Friday, December 01, 2006

Auto Repair: How Can They Screw Up An Oil Change?

This makes me so grateful that I actually have a mechanic who knows what he's doing, is brutally honest about it, and gets the job done right the first time (thanks Zach :-))

Auto Repair: How Can They Screw Up An Oil Change?
by: Theodore Olson

“It’s all about beating the clock.” This quote comes from a wise old service manager, advising me on how to maximize my income as a flat-rate technician. If you have ever wondered why your car doesn’t get fixed correctly, or all your concerns weren’t addressed, you can blame, in part, the flat-rate pay structure.

Flat-rate simply means that your mechanic is paid a flat fee for a particular repair, regardless of how long the repair actually takes. In other words, if your car needs a water pump, which pays two hours of labor, and the mechanic completes the job in one hour, he gets paid for two.

In theory, this can work to your advantage. If the job takes longer, you still only pay the “predetermined” labor amount. In THEORY, not reality!

The flat-rate pay structure is designed to drive productivity. It’s very effective. The flat-rate pay system encourages technicians to work hard and fast, but it does not promote quality.

In terms of getting your car fixed correctly, the flat-rate pay structure has disastrous effects. Flat-rate technicians are constantly looking for shortcuts to beat the clock in order to maximize the number of hours they bill. Experienced flat-rate technicians can bill anywhere from 16 to 50 hours in an 8 hour day.

It’s these shortcuts and the breakneck speed at which flat rate technicians work that result in some of the most idiotic mistakes. In the rapid-fire pace of a shop I’ve witnessed technicians start engines with no oil. I’ve seen transmissions dropped, smashing into little pieces onto the shop floor. And I’ve seen cars driven right through bay doors—all in the name of “beating the clock.”

Flat-rate technicians can get quite elaborate with shortcuts. My favorite was the implementation of an 6-foot-long 2-by-4, which was placed under the engine for support while a motor mount was removed. It made a job predetermined to take 1.5 hours achievable in twenty minutes. A win-win, right? The technician makes extra money; you get your car back faster.

Actually, in many cases the placement of this 2-by-4 damaged the oil pan. Moreover, it caused the car, your car, to balance precariously 6 feet in the air, while the technician manipulated the car lift to access your engine mount.

This tactic was abruptly discontinued when a technician’s 2-by-4 snapped causing the car to crash nose down onto the concrete floor.

Sometimes the shortcuts create very subtle disturbances, which create problems overtime. A quick example: a vehicle had its transmission serviced with a new filter, gasket, and fluid. During the procedure, the technician was able to save time by bending the transmission dipstick tube slightly, in order to get the transmission pan out faster. The vehicle was reassembled, and the technician re-bent the tube back into place and off it went—no worries….

Six months later, the vehicle returned with an intermittent misfire. The engine wasn’t running on all cylinders. After extensive diagnostics, it was discovered that the transmission dipstick tube had chaffed through the engine harness, intermittently grounding out an injector. Hmm, that’s strange. Don’t usually see that.

The high-speed environment and the subsequent shortcuts illustrate the devastating effects of the flat-rate, sales-driven pay structure on the quality of car repairs.

No wonder even an oil change gets screwed up!

The poor quality of work encouraged by the flat rate pay structure is disconcerting enough. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop here. The negative effects of flat-rate get exponentially worse, as it opens "wide" the door to rip you off!

About The Author

-Theodore Olson, Repair Trust Making Sense of Ted Olson holds extensive certifications from Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, GM, and ASE. He is the author of eight books and numerous articles on the automotive service industry.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Whatever You Do to Mod Your Car, Please....

Just my opinion here, but please, whatever you do to mod your car, don't do this... ESPECIALLY if your vehicle is RAV4. Thank you:

Monday, November 13, 2006

Finally- A REAL Cargo Light Solution, Works w/ the Door Switch - Lots of Pics

OK - as anyone who has tried to load/unload anything from the 4.3 RAV's after dark has found out - there is no light in the rear cargo area. I liked that joke about the complimentary Toyota flashlight, but unfortunately, mine didn't come with it... only the silly light that is in the door, so when you open the door, the light goes with it. *smacks forehead... duh*

Anyways, I've read some of the fixes, but was not pleased with the options I found. I wanted a light that turned on when I opened the rear door, and turned off when I closed the rear door (just like the silly light in the door). I didn't want to have to hit a switch, I just wanted it to work on the door sensor and give me enough light to at least be able to look for that magical flashlight. :-)

Unsatisfied with the available solutions, I finally tore the rear apart and came up with a REAL (at least in my mind) solution:

- My Steps with Commentary -

Step 1 - Go to an auto parts store and select one or two interior lights... these lights can be called cargo lights, dome lights, interior lights, etc. Any Kragen, Pep Boys, Checkers, wherever should have at least a small selection. For this mod, just make sure it's got a 12 volt source and it can be hardwired into the car (in other words, it doesn't run on batteries).

Step 2 - Tear apart the interior of the rear cargo door. Take the door panel off. It is held in only by fast clips, no screws at all. You'll be able to lift the top lip over the windshield wiper mechanism, and then disconnect the wiring harness to the existing light in the door - it's an easy to remove harness that just slips off by using your fingers. Like most of the panels in this car, the rear panel is on tight, so it will take a good tug to get it started. Just grab the panel near the bottom where you'll have a small lip to grab onto and give it a good/gentle tug. It is pretty simple once you get going, heck, I'd just had my nails done before I did this, and they all held up perfectly. (Then took break. Had girlie flavored cigarette cuz I don't drink no more)

Step 3 - Run two separate wires through the door boot from the rear door to the back corner panel of the car (where the jack is located). I did this by slipping the boot out from the door and car, ran the wires through the loom, and then slipped the boot back into the holes in the door and rear corner of the car.

Step 4 - Removed enough of the passenger side rear cargo area panels to run the wires to the desired location of the light. I didn't need to remove the panels completely, just loosened them enough to run the wires and attach the light fixture.

Step 5 - Selected final location of light and drilled hole for fixture. (Took another break. Had another girlie flavored cigarette)

Step 6 - Connected the 2 wires I ran from the door and under the panels to the 2 wires of the light fixture. I made sure the the ground and positives matched up, but I noticed on some of the lights I looked at, the manufactures didn't have + or - wires... so I don't know if it really matters on something this small. (?) I just used some quick connects to make it really simple this time. I finished by taking the other end of the wires that were run to the door and splicing them into the wires leading up to the harness of the cargo light.

Step 7 - Tested everything. Saw it all worked. Put everything back together.

Step 8 - Enjoyed having a light in the cargo area! (By having another girlie flavored cigarette)

I will probably end up putting in a light on the other pillar at the rear of the RAV. I need to be able to have light back there for my job, so... this wasn't the cleanest install I've ever done, but I needed it done now - it suits my needs and I can always install a nicer fixture if I choose to do so in the future. I would have liked to have a slightly smaller light because this one sticks out over the front edge of the piller just a tad - this can be seen clearly in the pictures, but it's really not noticeable in person.

Overall, this didn't take too long once I figured out what I wanted to do. Not including going to the store for the light fixture, I'd say this took maybe an hour, and that was taking my time. Hope this helps someone else solve this problem. Let me know if you have any additional ideas/tips/critiques/comments/etc.

I will be adding access to larger pics sometime in the next couple days, but the info listed so far should be enough to get you started if interested in performing this mod yourself.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

How to Wax a Car -

Friday, November 03, 2006

Antenna Noise Continued...

Ok, I finally broke down and just bought an antenna filter to help address the alternator/engine noise being transmitted through the antenna. From what I can find, this problem is somehow caused by a bad ground affecting the antenna (just haven't figured out which ground it is). The filter attaches to the antenna cable before it connects to the head unit - I installed it in about 60 seconds including removal of the dash panel. The filter has eliminated most of the noise, probably 90-95% of the whine... so it's an acceptable solution - for now. I still want to completely eliminate it and solve the problem in it's entirety. I guess I'll have to wait awhile... I think I'll start by doing a BIG 3 upgrade, but knowing me, it will take awhile to start on that (heh, I still haven't replaced all the stock speakers yet - the rear one's are still sitting on my kitchen table, waiting for installation).

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Yep, Another Hauling Stuff Blurb

Alright, so I've already established the hundreds of newspapers that get hauled around every weekend by my ride... I also covered the transportation of a clothes dryer... this next post is about what the RAV hauled around last night.

So one of my closest friends TV's died and we decided it was time for her to replace the 27incher with some ginormous big screen/wide screen unit that takes up half the wall of her living room. Hey, it is football season after all, this isn't a luxury, it's a necessity.

Off we head to Circuit City. While pleased with the helpful service, the selection just wasn't that great. So I suggest heading to Best Buy - the service is usually terrible, but they seem to have a wider selection of TV's (I learned this a year ago when helping another friend upgrade to a new unit). Off we go to Best Buy. Of course, the service is beyond terrible - for example 'Hi Best Buy person, we have decided we are buying one of these large screen TV's, we just need a little help narrowing down the specs of the stand'... Best Buy idiot looks at us, points to the TV's and says 'yeah, about all the stands we have are out underneath the TVs'... 'yes Best Buy idiot, we can see that - but we have some questions as to whether the one's we want would properly fit the TV we want'... Best Buy idiot says 'oh, well, you can see the measurements on the price tag (if that stand happens to have a price tag)'... Grrrr...

Well, we finally got someone's attention (I think it mighta been security... ummm, cuz I kinda got mad and just grabbed all the price tag stands and started walking to the cash registers... that was the only thing that they noticed and FINALLY sent some guys to help). Alright, so that's an entirely different story. But they did have a better selection, so we put up with the AWEFUL Best Buy service yet again.

So my friend decides on her TV, we pay and then head out to the RAV to get it ready to haul stuff (good thing we didn't take her Camaro). I start putting the seats down, taking down the cargo net stuff, and make plenty of room inside my champ of a vehicle. It wasn't too tight of a fit, but there were 3 of us, so the ride back home was cramped. We ended up fitting a 50inch projection-style TV (not the flat kind, the kind that still has a [somewhat slimmer] picture tube) and a 50inch projection TV stand in the back of the RAV. Like I said, it was a snug fit (if there would have only been 2 of us it wouldn't have been a problem at all), but everything still fit great.

We ended up stopping by my friend's house, unloading, and then brought my roommate home. We ordered a pizza, headed back to my friend's house and then started putting everything together. Overall it was a very smooth purchase and delivery (except for the HORRIBLE Best Buy customer service) - a task we couldn't of done with my friend's Camaro, and I dont think we could have done it in my roommate's Outback either... overall, another job well done by the RAV.

A Bit More Comic Relief

Here's another break with some comic relief... a compilation brought to you by the Trunk Monkey's:

Monday, October 30, 2006

Overseas RAV4 Commercial

Inspired by the half-way decent RAV4 commercials that permeated the airways during this past weekends football games, I just had to post a decent commercial from overseas: