Vehicles enter the shop. Some customers require routine maintenance. Some customers complain about driveability issues. The brakes squeal. They hear a clicking noise on turns. The engine cranks but won’t start. The tires are wearing out fast. The car pulls to the left under braking. The engine is leaking oil. The list goes on.
In 2014, Fiat Chrysler began filling the air conditioning systems on almost all of its models with R1234yf refrigerant. That same year, General Motors (GM) began using it in the Cadillac XTS. Since then, GM has been gradually switching over its entire line of vehicles to R1234yf, and Ford has also begun using it, too.
Premium-priced high-performance luxury cars tend to push the envelope in terms of braking system performance. While a disc/drum or disc/disc system found on any production vehicle is designed to provide safe and reliable braking, luxury performance cars tend to be outfitted with “spirited” driving in mind. As engine power increases, accompanied by the potential for higher speed operation, there’s more demand on the brake system, requiring the system to meet these challenges.
We can’t possibly have all the tools that we need to repair every vehicle that comes into our shop, even if we concentrate on only a couple of makes or manufacturers. There are simply too many dedicated tools required today to perform all of the required tasks on today’s engine, transmission and drivetrain systems. Even a simple water pump service can now require highly specialized tools, but dealing with a check engine light doesn’t always require the factory scan tool, even if you have one available.
Before cars had electronic controls, all their malfunctions were something we could see, hear, smell, feel or sometimes even taste (ever sipped coffee next to a car with a coolant leak?). Sometimes we used a test light or a vacuum gauge to pinpoint problems, and for really advanced diagnostics we had an engine analyzer with an analog ’scope as big as a roll away toolbox that would actually let us see secondary ignition patterns.
Proper wheel alignment is obviously important in terms of preventing premature tire wear, and to maintain predictable and controllable handling and braking. But in winter weather, where the customer encounters slippery conditions, wheel angles become much more critical. The effect of improper toe, camber and/or caster angles becomes more pronounced and are compounded as the coefficient of friction between the tires and the road are reduced.
Gasoline, the fuel that provides combustion for the vast majority of road vehicles, is a widely taken for granted. More than simply flammable liquid, the complexities of formulation and the detriment of combustion efficiency as fuel ages are widely ignored by the public. With a better understanding of the fuel source for our internal combustion engines, the technician is better armed when diagnosing hard-start, power loss or detonation issues.
The popularity of four wheel drive (4WD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicles continues to increase. Although 4WD has been around for many years it has become quite refined with fully automatic shift on the fly that doesn’t require much more than the flick of a switch to engage and fully automatic locking hubs.
Wilson’s Garage has been a fixture in Pfafftown, N.C., since 1950. Nestled in the hills that overlook the picturesque Yadkin Valley, about 35 miles south of the Virginia border and northwest of the bustling Winston-Salem area, Pfafftown was founded back in 1786. Since the shop opened its doors, it has earned an extremely loyal customer base that extends well beyond the borders of its classic “small town America” location.
Our 6th annual advice column written by technicians working on the front lines.