Return to 'Giammalvo Quarterly' News Letter 'Page'
A Publication of Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service
Vol. 2 No. 1 WINTER 1996
CONTENTS:sam-gsm.gif (12149 bytes)

Technicians meet with Saturn Field Engineer. 
Wheel Alignment 19.95?
Automotive Service AssociationASA 
A Dime for Your Troubles.
In Passing

Our E-mail Address:

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 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 of toe-in. 

Figure 2: Camber 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: CasterCaster
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.


Automotive Service AssociationSponsors 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. 

In Passing

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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Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales, Inc.
1476 Purchase Street
New Bedford, MA 02740
Phone: (508) 999-3213
FAX: (508) 999-1343
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