The Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

Editor’s Notes: ‘The Rising Tide Lifts All Boats’

EdNoteFor the past year and a half, in addition to being editor of TechShop, I’ve also carried the role as editor of our student publication Tomorrow’s Tech, which is delivered to NATEF-certified automotive technical programs throughout the U.S. With this responsibility, I’m keenly aware of the industry’s need for the next generation of automotive service technicians. Encouraging and inspiring young people to get into the aftermarket is as complicated as the systems they’ll service.

While I’m not working on cars, I can relate somewhat. It’s often a challenge to teach and encourage young journalists to learn about trade publications. Recently, my niece, as part of a high school senior year project, participated in a job-shadowing program, and chose to come in to the Babcox Media offices for a week to get a behind-the-scenes look at how we put these magazines together. It was great spending the time with her and she got to see what it’s like to work here.

This experience moved me to write about grooming young techs to become your next top techs. There are so many smart people out there who love to work on cars. If you’re looking for a new tech, have you thought about a technician mentorship program at your shop?

You can reach out to an area automotive technical program to mentor a young tech or student who shows promise.

Educating & Empowering Others
If you need some inspiration, look to some inspiring people throughout the aftermarket like Bogi Latiener, owner of 180 Degrees Automotive (www.180automotive.com) in Phoenix. This self-described over-achiever hosts clinics to educate women about their cars, and is passionate about investing in the next generation of technicians. Her shop mentors young techs, hoping to find her shop’s next star.
Similarly, Patrice Banks of Girls Auto Clinic (www.girlsautoclinic.com) educates and hires women in the Philadelphia area. Banks’ Girls Auto Clinic Car Care Workshops provide women with an interactive and fun way to learn about their cars and, for all she knows, a new employee could be in the midst of those workshop attendees. This year she is opening the first Girls Auto Clinic Repair Shop, which will be run by – and will cater to – women.
And there’s Mike Davidson from Parkway Automotive in Little Rock, AR, who is also forging a path to hiring and grooming the next generation of technicians. He has developed a program called Hiring for Keeps that helps shop owners identify the superstars before you hire them. Two crucial points he considers is “their attitude and their self-initiative.”

Davidson is the president of the American Skilled Labor Association (ASLA), and is an AMI graduate and ASE Master Technician. According to the ASLA site, “In order to find and hire the right candidates, you will need to have a clear understanding of the individuals you are looking for, and the position they will grow into.” Find the group’s Apprentice Program Guide at www.skilledlaborus.com to help you get started.

You might find it refreshing to have some young blood at the shop. And think of it as your way of giving back to the industry through training the next generation of technicians.

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Intake Manifold Gaskets: A Service Rundown

Back in the days when most

Back in the days when most ­engines had cast iron blocks, heads and manifolds, the intake manifold could be easily sealed with simple and relatively inexpensive die cut fiber-faced metal gaskets (solid or perforated core). Sealer was usually required to ensure a leak-free installation.   But in the late 1980s and early 1990s, fuel systems and manifolds began to change. Multiport fuel injection meant the intake manifold no longer had to flow an air/fuel mixture, only air.   This gave engine designers more ­freedom to optimize airflow. Manifolds became more complex, with long curving runners and intricate plenums engineered to improve throttle response and low speed torque. Plastic became a popular material for casting manifolds due to its low weight and cost.   Some were also fitted with tuning valves that could reroute the air inside the manifold to change air velocity and flow according to engine speed and load. Problem Applications On engines with aluminum cylinder heads, corrosion typically erodes the area around the coolant ports. If the plastic under the sealing bead on the intake manifold gasket is eaten away, the gasket can’t hold a seal and will leak. In this case, you can’t blame the leak on the gasket.   GM has redesigned the intake manifold service gaskets for some of their problem applications. They’ve changed the sealing beads from silicone rubber to a tougher material called fluoroelastomer (FKM) rubber, which is much more resistant to oils, solvents and chemical attack.   The location of the sealing beads on some applications has also been revised somewhat. The original OE gaskets as well as the revised service gaskets are usually black with orange sealing beads. Installation Precautions When servicing or disassembling high-mileage engines, pay close attention to the condition of the sealing surfaces around the coolant ports on the heads. If this area is eroded or pitted, the intake manifold gaskets may not seal properly when the engine is assembled.   In some cases, it may be possible to clean up the mating surface on a pitted head by lightly resurfacing the intake port side of the head. Pits can also be filled and sealed with high temperature epoxy fillers, then sanded or machined flat to restore a smooth, flat surface. If the erosion is severe, it might even be necessary to build up the damaged area by TIG welding the head or replacing it altogether with a new or salvage casting.   According to one aftermarket gasket manufacturer, the recommended surface finish for the intake manifold and cylinder head mating surfaces should ideally be 30 to 60 microinches Ra (Roughness Average). Another gasket manufacturer said anything from 20 to 80 Ra should be good enough.   Unlike the super-smooth surface finish that’s usually required for late-model MLS head gaskets (20 Ra or less), the surface finish for most intake manifold gaskets isn’t as critical. Even so, it must be smooth, flat and clean, with minimal pitting and waviness.   If the intake manifold or intake ports on the head are milled at too high a feed rate, it can leave an undulating wavy finish with ridges and valleys that can be difficult to seal. This may result in coolant or vacuum leaks, as well as premature failure of the intake manifold gasket sealing beads.   Overall flatness on both mating surfaces should also be checked with a straightedge and feeler gauge. Flatness should be 0.003” or less on the mating face of the intake manifold and cylinder head intake ports on V6 engines, and it should be 0.004” or less on a V8 or straight six.   Equally important, the intake manifold and head surfaces must be clean (no grease, oil or coolant film) and dry. RTV, other sealants or adhesives should not be used around the coolant or intake ports on carrier-style gaskets. The only place RTV silicone may be required is to seal the area where the ends of the intake manifold gaskets mate with the end strip seals on the block under the intake manifold or valley cover.   It’s also essential that the threads for the intake manifold bolts in the head be clean and undamaged, as this can affect clamping torque. New intake manifold bolts are recommended. But if you must reuse the old bolts, make sure the threads are clean and undamaged. Also, follow the recommended torque procedure when tightening down the intake manifold bolts and make sure it is the latest procedure as the original procedure and torque specs may have been revised.   If the intake manifold gasket does not make a tight seal around the coolant ports, it may leak coolant into the crankcase. If it fails to seal tightly around the intake ports, it may allow vacuum leaks that upset the air/fuel mixture and cause idle and driveability issues. Testing For Air Leaks Even the smallest leak in an intake manifold can cause a fuel trim problem. Finding a leak can be time consuming using your eyes and ears.    Intake manifold air leaks will suck in air, not expel it. What is sucked in will influence the fuel mixture and impact engine and emissions systems.    A smoke machine allows you to diagnose multiple leaks in less time compared to other ­methods. A smoke machine can pressurize the intake manifold and put smoke or vapor into the system. If there is a leak, you will see smoke come out.    Connect the smoke machine to a vacuum port like the supply line to the brake booster. Make sure to block the throttle body with the right sized plug. Also, block off the PCV system.    Leaking injector seals can cause lean and misfire codes. Conventional testing methods often involve flammable gases or putting thick oils on the seals and looking for a change in rpms. But this test can’t be performed on engines where the intake manifold restricts access. Smoke machines can help spot these leaks without any disassembly.    Smoke coming from the oil filler or PCV system on an engine that is not misfiring could mean the bottom of the manifold is leaking or has cracked. It can also indicate worn valve guides or seals.    Coolant Leaks Coolant does not magically disappear; it has to go somewhere. External leaks can be seen with the naked eye or by using dyes. Internal leaks can find their way into the combustion chamber or the oil. Spotting these leaks can be difficult.    Always inspect the overall system. Check the oil for any foaming or signs of contamination. It may be counterintuitive, but take the time to pull the codes. Efficiency or oxygen sensor related codes can indicate that coolant is leaking into the combustion chamber. Coolants contain phosphates and other chemicals that can damage the oxygen sensor and the catalytic converter.   If the engine is a V6 or V8, the codes can even tell you which bank is leaking. If the leak is large enough and located in a runner, it might cause a misfire code. If the problem has been occurring for a long period of time, pull the spark plugs. Coolant will leave chalky white deposits on the electrodes. These techniques can help to narrow down what is leaking and determine if further tests should be performed, like compression or leak-down checks.

Monroe “Quick Rewards” Program Offers Incentives For Sales Of Monroe Quick-Strut Assemblies

Tenneco’s Monroe brand will offer an incentive to counterpeople for the sale of popular, ready-to-install Monroe Quick-Strut premium replacement assemblies. The Monroe “Quick Rewards” scorecard promotion – available for sales between April 1 and May 31, 2014 – will reward participants with a $10 prepaid card for each pair of qualifying Monroe Quick-Strut units sold.

Three AGM, Gel Cell Battery Myths

Chances are if the battery is not under the hood, it is an absorbent glass mat (AGM) or gel cell battery. These batteries pack a lot of power for their size and weight, which allows manufacturers to shave off a few pounds from the vehicle. That’s a big ­reason why they are being found more and more on late-model vehicles. Here are three AGM/gel cell myths.

10 Toughest Cabin Air Filter Jobs

There are still many late model vehicles that are not easy to service, and they require a significant amount of disassembly to gain access to the filter. For your shop, this is billable labor. Here are the 10 toughest jobs according to the editors of Underhood Service.

Timing Belt Replacement On 2.2- And 2.3-Liter Honda Accord Engines

These tips outline the belt replacement for the popular 2.2- and 2.3-liter Accord engines. The other Honda engines are similar, but don’t require the balance belt. They shouldn’t present any challenge to the experienced tech, but there are some things to keep in mind as you tackle these jobs.

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