Maxima Alternators Cause
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
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.
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.
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
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
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®*.
E-mails From Around The Country.
It seems as though the repair information on our web site: www.samscars.com
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 <email@example.com>
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
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dear Glenn and Mark,
I have recently visited your website and found your article "hesitating
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
(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