Showing posts from February, 2011

The Jumping Off Point

This is the point where it either happens just as it should, doesn’t happen at all, or maybe just sort of happens in a way that is so insignificant that it hardly has an impact on anything. Either way it’s the point of no return. The jumping off point that I am talking about is the spark plug. This is the place where the spark that ignites the air fuel mixture enters the combustion chamber. This is the last component in what’s known as the secondary ignition system. The energy that powers the wheels of the car originates in the gasoline, but if the spark does not meet up properly with the fuel and the air after they are already mixed, then the energy conversion known as combustion doesn’t occur. Or at least only partially occurs. Anything less than the best when it comes to combustion leads to low power, high emissions, and poor fuel economy.   Even though all spark plugs look the same they aren’t. Subtle differences in design change the way the spark jumps the gap. The spark must jump

Working with Dad

One of the reasons that I became an automotive technician was because I spent a lot of time working on cars with my father when I was a kid. I associated hanging out with dad in the garage with having a good time, and fixing cars is what we did; therefore, fixing cars was also a good time. Knowing the things that I know now about working on these silly machines, it makes me smile to think back on some of the things that my dad used to do out in the garage, not for any enjoyment on his part, but because he was usually too cheap to take it to a shop. My father has a mind for mechanical things so he was always able to figure out what needed to be done to fix the car, and then he was able to nearly always figure out how to actually perform the repair. As a kid I thought he was amazing because he could fix anything. Looking back now I think he was amazing because he took the time and put forth the effort to bust his knuckles on some old piece of junk, so that he could save some money to spe

Computers and Multiplexing

Like everything else in our lives, computers are taking over the controls of everything on the modern automobile. How many computers does the average car contain? You might guess one or two but you would be wrong. Maybe you never even realized that cars had computers controlling everything. The most basic stripped down featureless car nowadays contains at least 4 or 5. One that controls the engine and/or transmission, one that controls, the instrumentation, one or two that control body related functions such as windows, doors, or even the dome light, and one that controls the airbag system, and so on. Very high end, feature filled cars could have 20 or more different control units all tied together in a network of control. A typical engine control computer Dome light you say, how and why is that controlled by a computer? Remember back in the old days when you would leave the car door open overnight only to find the battery drained the next morning? With a computer controlling the dome

My Rides

Just a few words about the vehicles that I drive. If you want to know what a person is like you can tell a lot by looking at what they drive. Considering that the automobile is a direct reflection of personal preferences, lifestyle, and of course status, looking at what’s in the garage correlates with what’s in one’s mind, heart or bank account. This rule doesn’t always apply but it does most of the time. My daily driver is a 1993 Toyota Land Cruiser. I have had this one for about 7 years now. During the summer months it sees more dirt roads and two tracks then it does pavement. This vehicle is not modified at all but it is still an excellent off-roader. This rig has a 4.5 liter I6 with 24 valves and DOHC. During the winter time this vehicle handles extremely well in snow because it is always in 4WD and it has ABS. Toyota Land Cruisers are tough and the proof is in the fact that it has a live front axle and a full floating rear axle. This thing has been off road a lot and it never give

One Trick Pony

Some say that an automotive technician needs to know all kind of things in order to fix the modern automobile. Being proficient in things mechanical and knowing how to turn a wrench is not enough anymore. An effective automotive technician must have skills in the worlds of electricity, electronics and computer control systems with network communications, hydraulics, refrigeration, chemistry and the laws of thermodynamics, and all sorts of other things. The problem here is that even the best automotive technician never becomes an expert in any of these things. You could say however, that the auto tech doesn’t know everything about anything, but knows something about everything. I have been an automotive technician officially for about the last 12 years, but I have been working on cars my whole life. In recent years I have been working as an instructor of automotive technology at a small community college. Sometimes I think that working on or around cars is the only thing that I have eve