Giammalvo Files
Mark Giammalvo

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).
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Not Looking All That Professional

(Printed in the Journal of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP) 


(I wish to again thank all the customers that have expressed appreciation  for my recent articles.  It has proven to be a conduit for me to voice and share my personal thoughts on automotive and other issues).
 Recently a customer came to me with a complaint of poor fan performance on his Buick. When the customer would turn on the heater/air conditioner, the fan would not always blow any air. I tested the 2 wires going into the heater fan motor. The power and ground wires tested good, yet the fan would not run. If I smacked the fan motor itself, the fan would turn on for a short period of time. It was obvious that the fan motor was faulty and required replacement. I figured I would save the customer some money and order a fan motor from an aftermarket supplier, as opposed to getting a fan motor from Buick, which would be more costly. Besides, the warranty on both is the same, so why install  the more expensive Buick one? I ordered the aftermarket fan motor and had the customer come by the next day. 

Just an aside to my story here; The fan motor is mounted on the engine firewall under the hood. The replacement fan motor does not come with the fan blade, which in automotive parlance, is called a "squirrel cage." The squirrel cage does not look like a traditional house-hold summer fan blade. If you've ever had a hamster or seen a lab rat, they often will play on a little wheel that they run on like a treadmill. This looks very similar to the fan blade in a car, hence the name squirrel cage. (Although, I've never seen a lab test with a squirrel running on one of these. Perhaps it should have been named "hamster cage.") 

Anyway, I swapped the cage from the old motor to the new motor and installed the assembly back into the car. After bolting everything together, I gave the customer the keys and was onto my next job, or so I thought. The customer came back in and said that although the fan now worked, there seemed to be a problem with the fan's performance. He said that the fan did not seem to blow as much air on the high setting than the old one did and that it seemed to vibrate now when on high speed. I removed the fan to recheck my work. Other than a small crack in the cage, I could not find a problem. I knew the crack was the most likely cause of the vibration, but I could not account for the complaint of the fan not blowing as forceful on high speed. Not knowing whether or not I had cracked the cage, I offered to order a new cage and replace it free of charge. The next week the new cage came in and I had the customer come by for installation. Again, I removed the fan motor and cage assembly, put the new cage on the motor, and bolted the assembly back into place. Bringing the customer out to the car, I let him check the operation of the fan. He agreed that the vibration was gone, but still felt that the fan did not blow as much air on the high setting as the original fan motor did. Not finding any other problem, I decided to order a genuine Buick fan motor. Now, here's  where the fun began. When I called Buick to order the  motor something interesting happened. The Buick parts counterman wanted the stamping number off the old motor. Well, that was not possible since I had thrown the original motor out two weeks ago. When I asked why he needed the number, he said that there were two different fan motors and that he needed the old motors stamping number in order to get the correct one. Well, I wasn't about to go to the dump to search for the old motor. Needless to say, I told him to order both. They both came in that week, so I called the customer and had him stop by. I installed the fan motor that, by my memory, had most resembled the one I had removed two weeks prior. Sure enough, when it was installed, it performed much faster on the high speed setting. Not only that, it even came with a new cage. The customer was happy. I was happy. 

Needless to say though, this whole incident left me a little bitter with the automotive aftermarket parts industry. Yes, the aftermarket motor was cheaper in price for the customer, but look at all the time and effort I had to go through. I wound up removing and installing the assembly three different times. In addition, what about the two different designs? How come the aftermarket fan company only makes one "fits all" fan motor for this car? Perhaps they are unaware that there were two different ones on this model Buick. Although I attempted to save the customer some money, I sure did not look all that professional in the process. It makes me wonder if I should just order factory parts from now on and forgo the possible savings. Well, put it this way, I sure won't be ordering any aftermarket fan motors anytime soon. 

What did you think of this article on the aftermarket parts industry? Any comments or ideas? Or perhaps a comment on one of  my past articles. Let me know, give me a call or send me an email at:







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