Return to 'Giammalvo Quarterly' News Letter 'Page'
A Publication of Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service
Vol.3 No.4.........Fall 1997

Thermostat Fixes Transmission Problem 

The Shop's Schedule Is Currently Full, 
However if You Could Drop Off The Car  

A New Face In The Service Department  

The Parts That Someone Paid For That Were Never Installed  

In Passing 

Our E-mail Address: 

Our Phone Number Is 508-999-3213

Thermostat Fixes Transmission 

Recently a customer brought in their 1987 Chevrolet Celebrity with a strange complaint. The customer reported that when driving the car on the highway, the automatic transmission would shift  normally and go into overdrive with no problems. However, if the heat was turned on, the car would soon come out of overdrive and shift to drive. During the first road test with the heat on w  found that the car was running well and unfortunately the problem was not occurring. Upon road testing a second time, the problem  surfaced. Sure enough, the transmission could be felt coming out of overdrive shortly after the heater was turned on. Several of our technicians were discussing this perplexing problem over morning coffee break. The technicians had developed a theory that they wanted to test. Knowing that on many of today's computer controlled cars, the car's computer will not engage overdrive unless a certain engine coolant temperature is reached, they  decided to test drive the car with a scan tool to monitor the coolant temperature sensors reading. (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 vehicles sensors. This is very similar to the same technology that aircraft use, better known as a flight data recorder.). After connecting the scan tool to the vehicle we called up the datastream. (The datastream is the name given to the list of both sensor inputs and outputs that your car's computer is seeing and controlling.)  While driving the car and monitoring the datastream on the scan tool we noticed that the coolant temperature was lower than normal at 160F. This would seem to indicate that the car's thermostat had failed and was not allowing the engines coolant to reach the normal operating temperature of 195F. However, this still did not explain our problem. When the heat was turned on, we noticed the coolant temperature dropped even lower. Normally the coolant temperature of the engine does drop when the heat is on because the coolant is now going through the heater core to provide heat for the cars interior. (The heater core is actually a small radiator.) With coolant flowing through both the radiator and the heater core there is always a natural reduction in engine coolant temperature. However, on this car, the coolant temperature is already lower than normal because of the failed thermostat. Turning the heat on brought the engine's coolant temperature to a very low level. As we monitored the coolant temperature an interesting thing happened. When coolant temperature got down to 157F. The computer commanded the transmission to turn off the overdrive gear. Take a look at the data stream to see what we mean:  

**********WITH HEATER OFF***************** 
Sensor Input or Output Current Reading
O2 (Oxygen Sensor) .321 millivolts
Loop Status Open/Closed Closed
TPS (Throttle Position) 1.27 volts
TPS% (Throttle %) 27%
IAC (Idle Air Control) 150 counts
Des Id ( Desired Idle ) 1100 RPM
MAF (Mass Air Flow to Eng.) 18 gams per sec. 
Pulse Width (Fuel Injector On Time) 2.3 millisec.
Knk (Eng Knock Yes/NO) No
Prom Id (Program ID Number) 9247
TIME (Time Since Key On) 18:42
Batt (Battery Volts) 13.7
CTS (Coolant Temp) 162 F
BK (Brake Pedal On/Off) Off
CF1 (Cooling Fan 1 On/Off) Off
AC (Air Conditioning On/Off ) Off
VSS (Vehicle Speed Signal) 57 mph 
O/D (Overdrive On/Off) On
*********WITH HEATER ON************
Sensor Input or Output Current Reading
O2 (Oxygen Sensor) .632 millivolts
Loop Status Open/Closed Closed
TPS (Throttle Position) 1.09 volts
TPS% (Throttle %) 21%
IAC (Idle Air Control) 150 counts
Des Id ( Desired Idle ) 1100 RPM
MAF (Mass Air Flow to Eng.) 15 gams per sec. 
Pulse Width (Fuel Injector On Time) 2.1 millisec.
Knk (Eng Knock Yes/NO) No
Prom Id (Program ID Number) 9247
TIME (Time Since Key On) 21:32
Batt (Battery Volts) 13.7
CTS (Coolant Temp) 157 F
BK (Brake Pedal On/Off) Off
CF1 (Cooling Fan 1 On/Off) Off
AC (Air Conditioning On/Off ) Off
VSS (Vehicle Speed Signal) 57 mph 
O/D (Overdrive On/Off) OFF

As you can see, when the computer saw coolant temperature get to 157F it shut down the overdrive gear in the transmission. Evidently 157F to 158F is the threshold coolant temperature value for overdrive operation. The computer does not want the overdrive on with a cold engine because this could cause a cold engine to stall. We had just discovered a small piece of this car's computer's program instructions. This brings out an interesting point. This is a perfect example of what we call computer "Strategy". Strategy is the term used to explain the computers program instructions or operating philosophy. Strategy is never published by automotive manufactures because it is believed to be top secret information. You will never find this information in a vehicles service manual. They call it proprietary information. They do not want it published because they do not want other manufactures to learn their programs. This creates problems when trying to service cars because we could really use this information to help us diagnose vehicles faster in order to reduce the time to diagnose problems. Less time to diagnose means less expense to the customer. 

How do we know what the computer should do when a sensor reports a certain value? We face this problem almost daily. We will be trying to diagnose a car and we will be looking at datastream information like the above data. We will see the computer turn on a certain item. Was it supposed to turn on that item at that time? What sensor data does the computer look at to make that decision? We don't know! Technicians nationwide don't know! Only the writer of the program knows and he's not talking.  Just another example of how complex automotive diagnostics can be. Just so you know.  

The Shop's Schedule Is Currently Full, However
If You Could Drop Off
The Car....

If you have called our service department recently and needed to schedule some normal maintenance, we probably assigned you an appointment based on our current schedule which is a few weeks ahead. As you know, the service department has been quite busy lately. In some cases, when your vehicle is in need of some more urgent service, for example: your car won't start, large oil leak, etc., we will advise you to leave the car with us for a day or two and we will make every attempt to get you back on the road again in as short a time as possible. How can leaving the car for a day or two allow us to look at it any sooner than our two-week schedule? If you leave us the car, we can start to work on it during authorization hold times. In plain English, when a technician is working on a car that was scheduled for that day he may find other items that need attention that were not booked. The technician will have Glenn call the customer for authorization. While we are waiting for that customer to call back we can attempt to begin work on unscheduled cars that have been dropped off.  In addition, if your car has an urgent problem and your schedule does not allow you to be without it, we have a local rent-a-car company that we can refer you to that has competitive daily rates. This way while we're working on your car you still have transportation.  

A New Face In The
Service Department
We would like to introduce Sue Blais. Sue has  been given the responsibility of service advisor.  She has a strong automotive background and is  very helpful in answering service questions. We  have already received quite a few compliments  about Sue from our customers. She is assisting Glenn in the service department with appointment  booking, estimates, incoming service calls for  customers checking the status of their vehicle,  repair order writing and general automotive service  advise for our customers. Sue's presence will  reduce the average time customers are waiting, in person or on the phone, to speak to someone  in service. If you have a technical question or other  need.  Glenn and Mark are, of course, always available. 

The Parts That Someone Paid For 
That Were Never Installed.

Recently a technician from a local new car dealership stopped by with a trunk full of brand new parts that he wanted to sell. At first we were suspicious as to how this technician acquired the parts. After all, a technician selling parts out of the trunk is not the norm. At first we thought that maybe he, or someone else, had stolen them out of the car dealer's parts room. The technician replied that the parts were not stolen and he seemed confident that he had proper ownership of them. As we questioned him further, the story got dramatically worse. The parts were not stolen from the parts room but they were stolen from customers. Let's explain. Like many new car dealerships, this technician is on the "flat rate system". In the flat rate system, the technician is paid a certain amount of time for each particular automotive service procedure regardless of how long it takes him. For example, in many new car dealerships the flat rate time for an oil change service is a 1/2 hrs labor. In other words, the technician gets paid for 1/2an hours labor regardless of whether or not he completes the job in more time or less time. If he does the job in twenty minutes he gets paid for thirty minutes. If he takes a whole hour to do the service he still only gets paid for the 1/2hour. That's the flat rate system. One of the many problems with this system is that the system promotes speed as opposed to quality. This is where his parts came in.  This technician told us that because he is on the flat rate system the technicians don't always put in the parts they're supposed to because they are trying to save time or even "make" time. How do you "make" time? If you perform a procedure that pays 1/2 an hour but you complete it in only 15 minuets, you just "made" 15 extra minutes. If this type of "making" time can be done all day, before you know it, the technician has turned a forty-hour work week into a fifty-hour work week, or more, yet they were only working on cars for forty hours. The more time they can cut the more they can increase their hourly pay at the end of the week. Many times this technician would perform a transmission flush service and not change the transmission filter. He would take the new filter and put it in his tool box. Meanwhile, the customer still gets charged for the filter on his repair bill. Among the other parts in his trunk were brand new fuel filters, spark plugs, and timing belts. Same story. A customer comes in for a timing belt replacement. If the belt is not broken and the customer just wants it changed for preventive maintenance he would not install the belt. Once again the customer paid for the belt and the labor to install it and got neither for his money. We questioned him as to whether or not the service manager of his dealership new he was doing this. He was quite sure the manager had caught on but he and the other technicians doing this are not getting reprimanded because for each part they sold on a repair order, the service manager and the technicians are getting a 3% boost in pay based on the parts sold. (See Giammalvo Quarterly Spring 1990 for an interesting article on parts commissions.) Anyway, we told the technician that what he was doing was called FRAUD, and that as far as we were concerned the parts in his trunk were stolen. Stolen from customers! In one way, we dislike bringing you the "bad news items" about the automotive industry but at the same time we feel it is more important for you to be aware of these things so you can be more conscious about your vehicle's service needs if you are out of the area and are not sure who you can trust. Obviously this does not mean that all new car dealerships operate in this manner, but you should be on your guard when receiving any type of service today, automotive or not, especially when you are unfamiliar with a particular facility. As a value added service to you, when you are planning a trip out of town, feel free to call our service department and we will supply you with a list of quality competent service providers that are in the area of the country in which you will be traveling. We will find other shops, like ours, that are members of the Automotive Service Association. Also, if you find yourself in need of help anytime you're out of town, and can get to a phone, give us a call. You can be sure we'll place you in trusting hands.  

In Passing 
We are deeply saddened by the death of customers,
Albert J.
Lamoureux, Regis Spangler,
Harold Hurwitz, Margaret Linney
and Capt. Ed Sanchez Jr.

The Lamoureux family has been customers of ours for quite some time now. Al was the former funeral director and embalmer of the Lamoureux Funeral Home for 47 years until his retirement due to illness. He is survived by his wife Lillian.  

Regis Spangler was born in Pittsburgh and lived in Fairhaven more than 50 years. He was a self-employed mason for many years.  He received the National Defense Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, three bronze service stars and two overseas bars.  

Harold Hurwitz was a customer and the attorney for our dealership for many years. He was a graduate of New Bedford High School and attended Colby College. He received his L.L. B. from Boston University Law School.He was a founding member of the law firm Hurwitz and Hurwitz of New Bedford. The firm is now being run by his son Barry Hurwitz.  

Mrs. Linney also a customer, lived most of her life in New Bedford.  She was a member of the Daughters of Isabella; the Catholic Order of Foresters; the Council of Catholic Women and the St. Julie's Ladies Guild.  

Capt. Ed Sanchez. Jr. was the owner and founder of Buzzards Bay Realty. From 1976 to 1986 he was also president and general manager of Sanchez Marine Shipbuilding and from 1964 to 1986, he was co-founder and general manager of Sanchez Marine Services and founder of Sea Ed Marine Inc. He also worked for Pleasant Street Development Corp. and Atwood Crawford Woodturning Co.  

As of this writing we also learned of the passing of Larry Demello. The Demello's are also long time customers of Giammalvo's. He will be missed.  

Our heartfelt condolences go out to all the above families. 
Thank you for your patronage.
Please buckle up and 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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