Foreign Service Newsletter:
spring has sprung. In fact, it is already gone and summer is here! I am always
amazed how quickly we can transition from the chills and darkness of winter into
shirtsleeves and sunshine. It seems to have been only a few weeks ago I was running
to work with my "studded" running shoes, flatfooting across ice fields. Now the
lush green grass makes the "morning drive" significantly more comfy!
speaking of the morning drive, I've got to share this with you. Kris and I were
riding our bikes to work one morning early in April, when a curious looking animal
dashed across the road in front of us. When we got to where it had disappeared
into a back yard, we stopped. It only took a moment to spot the critter, because
it was a HUGE ground bird. I had never seen a wild turkey before, but there's
no mistaking it for anything but a wild turkey! It didn't like us staring at it,
so it flew away--and that was a sight in itself! And, get this, this happened
near the corner of Snelling and County C2, just a couple of blocks from the shop.
I can remember when there were no wild turkeys in Minnesota, and the DNR proposed
introducing them here. Seemed like a silly idea at the time. Now it's kind of
getting lots of inquiries about the Y2K bug. "Will my car start on January first?"
"What happens if I am on the road at midnight, New Year's Eve?" Well, to be quite
honest, you are at greater risk of your car not starting because of the weather
than because of the Y2K bug! And, you are more at risk from the millenial revelers
than from some errant command inside any one of your car's computers. Don't worry,
your car will be there for you on the first of the year, and we will be here for
you the next working day--the third of January, 2000! To the best of my knowledge,
there are no date sensitive programs on any of the cars we work on. To the best
of my knowledge.
go from Y2K to 100K. Okay?
yourselves for an onslaught. The marketing departments at our favorite automobile
companies have taken over the engineering departments. You are going to be bombarded
with advertising designed to make you feel like a chump for not buying a new car.
(Hmm, nothing new there...) How are they going to do it this time? They are in
a battle to slice and dice the maintenance schedules, so the first "scheduled
tune up" is at the magic 100K mark.
this for real? The succinct answer is kinda sorta maybe, depending on how you
define certain key words such as: maintenance, scheduled maintenance, tune-up,
and severe service, among others. And it also depends on whether you believe that
this year's car is really any different than the car they made last year (which
it isn't). Pretty succinct, huh?
in the interest of honesty, I would like to state my view on this. It is silly--just
plain silly. I don't usually put too much stock in what Click and Clack say about
technical things, but one of them said it very well. "They may as well call it
a million mile tune up, Œcuz if you leave the plugs in that long, chances are
they will never come out". Well said, but it is only part of the story.
pet theory is that cars are lasting too long. This is adversely affecting new
car sales. So if they can get us to stop taking care of our cars, they will fall
apart sooner; hence, more new cars sold! It is really just a brilliantly simple
plan to reinvent planned obsolescence.
of the problem here is the use of the expression Œtune-up'. We haven't done Œtune-ups'
for many years--it is really an obsolete term. Computerized cars don't need to
be tuned-up, since they monitor themselves and make their own adjustments. The
problem is that some people regard spark plug replacement as a tune-up. With cars
running so cleanly, typical spark plug life is much longer than ever before. So
the manufacturers seized upon this to claim that cars don't need tune-ups.
what does a car really need, maintenance wise? While it's true that there have
been huge leaps made in the longevity of Œwearing' parts such as spark plugs,
we still have light bulbs burning out, hinges and locks drying out, battery terminals
crusting over, brakes wearing out, oils and other fluids escaping, and so on.
Most of the increases in recommended longevity are due to emission laws making
cars run cleaner--which, of course, the car makers fought tooth and nail! Cars
respond very well to maintenance, to the point where two to three hundred thousand
miles is an easy mark with a well maintained car. Neglecting maintenance will
shorten that life expectancy significantly, and increase operating costs later
in its life.
will continue recommending that you bring your car in every fifteen thousand miles,
which for the average person is once a year.
air conditioning time again. Not a whole lot has changed since last spring in
terms of freon availability. Our recommendations are still the same for air conditioning
work: if we're doing major AC repair to a car you're planning to keep for awhile,
a conversion to R134 is in order. R134 has become the industry standard.
of you know that I'm all in favor of Œdo it yourselfers' for many things. Air
conditioning is not one of them, despite the availability in the aftermarket of
many refrigerant blends. For your information, every time we do AC work on a car,
we use our refrigerant tester to identify the refrigerant. If the refrigerant
is not freon (R12) or R134, we cannot evacuate it from the car, as it will contaminate
our refrigerant recycling equipment and ruin our refrigerant supplies. Some of
these blends are even flammable -- posing risk to mechanics as well as recycling
equipment. AC systems fail for many reasons that have nothing to do with being
low on refrigerant. If you add a refrigerant blend to your AC system and it still
doesn't work, you won't be able to find a shop to fix it. It's that simple.
am starting to get reports of hard sell jobs on something called an "emissions
service", or a "fuel injector cleaning". A favorite tactic of the
franchises when selling these kinds of services is to offer a "coupon"
or "discount" if the service is done right away. Hmm, there's your clue
right there... So what is the straight scoop? First of all, most cars don't need
this service. Secondly, if a car does need it, you can do it yourself by buying
a can of "Sea Foam" Engine Cleaner (available at auto parts stores and
places such as Target or Walgreens) and putting it in the gas tank prior to a
fill! (Total cost to you about six dollars.) So the lesson here is have a mechanic
you can trust, and when someone tries to add on special service--just say no and
call us to find out why.
Volvo owners: be careful of franchises that install air filters. We have seen
a rash of incorrectly installed air filters lately. The air duct housing gets
destroyed and the seeping dirt can wipe out your MAF computer (a very costly repair).
lovable orange tabby has been "promoted" to a housecat. He's living with one of
our former employees who just bought a house. Our black cat Shadow (who has been
with us since 1986) has come out of retirement to assume the role of greeter pet.
having a silly contest right now, to name our second loaner car. Our Volvo 5 speed
has already been christened "Peppy" (300K and feisty). The second car is a Volvo
automatic. What's the contest prize? Name that Volvo and win $15 worth of free
loaner car mileage, or a $10 oil change. Contest to be judged by Stew, Kris, and
Betsy. No purchase necessary; all decisions of the judges are not necessarily
final. Suggestions will be considered until a really good name is found (in the
unanimous opinion of the three judges).