Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.
Mark, who has been with the business for
over 20 years, is an ASE
Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the
ASE L1 certification, and has an associates degree
in business management.
A Valuable Tool
(Printed in the Journal
of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP)
A customer had come in with a 1997 Honda Civic with 95,000 miles. The car had a history of setting code PO171 (Fuel metering too lean). This little Honda was inspected high and low for all sorts of causes. Datastream values were checked and rechecked. We monitored the O2 sensor's activity. Service bulletins were checked. In the end, it appeared that the customer may have to wait in hopes that Honda might write a PCM reflash to correct this problem. Of course, that was unlikely if his was the only 1997 Civic with this problem.
As a member of IATN (International Automotive Technicians Network), our shop has access to all their past technical e-mails. I cannot tell you of the countess hours we have saved using this service. There is nothing like finding a technician that has already seen your exact problem. As a last ditch effort we checked the IATN web site for driveability e-mails on 1996-1998 Civics. One e-mail, barely 30 day's old, looked promising. The shop was in Michigan and they had a 98 Civic with code PO171 stored. Unfortunately, the case was still open with no solution posted. This meant that either they had not repaired the car or the shop had not yet found the time to post the fix information. I figured a courtesy call by yours truly wouldn't hurt. I called Brian Banfield and his auto shop of the same name in Marshall, Michigan. Brian had stepped out so I spoke to one of his employees. I advised him of my dilemma and immediately he remembered the car. Fortunately, the car had recently been fixed and the shop employee knew all the details fresh in his mind. Their Civic had developed a crack in the front pipe/converter assembly. This cracked caused air to mix with the exhaust causing the front O2 sensor to be biased lean. Sure enough with the hood open our Civic had the same crack. You could see it where the front O2 sensor threads into the manifold. With the front shield off the crack is really visible. A call to the Honda dealer proved even more interesting. They had all the pricing ready as well as the part numbers of every bolt we would need. You might say this cracked catalytic converter is getting quite common. Lets just say they had plenty in stock. Too bad this customer was out of the 8-year 80,000 mile OBD2 warranty. With the common nature of this failure, it seems like something Honda should warranty.
Anyway, the Civic was finally repaired. As a reminder, don't forget to check the IATN e-mails. Just think of it as another tool in your tool box.