Craig’s Blog

Joe Bolger and the local Honda Motorcycle Shop .. Blog May 2020

I was a motorcycle mechanic before I was paid to fix cars. In 1972 Honda came out with the Civic and once I was trained by Honda on this little marvel, I was hooked on smart designs. But motorcycles have always been a part of my life and still are. My father road a Harley after WWII with me hanging on for dear life. I was 3 years old.

In August 2012 I blogged on the ACDC website about Mr. Honda and a man named Joe Bolger. Joe was bigger than life. On April 21, 2020 Joe passed away at 90 years old. He lived a long time and this is a tribute to him and what he stood for.

I met Joe in the summer of 1967 after I bought a used Honda 305 Scrambler and needed some parts. He was a co-owner of Sportsman Cycle Sales in a town next to Worcester, Massachusetts were l lived then and still do. Joe was in his late 30’s and hired me because I couldn’t pay the repair bill after he fixed the engine I blew up. Being a young crazy kid (weren’t we all) Joe had me work the summer of ‘68 to pay off the bill. After that summer job, I was back for my senior year at Burncoat High school, but what I really looked forward to was working with Joe Bolger in the afternoons when school got out. After graduation it was a full-time job that ultimately lead me to a Honda Insight and rest is history.

Joe was from Prince Edward Island and as tough as nails. He was a motorcycle racer. He was physically strong and mentally tough. It may have been his years in US Army (he was a Canadian at that time) fighting in the Korean War or his time in PEI. Working under his direction influenced my character, mental outlook, discipline and honesty. As a business owner I never saw him cheat anyone. He made his own tools, when the factory tools were not good enough. He was smart, a genius some say, but I saw him as a role model, a mentor. After my own Father died when I was 20 in a tragic car accident, Joe was given the role of “Father” too. Over the years we grew apart and I started my own repair shop working on Honda two and four wheeled products. We saw each other many times but working together was gone.

My last visit with Joe, and his wife Sandy, was Labor Day, September 3, 2018. I was riding an old Honda 250 VTR, with my granddaughter on the back, near Joe’s house and we stopped by. Sandy loved the visit as she had never met Savanna, age 11. Joe sat quietly and looked on. It was a great ending to a relationship of 50 years. May we all be as blessed as I was to have a competent and helpful boss at a young age. It can set the direction for a lifetime. It did for me.

A word of en”Courage”ment April 2020

As a former shop owner turned hybrid / electric car trainer, this pandemic is the most disruptive event I have lived through. I have lived close to seven decades on this planet, five of which I have been working, four of them employing some great people. Here are my thoughts and some ideas as well.

First, all of us at ACDC, including the four part-time technician/ shop owners (or sons of shop owners) that teach at the ACDC training center with me are feeling well as are their families. Our staff consists of Deb and myself; along with David “Oz”, a veteran from Iraq and Afghanistan wars; Kena, a student at Worcester Polytechnical Institute studying electrical engineering; Oscar, a student at Worcester Technical High School studying automotive technology; Aiden, a college student Middlesex Community College taking mechanical engineering.
As you may imagine all of our live hands-on classes are postponed, but everyone is still working and no one was laid off.

Our company is continuing to develop more unique classes and we have more time for the completion of a three-year project, ACDC’s “Hybrid, Electric and Fuel Cell Vehicle” college level book and support materials.

We have launched a completely new series on-line broadcast live twice a day. 8am and  2pm (EST) so everyone, no matter where you live can continue to learn and prepare for your future in EMVs (vehicles with orange cables).

Lastly, if you are wondering “why did this happen?”, maybe that is the wrong question. This time is horrendous for many. Can you help someone in need is a better question? Can you offer support? Can you use this time wisely? ACDC wishes you all well and we are here to help you as we all get through this together.

Craig van Batenburg

February – March 2020 Craig’s Blog … LIVC? What is it?

LIVC

Contrary to what you may have seen or heard, a real “Atkinson Cycle” engine is not used in any motor vehicle sold today. LIVC stands for ‘Late Intake Valve Closing.’ It is the valve train and induction system that mimics, to some degree, what the Atkinson system was doing. LIVC is used in many, but not all, hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. LIVC is also used in conventional cars and trucks as well. We will use “LIVC” and not “Atkinson Cycle” when referring to these gasoline engines.

When Toyota was creating the Prius in the early 1990s, they had one big advantage that allows them to develop a new concept based on the old “Atkinson Cycle” engine.  They designed a powerful electric motor inside the transmission that allowed the use of a low torque ICE with a high torque electric motor both powering the wheels. This was the first modern hybrid built for mass production.

Bigger Gasoline Engine gets better Fuel Economy 

When the Prius was redesigned for the M/Y 2010 (known as “Gen III” is the USA), the internal combustion engine was completely new. It has grown from 1.5 liters to 1.8 liters, but used less fuel on the highway. How is this possible, one might ask? When Toyota increased the displacement, the torque curve had more low-end power. Using their eCVT, the road speed was matched with a lower rpm but the same amount of torque. Less fuel is needed at lower rpms so a larger engine improved the highway mileage.  

New Year 2020 .. January Craig’s Blog

December 2019. End of a year, end of a decade. It was just about ten years ago when electric cars, that were affordable, were close to production. The Tesla roadster was out, but at 100,000 dollars each. Not your average car owners price range. This year, Americans spent 37,000 on a new car and that will buy you a pure electric car with over 200 miles of range. What a decade!

Up Your Voltage 56

Many people ask why I got into the hybrid repair and training business 20 years ago. Yes, it was that long. It was combination of factors. My personal commitment to sensible private motor vehicle transportation. Living in a city near Boston, Massachusetts and using public buses, light rail, a small scooter (now electric), a bicycle and walking to get around. That will shape who you are. Add to that the climate crisis we are now in, and you have an idea why ACDC feels strongly about what we do.

2019 was ACDC’s best year ever, if the financial report is your only indicator. Everyone got a raise, except me and Deb. Three of our employees, DJ, Aiden and Carlos, are in college for engineering. All three will still work for ACDC but a lot less and further away. They were hired out of High School and I believe we (maybe Deb) inspired them to do great things with their lives. The advertising budget for 2019 was zero and almost every class was sold out. Jeff, a trainer from the “Up Your Voltage” classes a few years back is with us again, adding his decades of experience to what we do. Matt, a tech nearby, also started at ACDC on 2019 and teaches at our 7-day class. We hosted interns, again for all over the world. We bought our first European HEV, a VW Jetta Hybrid. I could go on.

Deb and I are grateful for what we have. We celebrated 30 years of marriage. Our two sons’ lives are stable (they don’t sleep on my couch) and the grandkids (five now) are a joy.  Deb and I also had birthdays in December.

In many ways, you have added to our year as well by training and learning from us. May your holidays be blessed with love, health and good cheer.

Craig van Batenburg

November – December Blog 2019

As the year winds down, ACDC hopes that it was a year worth living. The classes we hold are small so Deb van Batenburg and I get to know many of you very well. Especially those you that are what we call “open”.  I met a man this year at a 5 day class, only ten students (the ACDC norm) and asked on the third day “are you married? any kids?”. His answer “I don’t talk about my personal life.” On the other end, a student volunteered during the meet and great evening event before our 7 day class “I haven’t talked to my father in 8 years”.  Deb and I are aware that this time of year (the “holidays” in America) can be a time of great joy and also deep sadness. We have a lot to be grateful for, our family and friends, our church and our city and the success of ACDC. With an advertising budget of zero for the last 15 years and most classes sold out months ahead, what is driving our double digit growth? I often call Deb our “secret weapon”. If you have ever called ACDC and talked to Deb you know why. Once in the classroom, hotel, a shop or on-line I take over and the class begins, but Deb is there making sure you have the little things that matter.  There are few married couples that have been around decades in this industry. Deb and I are  both recognized often as one. NACAT (North American Council of Automotive Teachers) gave ACDC a great award a couple years ago but failed to put Deb’s name on it next to mine. Once we were on stage to accept it (it was a complete surprise), many in the audience became loud in the oversight of NACAT. “What about Deb” was shouted by the crowd. That will not happen again. There are many others behind the scenes at ACDC that keep studying the present day technology so your future is ready when you are. Thanks for your support of ACDC and my thanks to everyone at ACDC, especially Deb.

 

October Blog 2019 … Wisdom

Sometimes we all need some wisdom,  like this quote below.

  • People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; forgive them anyway.
  • If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; be kind anyway.
  • If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies; succeed anyway.
  • If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you: be honest and frank anyway.
  • What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; build anyway.
  • If you find serenity and happiness, other may be jealous; be happy anyway.
  • The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do good anyway.
  • Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
  • You see in the final analysis, it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.

Most people believe this was engraved on the wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta. No one is sure, but if it moves you to consider how we go about our day at work, then it is worth reading. Can we apply this creed to a repair shop? If we rewrite this with our shop in mind, it would read something like this:

  • Customers are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; forgive them anyway but make sure they pay the whole bill including the time you held their hands and answered all their questions.
  • If you are kind to your employees, some employees may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; be kind anyway, as they are a big part of how successful you have become.
  • If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies; succeed anyway. Enough said!
  • If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you: be honest and frank anyway, but keep bank books, tools, pass codes, and such locked up.
  • What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; build anyway. Buy insurance so you can rebuild and keep a fire extinguisher nearby.
  • If you find serenity and happiness at work you are most likely drinking too much, other may be jealous; be happy and sober anyway.
  • The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do good anyway, and then write a company newsletter so others can remember.
  • Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough, so offer a warranty; give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see in the final analysis, it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway. Your customers most likely will not come to your funeral, so spend time, and energy with those that will.

Keep these words handy for a while until it sinks in then give this to someone else. This was shared by the Reverend Mark Seifried when he knew I could use it. It helped explain a lot, so now I can share it with you, including the edited version.

Craig Van Batenburg,

September 2019 Blog …. American Prius Cold Start HC System

One unusual system that the 2004 – 2009 Prius hybrids have is a heat recovery system. Another way to recapture wasted energy is to keep some hot coolant ready. To do this Denso came up with a simple but effective design. Whenever we shut off our engines and allow them to cool down, we have to heat them up again. Those in cold climates know all too well how that works! Hot coolant is stored in a stainless steel “thermos” type canister and then recycled into the cylinder head as needed, keeping the head warm and the engine ready to go into closed loop operation faster. This is North American system only. A stainless steel tank located under the left headlight has a vacuum chamber between the inside and outside of the bottle. When re-starting a Prius the hot coolant inside is pumped into the cylinder head to warm it up before the ICE fires up. This helps cut down on HC emissions on a cold start.

A three position valve with a position sensor built in is used to direct the stored hot water.

Servicing

and repairing this system Tech Tip:  Disconnect the 12 v pump on the side of the storage tank when working on the cooling system so you do not get scalded as it is a passive system and it will pump coolant without warning.  The pump is round and mounted to the back of the hot water tank. Easiest way to access the two wire 12 volt pump is to turn the wheels all the way to the right and pull back on the left front fender plastic inner liner and look inside. It is right there looking back at you. Leave a shop rag hanging from that area so you don’t forget to plug it back in. If you do forget to plug it in or it tries to activate (it is a passive system) while you are working on the car it will set a code and light the MIL lamp.  Just clear it later on.

So there are some differences with hybrids vs. conventional cars but your ability to service and repair them can be learned and with more training, tools and equipment you will be able to keep up with the changes in the fleet.

August 2019 .. Missing Lead Acid 12 Volt Battery in Hyundai Ionic

The Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid uses a 12 volt lithium-ion battery instead of a 12 volt lead-acid battery. It has a “fail safe” feature in case it is low on charge. A reset button on the dash will connect the HV hybrid battery to DC-DC converter and then recharge the little li-ion 12 volt battery, as long are there aren’t any other problems.  Weight savings was the main reason, in this case, 26 pounds (12 kg). That may not sound like a lot, but it is, and that matters for a hybrid vehicle that has a mission of being highly fuel efficient. It also gives this version of the Ioniq two percent more cubic feet of cargo space than its EV and plug-in hybrid versions. There are downsides of course. The lithium-ion battery is sealed under the seats in the same unit as the HV battery. You won’t be able to use your Ioniq to jumpstart someone else’s car. That also means it will likely cost much more to repair or replace than a conventional battery, and longevity is an unanswered question. Hyundai offered a lifetime warranty with unrestricted mileage to the original owner for the HV pack and a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty to alleviate those concerns in the US.

When you get a call to jump start any hybrid or EV, do you know what to do?  ACDC can help.

July Blog “Autonomous Cars and Wheel Chairs”

When Deb and I got married, almost 30 years ago, we wanted to find a Church we both could attend without compromising who we were then. Deb was Catholic and I was a Congregational (after 20 years as a Mormon).  We visited many churches in Worcester, Massachusetts (where we still live in the same house) and decided on the United Church of Christ in a beautiful brown stone building that was over 150 years old. The Minister was great, as was the choir and the youth group was active.  A short drive from our house. It was there we met Marylyn Kerr, about our age (early 40’s) that was confined to a wheel chair. Her Father and Mother were active and we got to know the Kerr family well. I was running my auto repair shop at the time and tried to keep work and church life separate. One Sunday Marylyn’s wheel chair van had a problem after she parked it. The right rear suspension lowered via a cable / motor system to allow the side ramp to open at an angle easier to navigate and was stuck in that position.  Someone summoned me from “coffee hour” and I walked outside to see if I could help. Technicians should never wear nice clothes to church. Accessing the problem while lying on the ground, I knew I could fix it. Marylyn rolled into the back of the van, while I moved the passenger seat into the driver’s position. Now we set off with me using hand controls and my smiling friend in the back, strapped in place. Marylyn has MD (muscular dystrophy) and the mobility of her motorized wheel chair and the converted van made her life more social.

Once at my shop, Marylyn disembarked and I moved the van to an empty lift. The motor had failed, but a manual crank was there so I could unwind the cable and let the suspension move freely again. I asked Marylyn to come over and see what the problem was. She asked “Can I get under the van?” “Yes”, I replied. She explained that no one had ever let her in the shop before. That day in the shop was an education for me as well as her.

Now we have almost completed the technological work of allowing hundreds of thousands of people all over the world the mobility most of us just take for granted as we hop in and out of our cars and trucks every day. And what moved this technology ahead? Safety and emissions. As a tech you know what the industry has had to do to keep up with regulations.  The indirect result of the last 50 years of advancements will mean a lot to people like Marylyn.

May / June 2019 Blog …Tesla, Right to Repair and Elon Musk

In the fall of 2012 a referendum known as “Right to Repair” passed in Massachusetts. It is the only state (still is as of May 2019) where an independent shop can sue the manufacturer of a motor vehicle (gas or electric) if the OEM did not keep the playing field level in terms of service information, replacement parts, tools, equipment, software updates, scan tools and training information. It is in keeping with NASTF (National Automotive Service Task Force) and tries to keep independent shops on an equal footing with dealerships. The law has never been tested but it does apply to Tesla. If your Tesla failed our annual strict safety test you must have it fixed at the repair shop that did the test or tow it to the shop of your choice. Every car in Massachusetts gets safety tested every year. Obviously the State emissions test does not apply to pure electric cars. Most car owners bring their vehicles to the shop they like and if something is wrong it gets fixed. Those are the facts. Things may change with Tesla as they deliver more Model 3 cars but currently if a Tesla Roadster, Model S or X failed for a safety defect (like a cracked windshield) you must have it fixed by Tesla, even out of warranty cars. Service information is made available only to Massachusetts repair shops but not scan tools or software downloads. Therefore a shop anywhere in the world will have no help from Tesla (except limited information in my home state) about Tesla, not because we wanted it that way but Tesla will not cooperate with us.  

Now, does Elon understand the repair industry in America (or anywhere)? I think not.  I have a feeling that my two fictitious Italian Maserati / Ferrari shop owner brothers named  Bruno and Antony in Boston with some “Wicked Smaht Hahvid” lawyers will not enjoy the fact that a good customer with a Tesla S cannot get their car fixed at Brunos. A failed “safety inspection” for a broken windshield needs a  scan tool to finish the job. That is not right. Stay tuned.

PS. I live in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Pronounced “Woos-Ta”