Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Do you have an infestation ?

If you live in an area that supports a rodent population than you run the risk of getting a rodent infestation in your automobile, which can make the vehicle unbearable to drive due to the Oder that the rodents leave behind from urine and feces. This is the story of a rodent infestation and how we solved the smelly situation.

The above vehicle is a newer model Chrysler Town & Country mini van. Our customer lives in Alpine California which is in San Diego county the third-most-populous county in California, just behind its northern neighbors Orange and Los Angeles and it also ranks fifth in the united states over all. Alpine is higher in  elevation than San Diego city sitting at 1841 feet above sea level.  Alpine has a lot more trees and ground cover and is in a cooler, wetter climate than San Diego and has a lot less population density and so it supports more wild life.
Our customer called and complained of a bad smell coming from his vents inside the car. He asked if we could do some thing about the smell and I told him that we deal with this situation on a regular basis.

So our customer brought in his mini van and we started the process. Upon preliminary diagnosis we made the decision that flushing chemicals through the vent system wouldn't be good enough we would have to pull out the entire heater-A/C box (Plenum box) and clean the pieces individually.  The first thing we had to do was rip out the Plenum box from the mini van (this was a big job)The above photo shows the van with  Plenum box already out and on the ground.

Here's a picture of the top of the box and the evaporator core (the evaporator is what the A/C uses to produce cold air).  Notice the white paper covering the evaporator core ? That was where the rat or rat's were living making a nest there. The rat's get into your vehicle through the outside fresh air vent which they usually chew through. Rat's can also make a mess out of your wiring, they love to chew through wiring.

This is a picture  of the blower motor cover notice the feces in the bottom ? There was a lot of feces we found and the smell was very bad. Also our customer has a medical condition that involves his breathing so he can't stand the smell of a lot of things chemicals included, so we decided to replace the parts where the rat was living. Most of the time we have chemicals we use to clean out the parts that are infected but the stuff has a chemical smell and we were afraid that the rat urine and feces had soaked into the plastic parts making them useless.   

This picture above is most of the parts we had to replace, the plenum box on the table and the rest of the plenum box parts are lined up across the wall. Total cost of replacement parts was about $1200.00 plus labor. We had to purchase the majority of the parts from the dealer which  made the cost expensive.

I've heard tell that Irish Spring bath soap bars will keep the rodents away they don't like the smell. You cut the bars into pieces and spread them around and on your vehicle especially in the engine compartment, keep them away from hot surface's though ( this is hear say from a friend so don't quote me but he claims it does work ).  The other option to prevent infestation could be to bait the area with traps or sticky traps if you keep the vehicle parked, also you can call an professional exterminator they could have some more tricks up their sleeve that I don't know.If you suspect a infestation you can check under your hood for rodent feces and snail shells, they love to eat snails. If you have a motor home look for chew marks in the wood surfaces leading into the interior of the cab. If you have a rat problem you will notice the smell first most likely. The next step would be to call your local radiator or A/C shop and ask them if they have experience in rodent infestation and what they do to rid the car of the smell, if they are in the know they will offer to clean the vehicle out with special cleaner that foams up in your vents, or they may have to pull you plenum box and do a more thorough job as we had to with this customer. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to give us a call we are always happy to help and can point you in the right direction.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Fixing your cars plastic tank radiator

I just ran on to a post on instructables.com someone was asking how to fix a plastic tank on his car's radiator http://www.instructables.com/answers/How-To-Repair-A-Car-Radiator-Leak-In-The-Plastic-A/
Me being a radiator man and taking my craft seriously I had to post a reply. There were reply's with all kinds of answers to this persons question  none of which will work to fix his plastic tank.

This is a picture of a crack in a plastic radiator tank. This is the inlet tank of the radiator (their the one's that ALWAYS crack) The inlet tank receives the hot coolant from the motor and the inlet tank cracks behind the inlet connection as shown in the photo,  The outlet tank almost never cracks it's the one that get's the least heat and wear and tear.

A new tank pictured above that we can install onto a radiator is the only way to permanently fix a crack in a tank other than replacing the radiator entirely. I have never seen any other method work for more than a few hundred miles or a week or two. And that's because there's nothing on the market that will vulcanize with the tank material to cause a permanent repair, also the tank it's self is degeradated to the point of causing the crack in the first place so your trying to repair something that is beyond it's life span. The normal life span of a plastic radiator inlet tank is 7-10 years or around 100k miles. Some people get lucky and with the right circumstances I've seen tanks last a long, long time, but that's not the norm in the industry.
So here's what happens. You pull the radiator out of your car clean out a groove on the crack, wire brush it real good, clean it with acetone or some other cleaner, try to isolate the crack with wire ties and then spread $15.00 worth of JB weld or some other epoxy on it, by the time your done you've spent 4 hours and $50.00 worth of supply's on trying to fix it. Reinstall the radiator on your car and run it for a week or so just to find that sure enough it leaks again (and it will). After 31+ years in this industry and trying every thing that's come out to fix plastic tanks including  my own inventions, I haven't seen anything that works. ( in the late 80's when the plastic tanks first came out we had nothing to repair them with including new tanks! new tanks were not available yet!) So we tried everything you can imagine and some you can't.

 The answer is complete replacement. The new complete radiators you can buy now days are so inexpensive that it has made tank replacement obsolete on all but the big industrial radiators and the most expensive automotive applications which is unfortunate for the radiator shops as we used to make good money changing plastic tanks, but alas everything changes.

 If you know of a technique that works to really repair a plastic radiator tank I would love to hear from you, and as always if you have any questions please give us a call we are always happy to help.
If you can't afford to replace your radiator I suggest adding water to your cooling system and saving your money till you can get it fixed. Also if the leak is real big don't drive your car with it leaking as this can and will cause engine damage from loss of coolant.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How to save $1,250.00 on your car's A/C

Do you own a newer model Audi A4? and is your air conditioner not working like it should? This was the trouble one of our customers suffered with his Audi 2004 A4. He took his Audi to the local Audi dealer one he frequents (or did) and trusted (or used to).

The story goes that John (we will call him John for the sake of a name) took in his Audi to one of our local Audi dealers here in beautiful San Diego. The complaint was that the A/C wasn't cooling like it used to. John handed over his keys to the service manager and his car was taken away behind the wall that separates the customers from the working technicians and John got a ride back to his place of business where he awaited a call to tell him why his A/C wasn't working right.
About three hours later John got the bad news "the air conditioning compressor and related parts needed to be changed" this project would set john back about $1,400.00 and he would be with out his car for a day or two.
Well John decided to get a second opinion and asked one of his employees who they deal with (John works at a refuse disposal company)  and so John was referred to us that's how we ended up with Johns Audi.

When we hooked up the A/C machine to Johns car we noticed that the A/C system was completely out of R-134A freon so Donovan our main technician does the usual inspection , recharge and A/C performance test and to his surprise the A/C blows  just as it should nice and cold (45deg) and the compressor and related parts are preforming like they should. We looked the vehicle over several times looking for a reason that would keep the compressor from functioning but everything looked good. At that point I call John and give him the good news "looks like we can save you about $1,250.00" all you need at this time is a recharge and a service that will set you back $150.00. Needless to say John wasen't to happy with the dealership he has patronized over the past few years. I guess the technician could have made a mistake but that's not my real guess, and that is what gives all of us in the auto repair industry a bad name. I believe it was a false up sale, someone needed to make a few thousand dollars and they didn't care how. The morel of this story is get a second opinion especially if its a big job.
John is now our customer and probably will be for a long time.

Monday, December 13, 2010

BMW 2002 A/C custom hoses

Here is a classic BMW 2002 (model not the year) that is being restored by one of our customers Bavarian Rennsport Located in Ramona California.
We are helping Bill the owner with air conditioning hoses and a drier installation. Bill routinely restores these model's of BMW's and his work is some of the best around. 
 Here is the drier we installed on the fender well right where it would be from the factory. We also helped Bill get all of the A/C parts he needed to do this job.
 One of the hoses we installed going to the condenser.
 Through the firewall and into the car we go.
 Picture of the evaporator box and control unit.
 One  more shot of this beautiful automobile. We do lots of custom A/C work and are proud to help all we can.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Heavy equipment radiators

This is a picture of a “over the road truck radiator” this radiator would fit in a Peterbuilt, Mack, Volvo white or many other big rigs moving down the road. We work on a lot of these radiators and they take special equipment to be able to handle them along with unique skills and training. I decided to write this blog because we have picked a lot of new clients with truck fleets and large radiators to fix.

 Heavy equipment cooling systems are built tougher than standard automotive systems, radiators are bigger they are assembled differently and are produced from stronger materials. So they are made to be rebuilt several times before they run out of life. The majority of the heavy equipment radiators are still made from copper and brass with steel tanks and side straps, some are changing to aluminum like most of the industry is facing in the automotive sector. The copper brass ones are easier and better to rebuild than their aluminum  counter parts.

We start by testing them when they come in on the truck to make sure the unit will hold up to our rebuild process remove the tanks which are usually fastened together with bolts, run the parts through our hot tank and then to clean out the radiator itself we physically run a “steel rod” down each tube that carries the cooling liquid through it so as to clean out any dirt grease or obstruction in the tube. Clean the outside with wire brushes and elbow grease paint and prep all the parts before reassembling the unite. (that is what these guys are doing below)

When we are all finished we do a final test in our test tank by plugging the radiators connections with plugs adding air pressure to the radiator dunk it in a tank filled with water and look for leaks to appear. If we don’t see any leaks we dry the radiator off and do a final touch up with paint then deliver it back to our customer. This whole process has taken anywhere from 5-10 man hours to complete. 
Need a good shop?


Monday, November 22, 2010

Save money winterize your car

This is a picture of one of our good friends and long time customers beautifully  restored Chevy truck. Donna has spent a lot of money and time restoring this fine vehicle and takes good care of it.
 Whether your car is a classic or every day driver when the leaves begin to turn colors and a chill is in the air it's time to winterize your ride. This can save you money in the long run and keep you from being stuck out in the cold.

A short list of things to consider checking:
  • Wipers
  • Tires and tire pressure
  • Tire chains if needed
  • Battery
  • Right oil for cold climates
  • Engine heater (for colder country)
  • All of your lights working
  • Engine coolant (most important)
Out of all the things on the list I believe coolant is right at the top. Have your cooling system checked once a year and drain and fill as needed. The new style coolants on the market claim to have the ability to last 100K. Well, don't belive it.  Check and change your green coolant once a year and back flush it every other year or 30K.  Extended life coolant should be changed every 30-40K and back flushed every 50K at least.
Your coolant is the life blood of your engine - proper maintenance will save you money and headaches in the long run.
 Most people don't replace radiator caps.
I have a video on youtube that explains the different types of coolant, how to identify them. Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/user/intermountain6?feature=mhum#p/u/9/QnkXt1dOgOo
Also it doesn't hurt to change your radiator cap when you change your coolant.  Remember don't mix the different types of engine coolant - this can be bad!  If you do mix them you will need to get your cooling system flushed and the proper coolant installed.  There is one kind of coolant that you can mix with everything and get away with it.  It reads "mixes with all coolants" on the label.
Keep and eye on your cars fluids and you will have a happy car and spend less on fixing it and more time out having fun driving her.
Until next time.  Remember, life is a journey not a destination; how will you ride?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Top Ten Ways to keep your car out of the repair shop

With the economy in a bunch and people scrambling to keep hold of their jobs, house, personal property ect. Keeping more money in your pocket is a good thing.   As of 1998:
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey, out of every dollar American households spend annually, almost 18 cents go to getting around in their communities. Only shelter eats up a larger chunk of expenditures (19¢), with food a distant third place (13.7¢).
This takes in to account a lot of factors that include your automotive repair bill, so saving every penny you can will really make a difference in your total income. We spent a lot on our cars to keep them in good repair.

Here are my "Top Ten Ways" to keep your car out of the repair shop.
  1. Do your required maintenance:  Be diligent and take care of your car and it will be better for your pocketbook in the long run.  Maintenance can be expensive, but it will save you money.
  2. Lube, Oil and Filter: Get your oil changed on or before you should. Good oil is better than cheap oil. I buy economy oil from my distributor but I know who manufactures it.  Just because it is a name brand doesn't make it good; do your research.
  3. Change your coolant:  Regular cooling system maintenance is key to a healthy motor. Don't be fooled by claims of coolant lasting 100K.  Change it every 20-30K and save money.  (Don't mix coolants!) Overheat your engine and you could find yourself with a hefty repair bill of $3,000 or more.
  4. Transmission Service:  Change your transmission fluid and  filter according to the service manual (or sooner) whether it is a automatic or standard transmission.
  5. Don't let your car run out of gas:   Newer cars have electric fuel pumps in the gas tank. These pumps are cooled and lubricated via the fuel running through them. If you run the car out of gas this pump can be damaged and you may have to prime the injector rail to get it to run again.
  6. Brakes:  It's recommended that you change your brake lining and pads every 20-30K miles.  It can be more expensive if you don't have them inspected and serviced as recommended.  If the brakes start to make noise before they are serviced, chances are damage has already occurred that will add to the repair expense.  Also, have your service man do a brake flush on the brake system.  I can't tell you how many cars come through the shop that have dirty brake fluid in the brake system. Changing it will save on parts replaced and save you money.
  7. Service Lights: Service lights aren't just there to look pretty.  They warn of danger or possible failure of important parts of your car.  If a light comes on you should know why and what it means; check your owners manual.  Get to your mechanic and have them look at it ASAP.
  8. Timing Belts : Timing belts are another part that is better to replace sooner than later. No timing belt should go past 100K without being replaced; some sooner than that.  Refer to your service manual or repair shop for the exact replacement mileage requirement.
  9. 30-60-90K Service:  Most 30-60-90-K service is preventative service and maintenance that should be performed when it is required, however this kind of service is a big money maker in a lot of repair shops. So having a mechanic you trust is key.
  10. Rattles and Grinds: If your car is making a funny noise have it checked out! It may be nothing or it could be a disaster ready to happen.
Does it sound like I'm repeating myself a lot? maintenance,  maintenance, maintenance. Yeah pretty much I am. If you keep your car maintained and do the service that is recommended you will save in the long run. I know it's hard for me to do it also,  but in the 31+ years I have been in the auto repair biz the customers that spent more now spend less later! I've seen it over and over!
Remember life is a journey not a destination. How will you ride?
Happy motoring!
David Avery

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

No it's not a doughnut maker!

No it's not a doughnut maker!

This is a tow behind paver unit that is being redesigned with a newer power plant for better fuel economy and cleaner exhaust. This is a 3rd generation engine that meets the newer EPA guidelines for clean burning diesel motors. Our friends at RDO equipment the local John Deer dealer here in Poway are doing the refit.

We are their vender for radiator and cooling system work. I got a call from Bill our contact at RDO and he asked me to come and look at the refit he was doing and give him ideas on what to do about the radiator and how it fit in the unit. The old motor inlet and outlet water fittings are placed different so we need to do some creative engineering to make the radiator he has fit the new motor.

It looks like we can move the lower radiator hose connection from facing out to straight down, next we plan to modify the water inlet fitting so a felx hose can be used to connect the radiator to the motor. There may be some size changing on the connections to do and aluminum welding on the water housing but this will be cost affective for his client and will do a good job cooling down the new motor. Looks like the upper fitting will be an easyer fix as we have to change the size of the connection on the radiator and find a hose that will link to the water outlet fitting on the engine.

RDO equipment has done many of these refit jobs and we help them out when ever they call. These guys are pro's at heavy equipment repair.
For questions or answers please feel free to give us a call.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Heater core

This is a heater core from a older Ferrari sports car.The customer complaint is that its not heating the car up like it should so the first thing I did was to "flow check " the core by running water through it and seeing if there is a noticeable restriction. Sure enought it looked to me like it was plugged up so we moved to the next faze of the operation pulling it apart to clean it.
We have removed the bottom tank of the heater by melting all of the solder out of the tank seam and gently tapping off the tank leaving the tubes that Carrie the coolant through the heater exposed so we can manually clean the heater out.

You can see how much this heater is plugged up I would guess it to be 80% restricted.
 The next phase of the process is to clean it out by running a steel rod through the tubes, scrubbing it down with wire brush, and using heat and acid to finish the job.

Here is a picture of the core and tank together.
This is an exotic style of heater core with a baffle down the middle and the tank soldered to it. Most heaters aren't manufactured this way. Your heater in your car is most likly aluminum and not cleanable if you own anything newer than 1995 model (there are some exceptions).
 A bit of advice if you need a heater replaced in your car,  lots of mechanics don't like to do heater cores as it can be labor intensive and it is considered a specialized repair.  Call a radiator repair shop the cost will be much less than that of a dealership as we do hundred's of heaters every year. We also sell new heaters at a lower cost than you will find in most places.
Remember we are here to help an will always answer any questions you might have. Give us a call. Here is a link to our web site. Happy motoring!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

He's back

Monday is here and my radiator man is back to work, still sore but he's here. You sure can tell when someones missing from your business or isn't doing their part especially when you are a small shop. I for one am glad to see  him back.
The red car above is a 03 Honda CRV, it came in with the complaint that he was overheating so an initial inspection showed the vehicle was low on coolant and the fan wouldn't come on as the result so he slowly overheated. I found that the leak was coming from a vacuum sensor tee on the water outlet housing it was loose. Seemed cut and dried all we needed to do was to remove the fitting, clean it and reinstall with a little sealant and he would be all fixed. So I sat down in front of my computer and called up Alldata (an internet based source that provides vehicle manufacturers' diagnostic and repair information) found out how much time this would take as we needed to remove the valve cover and fuel rail to gain access to the leaking vacuum tee. Next I called the customer and gave them a price they agreed and we started the process. About half way in the tech decided it was neccessary to completly remove the water housing to better clean and inspect it and we found the reason the fitting was leaking the housing its self was cracked.

This housing is only available from the dealer and so that means it's expensive. I found all the new parts we need re-calculated the invoice and preceded to call the customer with the bad news (the price almost doubled).
This is one of the toughest parts of my job and it's not good for my business, no one like to have there bill raised and if the amount isn't real large we will just eat it to keep our customers happy. unfortunately this wasn't the case. I call the gentleman and he was upset that his car was going to cost more to fix (as I knew he would be).
Morel of the story is I don't up sell unless I have to. And I know thats not the norm we get customers in on a regular basis that complain about up sales. "We took in our car for a tune up and it cost us $800.00"  Do you think they will be back there? We try and get all the information and call the customer once and only call them back if you have to, this strategy has worked well for us and I don't know why more in our business don't follow suite.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday morning

Well I was so busy on Friday and then on Saturday we had a funeral to attend that I haven't had a chance to keep up with  my post. Friday found us still one man short in the radiator shop so I was taking up his spot, the drive in business has been booming this last few days and I don't know if its the new ad campaign we started on facebook kicking in or just dumb luck. I will be placing tracking snippets in the HTML code of our web site to help track the facebook ads very soon and see if the ads are paying off.
Running a business you have to be multi talented or have lots of cash to pay for things like web design. I'm cheap at least if not multi talented by nature, my need to save money makes me that way. So here I am  now designing our web site and managing traffic and ads. That is all part of the fun you have when running your own business. Maybe I'll focus on "running the business" as well as day to day repair issues or how to fix your radiator right. Running the business could be of a lot of use to future entrepreneurs. You can't beat having someone to pull knowledge from in business.
 I try to take lots of photos of whats going on in the shop but if I wait to long to post my mind goes blank. I don't know if this has become a defense mechanism or that I'm just getting old but when not at the business I tend to forget whats been going on, its a curse and a blessing all rolled up into one if you ask me. This way when I get home from work I really tend to leave it all behind and not dwell on it through out my time off (it wasn't always this way!) This being said we will have more interesting thing to read about next time along with some more photos.
Remember if you need any help with your auto or radiator please give us a call we are always happy to help and advice is free. Find our number on our web site.

Hope you all have a great day David

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A man short

If your in business for yourself and its a small one you'll find wearing lots of hats comes with the territory. So goes my woes today, I'm 2 men short which means the boss has to take up the slack. Our business is 4-5 persons so when you lose one it hurts. Its my job ( and I really don't know why) that I am jack of all trades and I guess its a blessing in disguise. I can run the whole shooting match on my own if I had to...Wouldn't make much money or get a lot done but its doable so I really am grateful despite my ramblings other wise.
 One man I lost today is my radiator repair tech. I started in this business repairing radiators and am very capable of the task I just am burned out preforming it. Hope my guy gets better soon. He went to the chiropractor today and got his back realigned ( his leg has been bothering him) and it got painful enough he can't work. I hope he recovers quickly for him and me.
One thing being hands on keeps you in shape with what ever skill you have. I remember not working on the repair bench for several years when I was in a manager position, picking up a torch to show a new person how to do something and burning the radiator I was working on up! boy I really showed him.

It's light in the drive in side of the shop so that's good its hard to be pulled in to many directions. I have really good people to depend on so that also helps. Hope everyone recovers soon.
Hope you all are doing great and we will see you soon. David

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What a nice day

It's a nice, warm sunny San Diego kinda day here at the shop 78deg. and great working conditions!

This is a shot of the VW we've been working on. It's been here since Friday the parts have been ordered and are here now so we should be able to finish this up for our customer by the end of the day.

This Toyota has been here before. We check out a brake light issue and noticed that it was low on fluid. Did a complete brake inspection and everything looks fine. Also it needs an oil change .

The radiator for the City is in process of being finished. These radiators take special care to do them right. We sand the metal parts down after being put through a hot tank bath and re-paint with a good quality enamel paint. The radiator cores we paint with a special paint that breaths.
These are the tanks after paint. We assemble with all new nuts, bolts and gaskets that are custom made. It takes 5-7 hours to rod out a large radiator like this one. A car radiator like you would find i9n your car we could do in 1 hour.
All for now David

Monday, October 25, 2010

It never rains in California

This is a picture of our delivery truck in the rain...

 The weather man said the rain was supposed to stop by this morning but as you can see it hasn't as of 8am. By noon we started to see day light through the clouds yahoo.

This Volvo came in with a service light staying on for ten minuets as they drove it  would go off and stay off until the car was turned off and re-started. This is typical of  Volvo warning you to have service preformed on your vehicle. Lube-oil and filter quick check of the tires and all fluids, brakes, belts and hoses and they are off and running again.
Here is one you don't see everyday this Toyota (above) came in with the complaint that it smelled after being driven and the heater function turned on.  Well we ran and ran the car with and without the heater on and didn't really notice anything funny so the lead technician decided to close all the doors on the car for 45 minuets and check it, sure enough we got a smell. Didn't smell like chemicals as the customer had complained of so we pulled out the cabin air filter located behind the glove box and found it to be dirty but not the cause of the Oder. 

Next we looked under the hood and saw that the valve cover was leaking oil but that didn't seem to be the smell ether. Looking over the car we came to the trunk opening it we found a smell, so I stuck my head in and it became worse. Digging through the trunk we noticed a blue yoga mat a bag of rice along with other nick knacks. Closer inspection noted that the yoga mat was most suspicious smelling so we removed the mat from the trunk of the vehicle, closed it up and waited for 1 hour. When we opened up the car again the smell was faint about 1/10 of what it had been. The moral of the story is don't store your yoga mat in the trunk of your car for extended periods of time. We put the mat in a bag hoping to reduce the smell along with some other chemical treatments that we do.
I don't know why the mat smelled usually its the A/C evaporator or evaporator case it self  that has Oder  issues and we deal with that all the time. This was different  for sure and we are hoping that fixes the trouble.
 In the radiator shop today we have a fuel tank out of an oldie that needs to be tested, Look's like it has several holes that need to be repaired and we will install a tank liner so it doesn't rust.

Bolt on radiators look like the one to the left. This one is from a trash truck that we have worked on before. From our identification tag that we solder on we are able to look it up and date the job seeing what we have done to it before. Look's like it needs gaskets replaced.

Well the rain has stopped and the day is at a close, we will do this again tomorrow. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to post or contact us. The web address and telephone is the best and quickest way.
 Have a great day, David