VINCE LOMBARDI ONCE WARNED, "CAREFUL THAT LIGHT YOU SEE AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL MIGHT BE AN ONCOMING LOCOMOTIVE." We keep hearing from the automakers and the economists that there is light at the end of the tunnel - interest rates are going down, there's a great pent-up demand for new cars, the entire fleet is far more fuel-efficient, etc., etc.
This may very well be true. For the automotive service dealer, however, that light is indeed an oncoming locomotive-with an express train behind it. And the name of the train is Technological Change. Continuing, rapid, all-encompassing Technological Change.
Is this simply a restatement of the obvious? Perhaps. It's been said before, and most service dealers are already painfully aware of at least some aspects of it. But I wonder how many of you are tuned in to how widespread and significant this change really is.
A couple of years ago yours truly was involved in a wide-ranging study of the domestic automotive community for the US Dept. of Transportation (DOT). No boondoggle or attack on our industry, this study was an honest attempt on DOT's part to determine the industry's problems in these times of worldwide industrial chaos. One of the things that became quite apparent from this study is that the service dealer has a lot of company within the industry.
The technological change syndrome is strikingly evident in virtually every automotive segment. Foundries. Metal stampers. Forgers. Steelmakers. Frame builders. Machine tool builders. Plastic molders.
Virtually every automotive component supplier and production and service equipment manufacturer is under the gun. They must meet the challenges of downsizing, smaller engines, lighter weight, unibody, front wheel drive, highly sophisticated fuel, ignition and emission controls, increased manufacturing efficiency and quality control. Nobody is immune. The entire industry, segment by segment, is scrambling to adjust to space-age technology applied to the family car.
Emerging from all this is the brave new world of the 21st Century automobile, built by 21st Century automakers. And meant to be serviced, fortunately or unfortunately, by 21st Century repair facilities. Every service dealer intending to remain a service dealer must face this fact and, like it or not, acquire the equipment and master the technical and management skills necessary to meet the challenges of the new vehicles.
There is no other choice at all.
-Wayne Riley /Automotive Service Reports November 1982.
Contact: Wayne Riley
Target Communications Inc.
WINTER'S COMING - MAKE SURE YOU USE 100 YEAR OLD SPARK PLUGS!
BROADVIEW, IL, July 30, 2002 - Winter is coming. You might want to install 100 year old spark plugs to make sure your vehicle starts in the cold weather!
Actually, we're just using that suggestion to point out that the first commercially viable spark plug was patented by German engineer Robert Bosch in 1902. And although greatly advanced and refined in materials, technology, construction and lifespan, the latest spark plugs of today bear a striking similarity to his original design.
Before Bosch introduced his high voltage spark plug, going anywhere in a "motor car” was a sometime thing. Sometime you went, and sometime you didn't. One of the main problems was the "hot tube" or early low voltage engine ignition systems, with crude devices to hopefully ignite fuel and air in the engine. Using these systems, early automobiles were primitive and unreliable at best, and only the wealthy, adventurous and mechanically inclined even dared to own them.
In 1902 Robert Bosch changed all that, and his developments were to help make the automobile readily available to all. Shortly after he perfected the magneto, which generates high voltage from a magnetic field, he developed and patented his high voltage spark plug to go with it. He sold the idea to Carl Benz, pioneer gasoline engine inventor, who immediately began installing the Bosch spark plug and high-voltage magneto ignition system into his automobiles.
Benz and Bosch quickly turned to racing competition to prove the worth of the new system, and the next year a Mercedes Type 60, equipped with the Bosch spark plugs, won the 1903 international Gordon Bennett Race in Ireland. Bosch's involvement with racing to test and improve the products continued on both sides of the Atlantic, and in 1911 he equipped driver Ray Harroun with his spark plugs for the very first running of the Indianapolis 500 mile race. Harroun won the race in a Marmon Wasp.
The 100 years since 1902 have seen continuous advances in spark plug technology. The performance benefits of modern era spark plugs provide a more powerful spark for efficient and complete engine combustion, resulting in greatly reduced exhaust emissions, greater fuel economy, and smoother acceleration, over a longer performance life.
The Bosch Platinum Series (Platinum, Platinum2 and Platinum+4) are examples of advanced spark plug design. These plugs feature an exclusive “pure platinum” center electrode technology that's heat-fused into an extended ceramic insulator for an airtight seal resulting in full engine power at all times. These plugs provide motorists with all levels of premium performance.
Spark plugs alone, of course, will not ensure that your car or truck is operating at peak performance and efficiency. In addition to installing fresh spark plugs, automotive experts recommend that you check and replace worn-out oxygen sensors, install fresh filters, check that timing is set accurately, make sure fluids are fresh and at proper levels, check that electrical and charging systems are functioning properly -- and that tires are inflated to the recommended pressure.
> CAREENING DOWN THE CONCRETE CANYONS, DODGING PEDESTRIANS AND OTHER CARS, CRASHING THROUGH POTHOLES YOU WOULDN'T GO NEAR IF YOU WERE DRIVING YOUR OWN CAR, your fate is in the hands of the gods, the crazy guy hunched over the wheel, and the condition of the New York cab you're riding in. There are 12,000 licensed taxicabs in New York City. Each cab averages at least 70,000 miles a year-and if you haven't ridden in one lately, brother, that's 70.000 of the roughest miles any car will ever see.
New York's taxicabs do a lot more than move people-they also contribute an estimated 40% of all the pollutants cluttering up this huge city's atmosphere. A year and a half ago New York City began an annual inspection program for its licensed cabs. The objective was two-fold—cut down on the pollution the cabs were producing, and cut down on the safety defects they were obviously suffering from. New York doesn't operate the actual inspection program-it is contracted out. Current contractor is California based Olson laboratories, Inc.
Fifty-nine percent of the cabs pass the first time through, 79% make it through on the second try. Cab owners and operators are notified by mail when to bring each cabin, and because of this tight scheduling Olson reports they test one cab every four minutes for both safety and emissions. Olson relies on a Clayton dynamometer/brake tester, Hunter scuff tester, Horiba exhaust analyzer and an Olson-designed taxi meter tester to keep the flow going. One man takes each car through from start to finish.
The principle safety defects they are finding include: Leaking gas tanks; Broken chassis; Badly worn ball joints and idler arms; Poor brake performance; Bad motor mounts
The primary emission control failure is an overly rich fuel/air mixture, resulting in unacceptable CO levels at idle. The emissions failure rate is 18%- 20%, and part of the inspection procedure, pass or fail, is a diagnostic sheet showing the owner exactly what has been found wrong.
The results? The year before the program began New York taxis produced 2400 tons of hydrocarbons (HC)-after the first year of inspections this dropped to 1600 tons. Carbon Monoxide (CO) emissions dropped from 37,000 tons to 21,000 in the first year of inspections. This is about a 10% decrease in pollutants in one year. And taken side by side with markedly safer cabs to ride in, it seems an unqualified success.
And there's icing on the cake-several cab fleets have reported at least a 10% increase in fuel economy as a direct result of the emissions tests.
What a deal!
- Wayne Riley/Motor Age, Sept. 1979
AS ANYBODY WHO HAS ENCOUNTERED CCC OR SIMILAR SYSTEMS IS FULLY AWARE, THEY ARE COMPLEX, TO SAY THE LEAST. To do them justice from a service standpoint, special training, or at least exposure to their idiosyncrasies and special features, is very helpful -- trial and error here can be mighty frustrating and expensive as well.
But why get the training at an “institution of higher learning'? Well, why not?
Educating and training people is their stock in trade, just as maintaining and servicing vehicles is yours. Granted, most colleges and universities are traditionally geared to educating their students in less practical pursuits than automotive service-but nothing says they couldn't grow quite interested in the automotive service professional. Like other organizations that sell a product (in this case, education), if there’s a market for a specific type of education, they'll develop a product to meet the needs of that market.
Consider, for example, other opportunities available at many colleges and universities, such as courses in small business management, financial management, or marketing, for instance. Many of these courses, especially if they are offered at night, are designed and structured to cater to the working man or woman, rather than the fulltime student.
Three years ago, after an absence of many moons from the hallowed halls of ivy, yours truly decided it was time to tie up the loose ends and take some night courses at a local university. My workload was under control, outside obligations were few, it seemed to me I could get at least some benefit from it, and so with a gulp, I enrolled at the last minute for the first available Semester.
Of course, all the anticipated obstacles soon developed. My workload increased substantially. All kinds of outside pressures began to build. Giant potholes suddenly appeared in the roads I traveled to and from the university. If I wore light clothing to class, the classroom was like ice. If I wore heavy clothing, the classroom was boiling. At least once a week a torrential downpour would begin just as I got out of my car to walk to class. My wife and kids wanted to go on vacation. I discovered that studying and homework were just as much a pain in the neck as they always were. And on the night of my last exam, we had a blizzard (before I had a chance to get my snow tires on).
Somehow, I got out alive, but just barely. Was it worth it? You bet it was
Every night a bolt of lightning would strike me right in the cranium with some dramatic new-and highly useful-knowledge, or simple explanation of some complex subject I'd been wrestling with for years. Because of years of toil at the University of Hard Knocks (UHK), my mind was like a sponge, and it seemed I was already intimately familiar with half the problems-and some of the solutions we were discussing in class. It seemed the textbooks were written with me in mind, the instructors were speaking directly to me, each of the courses were structured to help me triple or quadruple my usable knowledge virtually immediately.
Of course, that wasn't the case. The courses, the textbooks and the instructors were aiming their pitch at whoever showed up for class. But because most of us were professional people with a lot of water over the dam, we got a lot more out of the experience than we would have if we had been studying only theory, instead of everyday business situations we had lived over and over again.
The automotive service business is becoming more demanding and sophisticated every day. It is rapidly taking on the trappings of an industry whose members can benefit greatly from a little “higher learning' now and then.
Try it. You might like it. And so might your business, your customers, and your wallet. -
-Wayne Riley/Automotive Service Reports, June 1982