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”

April 2019 Blog …. A Scary Story about a Visit to a Repair Shop

              Gen II Prius HV pack

Before too long someone is going to get hurt. It is just a matter of time. I was visiting a very large auto repair shop a few years back getting ready to teach a hybrid class there the next day and the owner was giving me a tour of his place. His service facility was clean, well-lit and he was very proud of his reputation and service.  As we walked down an isle of used and new parts on metal racks in an attached building I noticed a Toyota Prius high voltage battery pack on the lower shelve.  The front safety cover was missing. I assume it was removed to access the orange colored high voltage (HV) cables.  I stopped to point out a real safety issue. He took it well and decided to attend the class I was teaching his technicians that night. The owner had little training in hybrids. What lessons were learned?

Here is what went wrong. When the Prius came in the owners decided to replace his HV battery with a used one. The salvage yard did not have a core charge so the service manage wanted to save it as it had a computer, contactors and more.

Problem #1-The HV pack was on a metal shelve. If this battery pack had a high voltage leak the metal shelve could become live and touching the pack and the shelf could put you in the circuit. Deadly combination.

Problem #2- No sign on the live pack. The HV battery needed an orange sign on it that said “Danger!  High Voltage Present. Do not handle”.

Problem #3- The safety cover was missing on the used unit so a cover of some sort was needed to keep bare hands off the high voltage contactors.

Problem #4 The Service Plug was left in the battery. The one thing that helps keep people safe was not done.

The entire shop needed basic EMV high voltage safety training. When moving the used battery, always wear HV safety gloves with leather covers over the rubber gloves. They are required. Some shops that have the space could make a safe room for high voltage parts with a sign on the door and keep it locked. Safety First.

The owner of that repair shop unknowingly put everyone at risk with that Prius HV battery. I tested it with my DVOM and it has over 200 volts at two terminals that were uncovered. It takes only 60 volts and ¼ amp to kill.

Feb – March 2019 .. The New Honda Insight

Honda introduced the first modern hybrid to America, but not the world. That honor goes to the Toyota Prius. In December of 1999 a weird little 2 passenger car with fender skirts started showing up at Honda dealerships. That was the last century and a lot has changed since then. Honda has produced many other hybrids like the Accord, Civic, and CRZ but they never took off like the Prius did. Market share was lost and Honda Hybrid owners were not happy. A lawsuit was filed and the owner won. Sales of Honda hybrids slowed as a goggle search was not flattering. Was it the lack of electric drive at slow speeds? High voltage battery packs that set codes and needed expensive replacement? Software updates that lowered your fuel economy but did little else to fix the problems? Dealerships that seemed not to care? Or was it that the Prius was just that good? Then Ford came out with the Fusion HEV in model year (M/Y) 2010 and Hyundai/ Kia the next year. Almost every manufacturer has built a hybrid and some were really good. Has Honda found their way back or were they never there? In April of 2009, another Insight was offered as a 2010 model year. What happened to that hybrid?  It was discontinued in M/Y 2014 due to poor sales.

The newly redesigned Insight has a li-ion battery pack that the earlier Insights did not have. Honda started using lithium in their Civic in M/Y 2012 and the CRZ in M/Y 2013 and battery problems went away. The old nickel metal hydride (NiMH) had many problems as they aged. Lithium has monitor circuits for each cell and that keeps each cell in balance with the others. The “out-of-balance” codes, P1446 and P1447, are gone. The air cooled inverter and DC-DC converter are liquid cooled now so any heating issues with the power electronics are over. The one motor IMA system has been retired for a “Two Motor” CVT of sorts, unique to Honda HEVs. More about his transmission coming up. Check the box for “Interlock” systems installed. More technician safety is always a good thing. Better real world miles per gallon at 45 to 50 MPG. A four cylinder 1.5 liter LIVC (late intake valve closing) gasoline engine puts out 107 horsepower and 99 pound-feet of torque. With two electric motors this new hybrid has a net 151 horsepower and 197 pound-feet or torque.  This is a very good car. Finally Honda got this one right.

January 2019 Blog … What is meant by Level I, Level II and Level III charging?

How do I test for communication with a EV and the charger?

Level I

This is a Single Phase Alternating Current (AC) EVSE device using grounded receptacles at the most commonly available voltages and currents. In North America this typically means 120V/16A using a stand home grounded outlet. The EV owner uses their own standard charging cord (it came with the EV) that includes a J1772 end (the part that connects to the port on the car) and plugs that cord into a home electrical outlet to connect the vehicle to the grid. It is sometimes called a trickle charger.

Level II

This is a Single or Three Phase Alternating Current (AC) EVSE device at 208-240V at up to 80A but seldom uses more than 45 amps now but to “future proof” a level II EVSE there are 80 amps units for sale. The SAE J1772 document is the standard for Level II charging in North America, where the J1772 connector and charging cord are permanently fixed to the Level II charging station. These Level II EVSE are installed at homes and businesses.

Level III  This is a specification that is not in use, but is often used to describe Fast Charging.  So to be technically correct call a Level III charger a Fast Charger and those with lots of training will recognize that you have studied well.

Fast Charger

Now we have a DC charger or “fast charging.” To achieve very short charging times, Level 3 chargers supply very high voltages (300-500 volts DC) at very high currents (100’s of Amperes). SAE has set a standard for this type commonly called the “combo plug” used by American, European OEMs and Honda. Most Asian brands use a different plug called CHAdeMO, such as Nissan, Kia and Mitsubishi. Both the Combo and CHAdeMO do the same thing, charge a HV battery very quickly. Chevrolet says the Bolt, supported by Level 3 charger (CCS) can gain 90 miles (145 km) worth of range in 30 minutes, 160 miles (257 km) worth in 60 minutes, and a full 238 miles (383 km) of range in about two hours. In colder weather it takes somewhat longer.

Now you know.

 

Oct – Nov – Dec 2019 … What’s in their trunk may tell you a lot

If you’ve been running a shop any length of time, I’m sure you run into the “trunk full of things” when you want to “just do the right thing” and check the air in the spare tire (if they have a spare!) I started my shop in 1977. We worked exclusively on Honda cars and Honda had full size spare tires for a long time. If it was a hatchback there was a lot less stuff back there, but the trunk was really a place for people to store their junk. Sometimes you would learn a lot about a person based on what you pulled out of that trunk to get to the spare tire. Getting a flat back then, in strange place, made car owners take care of their own flat on the side of the road. This was long before we had cell phones. I had this one customer when I was in my twenties who was a political activist and she was probably all of 70. The signs in her trunk were all about the feminist movement because it was the seventies. I was intrigued by her signs, but mostly by her actions. She would literally go out and protest on the side the road or march with people so women could gain the rights that they were denied.  I admired her and loved to visit when she had her 4 door Civic serviced at my shop. I was talking to an older woman at Church this month about that experience and she related to me that when she was in college her parents they told her “the reason why we are sending you to college is to find a husband”.  That was not the reason why she went to college … so after the first year she was back home talking to her parents again and they asked her “did you find somebody?” Her answer was “no”. She explained that she went to college to learn and educate herself about the things that she wanted to do in her life. She also became an activist. She was in college in the fifties when I was just a boy. Another amazing woman.

The next time you are checking somebody’s spare tire in a messy trunk, note what the protest signs say, if they have any. You will know what is left to be done in America as the work in not finished yet. “Black lives matter” or “Ban the Bomb” or a whole host of other things are on people’s minds. Rather than get upset about what you don’t like on that sign, remember; the people that are out there are not holding a political office, usually not wealthy and many times not in any high paying job because if that was the case, they probably wouldn’t protest for fear it would affect their job or their career or their standing in the community. These people, in this case these older women, really made a difference. As I head into my somewhat senior years thinking back as a young man in my twenties and thirties how much I admired these woman, I really wish I could remember their names. But I do remember she drove a Honda Civic 4 door Sedan. My wife, Deborah, was visiting with someone here in Worcester. Deborah has taken my last name so when Deb was introduced, this woman told Deb “my mother had her car serviced at your husband’s Honda shop” and as they visited it was clear that her mom was that woman. It was that woman who had protested. It was that woman that gave me a reason to write this article and think about how important older people are, men and women. People that show the younger ones what needs to be done in a democracy. Those who stand on a street corner with a whole lot of people just holding a sign asking people to remember our veterans, our poor, our hungry, or whatever it is that is “right and just”. People with a conscience that know what needs to be done, at Christmas and all year long. Are you that person?