Return to 'Giammalvo Quarterly' News Letter 'Page'
A Publication of Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service
Vol. 3 No. 2 SPRING 1997
CONTENTS:sam-gsm.gif (12149 bytes)

Giammalvo's Assists Local Girl Scouts Troop 
More Than One Problem? You Bet!
Even Wiper Blades Have Changed.
Attention Customers with R-12 Freon Air Conditioners !
In Passing 

Our E-mail Address:

Our Phone Number Is 508-999-3213

Giammalvo's Assists Local Girl Scouts Troop 
With Car Care Badge.

Recently we heard that the Girl Scouts were looking for an automotive service facility to donate their shop so that the scouts could earn the new Car Care Badge.  This past March, Mark and Glenn Giammalvo volunteered their services, and our service facility, to assists the local Girl Scout Troop in obtaining their Car Care Badge.

The Car Care Badge is a medal that a Girl Scout can receive after she has had supervised training with an automotive technician regarding Car Care. During the event at our shop, the girls learned how to: check the vehicle's owners guide for recommended maintenance, inspect warning lamps and what they represent, how to check tire air pressure, checking fluid levels and condition. 

More Than One Problem? You Bet!

As automotive electronic systems in automobiles get more and more advanced, we find it increasingly difficult in explaining to car owners how smart their vehicle's computers are. So smart, that in many cases, they can inhibit diagnostic testing. So smart, that in many cases, a vehicle will have developed several different problems before the owner notices things aren't working quite as well as they used to. Case in point; recently we had a customer report that her 1986 Chevrolet would sometimes stall at stop signs and in low speed parking lot maneuvers. We explained the charges for an initial battery of tests we would have to run on her car first. She agreed to the testing and dropped off the car. We test drove the car numerous times but were never able to get the car to stall. At this point we decided it was time to see what the computer was doing so we connected our scan tool. (The scan tool is a device that we use to connect to your car's computer. It allows the technician to see the same information that your computer is seeing from all the vehicle's sensors). After connecting the scan tool to the vehicle we expected to see the data stream. (The data stream is the name given to the list of both sensor inputs and outputs that your car's computer is seeing and controlling.) Instead we were locked out. Every time we tried to access the vehicle's computer with the scan tool, the words, " No Communication," would appear on the display area of our scan tool. The message, no communication, is usually displayed when a car's onboard computer system will no longer transmit data to the scan tool. This usually indicates that the vehicle's on- board computer has failed. We have seen failed computers before that won't communicate and yet the car runs fine. We contacted the customer to explain where we were in our diagnostic testing and that we recommended replacing the computer before going any further. At this point, the customer posed a question: Will a new computer fix the stalling problem? Our answer? We simply, don't know. All we do know, at this point in our testing, is that, the vehicle's computer will not communicate with our scan tool. Replacing the computer will definitely fix the communication problem, but we cannot be sure it will fix the stalling problem. In other words, the computer is A problem, but it may not be THE problem. The customer decided to take our advice to replace the computer. With the new computer installed, we now had access to the data stream. Here is what we saw: 
Sensor Input or Output Current Reading
O2 (Oxygen Sensor) .850 millivolts
Loop Status Open/Closed Open
TPS (Throttle Position) .53 volts
TPS% (Throttle %) 0%
IAC (Idle Air Control) 17 counts
Des Id ( Desired Idle ) 800 RPM
MAF (Mass Air Flow to Eng.) 4 gams per sec. 
Pulse Width (Fuel Injector On Time) 1.4 millisec.
Knk (Eng Knock Yes/NO) No
Prom Id (Program ID Number) 4022
TIME (Time Since Key On This Trip) 3:22
Batt (Battery Volts) 13.7
CTS (Coolant Temp) 198 F
BK (Brake Pedal On/Off) On
CF1 (Cooling Fan 1 On/Off) On
AC (Air Conditioning On/Off ) Off
VSS (Vehicle Speed Signal) 0 mph 
PRNDL (Transmission Gear) Park
BL (Block Learn) 128
INT (Integrator) 128
SPK AD (Spark Advance ) 12 deg
Decel Fu Ct. (Decelerate Fuel Cut) No
HA (High Altitude) No
Codes None present 
As we were watching the datastream change, we noticed that the Oxygen sensor value was fixed at .850 millivolts. The oxygen sensor is a sensor mounted in the front exhaust pipe that reports back to the computer how lean or rich the exhaust is. Or, basically, how much leftover oxygen is in the exhaust going out the tailpipe. A voltage less than .450 is considered lean, a voltage value greater that .450 is considered rich. In addition, the value displayed should always be changing back and fourth from a low voltage to a high voltage as you observe the readings. When the computer sees a lean signal from the oxygen sensor, it will command the fuel injectors to spray more fuel into the engine. Likewise, when the computer sees a rich signal from the oxygen sensor it will command the fuel injectors to spray less fuel into the engine. We noticed that it was staying fixed at .850. After testing the oxygen sensor we found that it had failed. This failed oxygen sensor was feeding the vehicle's computer the wrong information. In essence, it is telling the computer that the exhaust is always rich. Armed with this wrong information, the computer was not spraying enough fuel out the fuel injectors. This lack of fuel will cause stalling and was the cause of our customers stalling complaints.   Here is a perfect example of a vehicle with more than one problem. The vehicle had a faulty onboard computer, which we verified with the no communication message and lack of a data stream. After installing a new computer we had access to the data stream and were able to investigate further thus finding the failed oxygen sensor.  Hope this helps shed some light on how complex automotive diagnostics can be and how well a car can run with several problems. 

Even Wiper Blades Have Changed.

We are changing our inventory of wiper blades and wiper inserts for certain important reasons. In this article, we will address what those changes are, and why.  But first, a little explanation of wiper blades and wiper inserts is in order. A wiper insert is the rubber cleaning strip that is slid onto the metal wiper blade. The wiper blade is the metal unit that holds the wiper insert. New wiper inserts are sold as a pair in a box. New wiper blades are boxed separately and already include a wiper insert.  In past years, when a customer reported that their wipers cleaned poorly, a technician would simply look up the vehicle's wiper length in a wiper catalog, obtain the correct part number, slide out the old rubber pair of inserts, and slide in the new pair. Due to changers in automotive design, many cars now have different length wiper blades. The drivers side is one length and the passengers side is another. This means two different part numbers. This creates havoc with inventory control of boxed sets of wiper inserts. Here's why: Since wiper inserts come packaged as a pair, you have to break up two separate newly boxed pairs, every time you replace them on the cars that have the varying sizes. The ending result is, a wiper cabinet with 80 opened sets which now only have one insert in each box. (It's kind of like having two different foot sizes and going to the department store to buy a pair of shoes. In that case, you don't want a matched pair but that's all that's available). And since they are invoiced to customers by our computer system as pairs, how do we tell our computer system to charge for « of each part number? The computer software does not allow for this real life problem. What we have been doing, is, just charging for one set. We will pick one of the two part numbers used so the customer only has to pay for one set. This destroys any concept of inventory control because we just told our computer system that we sold a set of wipers, when in reality, we broke up two sets of two different part numbers. Now that you're as confused as we are, here's the new deal. We have decided to only stock wiper blades instead of the inserts. Remember, the wiper blade is boxed separately and already has a the rubber insert attached. This will help alleviate all the problems stated above and the additional cost is not that much more in the long run.  Hope this helps explain why we do the things we do.  Thanks for your patience. 

Attention Customers!

As you may know, for those of you car owners who have air conditioners with R-12 type Freon, it is getting more and more expensive to purchase R-12. This Freon is currently $1.88 per oz. and the average system holds 40 oz. Due to its destructive effect on the earth's ozone layer, it is now against the law to manufacture any more R-12 in this country. We can only use what is remaining until the country's supply is depleted. 

Eventually, R-12 Freon will be too expensive to purchase. When it is no longer cost effective to purchase R-12 Freon, owners of cars that need R-12 may want to have their vehicle retrofitted for the new, less costly, R-134A refrigerant.  R-134A will not harm the ozone layer. R-134A refrigerant has currently been installed in many cars since 1995, with some car companies installing it as early as 1993. It is currently being installed in all new cars when they are built. R-134A refrigerant is currently the only refrigerant approved by all automotive car manufactures for replacement in R-12 type systems. However, if you decide you want to use R-134A refrigerant, it is not as simple as just dropping it in. In all cases, the air conditioning system has to be connected to costly, specialized recovery equipment that we have in the shop. The equipment will, by suction, vacuum out any remaining refrigerant and will also remove moisture in the system. In addition, depending on the year and make of the vehicle, certain vehicles will require new "barrier" type hoses. Because of the smaller molecular structure of R-134A, this new type refrigerant can actually leak through the rubber air-conditioning lines of cars that have R-12 type hoses. Also, some vehicle applications may not be able to use the same air compressor. If the type car you have requires an air compressor replacement, this can add to the cost of the retrofit. However, the most important item we want to warn customers about in this article is the availability of some dangerous refrigerants that are currently being smuggled into this country. The F.B.I. is now claiming that R-12 refrigerant is being smuggled into this country second to cocaine. In addition, we have been hearing of many so called "drop in" refrigerants that are claimed to work as well as R-12 and do not require any retrofitting. In many cases the U.S. Government is finding that these "drop in" refrigerants contain R-12 combined with dangerous levels of butane. Butane is a highly flammable substance. Butane can be released into the passenger compartment if the air conditioning system develops a leak. Butane can be ignited by someone smoking in the car. In addition, there have already been instances where automotive technicians have been injured while looking for refrigerant leaks because many refrigerant leak detectors use an electrical charge that can ignite the butane. We have also seen some non-explosive refrigerants that are supposed to be a "drop in" replacement for R-12. The EPA has approved some of these refrigerants for use in vehicles. All automotive manufactures however are recommending only R-12 or R134A. There is an additional catch to using these "drop in" refrigerants. If you decide to have a repair facility install one of these new "drop in" refrigerants, keep the following in mind: 

1. The vehicle will get new style
refrigerant fittings permanently
installed on the air conditioning
lines. These new fittings will
prevent a technician from
installing the wrong type of
refrigerant into the car the next
time it requires air conditioning
service. Each new type of
refrigerant has its own special
identifying fittings. These fittings
can never be removed once
installed. If removal is attempted,
they will permanently destroy the
air conditioning lines they are
installed on.

2. You will have to return to the
shop that performed the change
over for all future air conditioning
service. This is because each new
refrigerant requires its own very
expensive recovery machine which
can only be used on cars with that
type "drop-in." For example, a
refrigerant recovery machine used
to recover type "XYZ" can only be
used on a car with
"XYZ"refrigerant. Ditto for the
other refrigerants.
3. Since the automotive
manufactures are recommending
air conditioning systems only be
filled with R-12 or R-134A we
have purchased the required
equipment to service only these
two types of refrigerant and
therefore we will not be
purchasing any new air
conditioning equipment to service
these "drop-ins."
Finally, if it's not confusing enough already, there is another recent upsetting development you should be aware of. Some automotive franchise repair facilities have been promoting some of these new "drop-in" refrigerants. They are advertising to change over your car's system from R-12 to the new "drop-in." The price of this conversion has been attractive to many customers. The problem arises when the customer requires air conditioning service. They return to the same franchise facility that installed the "drop-in" to find that the facility does not perform air conditioning service because they do not have the appropriate special equipment to recover the "drop in" refrigerant. At that point the customer may come to us for the work. However, we also, cannot service this "drop-in" because of the same special equipment requirement. Now the customer has an inoperative air conditioning system that no one can repair.  We hope we have not further confused you with the complexity of these issues. If you have a question pertaining to air conditioning or anything automotive related feel free to give Glenn or Mark a call. 

In Passing 

We were saddened by the loss of long time customer, Tony Barradas.  Tony lived in New Bedford most of his life and was employed at the U.S. Naval Base in Newport,   R.I. as an electrician. He was also a World War II Air Corps veteran and was a member of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees. We were also saddened by the loss of our new customer, Herbert Butts. Herb served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was employed by PCI-JC Rhodes for 43 years as a supervisor in the set department before retiring in 1986. Our heart felt prayers go out to the Barradas and Butts families. 

Thank you 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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