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Tag: car repair

Electrical connectors.. an automotive conundrum..

I like electricity. I like everything it does for me, between listening to Neil Young on the Ipod to firing the spark plugs and fuel injectors in my Saab. But for the guy who has to fix his own car, it has a price.


And that price involves connectors. No matter how your car is set up, things have to be plugged in, and therein is the rub. I saw some statistics somewhere that electrical problems consume 80 percent of warrenty expenditures. And of that 80%, the majority is connection problems. Auto engineers are hot on the trail of this problem too, but they are really getting on my nerves.

They have made some progress though. 40 years ago, there was only one kind of connector. For each wire. And these connectors could be plugged into anything, so you really had to have some kind of idea where they went. This wasn’t to big of a problem because there were few wires.

Then they started gathering wires into groups. There were connectors with 2 wires in them, then 3, 4, 5 and up. However, all the 2 wire connectors were all the same, so you wouldn’t be able to plug a 3 wire connector into the item, but any 2 wire one would fit. You still had to know where the wires all went.

Engineers finally got the problem, and now no 2 connectors will plug into the same thing. Every last one is different, even though they might look the same. One problem solved, and another problem resulted from this.

Connector locks.

Now connectors hardly ever fall off, but we have new problems. Getting them disconnected. Engineers have bent over backwards to devise locks and even extra locks to keep them from falling off. But sometimes to fix something you have to take it off. And trying to figure out how this or that lock even works is almost a race against your sanity. With the advent of unique connectors for every electrical item in the car comes a unique lock solution for that individual connector. And worse that that, Engineers have devised an extra lock system that locks the original connector lock. This is called the quality assurance locks.

Now, I really have to study the connector to figure how it comes apart. And every now and then I don’t figure it out and end up destroying it. (Oh Well…) I’ve got this problem right now on a vacuum motor for a brake booster on a 2008 Saab Combi. I still haven’t figured it out, but a new motor is coming in tomorrow. Maybe I can get some clues from that…


Auto Info… The way it should be done…

I had to fix the boss’s toy yesterday, a chinese go-kart imported by Manco in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The boss wanted a new tire, a new kill switch, tuneup and all fluids changed. And he doesn’t have any owners manual, etc, to go with it.


A quick internet search got me everything I needed. All the parts lists and repair manuals and anything you could possibly want to or need to know about this little machine are all wrapped up in PDF documents and free for the asking. Everything is available here.

Admittedly this is just a cheap gokart but why hasn’t the car business done this? Manufacturers of all kinds of stuff do this for their customers, any kind of computer equipment has drivers and support info online. What do you get from Ford, say? Thousands of documents that don’t pertain to anything useful.

I know, there is a large industry grown up around this need, and you’re fooling with their jobs. You can get this information online, but at quite a cost. If you want online access to major american car info, it’s about $2500 dollars a year. You can usually get a big paper manual on a specific car for one or two hundred dollars. That really is a lot of money, especially since the father of a normal family has about 4 or 5 cars laying around, and they all need to be fixed occasionally. And it’s not like you didn’t already pay a ton of money for these cars in the first place. But it seems to the manufacturers that your just paying to rent them not own them.

Anyhow, my hat is off to Manco for doing it right, and not to Ford or Chevrolet who want to keep their info to themselves and their clique.


As the mechanic’s world turns….


Since the Great Depression of ’09 happened, I have a lot of free time at work. Some ways to kill that time, in time honored mechanics fashion, is to play cards, drink beer, or pitch pennies against the wall. Or you could catch up on your training, which I opted for since I don’t drink anymore.

I noticed that GM is going through another training metamorphosis. Back in the 80’s the American car manufacturers were contemplating how to reduce the amount of money that mechanics made. I guess this was because they didn’t want to pay us so much for warranty work, which they don’t pay much for anyway. They’re big idea back then was to hire some experts, and make them available to mechanics for assistance if they got bogged down in some technical problem. This morphed into (in GM’s case) the Technical Assistance Center or TAC.

The idea was simple. You could hire a bunch of minimum wage guys and turn them loose on customers cars, and if they needed help it was just a phone call away. Needless to say, this didn’t work. You can see how good guys with no experience are by how many motors get lunched that just got their oil changed at well known cheap oil change places. And since cars got more complicated, they can’t even get rid of the TAC center now. They need every brain they can get their hands on to fix modern automobile systems.

It came home to roost in the preamble to the latest GM training guide. They don’t want mechanics to follow a repair procedure by rote anymore… they want them to think outside the box, use their own initiative, get down and dirty and figure the problem out.

This is what Americans have traditionally done best, and have always done, and it is about time GM and the other American car manufacturers acknowledged it.


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