Safety Devices: Are They All Good ???

The other day I was driving between Mission City and Haney (Maple Ridge) and I witnessed a most disturbing sight. There beside me exceeding the speed limit was a Ford Escort station wagon, fully loaded with people and stuffed with camping equipment, using a space saver spare tire on the right rear of the vehicle. A space saver tire is provided by the car manufacture to meet its certification standard as mandated by the federal government. We in the automotive repair business refer to it as a ‘boat anchor’ because that is about all it is good for. It is designed to be installed as a last gap measure to get you from where you are to the nearest shop that can repair or replace the flat tire you had. It is not designed to be driven at road speed for any length of time for a number of very important reasons.

Recently I have seen a number of commercials on TV going on and on about the advantage of installing run flat tires on your car. Once again these tires are not safe to drive at road speed and should not be driven any farther than necessary. What they do not tell you on the fancy TV ads is that driving any distance on the flat tire will in fact destroy the tire and or rim of your car, they also neglect to mention little things like oil pans and transmission pans dragging on the pavement as you drive this lopsided car down the road. The most prudent thing to do in this event is to replace it, have it repaired as soon as possible or get towed to a shop and repair as required.

The advent of computer electronics in automobiles has made possible the development of Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) and Air Bags, two of the most recognized of the new vehicle safety features. Of all the serviceable items we advise customers about on a daily basis in the repair business, anti-lock brake repairs still seems to mystify them the most. We encounter far too many cars and especially light trucks that have an ABS warning light on the dashboard which has been ignored by the owner for reasons that defy common sense. This little warning light is there for a reason, it’s telling you that you need to have your ABS inspected and the computer scanned to determine what, if anything is wrong. So if your vehicle has an ABS light on the dashboard and it stays on and the person repairing your vehicle does not bring it to your attention and advise you as to the necessary repair procedure, consider another shop for your next repair.

Air bags are a wonderful thing which hopefully you will never have to find out, but believe me I have seen many wrecked cars in the last five years that people walked away from which would not have been possible without air bag inflation. In my opinion, all cars should have air bags as basic equipment with little to no exceptions. There are certain circumstances such as baby seats and smaller or frail people where we need to make changes, which is why new cars have deactivation switches, but otherwise all cars need them. The next time you meet a tow truck driver just ask him what he thinks, they see the difference between cars with and without airbags daily.

Remember while driving to always wear your seatbelt, or your air bag could do you some serious damage if deployed without you being buckled up.

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AIR CARE: Emissions ???

Currently all cars and light trucks must have an AirCare test before you can insure the vehicle for its next year of driving in BC. There are new regulations that will exclude new vehicles and include other vehicles, these new rules will be announced very soon I am informed.

So what is AirCare all about and why do we need another hoop to jump through just so we can drive our car anyway? To put it quite simply, most vehicle owners, for some reason lost to common sense, do not maintain their cars or a regular basis. This results in tens of thousands of cars driving back and forth burning more fuel than they need too, which in turn creates more emissions, which is bad.

AirCare test
AirCare Test

If you maintain your vehicle on a regular basis you will have considerably less trouble with it, never fail your emissions testing, save loads of money on improved fuel consumption, retain a better resale value, and seldom if ever find yourself on the side of the road broken down. Your vehicle will actually last longer and because you don’t hate it so much you in turn will probably keep it longer and that will save you large amounts of pesos (I mean dollars).

So why do they have repair limits and so many forms to fill out and what are all those boxes for on the back of the Repair Data Form anyway? Believe it or not, the people that run the AirCare Program are in very tight control of the certified AirCare technicians & shops. To become either one is not an easy task. The repair limits are set in place to ensure that the motorist that fails the emissions test does have to spend more than the set amount to get a car repaired. This does not mean that you should never spend more than the limit, as sometimes a few more dollars spent this year will help you pass next year. Remember that the money you’re spending is for catch up, had you maintained your car to begin with, you would have already passed the AirCare test. The forms that you have tell the certified AirCare technician what they need to know to diagnose your failure, the second page of the form with all the boxes surveys what and how the technician made the repair as well as how much you spent, broken down into parts and labour. AirCare monitors the repair shop and technician for performance and what they charged you, each repair results in a grade for the shop and the tech. If either the shop or the technician do not maintain a good grade they can lose their certification.

So in closing, is the environment benefiting from emissions testing? Contrary to popular myth, it is so. You’re saving money due to better fuel economy and longer vehicle life, the environment is getting less abuse, and the government isn’t taxing you as much as you’re buying less fuel. On top of all this, your car runs better. Everybody wins!

Remember never to leave your vehicle running while you’re not in it. Drive safely. . .

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The Evolution of The Auto Technician

Quite a few years ago when I started my mechanical repair apprenticeship things were far less complicated than they are now. Cars and pick-up trucks, as they were known then, didn’t change much from year to year, save for cosmetic changes. There were no emission standards and seatbelts and padded dashboards were just around the corner, power-performance and looks dictated the day. The prevailing opinion of that time, with parents and educators, was that if your son didn’t do well in school then you had better get him in some sort of trade so he would have something to fall back on. If you were strong and good with your hands then you might want to try being a car or truck mechanic as there were lots of vehicles and they all needed to be fixed.

Boy have things changed, we are now called Automotive Technicians and it can all be traced back to two things, a fellow named Ralph Nader, and the small electronic device called the microchip. Good old Ralph Nader championed vehicle safety, which prompted the US government to create the EPA or Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA mandated automotive fuel economy and emission standards which in turn forced the major automotive manufactures to use the microchip to reach these new goals. A microchip is the heart of an electronic control processor which has led to the computer, modern vehicles are controlled and monitored by one or more computers which receive signals from a number of sensors. The computer then digests data and sends signals through electronic circuits to control all the subsystems that control the car. Throw in some heat, rain, sand, dirt, mud, snow, vibration, physical wear and abuse, well I think you get the picture.

Today’s Technician requires as many tools and diagnostic equipment devices as a modern day hospital ER. While our work is not nearly as important, it is getting more and more complicated. We go to school every year to stay current and we subscribe to many trade journals and constantly network with our peers to learn from real life experiences. We no longer rely on service manuals but rather our shop has a computer dedicated to a CD-ROM library that contains all North American car repair, warranty and factory recall information which is updated every 90 days. We have a Website and use the internet as a information and parts location resource as well as email communication with a number of industry experts both at the manufactures and after market levels. So now when I am looking to hire an apprentice the first thing I want to know is how the applicant did in mathematics, physics and chemistry. Teachers and parents take note, if they did not do well in these subjects, they likely will not make a good Auto Technician.

Remember to check your blind spot before lane changing, you might see someone there. Drive safely. . .

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