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A Mechanic's Life - Tales From Under the Hood

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  • henrynhenryn Houston, TXPosts: 2,575

    Every time I see him I'm reminded that a village is missing its idiot.

    I think that's like the second thing we have ever agreed on.

    +1

    2x to 4x what they paid for it? In their dreams, maybe.
    2018 Ford F150 XLT Crew Cab, 2016 Chrysler Town & Country Touring
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 5,092
    Michaell said:

    @thecardoc3 - I read that article from Buffalo.

    My question is this - won't the natural laws of supply and demand come into play, eventually?

    There are dynamics in play that muddy the waters. The first of which is how long it takes to truly master the work. First there is no finish line, if someone has been a tech for thirty years and stops trying to learn, they immediately start falling behind. This is one of the problems with the idea of becoming a technician because it will lead someone into other careers. The career has to start rewarding someone for doing it for their entire career or ultimately nothing will change.
    Michaell said:


    It's not like the need for auto technicians will simply go away. We are still selling in excess of 13 million new cars, every year, and 99% of them are ICE. Service and maintenance will still be necessary.

    The trade is suffering greatly from stratification. There is simple work that can be learned in two years or less and then numerous different levels. Meanwhile there is always the incentives to jump out and do something else where the grass is truly greener.
    Michaell said:


    If there aren't enough applicants for the jobs available, I would expect wages to go up. Granted, that doesn't help when folks aren't taking the necessary training to fill those jobs to begin with, but there seems to be a bit of a renaissance in trade labor - electricians, plumbers, etc. The kind of jobs that can't be outsourced, and the kind of jobs that, in the long run, pay pretty well.

    Just one outsiders perspective, right or wrong.

    Not wrong it's just the upside down nature of the career. A tech will hit a point where he/she is doing lots of maintanence and general services that can be knocked out in a fraction of the time that they pay and make some pretty good money. Then they start getting saddled with doing more and more complex tasks and suddenly all of the money disappears because they are doing harder work. A few of the quotes from some of my recent posts do a good job of representing that issue. Working through the kinds of problems that can occur today is more like working in a research laboratory than it is a quick lube. It often takes time to the point that it can look from the outside that no progress is being made at all. You see the stories, "They had my car for XXXX or it's going back for the Nth time." Few are willing to, if they even know how to compensate a tech for that kind of time investment and that is usually the last straw and we lose a lot of talented people.

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 5,092
    A Facebook video you should watch. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1430705700298843
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioPosts: 817
    edited July 3
    My car is (still!) a 2000 Celica. The mechanic I traded the dealer for fixed most things bang on but the A/C has had several repairs. Even so from years 10-19 the A/C has never worked more than 9 months. On a recommendation I just went to a mechanic that specializes in A/C. He replaced a line that has a (freaking) site glass on it and a valve, another $400 part. Using a Freon-era HC detector he found a vapor leak at the site glass. There has been dye in the system, he mentioned that no dye is detected in the leak area (why doesn't vapor pull at least some dye?) Also, he has wanted to get a newer detector, designed for the current refrigerants but "they don't work." (I can see some of the challenges others have had with this car.) I asked him if this may have been bad for ten years, "probably, it is one of 3 things that always goes on these cars."

    At the same time it has heated up outside a problem developed. When the car is first started there is a hesitation. If it is cool it is almost not noticeable. If the car sat in the sun and it is scorching out, I press the gas and NOTHING HAPPENS. The idle might dive a little bit. I have to play with the gas over 15+ seconds. When it finally starts revving the problem slowly disappears. Revs x time seems to be the fix (like the intake wanted to cool from air type of feel.) This mechanic took snapshot data, fixed the AC and gave the car back to me, and told me he needed to analyze the data and think about it. (Better than blindly swapping parts methinks.) He is perplexed. I found similar posts online for when this gen was brand new and *according to those darned Internet posts* dealers replaced the MAF sensor and the problem went away. One owner put the prior sensor in and POOF the problem returned. This mechanic said the MAF is not doing anything because it is not getting any air yet, so that would be a red herring. Being a motorcyclist and seeing screwball things happen with a bad battery I was wondering if it is not getting enough power at the initial idle or if the battery is an issue. After driving home the voltage was 12.8 and I put it on a Battery Tender. Very quickly the indicator showed that the battery was over 80% charged. The battery is a year old so that was what I expected.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 5,092
    The new leak detectors have to conform to this SAE standard to be approved. https://www.sae.org/standards/content/j2791_200701/
    Here is an example. They have to detect a .15ounce (4grams) a year leak at 3/8" but not alert at a .07 (2 grams) ounce a year.

    https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2016/05/11/1353629/0/en/J2791-J2913-Certified-Refrigerant-Leak-Detector.html
    Most of the quality tools are going to run in the $400-$500 range.

    The dye moves with the refrigerant oil, the oil has to leak for the dye to show up.

    The MAF sensor is a primary input to calculate the base injector pulse width under all conditions. A MAF that is incorrectly reporting the airflow will result in the wrong amount of fuel (too rich or too lean) being delivered. The only difference between the cold start and the engine after it has run long enough is closed loop operation where input from the O2 sensors get's added to the calculation, but at 15seconds on a car that old you really wouldn't be in closed loop yet. If there is an issue with the MAF reporting the airflow the first thing to look at is the engine load calculation, you should be able to hit 100% engine load at wide open throttle under any engine speed. If you cannot reach that level the next thing to look at is the combined long term and short term fuel trims. If they are adding fuel then the MAF is under reporting the airflow. If they are taking fuel away then the system is getting too much fuel.

    A system power issue will have a far greater impact of fuel pump operation,. injector on-time, and ignition system output than nit would on a MAF. In fact the PCM would modify the injection pulse to compensate for low power if that was in play, so that aspect can be ruled out.

    For a tech to address your starting issue he/she has to set all of the testing in advance and then let the car sit long enough to get the problem to occur. That means use an oscilloscope to monitor injector pulse and ignition commands, crankshaft position sensor (or distributor reference) signal to the PCM, fuel pressure, and using the scan tool any other data as seen by the PCM. Then adjust the testing based on what was discovered during that first fifteen second window and wait for the next event if necessary.

    A MAF is likely to cause this issue and a lot of people do just throw the part at the failure. The irony of that being successful is found in the fact that the discipline, knowledge and experience needed to figure the problem out the first time, every time, doesn't get studied and practiced and is therefore lost to all but a handful of people.
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioPosts: 817
    Does the car run safely with the MAF sensor disconnected? Would that be a valid troubleshooting step for me? Also, good or bad, I cleaned the MAF with isopropyl and performance did not change at all.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 5,092
    Some cars will run better if the MAF is faulty by disconnecting it, others may not run at all. One of the tests that we used to do back then before we did VE (Volumetric Efficiency) calculations or used the calculated engine load data pid was to scope the sensor signal. What you would typically see on a snap throttle is a sudden inrush of air taking the signal just over the 3v range. Then it would drop as the intake filled with air at atmospheric pressure with no where to go until the rpm's come up. With a really sensitive sensor, we would often see individual cylinder pulls as the signal then rose above 4v. A bad sensor, one that is under reporting might only hit 2v on the initial throttle opening and barely make 3v after the engine finally sped up. There could be as much as a two second lag before reaching 4000rpm with some bad sensors and a little trick to help prove that the MAF was the problem was to give it a shot of propane during the throttle snap to see if that assisted the engine to speed up and caused the O2 sensors to spike high.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=MAF+signal+throttle+snap&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=lvzIWv7VRRbkZM%3A%2Ckvoi88fyeBoO4M%2C_&vet=1&usg=AI4_-kRNOtZ7A1MevJOxLg888og8fMMKAw&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiaz76h853jAhVTZM0KHe_HBvsQ9QEwEXoECAkQBA&biw=1366&bih=619#imgrc=lvzIWv7VRRbkZM:
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioPosts: 817
    edited July 6
    Apparently I do not learn well. I bought a MAF. It made no immediate effect. Now I think I know what the problem is: A clogged cat. There is a rattle underneath the car. It can't breath until it gets going. The power has been slowly diminishing but I did not think about it until now. There are no codes set yet. Would the mechanic's snapshot data be able to verify this?

    The cat is 19 years old. I have been reading on how they fail. I did a cross country trip and the mechanic on the other end neglected to fasten the engine cover after an oil change. It ground off on the road, leaving the underneath exposed. I road through icy conditions which would have splashed freezing water on the hot converter. That was five months ago. I wonder if that finished off the aged cat.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 5,092
    Take the information above about driving the car and capturing the engine load data along with the fuel trims. If the engine is struggling to breathe, you will see low calculated engine loads just like the bad MAF sensor but the fuel trims will be making very low compensations. That occurs because the air that is flowing is being measured accurately by the MAF sensor so the base injection pulse-width calculation is accurate. Since the initial measurement of airflow is correct fuel trims don't have to make up for an error.
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 5,092
    The tools techs need to have to be efficient at their jobs never stops changing. Here is the latest addition to the collection.
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioPosts: 817
    edited July 16
    After analysis the mechanic suspects a slipped timing chain. [Update: I picked up the car and he said also it could be the variable valve timing mechanism.] He does have to formulate a plan and dive in to inspect the internals. A chain replacement involves concentration and he is packed and dealing with the customers (he said "giving bad news about repair costs") so he will not do it now with such distractions. Perhaps he will take it on appointment in a week. He estimates the job will be around $1,000. Engine has 110,000 miles at 19 years old.

    I told him that from day one this engine went down on power when the weather got hot. He suspects the timing could have been off from day one but is exhibiting worse symptoms due to chain stretch.

    I understand that Yamaha build the top end of this engine. I am not happy! I drove this car in a reasonable manner and did not abuse it.

    I have to decide between continue to drive it as is, get it fixed, or get rid of it. The frequency of repairs is the biggest problem, as my wife is busy but has to provide me a ride.
  • andres3andres3 Southern CAPosts: 10,970
    edited July 16
    A guy with an old 125,000 mile Audi says his bad mechanic promised he'd get "4 or 5 more good years" out of his car if he let him fix all the CEL codes lighting up. He ended up getting 4 weeks before the engine seized after paying the bum $3,200 in what can only be described as ill-advised repairs at this point.

    Granted, he should have got "4 or 5 more good years" in writing, with a warranty of some kind, but still, I can understand his frustration.

    That mechanic should learn not to say such things if he doesn't want pissed off customers.
    '16 Audi TTS quattro 2.0T, '15 Audi A4 quattro 2.0T, '19 VW Tiguan SEL 4-Motion AWD
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 5,092
    andres3 said:


    A guy with an old 125,000 mile Audi says his bad mechanic promised he'd get "4 or 5 more good years" out of his car if he let him fix all the CEL codes lighting up. He ended up getting 4 weeks before the engine seized after paying the bum $3,200 in what can only be described as ill-advised repairs at this point.

    How many times have I preached against guesses? That's all that prediction was is a guess and what we don't know right now is how was that really arrived at in the conversation did the mechanic really specifically say the engine would last that long or was he referring to the car in general and now that is just being inferred?
    andres3 said:


    Granted, he should have got "4 or 5 more good years" in writing, with a warranty of some kind, but still, I can understand his frustration.

    That mechanic should learn not to say such things if he doesn't want pissed off customers.

    What exactly was done to the tune of $3200? Was some of it internal engine?

    I do agree that promises like that shouldn't be made but do you know how some vehicle owners react when they are not? That is often treated as being wrong too. But I do have to laugh at the idea because usually when we think a car is really on its last legs there are times we still see it limping around several years later and then the opposite can often be true. There may be no signs of trouble obvious today and tomorrow it just dies. That's just cars doing what they do, break when ever they darn well want to.

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 5,092
    edited July 17
    guitarzan said:

    My car is (still!) a 2000 Celica.

    After analysis the mechanic suspects a slipped timing chain. [Update: I picked up the car and he said also it could be the variable valve timing mechanism.



    Is it setting either a P1346 or P1349? My first expectation was that this would have a "target" VVT system, but after checking it should be capable of coding if the camshaft timing isn't in sync with the crankshaft or cannot be commanded to the desired position.
    guitarzan said:


    He does have to formulate a plan and dive in to inspect the internals. A chain replacement involves concentration and he is packed and dealing with the customers (he said "giving bad news about repair costs") so he will not do it now with such distractions. Perhaps he will take it on appointment in a week. He estimates the job will be around $1,000. Engine has 110,000 miles at 19 years old.



    We have Andres' scenario here, you really cannot guess if this will survive the proceedure or not. Whether or not it is worth trying to do is completely subjective. You can't replace it for what it would cost to fix it, but whether it really lasts or not there is just no way to know.
    guitarzan said:


    I told him that from day one this engine went down on power when the weather got hot. He suspects the timing could have been off from day one but is exhibiting worse symptoms due to chain stretch.



    Plausible, but not known for sure.
    guitarzan said:


    I understand that Yamaha build the top end of this engine. I am not happy! I drove this car in a reasonable manner and did not abuse it.

    I have to decide between continue to drive it as is, get it fixed, or get rid of it. The frequency of repairs is the biggest problem, as my wife is busy but has to provide me a ride.



    A 2000 model car the life expectancy is 12 to 15 years under all but the best care, at 19 years it's really not all that bad. A timing chain on one of these is about a 3 in difficulty on a 1 to 10 scale, so that's not a big deal. Pricing it out $1000 would be plenty to include the intake cam VVT actuator and the solenoid if required.

  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioPosts: 817
    edited July 17
    Thanks Doc.

    No codes are set! The tech/owner made a comment that the newer cars would report something, but this one is not reporting anything.

    Could it be just the VVT actuator? I'm guessing that would be a great find...?

    I think I will fix it, keep it as a backup, and on the wish list is a Subaru (Outback or Forester) which my one mechanic seems to love the most today. In Dave Ramsey fashion I have avoided such a transaction for as long as possible. Not good to have cash tied up in a car, BAH!

    I can say that I have given vendors all the work / boat payments they could possibly want. The TCO for all these years has still been far lower than a new car! Huzzah for the techs!
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioPosts: 817
    edited July 21

    guitarzan said:

    I have a guitar amplifier from about 1950, a simple circuit, that I need repaired.

    If you can get it to me it should be easy.

    Doc thanks! Update: We moved this year and I pulled the amp out of the box thinking I would ship it to you. I did some due diligence and played with the controls and inspected the underside of the circuit. Boy when you're right, you're right, and the issues are in fact easy.

    1) The loud humming sound goes completely away when I turn the tone knob below 7 or 8. YES! Bad pot, but still usable.
    2) I inspected underneath the circuit. The guitar connections are merely open dipoles, and input #2, the spring-loaded pole that presses on the guitar chord's 1/4" jack was bent from movement and being mounted too close to the base. I bent it back.
    3) The speaker, oh the speaker. Parts of the cone are actually flapping in the wind, dry-rotted. Now don't get me wrong, "You Really Got Me" sounds just like the amp that Dave Davies used where he cut his cone up with a razer blade LOL. But most other music is a problem.

    So I was originally going to repair it but with a speaker change it seems a bit counter-productive to make changes that will change the original sound and hardware. So I guess I will accept this as a collector's item, just play the Kinks on it when friends are over, and appreciate what I get from fans of old stuff like my guitar buddy who spotted it and exclaimed how supremely cool it is.
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioPosts: 817

    But I do have to laugh at the idea because usually when we think a car is really on its last legs there are times we still see it limping around several years later and then the opposite can often be true. There may be no signs of trouble obvious today and tomorrow it just dies. That's just cars doing what they do, break when ever they darn well want to.

    Update: Purchased a new vehicle. The wife did not consider the Celica safe anymore based on the repairs (I was okay with it.) We defied all of the Dave Ramsey advice and bought a new Outback. Now we have to decide on the potential $1000 VVT-L repair to the Celica. The wife says dump the car, the insurance, all of it. She is usually right...
  • guitarzanguitarzan OhioPosts: 817
    I put a sales ad up for the Celica. Just as the ad went live, I came home to discover...a gasoline leak! It was dripping from the tank. I contacted all of the local junkyards. One of the oldest local businesses replied that they are only taking newer vehicles. LOL. Imagine that. A junkyard will not take my car. So they referred me to the next business down the line who promptly came to get the car and hand my wife a $200 check.

    And thus ends the 19 year history. Wow, that was a long time. I was downsized a week after buying that car. It was well worth it to keep it so long. It did prepare us well financially, despite the yearly repairs!

    I apologize that we will never know the extend of the engine problem!
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 13,092
    It's off your hands and the company got a heck of a deal on it. Win-win!
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 13,092
    Amazing stuff. You pay people to add value and be competent, increase their expectations and satisfaction, and they stay longer with better results.

    Is this some sort of witchcraft?!

    I do find it interesting how the owner admits that flat rate acts as "an invisible manager." At the same time, he also recognizes that "fast" is not "better."
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 5,092
    edited August 20
    New hires, and they need about five years to get through an apprenticeship, in a trade that doesn't actually have one and then it's another fifteen years for an intelligent hard working individual to master.

    https://www.autonews.com/best-practices/amid-technician-shortage-group-hiring-now

    A shortage of service technicians is among the top concerns at dealerships across the country, and one is taking a unique approach to solve the problem.
    Warren Henry Auto Group, headquartered in Miami, last month began holding job fairs promising to hire qualified technicians on the spot.
    Instead of following the usual protocol that would take weeks to pick someone for a sorely needed job, the company brought its dealer principal, service director and human resources staff to the fair at Florida International University. It essentially amounted to a professional game of speed dating among dozens of candidates.
    By the end of the day, the company had made verbal offers to five candidates, most of whom will start this week.
    "We're trying everything," Barbara Exposito, Warren Henry's human resources director, told Automotive News. "We have to make decisions pretty quickly, especially because of the need in the business."

    ‘Dangerous shortage'
    According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, the industry is facing a shortage of 76,000 technicians each year through 2026. In addition, 30,000 per year will be retiring.
    NADA Chairman Charlie Gilchrist addressed the issue at his inaugural address in January, saying the "dangerous shortage" threatens dealer profitability. The NADA Foundation launched a work force initiative this year to connect prospective technicians with open jobs.
    "This is not an issue we can afford to kick down the road," Gilchrist said.
    Exposito said the Warren Henry group, which operates 13 franchises at six locations in Florida, thought a hire-on-the-spot event would stand out and draw attention to its needs. Many dealerships have offered on-the-spot gimmicks for trade-ins or buyback programs.
    "We felt confident our service director would be able to meet with all of the candidates," she said. "It worked out well."
    READY TO GO

    Warren Henry Auto Group is holding job fairs for service technicians where it makes on-the-spot offers in respone to a shortage of qualified candidates.
    New HQ
    Aside from the industrywide tech shortage, the Warren Henry group has another incentive to hire as quickly as possible: It's set to open an 800,000-square-foot headquarters in North Miami this fall.
    The site, which will feature 82 service bays in a climate-controlled shop, will allow the company to double in size and hire 150 to 200 workers, about 40 of which will be service technicians.
    As part of the interview process, prospective employees got to tour the construction site. The seven-story building will sell Jaguar, Land Rover, Infiniti and Koenigsegg vehicles out of a glass-paneled showroom. Officials say it will include the nation's largest electric vehicle charging facility.
    It also will have a cafe, rooftop event space, gym for employees and other amenities.
    The Warren Henry group, which has had stores on Automotive News' list of the Best Dealerships To Work For in each of the past five years, sold more than 4,300 new and used vehicles last year.
    The company plans to host another hire-on-the-spot job fair at the end of August, Exposito said. The group also is attempting to recruit techs at colleges and universities.
    It offers relocation assistance and housing opportunities for out-of-state workers. It's also attempting to raise the profile of its service technicians, occasionally allowing individual workers to "take over" its social media channels for a day.
    "We like to think of recruiting as more of a guerrilla marketing approach," Exposito said. "If everyone's talking about what we're doing, there's more buzz around it."

  • thecardoc3thecardoc3 Posts: 5,092
    I should probably give this its own thread. If you like to read, enjoy it. If you want to jump to one of the main highlights, concentrate on pages 40-42. https://www.consumerwatchdog.org/sites/default/files/2019-07/KILL SWITCH 7-29-19.pdf
  • roadburnerroadburner Posts: 12,253
    It's already happened...

    Mine: 1995 318ti Club Sport; 2014 M235i; 2009 Cooper Clubman; 1999 Wrangler; 1996 Speed Triple Challenge Cup Replica Wife's: 2015 X1 xDrive28i Son's: 2009 328i

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