Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Why So Much? Isn't Diagnosis Free?

Any mechanic who has seen a check engine light knows that it could indicate anything from a simple repair to a complex diagnostic issue. As a technician, service advisor, and service manager with over 23 years of experience, the one thing that I found most difficult to communicate and sell to customers was diagnostic time.  To make matters worse, customers often compare the service they receive at a quality shop with the deceiving convenience of parts stores.  These stores use a handheld code puller to pull the code and sell parts on the spot, based on a code without performing any diagnosis.  Customers who then install the part and feel they have resolved the issue may ask, “Who needs a technician?!”  Don’t you wish it was that easy!  It would take a lot of the cost and stress out of auto repair. Diagnosing computer-controlled vehicles can be costly for the consumer as well as the shop. Here’s some advice on how to communicate this value to your customers.
Let’s start with a breakdown of what diagnosing a check engine light on a computer-controlled vehicle looks like at a quality repair facility:
1.) Trained Service Advisor: This is your point-person for the interaction. A repair order will need to be written, the vehicle properly identified, and the problem effectively communicated to the technician. The repair order is a legally binding agreement written by a service advisor who is trained in the best customer service practices. An untrained advisor is likely to miscommunicate some part of the process that can lead to mistrust, repairs taking longer than expected, or charges that weren’t properly communicated. A trained service advisor is a professional; having someone on staff at the caliber needed to ensure clarity and communicate expectations to both parties comes at a cost.
2.) Trained (Ideally ASE Certified) Technician: If you were sick, would you want a medical student or an inexperienced doctor diagnosing your health issue?  Proper automotive professional training and quality equipment is expensive.  Professional auto technicians undergo formal education, continuous ongoing training, and purchase their own professional quality tools.  These costs and time commitments are comparable to those incurred by someone who has a more traditional college degree.
3.) Good Quality Computer Diagnostic Tool (Scan Tool): This tool is used to interface with your vehicle’s computer system. It is capable of “pulling a code,” but “pulling a code” is only a starting point. These scan tools range from basic code readers to advanced computer diagnostic computers. Advanced scan tools range upwards of $25,000. The shop generally incurs this cost as well as the cost of training the staff to properly use the advanced functions of this tool. This tool in NO WAY tells you what is wrong with the vehicle. It provides data for the technician to interpret in order to get started with diagnosing the problem. The technician must use his knowledge to trace down and diagnose the issue with the vehicle.
All of these things are very costly. Let’s take a look at what happens at a parts store (or with an inexperienced, untrained mechanic).  You get your “code pulled” and the code points to a problem in the O2 bank 1 sensor 2. The parts store sells you an O2 sensor and the cost of this sensor is generally $90-$300, depending on the sensor. The sensor is installed and the check-engine light is still on (electronic parts are generally NOT returnable). Why is the check engine light still on??? The code said it was the O2 sensor.
Experienced mechanics know that an O2 sensor reads the amount of O2 in the exhaust system, which is an indication of the air/fuel mixture. The goal of the sensor is to help the engine run as efficiently as possible and also to produce as few emissions as possible. The code is actually an indication of a problem with the ratio of air and fuel and is telling you that sensor readings are out of range. This problem could be an indication of a failing O2 sensor; but it could also be a problem with another related system. There is no guessing in these situations, you need a professional scan tool AND a trained technician to completely diagnose and repair the problem. After all, you wouldn’t get an MRI without having a doctor to interpret the results.  

When a patient goes to the doctor, the doctor doesn’t tell him or her what’s wrong for free. Nor does the patient ask a pharmacist to diagnose the medical condition. Parts stores or inexperienced mechanics shouldn’t diagnose a computer-controlled vehicle. In providing a professional diagnosis, a quality shop will have invested in the staff and tools needed to save time, frustration, and, in the long run, money.  All of these things are costly and necessary for a fair customer-to-shop interaction.  Quality shops who build long lasting relationships with clients help them understand why paying a diagnostic charge is fair and necessary.  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Q: I have a 2009 Lexus ES 350 with 55,000 miles on it. Lately when I hit the brakes, the car trembles. I looked at the front brake pads and they're still good. What could be the cause and how should I fix the problem? 

A: It sounds like you have a classic case of warped rotors. Braking removes material not just from the pads, but from the discs as well. As rotors get thinner, they are more susceptible to warping because of the heat generated during braking. Although sometimes you can't see any irregularity, that's what is causing shudder when a caliper clamps down. You can solve the problem in one or two ways. Remove the brake rotors and have them turned at a brake shop. This is a machining process where the surfaces are smoothed using a special lathe. First, though, the shop will measure the thickness of the rotor. If it's too thin, legally they aren't allowed to turn the rotors. 

The other (and probably more time-effective) option is to buy new rotors and replace your old ones. It's a good idea to swap out the pads at the same time. At 55,000 miles, if you haven't done a front brake job on your car, you're not far off from having to do one anyway.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Never forget to think outside the box!

You are driving along in your car on a wild, stormy night. You pass by a bus stop, and you see three people waiting for the bus:

1. An old lady who looks as if she is about to die.
2. An old friend who once saved your life.
3. The perfect man (or) woman you have been dreaming about.

Which one would you choose to offer a ride to, knowing that there could only be one passenger in your car?

Think before you continue reading. This is a moral/ethical dilemma that was once actually used as part of a job application.

You could pick up the old lady, because she is going to die, and thus you should save her first; or you could take the old friend because he once saved your life, and this would be the perfect chance to pay him back. However, you may never be able to find your perfect dream lover again.

"I would give the car keys to my old friend, and let him take the lady to the hospital. I would stay behind and wait for the bus with the woman of my dreams."

Never forget to "Think Outside of the Box."

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tires burst at British GP, 4 drivers including Hamilton and Massa, Pirelli summoned by FI

Eberhardt’s Tire & Automotive is your complete auto repair specialist. Call us for any need. We are here to service your vehicle with the up most care and concern.
Eberhardt’s Tire & Automotive
2335 E Orangethorpe Ave.
Fullerton Ca. 92831


Tires burst at British GP, 4 drivers including Hamilton and Massa, Pirelli summoned by FIA

Ferrari Formula One driver Felipe Massa of Brazil's punctured tyre is seen during the British Formula 1 Grand Prix at Silverstone circuit, Silverstone, England, Sunday, June 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Nigel Roddis, pool)
SILVERSTONE, England - Amid growing concerns about the safety of Formula One tires, the sport's governing body has ordered tire supplier Pirelli to attend a meeting on Wednesday in response to dramatic tire blowouts that hit four cars at the British Grand Prix on Sunday.
Lewis Hamilton was leading the race when the rear left tire on his Mercedes exploded. There were further blowouts on the rear left tires for Ferrari's Felipe Massa, McLaren's Sergio Perez and Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne, whose problems resulted in huge strips of rubber flying across the track and several drivers behind him being hit with debris.
It brought on the safety car, the first of two in the 52-lap race eventually won by Hamilton's teammate Nico Rosberg.
Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez needed a replacement for his front left tire on Sunday, while Perez had also been hit by a blowout on Saturday.
Pirelli has now been summoned to attend a meeting in Germany — ahead of next week's grand prix at the Nurburgring — that was scheduled to involve only the ruling FIA and the sporting directors of F1 teams.
Pirelli could not say what caused the tire blowouts.
"There have been obviously some issues with rear-left failures which we have not seen before," Pirelli's MotorSport Director Paul Hembery said. "We are taking the situation very seriously and we are currently investigating all tires to determine the cause as soon as possible ahead of the next grand prix in Germany."
Before he dropped out of the race with mechanical problems, Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel was told over the radio it was unclear if the problems were linked to Pirelli or the curbs at Silverstone. They later cautioned him and team mate Mark Webber to be careful of the curbs and to watch their rear tires.
The tire trouble at Silverstone is only the latest controversy to hit Pirelli, which has come under fire over concerns its tires are wearing down too quickly and leading to races being disrupted by too many pit stops. F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has defended Pirelli, insisting the new tires are making the races more exciting.
Pirelli and Mercedes were, meanwhile, reprimanded earlier this month by the FIA after being found guilty of conducting an in-season test on the tires.
After Sunday's events, several teams and drivers warned of the possible dangers and demanded that something be done by the German Grand Prix.
"Without that tire problem, I could have made it to the podium because today I had a good feeling with the car," Ferrari's Felipe Massa said, adding he had similar problems with tires twice in Bahrain.
"Now, our greatest concern revolves around safety," he said. "Even if I can't really tell what happened today, it's unacceptable having to drive knowing you are not safe. Even if, luckily, nothing serious happened, what we saw is very dangerous."
McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh, who heads the F1 teams' association, agreed.
"We had five tire failures here. Lots of people have a lot of theories about what that is, whether it is fatigue failure or puncture caused by debris," said McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh, who heads the F1 teams' association.
"In fairness, we have to work with Pirelli. We have to support them through this but we have to do something," he said. "I don't think now Formula One couldn't possibly not respond to events this weekend ... We have been lucky that no one has been hurt."
Former F1 world champion Damon Hill, who was at the race, said the tire issue had to be addressed
"The drivers are clearly not happy and they have a right to be concerned about their safety and everyone's around them," he said. "Silverstone is one of the higher speed circuits we go to. We cannot have doubts about tires when you go to places like this or Spa. The question of whether it's cuts in the tires, punctures or curbs is not relevant. This is not that different to most of the circuits. In any case, they have to produce a tire that can cope with all the circuits they visit."
Whitmarsh suggested going back to the 2012 tires while three-time F1 champion Jackie Stewart said the FIA should lift the ban on in-season testing immediately so that all teams can test their tires this week. He went even further, suggesting the time may have come for eliminating pit stops altogether and introducing a tire that can last an entire race — rather than the current situation that requires two or even three stops.
"We don't need to have pit stops to make motor racing exciting," Stewart said. "We can have tires that will do the full distance in order to get the safety element in place. If we have to make stiffer tires, a heavy tire, a bigger tire, let's do that and have no pit stops if that is what it takes to get over this hurdle. If we went into another grand prix or two and saw this happening again and something really nasty were to happen, we would never forgive ourselves for not doing something."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Chrysler rejects NHTSA's request for recall of 2.7 million Jeeps

Eberhardt’s Tire & Automotive is your complete auto repair specialist. Call us for any need. We are here to service your vehicle with the up most care and concern.
Eberhardt’s Tire & Automotive
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Fullerton Ca. 92831

Chrysler rejects NHTSA's request for recall of 2.7 million Jeeps

By Larry P. Vellequette, Crain News Service
WASHINGTON (June 5, 2013) — In what some term a rare move, Chrysler Group L.L.C. said June 4 that it does not intend to honor a request from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to recall as many as 2.7 million Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty SUVs.
NHTSA said a recall is needed to address safety problems with the vehicles' fuel systems.
Chrysler said it had received a letter June 3 from NHTSA proposing a recall of 1993-2004 Grand Cherokee and 2002-2007 Liberty vehicles, which the agency said have defective fuel systems that pose an unreasonable risk to safety in rear-impact collisions.
The auto maker said in a statement that it has been sharing data on the issue with NHTSA since September 2010.
"The company does not agree with NHTSA's conclusions and does not intend to recall the vehicles cited in the investigation. The subject vehicles are safe and are not defective," Chrysler said in the statement.
"We believe NHTSA's initial conclusions are based on an incomplete analysis of the underlying data, and we are committed to continue working with the agency to resolve this disagreement," the statement said.
In a related document, Chrysler argued that its analysis showed fire incidents involving the named vehicles occurred "less than one time for every million years of vehicle operation."
But in the letter to Chrysler, dated June 3, NHTSA said its investigation "revealed numerous fire-related deaths and injuries," and the agency's defect investigation office believes that the vehicles "contain defects related to motor vehicle safety."
The government's top auto safety official reiterated concerns about the Jeep vehicles in a statement issued late June 4.
"Our data shows that these vehicles may contain a defect that presents an unreasonable risk to safety, which is why we took the next step of writing Chrysler," NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in a statement.
"The driving public should know that NHTSA is actively investigating this issue and is requesting that Chrysler initiate a safety recall and notify all affected owners of the defect. NHTSA hopes that Chrysler will reconsider its position and take action to protect its customers and the driving public."
Rare denial
It is rare for an auto maker to deny a request from NHTSA for a recall, said Allan Kam, a former senior enforcement attorney at the agency.
The main reason is that NHTSA has the authority to order an auto maker to recall their cars. Usually, if a car company initially refuses to recall its cars, the company will later settle with NHTSA to minimize costs and unfavorable publicity.
"Even if they believe in their hearts that a safety-related defect does not exist, a manufacturer will not get involved in a public controversy with the agency over 70,000 vehicles," Mr. Kam said. "When you're talking about millions of vehicles, and hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, those are the rare occasions where a manufacturer digs in their heels."
By refusing to recall the vehicles, Chrysler will avoid those costs for the time being—and avoid giving legal ammunition to Jeep owners who are suing over accidents in which their vehicles caught fire. To go along with NHTSA's request, Chrysler would need to send Jeep owners a letter saying their cars have a safety-related defect. Chrysler has insisted, including in a June 4 white paper, that they do not have a defect.
"I think a jury would give such a letter a lot of weight," Mr. Kam said.
Push for recall
An influential safety advocate has been pushing for the recall.
Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Automotive Safety (CAS), wrote a letter to NHTSA director David Strickland in May 2012 to alert him to the high number of most harmful event, or MHE, rear impact fire crashes reported in 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees.
Mr. Ditlow said testing by the Federal Highway Administration and the CAS show that the Grand Cherokee suffered catastrophic fuel system failures at energy levels far below NHTSA standards.
Mr. Ditlow urged NHTSA to order a mandatory safety recall if Chrysler refused to voluntarily recall the vehicle.
When reached for comment June 4, Mr. Ditlow accused Chrysler of putting profits before safety.
"When you get right down to it, the U.S. government bailed out Chrysler. Chrysler's since paid the money back, but there would be no Chrysler but for the U.S. government," he said. "The way I look at it is, Chrysler owes the American public a recall."
He also issued a scathing statement on his website.
Since September 2010
Chrysler was first notified of NHTSA's inquiry in September 2010.
The vehicle maker so far has been subjected to about a half-dozen private lawsuits regarding incidents with the fuel systems on the vehicle in question. All of the lawsuits remain active and none has been settled, a spokesman said on background.
Chrysler's analysis of NHTSA data, which it released with its statement, found that several vehicles from the era had higher incidence rates of fatal crashes than did the Grand Cherokee or the Liberty.
A source, speaking on background, said the two Jeeps exceeded the crash standard in place at the time, which allowed for some fuel leakage in a 30 mph crash. The Jeeps were designed to a standard that allowed no fuel leakage in a 30 mph crash.
The crash standard for rear collisions was doubled in 2008.
The source also said that calls to move the gas tank from behind the rear axle to a position between the axles would lower the incidence rate of fires from rear crashes. However, doing so would increase the incident rate of fires from side crashes, which are more prevalent, the source said.
Chrysler has until June 18 to issue a formal reply to NHTSA. The source indicated that the auto maker would share its analysis with the agency, but that it couldn't conduct a recall because it did not have a defect to fix.
In a prepared statement, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said that safety of drivers and passengers is the auto maker's first priority. But, he said, "the company stands behind the quality of its vehicles. All of us remain committed to continue working with NHTSA to provide information confirming the safety of these vehicles."
Golden rule
Doug Betts, Chrysler's head of quality, spoke to Automotive News last month about the company's recalls and how it deals with consumers.
At the time, Mr. Betts said Chrysler had issued 52 recalls of its products during the last three years, and that 49 of those were begun by Chrysler identifying a problem and notifying NHTSA of its intent to carry out a recall.
In the same interview, which appeared in Automotive News on May 27, Mr. Betts was asked whether the way Chrysler deals with consumers had changed.
He responded: "It's a night-and-day difference, and I'll credit Mr. Marchionne with setting the example. He follows a very simple rule: Treat people the way that you would want to be treated. Whenever anything comes up, he doesn't ask how much it costs or anything. He says, 'If I were them, would I want it fixed?' And if the answer is yes, then we fix it.