Why do I have to keep taking my car back?

Something I have noticed in the auto repair business, that is sort of a new and somewhat scary trend, $10.00 hr general service tech’s are now doing repairs on customers cars!

This is insane if you think about it, when you go to the doctor, do you want the intern to fix you? This seems to be the new attempt for shop owners to make more money.

Before we get into this let me explain how the pay scale works in a Auto Repair shop, you have the service writer/manager, who checks you in, he is paid a salary, and a bonus based on monthly sales, then you have the general service techs, (GS) whom are paid by the hour, where I am this happens to be $10.00 an hour, with no incentives at all, I have worked in some shops where the GS techs get a % of a job if they find it, and list it on a repair order, if that job gets sold. So for an example, if you bring your car in for an oil change, the GS tech notices that your brakes are low and writes it down, the service writer tells you and you say fix those brakes, the GS would get a % of that sale. Then there are the actual ASE Certified techs, they fall in 3 different categories, A, B, C, (A) being the best, with the most experience  and the highest flat rate hour. This is how this works, each job is assigned an amount of time to fix the item, lets say 2 hours to fix so and so, the tech will get paid 2 hours to fix your car, even if he fixes it in 1 hour he still get 2 hours, and if it comes back, for the same problem he has to fix it for free, so the incentive is there for him to fix it right.

What happens is when you take your car to a shop to have it fixed, you expect that your car will be looked at by a qualified ASE certified tech, well this is not the case anymore. you drop off your car for a noise, so in an attempt to save money what the shop management will do is give the car to the guy who makes $10.00 hr to find out and fix what is wrong with your car, while the more electronic issues or large jobs are given to the actual techs. this makes more money for the shop as well as the service writer, remember his bonus is based on profit, or sales.

While this sounds all good and well (maybe) the problem is that #1) the $10.00 hr GS (General Service Tech) the guy who changes oil and tires, does not really care if he finds or fixes the problem, remember he is paid by the hour, not by the job. so why would he care? Not to mention he just simply does not know, and guesses, this is why sometimes you will get a call, well while we were working on your car and fixing the one noise, after the test drive we noticed another noise and this is what that will cost to fix that item, what they should be telling you is that the GS guy miss diagnosed the issue and we think it is this now. I have seen people spend a lot of money on repairs that did not fix the car, and for some reason this practice continues.

One of the latest things I have seen now is when you drop your car off for a check engine light, or ABS, Air bag light, they get the GS guy to pull the code, then Google the code for your car, and fix what google tells them is wrong with it, resulting in you having to bring the car back because the light came back on, and of course they tell you that there simply is another problem.

Here is another problem with this practice, Who do you want working on you cars brakes? the GS guy of the seasoned Master Auto Tech? Who do you want replacing the steering components on your car? the GS guy or the Master Tech? I can’t tell you all the jobs I have had to redo that these GS techs have fixed, almost every one. Everything from brake pads being installed incorrectly and brake caliper bolts that have fallen out, from not being torqued properly. this is unacceptable when it come to your car especially safety items.

Now I am not going to tell you all this without a solution, here is how you make sure your car is being fixed by someone who is qualified,

1) find a shop that is run by the tech, that is correct a small one or two person shop, you will get better service this way anyhow,

2) get to know the tech at the shop, when you drop your car off find out who is the actual tech is (name) and introduce yourself to him/her get their personal card, and thank them for checking into the issue you are having with your car, as a matter of fact if you can describe the actual issue to the tech, this would be even better. once you get to know the tech, call him when you have a issue with your car, ask for him/her by name, and talk with them about your car, make an appointment with the tech not the shop, most of us are very approachable, and I prefer to talk directly with the customer, gives me a better idea of what is going on with the car. in other words develop a relationship with the tech, trust me this is the best thing you could possibly do.

That being said it may take several shops and several techs before you will find one that you can develop a relationship with, once you find one make sure you keep his/her contact info, because this will be one of the most important things that you will find, it is hard to find a good tech, once you find him/her don’t loose it.

BG products and your car

Was kinda thinking about this and thought I would post my thoughts, I have been in the automobile repair industry over 25 years, since then there have been some changes in the industry, such as repairs and the process that is involved with those repairs.

There have also been some interesting things that some shops have done to keep their bottom line up, lets face it cars are built much better today than they were just a short time ago, very low maintenance costs, really other than brakes, there is not that much to maintain, you just sorta drive, check and change the oil from time to time, and suffer through the times when the car just breaks down on ya, but all in all, that is infrequent, as they just sorts chug along, with a new tank of gas.

So shops are still trying to make as much money as they can, after all they do need to be profitable, right? This is where the BG guy comes in, I remember back in the early 90’s a guy showed up to our shop and was trying to show us how good this intake cleaning system was, he did a full blown demo, the can had BG Fuel system cleaner written on it, fast forward 20 years, and now there is a full line of BG fluids/additives, to cover all your needs.

Now these fluids/additves are not cheap, as a matter of fact, there are a bit on the pricey side, well actually at least double of what you can get some where else, such as the dealer and the actual recommended fluid for your car.

For the last 10 years from time to time, I have ask the BG rep for some actual literature on there products, as well as data info that would state how their products stack up against the OE, and every time I ask I get the run around usually something like, oh yea I can get that for you, hey have you been fishing lately? Or how’s that Mustang running?

Anyway they have created a large business selling these products( it makes me wonder are these products any better than say OE, or actual dealer fluids?. A lot of these are just simply additives, which in my opinion do nothing for your car. They are expensive, because they have to travel through to many “middle man” in order for them to reach your car. Lets see they have to be made, then shipped to an independent rep, he does not work for BG, he is a distributor, then it has to be sold to the shop, who then sells it to you, so every time, the product changes hands, its cost increase at least doubled.

Lets take the BG transmission fluid for example, it is a full synthetic fluid, which is what today’s cars require, the fluid will cost the shop around 60.00 USD, then after mark up the shop sells it to you for 129.00 USD, this is about 16 quarts of the fluid, then there is the kit, a cleaner that gets installed before the flush, which then the tech is suppose to drive the car around for a bit to get the cleaner to cycle through the transmission, I don’t think I have ever seen this done, usually it get poured in, then the machine get hooked up immediately and the fluid is flushed, then when all is said and done, the additive gets poured in, I think this kit usually runs around 30.00 USD to the customer, then 1 hour labor to do the job. So your transmission fluid flush just cost you a bit under 300.00 USD, I have a hard time to swallow this.This is absolutely insane. I can not believe that people will buy such a service. Here is what I know, I can go down to the dealer and put 16 quarts of the Transmission fluid that is required for my car for about 60.00 to 100.00 USD. depending on what your car takes, and then simply pay someone 1 hour labor to do the service, and I would be out about 200.00 USD max. You do not need the kit. Chrysler/Jeep has even issued a technical service builtin that states, any additive added will void your warranty. Many more manufactures are following their recommendations.

There is another (again my opinion) service, that is a useless expensive service that does nothing for your car, that would be the Induction service. Basically what they do is add this fuel system cleaner to a system, that sprays this cleaner into the intake and supposedly cleans the intake system, as well as remove carbon from the valves. this is a useless service, and an expensive one as well, I can get the same thing accomplished by using a little bit of water and some transmission fluid, and my results will be much better. either way this should only be preformed by someone who knows what they are doing. You also do not need the 44K or any other type of fuel system cleaner, there are already cleaners added into the fuel when you go to the gas station to fill up.

There are many other BG products available today, and none of them will make your car run or last any longer, I know, I have read the testimonials, read between the lines, they all talk about how these cars has lasted 200K miles plus, well, I have news for you, it is not because they use BG products, it is because cars are built much better today, and run more efficient and cleaner that they did many years ago, this is why you are getting 200K on your car and more, it has nothing to do with what additives you put in your car.

Yes you should have the fluids changed from time to time, a good rule of thumb, about every 30K, the transmission depending on the fluid can go 60K, and brake fluid 24k or 2 years, the same with engine coolant, although most are now using extended life coolant, so 5 years or 100k, you need to check with the manufacture and or the service manual for your car. Just simply use the fluid that is recommended, and do not add additives, they are not needed. the BG system was designed for one purpose, to flush the money out of your account and into the shops/BG’s account.

Here is a thought, ask a tech if he uses BG products. I already know what the answer is. I have never seen a tech using any of these products on his/her own car.

Linux Ham apps, install

This should get you up and running with Linux, I use Linux Mint 17.2 LTS, this should also work for Ubuntu, however some distros don’t include some dependencies, so it will be up to you to get them all, once you get this stuff set up you can play Ham radio, while you learn the Linux system.

We will start with CQRlog, this is a great logging software (LOTW & EQSL support) and is currently supported, more info can be found at www.cqrlog.com 

CQRlog version is 19.0

You will want to download the current version from the web site, then go to your download folder, which is in your home folder, find the download and right click on it and open with Gdebi package installer, follow the prompts.

Once installed you will find it in the Accessories area in your menu, right click it and add to panel, or favorites, or desktop, or just leave it there.

Once you get it where you want it open it, and save to local machine, you may get an error: “libmysqlclient.so.16 ” or “libmysqlclient.so ”

If so copy this into terminal and then restart the program:

sudo apt-get install libmysqlclient18

Once the program is started, it will want to update DXCC info etc, let it do that, then you should come to a screen that looks like this:

Screenshot from 2015-11-26 13:39:37

Screenshot from 2015-11-28 14:29:46

Under Log name it will say 001, I click the edit log, and change that to my callsign, this way I can have multiple logs, like on is named contest, and maybe a different ham in the house, etc.

Screenshot from 2015-11-28 14:32:48

Then I click open log, you can also check the box at the bottom to always open this log when starting. If you are going to have more than one log I find it better to leave this box unchecked.

Once open, you can arrange windows from the log program, If you click on the windows tab it will show all the different windows available to you. you can open these and see what you want to have on your desktop, the only one that will not be there is Xplanet, that one you need to click on your menu and go to admin, then select Synaptic Package Manager, open, then in the search, enter Xplanet, (Ubuntu, you will need to first install  Synaptic Package Manager) found in your software center,then click the boxes then apply, and it will install Xplanet.

At that point you will want to go through the preferences and set up the program, remember to look at all the check boxes carefully, I don’t want to go through everyone, but if you miss one something may not work, like look-ups, etc, so just take your time and read through them. You will also want to go to www.hamqth.com and sign up, that way you can use the HamQTH for look-ups, and it is free.

You may also want to visit this

site: http://www.cqrlog.com/help/index.html

this will assist you on setting up CQRlog

Dont forget to add the PPA for CQRlog, this will automatically update CQRlog when the new version comes out:

Open Terminal:  sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ok2cqr/ppa

For rig control you will want to make yourself part of the user group, to do this, copy and past this in the terminal: gksudo gedit /etc/group   then enter your password, you are looking for dialout:x:20:   just simply type your user name after dialout:x:20: so my user name is tom, it looks like this: dialout:x:20:tom   if you dont remember what you used for a username it is the same as the rest in the list, then click save, exit and log out then log back in, or reboot.

Fldigi, Tqsl, Chirp, and any other ham apps you want to install, go to Synaptic Package Manager, and then Amateur Radio (Universe)

then scroll down and click the boxes for the ones you want, and hit apply, this will install them all, no need to go to all the sites.

once they are installed, you will want to install Ham Radio PPA’s, this will keep everything up to date, via your package manager, you will not have to manually update anything, it will be done with you OS updates, when they are available.

Terminal:  one line at a time and hit enter after every added line.

sudo rm -f /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ubuntu-hams-ppa-*
# type your password when prompted

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ubuntu-hams-updates/ppa
# press ENTER when prompted

sudo apt-get update
# wait for the “$” prompt to reappear.

that is it, now Linux will keep all your Ham Apps up to date automatically. You can refresh updates, and all the latest updates will be installed.

Now for WSJTX: The version in the software center is way out of date, so you will want to add the PPA for this as well, If you already installed, no worry, this will update that version. Open termial, copy and paste: again one line at a time and hit enter, follow prompts.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ki7mt/wsjtx

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install wsjtx

Now you will want to install the Encoder:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ki7mt/kvasd-installer

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install kvasd-installer

– Open A terminal and type: kvasd-installer
– Then, select Install decoder from the menu.

I had some trouble with my navigator and WJSTx, as far as selecting the sound card, you will need to install this as well. Open Terminal:

sudo apt-get install libqt5multimediawidgets5 libqt5multimedia5-plugins

The set it up, and you should be good to go. more info on future releases can be found here: https://launchpad.net/~ki7mt  I strongly suggest going to this site and reading through it, there are a couple of things to do to get the latest updates as well and info about the future of WJSTX. I just like to wait until the versions are out of the development stage before I take the plunge.

I hope this will help some new Ham’s getting into Linux to get the ball rolling, Linux is a great OS, it is different than windows and leaves you in total control of your OS, I would suggest getting some books and getting familiar with the terminal and the command interface.
I would suggest this book;

The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction

73, see you on the air, de Tom K8WDX









OE vs Aftermarket Parts

Ok spent the day trying to figure out why a Toyota rav4 was running lean, P0171, bank one lean, P0174 bank 2 lean, car has 200K on it so the possibilities are endless. usually the MAF (Mass Air Flow) sensor is what causes both banks to go lean, or a vacuum leak. In this case I checked freeze frame date, the lean condition happens when car is warm, and driving at cruise speed, this rules out the vacuum leak, vacuum leak would flag the code at idle. so it is clear I have a MAF issue. got the part from an aftermarket supplier, installed, test drove car, still lean at cruise, came back to shop, checked fuel pressure and checked fuel volume, thinking maybe at 200K the pump is going bad. Not the case, everything looked great. Ok maybe restricted injectors, so did an injector cleaning to no avail, so I decided to get another MAF, since I am not a big fan of aftermarket parts. Installed 2nd MAF. same thing only this time the car falls flat on its face during accell, WTH!!!  Ok enough is enough, after several more hours of checking, I decided to get an OE MAF. Installed and drove car. Ahhhh, fixed, runs great and no more lean at cruise. Lesson learned once again, only OE parts, the problem is I work at a shop where the intelligent level is not very high. Oh I forgot to mention the OE part cost less. So a wasted day chasing bad parts, and the good parts was less than the aftermarket junk part.

Automotive timing belts

Most late model automobiles have timing chains, however there are still some made with timing belts. Automobile Manufacturers are going to timing chains, because it is easier for them to control engine timing via solenoids etc, which help improve emissions and engine performance.
I am posting this about timing belts to give those who own cars with timing belts a bit of an education. there is a right way and a wrong way to replace a timing belt. most (ALL) shops, do it the wrong way. Why? because competition. So they want to give you the consumer who does not know, the best price, so you don’t go to shop B to get the timing belt replaced for less. So in order to get the job, they give you the minimum required to replace the belt, which usually is a timing belt and maybe the water pump. this is the incorrect way to replace the timing belt, even if the timing belt does not drive the water pump, 99% of the time the timing belt has to come off to replace the water pump, so yes 100% of the time you should do the water pump at the same time.

Lets face it, you call around and you get a price from shop A 500.00 to replace your timing belt, then you call shop B 700.00 to replace your timing belt, where are you going to go to get your timing belt replaced? You might want to ask what is going to be replaced for the price.

Now, in order to replace the timing belt the correct way, there are more parts that need to be replaced, and yes this is going to cost more money, often times a lot more money. I will give you an example of a timing belt done the wrong way. Toyota comes in, older Toyota, 1993 3.0L truck, ticket says, replace the timing belt, timing belt was stuffed in with the ticket, I took it apart and told the service writer, what about the tensioner and the idler and water pump? he says nope just do the belt. It was sold as just a timing belt job over the phone. Ok, so on goes the belt, 3 months later truck gets towed in. cranks wont start. I go out and check, yup something is wrong with the timing belt, so I pull the cover off. and this is what I found.

2015-05-28 14.41.00

as you can see the timing belt was destroyed, after removing the mess and cleaning everything, I found that the problem was the water pump and the tensioner and locked up, you can see in the picture the tensioner just below the cam gear is melted. all these should have been done when the belt was changed the first time, as the water pump and the tensioners all have bearing in them that will fail.

when the timing belt is replaced there are a list of items that should be replaced as well, all timing belt systems are going to have at least a tensioner and some will have a hydraulic cylinder that tensions the tensioner. and a water pump, this is minimum, and some will have an idler or two. All these items need to be replaced. If not it will cost more down the road, go in one time do it right and don’t worry about it. lucky for this guy the engine is a free wheeling engine, which means that no piston to valve damage was done.

To do a timing belt the right way will require more parts and more labor time. but will eliminate more expense to the owner down the road.

Here is an example of a timing belt done the right way. This is a Honda accord engine a 2.2L that I did. guy called me and ask what a timing belt job would cost, he told me that my price was a bit higher that other shops, I told him why and he chose to have me do it the right way, as he had a long commute and he did not want any issues.

Pretty simple actually, what I did was replace both timing belts, this one also has a balance shaft belt, I replaced both tensioner’s and the spring, as well as the water pump and all the seals.

Lets discuss the seals for a moment, I don’t think there is a shop around that replaces those anymore.


Above is a picture of a cam gear with the timing belt on it, they call this a cam gear because it is attached to the camshaft, as you can see, behind the cam gear is the inside of the engine, this is with the valve cover removed, something has to keep the engine oil from coming out where the camshaft goes through and connects to the cam gear, behind this gear is a cam seal. this keeps the engine oil in the engine. Crank shaft is the same way.


this seal keeps the engine oil from leaking out of the engine and onto your new timing belt, which can cause the timing belt to fail not to mention and oil leak, these should be replaced when replacing the timing belt, there will be a minimum of two of these, one at the cam shaft and one at the crank shaft, this Honda 2.2 has  three one at the crankshaft one at the camshaft and one at the front balance shaft. these seals get hard and start to leak. I have seen guys actually spray them off and install the belt anyway.

On some cars, such as Toyota 2.2L the oil pump seal “spaghetti seal” needs to be replaced as well. as this is the #1 reason oil starts to leak from these engines.

picture below is the oil pump on a Toyota 2.2L this pump needs to be removed and both seals need to be replaced.


On some cars the water pump is driven by the timing belt, and if it is not driven by the timing belt, the timing belt has to be removed to replace the water pump. bottom line replace the water pump any time the timing belt is replaced.

honda 2.2l water pump

The picture above shows the water pump and the tensioners as well as the springs, all these items should be replaced.

the tensioners have bearings in them and usually by the time the belt needs to be replaced they are starting to make some noise, those bearing will not last forever, as the guy with the Toyota truck found out. Think of it this way, the tensioner is making some slight noise, now you are going to put a new belt on it and set the tension on the old tensioner which is already a bit noisy. now with that new pressure on the bearing how far do you think it will go?

As far as the springs go,  I have seen that little spring break and cause major engine damage, as a matter of fact the Honda Civic I am driving now I got from a customer who did not want to fix it because that spring broke and caused the timing belt to come off and bend all the intake valves. So I had to put a new cylinder head on it. That 1.50 spring cause about 2500.00 in damage.

As you can see the timing belt system is a complex system on your car and it is not as simple as just installing a new belt on your car, as a matter of fact, when one fails it is usually because one of the other items such as a tensioner or a water pump that fails and not the belt, yes it will cost more to have it done the right way, but as you can see it will cost more if you don’t get it done the right way. 

Mustang GT Fog Light Fix

So I sort of acquired this Mustang GT, long story there and maybe one day I will tell it, not now. I was driving the car at night and I was on a dark back road when I decided, “hey” it’s a bit dark out here, I thing I will turn on my fog lights. Wow they actually help a lot, this is great, so after about 10 min of driving, all of a sudden, the lights all just turned off!! What the heck happened? All that was on was the parking lights. I pulled off the road quickly and turned off the lights, sat there for a few minuets trying to decide what was next. thinking about how I was going to get home with no lights. after a few min, I tried the lights again and they came on, for how long I don’t know. I figured I will have another go at it, but this time just leave the fog lights off. Well I made it home with no further issues.  After a little investigating I found out that having the fog lights on overheats the circuit and the thermal switch inside the headlight switch turns off the headlights. Wow, who is the idiot that came up with that design??

Fog Lights

Here is the fix, or at least the solution I came up with. I removed the headlight/fog light  switch. I cut the two wires that go to the fog light switch, leaving about 2 inches of wire on both wires going to the fog light connector, as I am going to reuse this. For now I set the connector aside. With the fog light switch connector set aside, I used a butt connector that has the heat shrink on it and crimped it onto the light blue and black wire coming from the harness or the multi-function switch. then used a butane torch and heated the heat shrink to that wire, as I will not be using this wire any longer. This way there will be no shorts when I use the headlights. Next I got a 18 inch piece of 14 gauge red wire, and with another butt connector I crimped it to the tan and orange wire, now my tan and orange wire turns red. This is the wire that goes out to the fog lights. I fed this wire down through the dash until I saw it come out the bottom,  Next I grabbed a Relay P/N RL44 made by Novita, you can get these from your local auto parts store, this a a simple 4 position relay the most common kind. I trimmed the 18 inch wire down to the length that would allow it to reach the area that I wanted to mount the relay. I then crimped a female spade connecter to the wire and connected to terminal #87 of the relay.

Novita RL44 Relay 

At that point I need to run a 14 gauge wire from a fused source, in my case I wanted the source to be key on engine off, I have already installed a extra fuse box in my car that only has power when the key is on, so for me no issue in finding the source I already knew where I was going. If I did not have that fuse box, I would simply run a wire out to the starter solenoid and connect it there with a connector, remember you need to install a fuse, so a 14 gauge fuse holder with a 15 amp fuse would work fine, Then I installed a female connector to the end of the wire at the relay and connected it to terminal #30 of the relay.

next I got a short piece of 14 gauge black wire and one end I crimped a female spade connector on and connected it to terminal #85 of the relay. Then crimped on an eyelid connector and attached to a ground source, such as the instrument panel frame.

Now I grabbed the connector I cut off earlier, I crimped two butt connectors to the two inch wires I hade coming out of the connector. I then crimped on two red wires “ I would use either red or yellow” both of them about 24 inches long, these can be 18 gauge wire, as they wont be carrying a great deal of current through them. I then shoved those two red wires through the area where the switch inserts into the bezel, same area as where the switch mounts in until I could pull them through the bottom of the dash, at that point I again took one of the wires and crimped a female spade connector to it and connected it to terminal #86 of the relay. I then got out my test light and found a 15 amp fuse in the under dash fuse box that would have power when the key was on. At that point I added a piggy back circuit, this to can be found at your auto parts store here is what it looks like.

2015-04-27 18.21.42

I then connected the other wire from the switch to the wire coming off the add a circuit, make sure you read the directions on the add a circuit box, you want the wire that comes out to be on the side of the fuse that has no power when the fuse is not installed. what I did was when I found a fuse that has power with the key on, I removed the fuse and checked which side had no power the reinserted the the add a circuit with the red wire on that side.

here is what my relay looks like installed.

2015-04-22 19.52.45

and this is what the circuit looks like.

Relay RL44

wiring it this way will also allow you to use your fog lights with just the parking lights on or totally independent of your other lights.

2015-04-23 17.37.45

just keep in mind that the for lights will draw about 8 amps with 50 watt light bulbs in them. 14 gauge wire is plenty big enough to handle that as is a 15 amp fuse. the relay will take the hit of the amp draw and not the switch, you could even wire the switch into the ground side of the relay, this would eliminate any amps going through the switch at all, I may have to rethink my install Hmmmm

Auto Repair

Just set this up, in the near future I will be posting about Auto Repair, both tips recommendations and how to look for a repair shop, and a whole bunch of other auto related topics. after being in the auto repair business for over 22 years I would like to pass along some of what I have learned. Hope it will help some of you out there in the deep land of the internet… by by for now….Tom