Thursday, May 24, 2012

-=Customers, The Good, The Bad, The Ugly? (LoL)

I wanted to take a little bit to share some of my recent customer stories.  Some good expeiances and some bad.

Customers, what can I say?  There are many different types of people in this world, some make great customers, and some you would rather avoid.  There are some that will take up all your time with really unimportant questions, and you will happily answer all of them and spend the time with them only to have them say it COSTS HOW MUCH?  For example, I had a lady that took over a half hour of my time to ask me about a small part she found on her garage floor which was a small rubber drain elbow for her air conditioning system. 

When she arrived, we took the car in right away, while we were checking it out.  she asked me all types of questions about the part, the shop, another customers Cadillac ect.  All of which I was happy to answer, the shop charged her far less then a half hour labor to re-install the part for her.  And with that she complained as if we should have spent this time and charged her nothing.  Had we worked on the car previously and knocked it loose ect we would have, had she been a regular customer probably.  This would be a customer I would rather avoid because, she will take your time, and will try to avoid adequate compensation.

Another story recently was a Father/Son team, who brought in an older vehicle that would classify as a beater.  They actually pushed the car to the shop with the family van.  The car was a no start with over 245K miles on it.  They had taken it to another shop previously for this symptom which had happend 2 times recently to them.  The other shop sold them a fuel system cleaning and a set of spark plugs as it was "flooded".   The customer stated it would start with starting fluid then die.  Which sounds to be a fuel issue as in too little vs. flooding with too much fuel.  When I was filling out the work order I had asked if there was any additional contact numbers.  The son said yea call my cell because my dad will not answer his phone.

So we diagnosed the vehicle, it needed a fuel pump along with the fuel filter which appeared to be original.  I called the Son, and told him what we found with our diagnosis, and gave him the estimate and the total of the time we had in the car for diagnosis.  He said ok, I said so you want us to go ahead and replace the fuel pump?  he said yes, I said ok we'll get going on it and give you a call when it's done or if anything else comes up.

I start on the the job, and have the fuel tank removed along with the fuel filter.  The father then calls to check on the car.  I recapped everything I told his son, he asked what the total would be I gave him the same numbers as the son.  He then sounded upset, said I guess your doing it then, bye and hung up on me.  The son later picked up the car without any problems.   The Father seemed very rude, even though it's not my fault the repair was more then the car is worth, or that his Son ok'd the job which he agreed to have him as our contact as it was his car.

Here is a shot of the old fuel filter from this vehicle, the dark fluid in the tray is the gas from the filter with all the black particulate build up from inside.

As you may see more often then not most auto repair stories are negative.  Mainly because noone wants to spend money on their car, take time out of their schedule to drop off their car, or be without transportation.  I do have many good customers though, with sucessful results.

One customer recently who is a great customer, came into the shop with his pickup leaking coolant.  After pressure checking the cooling system, I found a leak at a gasket on the intake manifold.  I reccomended we replace the intake as it is plastic and could be warped or cracked.  This was an expensive repair, I explained we could try replacing the gaskets if everything looks ok ie no crackes in the plastic ect.  He said no go ahead and do the whole thing.  Didn't argue the cost of the repair or anything.  He came in the next day to check on it while I was reassembling the intake.  Very happy nice guy, I showed him the cracked plastic (Shown Below) I found which showed him why I had reccomended the intake before I removed it.

These kind of customers I would do anything I could for, need a ride home or be picked up no problem.  Anything to get them in the door right away when they have a problem.  Now don't get me wrong, the complaining cheap customers I will still preform the same level of quality of repair for.  It's the little extra things I will not go above and beyond for.  So treat people how you would like to be treated right...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

-=Where I've been and recent projects

I've been absent from blogging for a while now.  The 2012 Corvette and collector car season has hit.  For me this means work, work, work.  Both for the shop I work for and my small side business servicing corvettes.  Mix them all together along with working on my own projects as well as family members and it makes free time almost non existent.  So this AM I have a few minutes and wanted to write a little bit about some of the things I've been working on.

First the 1971 Nova SS (with a 350 and turbo 350 with a floor shifter) pictured above, this is my mother in laws car.  One of a few in the toy collection.  She has owned this car since it was almost new she purchased is in the early 70's.  It is mostly original, up until 2009 it was Nevada silver with a vinyl top.  She decided to change the color to Mulsanne blue and leave the top off.  I really like the color myself, my wife not so much.  The body work was done by a local shop near my mother in laws home.  Before 2009 the car was in need of some heavy work the truck and quarters were rotted away.  The shop did repair the body and some of the mechanical work.  Which she left some of the work for me to do on this car, as I am not a body guy I couldn't really help much with the other work.

To start, we needed to get this car running right, it was running rough and back firing through the carb, I had rebuilt the carb last year, along with setting the timing and at that time found the vac advance not to be working very well.  Needless to say after adjusting the points, setting the timing she was running better, but still not good enough.  The original ignition system was very weak to say the least, so I upgraded it with an HEI distributor.  Since there was a budget of what I could spend on parts I looked around to see what my options were, I found ebay had an HEI distributor, with the cap, rotor, coil, and wire set for a really low price so of course I thought hmm, maybe the quality is an issue.  I read reviews and other peoples experiences and they were not that bad, so I decided to give it a try.  Wow what a difference the car starts cold with depressing the throttle 1 time, warm it will start quickly without touching the peddle.  So far no issues with reliability of course we need to put some miles on the car and see.  If it fails it does have a lifetime warranty too surprising for something being made overseas.

Next it was in need of rear springs, as they were sagging, along with body mount bushings.  I replaces these items, the springs restored the rear ride height by almost 3 inches!  I still have a list of items to replace on this car as I have time, for this year the list included the front lower ball joints, power steering hoses, the trans fluid and install the missing inspection cover, change the coolant ect.  Next year I'd like to install and replace the parking brake cables, and maybe the upper control arm bushings.  Typically I like everything working, and everything in good shape on all our vehicles.

So that's been one of my projects that is waiting in the wings as I have time for it.  A quick update on the '57 project. The exhaust has been installed, we have had it on the road for a test drive, it runs great!  We are currently finishing up the prep for the trim shop which includes mounting a custom built electronics tray which is located under the rear seat all designed and hand built by me and our body guy.  Once it is ready it will be shipped out for the interior work, then return for exterior trim and finishing.  Along with the alignment and working any bugs out of the system.  It should be on the streets by mid season.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

-=Pay now or Pay Later...

This topic reminds me of the old saying "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure..."  I often advise my customers with recommendations for preventative maintenance.  Though some customers believe in it and some do not.  Recently we have had several vehicles in at the shop that ended up costing the customer money and unnecessary aggravation due to lack of preventative maintenance.
One of the best examples I had in was a '98 Dodge B3500 Van.  This was a typical contractor vehicle with close to 150K miles on the clock.  The Van was towed in for a crank and no start condition.  The customer stated this happens every time it rains or is wet out, and typically replacing the distributor cap will remedy the problem.
I first began my diagnosis with a simple spark check at the coil (which was easy to reach without pulling the engine cover off).  There was no spark.  Upon further testing, I determined the ignition coil had failed.  I suspected a flooded condition as well, as most customers will continue to attempt starting a vehicle many times before calling for a tow.  Also (the obvious) the oil smelled heavily of fuel.
I temporarily installed a new coil, so I could attempt to start and move the truck into the shop and into a bay.  I disabled the fuel pump to clear the flooded condition, re-enabled it and was able to start the Van, it ran rough and with the engine cover removed I found arcing from the distributor cap to the intake manifold.  This is a typical sign of high resistance in the secondary portion of the ignition system.  After positioning the vehicle into a bay, I called the customer.
I recommended to the customer, Replacing the ignition coil, replacing the spark plugs, plug wire set, a distributor cap and rotor, along with an oil change (which it was 5K miles over due for anyway).  I explained how worn spark plugs cause high resistance as it takes more effort to jump a larger gap, the energy flowed in the path of least resistance.  Changing the distributor cap in the past may have removed just enough resistance to allow the spark plugs to fire.  He of course agreed and gave the go ahead.
After removing a spark plug which was fouled with fuel, I checked the gap as it appeared heavily worn.  The plug gap was worn to .085 well over half of its specification.  This plug was a non platinum plug, and had not been changed in over 50K miles.
After the work was completed, the truck ran great.  The customer could have avoided a $100+ tow bill and maybe saved his over worked ignition coil, along with the distributor cap and rotor (which were not that worn) only if he had replaced the spark plugs when they should have been done.  Sometimes it's that simple...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

-='57 Chevy LS1 Project (Started First Time with the Key)

I made some more progress on the '57 project today.  I finished installing the power steering reservoir, the intake, and connecting the starter to the rest of the electrical system. The power steering reservoir needed to be relocated due to the required space for the air intake duct.  I had to fabricate a inlet pipe for the power steering pump, and a mount for the reservoir.  Which I attacted off the drivers inner fender.  As seen in the pictures before paint.

Here is a shot, of what the air intake looks like, with the power steering reservoir relocated.  The intake duct is a factory part for a Cadillac CTS-V.  It fits really well, though I had to make a support for it which is under the duct and Mass Air Flow sensor.

Since I was able to close up the power steering, and a few of my electrical connections today I was able to temporarily connect a battery, and fire her up!  She started right up with the key no problems.  Of course it's very loud with open headers.  Here is a quick clip I took at the end of the day. 


Thursday, February 9, 2012

-=Projects and Changes...

I had some recent changes in my career, this is part of why I have been really busy lately and not actively blogging.  I have moved locations within the same company (on trial basis / likely to be permanent).  Part of the reason is the '57 project (pictured to the left).  Another part is my skill set, I am well versed in diagnostics.  Along with the skills I can help teach some of my fellow techs, there are some things I maybe able to learn from the seasoned techs at this location. 

Now the fun stuff, the '57 is a project car we have building from the ground up literaly.  It's reffered to as a resto-mod, being it has an LS1 engine from a 1999 corvette, and features a multi link rear end with a Ford 9inch diff.  I started a little over a year ago with a bare frame that we had prepped with custom brackets for the powertrain, acid stripped and then powder coated.  I installed the complete drivetrain, suspension and brake system.  This was all done while I was working at my previous location.  During this time the body was being acid stripped (actually the 2nd body the first was in much worse shape then expected after being stripped), and body work was started.

After I completed building the rolling chassis, we had the frame moved back to the body shop.  For a while I had little interaction with this project, the body was still on a rotisserie it had new floor pan, trunk pan, firewall, quarters and more.  It was more new then old body panels.  After the body work was finished, and the shell was painted, the body and chassis were mated (I would say reunited, however that would be inaccurate as this body was from another vehicle, an ex drag car from the 70's called the strangle hold it actually looked pretty cool when it rolled into the shop).

Now that the body is on the frame, and the front clip has been installed it's my job to take over on the wiring, plumbing and mechanical details.  There is alot more work envolved with a project like this then most people realize.  Not only from the body work perspective, but the mechanical and electrical systems.  The wiring alone is a big project, the engine has it's own wiring harness, the vehicle has it's own, and the climate control (yes this car has an electronic climate control system) as well.  And they all must integrate together to properly function.  Most of this is upto the installer as to where to mount, route and connect items.  So there is alot of thinking involved.

This is still a work in progress and has been my main focus for the past couple weeks, I hope to have it up and running withing a week.  There is still many items that need to be addressed, once up and running it will be shipped over to the upholestry shop for the interior work, then back to our shop for trim and finishing up any left over details before deliverd to the customer.

So for now settling into this shop and completeing this project are my big priorities.

Thanks for Reading!

Sunday, January 29, 2012


People sometimes will ask what I do outside of work.  Well, I work sometimes on other peoples projects, and when I am not doing that I am helping my wife with house work (though if you ask her I don't do anything around the house, LoL).  Sometimes though I do find some time to play with my toys.  I own a couple of quads, and jet ski's (which my wife wants me to sell the ski's).

Well today I had a chance to spend a little time working on my 2001 Yamaha Raptor 660r.  I was so busy last season (it's winter now so my side projects die down) that I hadn't had a chance to go use the quads at all.  This year I want to use them and if not I'll probably be down sizing my collection.  So I figured I would perform all the maintenance work (cleaning the carbs, changing the fluids, lubeing them, replacing the brake pads ect).

Today I pulled the carbs off the Raptor, I had rebuilt them 2 years ago and had put a minimal amount of hours on it since.  However when I when to fire her up to pull her in the shop, fuel was leaking out of the fuel bowl vent.  A classic sign of the float sticking or the needle valve not sealing properly, typically due to dirt.  Since I didn't have that much time to work on it today I got the carbs pulled off and on the bench.  Of course I had to see what the fuel bowl looked like inside (on atleast one of the 2).

I pulled the fuel bowl off, and there was some dirt build up in the bottom of the bowl.  When I have some more time I will dissassemble them further and clean them, then finish cleaning the frame, and the plastics some more before reassembling it.  I still have a few more projects to complete on this one, but I have some time before spring gets here so hopefully all goes well and I will finish her up soon and get her back under the covers till it's time to go ride!

Hope everyone else has had a good weekend!

Monday, January 23, 2012

-=My Daily Story, 2001 Workhorse O2 Woes...

Today I was working on a 2001 workhorse, owned by one of our shops fleet customers.  The complaint was the infamous service engine soon light was on.  So as usual I started my diagnosis with scanning the codes.  The code P0140 Bank 1 Sensor 2 oxygen sensor "no activity detected" was stored.

So I check the data, and it looks like B1S2 is reading a lower than normal voltage.  Ok so maybe we have an O2 sensor that has failed or is starting to fail.  My next step is back probing the signal at the O2 sensor connector to see if it is producing a signal.  On this vehicle Bank 1 is on the driver's side (Bank 1 is the same side as Cycl #1).  I follow the exhaust back to find the O2 after the cat (Sensor 2). 

I then connect my lab scope to observe the signal. and this O2 is actually producing a signal.  So I think hmm, maybe there is a harness or PCM fault.  Next I back probe the signal wire for this sensor at the PCM and I see the same voltage reading on my scope as I do on the scan tool, interesting.  So I then scope the Bank 2 Sensor 2 and it is not producing a signal.  I go back and compare both B1S2 & B2S2 actual readings with the data on the scan tool.  I find that at some point the connectors on the post catalytic converter O2's had been reversed.  Which are of course mounted near each other. 

In all the fix was replacing the Bank 2 Sensor 2 O2, and connecting the O2 sensor harnesses to their correct locations.  This one is just another example as to why we need to stay on our game.  Had we scanned the data, and only back probed the PCM signal feeds the wrong sensor could have easily been replaced and the harness would have stayed incorrectly routed.  So that's my story of the day... 

(Sorry No Pictures Today too busy...)