RepairPal Blog

This is the second in a series of blog posts that our Honda expert, Robert Isbell, is writing for RepairPal. Robert has worked at Honda dealerships for over 22 years as a technician, shop foreman and service manager. He has developed and led new owner clinics that educate new owners about their cars and he will be contributing to our blog to educate our visitors about the methods for getting the most out of your service experience. If you missed the preceding post about finding a shop, click here.

As of January 2, 2008 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is being sued by The State of California in the hope of overturning a denial for a waiver under The Clean Air Act to set stricter Emission Control standards.  There are potentially another 13-15 States ready to join California in this lawsuit.  What this means is that the Automakers, who are struggling to stay alive, will have to make several different Emission Control Systems for new vehicles so that they can be sold to the States that have adopted the new California Standards or the Federal Standards. For many years, there have been Federally Certified Emission Control vehicles and California Certified Emission Control vehicles.  In the 1980s there were some real differences in these Emission Controls, but as time has passed, the Federal Vehicles became much less common and the real differences in their Emission Control Systems are basically zero. (For more, see our Check Engine Light article.)

This is the first in a series of blog posts that our Honda expert, Robert Isbell, will be writing for RepairPal. Robert has worked at Honda dealerships for over 22 years as a technician, shop foreman and service manager. He has developed and led new owner clinics that educate new owners about their cars and he will be contributing to our blog to educate our visitors about the methods for getting the most out of your service experience. What you should do before you make your first service appointment

It's a big job to pick up decoys and that's why you call in the big guns, AKA "The Max Amphibious Six Wheel Drive". When you're talking 500 to 600 duck decoys, it takes all day to pick them up but that doesn't even include towing a jon boat behind this amphibious vehicle. So far I haven't found any terrain that can stop this thing. Unfortunately this is one vehicle we don't plan to list on RepairPal anytime soon.

For years I have taken it for granted that there had to be different grades of gasoline at the pump in order for your vehicle to run properly.  I used to drive a very high performance Camaro that required the highest octane fuel available because this vehicle had over 300 horsepower after it had been modified and Dynamometer tuned by a well known speed shop.  It was one of the original 1967 Z28 Camaros with the famous 302 cubic inch engine.  For years I have been filling up my vehicles with middle-grade, 89 octane fuel, even though it costs more than the basic 87 octane gasoline.  No more, and I will tell you why. I began following work from Bill Wattenburg, a well-known radio personality and scientist who has worked at the Lawrence Livermore Research Labs and at UC Berkeley teaching both Physics and Electrical Engineering.  He began speaking about the fact that the modern vehicles, especially the ones with Direct Ignition Systems and without Distributors, are required to pass a very stringent EPA-conducted test in order to be sold in the US.

What's a Wheel Alignment and When Do I Need One?When we notice our vehicle begins to pull to the right or left while in motion, things are no doubt starting to get out of whack – or for a better term - "out of alignment."  To correct the problem, a wheel alignment requires attention from a certified mechanic who will perform the necessary maintenance and see to it that all the wheels are parallel and the rubber can once again firmly meet the road.

About 1-2 times per week I am put in the position of having to explain why a vehicle has poor braking performance when the brakes were just serviced or repaired 1-2 weeks ago by another shop.  Typically the brakes are noisy--either squeaking or making a bothersome rubbing sound when applied.  Often the problem has to do with a vibration or pulsation when the brakes are applied, especially when slowing down to exit from a freeway.  Sometimes it has to do with the pedal being too soft and the brakes not having enough stopping force. All the above concerns often have to do with poor quality brake parts.  In the late 1980s, the manufacturers had to stop using asbestos in any brake parts.  Of course this was a good thing for the peoples' health, but the factories have had a hard time coming up with brake pads and shoes that stop vehicles without a lot of loud squeaking or rubbing sounds.  I was working at two different dealerships at the time asbestos disappeared, and every other week we would get another shipment of brake pads or shoes that were supposed to "work". The point here is that it hasn't been easy for the some of the best engineers to develop a workable brake pad or shoe that stops without squeaking or grinding.

One of my favorite new products in the automotive industry is the new Ford Work Solutions. This unique system incorporates existing technologies to assist those who use their Ford Truck or Van as a work vehicle. Ford Work Solutions is available on 2009 Ford F-150, Super Duty, E-Series vans and the upcoming 2010 Ford Transit Connect. Ford Work Solutions includes 4 features:

Have you seen Obama's new ride?  In an earlier post, we took a guess at what his new limo would look like.  Well, now it finally has appeared in yesterday's Inauguration and it's a Cadillac with some new styling.   Naturally, the vehicle is heavily armored and the windows are nearly 6" thick!  Apparently the Secret Service refers to this car as "The Beast."  The NYTimes notes a few changes from the Bush limo: the side mirrors look like they're from the Escalade, the wheels are now black (vs. white) wall, and unfortunately, the wheels were abandoned for the chintzy 'chrome plated' wheel covers. 

It looks like Chrysler is getting remarried! This time it's to an Italian bride. Fiat will be taking a 35% stake in Chrysler in exchange for no cash or stock. The Italian automaker (also owner of Ferrari and Maserati) will help Chrysler develop smaller cars and revamp their production techniques with the latest technologies. Chrysler will gain access to Fiat's European distribution network while offering up the Chrysler distribution channel in the US to help reintroduce both Alfa Romeos and Fiats. Let's hope this marriage is better than Chrysler's last one to Daimler - that one ended in a bitter divorce after 10 years in 2007. For those who didn't figure it out, the above image is a what the Chrysler/Fiat baby will look like (2009 Dodge Ram 1500 and a Fiat Qubo).