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When to Replace Cabin Air Filters + Why You Should


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    • By Counterman
      Many years ago, in high school to be exact, a friend of mine drove a 1980 Ford Thunderbird. He began to complain that the vehicle was losing power and it was getting worse and worse. I was always working on my own car and generally was known as a “car guy,” so he asked me what I thought. I asked him if he had checked the air filter recently. “Air filter?” he responded. 
      Admittedly, I knew very little about cars at the time, and my response was the only thing I could think of. Out to the parking lot we went. Not being able to get the lid off the air cleaner was a bad sign, and when we finally did, completely plugged was an understatement. Naturally, a new air filter fixed his problem. I was a little full of myself after that, but I never told anyone it was a lucky guess.
      Even though I’ve never seen one that bad since, as a technician, I’ve had many opportunities to sell air filters. The job is a little easier for us because we are most likely holding a visual representation in our hands – one we can show the customer. This is a tactic that often works well, especially if you have a new one to compare side-by-side.
      Sometimes it’s an easier sell than others, as some people understand the importance of the air filter; this usually is the staunch oil-change crowd. But, others are skeptical and take a little more convincing.
      Selling, for me, always has been based on fact. I often first ask if they can remember the last time it was changed. If not, it’s probably due for replacement, and I stick to the once-a-year rule. But you always have to make exceptions based on an inspection, and with vehicles that are driven only seasonally or driven very little, at minimum I have to see dirt collecting in the base of the pleats, or a noticeable discoloration before recommending replacement.
      If a customer is still skeptical, I explain that since a plugged air filter can completely keep a vehicle from running, even 10% blockage can begin to affect performance. I also like to point out that the effects of a dirty filter were more noticeable on older vehicles, and modern fuel-management systems can compensate for reduced air flow. This is good for drivability and emissions, but bad for overall performance. Along with other normal maintenance items, it’s easy for a vehicle owner to overlook a dirty or plugged air filter with no warning signs from their vehicle.
      Be prepared for questions about high-performance, because you will get them. Many people ask about high-flow filters, cold-air intakes or, on an older vehicle, ditching the original air cleaner for a round chrome replacement. Don’t be intimidated by performance questions. Here’s what you need to know to answer them with confidence.
      High-Flow Filters
      High-flow performance filters are a very common upgrade. They typically are recognized and associated with a color, as opposed to the traditional white paper element. Often pinkish/red, the color is from a dyed oil that’s soaked into the element. The elements typically are a cotton weave, held in place by a wire mesh. The weave is looser than a standard paper air filter, allowing a greater volume of air to pass through.
      Since the loose weave cannot filter out the smaller particles, it is soaked in oil, and the particles will, in turn, stick to the oil. Dye is used in the oil so there is an easily noticeable contrast between the oil and the element, allowing you to ensure that all areas are saturated. Even though red is the most common, there are multiple other colors available.
      These types of filters absolutely flow better, and it’s often noticeable in engine-performance characteristics. But they do require regular cleaning and re-oiling to maintain their level of performance. You can be confident about selling them and touting the increased flow, but I do warn people that when they clean and oil them, be sure to heed the instructions, and don’t over-oil them. There always have been “rumors” of these types of filters damaging mass airflow sensors, but they are largely unfounded, and over-oiling them is the only thing that could possibly contribute to this.
      American History
      If you have a customer with an old car who wants to install a round chrome air cleaner, you might not change their mind, but there are many facts about the original factory air cleaners that often are overlooked. Many people think they’re an eyesore compared to a shiny new chrome one, but there’s a lot more to them than meets the eye.
      The inside of the air cleaner is designed to smoothly direct the airflow up to the top while reducing turbulence, so the air can be smoothly drawn down through the carburetor. They have a snorkel extending off them to pick up cool air from the side of the engine compartment, and the snorkel also is designed to increase the velocity of the air as it enters the air cleaner.
      In addition, the snorkel design incorporates a pickup for warm air to be drawn from around the exhaust manifold up into the air cleaner for improved cold-weather drivability. On the main body of the air cleaner, there also is a filtered pickup for fresh air into the crankcase as part of the positive crankcase ventilation system, so they are important for emissions too.
      Theoretically, this is all great information, but if someone wants a chrome air cleaner, I get it. They look great, and they’re a common characteristic of some old muscle cars. The completely exposed element offers the maximum amount of airflow necessary for the type of performance sought in these cars.
      The minor affect on drivability due to lack of a heat riser and less air velocity at low RPM isn’t missed on a car with straight-line, high-RPM performance in mind, and one that most likely is only driven in the summer. I do like to point out that there were a handful of top-dog muscle cars that originally came with chrome open-element air cleaners. On these cars, the crankcase ventilation was routed to the air-filter base, and the aftermarket units generally have a stamped breakout in the base and come with a fitting so this can be reconnected. I always encourage them to reconnect these emission-related devices.
      If your customer is replacing the air filter on an old vehicle with an OE air cleaner, it’s important to use a high-quality filter and always look it up for the application. You can’t see it when the lid is on, but the filter is designed to seal on the top and bottom so that all air flows through it. If a filter is installed that’s even a little bit too short, unfiltered air will be drawn over the top of the filter into the engine, plus mice can fit through just about any small crack, and that carburetor is an awfully inviting cubby to store the kibbles and bits you keep in the garage.
      How’s Your Cabin Filter?
      When a customer asks about an air filter, it opens the door to other opportunities. The most prevalent is the cabin filter. Most vehicles have them now, and as common as they are, the majority of them still get neglected. There’s a lot at stake inside the heater box, and aside from the obvious benefit of fresh air, it’s the clean, dry air flowing through the system that can prevent bacteria, odors and corrosion of the A/C evaporator and heater core. It’s nice to have all the knowledge, but it’s important to use it to your advantage. I’m careful about directly answering questions and not going too deep. Let your customer guide the direction of the sale. If they want stock, go stock. If they want performance, go performance. If you get too deep, you can scare someone off. Present them with fact, caution them when necessary and share the part of your knowledge that helps the sale. After all, that’s our goal and that’s how we make a living.
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    • By JenJones
      Hi, could anyone help me with these air springs I have. They have no vehicle make or model info on the box. I acquired them at an auction. 
      Any info would be appreciated. Thanks on advance.
      Images attached



    • By Counterman
      In the past, the lack of end-of-life batteries meant that the Li-ion (lithium-ion) recycling market had little opportunity to prosper. The transition to electric vehicles (EVs) is changing this, IDTechEx says in a recent report. Recycling enables countries to domesticate battery material supply, hedge risks of fluctuating metal prices, and reduce reliance on unsustainable mining practices. Various stakeholders across the value chain are upping recycling capacity to prepare for the mass availability of valuable end-of-life Li-ion batteries due to supply, regulatory and environmental motivations.
      It seems that recovering valuable material by recycling Li-ion batteries is a no-brainer. However, the reality is more complicated, IDTechEx says. The profitability of recycling is dependent on EV-battery trends and whether OEMs will play a role in facilitating circularity in the battery supply chain.
      The economics of recycling primarily depends on three factors: Li-ion battery chemistry; metal prices; and process costs, which are expected to decrease as recyclers scale. There’s a lot of variety between the chemical composition of EV batteries, particularly in the cathodes. The demand for higher energy density in EV batteries is causing a shift toward higher-nickel cathodes. However, the desire to drive battery costs down favors lower-value LFP cathodes – which some OEMs have recently switched to for their entry-level models. This is likely to impact the value of metals that recyclers can extract from end-of-life
      EV batteries.
      The most value can be extracted from LCO cathodes due to their high cobalt content, but these are typically used in consumer electronics, which will account for a small percentage of Li-ion batteries recycled, and it’s challenging to develop collection networks for them. In the new IDTechEx report, “Li-ion Battery Recycling Market 2022-2042,” the recycling value of each cathode type is compared. IDTechEx has investigated these trends and their impact, alongside metal price, to evaluate the economics of the Li-ion battery
      recycling market.
      OEMs are often subject to Extended Producer Responsibility regulations, meaning they are responsible for EV batteries when they reach their end of life. Therefore, it’s in the OEMs’ best interests to develop efficient, economic routes for waste end-of-life batteries, and the environmental credentials associated with recycling also are beneficial.
      Volkswagen is developing a vertically integrated recycling and second-life business through “Volkswagen Group Components” and commissioned a pilot plant for recycling Li-ion batteries in 2021. Differing from most EV OEMs, Renault operates a battery-hire scheme on three of its models, as well as full ownership options. Renault optimizes the end-of-life management of its EV batteries using second-life applications and recycling with partners, such as Veolia. Tesla claims to be developing a battery recycling system at its Gigafactory in Nevada, having relied on third-party recyclers in the past, and BMW has formed strategic partnerships with recyclers, seeking to design cells with recycling in mind, says IDTechEx.
      Involvement of these major OEMs looking to boost the sustainability of their EVs reflects the anticipation of the part Li-ion battery recycling will play in the future value chain. Not only are the OEMs likely to carry a legal responsibility for end-of-life Li-ion batteries, but the trends they influence also will impact the profitability of recycling. In addition to creating partnerships with recyclers from other sectors, OEMs themselves are acting and investing in their own processes and supply circularity.
      IDTechEx has identified nearly 90 battery recyclers globally and observed that most of the current recycling capacity is in China. In 2021, there was a deficit in the number of Li-ion batteries available for the recycling capacity, presenting a market imbalance. Timing growth with end-of-life battery availability will be one of the biggest challenges that recyclers will face, and battery manufacturing scrap is likely to facilitate an increase in capacity before EV batteries begin reaching their end of life.
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    • By Counterman
      Lumileds has taken a major step in addressing a growing concern over air purity and respiratory illnesses brought on by the current pandemic.
      In response, Lumileds has created the new Philips GoPure GP5611 automotive air purifier, a powerful and innovative car air purifier that’s engineered to clean air quickly and efficiently in most vehicle interiors and help reduce the risk of airborne transmission of viruses and bacteria.
      “The new Philips GoPure GP5611 is so advanced that it can capture ultra-fine particles, including microbes, in just 10 minutes, and its convenient design makes it an easy fit in most vehicle cup holders,” said Aubry Baugh, Lumileds product marketing manager.
      The GoPure GP5611 features three layers of defense: a Philips SaniFilter Plus filter, a powerful UVC light and a HESAMax filtration cartridge.
      The Philips SaniFilter Plus filter has been tested at IUTA laboratory in Germany and proven to capture 99% of ultra-fine particles, including particles as small as 0.004 microns that can get deep into the lungs and may create serious health risks, according to the company. The filter captures bacteria and respiratory viruses as well as airborne allergens such as pollen, dust mites, mold spores and pet dander at a 99% efficiency. The Philips SaniFilter Plus filter features a special anti-microbial layer to inhibit the growth of microorganisms inside the device, including mold spores.
      UVC light damages the molecular bonds that hold DNA together, so it is highly effective at eliminating bacteria and viruses. For decades, UVC light has been used for sterilization in hospitals, transportation, factories and more. Now, it is being used to help clean the air inside cars.
      The Philips UVC lighting module inside of the GoPure GP5611 is designed to kill bacteria and viruses trapped in the filter by exposing them to ultraviolet light. The UVC LEDs used in the module were tested independently from the air purifier at KR Biotech Lab on Sars-CoV-2 (COVID-19-causing virus) by applying UV light directly onto the virus in a petri dish, effectively destroying 99% of the virus in five minutes, according to the company. In the GoPure GP5611, the UVC light acts on the particles captured by the filter.
      An air purifier does not treat or prevent COVID-19, and by itself, does not protect against exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19, but it can be part of a plan to help protect your family and yourself from exposure according to the US Environmental Agency (EPA). 
      The UVC light is housed safely inside of the GoPure GP5611 unit, preventing exposure to the passengers. The UVC light is LED-based to provide exceptionally long service life. While some other air purifiers use UV units with mercury lamps and may emit harmful ozone into the vehicle, the GoPure GP5611 UVC LED technology is toxin-free and emits zero ozone, according to the company. 
      The Philips HESAMax cartridge (High Efficiency Sorbent Agent) removes chemicals, harmful gases and unpleasant odors from the car, including formaldehyde, toluene and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The cartridge contains two types of HESA material: white beads that draw formaldehyde from the air, break it down and safely lock it within the cartridge; and black carbon beads that absorb unpleasant smells.
      The Philips HESAMax cartridge absorbs up to 30X more chemicals than the “carbon bags” commonly used in many purification devices, according to the company. The patented HESAMax odor removal works even when the GoPure is off.
      Philips GoPure GP5611 is very low maintenance. Typically, the SaniFilter Plus filter only needs to be replaced about once a year and the UVC LED module does not need to be replaced at all during the lifetime of the device. The device plugs into any USB outlet and turns on and off automatically with the ignition so that drivers can focus on driving.
      For more information, email [email protected] or call 866-254-6989.
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    • Shop AutoPartsToys.com for all Your Car, Truck and SUV Accessories at Direct Factory Warehouse Pricing
    • By Counterman
      When I hear good and bad in the same sentence, I think of the classic Clint Eastwood movie, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”
      This isn’t the Old West, but I can draw a perfect parallel between the title and the fight we sometimes have with alternators.
      When they’re good, they’re good. When they’re bad, they’re bad. So, what’s the ugly? That’s when they’re good, but we think they’re bad because there’s an electrical problem that prevents them from working properly. It gets even uglier when the problem is hard to find, and probably the ugliest when a good alternator is called bad.
      What an alternator does is simple, or at least we’ll keep it that way for now. It outputs direct current (DC) to power vehicle electrical systems and maintain and recharge the vehicle battery. An alternator is aptly named because it generates an alternating current (AC), which is, in turn, converted to DC.
      We can divide the alternator into two different systems: the mechanical and the electrical. On the electrical side, you have the components that are responsible for generating and managing the electrical current, which include the rotor, stator, regulator and rectifier. The rotor and stator are the main components that generate electricity, based on fundamental electromagnetic principals. The regulator is what controls the output of the alternator, and the rectifier is what converts AC to DC.
      The Good
      When an alternator is good, alternating current is being generated by the rotor and stator, the rectifier is converting it to direct current and the regulator is controlling the output. If a problem develops with one of these, the result is either no voltage, too much voltage or an AC-voltage output. Any of those are bad.
      If this seems too simple, it is on purpose. We can get much deeper into it, which will make it more difficult, but the way we do things today has changed the process of diagnosing the charging system. Things were different years ago. We used to take alternators apart. We’d check the windings of the rotor and stator. Then we’d check the diodes in the rectifier, and finally check the regulator. As a matter of fact, regulators used to be separate from the alternator and they were mechanical devices compared to solid-state electronics. We’d take everything apart, check it all, determine what was bad and replace only what was needed.
      We don’t do that anymore. Alternators have been self-contained for many years. Regulators are built in. If an alternator isn’t working, we replace it. That’s it. We don’t think about why, nor do we even toy with the idea of taking it apart. Just send me a new one.
      On the mechanical side, you have the bearings that support the rotor, and the pulley that’s driven by the belt. If the bearings are bad, they’re loose or noisy. Pulleys used to be fixed chunks of metal. Now we see overrunning alternator pulleys (OAP) or overrunning alternator decouplers (OAD). When these go bad, they’re often noisy, or they may not spin the alternator.
      The brushes in an alternator are another mechanical part of it. They’re made of conductive materials that physically contact and rub against the slip rings. This is how the electrical current from the regulator flows into the rotor. But we don’t replace brushes anymore, nor do we replace bearings. We don’t even think about taking the alternator apart. We just replace it. The pulleys are the only parts we may replace separately.
      The Ugly
      When an alternator needs replaced, the process usually isn’t too difficult, but that’s when it can get ugly.
      As counter professionals, you deal with technicians, and you deal with do-it-yourselfers. Either way, when they ask for an alternator, you’re hoping the diagnosis is correct. The last thing you want is an alternator return. You might ask a few questions to see if they’ve done some basic diagnosis, but you’re in a tough spot. You don’t want to show disrespect, but you don’t want the original coming back covered in grease, because they found the “real” problem after they replaced it and it didn’t fix the problem.
      Do DIYers make mistakes? You bet. Do professional technicians make mistakes? We sure do. It’s not always easy, and diagnosis can be difficult. Any time electrical diagnosis is involved, the potential for mistakes can be greater, and charging systems are no exception. One problem is that alternator failure isn’t uncommon, and if the charging-system indicator is illuminated, that’s likely the problem.
      It’s easy to see the warning light, and even maybe check battery voltage with the engine running. If the battery voltage is at or below 12.6 volts, the alternator must be bad, right? After all, we would normally see 13.5 to 14.5 volts. This is what I like to call a reactive diagnosis. We react based on what we know is common and think that what we initially see tells the story. Sure, it’s possible that the alternator may be bad, but only possible. A fact of electrical diagnosis is that the majority of all electrical problems are caused by higher-than-normal resistance – in other words, a poor connection.
      Diagnostic Tips
      How, as technicians do we keep from making this mistake? We have to remember that electrical systems are far more complicated than they have been for years, and they require correct system voltage in order for all of the computers and electronics to work properly.
      Battery condition is critical, and a weak battery can prevent an alternator from properly charging. It’s also not unheard of to get a vehicle in that has both a bad alternator and a bad battery. It does happen.
      When diagnosing charging systems, an important detail not to overlook is performing a voltage-drop test on the battery and alternator cables. It’s safe to say that higher than normal resistance is responsible for the good majority of misdiagnosis and comebacks.
      The traditional tools we use for battery and charging-system diagnosis are a digital battery tester, a multimeter, a load tester and an amp clamp. However, for modern charging-system diagnosis, a scan tool has become a must-have. Modern charging systems are no longer stand-alone systems, with the vehicle ECM playing a large part in their control and operation.
      A power-management system is a more accurate name than charging system, and it includes the alternator, battery and ECM. These systems have been developed to improve fuel economy, battery life and alternator operation, and not only do they monitor battery condition, but some systems also can estimate battery condition as well. They control and adjust charging output and they also can perform diagnostics and set diagnostic trouble codes. Good alternators can go bad, but if you’re faced with answering questions and giving advice to your customers at the counter, make sure they’re covering all the bases of diagnosis, so a good alternator doesn’t turn ugly.
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