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    • By Counterman
      Most active suspension systems come in many styles with fancy names like airmatic, dynamic or advanced. And, it doesn’t matter if it is a BMW, Mercedes or Jaguar, an active suspension must be able to react to three critical pieces of information.
      First, it must act on information from the ABS and stability control system. Second, it must measure body movement. Third, it must detect the extent and rate of suspension movement. With these three pieces of information, the suspension can actively adjust the compression and rebound of the shock or strut.
      Why would an engineer or automaker include this feature on a vehicle? An active dampener allows for a ride without compromise. The three inputs can be used to detect a rough road or an emergency situation where body roll could change the stability of the vehicle.
      Electronic Shocks/Struts
      Electronically adjustable shocks and struts use conventional mono-tube and twin-tube oil-filled dampeners. The rods, gas chambers and piston have the construction of passive units. Like a passive unit, they can fail if they leak, the gas escapes or the rods are bent. They can also wear out like a conventional unit as the oil inside breaks down and surfaces in the bore wear.
      link hidden, please login to view
      What makes these units unique are the valves with their variable orifices. These valves regulate the flow between the chambers on either side of the piston. The piston in some units, however, does not have any valving.
      The size of the orifices controlled by electromagnetic solenoids can control the valves very quickly. The electrical connections and solenoids are typically found outside the body and act on the valves inside the unit using magnetism. The signal to the solenoid is pulse-width modulated and varies the voltage to change the size of the orifice.
      The valves and solenoids can’t be serviced or separated from the shock or strut. If a problem is detected with the system, the valves go into a fail-safe position that is fixed, and the system becomes passive. The driver is then alerted with a message or light on the instrument cluster or message center.
      Most systems will perform a circuit check when the system wakes up. This typically involves sending a signal to fully open and close the valve. If the system detects an open, short or a voltage outside of the specifications, it will set a code. 
      Measuring Wheel Movement
      Ride-height sensors not only measure the position of the suspension, but also the rate of movement. They are supplied with a voltage of around 5 volts. The signal voltage is changed as a magnet moves past a coil. Most sensors have three wires – ground, power and signal.
      Internally, it is difficult to damage one of these sensors. Externally, however, the linkage that connects the sensor to the suspension arm can be damaged. Additionally, the connector can be damaged and cause a short or open that sets a code. If one of these sensors is replaced, it must be calibrated after it is installed.
      Ride-height sensors are sometimes called suspension-position or wheel-displacement sensors. The data from the sensor is used to measure the movement of the suspension. By knowing how far and fast the suspension is moving, the module can use the information to determine the size of the orifice in the dampener to control compression and rebound. These sensors should be calibrated if a sensor is replaced, a module is reprogrammed or if the battery dies.
      Measuring Body Movement
      Accelerometers mounted to the body measure changes in the ride. These accelerometers are typically mounted to the strut towers. These sensors output information as gravitational forces, or “G-force,” to a module. Changes in body roll due to cornering will produce lower G-force than a pothole would.
      Information from the accelerometers is coupled with data from the ride-height sensor, steering sensor and other inputs by a computer processor in a module. The module can determine if the vehicle is going around a corner or traveling down a bumpy road. With this datastream, the valving inside the dampener can be adjusted in milliseconds for the best control and ride quality.
      The accelerometers on the body differ from vehicle to vehicle. Some manufacturers mount the sensors under the headlights, on strut towers and near the taillights. More sophisticated systems use more than two accelerometers mounted in various locations.
      link hidden, please login to view Control Module
      The control module for the electronic dampeners needs more than the movement of the wheels and body to determine the correct settings for the dampeners. The module uses and shares information with the anti-lock braking system, engine control module and instrument cluster. This information is typically shared on the high-speed CAN serial data bus. On some BMW 7 Series models, the information is shared on the fiber-optic Flex Ray bus.
      With all this information, the module can do some amazing things with the adjustable dampeners. Problems like nosedive under braking, torque steer and understeer on FWD vehicles can be minimized. If the vehicle has air ride, the volume and pressure inside the air springs can also be tuned along with the valving in the dampeners to optimize ride quality and control.
      Most active suspension systems will perform a circuit check when the system wakes up. The system will send 5 to 12 volts to the actuators and ride height sensors. The system is also looking at the resistance in the circuit, and the amount of voltage dropped. If the system detects an open, short or voltage outside of the specifications, it will set a code. Next, the control module will fully open and close the valves in the struts. If the system does not detect any irregularities, the system will go into an active mode. 
      Looking for these self-diagnostic signals can be performed using a meter. You may have to use a bypass harness or back probe the connector. If the system detects any problems, the system will go into a passive mode.
      Sometimes servicing an active suspension is like rebuilding an engine with a new crankshaft and reusing the old bearings and valve springs. When a new active strut is reassembled with the old and tired spring and strut plate, the results can be less than desirable.
      Upper strut mounts and bearings can be hammered to death. The upper strut mount essentially supports the vehicle weight and counters both braking and acceleration torque. Most mounts are sandwiches of rubber, metal and bearings. Over time, the rubber can lose its ability to isolate the suspension from the body. Bearings can also seize and bind, causing the vehicle to have steering problems.
      Look up the ride height specifications and measure ride height front and rear, and on both sides of the vehicle. If ride height is less than specifications, the problem is most likely one or more weak springs that should be replaced. Springs should typically be replaced in pairs to maintain the same ride height side-to-side.
      Weak springs also are more likely to fail. The springs on many late-model vehicles are thinner to reduce weight and have an outer plastic coating to protect the metal from corrosion. If this outer coating is cracked or damaged, corrosion can form a hot spot that eats into the spring, weakens it and eventually causes the spring to break.
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    • By Counterman
      Westar Distribution LLC, a leading aftermarket supplier of engine & transmission mounts and air suspension components announces the release of 40 new Air Suspension Components, Engine & Transmission Mounts, Torque Strut Mounts, and Center Support Bushings servicing in excess of 35,000,000 vehicles in operation today in the US & Canada covering Acura, BMW, Dodge Truck, Ford Sport Utility, GMC Trucks, Honda, Hyundai, Jeep, Lexus, and Toyota vehicles. These newly released items are all in stock and ready for immediate shipment.  
      link hidden, please login to view For more information contact [email protected] or visit
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    • By OReilly Auto Parts
      O'Reilly VeriScan Service | O'Reilly Auto Parts
    • By Counterman
      This is always an important topic to discuss, because I consider excellent customer service one of the most important tools you can have to earn trust, respect and repeat business from the customers that come through your door. Whether that customer is do-it-yourselfer from across town or the professional repair shop across the street, your business depends on a solid relationship.

      It’s a subject that I am passionate about, and it’s one that many people are losing touch with. Whether you are communicating to someone in person, on the phone or using some type of social media, good customer service and bad can both exist. You can’t afford the latter, so this is the first in a series of topics which can and should be shared from the front of the shop to the back. No matter which role you hold, you represent the shop and yourself. Customer service should be your number one priority.

      First on the list is the greeting. From the second a customer walks in the door, they need to know you appreciate them coming in and how important they are to your business. First impressions are everything and here’s the correct way to do it each and every time: look them directly in the eye, smile and say hello!

      Of course, you can say “Good morning” or “Welcome to Joe’s Autocare,” but it should be a formal greeting and the most important thing is that you have smiled, looked them in the eye and recognized that they have walked through the door.

      You should always retain a formal greeting until you are on a first-name basis with a customer. Only once you have established that level of relationship is it OK to use the less formal greeting of “Hi,” followed by the person’s name.

      This greeting does more than just indicate respect and appreciation for someone walking through the door. Most likely there are customers both new and old who are in earshot of your conversation. For newer customers, this continues to build rapport and reinforce their positive view of your shop; they see that you demonstrate respect and treat everyone in the same manner. For repeat customers, even ones that have been coming for years, the greeting is important because the way you treat them is the reason they continue to come.

      And when a long-time customer comes in and you greet them with “Hi [First Name],” this indicates your appreciation for them and that you’re glad to see them as a person, more than just a customer. New customers that witness this will see that your repeat customers are comfortable enough to be on a first-name basis, another indication of the trust they have in you.
      If you impress someone with remembering their name and what you did last to their car, you just built a skyscraper of rapport.

      There are certain situations where you will always greet someone by Mr., Mrs. or Miss., and that is usually after you have seen them often enough to remember their name, but before you know them on a first-name basis. Many people will say, “Just call me [First Name],” letting you know it’s OK, but until then it’s a sign of respect to use a formal greeting. In some cases, you may always use the formal; it can vary from person to person.

      When thinking about the greeting, keep in mind that many people are uncomfortable walking into an unknown situation. They are probably already stressed because their car is broken, and they know it’s going to cost them money. And they may have never been to your shop or been there too often. Your greeting puts them immediately at ease and indicates, especially if there are other people waiting (and this is very important), that you have acknowledged they are there. They’ll be comfortable knowing that you’ll get to them as soon as possible.

      It’s going to happen, often enough, that you will either be on the phone, right in the middle of explaining something to a customer or have your back turned at the moment someone walks in. If you’re on the phone, it’s easy. Simply smile and wave. That’s all it takes. Don’t use a phone call as an excuse to ignore and not initiate a greeting. You’ll probably even have coworkers that do this, hoping they won’t have to wait on this person. Advice for you: don’t. It’s a sign of weakness.

      Once you’re off the phone, be sure to make an audible greeting and let them know how long it will be until you are available to help. If you’re currently talking to a customer when someone walks in, you don’t have to stop abruptly or cut them off to make a greeting, but don’t take too long. Wait just until you finish a thought and squeeze in a quick audible greeting, such as, “I’ll be with you in just a couple minutes, sir.”

      One of my favorite tricks as a service writer is to always be alert and pay attention to cars as they pull up. Try to jot down the license if possible. There’s a good possibility that you will recognize cars before you remember someone’s name. You may remember that the car was in and you may recognize the person, but that’s it. If you’re quick on the fingers, before they get in the door, you can do a license plate search and bring up their name and also see what was done last.

      If you impress someone with remembering their name and what you did last to their car, you just built a skyscraper of rapport. They’ll never know you “cheated.”

      Heres’ another trick, even if you only had time to jot down the license number and you greeted someone, “Welcome to Joe’s Autocare, I’ll be right with you,” this indicates to someone that you are finishing something up and will let them know when you are ready. Even if you buy yourself 10 seconds, you can look up the license plate, then you can say, “I can help you now Mr. Smith. We did brakes just last month, right?”

      Perhaps the most critical is that you always smile and greet your customers, no matter what. I don’t care how bad a day you are having, or if you had a difficult situation with the last customer. It doesn’t matter. Let it go and concentrate on whomever just walked in the door.

      Your greeting is your first impression. Just like a strong handshake, dressing nicely and being on time for a job interview, this is your chance. Don’t blow it. You are, for all practical purposes, walking into a job interview. You are looking for a job and your customer is doing the hiring.

      Customer service. That’s how it’s done. 
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    • A-premium Auto Parts:5% OFF with Code GM5.
    • By NAPA
      When it comes to working in the shop, personal safety should always be the top priority. Safety glasses, gloves, hearing protection, even work boots are all meant to keep your body protected. It should come as no surprise that with new hybrid and electric drivetrains, there are also new safety gear requirements. Insulated tools are just the start of a well-stocked shop. There’s more to electrical safety than just owning a set of
      link hidden, please login to view.  This expert advice is meant to give an overview of the kinds of general
      link hidden, please login to view (PPE) needed to service hybrid and electric vehicles. It is important to follow proper repair procedures for these vehicles, as described in the vehicle specific repair manual. This includes using all required PPE listed in the repair procedure with no exceptions. If you do not have ALL of the necessary PPE, DO NOT proceed with a repair, as doing so could lead to severe injury or even death. Now that you have an idea of the serious nature of vehicle high-voltage electrical systems, let’s take a look at how you can protect yourself.  Personal Protection
      Wearing the right personal protection gear is a must when working with electric and hybrid vehicle high-voltage systems. The electrical energy stored in a typical main traction battery pack is more than enough to kill or seriously injure a person. 
      In the past, wearing gloves while working on a car was usually a personal preference. Today, when working on high-voltage electrical systems, wearing gloves is mandatory. And not just one pair of gloves, but two pairs (inner and outer) are to be worn together. Just in case you are wondering, welding gloves are NOT the same as high-voltage
      link hidden, please login to view.  Class 0 gloves are required for protection up to 1,000 volts AC and 1,500 volts DC. One pair of rubber gloves (inner) protects against electric shock, while the leather gloves (outer) protect the rubber gloves from mechanical wear. They must be worn together in order to perform correctly. Electrical gloves
      link hidden, please login to view every six months to ensure they are still capable of insulating the user from the rated voltage. Gloves will be labeled with the test date near the cuff.  The exact personal protection gear needed for a repair will be spelled out in the vehicle service repair manual procedures. This may include an insulated apron,
      link hidden, please login to view, insulated arm sleeves, link hidden, please login to view, arc flash face shield with neck protection, and insulated mats or blankets. These layers of protection are necessary not just for avoiding shocks, but also potential explosions like an arc flash. Tool Safety
      It may seem odd to consider hand tools as part of personal protection equipment, but that is exactly the case when working with electricity. Most ordinary hand tools are made from metal, which does an excellent job conducting electricity. For servicing high-voltage electrical systems tools need to be designed in such a way that they don’t provide a path for electricity to travel to the technician, or to other vehicle components. That’s why EV tools are specially designed to protect the technician when used properly. 
      An EV tool set is a must-have for any technician looking to service an electric vehicle. A good start for insulated hand tools is an insulated screwdriver set, an
      link hidden, please login to view and an link hidden, please login to view. Electric vehicle tools used for diagnostics need to handle higher voltages, like this link hidden, please login to view. For repairs where the battery pack must be removed, special care must be taken due the extreme weight involved. A link hidden, please login to view is the proper way to lower and transport a hybrid or electric vehicle battery pack. You wouldn’t pull an engine out of a car without the proper lifting equipment, so give the same respect to a heavy traction battery pack. Work Space Safety
      Normally, when a car is being worked on in a service bay, there is little danger to fellow technicians. But that isn’t the case with a modern electric or hybrid vehicle. Whenever the high-voltage electrical system on one of these vehicles is exposed, proper notification must be given to those working in the area. Place
      link hidden, please login to view and link hidden, please login to view around the vehicle whenever the high voltage electrical system is being serviced. This warns other technicians that there is an electrical shock hazard in the shop, and to keep their distance. You may also place an electrical warning sign on the vehicle to signal to everyone in the shop to stay away. Part of your workspace safety gear must be an
      link hidden, please login to view. If a technician suffers an electrical accident while working on a vehicle, anyone attempting to help them is also in danger of electric shock. An insulated safety hook must be used to separate the victim from the electrical source. The last tip for work space safety is to never work on an electric or hybrid vehicle alone. Always let another technician or coworker know you are working on a high-voltage electrical system, and to check in on you periodically.  Training Is The Key To Safety
      Working on hybrid and electric vehicle high voltage systems requires meticulous procedures and extensive training. While there are plenty of dangers when working on internal combustion vehicles, many of the safety procedures surrounding those vehicles have been known for decades. As EV and hybrid drivetrain become more mainstream, so will their service safety procedures. 
      Tackling hybrid and electric vehicle high-voltage system repairs isn’t impossible, but there must be dedication to proper training. If you are a technician (or are wanting to become a technician), and are looking for electric vehicle service training,
      link hidden, please login to view can help. NAPA Auto Tech offers a wide variety of convenient, cost-effective ways to become an automotive professional. In addition to eLearning and instructor-led training, NAPA Auto Tech offers hands-on and seminar-style classes for almost every make and model to help technicians keep their skills up to date. Photos courtesy of Brian Medford.
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