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A Publication of Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service
Vol. 8 No.2.........Spring  2002

Maxima Alternators Cause Fire.
Software Trouble?
Independent Service Facilities Top J.D. Power Survey. 
Customer Questions History Of Antifreeze. 
Website Generates E-mails From Around The Country. 
In Passing. 

Our E-mail Address: 

Our Phone Number Is 508-999-3213 

    Maxima Alternators Cause Fire.  
 This past fall, we witnessed two separate 1997 Nissan Maximas develop alternator fires. Both vehicles were in the shop for the complaint of "a whine noise from the engine area". Upon testing it was found that both vehicles had very noisy alternators. Although the vehicles were serviced on separate dates, after being parked a while, both developed underhood fires that started inside the alternator. Fortunately, the incidents happened during working hours and our staff was able to extinguish the fires. 

As a result of these incidents last September, we filed  recall/complaint reports with the National Highway & Transportation Administration, (NHTSA). Finally, this February, we received a phone call from an investigator there. The NHTSA investigator asked us detailed questions about how the fires started. The investigator also advised us that a total of eight separate complaints had been received for alternator fires on 97 Maximas. 

NHTSA plans to continue their investigation of these alternator fires. Should they establish enough evidence that a large amount of Maximas are involved, they will issue a recall and owners would receive a letter by mail. 

Until then, if you own a 1997 Maxima, or a similar model year that develops a loud whine noise from under the hood, we would advise you not to park the vehicle under an enclosed structure like a garage or carport and to have the vehicle inspected by our staff as soon as possible. 


 Software Trouble?
  Many vehicles today use multiple computers to control hundreds of functions. These computers often communicate to each other through a "Controller" or "Local"  area network. 
The network reduces wiring and duplication of costly sensors. The network will transfer data between computers. It is becoming common that a fault in one system can cause unrelated symptoms in another system. Diagnostic nightmares created by software faults in today's computer laden cars are becoming more evident each day. 

Recently, we learned of a 2000 Mercedes-Benz E320 that was brought in for service with a complaint of an inoperative radio, CD changer, navigation, voice control and telephone operation. The Mercedes diagnostic scan tool device was able to communicate with all computers normally with the exception of the radio, CD changer, navigation, voice control or telephone. The scan tool reported that "no fault codes were present".  A wiring inspection of the above affected items proved that everything was plugged in and powered up normally. It seemed nothing was wrong, yet these items were inoperative. What happened to the function of these devices? Was there a link that caused them all to fail at once? The service technician called the Mercedes technical assistance center. After a discussion with someone at the assistance center, it was learned that there is a programming upgrade that will cure the problem. The assistance center sent the dealership an email containing a reflash program for the troubled Mercedes. The email is downloaded by the technician into a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant).  Using an adaptor cable from the PDA to the vehicle, the technician reprogrammed the vehicles's cell phone. This cured all the vehicles symptoms. 

In this case, the software programming in the phone's control unit had allowed a learned function, such as programming of the phone book, to overwrite and inhibit normal functions of the phone. The inhibited functions created a data fault that eventually migrated across the network and disabled the components using the fiber optic cable network in the vehicle. Good thing Mercedes chose to run the engine powertrain on a separate network, otherwise the vehicle's driveability might have been affected. 


 Independent Service Facilities Top J.D. Power Survey.
 A recent J.D. Power and Associates study based on responses from more than 41,000 owners of 1997 model-year vehicles, found that independent service facilities rate exceptionally high in terms of customer
service satisfaction. In fact, when compared to a whopping 56 alternatives, they beat out every single automotive service chain and new car dealer service department, with the exception of Lexus.  According to J.D. Power and Associates' Joe Ivers, partner and executive director of quality and customer satisfaction research; "Customers approach the vehicle ownership experience with concrete expectations about service. Poor service treatment during the warranty period by dealers tends to drive customers to aftermarket facilities". J.D. Power's John Harbicht, senior manager of service satisfaction, echoes the sentiment: "Independent garages often provide a high level of personal service that instills confidence and trust in their customers. Customers who use these facilities are very pleased with the quality of the service they receive and the ease and convenience of using these garages".

Customer Questions History Of Antifreeze.
  Recently our customer, Jean Bellenoit, called our service department with a question that we could not answer off the top of our heads. Jean was having a discussion with some friends on a recent cold winter evening when the topic of antifreeze came up. Several of her friends believed that antifreeze was created in the 1960's. Meanwhile, Jean thought that the invention of antifreeze went back to the 1920's and 1930's. Turns out Jean was right. After doing some research, out staff was able to find documentation that dated antifreeze back to the 1920's. Here are some of the facts we found out:

The antifreeze/coolant business, as we know it today, began with the marketing of "Prestone" brand ethylene glycol antifreeze in 1927. It was pure ethylene glycol in cans, with published charts showing protection afforded by specific quantities. It would not boil away or burn, and was comparatively odorless, offering a distinct advantage to some of the substances used previously. 

In 1930, Prestone developed and marketed the first inhibitor to further protect the cooling system and retard rust formation. 

In the early 60s, all three U.S. car companies - Ford Motor Company, General Motors and Chrysler - began installing a 50% water and 50% ethylene glycol antifreeze solution in their new cars, which led to the
emergence of antifreeze/coolant as a year-round functional fluid - just as important as engine oil or automatic transmission fluid. 

 In 1972, the product was reformulated to incorporate the unique, patented silicone-silicate copolymer which greatly enhanced its inhibitor effectiveness, particularly for aluminum cooling system components. 

In 1981, Prestone® antifreeze/coolant was again reformulated to provide even better corrosion protection for the increasing number of aluminum cooling system components used in cars. 

In 1994, Prestone introduced many new products in the antifreeze and car care categories including Prestone® LowTox™ antifreeze/coolant, Prestone® Extended Life 5/150 antifreeze/coolant and RV antifreeze.  Prestone LowTox antifreeze/coolant provides an added margin of safety against accidental ingestion by pets and wildlife and is endorsed by the ASPCA. Extended Life 5/150 antifreeze/coolant provides protection for 5 years or 150,000 miles and is licensed by NASCAR®*. RV antifreeze protects potable water systems from freeze-ups. Prestone antifreeze/coolant became the official antifreeze of NASCAR®*. 

 Website Generates E-mails From Around The Country.
 It seems as though the repair information on our web site: is becoming quite popular. Here are some of the recent e-mails we have received from vehicle owners across the country. Our "Hesitating Jimmy" article that also appeared in Motor Age magazine, seems to be particularly helpful to the public.

Subject:  Thanks for "the Hesitating Jimmy
   Date:   Sun, 13 Jan 2002 18:20:31 -0800 (PST)
   From:  Ron Baker <>

We have a 95 Blazer and for a while have been having  a problem with cold starts, rough idle, rich exhaust and poor gas mileage. We replaced the water temp. sensor and the little idle motor above the thermostat area on top of the intake manifold. Lately it began to scare us, then for a while it would seem to improve. We used a lot of Fuel additives and even some mystery oil, thinking a sticking valve was a contributor. Since, that not working, I said: "bite the bullet and have the Chevy dealer check for computer trouble codes". They told us no sensors were showing trouble but they told my son that it probably was a fuel pressure regulator and claimed it would run over $1000 and then some.  They told my son those cars are about worn out at it's present mileage, (about 120,000), No way, I said, as my 90 safari van has 250,000, with basically the same engine. Somewhere my son Scott found your article on the Internet. We looked at the photos and read the text, and pulled out a Chiltons repair manual. We do some stuff in the garage, and with your info we figured we'd give it a shot. Advance Auto Parts ordered in a Sorenson replacement; (as they said they could not get AC Delco), $299, that's better than the $500+ Nash Chevy wanted just for the part. (Funny how you said $500 in your descriptive). Some fool I am, since I never saw a distributor cap I thought they had some magic way of getting around one. (We had new wires put on a while back) But by the time we took off the upper manifold we decided to replace the dist & rotor also, along with thermostat and radiator hoses. With fingers crossed, by Sunday night, we were ready to crank, and after we realized the coil wire wasn't hooked up, we  cranked again and voila! Seems like it hasn't run that nice in a while, and even at idle, no strong exhaust.

In a very large way our success was related to your write up, giving us confidence, explaining more than
the dealer service department for a nice fee, and confirming our suspicions it was not needing the engine pulled for a major valve job.

Scott and I want to thank you.

Ron Baker, Stone Mt GA 

Subject:  Motor Age mag article
   Date:   Fri, 8 Feb 2002 14:49:32 -0800 (PST)
   From:  rainbow for mike <>
Dear Glenn and Mark,

I have recently visited your website and found your article "hesitating Jimmy" article.

I have experienced the same problems and followed the steps you mentioned to attempt to remedy the situation. I was relieved to see that I was not the only one to have exhausted so many options to isolate this problem. 

I have a 1993 Chevy 4x4 Blazer Tahoe.  Your article has been very helpful and I would like to know how frequently this problem occurs. I have considered purchasing a similar vehicle, but am concerned as to whether this is a common problem. 

As experts in the automotive repair industry, do you consider the leaking fuel pressure regulator diaphragm to be a manufacturer's defect?  Do you consider the use of polycarbonate/plastic fuel feed and return lines that are part of the CMPI system hardening and cracking, to be a similar manufacturer's defect? 


In Passing.
(Obituaries Courtesy The Standard Times) 
 We were saddened by the loss of our friend and employee, Joe Caesar. Many of our customers remember Joe as service manager from 1971 to the early 1980's. After a brief retirement, Joe returned to work for us transporting customers and vehicles. Born in New Bedford, Joe worked at Elm Motors in New Bedford as service manager, then here for us in 1971. Joe loved the outdoors and wildlife and was an avid hunter and fisherman. He was a lifetime member of the Washington Club and a member of the National Rifle Association. He was a former member of the Fairhaven Saltwater Fishing Club and a former member of the New Bedford Rifle Range. 

Rita Marie Heon, lived in Dartmouth most of her life. Mrs. Heon was a secretary and bookkeeper for Sacred Heart Cemetery, New Bedford, for more than 20 years. She was a  member of the Junior Women's Club and the Exchange Club of New Bedford. She was also a Red Cross volunteer in Hamden, Maine. 
She was a people person who lived life to the fullest. She loved children and animals and enjoyed nature and the ocean. Walking the beach was one her favorite pastimes. She was a dedicated wife and loving mother. 

Pauline J. Monteiro, was a lifelong New Bedford resident, she was a communicant of Our Lady of the Assumption Church. Mrs. Monteiro was an inspector at Cornell Dubilier Electronics Corp. until her retirement. She was a former member of the Martha Briggs Educational Club. 

Alycia S. Lopes, born in New Bedford, she was a lifelong city resident. She was a communicant of St. Julie Billiart Church, North Dartmouth. Mrs. Lopes was the former owner of Cold Brook Pines in Dartmouth. She was a member of the New Bedford Council on Aging.

Alfred L. Farland, a lifelong resident of New Bedford, he was a communicant of St. Anne's Church. Mr. Farland was formerly employed by Larry's Movers as a mover and later by Brittany Dye Co. until he retired. During World War II, he served in the Army and participated in the battles of Tunisia, Naples-Foggia,  Rome-Arno, Southern France, the Rhineland and Central Europe. He was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal and the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater Campaign Ribbon.


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New Bedford, MA 02740
Phone: (508) 999-3213
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