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.
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”
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.
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.
How do I test for communication with a EV and the charger?
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.
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.
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.
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?
I ran an auto repair shop for over a quarter century. What did it teach me? Patience. Financial awareness. Planning. Listening. Discipline.
These qualities served me well as boss, husband, teacher and father. I was reminded that as we age and keep an open mind, we will be presented with new ways of displaying the traits of a mature adult. Young people will learn from you and sometimes comment when they see the actions match the words. In a world of constant BS from politicians, con-men and scammers … a little truth can go a long way. Just an honest answer, short and to the point, can help guide young people to their truth.
Case in point. Deb and I spent two weeks in Europe, both learning and teaching. I meet over 100 college students at three different Dutch schools. One young man approached me after a one hour lecture plus Q &A and made this statement; “How can you be so passionate about EVs and so calm in how long it is taking to get more people to buy them?” My answer “It takes a long time for any new technology to catch on. We will get there because the answer to sustainable transportation is electric drive. There are no other good solutions.” He seemed OK with that. I also asked a question that I have asked hundreds of American auto technology students and that is “Will you stay in the auto repair business after you graduate?” That answer is all too revealing. 60% say “No”. I understand that 18 to 21 year olds don’t know what career to enter as everything seems possible. But 60 % is a big number. One Dutch student that I have gotten to know well when he visited ACDC a few years back took some advice I had given him “Do something that helps a social problem”. Deb and I had lunch with him on our trip last week and he was excited to tell me how he travels to South Africa as a crew leader installing a Dutch designed water treatment plant that is the size of a tractor trailer. In some parts of that country the drinking water is polluted. He used his automotive repair skills and his passion to help others to do something good. He is 24. This small plant runs on a diesel generator. This new generation, in America and many other countries, want to help. They want a meaningful job. They are not “tricked” by money as one man my age put it. Will electric cars be that motivation? Will the new technicians see fixing electric cars be that “social problem” that a tech can feel good about. I will keep asking the new men and women at the colleges I visit. I will ask their teachers too. Will this make the answer 90% “Yes I am staying in the business!”
As a Shop Owner or Manager, a “come back” can be the worst part of your day. I remember a time when my new tech left the dipstick on the bench. Delivered the car and the customer was really upset. I was as well, but I needed to make it right for the customer and also make plan to keep those types of mistakes from hurting our reputation. We told everyone we “Fix it the First Time”, but we didn’t. How do you handle this with your employees, all of them, not just the tech?
After some thought back in 1984 (the shop was opened in 1977), I came up with this idea. Before the tech closes the hood for the last time, they must ask for a “Hood Check”. In my shop it was simple. A tech just yelled out “Hood Check,” and someone – could be most any employee – came over. What were they looking at the hood? Anything that looked off. This process, that took all of two minutes, was to ensure that everything was OK under the hood. The tech handed the “hood checker” the vehicle’s work order. Was the dipstick all the way in … oil cap tight … any rags, pens or loose nuts under there? After you open the hood, you own everything under it for many years to come, right? Even if the tech never touched the battery cables, twist the cables with both hands, one on each post. Are they tight? Many will not be. Why did the techs at Van Batenburg’s Garage have to submit themselves to this? Simple: If it was right on, they got a pat on the back. If not, they learned a lesson. The end result was no more foolish comebacks that could have been avoided. Even the boss had to yell out “Hood Check.” Did I ever get caught? Yes, but that was a lesson I didn’t quickly forget. Would you believe our comeback rate was less than two a year? It’s a great way to break in a new recruit, even if he or she has been a tech for decades. It is the culture in your shop that reduces comebacks more than anything else. Think about this the next time you slam down the hood at the end of the job.
What about a clutch or CV joint job? Is it worth putting it back on the lift when the road testing is done? Sure, if you removed or replaced an engine, transmission or axle. Less stress equals less comebacks.
What does it take to write a college text book and why did Craig (and many others helping) do it? It is the single largest project I can remember in recent history and is still on going as it is not finished. The book will be published and sent to schools the August.
Let’s start with why? There are two well-known college text books on the market that were written by two well respected automotive authors, both of them are full time writers, Jim Haldeman and Jack Erjavic. I know the well and have helped both in their hybrid writings. I was paid to work with Jim years ago and Jack and I had a deal that well through. Their books are as good. So why reinvent the wheel? I was asked by many college and high school instructors to do this project. They wanted a textbook with the continuity of my on-line webinars and live classes. They wanted cut-away parts that matched the lessons. They wanted work / task sheets written for real work problem. They wanted a complete package. So the reason why is the same as to my existence in the automotive repair field. That is why I opened a Honda only repair shop in 1977. Why I opened ACDC in 1999. The industry needs help.
So what has it taken so far? I have hired other industry professionals to help. Al Playter, an Auto Teacher in Canada, Cyriel Kootstra from Holland to write the light duty diesel/hybrid chapter, Jeff Gouviea from Up Your Voltage fame to write they Heavy Duty (Class 4 to 8) HEV /EV chapter. All experienced in that field. Hany Shaker from Cairo, Egypt is doing the task sheets and I still need more help. I have hired shop owners to proof read and make suggestions, like Eugene Victorivitch Tomachinkski (my favorite Russian) and many others. Carlos Vargas, one of the smartest seniors at the local technical High School, is working at the ACDC training center after school and this summer. I have hired Dustin Hopkins to take over some work from DJ Goins who has been with ACDC since he graduated from High School few years back so DJ can scan more EMVs and help get scope data. The editor Darcy Adshead (she has done the last two ACDC books) and Damian Adshead is here to make my photos more presentable and do the graphics. It is a large team effort that started last October when Darcy and I met for a morning to map out the plan. I like the work but not the hours. We are self-publishing. That means we are not printing 5,000 copies overseas to save money and make more profit. All of our books are printed in Tennessee. They are all full color and spiral bound so they lay flat on your workbench. The support materials most likely will still be developed and posted on line after the books is done.
A few last thoughts. I am in a hurry to get this done because if you are waiting to learn this new and exciting technology, every year you wait, it gets to be a steeper climb. This book will help. You can pre order.
If you first learned about cars with a 12 volt system that ran on gasoline or diesel you were, without knowing it, developing what I call a “12 volt brain”. When you were a small child and stood by the family car (or a friend’s car) you did not have to be told what a car sounded like when it was cranking, especially if it would not start. After repeatedly hearing that familiar “rur…rur… rur and maybe then click … click … click and nothing. It became a part of what a car does. The 12 volt brain was learning even before you knew you wanted to fix these things. Your automotive classes in college are now in conflict with some of that intrinsic knowledge and you must relearn what a high voltage system can do, that was not possible with a mere twelve volts. Time to develop a high voltage brain. This will be exciting and challenging as well. It will lead to a revolution in transportation that was last seen between 1890 and 1910. Those two decades set the stage for an affordable gasoline powered world. The future is electric and it is time to learn the how and why. We are here to help.