The Foreign Service Newsletter:
am pleased to announce that Kris has joined us full time as service manager, taking
the place of John. John is continuing to work for us part-time.
I am pleased to announce the addition of Bill to our staff of technicians. Bill
has many years¹ experience and has returned to the auto repair industry after
a two year hiatus.
of an hiatus, our trusted coworker Ed is taking one from the auto repair business.
We wish him the best, but are confident he will return to being a car mechanic
within a few years - hopefully at the Foreign Service.
personnel changes allow me more time to talk with customers and tackle the difficult
trouble-shooting problems necessary with today's cars.
are now accepting Discover, as well as
Visa and Master Card.
a reminder that we now have two loaner cars available. These are reserved on a
first come, first served basis. The only charge to you is a 15 cent per mile fuel
charge. Be sure to call us the afternoon before your appointment to make sure
that your loaner is available.
MUST have your driver's license and insurance information on file before we can
give you a loaner car. We can make no exceptions to this rule. Also, if you do
have a loaner, we are unable to leave your car out for after-hours pick up; in
other words, you¹ll have to be here before 5:00.
got a call recently from a fellow with a Volkswagen Golf. The car's problem was
the engine ³malfunction indicator² light coming on (the new term for ³check engine²
light, accompanied by intermittent rough running. He had called five other shops
and was told that they couldn¹t help him because they didn¹t have the computer
interface tool. I was happy to tell him that we did have the tool, and he brought
the car in a few days later. Using the tool, I was quickly able to to tell (though
the car was running fine when it came in) that one of the cylinders was misfiring,
and I quickly traced the problem to a bad spark plug wire.
computer interface tool is a software package loaded into a laptop computer, with
a serial cable that is plugged into the DLC (diagnostic connector) on the car's
main computer. Œ96 and later model years have this diagnostic connector. Diagnosis
of running problems will be easier for us, and cheaper for you!
invest in the future of car repair, and are proud of being on the cutting edge
you see the recent ³Focus Five² report? It raised some serious questions about
car repair. It also raised some serious questions about television journalism.
Best of all, there are several lessons we can learn from it.
those who didn¹t see the reports, this is what they did. They took a lower mileage
car and replaced several normal maintenance parts -- such as the spark plugs and
the fuel filter. Then they took the car to several Precision Tunes for a pre-trip
check to see what the shops would recommend. A short time later, they changed
license plates and used a different driver and tried again. What did they find?
Some shops recommended nothing, some advised maintenance ³by the book² and some
advised replacement of the new parts. The reporter (posing as the car owner) gave
the shops no information on the cars.
did they select Precision Tune? My guess is because PT's marketing strategy is
to sell preventive maintenance. And without any information from the owner, they
can¹t be blamed for recommending maintenance based on the vehicle mileage. They can be blamed for not noticing that the parts they were replacing were
brand new; but who's to blame for that? The mechanic whose job it is to do what
he or she is told and not question the service writer? In my thirty plus years
of working on cars, I have seen plenty of parts that were bad right out of the
box, and replaced them on the suspicion that they were defective.
would we have done if this car had come to us for a pre-trip check? After interviewing
the client and discovering there was no maintenance history on the car, we would
have recommended a pretrip check or a 30,000 mile check out to reveal any imminent
problems. We would have assessed the condition of the tune-up (by inspecting the
air filter and a spark plug) and probably decided that the tune-up was in new
reporters stated that PT was not following their owner's manual for recommended
maintenance. The reporter said that fuel filter ³renewal² (tech talk for replacement)
is not recommended until 60,000 miles for ³normal operating conditions². Hello!
Normal operating conditions are not what we experience in this climate. Sure,
you can wait until your fuel filter clogs up completely before you replace it
(after the car kills), or the spark plugs get stuck in the cylinder head and have
to be machined out, or the air filter is so clogged dirt starts seeping down into
the engine, or the battery cables get so gunky you have a no start. Believe me,
these things will happen long before you reach the first recommended manufacturer
fact, most of our local dealers differ from the manufacturers and suggest their
own personalized maintenance schedule.
difference between us and places like Precision Tune is that we try to tailor
your car's needs to your budget, and we try to give you the big picture of the
car (in terms of upcoming work, repair dollars, etc.). Let me give you an example
of how this benefits you, if you let it.
of my clients recently came in with an emergency problem. She said she hoped the
problem wouldn¹t be too expensive since she had just blown her car budget on some
³front end work². This took me aback, since I knew we had an excellent working
relationship and had been monitoring the state of the car and prioritizing the
repair work in order to keep within her budget.
also knew that we had not done the front end work. What happened was this: she
had gone into a franchise place for a ³free² inspection and oil change, and got
the sell job that the CV joints were ³really bad² and she¹d be crazy to continue
driving on them. She was busy
it seemed like a good idea at the time. Well, there it was on our work order --
the CV joints were going bad, but there were two other more important safety
items on the list too. So, months before, we had determined that the CV's could
wait until after the other safety things were done.
she sold unnecessary repairs? No...and yes. To the guys checking the car out,
the CVs were bad. Was this the most appropriate item to spend money on at the
time, had they known the whole history of the car as we did? Absolutely not. This
is typical of what franchises do. They see what they want to see, and don¹t look
at the whole car or the client's budget.
I¹m going to switch gears completely and talk about the plans to eliminate the
annual vehicle emission testing requirement. Our politicians are not being leaders.
think that elimination of the testing requirement is a big mistake. This is not
self- interest -- my business does not profit by cars being tested. In fact, it's
far more profitable to repair cars after they've been running poorly for quite
some time and consequential damage has occurred.
do I think the law good when even the PCA thinks it unnecessary? I see the broken
cars getting fixed that otherwise would not be fixed. The modern car can malfunction
for quite some time before the problem manifests itself (due to the high level
of computer adaptability). The car will work while in the process of causing further
damage to itself. Oftentimes, an emission test is the first sign that something
is awry with the car; and catching these problems early is going to save you a
chunk of money in the long run.
should those of us who maintain our cars have to breathe the foul air generated
by a few people who won¹t pop their hoods until the car stops running? A very
small number of cars are the ones responsible for the pollution problem. A malfunctioning
car can easily produce 500 - 1500 or more parts per million of hydrocarbons while
a normal car produces five to 15.
laughed when I read that the program isn¹t necessary because the air quality hasn¹t
really improved. Maybe this means that the program is a failure, not a success.
It isn¹t tough enough. The worst polluters are getting waived back out on the
road because of the price cap put on necessary repairs.
Twin Cities has come close to violating the federal smog laws for major metropolitan
areas. If we do violate the smog laws, we will be forced to implement an emissions
program as strict as California's - and even I will be whining about that! This
will not be something that our governor can shrug off as being too inconvenient,
the feds are very heavy-handed when dealing with smog problems.
you flown over the Twin Cities lately during daylight and noticed the bubble of
foul air over us? This is a real eye opener! This used to be present only when
the weather created air inversions. Now the yellow muck is there anytime.
you think about the fact that respiratory problems are the number one health issue
with children and that air quality is a large factor in this problem, it really
is a no brainer. Just because our area meets an arbitrary air quality standard
established by the federal government doesn¹t mean that our air is as clean as
it should be.