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Tech Stuff


Should OBD-II be Your First Step in Diagnosing an Engine Management Issue? Yes, and Here’s Why...

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.


Thermal Imaging: Affordable Technology Lets You See a New Light

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.


Taming Alignment in Winter

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: A Designer Product for the Whole World

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.


Servicing 4WD and AWD Systems

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: Modern Technology with Country Pride

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.


Tips From Techs

Our 6th annual advice column written by technicians working on the front lines.


Autonomous Vehicles: They’re Coming, and We Should Embrace Them

When I was a kid and obtained my first driving license, I realized that it was my responsibility to learn to operate a vehicle. The thought of punching in a street address and having the car deliver me there would never, ever cross my mind.


Tool Review: Steelman RT-4000 Pro -- A Combination Scan and Reset Tool That Does Not Disappoint

JS Products has recently released its new Steelman RT-4000 Pro “reset” tool. In addition to the capability to serve as a DTC scan and clearing tool (for 1996 and newer vehicles) via OBDII and CAN bus protocols, this nifty hand-held device allows you to easily reset service and maintenance-alert messages for battery, oil and service lights and to properly perform electronic parking brake service.


Tool Review: OTC's Drain Plug Pro Tool Kit

Engine oil changes are a part of any shop’s routine. As we all know, one of the bothersome aspects of draining the sump involves hot, grimy, dirty, slimy oil oozing out all over your hand while removing the pan’s drain plug. Finally, someone took the time to develop a specialty tool that eliminates the mess.

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