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  • 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
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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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