Thursday, September 29, 2011

Selling myself

Over the last couple of days I have been out trying to expand my business. This is no easy task walking into a shop and trying to sell my service. For the most part shop owners are pretty busy and it is hard to get their attention. Most of the time I get a head nod and the usual response of  "We do diagnostics here too." I try to get my main points across in a hurry. I typically have about 3 minutes. Yes, I have timed it. In 3 minutes I have to convey to the shop owner that I am capable, equipped, and on his side. The capable part is usually the easiest. I tell a little bit about myself, my past, etc. The equipped portion is a little harder. All the shops have scanners, some have labscopes, some have J2534 programming capabilities, a few have low amp probes. What the average shop owner/tech doesn't realize that there are limitations to aftermarket scanners and J tools. While many aftermarket scantools claim that they are OE level tools unfortunately they are not (look at my ongoing Ottotest posts). That is where owning factory scantools is essential. This is by no means a knock on any shop or shop owner at all. There is a lot of misinformation out there, 90% of the time a quality aftermarket scantool or J2534 tool will do the job. The other 10% of the time I can help them with OE tools, along with my knowledge and experience. This is where I earn my keep. The convincing the shop owner I am on his/her side is by far the hardest. I make sure to mention numerous times I only service professional shops only. I am not the competition. I am not here to take anybody's job or to rub someone's nose in a problem. Nor, do I hold myself above anybody else. My service is a supplement to an already well performing shop. As any of the shops that I service will tell you I am also not secretive. I teach as I diagnose or after. I am not one of these guys that says change that part because "I say so." I always share with anyone who will listen how I arrived at that decision. My service helps keep the shop's customers in their bays instead of somewhere else. Diagnostics does not pay the rent in a shop. Do not let anyone fool you. But, solid diagnostics keeps them coming back in for the brakes, exhaust, and service work that does pay the rent. I have to get all of that across in 3 minutes or less to a person who probably is worried whether Mrs. Jones' check is going to clear, how he is going to meet payroll, the parts house is 2 hours late with a part that the customer is waiting for, etc. Most shop owners are masters of multi-tasking. That is another reason why my service works-I am focused and can give my undivided attention to that problem that is eating away at shop productivity and bottom line. I always follow up with shops after the initial meet and greet in about 2 weeks. I can usually get a feel if the shop is going to use me after that. I always try to stay positive with my visits. There are a lot of great people in the automotive industry. I have met some real good quality individuals stopping in and saying hello. I never stop trying to get new business and I always take the time to help out a shop. You never know when it could turn into some newfound business. Now, if a shop decides to use me they usually throw a problem vehicle that they have been knocking their head against the wall at me. It is like a trial by fire type of scenario. If I solve the issue and impress the shop I get the business. In this business you definitely have to walk the walk.           

Monday, September 26, 2011

1999 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

There it is the 1999 Chevrolet Monte Carlo with 128,191 miles with a 3100 motor that seemed posessed. The car was towed in for a no start. The shop diagnosed it rightfully so as a bad fuel pump. Customer decided to supply their own parts. Shop installed customer supplied pump and car leaves. Car comes back a couple of days later with fuel pump belly up. Shop owner convinces customer to install a quality fuel pump assembly instead of best price unit. Customer agrees, pump is installed and car leaves. Car comes back with complaint of lack of power. Fuel pressure is at spec. Shop takes a look at load under WOT (Wide Open Throttle) and it is barely 60%. We like to see 80% or better on a naturally aspirated vehicle. In went a remanufactured Mass Air Flow sensor and now we have 82% under WOT conditions and the car is thoroughly road tested. Car leaves and customer returns a couple of days later thoroughly incensed. Now the complaint is the car is cutting out, runs bad, etc. This is where I come into the story. This shop owner is pulling his hair out. Do we have a defective remanufactured MAF sensor? Another bad fuel pump? The shop owner let's me road test the car. So I hook up my Tech2 scantool arm it to take a snapshot and head out. This car runs rather well. I sneak a peak at the load and MAF pids under various driving conditions and they seem right on. I road test the vehicle close to 12 miles under every concievable driving condition and it runs great. Back at the shop I pop the hood and the first thing I notice is it looks like it has the original ignition coilpacks and ignition wires. Hmmm. I grab my spray bottle of salt water and mist away. It wouldn't be the first time I have seen poor secondary components causing this issue. This car doesn't miss a beat. So I hot soak it for a half hour still nothing. I low amp probe the coilpacks and the injectors-nothing! The shop owner agrees to take it on an extended road test. The next morning he calls me and tells me he got it to act up after about a 30 mile road test. I tell him I will be by later for another road test. Again, I arm my Tech2 and go for an extended road test. After about 20 minutes of driving I feel a sputter. I immediately hit my record button. It sputters some more. This is a hard shudder. Like someone shutting the key on and off.
Back at the shop I download my snapshot. I choose to look at 5 pids closely. Engine Rpm, Cam Signal, Ignition 1, 24x Crank Sensor, and Spark Timing. This 3100 motor has a 7x Crank Sensor in the block that reads off notches on the crankshaft. This sensor is the engine speed input to the Ignition Control Module. From there the module then conditions this signal and produces what is called Ckt. 430. This is the main rpm input to the PCM for engine speed calculations, ignition timing, fuel injection control, etc. We also have a 24x crank sensor that reads off the front of the crankshaft via windows on crankshaft dampener. This signal is sent directly to the PCM. The PCM uses this signal for low speed timing events. Typically this signal stops being looked at above approximately 1600rpm. Then there is a Camshaft Sensor which is utilized for sequential fuel injection. Every year has different wrinkles for each of these sensors. What I layed out is a generalization. So, if we look at the snapshot above the first thing I see is that 24x is above the usual rpm limit of approximately 1600rpm. It is at 2184 rpm. The other pids look ok. Let's go backwards in the snapshot.

Here you see typically where I see 24x stop incrementing. Looks go back even further.

Here you see that Engine RPM and 24x are under 1600 rpm and are within 50 rpm of each other. This is when the car is running well. Lets look at when this car was really having issues.
Here we have a real issue. The Engine RPM is under 1600 rpm but 24x is above. What gives here. I have seen weird things happen with 24x sensors as well as Cam sensors. Thankfully, most of the time you can just unplug the offending sensor and road test to confirm if that is the problem. So, at this point I feel pretty confident that after I unplug 24x sensor this car is going to be alright. So, off I go figuring I am done here. Well the car still hiccups and runs poor. Feeling dejected I plug the 24x sensor back in and decide to look at the 24x rpm counter when it hiccups. Sure enough every time it hiccups it gets a stupid rpm increment. There are times that you fix a car more with your gut then a scantool or a fuel pressure gauge. With this in mind. I hook my scope to the 7x Crank Sensor and CKT. 430.
Here it is 7x on Channel 2 and CKT. 430 on Channel 1. I didn't even make it out of the parking lot when I got this. We have nice 7x but no 5 volt square wave on CKT. 430. Here is another one below out on the road.
There is the money shot! This is during a hiccup. We have proper signal into the Ignition Control Module but improper out. We are missing CKT. 430 pulses. I torture the modules power and grounds to make sure we do not have a power or ground issue. This car needs an Ignition Control Module. I advise the shop owner that the original secondary components should be replaced with the module as well. As far as the scantool data. I am thinking that when there is a CKT. 430 issue the normal rpm increment for 24x goes out the window. I know for next time. You never stop learning in this business. This is a perfect example of a vehicle coming in with multiple issues. Since there was no history with this car and the car came in as a no start you have to stay on your toes for sure.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Classic Bike Article and Autumn Classic at Prescott

Classic Bike Article

If any of you read Classic Bike (Classic Bike Web Page) you may have spotted that I have made it into another magazine due to my sketching exploits at the VMCC Festival of 1000 Bikes. The guys at Classic Bike liked my work so much that they kindly included me in a small article in this months issue. If you have not seen the article click on the image below.

Special thanks to Rick Parkington for a smashing little mention in the magazine.

Autumn Classic at Prescott 1st & 2nd October

The Last Event at Prescott is being held on the 1st weekend of October I will be there hosting a stall and getting about with the sketchpad. I missed this event last year and so I'm very much looking forward to it this year. It is an all American weekend with a whole plethora of Flatheads and vintage hot rods going up the hill. Also the Wall of Death will be thrilling audiences throughout the weekend, I'm hoping to be able to catch one of their shows as I've been waiting a while to see them perform.

More info on the Autumn Classic can be found on the Bugatti Owners Club Website:

Hope to see you there.

Blog Revamp
On a final note you may have noticed that I have just revamped the Blog Page to include a shop as well as a few other extra features. The blog is a continual work in progress and I always welcome comments and constructive criticism, in order to improve it. Hope you like the improvements!

Monday, September 5, 2011

1997 Dodge Stratus

I am called to Mr. D's shop to look at a 1997 Dodge Stratus 2.4 liter with an overheat condition at an idle in traffic conditions. The car has 182,374 miles on it so the sky is the limit. Given the fact that it only seems to overheat at a standstill makes me really want to look at the cooling fans and the cooling fan circuitry. I hook up my scanner and check for codes. No codes are present. The reason I check for codes is for circuit integrity. If there was something open or grounded in the control circuitry it should set a code for that particular circuit. In this case we have low speed and high speed fan circuits. These fan circuit codes don't always trigger the MIL lamp and I never take anything for granted. Next thing is I command the fans on low speed and high speed with my scanner. I hear the fans come on so I know something is happening. With that being said.  I start the car and select from my scanner the Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor pid along with Time From Start, Low Speed Fan Command, and High Speed Fan Command. When I start the car the temp is around 85F. I use time from start all the time for coolant related issues. It is very useful for looking for thermostat issues, etc. As I let the car warm up I graph my pids. I am also listening to the banter at Mr. D's shop. It is one of those fun shops. You never know when you are going to get sprayed with carb spray and then lit on fire. Or, if you drop an attached caliper from the control arm while doing a brake job Mr. D will yell out "should I order a brake hose now?" Meanwhile, he is all the way across the shop at his desk and you ask yourself how did he know? Yeah, it keeps you on your toes but at the same time it keeps things light. Shop life at it's best.
Alright back to the overheat. About 12 minutes later the temp is creeping up to low speed fan turn on temperature which is about 221F. I see the low speed fan command flip to "on" on my scanner and I hear the fans come on. The temperature however instead of dropping stays right around turn on temperature. I look at my fans and only the drivers side fan was on. The passenger fan is dead. Huh? I know from experience that these fans run at the same time. I smack the offending fan with a backend of a screwdriver and it comes to life. Ok, we are on to something. I am still worried about the quick time to get up to operating temperature.
It was a little quick for me. I shut off the vehicle and check the coolant level. Well a gallon of coolant later and we are filled and I am back monitoring. Now, both fans are coming on and the temperature is behaving. Was I seeing things with that fan not coming on? At this point I can look at the fan motor's integrity through my low amp probe. I have two pretty much identical motors so I can compare.
This is the drivers side motor. It is drawing about 8 amps and has a nice even signature. I see nothing wrong here. It is drawing properly and the pattern is excellent. Now, let's look at the passenger side.

Geez. I wasn't seeing things. This motor is drawing close to 22 amps and the pattern is awful. My low amp probe confirms that this needs a cooling fan motor. I advise Mr. D of this and show him these pictures. Oh by the way there was a leaking hose connection that caused the low coolant level. Now if I can get out of Mr. D's without getting set on fire..... 

Ottotest Update

Well I am happy to report that after the last update to my Ottotest. I was able to graph ABS data on my Dodge Durango. This must have been one of the "Client requested enhancements" that they have on the update screen. I will have to see if graphing has been added across the board to all modules and all makes. At least I can say they are listening. I am using the tool more and more as time goes on. It is still slow and the tablet battery life is horrible but the tool is evolving. It is nowhere near any of my factory tools. Then again what aftermarket tool is.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sandown Park International Toy Fair

Donald Campbell's 1965 Series 1 Jaguar E-Type fixed head coupe
alongside a mock-up built by the Norris brothers
of their proposed Bluebird CMN8 rocket car
outside Donald’s house in 1965.
A4 Watercolour on Bristol Board

I was recently asked by Speed Record Models and Memorabilia to produce the above commission piece to be be released in conjunction with a limited edition model of Donald Campbell's E Type.

The original artwork along with a limited edition Giclee print and postcards will be available alongside the model at the '50 Years 0f E-Type' event hosted by Sandown Park International Toy Fair this Saturday 3rd September. More information on the toy fair can be seen here:

Bought New from H. R. Owen London in early 1966 by Donald, GLM 37C was driven by him daily to and from lake coniston during his final water speed record attempts in Bluebird K7 between November 66 and Janurary 67.

Bluebird Mach 1.1 (CMN-8) was a design for a rocket-powered supersonic land speed record car, planned by Donald Campbell but thwarted by his subsequent death during a water speed record attempt in Bluebird K7 in early 1967.

The limited edition 1/43rd model of Donald Campbell's E-Type is exclusively available from Speed Record Models and Memorabilia only
If you are interested in obtaining one of these models please contact:

Geoff Holden at Speed Record Models and Memorabilia

tel: 07957 631 113

Speed Record Models and Memorabilia also has a facebook page: