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    • By Dorman Products
      Making your own gaskets? Get a hollow punch set for pro results
    • By Counterman
      or our commercial customers, price and quality are two of the most important considerations when purchasing parts from you (and your competitors). The third is availability, but at least we have some control over what gets stocked in our stores. Barring supply chain issues and material shortages, keeping the right mix of parts available is up to our buyers and inventory specialists. Unless your store’s pricing strategy is out of line with the competition, pricing (and quality) complaints fall squarely on the vendor/manufacturer. 
      This is not to say that if you are experiencing price, quality, or availability issues with a current vendor that you shouldn’t already be looking for alternate sourcing for the affected SKUs or product lines. During the latest UAW strike, GM and Stellantis parts warehouses were crippled by walkouts, leaving their dealer networks scrambling to provide parts for their customers. Many dealerships were forced to bolster their inventories with quality aftermarket-equivalent products just to keep work flowing through their service departments. 
      link hidden, please login to view For the aftermarket, this was a perfect storm of opportunity. There was less competition from the local dealership in terms of parts sales, and those same dealers were calling on aftermarket suppliers more often for parts they could not readily obtain through their OEM channels. Due to the perception that OE parts are the best option for their vehicle brand (and a need to provide the same level of service, warranty coverage, and quality) these requests were often for premium product lines. Dealerships are generally unwilling to risk their reputation by installing bargain-basement parts, and the expectation that dealership parts and service will carry a premium price tag silences many objections well ahead of the sale. Independent shops specializing in repair or resale of luxury and performance brands also enjoy a more quality-conscious clientele willing to pay a premium for their services.
      There is, however, a subset of dealerships (and some general repair shops) for whom price trumps all other considerations. Your local “buy-here-pay-here” used car lot might come to mind, reconditioning and “flipping” (usually lower-end) auction vehicles, while offering very limited warranty terms. For this market, requests will usually gravitate toward the “least expensive” parts option. Even the most quality-conscious shops sometimes need to hit a “price-point” to stay competitive, and we all have that DIY customer who just wants “the cheapest thing that fits” because they are “trading it in soon” (even though they’ve been telling you that each time they’ve been in for the last three years!).
      In an effort to accommodate all types of customer needs, we are likely to offer multiple lines for most of our “commodity” parts. Filters, brakes, chassis parts, belts, lighting, wipers, and fluids are some of the most common categories in which we offer diverse price and quality options. This isn’t necessarily an issue of price versus quality, but rather comparing the value realized from an item’s price and its quality. For maintenance items like filters, an installer might have a “menu” pricing schedule for oil changes, air and cabin filters, and wiper blades. These services generally include labor at no “additional” cost, and the parts already have a recommended service interval. Selling at a fixed price can be tricky when the costs are variable, so shops often use value-line parts for these services. If the shop advertises “any air filter $49.95 installed,” you can bet they will choose your $12 store brand filter over the $25 premium filter whenever they can! These parts will likely provide sufficient service life, and the cost savings to the shop offsets some of the lost labor revenue. On our side of the counter, oil is usually marketed as a loss leader priced to get customers through the front door. Shops treat oil changes the same way, as an opportunity to get the vehicle in the shop to upsell more profitable work. 
      We would never knowingly offer a product that doesn’t meet some sort of minimum quality standards, nor would we recommend a product that won’t meet a customer’s (reasonable) expectations. The use of “features and benefits” as a selling tool helps classify the customer’s needs, explains the differences in pricing and quality, and minimizes disappointment by customers who expected premium performance and extended service life from the bare-bones product they selected based on price alone. 
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    • By Dorman Products
      Clean up your chisels and punches (for your own safety!)
    • By Dorman Products
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    • 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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