Friday, March 7, 2014

Some insights into the electronic facets of car repair

The bay at C&S Auto Repair, 2435 East Iona Road
I had an interesting visit recently with Chris Neal of C&S Auto Repair, where I have taken my car for years (and which, for the sake of full disclosure, is an advertiser on BizMojo Idaho.) It used to be that when you noticed a belt squeaking it was time to get busy with a socket wrench, but these days auto maintenance is more about keeping up with the manufacturer's latest technical service bulletins and flashes.

Neal said his shop on Iona Road has finally gotten everything they need to do high-end diagnostics on GM, Ford and Chrysler vehicles. While they can't do factory warranty work, he and his four mechanics can now do pretty much everything else.

In addition to having the right equipment, an independent repair shop must subscribe to the bulletins and receiving the flash codes that manufacturers send out.

For example, GMC became aware of an issue with the air conditioning units in its SUVs and trucks. In the winter, when people weren't using AC, oil would pool in the bottom of the unit. Although an owner can take care of this by turning on the AC once a week, not everyone is going to remember.

So GM sent a flash code that instructs the computer to turn on the unit automatically when it hasn't cycled for a certain period. "From the manufacturer's standpoint, it's getting the vehicle to take care of itself," Neal said.

Another example is the new high-beam headlights,which are too bright for oncoming vehicles. Rather than recalling the bulbs, a flash allows technicians to set the high beams to a microsecond on-off pulse, cutting the brightness without having to replace the bulb.

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