Tech Tips: March 2015

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Electric Vehicles: The Good & Bad

Do not write off electric vehicles (EVs) for service. Let’s look at what EVs are not good at. First, EVs average about $4,000 more than a gas engine equivalent. That’s a lot of gas money!

What affects their range? Speed. The higher the speed, the more energy it requires. This is about 20 percent. If the vehicle normally gets 200 miles on a charge, the range will be about 160 miles at high speed.

Batteries produce weaker currents in cold weather — about 60 percent less. Also, as a battery ages, its capacity wanes.

All accessories, including heat, audio, navigation, wipers, brakes, power windows, and steering, draw down the battery, reducing the range.

EVs operate more efficiently on smooth flat surfaces. Steep, mountainous terrain or dirt roads will limit the range.

For general knowledge, there are more EVs registered in California than any other state in the U.S.

What can the fast lube industry do to an EV? Here is a small list: have a charge station, change wipers, change in-cabin air filters, repair glass and change batteries.

Aluminum Vehicle Parts

Why have vehicle manufacturers increased the use of aluminum in their vehicles? The answer is very simple. It maximizes fuel economy.

The use of aluminum in body panels and frames can increase fuel economy by as much as 29 percent.

However, aluminum has a lot of problems. First, it’s hard to work with. Body panels do not form as easy as sheet metal. It costs more than steel by about 60-80 percent. This can add an extra $500 per vehicle. Finally, the paint on the panels does not hold up as well as it does on steel. Aluminum is also more prone to contamination than steel.

How can our customers tell when they have a paint problem? After a few years (and generally shortly after the warranty runs out), the paint will start to bubble.

Manufacturers have realized there was a problem with paint on aluminum body panels, and several of them have issued technical service bulletins, which instructed dealers to make repairs for free or with a discount. Some of these manufacturers include Ford, Audi, General Motors and Jaguar.

If you see any paint damage on your customers’ vehicles, write it up and tell the customer how they may get it repaired. Also, inform them they should document the damage with photographs, keep records of conversations they have (or have had) with the dealer, complain a lot and write to the manufacturer.

One note of interest: most repair shops, in general, are not qualified aluminum repair centers, so be very careful.

Gasoline Direct Injection Engines

Here is the good news about gasoline direct injection engines (GDI). They have far better performance and fuel mileage than standard combustion engines.

The bad news is they may spend more time in the repair shop. This, by the way, has nothing to do with changing the oil. It’s the same old saying — the last person to touch the engine gets the blame! Some GDI engines are having reliability problems.

Let’s discuss what GDI is and how it works.

Precisely measuring fuel and adding it under high pressure directly into the engine’s combustion chamber results in a more complete combustion and cooler cylinder temperatures, which enables a higher compression ratio for greater efficiency and power.

Combining GDI with a turbocharger will deliver greater gains in economy and performance. This allows OEMs to use smaller displacement engines. Over time, some GDI engines can lead carbon buildup in the engine and clogged fuel systems. This leads to engine hesitation and loss of power. When carbon deposits form on the intake valves, the valves must be cleaned.

Some vehicle manufacturers have issued technical service bulletins to their dealers recommending using only name-brand detergent gasoline, without ethanol additives (which is very hard to find), as well as adding a fuel system cleaner each time the vehicle is fueled. Some of these OEMs are BMW, Honda and Kia.

Some of the vehicle manufacturers have designed an engineering fix that sprays a small amount of fuel directly on the valves to keep them clean.


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