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A Mechanic's Life - Tales From Under the Hood

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Comments

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Well, I certainly agree that the traditional nature of a dealership service technician is destined to change dramatically, possibly by adding a new class of technician... One whose primary function and background is electronics, with little to no actual mechanical training.

    While I can't say that there won't be straight electronics techs who can't slap a set of brake pads on a car, I'm inclined to say that for the most part it won't work. That tech wouldn't produce enough revenues in a typical shop, and they would ultimately starve him/her right back out of the door. (if they didn't throw them out first). On top of that we aren't even considering how bad the competition is between techs inside a dealership, and how dealer politics would come into play.

    In many cases, some repairs may be resolved by using a "team approach" of mechanical AND electronic trained service personnel... Which will surely result in higher costs for repairs.

    It would definitely cost more to do that but management isn't ready to pay just one of those people to solve the kinds of problems that cars can present with today. They darn sure aren't going to pay two of them.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Honda had big problems when one of their hybrids was "updated". The flashing wound up hammering the gas mileage, leading to a class action settlement.

    There was one noteable case where an attorney filed for herself and won, only for it to be overturned. Honda quoted fuel mileage as directed by the EPA, the methods for predicting fuel economy have recently changed and are still evolving.

    Honda's hybrid battery was failing prematurely, that's why there was the software change. Extending the life of the battery did result in a decrease in over all fuel economy.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    They couldn't cheat like this if the public didn't support it

    The big problem as the link's title suggests is that there is a huge market for intentionally doing it incorrectly. When you run the numbers, your talking triple what my shops total revenues are for the same time period, and they didn't have to spend anything to do it.

    Try and picture how it feels on my side when at 9AM this morning I'll be having a long lost customer come in for a evaporative emissions diagnostic. (It's already had the gas cap replaced, four times and no I'm not kidding). It's also had the cannister assembly replaced, the filler neck, and the cannister vent valve somewhere else.

    I know going in the job is a loser, and being successful won't convert her back to a full customer. She's moving away.
  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,950
    edited March 2013
    Online (or USB-style flashes) will speed up, and there's redundancies built in that can now help you avoid "bricking" your computers, whether it's your laptop or a car. Won't matter if it's unclean power or the need to use the car or a power surge; the systems will get smart enough to pause and then resume when the glitch has passed.

    The Honda case got the attention of the automakers. Honda did a lot more than recite the EPA numbers though, and that's why they settled the bigger class action suit that Peters dropped out of. Honda puffed about the mpg before the reflash, but it was the reflash that really hammered most owner's mpg.

    Ford is offering $50k help people learn how to save gas. The reward is likely going to go to a software app developer. (Denver Post).

    Oh, welcome back. ;)
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,909
    edited March 2013
    I see different kinds of problems there, not really apples to apples. ABS and ESP et al can help in a panic situation where even a decent driver will simply react, not always in the best way. Junk like self-parking, "save me from my lack of attention" features, mobile connectivity stuff etc are just dumbing it down. I know casualties have fallen since the widespread adoption of ABS/airbags/esp and the like, which is the point. So long as fogging a mirror grants a person a license, many new drivers represent a horrible lowest common denominator, and driving is seen as a secondary chore, it's not going to change. Frankly, I don't want to drive that 1977 Corolla with manual everything and no safety equipment.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,644
    "But what happens when there is no longer a warranty on the car? Now the buy back possibility is off the table, and eventually the owner has to find someone who can and will spend the time to fix it."

    Well this comes right back to my dire prediction of some months ago---when a 2013 car, out of warranty in 2018, develops massive electronic problems, it will be discarded, like that flat screen TV you put in the dumpster when little white spots starting darting across the screen.

    OR, as consumers become enraged when their $40,000 purchase is a useless pile of scrap metal and plastic after only 5 years, perhaps the government will compel manufacturers to buy them back on a pro-rate, and, of course, build this expense into the purchase price of the car.

    Before you balk, consider that this is probably what Apple does already. Surely that little tablet computer can't cost $800 to build.
  • busirisbusiris Posts: 3,447
    First of all, glad to see you're back on-line and posting!

    While I can't speak for independent shops, I do see the real possibility in the future of dealership "classification", in which the top-tier dealers have electronics specialists, and are regionally located... Perhaps receiving monetary support from the manufacturer to act as a regional support center for lower tier dealerships (and by tiered, I mean as in service level competence approval) and also an actual secondary service support center where vehicles that can't be repaired by lower tiered dealerships are flat-bedded in order to be repaired.

    I'm just not ready to accept the possible feasibility of junking a 4-5 year old $$$ car because the local dealership can't figure out what's wrong.... At least, not yet.

    I may change my opinion as time passes...
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,268
    I see a real future for Chevy 350 EFI conversions.... :P
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,644
    An engine swap won't save you---these new cars are so complex you can't "separate" their components very easily.
  • busirisbusiris Posts: 3,447
    Agreed... Even in many of the less expensive, less optioned vehicles, basics such as the brake systems are intertwined with the engine management systems... Or soon will be.

    So, unless someone really wants to "gut" a vehicle's capabilities, the days of relatively easy engine/drive-train swap outs are long gone...
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,268
    Sure. You simply strip every piece of wiring out of the thing and simplify, simplify, simplify. Ultimately what you end up with is a classic machine wrapped in modern trimmings.
  • busirisbusiris Posts: 3,447
    edited March 2013
    Sure. You simply strip every piece of wiring out of the thing and simplify, simplify, simplify. Ultimately what you end up with is a classic machine wrapped in modern trimmings.

    Well, its certainly possible, given enough time, money and effort.

    Still, there are lots of information-exchanging subsystems that are expecting to talk to each other, and when some of those inputs are removed, lots of things no longer work as intended. Sometimes, they no longer work at all.

    It's light-years different from when I was a teenager in the late 1960's and early 1970's, when all it took to was to have access to a machine shop and someone with the ability to make items like motor mounts and adapter plates.

    Of course, if reliability isn't a factor and time is unlimited, one can eventually get it to work, at least partially. It's nothing I would want to attempt personally, unless I had access to a lot of qualified technical advice.

    Just look at how difficult it is to make some cars work correctly and reliability today, and those cars have been engineered from the bottom up to have each subsystem interface with each other correctly.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,644
    yes a classic machine with no trimmings, such as heat, AC, wipers, windows that go up and down and an engine that can't possibly pass an emissions test. :P

    Mr. Computer is not going to like that new engine at all, so Mr. Old Computer will have to be used, and he'll have to be taught how to talk to the rest of the car.

    Good luck with that.

    I think you reach a point where there is no point.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,268
    I guess we'll just reach the point where there are those of us who live in areas of independence, and the rest (vast majority) who use mass transit or their feet. ;)
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,644
    maybe in the mythology of simpler days, yes, but I'm going to put away my Daniel Boone cap and just go out and buy and older car that I *can* fix. I want no part of a Frankencar with an electronics rat's nest to deal with. I could be out earning money instead. :P
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    Try and picture how it feels on my side when at 9AM this morning I'll be having a long lost customer come in for a evaporative emissions diagnostic. (It's already had the gas cap replaced, four times and no I'm not kidding). It's also had the cannister assembly replaced, the filler neck, and the cannister vent valve somewhere else.

    This one tested out quite normally, it clearly had a leak, and the P0440 means its a large leak tank area on a 2000 Camry. It was a bit troublesome after that because using the smoke machine, the pressure being delivered was clearly dropping, but the smoke wasn't visible. So out comes the head phones and the ultrasonic microphone. The leak could be heard at the filler cap. Close examination of the new filler neck showed damage that looks like it was dropped at some time before it was installed. It isn't real obvious until you really study it but it is bent and the cap simply can't seal the system.

    So now it goes back to the other shop to have it replaced again.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    I didn't get to fix this, the guy only wanted to know what was wrong. He only agreed to one hour of diagnostic time and while I actually went a bit over the hour we kept the price exactly as quoted which is quite common. To get the scope captures, the right hand cooling fan had to be removed for access, and specific circuits had to be identified and then the circuits measured. All told there were some twenty odd scope captures, but only the most valid ones are on the blog.

    The owner had replaced the ignition module, coils, plugs and wires. In fact he had changed the module and coils several times with used parts. The trap when that happens is people often add a problem on top of the original one.

    When you look at the scope captures, the red trace is the coil current through the module taken with the low amps probe. The on time, and the timing of the coil command events are erratic and that is his misfire. The rest of the diagnostic is to find out why that is occurring.

    Enjoy
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    The last two posts so far have gotten no responses, and that made me think about these two sites. One is a lawyer's site who is a lemon law expert, the other is an ex-mechanic.

    http://jimroal.com/repair.html

    http://www.normantaylor.com/mechanics_flat_rate_pay_system.html

    Having made an entire career repairing cars when I look at what is said on those two sites I know that there is even more to the story than just what you see on them. Back when we had to fight through problems like that 92 Buick Park Avenue misfire, and we weren't paid diagnostic time, a tech like myself could spend several hours working to find out exactly what the problem was, only to then have the customer do what that guy did and say he was going to fix it himself. Even if I had gotten to repair it back then, the repair only paid for the replacement of the computer. The time spent cleaning and tightening the ground connections wouldn't have been paid for either.

    Today, not only isn't there proof that any of the labor times in the books have been created by a legitimate time study, many of the labor times are nothing less than fraud. Something that really needs to be done is a real time study for specific repairs and then get the manufacturers to explain why the times that they quote are wrong. You want consumers to have quality repairs? Help to expose and fix all of the problems that the trade faces and progress will be made towards that goal.

    On a recent repair that I did, a heater core in a Mazda B3000 (Ford Ranger) a warranty company was involved and they claimed that the labor guide quoted the whole repair at 7 hours. Meanwhile Mitchell showed 7.1 hours, and was very explicit that the time did not include the recovery, evacuation and recharge of the AC. When this was pointed out the warranty company representative tried to claim that the AC didn't need to be discharged to replace the heater core. Well, since he had Alldata I made him look up the procedure and then he saw that the evaporator core under the hood did need to be removed to access the bolts that held the plenum assembly to the firewall. He tried to go from one old flat rate cut the time trick to the next. In the end I wrote the entire exchange into the statements on the work order explaining to the customer why the bill was different than what the warranty company was going to pay. The customer accepted the fact that any help paying for the repair was still help.
  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,950
    edited March 2013
    I wonder if the situation described by the lawyer will be any different in the Tesla situation where the factory owns the dealership and hires the techs. As noted in the flow chart, the real reason for the mess is money, money, money.

    Here's my nomination for quote of the day:

    "It is amazing the time and effort Chrysler went through to make sure these vehicles could not be serviced." (link)
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,521
    It is amazing the time and effort Chrysler went through to make sure these vehicles could not be serviced."

    Having replaced a couple of those steering racks, they aren't any more difficult than most any other. My normal routine is to connect the steering shaft, then the lines, and then you bolt the assembly to the K-frame (sub-frame) or cradle. That is not how its described to do in a service manual. His problem is that he's probably has it bolted to the K-frame already so yea, he's struggling to attach the steering lines. I might be able to look up the labor times, in fact I'll try to do that in a little bit. Off hand I expect to find that the customer pay rate for that job will be about 2.5 hours, allegedly including adjusting the toe-in angle. (That's NOT an alignment) The warranty time for the exact same job is going to be about 1.5 hours. My average time for a steering rack, without the alignment is right about 1.5 hours.

    You can tell him what he needs to do to connect the steering lines, which is unbolt the rack and connect them first. Then see how reacts to the suggestion that the whole job should have taken less than two hours.
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