Power of a Clean Battery

BatteryThe battery is an important part of the car’s start up process. It’s also a back up source of power when a car’s requirement exceeds what the alternator can deliver. This use, coupled with time, can lead to a build up of corrosion on and around the battery terminals, and around the cable ends. To extend the life of the car and improve the power draw on the battery, the terminals must be cleaned.

WARNING: The following article on how to clean the battery cable ends and terminals is to help readers understand the mechanic’s process. This article is NOT to help the car owners do the work themselves, as battery acid can too easily spread and burn skin and eyes.

The positive cable end connects the battery to the power distribution center, which provides power to all vehicle systems. The negative cable attaches to the car’s chassis to complete the ground circuit. The car will have no power to start if either one is disconnected.

TerminalWhen corrosion forms it inhibits the power transfer from the battery to the vital systems. There are two reasons why corrosion forms: The cable end and terminal are made of different types of metal; and, the battery is off-gassing hydrogen during the charging process.

Corrosion looks like a crusty or fuzzy-like substance that is too easily spread. If a build up of corrosion forms between the cable ends and terminals, it can prevent the battery from delivering power. The mechanics at Hi-Tech Addison Auto Repair use several different methods to clean the connections.

Step 1: Disconnect Cables from Battery Terminals

The mechanic first disconnects the negative battery terminal using a battery cable wrench. The order of disconnection and re-connection is critical for safety. If the battery is a top post, the mechanic will only loosen the clamp tension in order to remove the cable, which might require some wiggling and prying. A side post battery requires a continuous loosening until the cable is removed.

Step 2: Clean the Battery

The cleaning process doesn’t require any unique cleaning solution, but it does require safety glasses and some household materials. The first step is to sprinkle baking soda powder onto the terminal and nearby surface. Pouring a couple tablespoons of water onto the powder will activate reactionary bubbling that can appear quite ferocious for a few seconds. The combination of the water, baking soda and corrosion forms the bubbling reaction that neutralizes the acid—making the battery safe to handle. The same steps are taken with the cable ends. Most mechanics use a small tub to contain the reactionary affects.

The chemistry is not always enough to clean the terminal or cable ends, so a wire brush is used to scrub the surface after the acid is neutralized. Once all of the corrosion is removed, clean water is used to flush the surface, terminal posts and cable ends. The mechanic then dries everything with blasts of air from the compressor. After everything is dry a thin layer of petroleum jelly, an electrical conductor, is spread between the terminal and cable ends to protect the clean surfaces from corrosion.

Step 2b: Alternative Approach

Some mechanics prefer to use special tools that accomplish the same tasks including a battery cleaner spray, battery terminal brush, a protective spray and distilled water.

Many of the sprays have a yellow dye in it that shows up purple in the presence of acid. This alerts the mechanic to areas requiring additional cleaning. However, mechanics that follow the proper procedures never get the chance to see the yellow spray turn purple. Once the evaluation is done following the spray, the battery is rinsed with water to clear all elements of the spray. Extra caution must be taken with the professional sprays, as it will stain paint from the car fender if splattered.

The battery brush is used to remove any corrosion build-up in the clamp. All contacts are then coated with a battery protector spray.

Step 3: Reconnecting Cables to Battery Terminals

Reconnecting the cable ends are critical and requires putting the positive cable on first—the opposite order from the removal process. Top post batteries may require a couple taps or wiggling to reseat the cables. The nuts on the clamp is snugged and then given an additional quarter turn.

One other step is required throughout the process and that is the inspection of the battery. If at any time there is noticeable damage or cracking of the battery housing or cables, the part must be replaced immediately and handled with extreme care during the recycling process.

Hi-Tech Addison Auto Repair always recommedns that battery cleanings are left to the professionals and not done at home. The number of battery acid injuries reported to poison control and major medical centers is staggering. While many people are aware that splattered acid can burn the skin, most are unaware at what state the battery acid could become airborne and burn mucous membranes.

Another safety consideration is the type of battery purchased. The life expectancy of original batteries is 3-4 years. A replacement Interstate Battery is good for 5 years. While $20 can be saved on a battery, the discount is only possible due to the life expectancy dropping to 3 years. Hi-Tech always recommends the extra $20 charge for the 5 year life and fully warranted battery.

—Have one of our ASE Certified Mechanics clean your battery.—

© 2017 Hi-Tech Automotive Specialists, Inc.
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The Double L’s

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Interview with Mechanic Mason Radoff

Mason knows that his greatest asset in education comes from his ability to learn hands-on. This played out well for him working at Hi-Tech in the morning and studying at Universal Technical Institute in the afternoon.MasonInterview

CJ: Mason, you seem to thrive in environments where you can learn with your hands.

Mason: It’s true. Learning hands-on is much easier than just listening to a lecture. If you can touch it and move it, you come away with a full understanding rather than just knowledge. I’d say the combination is like gaining both wisdom and knowledge.

CJ: I can see how that would be practical and helpful for troubleshooting.

Mason: Exactly. I love troubleshooting. It’s like a detective that narrows and hunts down an issue. He seeks out the clues and based on experience determines the core problem and its cause.

CJ: So, experience comes with both lecture and hands on work?

Mason: By the time this article is printed I’ll have added two more certifications to my figurative tool belt. The 608 Technician Certification is based on current EPA regulations and includes everything to do with stationary refrigeration and air conditioning. The 609 Certification focuses on motor vehicle air conditioning. To be certified, I had to participate in lectures and hands-on workshops followed by a written test and a hands-on test to prove mastery of knowledge and skills.

CJ: Do you have a goal in mind concerning certifications?

Mason: I want to earn my Master Technician for Automotive and Diesel certifications. It would include drive train, brakes, suspension and steering, electrical system, HVAC system and diesel engines.

CJ: Then what?

Mason: I hope to work until I’m 50 and retire.

CJ: With Social Security retirement age shifting to 67 for your generation and self-driving cars coming into play, do you think you’ll actually be able to retire at 50?

Mason: I haven’t really given it any thought until you asked, but I don’t think self-driving cars will completely get rid of regular cars. Although, on CNN, I watched a clip of the driverless flying drone cars they’re introducing as taxis in Dubai. The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority has already approved the vehicles and they expect 25% of all current taxis to be replaced by 2030.

CJ: Will your certifications cover flying drone cars?

Mason: Once you’re a Master Certified Mechanic, your education doesn’t stop. I’ll continue to learn how to repair and maintain all kinds of vehicles throughout my career.

CJ: What’s next for you?

Mason: Once I graduate, I’ll head down to Arizona for an additional 3 months of training on all GM vehicles. I’ll be trained on the latest vehicles and some of the future vehicles getting ready for production. It’ll be like the ASE Master program but in a shorter time frame and with a specific focus on GM models.

CJ: Hi-Tech customers will certainly appreciate the additional skills and knowledge you bring to the shop. But let’s talk about your personal life, if you don’t mind. What do you do for fun?

Mason: I live in Wisconsin so I have a one-hour commute both ways. The cost-of-living savings far exceeds my cost of gas. But by the time I get home, I have little time to do anything except chill on my bed while watching Netflix.

CJ: How about weekends?

Mason: I get together with a couple of friends. We knock around, talk, and tell jokes.

CJ: In closing, what would you like to say to anyone out there interested in becoming a mechanic?

Mason: Make sure you love it and don’t give up when the hard times hit, because they will. The only ones that survive are those who push through for the love of the craft. You’ve got to love it to be great.

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April is National Car Care Month

Starburst2The Car Care Council reminds motorists to implement 10 maintenance procedures to make sure vehicles run at peak performance for summer driving season. We’ve added a bonus reminder that will help extend the life of a car. Also, when a car coming out of winter experiences hard starts, rough idling, stalling, etc. it must be corrected before hot weather sets in for the health of the car.

  1. Check all Fluids.Engine oil, power steering fluid, brake and transmission fluid, windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant. Change the oil and oil filter as specified in owner’s manual. Replace other filters (air, fuel, cabin filter, etc.) as recommended.
  1. Check the Hoses and Belts.Verify if cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or showing signs of excessive wear. An ASE certified mechanic should check the tightness and condition of the hoses, belts and belt tensioner assembly.
  1. Check the Battery.Verify cable and post connections are clean, tight and corrosion-free. Validate battery is holding a charge. Replace if necessary. Most high quality batteries have a use life of 5 years.
  1. Check the Brake System. Inspect brake linings, rotors and drums (Inspect quarterly or 15,000-20,000 miles). If any symptoms of pulsations, grabbing, noises, or longer stopping distance are observed, the brakes should be checked by an ASE certified mechanic that can ensure vehicle safety with corrective measures.
  1. Inspect the Exhaust System. Check for leaks, damage and broken supports or hangers if unusually noisy, and inspect the exhaust heat shields.
  1. Schedule aTune-Up.Tune for balance of power, fuel economy and reduced emissions.
  1. Check the (HVAC) System.Verify heating and cooling performance. Flush and refill the radiator according to the owner’s manual recommendation. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked a couple times during the hot driving season. To avoid costly repairs, a marginally operating air conditioner system should be serviced by an ASE qualified technician, as it will most likely fail in hot weather. Also, newer cars have cabin air filters that clean the air entering the heating and air conditioning system and will need to be checked.
  1. Inspect the steering and suspension system.Inspect shock absorbers, struts and chassis parts such as ball joints, tie rod ends and other related components.
  1. Check the tires.Check safety issues including pressure (when tires are cold), bulges, treads, and dry rot. Don’t forget to check the spare. Also, rotate the tires to avoid uneven wear and check wheel alignment.
  1. Check the wipers and lighting. Check interior and exterior lighting. Replace all burnt out bulbs. Clean off all headlight lenses with a wet rag to avoid scratches. Replace winter worn wiper blades with new ones to combat summer dust. Also keep plenty of washer solvent on hand to clean bugs off of the windshield. The life expectancy of wiper blades is 6-8 months, but can vary depending on seasonal extremes.
  1. Bonus Reminder: Reread the owner’s manual and double check its recommended service schedule. The activities listed are tested and scheduled to extend the longevity of the car—follow it religiously.

Hi-Tech Addison Auto Repair offers a complete inspection of the above for $49.98 (an $89.95 value) during the month of April. The inspection includes an oil change using up to 6 quarts of 5W30 Shell synthetic blend oil and oil filter (a $39.95 value).

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Hang with Us

You have to look for teachers. If you want to be a mechanic, go hang out with mechanics. Robert Kiyosaki

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Knowing What to Ask or Say to a Mechanic

To Ask?-2Have you ever asked how long the repair will take and found that the car wasn’t ready for an additional three hours? Or, you weren’t sure what was wrong with the car and after three days of troubleshooting you shared a trivial piece of information that happened to be exactly what the mechanic needed to repair the car within an hour.

Knowing what question to ask or comment to make is significant to the cost and timing of a car’s repair. Here are some tips that will shorten your car’s diagnostic time.

When a person asks, “When will my car be ready?” it forces the mechanic to wonder what the real question might be:

• Can I have my car back in time for my mid-afternoon appointment?
• Will I need a rental car to keep my schedule intact?
• Will you call immediately after the car is finished rather than at end of day?
• Is my car drivable until a better-timed repair date?
• Will all my car problems be fixed or just the one that brought me in?
• Is this project going to take too long and become too expensive?

We’ve received many more questions that were hidden inside of “When will my car be ready?” While mechanics are straightforward people, most car owners aren’t sure how to get to the point, or more accurately, what the real question is that needs to be voiced.

The best thing is not to ask a question, but instead tell the mechanic when you need your car back and what you think needs to be looked at. The best way to describe a problem is to be specific about what the car is doing or not doing, sounds like, smells like if applicable, and any other experience that is different than your normal driving conditions.

Do NOT test the mechanic by leaving the full hunt for a problem to him. That puts the mechanic into a difficult position. When diagnosing the problem(s) the mechanic has to guess if you want the car returned to a near new condition, functional state, or just fix the one thing that you feel needs to be fixed.

By sharing whatever information you can, the mechanic can focus on the thing that bothers you plus anything that is immediately dangerous, leaving the less critical issues for another time.

One man dropped off his car with the instructions that we were to fix it. The diagnostics didn’t reveal any critical issue or pending problem. We test drove the car and couldn’t determine what might be wrong, as nothing significant showed up. In addition, the problem may have been intermittent and never reared its ugly head during the inspection. Finally the man shared that the car was leaning to the right every morning when he drove down his street.

We double-checked the wheel alignment that was spot on and then asked a series of questions. We learned that his car only leaned to the right first thing in the morning. It turned out he lived on a street that slopes to the right. After 2.5 hours of diagnosis, test drives and exploration, we could’ve solved his problem with a five-minute conversation.

The more mechanics are told the easier, faster and more accurate the diagnosis.

© 2017 Hi-Tech Automotive Specialists, Inc.
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Interview with ASE Certified Mechanic Corey Smith

20160802_img_3087-1Corey Smith explored being a mechanic directly after high school. He heard great things from friends that attended Universal Technical Institute and decided to give it a try. His studies included both automotive and diesel systems.

CJ: Corey, why did you become a mechanic?

Corey: I didn’t want to attend a real college. I liked working with my hands, troubleshooting electrical systems and centering on high performance.

CJ: Do you believe in continuing education?

Corey: I’ve received additional certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). My certifications are for Brakes, Steering & Suspension, Engine Repair, Engine Performance, and HVAC. As for continuing education, all ASE certified mechanics have to be retested every five years to maintain their certification.

CJ: How did you get your first job as a mechanic?

Corey: My roommate was working at Hi-Tech at the time. I heard from him about the atmosphere, busy schedules and flexibility. When they decided to work over the weekend cleaning the bays, my roommate asked me to come in and help him soap the floors to get up all the oils and grease. By the end of the day, John asked me to come back on Monday as a mechanic. So I did. I’ve been here for six years.

CJ: You mentioned earlier that performance was a challenging and enjoyable focus.

150X150CoreyCorey: I love performance modification work. It requires a lot of attention to detail and taking the knowledge of how the system works to the edge, optimizing it for a higher level of performance than a new car just off the lot. I’m always amazed at how attention to that detail will give a car greater performance than when it was first made.

CJ: So, does that make you a gear head?

Corey: It’s funny when a mechanic has a hard day and just wants to get away from working on other peoples cars, then he goes home and works on his own car. It’s relaxing to have a project car at home. I have a ’87 BMW track car. It’s now ready for drifting events and other races.

CJ: Have you raced in the past?

Corey: No, I’ve just done dirt biking, trail riding and for a change of pace snowboarding—when we’ve had snow.

CJ: Sounds like you’re a risk taker.

Corey: Not really. I never exceed my skill level and pretty much take things easy until I’ve got the hang of it. I stay on the fun side, not the daring side of sports.

CJ: Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

Corey: I want to take over the shop with Jim when John retires.

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