Technicians meet with Saturn Field
Wheel Alignment 19.95?
A Dime for Your Troubles.
Our E-mail Address: email@example.com
Our Phone Number Is 508-999-3213
Technicians meet with
Saturn Field Engineer.
Recently, Mark Giammalvo, Glenn Giammalvo, Mike Dacosta, and Larry Rivard
attended an automotive diagnostic seminar with Saturn Field Engineer, Jeff
Lynch. Jeff is a well-known engineer for General Motors and is currently
working for Saturn. At the seminar, Jeff explained the technical aspects
of five gas analysis. Five gas refers to the five different gases exiting
the tailpipe. These gases are: Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, Hydro Carbons,
Oxygen, and Nitrogen Oxide. In class, Jeff teaches technicians how
to view these gases with a special tool known as an emission analyzer.
The analyzer lets the technician see how much of each gas is exiting the
tailpipe. After analyzing this information the technician can formulate
reasons as to what may be wrong with the vehicle's engine, emission system,
computer system, etc.
Wheel Alignment 19.95?
Vehicle wheel alignment is a subject that is understood by only a small
amount of people, yet the three alignment angles that are commonly adjusted
during an alignment are actually easy to comprehend. The most important
alignment angle is referred to as toe-in. See figure 1, below.
Figure 1: Toe-in
This angle refers to the direction the wheels are pointed in when a
vehicle is traveling in a straight line. They may be pointed slightly to
the left, the right, or straight ahead. When both front tires of a vehicle
are pointed away from each other they are referred to as having a negative
toe-in angle. When both wheels point in toward, the center, they are said
to have a positive toe-in angle. Ideally, all wheels should be pointed
straight ahead. If any wheel has an excessive positive or negative toe-in
angle, the tires will be pointed in a direction they cannot travel easily
causing them to be dragged slightly sideways and resulting in rapid tire
wear. If, on the other hand, one wheel has a positive toe-in angle and
the opposite wheel has an equal negative toe-in angle the tires will be
pointed in the same direction, and therefore not cause uneven tire wear,
but because they are not pointed straight ahead the steering wheel will
appear crooked. Toe-in effects front wheels and rear wheels the same way,
and is the angle most easily noticed by the driver if incorrect. For the
steering wheel to remain straight both wheels need to have an equal amount
Figure 2: Camber
Camber, as shown in figure 2, is the alignment angle that relates to
whether or not a wheel is standing up vertically or leaning to one side
or another. If a tire leans out away from a vehicle at the top it is said
to have a positive camber angle, and, you guessed it, if a tire leans in
at the top toward the vehicle it has a negative camber angle. Incorrect
camber angle will cause a tire to wear more on one side because the tire
is resting more on one edge than the other. Excessive camber will also
cause a pull or drift to one side in the same way a bicycle will turn in
the direction that it leans to. Camber can effect rear wheels by causing
tire wear if incorrect but rear camber will not cause a pull condition.
Figure 3: Caster
Caster angle, as shown in figure 3, has the least effect on tire wear
and vehicle pull. It is the most difficult angle to comprehend because
it focuses on the position of steering components and not the position
of the wheels. Caster angle can be used to create o reduce
directional stability in any wheel that turns. Caster can most easily be
observe on a shopping carriage wheel. These wheels, or casters, turn
easily and follow behind the direction the cart is traveling because their
pivot point and the center of where the wheel meets the ground are far
apart, not right on top of one another. This severe caste angle lets
the direction of the cart lead the wheels steering. Caster angle does not
apply to the rear wheels of an automobile because they do not turn. Now
we can talk intelligently about complete alignment. Front wheel alignment
is the measuring and adjusting of the front wheels caster, camber, and
toe-in to the manufacturer' specifications. Most older and rear wheel
drive vehicles require this type of alignment because they have no way
to adjust the rear wheels. Four wheel alignment is the same as front wheel
alignment with the addition of measuring and adjusting rear wheel camber
and toe-in. This type of alignment applies to most front wheel drive
cars. In many cases changes in an alignment angle can be accomplished by
loosening and then moving a factory supplied adjustment. In some instances
where no factory adjustment is provided, and a particular angle needs to
be corrected, a means of adjustment will have to be added to the vehicle
before the angle can be adjusted. Sometimes this means the addition of
a special shim to allow proper adjustment. Alignment angle adjustment
procedures, both factory installed and technician installed, are as varied
a the automobiles they apply to. This, combined with the fact that
even two identical vehicles can have varying degrees of misalignment
of five different angles demonstrates why no two alignment jobs are ever
alike. All these variables plus others too intricate to elaborate on here
make explaining an alignment job to customers very difficult Explaining
the cost of the alignment job can add to that confusion. This brings us
back to the title of this article, alignment ads with a posted price. Makes
sense if you think about it, who can predict how much work will be needed
before measuring the alignment angles and verifying how far they are off
in the first place. Quite often we compare alignment jobs to house painting
jobs when speaking with a customer, not that they are equally priced, but
that they both vary greatly with the conditions that are present before
hand. No one advertises "Fall Sale-Houses Painted $895.00" that would see
foolish since the painter wouldn't know if you have a two-room cape or
a twelve-room colonial, yet in the automotive industry the following type
of advertisement is common "Fall Sale-Front Wheel Alignment $19.95."
Unfortunately, in the world of advertising low price rules. Regardless
of what the product or service is, many people are motivated by the lowest
price. But the big difference between alignment jobs and house painting
jobs is that the work and quality of a paint job can be easily observed,
but even the most well informed consumer cannot tell the difference between
a thorough alignment and a"set the toe and let it go, alignment job"
In addition, we have seen several alignment ads that advertise set toe,
check caster and camber $19.95 or $29.95. This is a clear case of "set
the tow and let it go." Obviously in this ad the vehicle's toe will be
adjusted but the caster and camber angles will be checked only. This ad
really means that the technician will observe caster and camber angles
but will leave them alone regardless of how far off they are. Imagine getting
this type of quick alignment and then 5,000 miles later wondering why your
car's tires have strange wear patterns or are wearing out too soon.
With all this information in mind it is easy to se how no one can
give you a cast in stone price for an alignment. Generally
speaking, if you ask us for an idea of what an alignment might
cost, we figure it this way. If the vehicles front caster, camber, and
toe settings can be adjusted in one hour, we will charge for one hours
labor plus a small fee for the alignment machine, a total of $49.95. If
during the alignment, the alignment computer shows that the rear alignment
is also off, we will alert you to this and recommend that it be adjusted
at the same time. If it takes the technician an additional half hour to
adjust the rear angles, we will add that time to the invoice.
Should the car require a special shim to be installed to make the adjustment,
we will give you a price on that also. Sometimes we will look in a flat-rate
guide to see an average time for the alignment, to help us give you an
idea of what the alignment might cost. Very often, the average published
time is at least two hours to adjust the alignment angles on certain
front wheel drive cars, yet we continue to see these very low priced alignment
ads. So remember, when you see a low price alignment ad, you'll know
that it's a "set the tow and let it go" or the shop has come up with some
magical quick solution to wheel alignments that the nation's automotive
engineers are unaware of.
Special Olympics Through the Automotive
Service Association, of which we are a member, we are participating
in a program to benefit Special Olympics. The program encourages consumers
to donate vehicles that are beyond the point of repair, for scrap metal
value. If a customer determines that a vehicle is not worth repairing he
or she can donate the vehicle to the program. If you have, or know of a
vehicle, that is not being driven because it is not worth repairing, call
our service department and we will set the wheels in motion. Once we contact
the coordinator at Special Olympics, they will arrange free towing to get
the vehicle from your location to theirs. In addition, if you have a vehicle
that you're not sure is worth repairing, we can thoroughly check the vehicle
for you to determine if it is worth repairing. If we determine it is not
worth repair investment and you decide to donate the vehicle, we will donate
the first hour's labor of our inspection time. Once Special Olympics turns
in the vehicle for scrap value they receive fifty percent of the scrap
metal value toward the program. You will receive a receipt from Special
Olympics and documentation from our shop showing evaluation of the value
of the vehicle. In addition, you can use the program as a tax deduction.
Last year, more than $300,000 was raised for Special Olympics through this
program. This is a great way to eliminate an old eyesore in
the driveway and it also helps support a great cause. Another
Special Tool! Recently, we were again reminded of how equipment intensive
the automotive industry has become. Just this past fall, we sold a customer
a Pontiac Grand Am. When the customer arrived to pick up the car, she mentioned
that she would like us to order a front license plate mounting bracket
so that she could mount a plate on the front of the car in the future.
After the bracket arrived from the Pontiac Warehouse we called the customer
so she could bring the car in for installation. When the customer arrived
with the car, Mark went out to the car with the bracket and two General
Motors license plate screws that are used on GM cars to hold the bracket
on. When Mark tried to install the bracket, he noticed that the screws
were too small for the holes in the front bumper and that they pushed into
the holes without even tightening. Mark called the Pontiac Warehouse and
explained his dilemma. The parts manager could not understand why the holes
were too big, but he did notice that the parts catalog picture showed a
special plastic rivet holding the bracket on the car. With this new information,
Mark ordered a package of plastic rivets, apologized to the customer, and
told her that he would call her again when the rivets arrived. Three
days later the rivets arrived but Mark was not taking any chances calling
the customer until he was satisfied with the installation procedure. Mark
took the bracket, rivets, and our shop rivet gun to a Grand Am on the lot
to give it a try. No luck. After several attempts and another call to Pontiac,
the bracket was still not going on. Mark decided to call some other
parts warehouses, other than Pontiac, about the installation problem. After
several calls, came the answer. Finally! One warehouse in particular had
run into this problem recently. Certain GM vehicles require a special rivet
gun that installs plastic rivets, this is different in style from the rivet
gun we own and had already tried. Strangely enough, the Pontiac Warehouse
Manager was not even aware of the special tool! This story has a happy
ending. Mark called the customer and installed the bracket with no problem.
Whew! And we are now the proud owner of a special rivet gun for plastic
rivets. Just another example of how car design and complexity keep changing
from day to day and the constant investment we must make in new equipment
to service your vehicles properly.
A Dime for Your Troubles.
Recently a customer came in reporting that the interior dome lamps were
inoperative on her Oldsmobile. The job was assigned to Nelson Benevides,
one of our service technicians. A check of the All-data service computer
did not reveal any service bulletins so Nelson found the wiring diagram
for this model in the computer, and printed it out. The wiring diagram
showed that fuse #14 powered this circuit. Upon checking that fuse, Nelson
found it had blown. As soon as he replaced the fuse with a new one it blew
again immediately. This confirmed one thing. This circuit is shorted and,
fortunately, the problem is consistent, not intermittent. This type of
electrical short circuit is common today. Unfortunately, this problem normally
takes a lot of time to find because it means that the technician must find
and unplug each component on this circuit one at a time. This particular
car has seven items on that one fuse. The items are: Visor vanity mirror,
left instrument panel courtesy light, right instrument panel courtesy light,
console courtesy light, cigar lighter, glove box light, and the trunk light.
The technician will know when the shorted component is unplugged because
the fuse will no longer blow right after the suspect item is unplugged.
However, even when the technician has diagnosed the problem this far, he
still does not know whether the cause is the component itself, or its wiring.
Most of the time we find that the wiring is the cause. Generally the power
or "live" wire to the suspect component will rub through a piece of sheet
metal in the car somewhere and this will cause the fuse to blow. Once the
fuse blows the circuit is "open" because no current can pass through the
broken fuse. If the fuse wasn't there to protect the circuit in this instance,
the wire would get very hot and most likely catch fire. Luckily, Nelson
had not started to access each components wiring harness yet. Seeing
that the cigar lighter was on this circuit, he happened to pull the
lighter out and look inside at the heating element before proceeding further.
Much to his amazement, he saw a dime had become lodged inside the lighter.
After removing the dime and trying another fuse, the fuse did not blow.
The dime was the cause. Under normal circumstances, when you push in the
lighter, the electricity flows through a spiral high-resistance metal coil.
The high-resistance quality of this metal coil causes it to heat up very
hot and glow red, thus causing enough heat to light a cigarette or cigar.
In this case, the electricity bypassed the coil and went through the dime.
This shorted the "live" power right to ground causing the fuse to blow
and "open" the circuit to prevent a fire. Hat's off to Nelson for spotting
the dime and saving the customer from what could have been an expensive
problem to find.
We are deeply saddened by the loss of our customer, Joe Collis. Joe
had been a regular customer of ours for quite some time now and like so
many of you, Joe was always a pleasure to talk to. He always reflected
a positive attitude on things and that positive attitude transmitted across
to everyone he came in contact with. He will be missed.
We were also deeply saddened, and shocked, by the loss of our customer,
Gordon Cahoon. Gordon, his wife Nancy, and their family have been customers
with us for many years now. Gordon was employed by the city as the director
of Emergency Medical Services and Communications until his retirement.
Gordon was one of the first CPR instructors in the state and his efforts
were instrumental in organizing the first Employees Assistance Program
for the City of New Bedford.
Our condolences go out to the Collis and Cahoon families.
Thanks again for your business.
Please drive safely.
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