Tech Tips: January 2015

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Dangerous Airbags

Do you have a Takata in your future? You’re probably asking yourself, “What’s a Takata?” Takata is the company that makes automotive airbags. Takata has had airbag problems since 2001. As I write this, there have been 2.1 million vehicles recalled. Instead of the airbags properly deploying during an accident, these flawed airbags can explode and shower occupants with lethal amounts of metal debris and shrapnel. To date, at least two people have been killed and 22 have been injured. Why this is happening is still uncertain. They think it may be caused by moisture. Several OEMs have announced recalls, including BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota.

My question is: where is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)? I don’t have all the models for each vehicle these OEMs have recalled but, Ford has a recall on only three models, and they were manufactured in the mid-2000s. I would like all fast lubes to have their customers call their dealerships and make sure their vehicle is not on the recall list. Remember, this goes back to 2001. A lot of these vehicles are now in second or third hands and will not receive recall notices. Your customers will be glad to get this information. It will be another way to show where the fast lubes stand in our community.

Oil Meters

Some of the Graco oil meter heads have a small round battery that can be replaced right in the shop. It’s not easy, but for about $25 you can replace the battery and enjoy many more years of use from the old meter.

The first thing you must do is remove the meter head from the hose — not a five-minute job, as you may know. Next, remove the round black plastic cover. Remove the electronic head from the gun body by removing the screws around the outer edge. Take care not to lose the screws. There are four screws on the green electronics board. (Note: Make sure you ground yourself against something metal to remove any static electricity before working near the electronics board, as even a small burst of static can fry the circuit board.) Remove them and remove the circuit board from the plastic face plate. The battery is the round silver disk; a yellow band identifies the batter model number: QTC 85 3B880 3.6V.

Now comes the hard part — getting the battery off the circuit board. Turn the circuit board over and you’ll notice the battery’s three pins are held on to the circuit board by solder. Put a Popsicle stick beneath the battery as you gently heat and raise the battery, one pin at a time. You’ll want to try and get as much solder off as you can so the new battery will fit. After the old battery is removed, make sure the three holes are open so the new battery pins will fit in place. You can use a paperclip or needle for this job. Put the new battery in, carefully solder the pins in place and reinstall all the components. If all went well, you have a “new” $200 oil meter.

I order new batteries from a place called Battery Specialty, 800.262.9256.

Diesel Injectors

The new diesel engines, and even some of the older diesel engines, are having a issues with their injectors plugging. There are many injector cleaners in the marketplace, and most of them will do a fair job at cleaning the injector. However, there is a product in the marketplace that is the “Rolls Royce” of cleaners. It is called VMER. There are two good things about VMER: It does a great job, and it has a good mark-up for profit. Can’t beat that.

Energy Losses

Most people think that when they put a gallon of fuel into their vehicles, they’re getting a full gallon’s worth of energy when they speed down the highway. Not so.

I ran across a graphic of typical pickup truck mechanical energy losses and thought I’d share it.

The fact is, only 37 percent of the energy in fuel ends up truly powering the drive wheels. The remaining 63 percent is

lost in the following ways:

• Engine friction/pumping – 25 percent.

• Aerodynamic drag – 22 percent.

• Tire rolling resistance – 15 percent.

• Transmission – 11 percent.

• Vehicle mass – 10 percent.

• Driveline/transfer – 7 percent.

• Final drive – 4 percent.

• Electrical generation – 4 percent.

• Power steering – 2 percent.

• Brake drag – 1 percent.

• Engine cooling – 1 percent.

Some of these factors can be mitigated somewhat. For instance, keeping a car clean and waxed can incrementally improve aerodynamic resistance, as can removing ski racks or anything else that causes drag (like the monstrous spoilers the kids seem intent on bolting to their trunks these days). Engine friction can be incrementally improved with regular oil changes. Engine cooling can be made more efficient by keeping the right amount of coolant, and replacing it when it shows signs of wear. New transmission fluid can make the transmission a bit more efficient, as well. What about tires? Tires lose pressure over time, but tires inflated with nitrogen tend to retain higher inflation pressures for a  longer period of time. I use nitrogen in my personal pickup and lose less than one psi per month.

Just think if you could increase your customers’ fuel mileage by two miles per gallon through simple, routine maintenance.

Guess where this customer will return — hopefully, with their friends?

Technical Tips is written by Scotti Lee, Ph.D., former operator of Oil Change Express in New Castle, Delaware, and current principal in the California-based Oil Changers chain of lubeshops. Lee may be reached at 302.764.7329.

Technical Tips is a forum for fast lube operators and suppliers to share practical solutions to problems common throughout the industry. National Oil and Lube News is not responsible for the accuracy and reliability of submitted tips, and NOLN does not assume liability resulting from their use. Email tips to: info@noln.net

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