has to be, why else would I see this so often, and it’s not always on the good old hunting truck or the farm truck that hardly ever makes it out of the fields. It’s the everyday soccer mom’s car or the exotic odd-shape-battery-style cars, either. Something else to think about… some thought has gone into these “home engineered” clamps. It took a lot of time and effort to accomplish these inventive forms of electrical fasteners. I’ve even had a car that someone had taken strips of a soda can and used them as spacers between the clamp and the post. This wasn’t just a quick little effort mind you. Somebody had to think about it, conjure up a plan… get a pair of tin snips, cut out strips from a soda can at just the right height to match the clamp and then carefully place a few of them into the gap. Before ya knew it, the clamp was tight again… a genius at work I tell you…a genius!… maybe not MENSA material, but a genius for sure. One time I had a car in where somebody used a high voltage connector for a battery clamp. The kind you would find on high voltage overhead electrical lines. It was a splice clamp used to hold two lines together. Apparently it was the only thing handy, and it did work; in fact must have worked for quite some time… I couldn’t tell what it was until I removed the almost two inches of corrosion build up. I don’t know what kind of material this clamp was made out of, but battery acid sure liked it a lot. Then there was this rocket scientist attempt at improving on the old battery clamp… he used a hacksaw blade and cut the post down the middle. Then put the clamp back on with a small steel wedge down into the crack he made with the hacksaw. From the pounding the top of the battery had taken it looked like the guy used a sledge hammer to knock the little wedge in place. Of course, it wasn’t long before the battery started to leak acid out of the post. What a mess… A real favorite of mine are the ones that tighten, and tighten, and tighten the bolt clamp until that little bolt won’t go one thread tighter. Then bring the car in thinking they have a major electrical problem, because at times the starter will click, or they’ll lose all power to the vehicle. The place I’ll always look at first are the clamps. 99% of time it’s a simple clamp problem, especially when I can remove the battery clamp off the post without turning the bolt. (Yo’ dude… that clamp is made of lead… it will stretch and deform out of shape. You can tighten all you want but it ain’t going to get any better.) Now let’s talk battery size… really… is this all that hard to figure out? If the battery in the car had the positive post on the right, and you put a battery in that had the positive post on the left… uhmmm… do ya think ya might have a problem? Ya gotta put the right size back in… just ‘cause it fit… doesn’t mean it “fits”. The old air cooled VW is one that comes to mind. I’ve lost count of how many of those I’ve rewired after a too tall battery was installed and burnt the whole back end of the car. It never ceases to amaze me how a simple thing like a battery or a clamp can become such a traumatic fiasco in a car. Just boggles the mind at all the variations of craziness I’ve seen over the years with battery installations and repairs. Many years ago a customer brought in a 75’ MBenz that his grandson had put the battery in backwards. The car was ruined, but not completely… it could be rewired and repaired, but the cost was more than he wanted to deal with. I bought the car off of him as is, and tore it down and rewired it. I drove it for several years, and then later gave it to my daughter to use. Battery replacement should be a basic simple repair; however, after seeing some of the creative ways people create their own connections or how they install them, looks like a complete loss of common sense to me. I’d like to think simple is the word to explain it, but simple doesn’t even begin to describe it all. These days I just laugh at the marvels of these back yard engineering feats. It’s hard to keep a straight face when you get back to the front counter to explain to the customer that a paperclip and two bread twist ties aren’t strong enough to keep the cable attached to the battery. It’s some of the best entertainment at the shop. Gotta love em’. Just to let ya know, I’ve already got enough grip pliers, old hose clamps, coat hangers, screws, wire nuts, small bench vices, ratcheting wood clamps, fence pliers, clothes pins, meat skewers, and c-clamps to last me a lifetime, so if you would please, come up with a few new ones for me… I’ve got room in my collection for more…Oh, and I could use a few more laughs too.
  7. The Ghost Mechanic Creepier things have happened, but rarely do things go without an explanation. This time around it’s the mystery mechanic who seems to have been working on this guy’s car, or maybe not. Maybe it’s that ghostly mechanic who haunts people’s cars on quiet neighborhood streets in the middle of the night. You know, that guy who leaves nothing but telltale greasy finger prints or unattached wire harnesses, or even loose bolts where loose bolts shouldn’t be. This job was no exception to the antics of the invisible mechanic’s handy work. It’s a mystery worth solving. A Chevy HHR was towed in for a no start condition. It wasn’t exactly a no start; it was more like a poor starting/running condition. When it would run, the poor thing sounded like it was on its last trip to the garage and its first trip to the salvage yard. Trying to beat it to its last ride on the tow truck, I hooked up the scanner to see what inner mysteries were present. Code P1682 (Ignition 1 switch circuit 2), but I wasn’t done yet. Time to do a complete health check on all the modules. Sure enough, the ‘U’ codes were off the charts. Seems we have a lot of low voltage codes causing a problem. A quick check of the wiring diagram showed the power led to a voltage input lead for the PCM, TCM, and several other circuits that would definitely lead to a rough, hard to start, non-cooperating HHR. This may turn out to be a simple problem after all. Could be wiring, a component, or perhaps a fuse box problem. A quick glance at the fuse box didn’t reveal much, but I should probably take a closer look at that fuse box. Maybe go as far as physically checking the actual fuse circuit. Hmm, something is amiss here. The fuse is good, but the fuse is in the wrong slot. The slot that it’s in should be an empty slot. Seems somebody was fooling around under the hood and didn’t put the fuse back correctly. Might as well try moving the fuse back to the proper location. Well, imagine that, this old HHR starts right up! OK, it’s not running the best . . . yet. Do a little throttle relearn and it runs as good as new. After rechecking the related circuits for any damage, or out of place items I gave the HHR the once around the block test. Runs great, sounds great, no warning lights, no unusual noises, seems fine to me. I guess I’ll write up an invoice on this job and call the customer. As I closed the hood, the telltale greasy hand prints from the last guy who was under the hood were everywhere. I think I spent as much time cleaning this guy’s hood as I spent diagnosing the problem. I gave him a call and explained to him, as best I could, what I had found. Although, I did have that one nagging question regarding who had worked on the car previously. I really wanted an answer to that question. "NOBODY" … are you serious? That’s when I explained the entire repair all over again. Between the greasy finger marks on the hood and fenders, and the fuse in the wrong place, I’m afraid I’m not going to buy the story that the mysterious ghost mechanic has struck again. His only explanation came down to the whole thing must have been a poltergeist or something. Or ‘someone’ not ‘something’ is a better way to put it. I’m not buying the ghost mechanic theory. At this point, he seemed to be more intent on finding out the final bill, and not so much on solving the mystery of how the fuse mysteriously moved into a different slot. But, before I gave him the total, I recommended he perform an exorcism on his car, since ‘NOBODY’ has been touching it. His response, "How much more will that cost me?” Seriously? Now, I’ve been asked to do all sorts of things to a car, like put a helicopter landing pad on the roof, remove a varmint from behind the dash, or turn a Prius into a tow truck, but I don’t think I’ve ever been explicitly asked to do an exorcism on the family truckster. Actually, I’m starting to put this whole thing together. The mystery mechanic is none other than this guy himself. His answers to certain questions, and how he told his story were a dead giveaway as to who the ghost mechanic was. I swear some people just can’t be honest and admit when they’re beyond their learning curve. We both might have had a good laugh over the whole thing, but instead this guy wants me to drop the price in half, since it was such an ‘easy’ repair and all, and ignore the whereabouts of this seemingly ghostly apparition with the mindless ability to screw up the family car. But, since this guy wouldn’t own up to it, even with the evidence of his very own greasy paw prints, he’s in for a lesson of honesty, awareness of his own abilities, and how to pay for a professional diagnosis. It’s just another case of the mechanic solving the mystery of the proverbial ghost mechanic. Debunking wives’A tales about the modern automobile, supernatural occurrences under the hood, and apparitions that seem to move fuses around is just another duty of the modern mechanic. Oh, and don’t think you’re the first person who’s tried the ghost mechanic as your method of passing the blame… you’re not. Every good mechanic has performed their fair share of exorcisms in the past and have seen the results of the mystery mechanic and his endeavors. We know who you really are. View full article
  8. The Ghost Mechanic Creepier things have happened, but rarely do things go without an explanation. This time around it’s the mystery mechanic who seems to have been working on this guy’s car, or maybe not. Maybe it’s that ghostly mechanic who haunts people’s cars on quiet neighborhood streets in the middle of the night. You know, that guy who leaves nothing but telltale greasy finger prints or unattached wire harnesses, or even loose bolts where loose bolts shouldn’t be. This job was no exception to the antics of the invisible mechanic’s handy work. It’s a mystery worth solving. A Chevy HHR was towed in for a no start condition. It wasn’t exactly a no start; it was more like a poor starting/running condition. When it would run, the poor thing sounded like it was on its last trip to the garage and its first trip to the salvage yard. Trying to beat it to its last ride on the tow truck, I hooked up the scanner to see what inner mysteries were present. Code P1682 (Ignition 1 switch circuit 2), but I wasn’t done yet. Time to do a complete health check on all the modules. Sure enough, the ‘U’ codes were off the charts. Seems we have a lot of low voltage codes causing a problem. A quick check of the wiring diagram showed the power led to a voltage input lead for the PCM, TCM, and several other circuits that would definitely lead to a rough, hard to start, non-cooperating HHR. This may turn out to be a simple problem after all. Could be wiring, a component, or perhaps a fuse box problem. A quick glance at the fuse box didn’t reveal much, but I should probably take a closer look at that fuse box. Maybe go as far as physically checking the actual fuse circuit. Hmm, something is amiss here. The fuse is good, but the fuse is in the wrong slot. The slot that it’s in should be an empty slot. Seems somebody was fooling around under the hood and didn’t put the fuse back correctly. Might as well try moving the fuse back to the proper location. Well, imagine that, this old HHR starts right up! OK, it’s not running the best . . . yet. Do a little throttle relearn and it runs as good as new. After rechecking the related circuits for any damage, or out of place items I gave the HHR the once around the block test. Runs great, sounds great, no warning lights, no unusual noises, seems fine to me. I guess I’ll write up an invoice on this job and call the customer. As I closed the hood, the telltale greasy hand prints from the last guy who was under the hood were everywhere. I think I spent as much time cleaning this guy’s hood as I spent diagnosing the problem. I gave him a call and explained to him, as best I could, what I had found. Although, I did have that one nagging question regarding who had worked on the car previously. I really wanted an answer to that question. "NOBODY" … are you serious? That’s when I explained the entire repair all over again. Between the greasy finger marks on the hood and fenders, and the fuse in the wrong place, I’m afraid I’m not going to buy the story that the mysterious ghost mechanic has struck again. His only explanation came down to the whole thing must have been a poltergeist or something. Or ‘someone’ not ‘something’ is a better way to put it. I’m not buying the ghost mechanic theory. At this point, he seemed to be more intent on finding out the final bill, and not so much on solving the mystery of how the fuse mysteriously moved into a different slot. But, before I gave him the total, I recommended he perform an exorcism on his car, since ‘NOBODY’ has been touching it. His response, "How much more will that cost me?” Seriously? Now, I’ve been asked to do all sorts of things to a car, like put a helicopter landing pad on the roof, remove a varmint from behind the dash, or turn a Prius into a tow truck, but I don’t think I’ve ever been explicitly asked to do an exorcism on the family truckster. Actually, I’m starting to put this whole thing together. The mystery mechanic is none other than this guy himself. His answers to certain questions, and how he told his story were a dead giveaway as to who the ghost mechanic was. I swear some people just can’t be honest and admit when they’re beyond their learning curve. We both might have had a good laugh over the whole thing, but instead this guy wants me to drop the price in half, since it was such an ‘easy’ repair and all, and ignore the whereabouts of this seemingly ghostly apparition with the mindless ability to screw up the family car. But, since this guy wouldn’t own up to it, even with the evidence of his very own greasy paw prints, he’s in for a lesson of honesty, awareness of his own abilities, and how to pay for a professional diagnosis. It’s just another case of the mechanic solving the mystery of the proverbial ghost mechanic. Debunking wives’A tales about the modern automobile, supernatural occurrences under the hood, and apparitions that seem to move fuses around is just another duty of the modern mechanic. Oh, and don’t think you’re the first person who’s tried the ghost mechanic as your method of passing the blame… you’re not. Every good mechanic has performed their fair share of exorcisms in the past and have seen the results of the mystery mechanic and his endeavors. We know who you really are.
  9. LET’S MAKE A DEAL You know everyone wants a deal, something cheaper, something “thrown in” to sweeten the pot. Money (as always) is always the driving force, and I don’t think that will ever change. A deal is a deal, but if you can’t make a deal… well, then, deal with it. One bright morning, a mid-90’s Subaru showed up at the shop on the back of a wrecker. It’s one of my regular customer’s young teenager’s car. The phone rang, it was the dad, Oh, and did he have a story to tell… a real whopper of a story. “My son told me he was driving along when the car bumped the curb and flattened two tires. I haven’t seen the car, but my son said there wasn’t any real damage. So, I don’t think it should take you very long to get it back on the road. Do what you can, and call me with the estimate.” I only saw the driver’s side of the car when the tow truck pulled up. The tow driver came in and tells me, “Wherever you put this, you won’t be able to move it again. You’ll have to drag it or put it on “dollies”, it’s pretty messed up. If I were you, I’d stick it directly on the lift.” Ok, ya got me, no real damage aye? But, the tow driver tells me differently… now I’ve got to go look for myself. No real damage? Hmmm, let’s see…the whole passenger side of the car looks like someone tried to peel the sheet metal off with a can opener. Underneath the car was even worse. The upper and lower passenger side control arms are bent. The wheel, spindle, and tire are sitting on the oil pan area. The sway bar looks like a pretzel, both rims on the passenger side are beyond reuse, the tires are torn apart and shards of rubber are peeling off of the steel belts, and the transmission has been ripped off its mounts. Yea, you’re right……he just bumped the curb……..yea sure he did. Looks more like he rode the edge of the curb like a bucking bronco for a long-long way. My guess is somebody was trying to drift around corners or slide it sideways with the emergency brake on, and probably took out every bus stop, park bench, and light pole for a block or two. Ok, the tow driver gets a “thumbs up” on this one; let’s put it on the lift. I told the customer what I had found and the estimate for the repair, and as always I let him know about any “hidden” problems that might be lurking under all this stuff. He was not a shocked as I thought he would be even after I gave him the price for all the work that needed done, but definitely concerned. He kept hinting around as to what I thought might have caused the problem. From the conversation on the phone he was hoping I would say something like… mechanical failure, slick road conditions, defective part, or something like that. The farthest thing in his mind was that the kid might be the problem. I told him what I thought had happened, he didn’t want to believe it, but he was going to check into to it. In the mean time, order the parts and start getting it ready to get back on the road. Several days later all the parts showed up, and I could get a better idea of the damage with parts that weren’t bent like a pretzel. It wasn’t long before I found a few more flaws in the little “Scooby-do”, nothing major but the kind of thing that should be replaced. The extra parts were just a few brackets that were bent, but I knew dad’s pocket book was getting tight. His main concern now was how much I was willing to chew off the original bill to help him out, and to my surprise he confirmed my suspicions as to what caused the accident. Oh yea, the kid was trying to drift the Subaru. (DAH! Now how do ya drift a front wheel drive car… ah, slide with the e-brake???) Now I can do a lot of things, and lower repair costs in order to save the customer money is one of them. Money, or not, I think there is a lesson to be learned here. I thought it was appropriate to make a small request to good old dad. If he wanted a cut on the price of the job, then let’s make a deal. “You bring the little ridge runner to the shop dressed for work. He can earn his keep and save you a few bucks in the process. Maybe even take a different approach to driving in the future,” I told the dad. My customer was a little taken back by my deal to save him some money, but it sounded like a good idea. Now his only job was to get the lad down to the shop ready to fulfill his part of the bargain. Work stopped until I heard back from him. In the mean time, the car is stuck on the lift with no wheels and only half a suspension. With a service bay tied up, it’s starting to cost me money. 2 days go by, then 4 more, another week and still no answer. Finally on a Monday morning when I reached the point where I wasn’t going to wait any longer… the dad calls, “Just fix it, and call me when it’s ready. My son doesn’t want to do it, and I’m not having much luck in getting him to your shop to help at all. So I guess I’ll have to deal with the cost of the repair instead.” A little different deal than I expected. Well, a deal is a deal. I’ll handle my end of the bargain, and old dad has decided on how to handle his. There’s an old saying that comes to mind, it goes like this; “If you want to save a dollar … do the job yourself, but if you have to pay someone else to do it… don’t ask for cheap work, unless you’re willing to share the cost in some way.” After another day of getting everything back into place the car was ready for the road again. Sure there are few battle scars still showing, but mechanically the car is in great shape. That only leaves one more deal that’s not quite finished. … … the father needs to deal with the son. . . . View full article
  10. LET’S MAKE A DEAL You know everyone wants a deal, something cheaper, something “thrown in” to sweeten the pot. Money (as always) is always the driving force, and I don’t think that will ever change. A deal is a deal, but if you can’t make a deal… well, then, deal with it. One bright morning, a mid-90’s Subaru showed up at the shop on the back of a wrecker. It’s one of my regular customer’s young teenager’s car. The phone rang, it was the dad, Oh, and did he have a story to tell… a real whopper of a story. “My son told me he was driving along when the car bumped the curb and flattened two tires. I haven’t seen the car, but my son said there wasn’t any real damage. So, I don’t think it should take you very long to get it back on the road. Do what you can, and call me with the estimate.” I only saw the driver’s side of the car when the tow truck pulled up. The tow driver came in and tells me, “Wherever you put this, you won’t be able to move it again. You’ll have to drag it or put it on “dollies”, it’s pretty messed up. If I were you, I’d stick it directly on the lift.” Ok, ya got me, no real damage aye? But, the tow driver tells me differently… now I’ve got to go look for myself. No real damage? Hmmm, let’s see…the whole passenger side of the car looks like someone tried to peel the sheet metal off with a can opener. Underneath the car was even worse. The upper and lower passenger side control arms are bent. The wheel, spindle, and tire are sitting on the oil pan area. The sway bar looks like a pretzel, both rims on the passenger side are beyond reuse, the tires are torn apart and shards of rubber are peeling off of the steel belts, and the transmission has been ripped off its mounts. Yea, you’re right……he just bumped the curb……..yea sure he did. Looks more like he rode the edge of the curb like a bucking bronco for a long-long way. My guess is somebody was trying to drift around corners or slide it sideways with the emergency brake on, and probably took out every bus stop, park bench, and light pole for a block or two. Ok, the tow driver gets a “thumbs up” on this one; let’s put it on the lift. I told the customer what I had found and the estimate for the repair, and as always I let him know about any “hidden” problems that might be lurking under all this stuff. He was not a shocked as I thought he would be even after I gave him the price for all the work that needed done, but definitely concerned. He kept hinting around as to what I thought might have caused the problem. From the conversation on the phone he was hoping I would say something like… mechanical failure, slick road conditions, defective part, or something like that. The farthest thing in his mind was that the kid might be the problem. I told him what I thought had happened, he didn’t want to believe it, but he was going to check into to it. In the mean time, order the parts and start getting it ready to get back on the road. Several days later all the parts showed up, and I could get a better idea of the damage with parts that weren’t bent like a pretzel. It wasn’t long before I found a few more flaws in the little “Scooby-do”, nothing major but the kind of thing that should be replaced. The extra parts were just a few brackets that were bent, but I knew dad’s pocket book was getting tight. His main concern now was how much I was willing to chew off the original bill to help him out, and to my surprise he confirmed my suspicions as to what caused the accident. Oh yea, the kid was trying to drift the Subaru. (DAH! Now how do ya drift a front wheel drive car… ah, slide with the e-brake???) Now I can do a lot of things, and lower repair costs in order to save the customer money is one of them. Money, or not, I think there is a lesson to be learned here. I thought it was appropriate to make a small request to good old dad. If he wanted a cut on the price of the job, then let’s make a deal. “You bring the little ridge runner to the shop dressed for work. He can earn his keep and save you a few bucks in the process. Maybe even take a different approach to driving in the future,” I told the dad. My customer was a little taken back by my deal to save him some money, but it sounded like a good idea. Now his only job was to get the lad down to the shop ready to fulfill his part of the bargain. Work stopped until I heard back from him. In the mean time, the car is stuck on the lift with no wheels and only half a suspension. With a service bay tied up, it’s starting to cost me money. 2 days go by, then 4 more, another week and still no answer. Finally on a Monday morning when I reached the point where I wasn’t going to wait any longer… the dad calls, “Just fix it, and call me when it’s ready. My son doesn’t want to do it, and I’m not having much luck in getting him to your shop to help at all. So I guess I’ll have to deal with the cost of the repair instead.” A little different deal than I expected. Well, a deal is a deal. I’ll handle my end of the bargain, and old dad has decided on how to handle his. There’s an old saying that comes to mind, it goes like this; “If you want to save a dollar … do the job yourself, but if you have to pay someone else to do it… don’t ask for cheap work, unless you’re willing to share the cost in some way.” After another day of getting everything back into place the car was ready for the road again. Sure there are few battle scars still showing, but mechanically the car is in great shape. That only leaves one more deal that’s not quite finished. … … the father needs to deal with the son. . . .
  11. Joe Friday Diagnostics "How would Sgt. Friday explain auto repair and diagnostics… que the music: " The story you’re about to read is true; the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Monday morning, it was cold that day. I was working day shift out of the repair division. There’s a suspicious vehicle at the front of the shop. A customer walks in the door. I’ll take it from here. I’m a mechanic, the name’s Friday. It was a 2003 Ford, 5.4 liter, fully loaded and sounded like it was running rough. The lady came to the counter. “Good Morning ma’am, what can I do for you,” I said to the complaintant. “Yes, I’m here about my car,” she answered. “There’s a problem with the car, I see. What can you tell me about it?” I asked, in my usual non-threatening, but confident monotone voice. “I was on my way to deliver my recyclables to the east side collection area, because I’m a concerned citizen you know, when my car started to make a coughing and clattering sound. I thought I would bring it in to have it checked out,” the owner answered. “Coughing and clattering, hmm, not a problem. I’ll get it investigated, I can interrogate the pursuant this morning, especially for a concerned citizen such as yourself,” I answered while maintaining my professionalism. “Well, do you need any other information from me?” she asked. “Just the facts ma’am, just the facts,” I said. “The check engine light came on,” she reported. “This could be of some help. Sounds like a possible 0300 (engine misfire). But I’ll check it out first, I’ll need to finish my investigation in order to give you any proper results,” I said to her, while my pen was busy jotting down the facts onto the always present handy notepad. She left the car with me for further interrogations. Using the scanner made the results easy to locate. It wasn’t long before I got an answer. It was a P0302 in progress… misfire on no#2 cylinder… normally an open and shut case. 09:30 Am, working on the assumption that the perpetrator was somewhere near the 2nd cylinder; I went in for further investigations. I checked the usual suspects. Pulling the plug didn’t yield any new clues. The plug was good and answered all the standard questions. The coil was a more likely suspect; a simple test could answer the problem. I’ll set up a little sting operation by using a decoy. Taking the nearest coil and replacing it with the suspected faulty coil, and put the known good coil on the other plug. I was hoping to see the miss move to the other cylinder. It didn’t. In fact it was gone. 10:05 Am, Now the challenge was on. I’ll have to go back over my facts and check the crime scene again. There’s something I must have overlooked that might be the key to this investigation. Two things come up as good possibles; the connection or terminals at the coil, or the spark plug boot attached to the coil. The plug boot had a good alibi… it had just been changed, in fact so was the spark plug. That left the coil connection. A more in-depth interrogation of the connector is needed. My years of technical diagnostics work told me to look closer at the wire and the connector. The guilty party in this case appears to be one of the wires at the connector. It was barely hanging onto the housing. Only the plastic sheath was still connected, and the wire itself was not answering to any of the standard questioning or interrogative tactics. Under the intense glow of the high powered shop light the investigation continued. Resorting to some strong arm tactics I pulled on the wire while using a few choice investigative words, the plastic sheathing kept getting longer and longer. Soon, it snapped under the pressure to expose the desperado for the perpetrator it really was. 11:45 Am, The repair was completed, and tested to verify the repairs were effective. The car in question was back with its rightful owner by the end of the day. I now can close the file on this one, another job well done. In conclusion: With the P0302 in question deleted from the computer history, the coil connector was then convicted of failure to cooperate. With her car back on the road she could once again be a productive concerned citizen of this great metropolis. Case closed and now, back to the front desk waiting for that next problem to come through the door. This city is full of broken, non-maintained, and poorly running cars. As a concerned citizen I’ll be on the lookout for these suspicious misfires and other infractions of the auto world. There are thousands of men and women in this city, who know that being an auto tech is an thankless, grease covered job that's done everyday without any fan fare. Then again, I'm part of that glamourless, grease covered world... my names Friday, I'm a mechanic. View full article
  12. Joe Friday Diagnostics "How would Sgt. Friday explain auto repair and diagnostics… que the music: " The story you’re about to read is true; the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Monday morning, it was cold that day. I was working day shift out of the repair division. There’s a suspicious vehicle at the front of the shop. A customer walks in the door. I’ll take it from here. I’m a mechanic, the name’s Friday. It was a 2003 Ford, 5.4 liter, fully loaded and sounded like it was running rough. The lady came to the counter. “Good Morning ma’am, what can I do for you,” I said to the complaintant. “Yes, I’m here about my car,” she answered. “There’s a problem with the car, I see. What can you tell me about it?” I asked, in my usual non-threatening, but confident monotone voice. “I was on my way to deliver my recyclables to the east side collection area, because I’m a concerned citizen you know, when my car started to make a coughing and clattering sound. I thought I would bring it in to have it checked out,” the owner answered. “Coughing and clattering, hmm, not a problem. I’ll get it investigated, I can interrogate the pursuant this morning, especially for a concerned citizen such as yourself,” I answered while maintaining my professionalism. “Well, do you need any other information from me?” she asked. “Just the facts ma’am, just the facts,” I said. “The check engine light came on,” she reported. “This could be of some help. Sounds like a possible 0300 (engine misfire). But I’ll check it out first, I’ll need to finish my investigation in order to give you any proper results,” I said to her, while my pen was busy jotting down the facts onto the always present handy notepad. She left the car with me for further interrogations. Using the scanner made the results easy to locate. It wasn’t long before I got an answer. It was a P0302 in progress… misfire on no#2 cylinder… normally an open and shut case. 09:30 Am, working on the assumption that the perpetrator was somewhere near the 2nd cylinder; I went in for further investigations. I checked the usual suspects. Pulling the plug didn’t yield any new clues. The plug was good and answered all the standard questions. The coil was a more likely suspect; a simple test could answer the problem. I’ll set up a little sting operation by using a decoy. Taking the nearest coil and replacing it with the suspected faulty coil, and put the known good coil on the other plug. I was hoping to see the miss move to the other cylinder. It didn’t. In fact it was gone. 10:05 Am, Now the challenge was on. I’ll have to go back over my facts and check the crime scene again. There’s something I must have overlooked that might be the key to this investigation. Two things come up as good possibles; the connection or terminals at the coil, or the spark plug boot attached to the coil. The plug boot had a good alibi… it had just been changed, in fact so was the spark plug. That left the coil connection. A more in-depth interrogation of the connector is needed. My years of technical diagnostics work told me to look closer at the wire and the connector. The guilty party in this case appears to be one of the wires at the connector. It was barely hanging onto the housing. Only the plastic sheath was still connected, and the wire itself was not answering to any of the standard questioning or interrogative tactics. Under the intense glow of the high powered shop light the investigation continued. Resorting to some strong arm tactics I pulled on the wire while using a few choice investigative words, the plastic sheathing kept getting longer and longer. Soon, it snapped under the pressure to expose the desperado for the perpetrator it really was. 11:45 Am, The repair was completed, and tested to verify the repairs were effective. The car in question was back with its rightful owner by the end of the day. I now can close the file on this one, another job well done. In conclusion: With the P0302 in question deleted from the computer history, the coil connector was then convicted of failure to cooperate. With her car back on the road she could once again be a productive concerned citizen of this great metropolis. Case closed and now, back to the front desk waiting for that next problem to come through the door. This city is full of broken, non-maintained, and poorly running cars. As a concerned citizen I’ll be on the lookout for these suspicious misfires and other infractions of the auto world. There are thousands of men and women in this city, who know that being an auto tech is an thankless, grease covered job that's done everyday without any fan fare. Then again, I'm part of that glamourless, grease covered world... my names Friday, I'm a mechanic.
  13. Since I've been teaching lately and not under the hood, I'm seeing a whole different aspect to automotive repair. When new prospects show up at the school and I'm free, I'm usually the one to walk them around and show them the college grounds. It never ceases to amaze me how some snot nose kid will walk around with me and tell me, "I already know everything there is to know about how to fix cars. I've been doing it since I was 15. I'm just going to this school because I can't get hired on anywhere." Really...??? you already know everything??? Dammmmmm!?! I can't understand why you can't get a job.... (chuckle, chuckle) Then when they're in the class room they're the ones that can't understand lefty loosey-righty tighty. so so so typical. They're also the ones that usually flunk out of the program too. LOL It's actually kind of funny in some ways that the majority of the students don't know who I am or what I've accomplished. Once in a while they pick up one of the magazines in the front lobby and see their teacher. Then, they have to show it to me....like they've just discovered something that I didn't know. Too friggin hilarious.
  14. Ouija Board Diagnostics I’ve often wondered why a lot of the driving public believes auto repair is something for non-thinking Neanderthals that have no ambition to do anything else in life. For all I know they think we (us mechanics that is) diagnose every problem by breaking out a Ouija board, while humming some ancient automotive chant. It could also be that a good mechanic just makes things look easy to the unaware and uniformed layman. With the right mechanic the whole thing can seem effortless, easy, and somewhat second nature when it comes to diagnosing a problem. To the armchair mechanic sitting at home watching the next new automotive reality show, it’s either – “Repairs are a no-brainer, I can do that”, or it must be some sort of Ouija board magic. Mind you, the number of individuals who still believe anyone can be a mechanic is dwindling ever so slowly. Mainly because the car itself has gone past the point of parts swapping and a shade tree mechanic’s ability to repair the modern car. It’s no secret good old dad with the typical box of tools from a discount chain store can hardly change a spark plug anymore, let alone find them. Oh sure, you can still do a pad slap at home, and you can probably toss on a set of shocks, replace a bulb or two, but diagnosing a problem, especially one that involves some form of electronics… well… that’s a whole new issue to deal with. It could be they need to master the Ouija board diagnostic scenario, or they need another round of You Tube videos. Every mechanic has undoubtedly heard the same thing from a well-seasoned You Tuber, “Oh I could have done that.” This usually leads to an even longer explanation of how you’ve done the entire repair wrong, but put the tools in their hands, and the results are pretty consistent. The car is either incorrectly put together, or they’ve lost some parts between point A and point B. Videos are great, but you still need to have some mechanical dexterity. A good example of this scenario is when I was teaching a brake shoe replacement class the other day. After explaining the type of brake system we were working on, I removed the brake shoes from the car. Next, I reinstalled the same shoes, slowing down just enough so they could see how to use the brake tools. It probably took all of 20 minutes to explain it in detail and install the shoes. All the heads were bobbing and the usual consensus was they all had this repair procedure down pat, because, as we all know, anybody can do brakes. Well, as if it was no surprise, when the students got their hands into the job all I heard was one cuss word after another and the occasional student chasing a bouncing spring or clip across the shop floor. So much for easy, aye? So, where do most of these unprofessional type mechanics and couch connoisseurs of the automotive world go for any information? Where else, the internet. The one place that doesn’t check the credentials of the person making the video, and the one place where anyone with a box of tools can be a superstar with a wrench. In their video they’re the automotive expert, camera man, sound man, director of content, and editor all at the same time. No need in researching the facts, looking up the proper methods, or any other various procedures, service bulletins, or the latest tools related to that particular job. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a video out there with a couple of guys surrounding one of those Ouija boards asking why the short fuel trim is higher on one of side than the other. Ouija board or not, there are a few draw backs to internet information, but there really are a lot of super fantastic guys and gals putting out some very helpful videos on car repair. It’s just the few home brewed videos that make me cringe. Some of these back yard magicians seem to consult their Ouija board way too often. As if they conjured up some miracle answer right on the spot. Honestly, some of these videos are about as reliable as fake news. But, then again… that’s what some people think the professional mechanic does every day. As there has always been, and there will always be, a shortage of trained technicians out there able to handle the job of repairing the modern car. I’m very sure we will never see the day when there is an overabundance of good mechanics who have to change careers because there is no room for them under the hood. It’s never going to happen. What does need to happen is the one thing consumers don’t want, and that’s cost of repairs most certainly need to rise, as well as the mechanics’ wages to keep up with all of these technical advancements. It’s not a maybe, it’s a must or the technology will run right past you. Ask any mechanic what they learned on a vehicle from 10 years ago vs. today’s cars, and you’ll find that nearly half of what they did back then isn’t applicable in today’s diagnostic procedures. To be a good technician these days takes a lot of training, a lot of time spent reading, and understanding the latest technologies. New information comes from the manufacturers’ engineering departments just as fast as the cars come off the assembly lines, and to stay on top of things you need to study. I’ve heard people tell me, “Yea, I went to an automotive tech school to be a mechanic, but I didn’t learn anything.” Seriously? I’m sure you learned a whole lot. The problem isn’t the school training, the problem is you. Training doesn’t stop with your diploma, it stops when you stop wanting to advance your knowledge in the repair industry. School is a starting point, but to be a modern mechanic means you need to stay focused on the technology, take advanced training classes in your field of choice, and not expect answers from a You Tube video or your Ouija board. There’s a lot to learn and retain. It’s not a trade where you learn one method and expect that skill to last you throughout your career. It’s an ever changing industry with ever changing technology. Learn the basics, then learn to diagnose the modern car. You can’t guess at a solution or consult that old Ouija board for the answers. It takes practice and a lot of hands on from a dedicated individual willing to get their hands dirty and diagnose an automotive problem. Then solve it correctly. Sorry, no Ouija board diagnostics allowed.
  15. Ouija Board Diagnostics I’ve often wondered why a lot of the driving public believes auto repair is something for non-thinking Neanderthals that have no ambition to do anything else in life. For all I know they think we (us mechanics that is) diagnose every problem by breaking out a Ouija board, while humming some ancient automotive chant. It could also be that a good mechanic just makes things look easy to the unaware and uniformed layman. With the right mechanic the whole thing can seem effortless, easy, and somewhat second nature when it comes to diagnosing a problem. To the armchair mechanic sitting at home watching the next new automotive reality show, it’s either – “Repairs are a no-brainer, I can do that”, or it must be some sort of Ouija board magic. Mind you, the number of individuals who still believe anyone can be a mechanic is dwindling ever so slowly. Mainly because the car itself has gone past the point of parts swapping and a shade tree mechanic’s ability to repair the modern car. It’s no secret good old dad with the typical box of tools from a discount chain store can hardly change a spark plug anymore, let alone find them. Oh sure, you can still do a pad slap at home, and you can probably toss on a set of shocks, replace a bulb or two, but diagnosing a problem, especially one that involves some form of electronics… well… that’s a whole new issue to deal with. It could be they need to master the Ouija board diagnostic scenario, or they need another round of You Tube videos. Every mechanic has undoubtedly heard the same thing from a well-seasoned You Tuber, “Oh I could have done that.” This usually leads to an even longer explanation of how you’ve done the entire repair wrong, but put the tools in their hands, and the results are pretty consistent. The car is either incorrectly put together, or they’ve lost some parts between point A and point B. Videos are great, but you still need to have some mechanical dexterity. A good example of this scenario is when I was teaching a brake shoe replacement class the other day. After explaining the type of brake system we were working on, I removed the brake shoes from the car. Next, I reinstalled the same shoes, slowing down just enough so they could see how to use the brake tools. It probably took all of 20 minutes to explain it in detail and install the shoes. All the heads were bobbing and the usual consensus was they all had this repair procedure down pat, because, as we all know, anybody can do brakes. Well, as if it was no surprise, when the students got their hands into the job all I heard was one cuss word after another and the occasional student chasing a bouncing spring or clip across the shop floor. So much for easy, aye? So, where do most of these unprofessional type mechanics and couch connoisseurs of the automotive world go for any information? Where else, the internet. The one place that doesn’t check the credentials of the person making the video, and the one place where anyone with a box of tools can be a superstar with a wrench. In their video they’re the automotive expert, camera man, sound man, director of content, and editor all at the same time. No need in researching the facts, looking up the proper methods, or any other various procedures, service bulletins, or the latest tools related to that particular job. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a video out there with a couple of guys surrounding one of those Ouija boards asking why the short fuel trim is higher on one of side than the other. Ouija board or not, there are a few draw backs to internet information, but there really are a lot of super fantastic guys and gals putting out some very helpful videos on car repair. It’s just the few home brewed videos that make me cringe. Some of these back yard magicians seem to consult their Ouija board way too often. As if they conjured up some miracle answer right on the spot. Honestly, some of these videos are about as reliable as fake news. But, then again… that’s what some people think the professional mechanic does every day. As there has always been, and there will always be, a shortage of trained technicians out there able to handle the job of repairing the modern car. I’m very sure we will never see the day when there is an overabundance of good mechanics who have to change careers because there is no room for them under the hood. It’s never going to happen. What does need to happen is the one thing consumers don’t want, and that’s cost of repairs most certainly need to rise, as well as the mechanics’ wages to keep up with all of these technical advancements. It’s not a maybe, it’s a must or the technology will run right past you. Ask any mechanic what they learned on a vehicle from 10 years ago vs. today’s cars, and you’ll find that nearly half of what they did back then isn’t applicable in today’s diagnostic procedures. To be a good technician these days takes a lot of training, a lot of time spent reading, and understanding the latest technologies. New information comes from the manufacturers’ engineering departments just as fast as the cars come off the assembly lines, and to stay on top of things you need to study. I’ve heard people tell me, “Yea, I went to an automotive tech school to be a mechanic, but I didn’t learn anything.” Seriously? I’m sure you learned a whole lot. The problem isn’t the school training, the problem is you. Training doesn’t stop with your diploma, it stops when you stop wanting to advance your knowledge in the repair industry. School is a starting point, but to be a modern mechanic means you need to stay focused on the technology, take advanced training classes in your field of choice, and not expect answers from a You Tube video or your Ouija board. There’s a lot to learn and retain. It’s not a trade where you learn one method and expect that skill to last you throughout your career. It’s an ever changing industry with ever changing technology. Learn the basics, then learn to diagnose the modern car. You can’t guess at a solution or consult that old Ouija board for the answers. It takes practice and a lot of hands on from a dedicated individual willing to get their hands dirty and diagnose an automotive problem. Then solve it correctly. Sorry, no Ouija board diagnostics allowed. View full article
  16. STUDENT SPOTLIGHT … Contributed by Scott “Gonzo” Weaver Flash or Pass? Students … Here’s what you need to know A few decades ago cars were just . . . well, cars. They had an engine, transmission, a starter, a heater, maybe an air conditioner, and all the usual accouterments that made them a car. Mechanics toiled away at replacing engines, rebuilding master cylinders, and fixing transmissions. Almost every component on the car was reworked to a like new condition and some parts may even have been rebuilt several times, before they were too worn out to go around the horn one more time. Labor rates rose and fell with the economy, while parts suppliers kept up the demand for rebuild kits as a normal over-the-counter parts inventory. Then Somewhere Along the Way Something Changed The era of the microchip followed right along with the era of plastics. Things were built not to “rebuild”, but to toss. Thin plastic housings with hundreds and hundreds of microcircuits all wired into a microchip made up circuits that allowed the impossible to become the possible. Some tasks became obsolete, like the telephone switchboard operator, even bank tellers nearly went extinct when the ATM machine was developed. The world would never be the same with the microchip in every facet of modern life. Machining tools could now process and manufacturer automotive parts to such close tolerances that less material was needed per component. The prices for some of these components fell to less than or equivalent to the rebuild kits. Rebuilding an automotive component was soon a thing of past generations. The skills of the mechanic were now overshadowed by the microchip’s ability to manufacture a part better and cheaper than he could repair the old one. Soon, all this “toss-when-worn-out” reached the microchip itself. Computer software started finding itself in the very same throwaway society. Maybe not in the sense that we actually threw it away, but a new set of instructions or a software update may be needed and flashed into a replacement processor. This brings up a whole new problem for the mechanic. Now those skills he developed in rebuilding a master cylinder have next to nothing to do with reprogramming an anti-lock brake module, and if he wants to stay in the business of repairing today’s cars he’s going to need to know how to program, or at least understand the need for and/or the process, rather than knowing the old school way of rebuilding a master cylinder. As aspiring technicians today, students have to ask themselves: “Do I flash, or do I pass?” Passing on the flash may mean you might not get this type of work in the shop you’re hired at after graduation. Luckily, There is a Way Around That Problem These days nearly every car on the road has more than one type of computer device in the car, and there’s a very good chance that at some point something will need a software update or be re-flashed because a component has been changed or upgraded. In a way re-flashing, programming, coding, or the other various software issues there are in the modern car are somewhat of today’s version of rebuilding that master cylinder to a like new condition. Cars these days are lasting longer, running longer, and have different types of break downs than models from those early days. That’s doesn’t mean changing brake pads or installing a remanufactured transmission isn’t done on a daily basis, they most certainly are. It’s the other side of the repair business, the computer updating and re-flashing that’s an even bigger part of regular maintenance than ever before. So, which type of technician will you be? Will you be the technician who will do the mechanical work, but leave electronic issues to someone else? Or will you be the technician who embraces, engages and invests in training, grows competencies and adapts to change? It’s something every technician, as well as employers, need to think about. Fortunately, there is a way for some to do the mechanical stuff and be a proficient technician, without breaking the bank, and still service shop customers’ electrical and software needs. For instance, the answer for some is using an expert mobile diagnostic technician. Seriously, I never dreamed there would come a day I would be saying this, but an expert mobile diagnostician can be a viable source of revenue and a vital source of technical skills that shops or technicians lacking those skills for certain vehicles can utilize. Now, I’m not talking about those fly by night boys with a box of tools. Rather, I’m referring to the diagnostic scanner mobile expert, who is properly tooled, current with automaker-specific information and training, and experienced in dealing with all the service information websites, service procedures and programming issues, such as re-flashing, key programming, and uploading new software. More recently, remote diagnostic services have emerged. In contrast to an individual mobile diagnostician, remote services feature a team of brand-specific, tooled and factory trained diagnostic experts. Of note, remote services are becoming an effective and economical alternative. Don’t Get Stuck in the Past What’s happening in the automotive electronic world reminds me of how things were when manufacturers switched from points and condensers to electronic ignition systems. A lot of guys refused to learn the new systems and soon found themselves only working on older models, which eventually faded away. When electronic ignition systems took hold, parts-swapping became the norm. Instead of testing or diagnosing a problem it was a lot easier to keep the various types of ignition modules in your toolbox, and when a “no-start” came into a shop, it only took a few minutes to swap the ignition module with your test piece. It did save diagnostic time and it did get results, but the microchip and new technology has struck back again. The old school ways of parts-swapping vs. in depth diagnostic with scopes and scanners has just about run its course. In addition, now swapping components can lead to an even bigger problem than what the car originally came in for. Be aware the general public is having a hard time comprehending the reason for these diagnostic costs. It used to be that they would bring the car to the shop, the mechanic would do some fiddle greasy job that involved rebuilding some part or swapping the old ignition module, without charging a diagnostic fee. If a part was suspected as bad, it could usually be swapped out without any worries. That’s just not car repair anymore. Now swapping components with integrated modules can lead a disaster. On the other hand, those techs who pick up the pieces after one of these parts changers finish slapping on parts should be commended. The aftermath of installing a processor without knowing the eventual outcome can also be a brutal blow to a shop’s pocketbook. Radar systems, infrared and optical systems, cameras and proximity sensors aren’t the kind of components easily rebuilt, if at all. But, there’s a good chance you can reprogram most of it. Yes, we still have engines that need rebuilds and gears that need changing, but there clearly is a lot more to mechanical service and repair that involves electronics. To be one of today’s top mechanical repair shops that can get the job done, a lot more emphasis has to be put on that little microchip than on a rebuild kit. Flashing modules and loading computer software updates are just a part of everyday business now. While programming isn’t for everyone, technicians and shops cannot avoid dealing with it. Developing this expertise matters, but recognize some vehicles may be outside your wheelhouse and utilize the expertise that is available to you. You can learn how to flash by attending a few classes and find an expert to service vehicle models you’re not yet familiar with. Just don’t pass on the flash. View full article
  17. STUDENT SPOTLIGHT … Contributed by Scott “Gonzo” Weaver Flash or Pass? Students … Here’s what you need to know A few decades ago cars were just . . . well, cars. They had an engine, transmission, a starter, a heater, maybe an air conditioner, and all the usual accouterments that made them a car. Mechanics toiled away at replacing engines, rebuilding master cylinders, and fixing transmissions. Almost every component on the car was reworked to a like new condition and some parts may even have been rebuilt several times, before they were too worn out to go around the horn one more time. Labor rates rose and fell with the economy, while parts suppliers kept up the demand for rebuild kits as a normal over-the-counter parts inventory. Then Somewhere Along the Way Something Changed The era of the microchip followed right along with the era of plastics. Things were built not to “rebuild”, but to toss. Thin plastic housings with hundreds and hundreds of microcircuits all wired into a microchip made up circuits that allowed the impossible to become the possible. Some tasks became obsolete, like the telephone switchboard operator, even bank tellers nearly went extinct when the ATM machine was developed. The world would never be the same with the microchip in every facet of modern life. Machining tools could now process and manufacturer automotive parts to such close tolerances that less material was needed per component. The prices for some of these components fell to less than or equivalent to the rebuild kits. Rebuilding an automotive component was soon a thing of past generations. The skills of the mechanic were now overshadowed by the microchip’s ability to manufacture a part better and cheaper than he could repair the old one. Soon, all this “toss-when-worn-out” reached the microchip itself. Computer software started finding itself in the very same throwaway society. Maybe not in the sense that we actually threw it away, but a new set of instructions or a software update may be needed and flashed into a replacement processor. This brings up a whole new problem for the mechanic. Now those skills he developed in rebuilding a master cylinder have next to nothing to do with reprogramming an anti-lock brake module, and if he wants to stay in the business of repairing today’s cars he’s going to need to know how to program, or at least understand the need for and/or the process, rather than knowing the old school way of rebuilding a master cylinder. As aspiring technicians today, students have to ask themselves: “Do I flash, or do I pass?” Passing on the flash may mean you might not get this type of work in the shop you’re hired at after graduation. Luckily, There is a Way Around That Problem These days nearly every car on the road has more than one type of computer device in the car, and there’s a very good chance that at some point something will need a software update or be re-flashed because a component has been changed or upgraded. In a way re-flashing, programming, coding, or the other various software issues there are in the modern car are somewhat of today’s version of rebuilding that master cylinder to a like new condition. Cars these days are lasting longer, running longer, and have different types of break downs than models from those early days. That’s doesn’t mean changing brake pads or installing a remanufactured transmission isn’t done on a daily basis, they most certainly are. It’s the other side of the repair business, the computer updating and re-flashing that’s an even bigger part of regular maintenance than ever before. So, which type of technician will you be? Will you be the technician who will do the mechanical work, but leave electronic issues to someone else? Or will you be the technician who embraces, engages and invests in training, grows competencies and adapts to change? It’s something every technician, as well as employers, need to think about. Fortunately, there is a way for some to do the mechanical stuff and be a proficient technician, without breaking the bank, and still service shop customers’ electrical and software needs. For instance, the answer for some is using an expert mobile diagnostic technician. Seriously, I never dreamed there would come a day I would be saying this, but an expert mobile diagnostician can be a viable source of revenue and a vital source of technical skills that shops or technicians lacking those skills for certain vehicles can utilize. Now, I’m not talking about those fly by night boys with a box of tools. Rather, I’m referring to the diagnostic scanner mobile expert, who is properly tooled, current with automaker-specific information and training, and experienced in dealing with all the service information websites, service procedures and programming issues, such as re-flashing, key programming, and uploading new software. More recently, remote diagnostic services have emerged. In contrast to an individual mobile diagnostician, remote services feature a team of brand-specific, tooled and factory trained diagnostic experts. Of note, remote services are becoming an effective and economical alternative. Don’t Get Stuck in the Past What’s happening in the automotive electronic world reminds me of how things were when manufacturers switched from points and condensers to electronic ignition systems. A lot of guys refused to learn the new systems and soon found themselves only working on older models, which eventually faded away. When electronic ignition systems took hold, parts-swapping became the norm. Instead of testing or diagnosing a problem it was a lot easier to keep the various types of ignition modules in your toolbox, and when a “no-start” came into a shop, it only took a few minutes to swap the ignition module with your test piece. It did save diagnostic time and it did get results, but the microchip and new technology has struck back again. The old school ways of parts-swapping vs. in depth diagnostic with scopes and scanners has just about run its course. In addition, now swapping components can lead to an even bigger problem than what the car originally came in for. Be aware the general public is having a hard time comprehending the reason for these diagnostic costs. It used to be that they would bring the car to the shop, the mechanic would do some fiddle greasy job that involved rebuilding some part or swapping the old ignition module, without charging a diagnostic fee. If a part was suspected as bad, it could usually be swapped out without any worries. That’s just not car repair anymore. Now swapping components with integrated modules can lead a disaster. On the other hand, those techs who pick up the pieces after one of these parts changers finish slapping on parts should be commended. The aftermath of installing a processor without knowing the eventual outcome can also be a brutal blow to a shop’s pocketbook. Radar systems, infrared and optical systems, cameras and proximity sensors aren’t the kind of components easily rebuilt, if at all. But, there’s a good chance you can reprogram most of it. Yes, we still have engines that need rebuilds and gears that need changing, but there clearly is a lot more to mechanical service and repair that involves electronics. To be one of today’s top mechanical repair shops that can get the job done, a lot more emphasis has to be put on that little microchip than on a rebuild kit. Flashing modules and loading computer software updates are just a part of everyday business now. While programming isn’t for everyone, technicians and shops cannot avoid dealing with it. Developing this expertise matters, but recognize some vehicles may be outside your wheelhouse and utilize the expertise that is available to you. You can learn how to flash by attending a few classes and find an expert to service vehicle models you’re not yet familiar with. Just don’t pass on the flash.
  18. Down the Hatch The crazy stuff I’ve found in a gas tank. Never fails, boyfriend dumps girlfriend, girlfriend pours sugar in boyfriend’s gas tank. Girlfriend dumps boyfriend, time for more sugar in the boyfriend’s fuel tank. The actual “who” that does the pouring is up for grabs. Sometimes it’s the boyfriend, sometimes it’s the girlfriend, sometimes it’s that crazy co-worker you worked with, or some wacky protester who just hates gasoline for some reason. Ya just never know, but you can be sure of one thing, somebody, somewhere, is going to pour something into somebody’s fuel tank. Sugar is the ‘go to’ item in most cases. Can’t find the sugar, then find a good substitute. You’re not much on improvising while you’re stressed out about the latest fling who let you down? Not to worry, as long as it’s something that will fit down the filler neck … it’s fair game. Honestly, after all the crazy stuff I’ve found stuffed down the old petrol pipe, I feel like I’m a regular expert on the subject. On occasion, it’s plain dirt that finds its way to the bottom of the fuel tank, but chocolate bars, rice, and flour are all common substitutes when the sugar is running low in the cupboard. The last chocolate bar incident was rather unusual, though. They didn’t bother to take the wrappers off the bars. Nice try. Effective yes, and it did get the car sent to the repair shop, but the repair was minor compared to the sticky mess that it could have been. Maybe next time go for the small bars you get around Halloween, they’ll fit down the filler neck a bit better. Chocolate is always a favorite, especially after Valentine’s Day. You get all those bite size pieces with their gooey centers slowly oozing their way into the fuel tank. Those cherry centers ones, eww… they’re extra messy. Rice on the other hand, well that’s a bit more devious than the traditional sugar stuff-o-matic method. The rice doesn’t really swell in gasoline, it tends to harden like little concrete torpedoes. Flour tends to float, clumps up like badly shaped dough balls, and makes an even bigger mess if it gets into the fuel pump. But, let’s not dwell on just kitchen condiments and baking supplies as the only source for self-satisfaction after a bad relationship or a bit of self-retribution and redemption. Shampoo, liquid soap, shaving cream, and other hygiene products from the bano have made their way to the fuel tank on a few occasions, too. Now, there was this one diesel truck I’d like to mention with a rather gravely problem. It still ran and drove into the shop, but the fuel gauge wasn’t working. However, when the tank wouldn’t hold as much as it used to the owner began to wonder if something was a bit more seriously wrong. There was something wrong all right, the tank was about half full of gravel! It weighed a ton! Dropping the tank was a lesson in dealing with a ‘live’ load and how to balance a fuel tank that couldn’t be completely drained on a precarious tranny jack. Imagine my surprise when I finally got a chance to look inside the tank and saw this guy’s driveway soaking in diesel fuel. The owner thinks it was his grandkids helping him out. Nice try kids. Any other truck would have had a screen in the filler neck or some sort of check ball, but not this one. Now with these DEF systems there’s a whole new problem to deal with. Put the wrong fluid down the wrong filler neck and you could be in for a huge repair bill. Generally these types of problems aren’t from your old girlfriend or boyfriend, but they could be. Maybe, they’re just trying to be helpful. Then, you find out they’re color blind, and they can’t tell the difference between the green and blue labels. Uhm, my bad. (Yea, likely story) Now, if it’s on one of those newer Dodge trucks… there’s no colored coded fuel cap anyway. To make matters worse, the urea mix is acidic and isn’t all that friendly to the paint. How wonderful is that!? Sticks, plastic straws, wire, and the occasional siphon hose have all been a source of amusement at the repair shop when it comes to what you can find at the bottom of a fuel tank. You’d think that little baffle and the check ball would stop most of these intrusions. Actually, I think they just create a new spot for things to get stuck and plug up the entire works. Occasionally these types of fuel tanks end up at the shop anyway, regardless of some foreign object being inserted in the filler neck, or not. They have a tendency of leaving their owners standing at the pump holding the fuel nozzle on the first click, because if they tried any faster the pump would just shut off. You’d think in this advanced electronic age, somebody would invent an anti-ex-boyfriend/girlfriend fuel tank early warning system because the locked gas cap just ain’t doing the trick. Oh it will stop a few, but the true sabotage master will find a way to pry that door open or rip it off the hinges. Locking gas caps are only there to urge on the saboteur. Nothing will stop them when revenge is at the helm; they’ll do whatever it takes to get the dastardly dead done. If nothing else, how about a sugar detector checker. Something that would verify the quality of the fuel before you take off for work in the morning. Or how about some sort of electronic system that would sense any foreign material slipped into the fuel tank, and send whatever it is into a separate holding tank. Then when you get home you could unload the unwanted intruder, identify it, maybe even determine who the culprit is, and take care of business without a trip to the repair shop. Wishful thinking I’m sure. Well, there is one alternative to all of this. If you’re in a relationship with a seemingly psychotic person, you have a grumpy neighbor who’s been eyeballing the fuel door on your car, or you’re the type of person who generally pisses people off for no apparent reason and you live extremely close to a sugar factory … well then…by all means… do yourself a favor… buy an electric car instead. View full article
  19. Down the Hatch The crazy stuff I’ve found in a gas tank. Never fails, boyfriend dumps girlfriend, girlfriend pours sugar in boyfriend’s gas tank. Girlfriend dumps boyfriend, time for more sugar in the boyfriend’s fuel tank. The actual “who” that does the pouring is up for grabs. Sometimes it’s the boyfriend, sometimes it’s the girlfriend, sometimes it’s that crazy co-worker you worked with, or some wacky protester who just hates gasoline for some reason. Ya just never know, but you can be sure of one thing, somebody, somewhere, is going to pour something into somebody’s fuel tank. Sugar is the ‘go to’ item in most cases. Can’t find the sugar, then find a good substitute. You’re not much on improvising while you’re stressed out about the latest fling who let you down? Not to worry, as long as it’s something that will fit down the filler neck … it’s fair game. Honestly, after all the crazy stuff I’ve found stuffed down the old petrol pipe, I feel like I’m a regular expert on the subject. On occasion, it’s plain dirt that finds its way to the bottom of the fuel tank, but chocolate bars, rice, and flour are all common substitutes when the sugar is running low in the cupboard. The last chocolate bar incident was rather unusual, though. They didn’t bother to take the wrappers off the bars. Nice try. Effective yes, and it did get the car sent to the repair shop, but the repair was minor compared to the sticky mess that it could have been. Maybe next time go for the small bars you get around Halloween, they’ll fit down the filler neck a bit better. Chocolate is always a favorite, especially after Valentine’s Day. You get all those bite size pieces with their gooey centers slowly oozing their way into the fuel tank. Those cherry centers ones, eww… they’re extra messy. Rice on the other hand, well that’s a bit more devious than the traditional sugar stuff-o-matic method. The rice doesn’t really swell in gasoline, it tends to harden like little concrete torpedoes. Flour tends to float, clumps up like badly shaped dough balls, and makes an even bigger mess if it gets into the fuel pump. But, let’s not dwell on just kitchen condiments and baking supplies as the only source for self-satisfaction after a bad relationship or a bit of self-retribution and redemption. Shampoo, liquid soap, shaving cream, and other hygiene products from the bano have made their way to the fuel tank on a few occasions, too. Now, there was this one diesel truck I’d like to mention with a rather gravely problem. It still ran and drove into the shop, but the fuel gauge wasn’t working. However, when the tank wouldn’t hold as much as it used to the owner began to wonder if something was a bit more seriously wrong. There was something wrong all right, the tank was about half full of gravel! It weighed a ton! Dropping the tank was a lesson in dealing with a ‘live’ load and how to balance a fuel tank that couldn’t be completely drained on a precarious tranny jack. Imagine my surprise when I finally got a chance to look inside the tank and saw this guy’s driveway soaking in diesel fuel. The owner thinks it was his grandkids helping him out. Nice try kids. Any other truck would have had a screen in the filler neck or some sort of check ball, but not this one. Now with these DEF systems there’s a whole new problem to deal with. Put the wrong fluid down the wrong filler neck and you could be in for a huge repair bill. Generally these types of problems aren’t from your old girlfriend or boyfriend, but they could be. Maybe, they’re just trying to be helpful. Then, you find out they’re color blind, and they can’t tell the difference between the green and blue labels. Uhm, my bad. (Yea, likely story) Now, if it’s on one of those newer Dodge trucks… there’s no colored coded fuel cap anyway. To make matters worse, the urea mix is acidic and isn’t all that friendly to the paint. How wonderful is that!? Sticks, plastic straws, wire, and the occasional siphon hose have all been a source of amusement at the repair shop when it comes to what you can find at the bottom of a fuel tank. You’d think that little baffle and the check ball would stop most of these intrusions. Actually, I think they just create a new spot for things to get stuck and plug up the entire works. Occasionally these types of fuel tanks end up at the shop anyway, regardless of some foreign object being inserted in the filler neck, or not. They have a tendency of leaving their owners standing at the pump holding the fuel nozzle on the first click, because if they tried any faster the pump would just shut off. You’d think in this advanced electronic age, somebody would invent an anti-ex-boyfriend/girlfriend fuel tank early warning system because the locked gas cap just ain’t doing the trick. Oh it will stop a few, but the true sabotage master will find a way to pry that door open or rip it off the hinges. Locking gas caps are only there to urge on the saboteur. Nothing will stop them when revenge is at the helm; they’ll do whatever it takes to get the dastardly dead done. If nothing else, how about a sugar detector checker. Something that would verify the quality of the fuel before you take off for work in the morning. Or how about some sort of electronic system that would sense any foreign material slipped into the fuel tank, and send whatever it is into a separate holding tank. Then when you get home you could unload the unwanted intruder, identify it, maybe even determine who the culprit is, and take care of business without a trip to the repair shop. Wishful thinking I’m sure. Well, there is one alternative to all of this. If you’re in a relationship with a seemingly psychotic person, you have a grumpy neighbor who’s been eyeballing the fuel door on your car, or you’re the type of person who generally pisses people off for no apparent reason and you live extremely close to a sugar factory … well then…by all means… do yourself a favor… buy an electric car instead.
  20. Ok, should be easy to find.
  21. Where exactly is the 180 room? Im sure i can make it.
  22. Thursday would be better
  23. Vision is next week.  I'll be there from Thursday until Sunday.  Who else is going?  

  24. Electronically Handicapped Are we so inundated with electrical devices we’ve forgotten how to do certain tasks without them? I believe the time has come when common sense values and electronics have crossed paths to change the way some people assume things are done. Yes, we’ve become electronically handicapped by the very means that are supposed to make things better. Expecting those electronic wonders to always be in working order is one thing, but not knowing what to do when those devices fail and having to resort to good old fashion “hands on” is where the problems and frustrations begin. Case in point: a guy calls and asks if I can fix his speedometer. He explains he wouldn’t be able to drive the car to the shop, because he has no idea how fast he’s going. I suggested he just stay up with traffic or download one of the many apps displaying mph. This led to even more hysteria because he was afraid of an electronic bug affecting his phone. Instead, all he wanted was one of those “I ain’t holding ya to it” estimates. Not knowing the reason why his speedometer wasn’t working, I gave him a rough guess on the cost of the various components related to a speedometer problem. He then tells me, “Let me know when the part shows up.” I asked, “What part?” Now I’m confused. Finally, it came down to one question. “Sir, even if I knew exactly what component or problem you’re having, how are you going to get the car here? Tow truck, or do you want me to come and get it?” I asked. Absolutely no tow trucks, and he didn’t want anyone else to drive his car. Instead, he was going to check “YouTube” for a video on how to fix it. Then, there are those individuals that common sense has entirely left them. A lady called to tell me her door locks stopped working, and how she was trapped in her car for several hours until her husband showed up. (He unlocked the door with the key from the outside.) I asked her, “Why didn’t you just unlock the door from the inside?” Her answer, “Sir, I pushed the button several times but it never would unlock the door.” I calmly asked (although I was secretly bursting with laughter), “Why didn’t you use the mechanical lock knob or push the manual lock lever in the opposite direction?” The tone of her voice was enough to tell you she was more than a little shaken up over the whole door lock ordeal. Thinking I could ease her obvious tension, I suggested that she could have rolled the window down, but that just spurred her anxiety even more. She couldn’t understand why I would suggest such a thing; she would have had to start the car in order to do that. Since the windows were up, the fear of carbon monoxide poisoning was an even bigger concern. Now with back up cameras, lane departure systems, auto parking, active cruise control, and perimeter warning systems some of these folks that barely understand how to turn on a light switch are going to be even more lost when these systems in their cars fail. I'm convinced by the actions of some people that it's already happening. Like the time my wife's rear view camera was covered in mud, she stopped the car, calls me and says, "The camera isn't working, is it safe to back the car up?" What's the world coming too? Pretty soon, there will be a generation that won’t understand or even care to know anything about some of the old technologies. That is until they’re face-to-face with a situation calling for some nostalgic common sense and a bit of mechanical know-how. We’ve modernized the family car into a nightmarish electronic wonder, which has caused a lot of people to lose touch with the basic fundamentals of its operation. Not only is it more complicated electronically, but it’s also becoming more reliant on GPS and computers. Here’s something else that I don’t understand: We still call a manual shift transmission a standard transmission. There’s nothing “standard” about it anymore. It was the standard for decades, but not anymore. Now it’s rather rare for new drivers to even know how to operate a stick shift. Even now, you see people who don’t have a clue how to use their turn signals. I doubt they know the proper hand signals or for that matter how to stick their arm out the window. Of course, that would mean rolling down the electric window, which probably doesn't work either. What about the tire monitor systems on cars these days? How many people know how to properly use a tire pressure gauge? Then again, why? We’ve got electronics to take care of that stuff. A vehicle operator seems to require less common sense these days as the electronic world has already accomplished these tasks with minimal to no effort with things like voice activated entertainment to navigation controls. Why, we even have crash avoidance systems and air bags to keep us safe. More to the point… less personal responsibility for your actions; make it the car’s responsibility. I grew up in the time when road maps were in every glove box. Folding one back up from the passenger seat while giving directions could be a contest of wit and skill to say the least. You paid attention to the road signs and observed the different land features as well as points of interest that were pointed out in the map details. These days, you listen to this voice on the navigation system that says, “Turn right in 500 feet onto exit 227.” Why, I’ll bet you didn’t even notice you passed the world’s largest ball of string a mile back. It seems the navigation voice failed to mention anything about all those roadside features the folding map could tell you about. Just goes to show how much we have become dependent on these electronic devices. We’ve all become so complacent with our modern electronic conveniences that opening a garage door by hand seems barbaric in some way. I know I’m guilty of it myself. One time after a rather long and frustrating day at the shop, I came down my driveway tapping my finger on the garage door remote button. The door refused to move. Not to be outwitted by a garage door remote, I sat out there bashing the button and cussing at the door… determined to get that blasted thing to raise one more time. Eventually, the wife comes out and opens the door from the inside button. She was standing there with that typical wife look of disbelief, staring at her goof ball husband having a four letter word conversation with a dead garage door remote. Her response was priceless, “The battery is probably dead in the remote dummy! Just get out of the truck and open the door!” So, you say, “Yea well, I might be a little electronically handicapped, but I’m not as bad as ya think. I could handle living like they did a hundred years ago. No battery needed to start a horse.” Oh, really? A century ago anyone over 10 years old could hitch up a two horse team to a buggy for an afternoon trip to town and knew how to deal with their horses’ temperament. Can you? Back then, that knowledge was passed down from father to son. These days, well, you’re more likely to Google the answer than ask Grandpa.
  25. Electronically Handicapped Are we so inundated with electrical devices we’ve forgotten how to do certain tasks without them? I believe the time has come when common sense values and electronics have crossed paths to change the way some people assume things are done. Yes, we’ve become electronically handicapped by the very means that are supposed to make things better. Expecting those electronic wonders to always be in working order is one thing, but not knowing what to do when those devices fail and having to resort to good old fashion “hands on” is where the problems and frustrations begin. Case in point: a guy calls and asks if I can fix his speedometer. He explains he wouldn’t be able to drive the car to the shop, because he has no idea how fast he’s going. I suggested he just stay up with traffic or download one of the many apps displaying mph. This led to even more hysteria because he was afraid of an electronic bug affecting his phone. Instead, all he wanted was one of those “I ain’t holding ya to it” estimates. Not knowing the reason why his speedometer wasn’t working, I gave him a rough guess on the cost of the various components related to a speedometer problem. He then tells me, “Let me know when the part shows up.” I asked, “What part?” Now I’m confused. Finally, it came down to one question. “Sir, even if I knew exactly what component or problem you’re having, how are you going to get the car here? Tow truck, or do you want me to come and get it?” I asked. Absolutely no tow trucks, and he didn’t want anyone else to drive his car. Instead, he was going to check “YouTube” for a video on how to fix it. Then, there are those individuals that common sense has entirely left them. A lady called to tell me her door locks stopped working, and how she was trapped in her car for several hours until her husband showed up. (He unlocked the door with the key from the outside.) I asked her, “Why didn’t you just unlock the door from the inside?” Her answer, “Sir, I pushed the button several times but it never would unlock the door.” I calmly asked (although I was secretly bursting with laughter), “Why didn’t you use the mechanical lock knob or push the manual lock lever in the opposite direction?” The tone of her voice was enough to tell you she was more than a little shaken up over the whole door lock ordeal. Thinking I could ease her obvious tension, I suggested that she could have rolled the window down, but that just spurred her anxiety even more. She couldn’t understand why I would suggest such a thing; she would have had to start the car in order to do that. Since the windows were up, the fear of carbon monoxide poisoning was an even bigger concern. Now with back up cameras, lane departure systems, auto parking, active cruise control, and perimeter warning systems some of these folks that barely understand how to turn on a light switch are going to be even more lost when these systems in their cars fail. I'm convinced by the actions of some people that it's already happening. Like the time my wife's rear view camera was covered in mud, she stopped the car, calls me and says, "The camera isn't working, is it safe to back the car up?" What's the world coming too? Pretty soon, there will be a generation that won’t understand or even care to know anything about some of the old technologies. That is until they’re face-to-face with a situation calling for some nostalgic common sense and a bit of mechanical know-how. We’ve modernized the family car into a nightmarish electronic wonder, which has caused a lot of people to lose touch with the basic fundamentals of its operation. Not only is it more complicated electronically, but it’s also becoming more reliant on GPS and computers. Here’s something else that I don’t understand: We still call a manual shift transmission a standard transmission. There’s nothing “standard” about it anymore. It was the standard for decades, but not anymore. Now it’s rather rare for new drivers to even know how to operate a stick shift. Even now, you see people who don’t have a clue how to use their turn signals. I doubt they know the proper hand signals or for that matter how to stick their arm out the window. Of course, that would mean rolling down the electric window, which probably doesn't work either. What about the tire monitor systems on cars these days? How many people know how to properly use a tire pressure gauge? Then again, why? We’ve got electronics to take care of that stuff. A vehicle operator seems to require less common sense these days as the electronic world has already accomplished these tasks with minimal to no effort with things like voice activated entertainment to navigation controls. Why, we even have crash avoidance systems and air bags to keep us safe. More to the point… less personal responsibility for your actions; make it the car’s responsibility. I grew up in the time when road maps were in every glove box. Folding one back up from the passenger seat while giving directions could be a contest of wit and skill to say the least. You paid attention to the road signs and observed the different land features as well as points of interest that were pointed out in the map details. These days, you listen to this voice on the navigation system that says, “Turn right in 500 feet onto exit 227.” Why, I’ll bet you didn’t even notice you passed the world’s largest ball of string a mile back. It seems the navigation voice failed to mention anything about all those roadside features the folding map could tell you about. Just goes to show how much we have become dependent on these electronic devices. We’ve all become so complacent with our modern electronic conveniences that opening a garage door by hand seems barbaric in some way. I know I’m guilty of it myself. One time after a rather long and frustrating day at the shop, I came down my driveway tapping my finger on the garage door remote button. The door refused to move. Not to be outwitted by a garage door remote, I sat out there bashing the button and cussing at the door… determined to get that blasted thing to raise one more time. Eventually, the wife comes out and opens the door from the inside button. She was standing there with that typical wife look of disbelief, staring at her goof ball husband having a four letter word conversation with a dead garage door remote. Her response was priceless, “The battery is probably dead in the remote dummy! Just get out of the truck and open the door!” So, you say, “Yea well, I might be a little electronically handicapped, but I’m not as bad as ya think. I could handle living like they did a hundred years ago. No battery needed to start a horse.” Oh, really? A century ago anyone over 10 years old could hitch up a two horse team to a buggy for an afternoon trip to town and knew how to deal with their horses’ temperament. Can you? Back then, that knowledge was passed down from father to son. These days, well, you’re more likely to Google the answer than ask Grandpa. View full article
×