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A Mechanic's Life - Tales From Under the Hood

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  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,655
    It was a brilliant move for AutoZone to drive traffic to their stores with free code reading. The manufacturers just need to shortcut that process so we don't have to leave our own garages.


    There is perception, and then there is reality. Today AutoZone shows up and puts up a great big booth at the aftermarket trade shows and tries to talk to shop owners and techs about doing business with them. The top shops and techs walk right past them. We don't buy parts off of them because of their past (and in some cases still present) practices. Auto Zones in California got busted and paid significant fines for their claims of performing diagnostics and now no longer offer that in their stores in that state.

    Ford and the rest are supposed to have a fleet of service ready techs already - they are called dealer franchise employees.

    I've been here for more than a year now trying to make people aware of what is really going on. I'm really starting to believe that it's been a waste of my time.
  • imidazol97imidazol97 Crossroads of America: I70 & I75Posts: 18,548
    >freight up nice older cars and get them completely rehabbed off-shore from the frame up. Bring 'em back and resell them.

    So for a car under warranty with problems, one just selects a similar replacement from the stock of remanufactured cars at the local area dealers, turns in their bad lemon/egg, and drives away. Then their car goes to China, cheap repair work off-shored there, and the car comes back. I'd say buy stock in the shipping lines.
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,982
    edited November 2012
    In the future, just the "skateboard" chassis will get send back to the factory for rehab.

    Cardoc, I've seen stories about California shutting down AutoZone and the other parts stores and preventing them from pulling codes.

    Sounds like protectionism to me; the US dealer lobby is strong everywhere and this is likely another example of a way the car dealers and existing shops try to protect their sales by shutting down competition. Of course, being California, they have an agency to regulate the auto shops and "protect" consumers.

    At least ODBII readers are getting cheap enough so that Californians can pull their own codes and then head to AutoZone for a new O2 sensor.

    Moderator
    Minivan fan. Feel free to message or email me - stever@edmunds.com.

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,655
    I've seen stories about California shutting down AutoZone and the other parts stores and preventing them from pulling codes.

    Sounds like protectionism to me


    They were cited for seeling parts that the customer didn't need, and others that didn't repair the problem with the car. Essentially it was a version of the same kind of a sting operation that Edmunds was involved in with NBC last year only this was carried out by the California Bureau of Auto Repair.

    So if they were out to protect someone, it was the consumer, not auto techs and shops.
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,982
    Maybe Shifty can fill in the blanks, but my understanding is that no auto parts store in California can pull codes for customers.

    Moderator
    Minivan fan. Feel free to message or email me - stever@edmunds.com.

  • imidazol97imidazol97 Crossroads of America: I70 & I75Posts: 18,548
    >So if they were out to protect someone, it was the consumer, not auto techs and shops.

    I'll take the protectionism aspect as a large reason as well. Indeed, dealership lobbies are very strong here in Ohio as well. Even to the point of having a law that seems to add on $250 in fees to a sale as a documentation fee. But I read fairly well and I read the revised code and found it applied to paperwork for "time" transactions which means a fee for selling a loan to the buyer. It did not apply in full necessarily nor did it apply at all to cash sales to buyers. But the stores try to use the idea they have to charge one and all the same "documentation fee."

    I'll have to ask if the local Autozone pulls codes.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 34,354
    From what I have seen and heard about old scooters that are "restored" in the less developed world and then sent over by the dozen, I can't say I would want an old car that had been treated similarly. Penny wise and pound foolish at best.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,998
    "They were cited for selling parts that the customer didn't need, and others that didn't repair the problem with the car."

    Well THAT would put just about every dealership in America in jail.... :P

    I wish the government would hold themselves to THAT high standard...

    RE: AUTOZONE TESTING---in California, it's "in-store" testing only, not testing on the car. So i think you can bring your alternator in, but not the whole car.

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  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,655
    The attempts to claim that online advice or guesses can replace the experience of a properly trained technician have gone on for so long that many consumers now believe that there is merit to the attempt.

    A 2010 Fusion was towed to the shop yesterday. While it was still on the way there the owner showed up and announced that she knew exactly what was wrong with the car because it lurched, then the wrench light came on in the instrument cluster and then it wouldn't accelerate.

    Now if you want to look up the TSB related to the trouble code P2111 go right ahead and you will see the Fusion listed, with the 2.0l engine, plus you will see cut-off dates that before and after which the TSB doesn't apply. Her engine is the 2.5l, so the TSB doesn't apply. So why did her car shut down on her stall and wouldn't restart? There is a charging system issue and she was driving on the battery until the car simply lost power and quit. She had low system voltage codes stored in the IPC, ABS, PCM, FICM, FIDM, SRS, (which also lost comm with the OCS) and the GEM/SJB. She does not have any codes set for Genmon, and Gencom circuits.
    After charging the battery no problems were detected with the charging system, the alternator was charging at 14.3v, and could be commanded down to 12.6v, and then up to 14.6v.

    She drives the car about eight miles to and from work.

    There was a P2111 stored in the PCM's memory, it was not an active code.
    You have one shot to diagnose and fix the car, what are you going to do? (and I even spotted you codes from modules that you wouldn't have been able to retrieve with any tool other than the Ford IDS)

    http://www.arcamax.com/automotive/automotivenews/s-1237662

    Another tech found this article sunday. I already sent the author an e-mail with direct links to show him where to get up to date information.

    Substituting a 5W30 for a 5W20 can result in piston and cylinder wall scoring, micro-welding of the piston rings, deposits forming in the ring lands which leads to the rings sticking and excessive oil consumption. It causes variable valve timing system response errors which will in turn cause the PCM to shut that system down and generate a MIL resulting in a loss of fuel economy and/or power. Approved 5W20 products have a significantly lower volatility than non approved versions. Typically a bulk 5W30, will use high levels of ZDDPs, (which degrade O2 sensors and catalysts) while approved products have to use other additives that cost a little more but are actually more effective because they don't flash off and go out the tailpipe in the first 500 miles after the oil was changed. Pricing pressure and advertising helps make the company mentioned in the article get a larger market share but it's based on a lack of proper consumer education. Then in this case even a high school automotive instructor who wrote that article is a decade behind with his education on this subject.

    That's just about par for online advice in both of these examples. Given enough chances someone just might guess what was wrong with the Fusion, but this job isn't about guessing, it's about education and taking a disciplined approach to test the vehicle correctly, each and every time. When there is no trouble found initially, it often demands patience and some creative thinking in order to figure out how to test so that the source of the trouble can be found.

    A 2002 Lincoln was brought to the my shop by another shop. The Check Engine light is on. The customer reports that the car is "slow to start".

    What I observed. His slow to start means that it cranks, and cranks, and cranks and then might finally fire up. You can turn the key off and then re-crank the engine during the attempts to start the car, you can try manipulating the throttle with nothing appearing to actually help. (it's not even trying to fire) It simply just starts when it can finally start. How would you diagnose this one? Do you have a plan or do you just want to guess and throw parts at it? Oh, I should mention it's already had four attempts at google guesses and they all failed to fix this to the tune of $700 that he has already spent. The other shop found that out and decided they didn't even want involved and simply scheduled the car with me for tuesday morning. I had to move it from where it was parked and got to observe the described condition before we went home monday.

    FWIW, I'll have about fifteen seconds to try to completely diagnose the issue, that was how long it cranked before it started for me. That should easily be enough time.
  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    Substituting a 5W30 for a 5W20 can result in piston and cylinder wall scoring, micro-welding of the piston rings, deposits forming in the ring lands which leads to the rings sticking and excessive oil consumption. It causes variable valve timing system response errors which will in turn cause the PCM to shut that system down and generate a MIL resulting in a loss of fuel economy and/or power

    You're saying that using an oil with more VI improvers in it can cause all those things you mentioned - everything else in the oil being the same?
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,655
    You're saying that using an oil with more VI improvers in it can cause all those things you mentioned - everything else in the oil being the same?

    The confusion starts with the assumption that "everything else" about the two oils "is the same". Then it goes downhill from there at a rapid pace. The use of the word "approved" while I may not have written in every sentence is a very important part of this.
  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    edited November 2012
    You said "substituting a 5W-30 for a 5W-20 [oil]...". Most readers would assume that the only difference in those two oils is the VI numbers - that both are "approved".

    And I agree that the term "approved" is most important.
  • explorerx4explorerx4 Central CTPosts: 9,972
    edited November 2012
    Why would someone bring a 201 Fusion into your shop while it is still under factory warranty? and BTW, there's no such thing as a Fusion with a 2.0 until 2013.
    Regarding the Lincoln, you must be a real softy for Fords, otherwise I can't see anyone feeling as obligated as you to fix it, other than Henry himself. :)
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,982
    Maybe the runner from the Ford dealer drove it over when their service department couldn't get it working. :D

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    Minivan fan. Feel free to message or email me - stever@edmunds.com.

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,655
    The bulletin isn't clear which engines are in which cars, but it does include a 2.0 engine in the bulletin, and it does not include a 2.5.

    Why would someone bring a 201 Fusion into your shop while it is still under factory warranty

    It still has some warranty on some emissions components, but there are a lot of things that the warranty has expired on. The customer bought this car from Enterprise a little over a year ago. It's got 68K on it.

    Regarding the Lincoln, you must be a real softy for Fords, otherwise I can't see anyone feeling as obligated as you to fix it, other than Henry himself

    I own a few of them.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,655
    Maybe the runner from the Ford dealer drove it over when their service department couldn't get it working.

    Not this time, but it has happened a few times in the past, and not just with Fords.
  • explorerx4explorerx4 Central CTPosts: 9,972
    edited November 2012
    I kind of figured the Fusion was out of warranty.
    You didn't mention what model Lincoln it is.
    Conti, LS, Navi, Town Car?
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,655
    Continental.

    So I'm a little torn. Do I go ahead and and explain each of the diagnostics and the repairs right now or should I wait a little longer to see if the googlers want to try and make their guesses?

    By taking the time and testing correctly the repairs were both quite simple, although there was more than one thing wrong with each of them and you do have to get all of the faults found or the car or it "would come back" and to that customer "you don't know what your doing". They may even decide that your not capable of solving the problem and want their money back for what you did do.

    Tell you what, we can imagine that you actually did do some testing, whether you tried to rely on google or not. I'll wait a day and will answer up to three questions on each car. You'll have to ask the right questions but since there are several of you that could be a dozen or more questions from which I can choose from to answer. Now either google really works for diagnosing vehicle problems and you can do this or it doesn't.

    Steve if you want, I'll email the answers to you, just don't open then email untill after we play this out.

    If enough people try to work through these broken cars, I may even carry this further and answer a few more questions, provided they resemble testing and not guessing.
  • srs_49srs_49 Posts: 1,394
    OK, I'll bite.

    You said the 2002 Lincoln (this is the one that's hard starting, right?) had several parts replaced already to the tune of $700 before it was brought to your shop.

    Well, if it’s not trying to fire at all, my guess would be no spark or fuel. If you have both of those, then it should least try to do something. So I would first check to see if I have spark, then see if I’m getting fuel to the fuel rails (weak fuel pump?).
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,982
    edited November 2012
    Steve if you want, I'll email the answers to you

    No thanks, just tell me what all 6,000 sensors say.

    Oh, there's only 40 sensors in the car?

    Well, there's your problem right there.

    "Smarter machines, for example, can alert their human handlers when they will need maintenance, before a breakdown. It is the equivalent of preventive and personalized care for equipment, with less downtime and more output.

    “These technologies are really there now, in a way that is practical and economic,” said Mark M. Little, G.E.’s senior vice president for global research.

    Today, G.E. is putting sensors on everything, be it a gas turbine or a hospital bed."

    Looking to Industry for the Next Digital Disruption (NY Times)

    It won't be long until your safety glasses will be telling you that your attention is lagging and to go take a break. (Wall St Journal)

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  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,687
    I'm certainly interested in knowing what the issue was with the Lincoln and how you went about hunting it down. I've had a couple of vehicles with electrical gremlins that created hard or no start situations in the past. Neither were correctly diagnosed by multiple shops (nothing's more frustrating than spending money on having other people say, essentially, "I don't know"), though both were ultimately fixed. One was fixed as the result of another failure (or further failure of same part... I'll never know...), and the other was fixed by a flipper who had dealt with the same issue on many other of the same model vehicle.

    In both cases, the vehicles were not getting fuel as the result of a circuit called the "automatic shutdown." The problem was determining why that circuit was open when it should have been closed. And no, neither online searches, literature, nor certified mechanics could get it fully right (or agree). :sick:

    In the first case, a '96 Outback, the car's knock sensor failed eventually, with a code in the system also indicating intermittent faults on the cam sensor, so I replaced the knock, cam and crank sensors together (it had somewhere around 175K on it at that point). After that, no more no-starting issues for the rest of the car's life. The problem is that I'd had trouble with the no-starts since I bought it at 83K! :sick:

    In the second case, a '98 Dodge Grand Caravan, the issue was a ground fault. The problem for me was that it was momentary, so I never found anything to be out of spec with the limited testing equipment I have, yet it was enough to set open the ASD relay when the car was turned on once in a while.
    2010 Subaru Forester, 2011 Ford Fiesta, 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup, 1974 Ford Pinto Wagon
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,655
    Well, if it’s not trying to fire at all, my guess would be no spark or fuel.

    Excellent, and you would be correct.


    If you have both of those, then it should least try to do something.


    Most of the time, and that of course is one of the keys that require techs to not only have the high tech tools, but that learned seat of the pants feel when it comes to doing diagnostics. That's why it takes decades to learn to be good at it.

    So I would first check to see if I have spark, then see if I’m getting fuel to the fuel rails (weak fuel pump?).

    "Hint....The car starts sometime after the fuel pressure rises".
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,655
    edited November 2012
    Neither were correctly diagnosed by multiple shops (nothing's more frustrating than spending money on having other people say, essentially, "I don't know"),

    I can think of something far more frustrating. Imagine spending a lot of time to correctly and succesfully analyze either of those issues, and not get paid for it. It happened to me so often in the past that the only solution was to quit working for other people who didn't understand nor respect what it genuinely takes to diagnose some problems. In a way, I'm taking that very same problem to task with this part of this thread.

    though both were ultimately fixed. One was fixed as the result of another failure (or further failure of same part... I'll never know...), and the other was fixed by a flipper who had dealt with the same issue on many other of the same model vehicle

    What's a flipper?

    Today it's common to have to troubleshoot issues that we have never seen before and may never see a second time in our careers. That's one of the biggest failures with the idea of google diagnostics. Sure there are pattern failures, but relying on them is a trap that inexperienced techs often fall into. Just because there is a known issue or TSB for a given symptom you're doomed to fail eventually if you don't know how to test and prove that the failure is related to the one described in a given TSB.

    In both cases, the vehicles were not getting fuel as the result of a circuit called the "automatic shutdown."

    When I am teaching diagnostics I stress that it is important to understand a circuits operation in order to effectively troubleshoot a problem. When it comes to intermittent failures, you have to pre-plan a lot of your testing.
    The ASD or "Auto Shutdown Relay" is Chryslers way of shutting down the fuel pump and a few other systems when the engine isn't running. It's convenient for them to interrupt not only the fuel pump but a number of opther circuits to reduce the load on the battery when the engine isn't running. Needless to say if you lose the command for the ASD, or the output from it the engine is going to stall because you just lost your fuel pump power, power to the ignition system and the injectors to name a few. The PCM only needs to see the crankshaft position sensor signal to command the ASD on. The PCM at key on will turn the ASD on to run the fuel pump for two seconds as well as perform a circuit check on the igniton coil circuits and the injectors etc.

    Armed with that information testing needs to be done to prove if the reason you are losing the ASD output is because the PCM stops providing the ground control for it, or if the command circuit fails open. Plus testing needs to be done to prove if the supply power to the controlled side is lost when the circuit fails.

    There is a little more to it, but this is the short version for how it would be approached. Then it's a waiting game to get it to act up. Each time it is then driven I would also be monitoring a scan tool so that I could watch and see if the PCM is recieving the crank sensor signal, as well as see if the PCM is commanding the ASD to be on or not.

    In the first case, a '96 Outback, the car's knock sensor failed eventually, with a code in the system also indicating intermittent faults on the cam sensor, so I replaced the knock, cam and crank sensors together (it had somewhere around 175K on it at that point). After that, no more no-starting issues for the rest of the car's life. The problem is that I'd had trouble with the no-starts since I bought it at 83K!

    While the base strategy is similar, Subaru uses a PCM relay and a circuit opening relay (fuel pump). The knock sensor failure would easily be a known failure that could be googled, or diagnosed with following the regular trouble tree in service information. It had nothing to do with the engine stalling. From there you simply "got lucky with the crank/cam sensor replacements. A DSO (digital storage oscilloscope) would have been a valuable asset towards proving what the failure was.

    The problem with getting lucky is that you don't have any proof that you made a difference other than it simply hasn't acted up yet. If the car quits for any reason after that even if you did in fact fix it, as far as the customer is concerned it's still doing the same thing, you didn't know what you were doing and you failed to "fix" it.

    In the second case, a '98 Dodge Grand Caravan, the issue was a ground fault. The problem for me was that it was momentary, so I never found anything to be out of spec with the limited testing equipment I have, yet it was enough to set open the ASD relay when the car was turned on once in a while.

    By planning and presetting your test points and having the right equipment at your disposal this would be a very easy diagnosis, the first time that you experience one of these or the tenth time.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,687
    edited November 2012
    That's a heck of a response, Doc!

    Let me see if I can hit the pertinent areas for mine.

    Okay, so first, "flipper." That's someone who buys a car cheap, fixes it, and sells it for profit.

    I stress that it is important to understand a circuits operation in order to effectively troubleshoot a problem.
    And, therein was (and is) the root of my limitations when hunting down electrical gremlins. Without a circuit schematic and the training to understand it, one cannot possibly test thoroughly. Mine are pretty simple: This should be getting power, with this voltage, or that resistance across these points... is it? Yes. Okay. No, okay... what does that mean... ?

    I can entirely understand your frustration of not getting paid for diagnosing something correctly. personally, I would have much rather taken that $350-400 I spent on nothing when my Outback first started acting up and put that toward a higher-in-the-end bill that resulted in a fully working car than having spent that money in vain.

    With the Subaru, the problem I was fixing was more immediate: The car was running like crap due to no feedback (or bad feedback?) from the knock sensor. So, replacing the sensors was to get it to run well again. The no-start situation wasn't even on my mind, as I had learned to live with that long before. It wasn't until a month or two later, when I had yet to be stranded by the car while running errands, that I even started thinking, "wow, could it be that the August repair fixed this problem, too?!" I had the car to 220,000 miles (another 2+ years after that), and not once did I have a no-start after that. Before that, it would act up at least weekly, more often daily (or even more frequent).

    With the van, I was dealing with multiple issues but didn't know it initially. The first problem was a fuel pump. I pinpointed that and replaced it, then the van was perfect again. The problem is, it stranded my wife (and our children) in a very awkward place, and she is not quick to forgive such things. So, after I fixed the fuel pump, she reluctantly took ownership of the van again (willing to give it a second chance). Then, two weeks later, this no-start thing begins. She says, "that's it, I'm done. I want a new car." *sigh*

    She got her new car, which meant I then had no use for the van. I half-heartedly attempted to sort out the problem, but finally decided it wasn't worth my time and sold it to the flipper for a grand, who fixed the ground fault and sold it for $2,200 the next weekend. We both made out fine on that one, and I still see it tooling around town 2.5 years later! That's pretty good, considering it had 214,000 miles on it when I sold it.

    ----

    I'd love to send my son to your shop for an apprenticeship just to watch you work. I bet he'd find the whole process fascinating.
    2010 Subaru Forester, 2011 Ford Fiesta, 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup, 1974 Ford Pinto Wagon
  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 41,982
    Doc needs to hook up a live cam in his shop with a good mic so we can tune in anytime during working hours and admire his handiwork.

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  • explorerx4explorerx4 Central CTPosts: 9,972
    At first I was thinking leaky fuel injectors, but you didn't mention an expensive fix, so that's out.
    How about a clogged fuel filter?
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,655
    Honest, hard work doesn't make a good reality show. On the other hand, train wrecks do. You won't find what we do as being able to garner much interest.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,655
    At first I was thinking leaky fuel injectors, but you didn't mention an expensive fix, so that's out.

    With the fuel pressure dropping after the pump turns off, that would be possible, but its easy to prove/disprove. The engine would be flooded (too rich) and holding your foot to the floor would interrupt injection command and that would allow the fuel mixture to lean out until the engine manages to start. It would be labored and missfiring at first and then clear up with a few throttle snaps. This car is not doing that.

    How about a clogged fuel filter?

    A clogged fuel filter is detectable by first watching fuel trims under heavy throttle load until you get such a throttle load that the computer commands an open loop acceleration, and then you simply need to watch the O2 sensors. If the O2 sensor voltages stay high, you're getting enough fuel. A clogged filter will cause a starvation for fuel when the engine is demanding the greatest amount of fuel per second. It is common to see fuel trims having to add a lot of fuel in both the long and short term corrections when the engine is under a load. When the engine is not under a load and fuel demand is light, the fuel trims don't need to correct as much. Watching that change in the trims makes the diagnosis easy.

    This is neither a clogged filter nor leaking injectors. Leaking injectors would cause fuel trims to need to subtract fuel at low load conditon such as at idle in park/neutral, and the fuel trims would be closer to normal the higher the engine load becomes.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 1,655
    I'd love to send my son to your shop for an apprenticeship just to watch you work. I bet he'd find the whole process fascinating.

    Thanks. When I step in front of a group of techs as an instructor, I try to "bring them into the shop" to learn the routines that help me get through the day. Trying to watch me work though wouldn't be as interesting. To try and show what I am doing, while I work, leaves me splitting my concentration and has proven at times to be a very significant challenge. When I write a class I normally am collecting scope and scan data on one of my laptops, then I have to go back and take the photographs as a re-enactment of the process after the diagnosis has been completed.

    The lady with the Durango that I diagnosed is supposed to pay for the diagnostics and tow the truck out. She doesn't have the 2K that it would take to repair it. That being said, where is she coming up with the 30K to replace it?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 8,687
    She doesn't have the 2K that it would take to repair it. That being said, where is she coming up with the 30K to replace it?

    That doesn't seem to be an uncommon mindset, unfortunately. It's no big deal to go out and get a loan to buy a car, but $2,000 out of pocket? No can do.

    Twice in the past I have "loaned" family members funds for an emergency auto repair, complete with generous repayment schedules, etc., and neither time did I ever see a penny from it. While I haven't held it against either of them, neither have they asked me for anything since then. At $1,200 each, maybe I won on those deals after all? :shades:
    2010 Subaru Forester, 2011 Ford Fiesta, 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup, 1974 Ford Pinto Wagon
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