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  • Stay in The Aftermarket Whether You Turn a Wrench or Not
    Opportunities abound in the automotive aftermarket. All you have to do is stand back, take a wide view of the situation, analyze what your true drive and desire is, and then put together a plan of action.
  • Stuck (Down) Brake Pedal
    Over the years, various vehicles have had sticky brake pedals. When they are applied, they sometimes don’t return or there is difficulty in even applying them. A variety of causes can be the root of this problem. This issue of Photo Tech will discuss one General Motors-related vehicle that has actually had a recall on it to fix his problem.
  • R&R Tech: Shaking Loose
    One of our retail locations had a 2015 Ram Promaster show up on the back of a tow truck a few weeks ago, and this truck is a service vehicle for a local grocery store. The driver said he was traveling at about 40MPH when he felt like he ran over a boulder in the road, heard loud noises, and the truck stopped moving. This is the first time that I have seen this happen; the transmission was hanging down so far it was almost on the ground. What the heck happened?
  • R & R Tech: Spiking Speedometer

    A customer showed up at our shop with a 2008 Chevrolet Impala SS that was equipped with the 5.3 LS engine and a 4T65E transmission. The customer had a complaint of an erratic speedometer while driving. I began by collecting all the vehicle information for a check out sheet, such as VIN, mileage, engine and transmission type. After filling out the vehicle information section I set about to begin my diagnosis.

  • Face-to-Face Training Versus Online Training

    It is obvious what face-to-face training is, but let’s take a moment to define online training. Online training is any type of training, information-obtaining or other means that is done by going on a computer. This means that a DVD or CD could actually fall into this category as well, but more than likely you’re going to come across two major areas of training.

  • Common Torque Wrench Problems - and how to avoid them

    I’ve worked for Team Torque Inc. for the past 15 years, and in that time, I’ve performed thousands of repairs and calibrations on countless makes and models of torque tools. I’ve seen 10-year old wrenches from aerospace companies that looked brand new, and wrenches that gleam in the sun without a scratch on them. I’ve probably even calibrated some of your torque wrenches, as well. On the other hand, I’ve seen wrenches that have been through fires, been through the Katrina hurricane and subsequent flood, wrenches that have been driven over by front end loaders, and I’ve even seen a tool that had been filled with epoxy from a disgruntled former employee. These tools can live a rough life.

  • Reman U: Fish Stink From The Head
    ETE REMAN’s founder, Sam Loshak, is known for his many insightful and pithy statements. We’ve regularly referred to his statements as “Sam-isms.”
    One of Sam’s most frequent reminders to ETE’s leadership is “fish stink from the head.” What Sam means is that the worst smelling part of a dead fish is its head. But what Sam really means is that most problems within a company can be traced back to its leadership. Since you’re reading this, odds are that you’re a leader within your company. Odds are, I’m talking about (and to) YOU.
  • The DANGER in Charging Forward - Changing Battery Types in Today’s Vehicles

    It wasn’t long ago that we raised the hood on a vehicle and there was only a standard “wet” sealed lead acid battery. Today, many batteries are located in the trunk or under the seats to save space in the engine compartment. Additionally, a more reliable battery was necessary to handle the increased duty-cycle of the vehicle’s electrical system, due to integration of more and more accessories into vehicles. Now, there are more than 2,200 makes and models that come standard with a newer, different battery type.

  • Photo Tech - Determining the Method of Alignments – Part 2

    The family of vehicles that includes the Dodge Charger, the Dodge Challenger and the Chrysler 300 for the model years 2011 to 2017 requires some alignment procedures that are a little outside the norm of the commonplace work of a regular alignment.

  • Muffler & Pipe Advice: Raising Cain
    Raising Cain. Are you surprised that Muffler and Pipe columnist Ed Hanson might have a customer or technician behaving in a rowdy or disruptive way? Ed’s offer to act as a mentor gives him a few surprises.
  • Photo Tech: Determining The True Need For An Alignment – Part 1
    When they get a job ticket in that says, “wheel alignment” many shops simply run the vehicle on the rack, hook up the heads, take some quick readings and make a determination of what “must” be done to eliminate handling or tire-wear issues.
  • R & R Tech: Transmission With a Mind of its Own
    A customer had brought in her 2010 Ford Escape equipped with a 3.0L engine and the 6F35 transaxle. The customers concern with the vehicle was that the transmission slipped intermittently. We started our evaluation with a quick visual inspection of the vehicle and checking fluids, all of which checked out good. Then I scanned the car with the scan tool; all of our locations have Snap-On Zeus workstations and I had two codes: a P0297, “Vehicle Over Speed Condition,” and a P1500, “Vehicle Speed Sensor.” No codes in any other modules. The next step was to go for a test drive and see if I could duplicate the complaint.
  • Servicing Systems in Pairs– Wipers, Lights, Brakes
    In Technically Speaking®, Ron Henningsen discusses why it’s sometimes best to replace or service some items in pairs. Wipers and brakes are almost always replaced in pairs. What about lighting and suspension system components? What makes the best repair? What’s best for your shop? What’s best for your customer? Are there any industry standards or regulatory concerns?
  • Photo Tech - Fee-Based Used-Vehicle Inspection, Part2
    This second part of the used-vehicle inspection has a definite brake theme, coinciding with the brake emphasis in this issue. As shown in last month’s edition and in this month’s as well, there are many items on a used-vehicle inspection that are being paid for that would not normally be done in a no-charge inspection.
  • Muffler & Pipe Advice
    I want to share with my friends how I defined SUCCESS in my muffler shop.
  • Reman U: Not all Customers are Good Customers
    If you are selling paperclips or pizza, this article may not be very relevant, but an increasing majority of U.S. workers sell a service or a product plus the service to support it. When service is a significant part of the customer or company relationship, not all customers are created equally. Not all customers are good customers.
  • R&R Tech: Two Unique Situations, Two Happy Customers
    I wanted to share with you a couple of situations that I have run into over the past couple months. The first one is a 2010 Lexus RX350 that came in on the back of a tow truck. This SUV is equipped with a 3.5L V6 and a U660E transaxle. The customer had it towed because the vehicle was in failsafe mode. When I began the evaluation, the first thing I noticed was the strong odor of battery acid when I opened the hood (Figure 1). One look at the battery and I knew this was going to need to be addressed, but at this point I did not know what was causing the failsafe problem. When the scan tool was connected, I discovered that I had no communication with the TCM, but did have communication with all of the other modules.
  • Technically Speaking
    When customers purchase tires from a service facility they are usually more interested in bottom-line, out-the-door pricing than anything else. After they agree to the overall price and hopefully understand what type of tires they are getting and what driving conditions the tires are best used in they pay the bill for the entire package.
  • Photo Tech: Performing a Fee-Based Vehicle Inspection for Used-Car Buyers
    Vehicle inspection comes in many forms. There are courtesy inspections that are done as part of an oil change, inspection that is done prior to a wheel alignment and underhood inspection that may be done for an overheating condition, but very few inspections are as thorough as fee-based inspections on used cars.
  • Muffler & Pipe Advice: That Gut Feeling
    Every shop has their list of horror stories. I have a couple myself, but one in particular is branded in my mind.
  • Technically Speaking
    People call in, get prices, make appointments and cancel them all the time. It’s pretty much a common occurrence. It’s my opinion that we in the automotive industry take this a little more personally than those in many other industries. Think of all the other instances of people making appointments after stopping by a booth at a state fair or some other function to get some kind of premium or other related promotional item.
  • Technically Speaking - Alignment & Suspension Tips
    In today’s marketplace of hurry up and get it done, cut every corner you can and rely upon your equipment to replace common-sense thinking, it is fairly common for an alignment technician to put a vehicle on the rack, hook up the wheel clamps, do the very small rollback necessary, take readings and then possibly make some adjustments.
  • Don’t Assume; Be Systematic with Diagnosis
    Like many of you, this time of year I am usually asked to assemble a variety of items and gifts for my family members. In light of these requests, I have spent a significant amount of time analyzing why we waste so much time assembling, disassembling and re-assembling items out of an unwillingness to simply read the instructions. Often this process results in leftover spare parts and frustration.
  • Muffler and Pipe Advice - Coming to your town soon!
    Here we go again! I received a call just today, regarding the old California Vehicle Code 27150. This law is a regulation written to control noise pollution. The current standard is a maximum of 95db.
  • Photo Tech: Emissions Failures on Older Vehicles
    This Photo Tech article addresses an emissions canister/EVAP vent-system performance problem that set a code P0446 on a Buick Rainier. It is not the first time the problem has occurred on the vehicle. It was fixed about a year ago by cleaning the vent solenoid.
  • Be More, Do More, and Give More
    I was asked by many of my friends, “What are you going to do with yourself if you retire?” This question was presented to me years before my retirement. I never really thought I would retire from a trade that I loved, but I still started to prepare, just in case.
  • R&R Tech: The Jeep Patriot with a really bad rolling surge
    Sometimes despite your best efforts you can still manage to shoot yourself in the foot. The following account is a prime example: While this happened on one specific vehicle, it could happen on any number of vehicles where the cause is the same, but could have different end results.
    One of our shop locations had a 2011 Jeep Patriot that came in on the back of a tow truck. The customer stated that it started making noise and then quit moving. This one was an easy checkout; the vehicle didn’t move in any direction, had metallic-looking fluid, a horrendous bearing noise, and had a P0777 (secondary pressure control solenoid stuck on) code stored. Even though this one was pretty much a slam dunk in the way of diagnosis, we still needed to go through our complete evaluation procedure.
  • Reflashing – Explain it to the Customer
    Computer reflashing is a process that some shops do, some shops shy away from at all cost and some shops have outside-service specialist vendors who have vans come by to reflash as needed. The first step in computer reflashing is to determine whether the customer’s car and what system on it might need reflashing.
  • Photo Tech: In-Car Battery Testing – Including Hybrids
    In-car battery testing is the way it is done today. Various test instruments attach to the battery themselves or to the diagnostic connector and can give you a state of charge of the vehicle, both while it is being driven and while it is sitting statically in your shop.
  • Photo Tech: Brake Parts Lubrication: A ‘Must Do’
    Mention brake-parts lubrication and you will get all sorts of comments, looks, “I-don’t-need-to-do-that” statements and others. The fact is that if you live in a dry climate where there is no road salt or water and you’re not doing anything but driving on clean, flat, even, level roads with no humidity, granted, the brake lubrication issue is not something you would be the least bit concerned about. Unfortunately, that is not the case. More than half of the U.S. is considered a Rust Belt area and this presents a myriad of problems regarding brake lubrication and a lack of adequate performance of brakes.
  • Technically Speaking®: Incorrect PIDs
    Imagine a scenario in which you had to make a decision using limited or unreliable data. Would you cross the street to get the mail if you were incapable of seeing vehicles approaching? If you made the decision to replace a component on a customer vehicle would you do it without ever having confirmed the complaint? If a shop manager was your role, would you hire someone without having interviewed them? For the sake of your health, the customers at your shop, or even the family or friend whose vehicle you have worked on you hopefully answered no to all of these. Why, then, is there so much variability in scan-tool data sitting in front of our technicians?
  • R & R Tech: CVTs Are Here; You Can Profit from Them
    As CVT transmissions are appearing in our shops with increasing frequency, there still seems to be a degree of hesitance for some shops to take on these jobs. Even if shops do not want to build these units in-house, there are reliable sources for remanufactured units out there that enable them to capture profit on R&R rather than sending a customer down the road to a competitor.
  • Practical TPMS Service When Changing Tires
    It is common in today’s automotive aftermarket repair business, as well as in many dealerships, to automatically include any TPMS parts that should be replaced during tire-repair service. Some regulatory agencies state that everything must be line-listed and completely transparent to the customer. This is true and I have no problem with this philosophy, but it can become confusing for a customer who says, “I really don’t want that done.”
  • Complete Brake Repair – Get it Right! Don’t cut corners
    Complete brake service is something that literally books of 200-300 pages have been written about and is something that you could study and analyze for months on end. This issue of Photo Tech will address some of the more common issues why they are occurring, why the work is sometimes shortcut and what you can do to provide complete brake service of the quality that is necessary out in the field.
  • Deciding to Do Exhaust ‘Tu-be or not Tu-be’ – pun intended
    At the ripe old age of 8, I remember, after my first day on the job at my father’s muffler shop I told him that I had “half a mind” to become a muffler installer like him. In the past it was believed that anyone could do muffler work. “You could train a monkey to do that job!” Those words came from the “elite” mechanics, who had glorious certifications, sewn on their sleeves.
  • Photo Tech: Scoping it Out
    A special thank you to Joe Ragnanese for his part in structuring, writing and taking photos for this month’s Photo Tech.
  • R & R Tech: Motorists May Know Something They Don’t Know
    As we see numerous cars come into our shops on a daily basis, we often have a diagnosis already in mind based on the customer’s complaint, the type of vehicle we’re working on, road test experience, and symptoms. That’s the benefit of specialized repair. Sometimes the actual in-depth diagnosis proves us right, and sometimes proves us dead wrong.
  • Hub Cleaning: It’s More than that!
    The term “hub cleaning” is a bit of a misnomer in that we are not removing grease or dirt from the hub. Instead, we are descaling it or removing rust and particle buildup that has become embedded, or through corrosion become part of the hub face. Before entering a discussion of this subject you must clearly understand why this area is of concern.
  • Road Testing – Make it Happen
    Road testing is a skill, or at least it should be. As with almost any other task in the automotive aftermarket, some people are better at road testing than others. Many perceive road testing to be an overall simple no-brainer type of operation, so it’s something that is often skipped. You should really give it its due.
  • Photo Tech: Diagnostic Tools that Make Life Easier for Techs
    Some if not many shops do not put the diagnostic tool groups of scan tools, five-gas analyzers and scopes into the same thought process as far as tools to help techs diagnose and solve problems.
  • Debris, Melted Insulation Cause Two Codes to Set
    About two months ago a customer brought in his 2006 Ford E350 Econoline van equipped with a 5.4L engine and a 4R75E transmission for an evaluation. His concern was that the check-engine light was on and the transmission seemed to shift hard at times.
  • Technically Speaking: Washing Rotors
    Occasionally opportunities present themselves unexpectedly. As I was preparing to start this month’s Technically Speaking article, I received a phone call asking if I would be interested in some input or assistance from a acknowledge industry expert in the brake field. I’m never one to turn down an opportunity to listen to another’s point of view, especially when it’s an experienced professional opinion. So, I put these questions to Bob Peters, chief engineer, friction material engineering of Akebono Brake Corporation.
  • A Dollar Here & a Dollar There – Brings in Big Bucks
    Editor’s note: Ed Hanson, who has been bending exhaust tubing since the early days of the Huth Bender, has a habit of making a great first impression when he meets a new customer. The story he tells goes back several decades, but I was at his shop visiting a few years back when he used the same technique on a potentially new customer. It’s been paying off for years and I highly recommend that you try it, and of course, add your own personal touch to it.
  • Photo Tech: Custom Control Arms for GM Muscle Cars
    When lowering or altering the suspension on GM vehicles such as the A-body El Camino, the first and second-generation Camaro, F-1 and F-2 GMG-body, some B-bodies and the Tri-five Chevrolet, you can easily run into control-arm-interference or strikeout problems.
  • Turn Signal Fluid - What about lane-keeping assist fluid?
    You might have heard about it from a sarcastic shop manager, or maybe just from your lame-joke dad when you were a new driver, but hopefully you’ve never purchased, sold or installed any blinker fluid.
  • Technically Speaking: Training – What’s Best for Your Shop & Technicians
    Training today is radically different from what it was even a few years ago. In the old days, technicians would wrap up work early and head for a training class sponsored by someone at a local parts store or technical school. Those days, although not gone, are very rare indeed.
  • Muffler & Pipe Advice - Never Give Up!
    I heard a saying long ago that, “if you want something that you have never had, then you have to do things that you have never done before.” This is so true in life, let alone business, but wedged in between those two lines is a never-give-up attitude.
  • Photo Tech - Getting the Steering Wheel Straight After Wheel Alignment
    If you have the latest and greatest, most modern alignment equipment out there, your job of getting a straight steering wheel is relatively easy and almost 100% assured unless you fail to follow the operating instructions on the equipment.
  • Bulbs & Wiper Blades – Can You Afford Free Installation?
    This edition of Technically Speaking® is going to make people hate me more or love me more than they do normally. Realize that many retail auto parts stores today offer free installation of wiper blades if you buy the blades from the auto parts store. Is this a good deal? The answer in some situations is, “Yes.” Is this a removing-frustration deal? The answer in almost all cases is, “Yes.” Customers hate installing wiper blades.
  • Sound & Performance Go Hand in Hand
    Some motorists add performance-exhaust systems to their vehicles for extra horsepower and torque, while others just appreciate that aggressive tone that goes with it – and of course, some like it for both reasons. There’s the revving of the engine at the stop light and the burst of power that goes with taking off with their right foot to the floor.
  • Extra Set of Eyes Saves the Day
    In addition to the OEM-spec remanufactured transmissions we build, we also offer a series of heavy-duty transmissions available in three different stages. This article examines the installation of our Road Ripper™ 3000 (stage 3 unit) in a 2005 Dodge 2500 pickup equipped with a 5.9L diesel and a 618/48RE transmission.
  • Wheel Alignment Part 2: Shim Kits & Adjustable Components
    Everyone is familiar with the statement, “Knowledge is power.” This expression been around for as long as anyone can remember, but in the area of wheel alignment, especially where shim kits, adjustable ball joints and replaceable upper control arms are concerned, this is especially true.
  • The Need for New Alignment Systems
    There are many shops across the U.S. that still use bubble gauges and drive-on racks for the front of the vehicles, but no rear slip plates, and other older methods for doing alignment. It is true that you can do an alignment this way, but it is very difficult and somewhat limited in its range of accuracy if your equipment isn’t working perfectly. These older methods are time-consuming and, in many cases, not profitable for your shop.
  • Outsourcing - One man’s headache, another man’s joy
    We are all looking for ways to build our business. One sure way, I found, is to approach fleet managers and other non-competitive shops.
    All technicians have their most hated jobs and usually on a particular type vehicle. So, that is where you can become the “aspirin” for their headache jobs, but first you have to find out what that problem job is.
  • 5-Gas Analyzers – Still an Important Tool
    Our editorial calendar called for an article on five-gas analyzers, but because I’m primarily a brake, alignment, chassis and an undercar electronics guy, I immediately sought out an authoritative source. My good friend at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Tim Janello, recommended that I meet Alina Piton, who is a senior in the Automotive Technology Program and is very experienced with five-gas analyzers.
  • Muffler & Pipe Advice: Like a Glove!
    It was in the late ’90s that I had the experience of installing a set of Corvette headers manufactured by B&B (Billy Boat) Fabrication. I was doing work for a local Chevrolet dealership. It was the kind of dealership that was thinking outside the box. This dealership would customize your Corvette prior to you picking it up. One of the things they would do is have us install B&B headers.
  • Stay in the Aftermarket – You Don’t Have to Turn a Wrench
    Being involved in the automotive aftermarket doesn’t necessarily point to a technician in the service bays. That’s only one part of the picture and in fact, not even in some cases, the dominant part.
  • 'Rebuilt' Salvage Yard Transmission, Hmmm...
    We had a local general repair shop bring us a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.6L V-6 engine equipped with a ZF 8-speed (845RE) transmission; they had just installed a “rebuilt” transmission that was sourced from a salvage yard. The customer’s stated concern was, “The place that built the transmission just said it needed to be programmed.” Needless to say, we knew that this was going to be an adventure.
  • Excessive Chassis Movement
    Vehicle owners today have become very accustomed to not repairing their cars until they get what is commonly referred to as catastrophic failure. Catastrophic failure may be defined as a disabled vehicle with its wheels or some other component not looking like it should parked on the side of the road. You may find suspension components that have popped apart, struts that have broken or body components that have literally rusted away and no longer support the parts they are attached to.
  • Tire-Wear Patterns & Steering & Suspension Inspection
    Mention tire-wear patterns and everyone thinks, “Oh boy, big deal.” The fact is that some tire-wear patterns tell stories while others don’t. Many years ago you could read a tire and pretty much tell what was wrong with the vehicle from an alignment-angle standpoint. With the 100% usage of modern radial-ply tires, tire-wear patterns are much more difficult to diagnose visually than they were in the days of bias-ply or older long-arm short-arm suspension systems with early radial tires. Nevertheless, you still can get some indication of what’s happening on the worn-parts area.
  • Verify What the Scan Tool is Telling You
    Every now and then we run across a vehicle that has a concern we have seen many times before and we almost automatically try to diagnose it by memory; it's almost like a reflex we develop over time. Of course as we all know too well, this can lead you down the wrong path if you stray away from complete testing and verification.
  • Photo Tech - Mindful Tips on Meter Usage
    A person could literally write a book on meter usage. In fact, some of the professional training courses have very large three-ring binders full of technical information and procedures that come with the course. This can be a bit overwhelming at times especially to those who don’t use meters as frequently as meters perhaps should be used.
  • The People Behind the Parts Counter Have Answers - Take advantage of them
    Many shops today rely on some type of online technical resource that provides them with a wide array of technical bulletins, diagnostic procedures and other troubleshooting information. Although this is all well and good, not all information makes its way into these reports...
  • Muffler & Pipe Advice - Mission Impossible: Pancake Problems
    Some years ago, California had some emissions rules that did not make much sense. I am not talking about emissions systems, such as catalytic converters, but it applies to the catalytic converters and rules that were set up.
  • Analysis, Diagnosis & Confirmation of Repair Needed
    Sometimes diagnosing a problem on a vehicle is a simple matter of visual inspection, such as when a vehicle comes in on a hook with a wheel hanging because a ball joint has popped apart. In other cases, it’s much more complicated and in the case of some electrical-wiring issues on some vehicles, the problem can never be found. There is, however, some middle ground that will be shown in this issue of Photo Tech.
  • Blame it on Missing Harness Retaining Clips
    The subject vehicle that was fitted with one of our remanufactured transmissions six months prior showed up at one of our repair locations recently, with the customer concern of an intermittent bumpy 1-2 shift, and a low-power lugging sensation along with a CEL on.
  • Wheel Alignment after Vehicle Service – Not Far-Fetched at All
    In the “old days,” the “old days” being as little as five years ago, it would not be common to always suggest a wheel alignment after a wide variety of chassis or vehicle service. Things are different today.
  • Where is the Passion?
    Just recently, I received an email from one of my old friends and co-workers, now living in New Mexico. Stu Ehrich and I go a long ways back to when I first got out of the service and planted myself in San Diego. I have lots of respect for this man and he brought to my attention that there seems to be a loss of passion in our industry! I thought long and hard as to why and came up with several reasons.
  • Adjustable Ball Joints
    Technical Editor Ron Henningsen explains how to adjust camber on imports by using adjustable ball joints.
  • Use TSB’s in Your Diagnostic Routine
    When diagnosing today’s complex vehicles, we have a wealth of information at our disposal. How we use that information is crucial in making the correct diagnosis the first time, every time.
  • Treat Your Friends Like Strangers
    Recommend Needed Service No Matter How Well You Know Them 
  • Universal Cats Aren’t Universal Anymore
    It was a typical Monday morning in August. The temperature was kissing 90° and the humidity wasn’t far behind.
    Then she pulled in. She was expensive looking with all the bells and whistles that made you want to look twice at her – and she was still in her prime. It was a 2009 Acura MDX, and the dame behind the wheel was NOT happy. She was barely out of the car when she eyed me with disgust. “The light’s on again,” she said.
  • Aluminum Chassis Parts & Blown Tires
    Technical Editor Ron Henningsen explains the importance of checking aluminum chassis parts after a tire blow.
  • Brake Lathe Maintenance a Must
    There are a few basic maintenance functions that should be done weekly or at least monthly on bench brake lathes, but in some shops this chore is neglected completely because the shop would rather replace than machine, even when the rotor is within specs...
  • Expand Your Knowledge Base
    I’ve always loved cars and knew from an early age that I wanted to be a mechanic when I grew up. Well, I haven’t grown up, and I’m not a mechanic; I’m a Professional Automotive Technician. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to see the advancement of automotive technology over many years. The evolution and integration of computer-controlled components and the speed and accuracy that comes with it has and will continue to change the challenges of diagnosing these systems.
  • Locating Lazy Diesel Cylinder Causes
    Sniffing out those hard-to-find lazy cylinders with quick and simple methods make life easier than replacing injectors only to find the miss is still there.
  • Muffler & Pipe Advice - Just a ‘Muffler Guy’
    So, I am sitting in a management program with Bob Spitz as our instructor. My wife Marilyn and I are the only automotive exhaust shop owners who have attended his training class, so Bob, with his sense of humor, referred to me as the “muffler guy.”
  • Some of The Forgotten Important People In Your Shop
    Everyone in your shop usually has a leader who is a master technician, seemingly a wizard at diagnosing very difficult vehicle problems and performing repairs on vehicles. His skill is indeed very desirable and very important, but there are others in your shop who don’t have such a glamorous job and perhaps are not as highly regarded as “important” as highly skilled lead techs, but they are there.
  • Are You Charging Enough for Brake Diagnostics You Perform?
    More often than not, it seems that an adequate labor amount as far as tenths of hours or hours is really not charged for brake-system diagnostics and/or brake-system work. There is much more to doing a brake job than slapping on a new rotor and set of pads and putting the wheel back on.
  • The Final Repair Was ‘on the Level’
    One of our regular customers brought in their 2006 Dodge Ram 1500 4WD with a 5.7L engine mated to a 545RFE transmission. The owner’s concern was a very bad shake when accelerating while having the 4WD engaged.
  • Muffler & Pipe Advice: Building a quarter-wave tuner
    First off: What is a quarter-wave tuner?  All of us in the exhaust industry have either experienced that harmful drone in the cabin of our vehicle, or the cabin of our customer’s vehicle, especially if the vehicle has an aftermarket exhaust system. A quarter-wave tuner, or as some call it a quarter-wave resonator, is a device that helps eliminate that nasty interior sound that we call a drone.
  • Verifying Repairs: This is Where We Dropped the Ball
    For this installment of R&R Tech I would like to take some time to discuss how engine performance can affect the transmission operation. We have all heard it before; the engine must be running properly in order for the transmission to function correctly. What does “properly” mean in this scenario? We all use different terms when we tell the customer, “You need to get the engine running properly” or good, correct, better, whatever terms we use; in our minds it all means the same thing. We either see or feel something that is not right with the engine performance and to try to protect our investment (our remanufactured product) by telling the customer that it needs to get repaired in conjunction with the transmission replacement. How far do we need to go with this? Just tell the customer and leave it up to them, or do we require them to have it checked/repaired and return it to us for inspection?
  • Profits in Professional Disc-Brake Conversions
    You may have customers who have old vehicles, including some muscle cars, originally manufactured with four-wheel drum brakes. Many of these customers now realize the benefits of having disc brakes, at least on the front of their vehicles, and wish for you to perform a conversion. This can come about in one of three ways. The least desirable is that the customer brings in a wide variety of used parts and asks you to install them on the car. This may turn out to be an adventure in beating your head against the wall, as the parts may not be right. The conversion pieces may not fit or it may just be something they heard about from a buddy. This is something that I would personally advise against, as it usually does not work out very successfully.
  • Alignment – When the OE Adjustments Aren’t Enough
    Alignment used to be simple. Today, it’s still simple, but the knowledge base to keep it simple is extensive. You need to have not only a basic understanding of alignment angles as well as advanced angles, and how the car interacts with the setting of these angles.
  • Drivers, Start your Engines!
    Many of us are waiting for next month’s Undercar Digest to see all the hard toil that techs have put into their project vehicles for the “Magic Machines” section. Most of these vehicles are in pristine shape and only venture outside the garage on warm, sunny days.
  • Tech-Training Clinics Are Alive & Well
    In the “old days,” evening tech-training clinics were common and they often were the way many technicians were updated or trained. In the internet/digital era we live in today, some folks have written off evening training clinics as being “dead,” but that’s not the case.
  • It’s a Blast! Getting rid of carbon deposits
    I chuckle when I hear some of the radio commercials for different oils and oil additives that supposedly guarantee the motorist of an engine that will run forever and never have any problems. Specifically, they talk about decarbonizing an engine. While this may be true for the oil that gets into the low-friction piston rings, petroleum deposits building up into the intake plenum area by the cylinder-head valve stems is not directly from the oil getting by the piston rings.
  • Say ‘NO’ to Crack!
    Crystal lite, fine; Diet Coke, that’s OK as well; but crack, absolutely not. How many times have we heard the saying “No to crack.”
    Of course, I am not giving a lecture, but talking about those darn cracks near our catalytic converters and oxygen sensors. Getting those trouble codes directing you to a lean condition, may be a little misleading in some cases.
  • Quality Uptick Continues with Aftermarket Parts
    It appears over the past few years there has been a considerable uptick in quality when it comes to a variety of parts classifications in the aftermarket. It wasn’t long ago that the trend was “the cheaper the better.” In other words, the cheaper the parts were in cost, more were sold to shops.
  • Sensor Signal? Nearly none, but unit still worked
    The customer had multiple concerns: 30-40 mph is the top speed, drive modes won’t switch, neutrals out in reverse, stuck in low gear at times, can’t shift manually, only works in drive Stored DTC 2767, Component Y3/6n3 (speed sensor) is faulty.
  • Photo Tech: Stability Control – It’s changed
    Stability control in vehicles has changed greatly over the years. The sensors that used to be analog are now almost all digital. New types of safety systems have been added and diagnostics have become trickier. In this month’s Photo Tech, many common scan-tool diagnostic techniques are shown. Wheel-speed, YAW, steering-angle, and latitudinal/longitudinal sensors are key in understanding how electronic stability components work together to create a safer drive. The condition of physical suspension parts also play a large role in vehicle handling. If these parts have undesired play in them, it results in many other parts down the line not working properly. When these parts do not work properly, sensors will have unreliable readings.
  • Fixing Flats, Avoiding Lawsuits
    Customers today have become accustom to many repair procedures thanks to the professionalism of many shops throughout the country. They accept oil changes that may cost as much as $100 when they include full-synthetic oil. They accept diagnostic fees when a technician uses a scan tool to determine why the check-engine light is on, as well as many other procedures.
  • Brake Facts & Friction

    If you know all the brake facts presented in this issue of Photo Tech, congratulations! If not, use them to add to your repertoire of known, accurate brake information and you will indeed be one of the most valuable brake technicians in your shop. Many people feel that anyone can do brake work and everyone’s a brake expert. Well, all of us can learn more. It’s the little things that count. Knowing not only the foundational information, but advanced as well, enables you to work in a much more professional manner.

  • Should Your Shop Have a Master Brake Technician?
    Many shops have master drivability technicians who are diagnostic experts with an ability to understand and diagnose complex electrical issues. This is all well and good, but why not also have someone in your shop whose primary job is to know every bit of brake information that’s available in the marketplace and have the skill and expertise, along with the product knowledge, to solve complex problems?
  • Technically Speaking® - Know Your Engine Oil

    Editor’s note: First and foremost, technicians should always follow the auto manufacturer’s oil specifications to avoid voiding the engine’s warranty. The purpose of this Q&A is to answer some of the many questions that technicians have about the new oils being introduced.

    I recently had the opportunity to interview Janette Ramirez Baltazar on the changes in engine oil that have been rapidly evolving in what seems like every time a new model vehicle is released.

  • Scan Tools – How Many & Who Pays for Them
    In today’s multi-bay, multi-technician auto-service repair facilities it is not uncommon for the shop to have a multitude of scan tools, some possibly owned by technicians. The logic behind this is that some scan tools are more thorough and apply to a wider range of vehicles than others. Who should own these scan tools? Should it always be the shops? Should it always be the technicians or should it be a combination of both?
  • ‘It Was on the Internet So it Must Be True’

    Technical Editor Ron Henningsen discusses how to deal with customers who self-diagnose car problems over the internet.

    Many times when you quote a customer on a needed repair and he decides to not do it at the moment, or even if he does agree, he may turn around and access the internet to find out what should “really be done.” The internet is full of accurate and valid information, unfortunately it is also full of inaccurate and invalid information.

  • Technically Speaking: YouTube Videos for Training

     Are YouTube Videos a Valid Source of Training & Information?

    The answer to this question is, “It depends.” If you have one of the online shop digital-resource systems available, your first thought probably is, “No,” and there’s nothing that will ever convince me otherwise.

  • Photo Tech: Inspecting Brakes that Have Never Been Replaced
    Many vehicles driven in Rust-Belt areas have problems with corrosion and degraded brake-system operation caused by that corrosion. When a vehicle with 112,000 miles comes into your shop for a brake inspection and you are told by its owner that the brakes have never been serviced in any way, shape or form, you immediately assume that you will find problems. Now think of Murphy’s Law in reverse.
  • Technically Speaking: Brake-Lathe Maintenance
    Many shops today replace rotors and claim it is more economical to do so than it is to machine rotors, but the fact is that you’ll still get certain cars in for which new rotors are extremely costly or unavailable.
  • Muffler & Pipe Advice: Backpressure or Heat
    My computer spell check tells me that backpressure should be spelled as two words – back pressure. But my editor tells me that my spell check is wrong and to keep at as I always have. Regardless of how you spell it, “backpressure” is necessary in an exhaust system.
  • Technically Speaking®: Friction Concerns Answered
    There are many brake-service myths and beliefs in the automotive aftermarket. It seems that almost everyone has an opinion and believes that their opinion is the correct way to do things. In this Technically Speaking® I reached out to the experts who work in brake manufacturing technical centers.
  • Technically Speaking: Basic Maintenance Services
    Mention maintenance services and everyone thinks of lube, oil, filter, possibly tire rotation and little else. In reality, basic maintenance services are anything the manufacturer of a vehicle deems necessary.
  • Muffler & Pipe Advice: Universal Catalyst vs. Direct-Fit
    “To build or not to build, that is the question.” Here in California, we have stricter emission laws (as if no one knows!). The California Air Resource Board (CARB) has really simplified its website to help our shops find California-approved aftermarket devices, like headers, intake systems, carburetors and catalytic converters. As an exhaust-only shop, we are concerned with upholding the laws relating to our business, so using a California-approved catalyst is high up on our list.
  • R&R Tech: Diagnosing Electrical Signals
    I’ve always had been fascinated by technology and electronics, and I can remember the first time I used a scope. It was in my high school auto-tech class, and we were being introduced to ignition waveforms using a Sun Engine Analyzer.
  • Photo Tech: The Cars of Cuba
    Earlier this year I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba for 10 days. My interest in going was to photograph and learn about the abundance of old cars that are reported to be everywhere in Cuba. Of course, any photojournalist who is a street-rod/muscle-car/classic-car junkie would jump at a chance to see the old cars of Cuba so I immediately sent in my registration.
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  • Tech Tip - Motorcraft
    Motorcraft Brakes: Verifying Slides and Pin Integrity
Undercar Digest serves automotive-repair facilities involved in undercar services that include brake, exhaust and chassis diagnostics and repairs. It also covers a variety of other repairs including drivability. In addition to shops, our readers include manufacturers, warehouse distributors and parts stores that serve them.

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