Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.Mark, who has been with the business for over 20 years, is an ASE Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE L1 certification, and has an associates degree in business management.
Mark is also a writer for Motor Age Magazine and is the past secretary of the Alliance of Automotive Service Professionals, (AASP).
(Printed in the Journal of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP)
(Quite a few of our customers were nice enough
to pass along comments to me that they enjoyed my style of
writing in several of my last aeticles. Well, you asked for
more, so, here it is).
It all started with a Toyota 4-Runner. One of our customers had purchased a second key-chain-transmitter from the dealer, for her 4-Runner, (at a price of $145.00). The customer called us wanting to know if we could program the transmitter so it would operate her vehicle. The dealer wanted to charge her $35.00 for this service. Since I had performed the transmitter "learn routine" on other Toyota products I figured I would give it a try. Besides, the customer had just purchased the vehicle from us and I did not feel comfortable charging her for the procedure. How difficult could it be? Well, I should have bit my tongue! Like other vehicle brands, when you add additional key- chain-transmitters, the vehicle's on board receiver has to be programmed to accept the new transmitter as an authorized one. If all the transmitters operated with the same code, everyone would be opening each others cars. The procedure makes you do a series of events so the car's onboard computer will recognize that you want to program transmitters. The procedure for programming transmitters for the 4-Runner was not in our Alldata computerized database, so I called Alldata in California and asked them to send the procedure via fax. Within an hour I had the procedure to program the transmitters. I was astonished at the steps involved to program a transmitter for this car. Are you ready? Here it goes: 1) Make sure the driver's door is open and all other doors are closed. 2) Make sure the key is not in the ignition. 3) Make sure the drivers door is unlocked. 4) Press the power door lock switch from lock to unlock 5 times, ending in unlock, and pressing at 1 second intervals. 5) Close the driver's door. 6) Open the driver's door. 7) Again press the power door lock switch from lock to unlock 5 times, ending in unlock, and pressing at 1 second intervals. 8) Place the key in the ignition and turn the key from lock to on and back to lock. 9) Remove the key from the ignition switch 10) Press both the lock and unlock buttons on the new transmitter for 1.5 seconds. 11) Press any button on the transmitter for at least 1.5 seconds. 12) The transmitter should now work properly. Well, the transmitter did not work. Then I went through the procedure again. Still, a no-go. I went through the procedure a third time, still the transmitter was inoperative. Well, I sent her back to the dealer where she had purchased the transmitter. I guess the procedure is worth $35.00. Seems like everything on cars is getting to be quite the magic act nowadays. I'd like to be a fly on the wall when their technician goes through the same procedure. I wonder if he'll be as frustrated as I was after the third time. Well, perhaps the battery is dead in the new transmitter, perhaps it is not the right transmitter for this car. Whatever!
While we're were on the subject of transmitters, I'd like to share another incident with you that centered around a similar problem. A customer came in this June to request another keyless entry transmitter for her 92 Oldsmobile Cutlas Cieria. I ordered the part, ($99.00, another factory overpriced part, my opinion of course), and called the customer to come by so I could program it to the car. The procedure in the 1992 Cieria service manual is much shorter than the one for the Toyota. That's the good news. The bad news? The service manual is wrong for the 1992 model year. The procedure in the 92 Cieria service manual said to: 1) Turn the ignition off. 2) Jump together terminals A and B of the ALDL (Assembly Line Diagnostic Link) connector under the left hand dash. 3) Press unlock on one transmitter. 4) Press unlock on the second transmitter. 5) Disconnect the jumper wire. Well, let me tell you, I must have done this procedure about six times. The new transmitter would never work. (I was ready to strangle either the transmitter or the car). Fortunately, this customer was also very patient. I decided to return to our in-shop library and pull the service manual for a year older car, a 1991 Cieria. The procedure for the 1991 was totally different. That procedure said to 1) Access the remote entry connector, (green in color), in the trunk under the left rear wheelhouse trim. 2) Put a screwdriver between the two terminals in the connector to join them together. 3) Push any button on the first transmitter. 4) Push any button on the second transmitter. 5) Remove the screwdriver and reseat the trunk trim. It worked! But why did I have to use a 1991 procedure on a 1992 car? Why did the 1992 procedure not work? Alas, it brings back memories of one of my General Motors instructors. In the past, a GM instructor told us in class that the acceptable error in a service manual for any car is 20%. Meaning that, if a typical service manual for one car is about 1,000 pages long, in that manual, it is acceptable to have a maximum of 200 incorrect pages. According to him, the manual has to be at the dealership by the time the first new car is. Due to that rush on engineering and publishing, this 20% margin of error is considered acceptable. I think that this error rate is way too high! No wonder technicians spend a portion of their day trying to figure these cars out. Even the factory service manuals are wrong! Remember, the repair work we do can only be as good as the printed service manual. If the reference information from the factory is incorrect, how good will a repair be based on flawed instructions? Who has to take the blame when something goes wrong? And, how does that end up being the technician's fault? Don't make me go there!
Then there was a recent little situation with my car, a 1997 Nissan. Several weeks ago the alternator started making a whining sound. Not really new to me as I have recently seen a pattern of 1997 Nissans needing alternators at low mileage. All replacement alternators today are rebuilt, whether you purchase them from the dealer or from an aftermarket source. Both the dealer part and the aftermarket part come with the same 12 month / 12,000 mile warranty. In addition, the aftermarket part has a considerably lower cost. With the lower cost combined with the same warranty, we normally suggest our customers use the aftermarket part. I figured I would be special and opt for the genuine Nissan alternator. Well, try putting it in. First you have to either pull the radiator completely out, or, if your brave, pull the right front wheel off, remove the air conditioner compressor, swing it aside, then pull the alternator. Although I'm only 34, its getting tiring working on cars during the day only to go home at night and work on your own car. (One of the reasons I bought an Asian car. Less repairs, or so I thought). Anyway, I opted to have our brave staff replace the alternator. Nelson was the lucky one to get stuck with such a fun job. After pulling the wheel and air compressor, the old alternator came out relatively easily. Now try putting in the new one. Well, it has to be the same size as the one that came out. Oh, really? Not! The Nissan replacement alternator has a larger bracket than the original alternator's design. Like most things in automotive, manufactures seem to have a strange mentality. "Design the new one so it will also barely fit the older models, so that we only have to make one type." Well, I'm getting sick and tired of that rationale. The replacement Nissan, or shall I call it "fits all" alternator has a wider yoke bracket than the original. As a result, the alternator bolt just barely catches two or three threads. This did not seem right to me. Especially where I bought the genuine Nissan replacement. I called a friend at the Nissan dealer. He told me that it was the correct one and, yes, the mounting bolt will hold it, but just barely. Thinking back to last month, we had another 97 Nissan that needed an alternator, yet we did not have this trouble. How come? On that car, we elected to use the aftermarket alternator. In that case, the alternator rebuilder rebuilds the old unit so you get an alternator back with the same case and bracket. Serves me right for trying to be different. Well, my car's on the road again. I hope those two or three bolt threads that are holding it in will not give way on our local bumpy roads. If you see an alternator lying somewhere in the street, please pick it up, it might be mine.