Monthly Archives: October 2017

No, it does not do that, or at least not yet!

I am frequently asked if the fact that a car has been fueled with a certain brand of gas, or a certain type of oil has been used — perhaps synthetic — means that now the car needs to continue with the same diet. Not really, as long as the fuel is legitimate and meets the vehicle manufacturer’s octane requirements and as long as the motor oil meets the vehicle manufacturer’s specs, you will be fine. If a long term vegetarian tells me that they decided to go wild and gorge on roast beef and that caused a severe gastric or other reaction, I would believe that their body could not handle what it become unaccustomed to. The automotive engine does not yet have such sophisticated adaptive mechanisms to become dependent on a certain brand of motor oil. Maybe in a few years! In fact I will qualify my statements above to point out that “flex fuel” vehicles measure the percentage of alcohol in the fuel line electrically and signal the computer to adjust engine parameters accordingly. But short of a software or mechanical problem these cars can go back and forth with no problem.

Yes, it really does that……

Today a lady called me about her Camry. She suspected the battery was failing so went to Autozone to have it tested. They said it was bad and we will give them the benefit of the doubt that their store clerk was correct. But as she drove away her car stalled every time she let off the gas. It was better by the time she got home. What did they do to her car? Not exactly anything, but it is what Autozone did not know that caused her worry. Most modern cars are “drive by wire” which is to say between the gas pedal and the throttle on the engine there is no longer a simple mechanical connection like a cable or a rod with swivels. Instead the gas pedal sends an electronic signal to the engine/powertrain computer and the computer sends appropriate commands to a special motor on the throttle which opens the throttle as required. Over time perhaps the throttle body wears and doesn’t close the same, or perhaps deposits build up on the throttle blade causing it to flow less air into the engine when at a certain angle. So the car could idle too fast or too slow. But as was unimaginable in the 60s or even the 70s, the computer keeps track of the idle speed and learns to correct for wear or sludge so that the throttle is always cracked just the right amount for the idle speed built into the computer’s software. This learning was lost when the battery was disconnected for replacement so for a mile or two or three the car kept stalling. By the time this lady got home the computer had largely relearned and things were getting under control again. The Autozone clerk who installed the battery simply wasn’t aware of how this works, but I reassured the Camry owner that she didn’t need to bring her car.

All’s well that end’s well.

When we replace a battery in such a car we clean the throttle body to help the car idle initially and we test drive the car afterwards to avoid the customer experience their car stalling repeatedly.

Groupons, loss-leaders, etc. = BAD NEWS!

Recently a friend of mine who is not at all impoverished was seduced by a Groupon deal for a silly cheap oil change.  He was 50 miles out of town going to a hiking trip when the oil pan drain plug fell out and he had to have the car towed back to Austin.  He was at highway speed so by the time he pulled over the perfectly good engine in his Toyota Matrix was destroyed by running with no oil.  For reasons that I will never understand, he agreed to pay $750 for the junkyard motor the shop installed at no labor charge.  I later informed him that any legitimate shop carries a “garageman’s liability” insurance policy that should have provided him with a replacement engine of equal or better value installed at no cost to him whatsoever and the use of a rental car until repairs were complete.

Several years ago, being an avid cyclist, I foolishly used a Groupon deal for a cycling fitness evaluation.  The means of evaluating VO2 Max, overall fitness etc., were obviously based on very unsound methods and of no scientific credibility at all.  At least no harm was done and when I raised objections the two “Bike gurus” gave me a full refund cheerfully.

My wife and I would like to forget a gruesome meal we had at a new restaurant with the Groupon deal she found.

I am far more comfortable paying a fair, not exorbitant, of course, price for all goods and services I receive.

A viable business will not be so desperate as to offer services way below cost just to get bodies in the door.

In the automotive field there is a far too prevalent practice of pricing oil and filter changes at far less than they can be carefully and ethically performed for.  Of course, this means they will be performed by a person of minimal skill and ethics and accompanied with high pressure attempts to “upsell” totally unneeded services.

“Free towing when we do the work,” “free diagnosis” in this age of electronic controls where proper diagnosis can require considerable skill, equipment and time typically end up being quite costly.

Don’s Automotive and Don personally want no part of this.