Helping keep Toronto motorists safely on the road...since 1960.... Saturday, November 22, 2014   


126 Laird Drive
Toronto, Ontario

5 blocks south of Eglinton
Open 7am-6pm Mon-Fri
 
Here is the most recent installment of the AML Newsletter, followed by some past issues and articles that may be of interest.



September, 2007 Date: 9/9/2007
Right to Repair…Right to Choose

 

Right to Repair…Right to Choose

 

”Right to Repair” is an issue which has been developing in our industry for well over a decade.  International in scope, it refers to the vehicle manufacturers’ reluctance, and often refusal, to make necessary technical data, training and tools available to repair facilities other than their own dealers - in essence paving the way towards monopolizing the auto repair industry by dealerships. 

 

Modern automobiles are virtually run by on-board computers, or modules.  Everything from power train, to braking and steering, to entertainment and comfort, is controlled by a computer or a network of computers.  Troubleshooting these systems typically requires the use of an appropriate scan tool to interface with the on-board computers to obtain fault codes and monitor sensor and output data.  In addition to diagnostics, it is becoming increasingly necessary to program modules and other electronic parts, either as the fix to a problem or simply to initialize a replacement part to make it work.  This also requires the use of special tools, software and protocols which most of the original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s) are reluctant to share with the aftermarket.  Since computer control of our vehicles increases every year, this issue may soon reach crisis proportions, affecting our right, as an independent repair facility, to conduct business as well as your right, as a consumer, to choose where to have your vehicle repaired.

 

In order to ensure our ability to effectively diagnose and repair most vehicles, AML has been diligent in purchasing and maintaining the best equipment available to us.  This includes top of the line scope-meters, some vehicle-specific scanners such as Tech2 for GM, and a number of aftermarket scanners loaded with capabilities as close to dealer level as we can find.  Other OE level scan tools in which we’ve invested include NGS for Ford and Mazda – both of whom have since switched to a different system; Mastertech for Honda – also now using another system; and DRBIII for Chrysler (the distributor for the DRBIII is no longer allowed to sell to Canadians, making it very difficult for us to acquire updates).  Fortunately, many of us in the aftermarket repair sector have developed some of our own diagnostic strategies rather than rely on manufacturer’s charts (many of which have proven unreliable in the past anyway).  Of course, this still does not get us around the issue of reprogramming modules when they need replacement.

 

A case in point is a vehicle that came to us to determine the cause of the gauges not functioning.  This had been previously diagnosed at the dealer as a faulty instrument cluster (IC).  Our diagnosis confirmed this, finding that the IC was unable to communicate with the engine control module, despite having communication available to it.  We recorded our diagnostic information (scope snapshots) to be able to prove our conclusion if a problem arose.  Unfortunately, however, we did not have – and could not acquire at the time – the equipment to reprogram the IC after replacement. 

 

If you’re following me on this: we were able to diagnose the problem; we were able to replace the part (it was already removed as part of the diagnosis); but now we couldn’t proceed with the repair because we could not complete the job due to non-disclosure of information – in this case the software and/or protocols required to reprogram the IC after replacement.  What followed was even worse. 

 

We arranged to take the car to the dealer on the client’s behalf.  Everything was fine until they finally received the part and, apparently, it did not work.  “It can’t be the cluster” they said, or it would have solved the problem.  (For what it’s worth, it was now actually a different symptom.)  Their technician now started back-probing the harness at the engine control module (ECM), thinking the problem had been misdiagnosed.  We received a call back telling us the IC was ok but the ECM needed replacement.  Fortunately, our thorough diagnostic procedures left no doubt as to what was at fault and we told them to recheck, and that we had proof that the IC was at fault.  They ordered another cluster, installed it and programmed it to the vehicle.  Problem solved.  Sadly, this whole episode took about two months to complete.   Would it have been faster had we been in charge from start to finish?  Probably, but we have no way of knowing, since it may have been simply a faulty part that held up completion of the job.  For sure, we saved the customer from additional expense for unnecessary repairs due to confusion over a defective part or improperly performed procedure.

 

We’re not trying to tromp on dealers.  We believe most of them do their best to ensure their technicians remain up to date and well trained.  Even at that, this trade can be difficult at times, and diagnosis can be very difficult, especially in an ever-changing environment such as automotive electronics.  And faulty parts or procedures can be especially difficult to overcome.  The point is that we had the answer and the confidence to properly repair the vehicle; the dealer, in this situation, did not.  But we were locked out, unable to access the tools or software needed to complete the job.

 

Another case comes to mind where the customer was traveling in the US.  The engine was running badly and the malfunction indicator lamp (MIL) was on.  He took the car to a dealership; they checked the codes, made a repair and then informed him that further diagnosis was required because the condition had barely improved.  He declined and, once back in Toronto, brought the car to AML and we ran a diagnostic.  This particular European vehicle was one that did not have sufficient diagnostic data on our scanner, making it necessary to use non-OE methods to diagnose the problem, which turned out to be simply a faulty coil.  Diagnostics do not always have to be “high-tech”, although the strategy we used to determine the cause of the fault was at one time considered “cutting edge”.  Go figure!

 

I could give more examples, but that’s not the scope of this article.  Everybody makes mistakes; how mistakes are dealt with sets one shop apart from another, be it a dealership or an independent.  That is precisely why consumers need to maintain their right to choose.  You have the right to choose who works on your vehicle based on what is important to you, be it a friendly atmosphere, low cost service, competent technicians, sincere counter personnel, or whatever.  A level playing field simply maintains your right to do so.

 

What can we do to ensure that we retain our right to choose where we repair our automobiles?   In the US, Right to Repair legislation has been introduced to Congress repeatedly since 2001, with little success. I say little instead of no success because in 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency forced manufacturers to grant access to their service information web sites to make all emission-related information, including flash programs, accessible to everyone (in the US, that is; many of these sites remain closed to Canadian technicians).  Fearing legislation, manufacturers took this a step further in allowing access to all their service information on their sites.  Charges for usage vary, but are generally available in subscription lengths of anywhere from 24 hours to 1 year.  Even with this set-up there remain problems, such as with tooling and programming, especially on non-emission related modules, making legislation the next logical step.

 

In Canada, there are two courses of action taking place, much as in the ‘States.  Backed by trade associations across the country, VISTA (Vehicle Information & Service Tool Access) is a campaign seeking a voluntary remedy by the vehicle manufacturers, similar to what is currently in place south of the border.  “Right to Repair” activists, led by the Automotive Industries Association (AIA), demand a legislative solution to ensure complete and thorough compliance by the manufacturers.  To date, a number of manufacturers have made their sites accessible to Canadians, but we are still a long way from where we need to be.  Brian Masse, MP for Windsor West, has introduced right to repair legislation in the House of Commons.  Bill C-425 takes aim at amending the Competition Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to ensure that the aftermarket is guaranteed access to information and tools necessary to repair vehicles.  It is endorsed by both the CAA and Pollution Probe.  You may want to contact your MP to back this legislation if you agree this issue is important to you.

 

For AML and other independent automotive service outlets, the means to resolving this problem is of little importance.  Whether the manufacturers volunteer information or they are mandated to do so, the outcome would be the same: we will be able to continue to offer our high standard of service to our customers, who bring their vehicles to us because they choose to do so.  

 

If you’d like to read more on this topic, the following sites may be of interest:

  www.thetorontostar.com/article/184817

  www.righttorepair.ca

  www.natacanada.ca/vista.html

  www.nastf.org

You can also search “right to repair”.

 

P.S.  Since beginning this article for the newsletter, new software has been released for the NGS which improves our capabilities on Ford vehicles to match those of the dealers.  Unfortunately, access to their web site is still disallowed, but we’re working on that.  Also, we have been able to access the Chrysler site by contacting them directly and purchasing the subscription over the phone.  And aftermarket diagnostic software is improving all the time, proving the old adage “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”.

 

October is Car Safety Month

 

Be Car Care Aware; and remember that October is Car Safety Month.  If you haven’t already done so, make sure your vehicle is going to be ready for the fall and winter months ahead.  This should include checking your brakes, steering and suspension; making sure your windshield wipers are in good operating condition and capable of wiping the window clean; making sure you have winter w/s washer fluid so it doesn’t freeze when the cold weather starts; checking all lights and repair as necessary; making sure your headlights are properly aimed so you don’t impair visibility of other drivers; testing the battery and charging voltage; installing winter tires before the snow flies; taking care of any exhaust leaks so the fumes don’t pose a risk to your health when in stop-and-go traffic with all the windows closed.  AML can check everything you need checked as part of our regular maintenance program, which includes inspections at regular intervals.  For more information on winter driving, see our web site (amlautoservice.com) and check previous articles on the Newsletter page.  You may also visit carcarecanada.ca.

 

Shocks and Struts…They do a lot for your ride

 

Most people equate shocks and struts with the bouncing effect they experience when going over a pothole or speed bump and don’t realize the role shock absorption plays in safety.  So it naturally doesn’t seem like a big deal when the car bounces more and more as it gets older and the struts wear out.  But shocks and struts affect much more than just the feel of your ride, in that they help the tires maintain full contact with the road.  In so doing, braking, steering, handling, tire wear and even fuel economy are optimized.  Good shocks/struts would prove especially critical during a sudden stop or evasive maneuver, when it is most critical to keep your tires firmly planted on the pavement.  Most strut manufacturers recommend replacement around the 80,000 kilometer mark.  So it’s a pretty safe bet that if your vehicle has 100,000+ kilometers on it, you will benefit from new shocks and struts.  In keeping with car safety month, AML will be putting shocks and struts on sale through the month of October, so there’s no better time than right now to get it done.  See the ad at the end of this newsletter for details and take advantage now!

 

Things You Need To Know

 

A recent fatal accident on the Gardiner Expressway brings to mind something that usually goes unnoticed and un-talked about.  That being that the tightness of your wheels should be checked every now and then, just like you should check your oil.  It is a little known fact that wheels can loosen over time, even though they were properly installed and torqued during service.  This is especially true of alloy (aluminum) wheels.  If you look carefully in your owners’ manual, you can probably find some mention of this, although it may not be especially noticeable.  I checked the manual for my new Caravan and found mention of checking wheel tightness with other checks I should be doing periodically.   Owning a torque wrench and checking for correct wheel tightness before starting a long trip or after a stop-over is a small but smart investment to make.  Even if a torque wrench isn’t something you want to invest in or learn to use, you can still check wheel tightness with the tire iron that is supplied with your vehicle, at least to confirm that the wheel nuts are not loose.  And pay attention to unusual noise or vibration while driving: if you notice anything unusual, the first thing you should do is check the tightness of your wheels.  We will be happy to demonstrate wheel torque procedures to anyone interested, or check your wheel torque for you before you leave on that winter vacation.  

 

It’s That Time of Year For…

 

Shocks and Struts    Actually it’s always that time for shocks and struts, but since they’re on special there’s no time like right now.  From September 1 through October 31, 2007 you can save on the purchase of 4 struts and/or shocks for your car, van or SUV as AML offers our exclusive BUY 3, GET 1 FREE* event.  This is an in-house promotion and covers both AC Delco and Monroe lines only, subject to availability.  Don’t wait ‘till the last minute, as this offer won’t be extended beyond October!

*Installation extra.  In the event that not all 4 shocks/struts are the same price, all 4 pieces will be discounted 25%.

 

Snow Tires   Help make your winter driving safe and stress-free with the purchase of 4 premium snow tires from AML and we’ll give you 50% of on your 4-wheel alignment if done on the same work order.  Offer expires October 31, 2007.

 

Winter-Ready Checks   On every vehicle we have in for service, we will perform the following complimentary service: top up your windshield washer fluid; test your battery and charging voltage; test your coolant’s freeze point and level; check your oil level; check lights, horn and windshield wipers.  Note that some service packages may include these complimentary services anyway and no cash value is associated with them.  Offer valid throughout the fall and winter.  Drive safely!

 

Updating Our Records    Once again, we’re trying to update our customer files to include e-mails and preferences.  A small part of our customer service includes maintenance reminders and newsletters.  Please let us know if you prefer to receive these via e-mail or land mail.  Also, if you prefer not to receive anything, this will be noted on your file so we can avoid sending you unwanted mail of any kind.  Be assured that your personal information will not be used for any purpose other than for communication between AML and you.   

          

 

                  Questions? Letters? Comments?    We can be reached at:

 

            AML Auto Service, 126 Laird Drive, Toronto, Ontario, M4G 3V3.

 

                    Phone 416-423-6209; or call toll-free 1-877-955-6800

 

                                     E-mail  art@amlautoservice.com

 

                               Visit our web site at amlautoservice.com

 

If you have any ideas for future articles or any questions you’d like answered in or out of our newsletter, we’d like to hear from you.

 

 
Newsletter Title Date
June, 2007 6/1/2007
March, 2007 3/26/2007
Getting The Most from Your gas Dollars 5/23/2006
Buying a Used Vehicle 9/25/2004
Preparing For Winter 10/1/2003
Summer, 2003 6/1/2003
Summer, 2002 6/24/2002

 

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