Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Old Nascars rock!

Kind of like the saying that some things get meaner as they get older. Vintage Nascars were much cooler than their counterparts of today. Take a look at this photo from the fine folks over at Hemmings Motor News. This shot taken in 1956 at the Holman-Moody shop in Charlotte, NC. This shows the then new, and essentially stock 1956 Fords campaigned that year. Two sedans and two convertibles. This was when stock car racing was really exciting since you could go and buy the same cars you saw tearing up the tracks. Things were so much simpler then.

Source: Hemmings Motor News

The Car Show on Speed: Canceled

This one is a little hard to swallow. If you're a die hard car guy like me, then you undoubtedly tuned in for The Car Show. It has come to my attention that the show has been canceled after one season. Speed channel's answer to Top Gear, The Car Show was hosted by all around car guy Adam Carolla, auto journalist Dan Neil, friend to AAM and Smoking Tire.com founder Matt Farrah, and at one time former NBA star John Salley, The Car Show was a practically perfect mix to be a true U.S. version of Top Gear. It was almost a perfect storm for everything to work against the show. It was on Speed, but didn't focus on Nascar, circle track, or drag racing, but instead focused on cars and car guys. Then there was the removal of John Salley from the hosting team. Which I can understand, you could tell he was really out of his element. Salley may have liked car, but he seemed like a small fish swimming in shark infested waters with the die hards of Carolla, Farrah, and Neil. Another big blow was the steady schedule changing. Speed changed the format of the show and took it from an hour and cut it down to a half hour show. The Discovery Channel reformatted their HD Theater channel and turned it into Velocity which is another network that is catered to car guys. There's some other non car shows on the network, but the car shows they have cater to the true automobile enthusiast. I know that I'm really upset to see The Car Show canceled, and I don't normally voice my displeasure unless it's absolutely necessary, so I voiced my opinion to Speed via their feedback page, and I would highly, highly recommend that you do to if you are a fan of The Car Show. Let the folks over at Speed KNOW what kind of shows you want to see.

Image source: Speed.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Here is one 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee with 88,656 miles on it. The issue here is no passenger side door functions such as power windows or power door locks. The other issue is no RKE (Remote Keyless Entry) functions as well from the key fobs. The drivers side operations work correctly. The Grand Cherokee platform is definitely one of the more popular vehicles I encounter. They have various issues both common and uncommon.
The shop has done some checking before I got there. Various panels have been removed in an effort to narrow down the search. The first thing that catches my eye is the aftermarket alarm module dangling. I am always wary of aftermarket alarms and their installations. I have seen many issues caused by either bad alarms or the installation. Let's have a look at the wiring diagram.

The system utilizes door modules in each door that communicate through a data buss called PCI ( Programmable Controller Interface) buss. It is very much like GM's Class 2 data buss. It is a peer to peer network meaning that any module on the network has the ability to communicate on it's own. Both the DDM ( Drivers door Module) and PDM ( Passenger Door Module) share a common power and ground feed as well. Looking through the service information I also come across this- I underlined the important tidbit of information.

The DDM and PDM each utilize integrated circuitry and information carried on the Programmable Communications Interface (PCI) data bus network along with many hard wired inputs to monitor many sensor and switch inputs throughout the vehicle. The PDM also receives inputs through an integral Radio Frequency (RF) Remote Keyless Entry (RKE) receiver. The DDM and PDM control and integrate many functions and features of the vehicle through both hard wired outputs and messages over the PCI data bus. 

We also know that at least our source for power and source for ground is good since we have proper drivers side window and lock operation. So what is next?
This is what I do. I reach for my DRB3 and go into this menu. Factory tools do so many functions that the aftermarket tools may not have. I hit the enter button.

This is the next menu. What the DRB3 is going to do is look for any modules that are communicating on the PCI data buss and report. Such a great feature.
This is the first page. As you can see it is in acronym form so you have to know your Chrysler modules. Let's check out the next page.

Well we see a Driver Door Module but no Passenger Door Module. So, we know that the PDM is not reporting on the PCI buss. Let's get right to the PDM.

Pulling the passenger dise door panel gives me access to the PDM. I want to check power, ground, and whether it is receiving PCI buss messages. Lets first check for PCI data messages. I grab my scope and backprobe the PDM.
We have communication. Like I said just like Class 2 on a GM vehicle. We have a 7 volt square wave slightly off of ground to help with noise. So we know we dont have an issue with the PCI wiring to the PDM. Let's check power and ground.
This is the wire that is supposed to have battery voltage. We have a problem. Checking the ground wire at the PDM and that is good. So we have a power feed issue no doubt. But, is that all?
So, backprobed at the PDM I run a fused jumper from battery positive to the PDM. Lets rerun the PCI buss check.
Hello there PDM. I check passenger side window and lock operation and all is well. Now, it is time to find where the loss of voltage is. I know where I am going right away.

There it is a broken feed wire in the passenger side bellows between door and A pillar. Checking the other wires in the harness and they were all good. A quick repair of the wire and reassembly and all is well. The RKE worked like a charm as well. The shop owner was more than happy. This car was fixed with no parts and quickly. It is a bit unusual to see this sort of failure on the passenger side. I see it all the time on the drivers side however. Think about how many more times you open the drivers side versus the passenger side.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 returns to the big screen

James Bond fans of the world can cheer in the return of the iconic silver 1964 Aston Martin DB5 that has come to symbolize Agent 007. This picture has surfaced from the set in Scotland of the latest Bond flick "Skyfall", showing current Bond, Daniel Craig behind the wheel of the classic 1960s sports car. Fans will instantly recognize the BMT 216A registration that has been shown on the DB5 since it's launch in the 1964 classic Goldfinger. This year celebrates the Bond film series' 50th Anniversary. So maybe there will be some other Easter Eggs dropped throughout the film when it's released this fall.

Source: World Car Fans

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Saabs of our lives: No news is good news?

News about Saab's future is sketchy at best. News has been very slow about what is happening in Trollhattan. Here in North America, Saab dealers are about at their wits end with the company. There have no new cars in months, sales have plummeted, and now there's no money coming in from warranties. But all of that came to an end last month with the announcement that Saab North America was essentially pushed into bankruptcy filings by the Saab dealers themselves who filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy on January 31st. This means that Saab will go in to full liquidation. Saab NA, has essentially been shut down since December 19th when Saab Automobile filed for bankruptcy protection in Sweden. As of January 13th, 80% of Saab NA's employees had been laid off. Now the U.S. headquarters in Royal Oak, Michigan will shut down sometime this month. McTevia & Associates who was appointed as the administrator prior to the bankruptcy filing says that they are still working on finding a buyer for Saab's parts distribution arm as there will still be a demand for Saab parts.

Source: Automotive News.

Driving America: Love Bug

I was honored to recently have a story published by The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn Michigan honoring car fans and their memories of their first car. The stories are being collected as part of their "Driving America" exhibit. My story is not unlike millions of others memories of their first car. But few can say that they still have their first car. Not only do I still have my 1972 Super Beetle that was purchased in 1992, I also still have my first new car. A 1999 VW New Beetle. Please read my story here. Driving America. Leave some feed back here. Let me know about your first car memories.

Source: the author, The Henry Ford

Saabs or our lives: Saab NA Hertiage Collection up for auction

Many of you may remember our posts from a few weeks ago concerning the Saab Museum in Sweden going up for liquidation sale and the subsequent saving of the collection.

Now the same fate awaits the North American end of Saab's Heritage Collection. The Saab Club of North America and Hemmings Motor News are reporting that Saab North America's collection will all hit the auction block this week. .However, this sale is being conducted a little bit different. The Saab museum has a vast collection of cars, where the Saab North America's collection consists of only 11 cars that are all significant in their own right. As such, the entire collection of 11 cars will be sold as a lot rather than breaking the collection up. This is unfortunate, but it will for at least the time being preserve the collection as a whole. And what the collection lacks in size, it makes up for in variety. There are production cars, race cars, and even a prototype convertible.

McTevia & Associates is handling the sale and all bids are to be submitted by noon on Friday February 10th. All bids are to be submitted to the attention of  Dennis McTevia. The Saab Heritage Collection is located in Sterling Heights, Michigan and are being sold as is, and on bill of sale only. So you would have to be creative in order to license any of the cars for road use.

Here's a sample of some of the cars in the collection. Well, at least the ones I really like.

There were only 6 Saab Sonetts built in 1956. So this is probably the most significant car in the collection. This was the second car built that year.

 This 1960 Saab 96 is a genuine rally car. It won the 1960 RAC Rally of Great Britain and was driving by Saab and rally legend Erik Carlsson. I don't think you would want to submit this car to vintage rallies today.

I have always been a huge fan of the Saab 99/900 Turbo coupes. This 1978 99 Turbo was a one year only car and had a production run of less than 4,500 units. This example shows less than 40,000 original miles and has been meticulously restored to like new condition.

Following on the success of the 99/900 comes the 1986 900 Turbo convertible prototype. What's really col on this one is the rear spoiler has been carved out of wood rather than the molded rubber of the production model.

This 1987 9000 Turbo sedan was one of three cars built for the FIA Saab Turbo In The long Run challenge at Talladega Raceway (Save me Tom Cruise!) in October 1986. The three cars featured sealed engines and transmissions, a full roll cage, and six point safety harness. The cars were treated to 20 days and 20 nights of straight driving and the only repair parts that could be used  would be 179 pounds of spares carried in the cars during the challenge.  During this time, each car racked up over 100,000 kilometers and averaged between 130 and 133 miles per hour and covered over 3,000 miles per day. Quite an endurance test. All 3 cars still exist. One in Saab Museum, one at Talladega, and the car pictured here. These cars also beat Talladega's average speed record set by Ford of 132.5 miles per hour. Saab also set 21 International and 2 World Speed Records.

Saab would again return to Talladega in 1996 with a fleet of new 1997 900 coupes in an effort to break their records set in 1986. The cars were set up no different from the 1987 models and followed the same strict guidelines set by the FIA. At the end of the challenge, 18 of Saab's records were beat and an additional 22 International Speed Records were set. For more info on the Saab Talladega challenges, check out this great article over at Hemmings.  

We'll keep you updated as we hear more about the sale and potentially where the collection will end up. 

Source: Hemmings Motor News

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

2002 Saturn L300

Here is a 2002 Saturn L300 with 78,865 miles on it. The complaint here is no air conditioner compressor operation. The shop already did some testing and came up empty. They needed answers fast. I start the car and turn on the air conditioning. I do not hear the click of the AC compressor turning on. At this point I break out the Tech2 knowing full well that the AC compressor control is PCM controlled. Here is some data that I captured.
So here is the data capture. I am really only interested in 3 items at this point.

Here they are. From these 3 pids I can determine the following; It has or thinks it has freon, the PCM is allowing AC operation, and the PCM wants to turn on the AC relay that controls clutch operation on the AC compressor. So now I can concentrate on checking the "muscle" of the system because the "brains" seem to be working properly.
Looking at the actual AC compressor. The compressor clutch looks a bit worn and rusty. At this point I would like to get an available voltage reading at the clutch. Unfortunately, due to the placement in the vehicle I will have to go downstream to get my readings.
Here, I have the compressor clutch power and ground backprobed at the most accesible area closest to the actual compressor. Well, we need to investigate the wiring a bit more. After doing a voltage drop on the ground side of the circuit, I know that our issues are with the power side. Time to get out and review a wiring diagram.
Ok, here we go. We have the typical GM compressor control circuit. The main players are the 10amp A/C fuse and the A/C relay. I didn't go after the control side of the relay because there were no circuit codes that typically set when the control side of the relay is not intact. So let's get to the underhood fusebox.
Checking the A/C fuse and low and behold it was blown. This is going to be easy. Inserting a fresh fuse and it immediately blows when the compressor is supposed to engage. Alright, I was suspicious of the ac compressor clutch all along. So I reach underneath and disconnect the connector right at the compressor clutch and try a fresh fuse and guess what it blows as well. Now, I am down 2 fuses. I have a rule with checking shorts. If I blow 3 fuses it is time for me to put a circuit breaker in place of the fuse. I hate having to do this. I look at the wiring harness and inspect closely. It does not appear to have any obvious damage, such as from a front end hit. My mind starts to wonder is there some type of hidden gremlin on this car and I am going to be pulling harnesses apart for the afternoon? When this happens I take a breath and go back to the wiring diagram. I try to KISS (Keep it simple stupid).
Looking back at the diagram I see there is a diode on the power side of the relay. This diode is there to suppress voltage spikes when the compressor clutch releases. One side of the diode is on the power side and the other is right to ground. I know others were in here testing before me. Could I have a biased diode? Basically, a direct short to ground. Let's test.

I remove the diode and hook up my meter leads to the diode terminals. Set the meter to diode test. The diode test will do a voltage drop test across the diode. With the meter leads one way I should see approximately a half of volt (0.50v) then reverseing the "polarity" of the leads on the diode should net us an open circuit. Let's see what we got.
Yikes! Let's reverse the leads.

Double Yikes! Basically this diode is now a direct short to ground. It is now a paperclip instead of a semiconductor. Luckily, this shop owner had a GM car that was going to the boneyard. I quickly stole the diode out of the fusebox. Let's test that one.

Ok. Let's reverse the leads.

Nice. Textbook. I install the good used ac diode. I turn on the ac and listen for that familiar click from the compressor. I hear nothing. What now? I recheck the fuse-good. Rehooking up my meter leads at the compressor clutch wires I am greeted to this.
So, I now have correct voltage feed. But, still no operation. Remember, that compressor clutch I suspected all the while.
I instruct the shop to drop the compressor. Here, is the clutch coil resistance 4.69M ohms basically an open circuit. Normal clutch coil resistance is 3.22 ohms. There is a thermal fuse incorporated in the clutch coil that will open at 417F. Once this opens up there is no going back-replacement is necessary. My guess here is the compressor clutch overheated. I think the diode failure was previous tester error. Someone got happy with the power probe. The lesson here is keep cool when there are multiple issues.