To resolve any automotive problem that is elusive to resolve, there are some facts that must be established.
You’ll have to put on your analytical hat and play the role of Colombo to assist in the repair of your vehicle.
B. General Facts:
1. Design intent-
Components and their systems are designed to perform a certain task, either by themselves or work in conjunction with another system. Therefore a failure in one system can also manifest itself in another system.
2. Cause and Effect-
‘Cause and effect’ dictates that when there is a component or system abnormality, there will be corresponding evidence of this condition.
For example, if your car’s alternator regulator is allowing the alternator to charge excessively (cause), your car’s battery top surface will have a lot of wetness and the battery posts may be covered with a powdery substance (effect).
Many questions must be asked concerning the nature of the problem and the status of relating items during the time before, during, and after the occurrence of the abnormality.
Note: Intermittent problems are the most difficult to resolve. Often it is better for a component to fail completely (except for components effecting safety) than to operate periodically.
C. Root Cause Areas-
Now let’s get to the nitty gritty of identifying the source of the problem.
First, we’ll categorize which stage the problem originated.
For almost all problems they will likely originate in one or more of the following areas:
1. Poor design – If the design of a component or system is faulty, it is only a matter of time or condition that there may be a malfunction. In this case, if you search the internet, you will find many other vehicles with the same problem.
2. Inferior materials – If the design is good but the material is bad (to reduce costs), it is only a matter of time or condition that there may be a malfunction. In this case, you’ll likely to find many others with the same problem.
3. Manufacturing errors – The hope is that at least the manufacturer did everything right and the source of the problem is elsewhere. Well, things go wrong at the factory and the problem travels with the vehicle to the awaiting customer to experience the malfunction and return to the dealer.
Here are some problems that can occur at the factory:
· Inexperience workers – When new employees are hired, they must be trained to perform their tasks to the level that is expected. There is a learning curve for the workers and unfortunately some of their parts may be sub-standard and find their way onto the vehicle. Depending on the severity of the error, the result can range from being unnoticed by the customer to complete engine shutdown.
· Meeting production numbers – Time is money. If the production numbers are insufficient and upper management is applying pressure to increase the production numbers, the result may be some vehicles will just have to be shipped with the problem and let the dealer repair it under warranty.
· Neglect of material storage conditions – Some materials must be kept at certain temperatures, humidity, lighting, etc. For example, steel will begin to oxidize (rust) in the presence of moisture (rain).
· Contamination – In the above example, if a steel surface such as a hood has contaminates on it, there will be poor adhesion of the paint. In time, the paint will remove from the surface and start peeling away. If certain chemicals are not mixed in the proper proportions, the end result will be a compromise in the integrity of the part, thus, possible premature failure.
· Safety – Last but not least is the safety of the worker, if he/she is injured and continues to work, not only is the worker re-injuring themselves but also their attention is diverted to their injury and the task of the job may be compromised.
4. Pre-shipping damage – After production, vehicles are sitting in the lot waiting to be loaded on a transport truck or train. During this time, there is the possibility of damage from hail, bird droppings (acidic), door dings, etc.
5. Shipping damage – There is significant potential of damage from the shipping process. For example, if the hold down chains is improperly fastened it can damage the suspension system.
6. Post shipping damage – After the vehicle has been safely transported to its destination, at this point damage can occur due to inappropriate handling such as being driven hard if it’s a sports car, accidents on the premises, or in extreme cases vandalism.
7. Installation damage – Installing non-factory equipment can be a source of problems. Equipment that wasn’t designed or approved by the manufacturer can present problems that ordinarily would not occur. For example, replacing factory wheels with wheels that are over-sized can result in the tires rubbing the wheel well under certain road surfaces and can render the speedometer and odometer inaccurate.
Non-standard electrical equipment can cause increased amperage in circuits and effect the proper operation of other electrical components.
D. Putting it all together to solve your problem
Confirm that you have a problem and if it can or cannot be duplicated. Some “problems” can be attributed to operator error. Be sure to read the owner’s manual relating to the appropriate component.
An important aspect of resolving a problem is whether or not it can be duplicated. If it can be duplicated, great; now it’s just a matter of diagnosis to locate the root cause and repair the problem.
If it cannot be duplicated, you will have to “paint a picture” by keeping good records of when the problem occurs and the conditions surrounding the occurence such as: climatic conditions and which devices were working at the time(air conditioning on/off, lights on/off, during turning, etc.)
3. Before or after an installation or repair/service
If the problem started after an installation of something or the vehicle was in for repair or servicing, then possibly it may be the result of something being accidently disconnected (wire connector, vacuum hose, etc.)
Do a visual inspection and see if you can determine if something looks obviously disconnected.
4. Problem occurred after you did something
Sometimes problems occur that are directly related to something the owner or another person did. Question any other person who may also have driven the vehicle.
5. What is your ‘Gut feeling’ the problem is?
Just use your common sense and intuition about the problem and what it seems to be. Afterwards, communicate this information to your technician.
For every problem there is a solution, sometimes the solution is obvious such as a dead battery or not so obvious such as a lamp that stays on and goes undetected.
The solution is to put on your detective hat and observe carefully what is or is not happening. Your information given to a competent technician and repair shop should help to resolve your problem.
Be sure to investigate your problem by determining if others
experience the same problems using the internet as a source of information.
One last tip, be sure to keep an electronic ignition key away from any source of magnetism or electrical wires. Live electrical wires have a magnetic field around them. Magnets obviously have a magnetic field them which can corrupt the program in your electronic ignition key thus creating a weird operating or non-operating condition.
If you suspect this is the case with your electronic ignition key, have it reprogrammed at a dealer or a Locksmith shop equipped to reprogram ignition keys.
That’s it for now.
Next topic: How to find a good automotive repair shop and good technician?