Today was the day! The launch of the Hometown Garage Rewards Card. No more coupons on things you don’t need or do need but not now. Most purchases will reward 2% of the invoice towards future work. A thank you from us at Hometown Garage on something you do need, when ever you need it. We’ll offer you a card and give you all the detail at your next service. More exciting things coming soon…check back often.
You’ve probably heard of RainX, a windshield treatment. RainX is a surface applied product that helps water bead on the windshield. The problem with it is just that – it’s a surface applied product and stays on the surface. It doesn’t last very long partially because the wipers wear it off.
We have something better – it’s like RainX on steroids. It’s not new and has been used on airplanes: most planes don’t have windshield wipers. We applied it to our staff’s vehicles to test it before offering it to you, it was a big hit with them all. The difference is, this product actually bonds into the glass instead of just sitting on top of it. It typically lasts 4 months or more. Check out the video; this is Herb’s truck not a promotional video from the manufacturer. In the video the truck is doing 65 mph in a heavy rain – with no wipers. The visibility is amazing. Ask for it at your next service: only $23.99, that’s just $6 a month. On special during May & June for only $19.99
Police: Recent Rash of Catalytic Converter Thefts in Town and Along Route 128 Be careful where you park, converter thefts are up again. Read more in the Burlington Patch.
There is no way to physically prevent these scum bags from stealing your converter. It only takes them a few seconds with a battery powered saw to make two cuts and run away with your converter. You park your vehicle, come back, start it up and it sounds like a Mack truck. The scum bag might get $50-$100 from a scrap yard and you get a repair bill that could reach $4000, depending on where it’s been cut. The good news is, all of them that we’ve repaired have been covered by the vehicle’s insurance, less the deductible.
The best defense is to be careful where you park. Scum bags like higher vehicles because they can easily slide under them and like it when they are parked close together, the other vehicles shield them from view.
Here’s the answer. We are talking about the 2005 Honda Pilot that would suddenly brake by itself. This SUV was traveling between 40-50 mph when the brakes slammed on. The driver tried to accelerate but the vehicle stopped, the engine lost power and stalled. This vehicle was towed from the Honda dealer that said it didn’t have a problem to Hometown Garage.
We approached this with the same diagnostic method we use on all drive-ability problems.
- Always believe the client. Something did happen that caused the client to come in. The description may not be 100% accurate but something did happen. We checked the NHTSA website and found more than 20 complaints that exactly matched the description we had. Unexpected brake application while accelerating, engine stall and the dealer couldn’t find anything wrong.
- Think about the symptom or complaint, do some research and formulate a logical diagnostic plan. The brakes are applying & the engine is loosing power. There is only one system in this vehicle that can apply the brakes and it can also defuel the engine. This is the Vehicle Stability Assist module (VSA). We started our diagnosis there.
- Check for codes in all the vehicles computers. Sometimes a module won’t have any codes but another module will have a code that leads us to the malfunctioning module. For example: the body computer won’t have any codes but other computers will have codes that translate to – I couldn’t talk to the body computer. That would steer us towards the body computer. It was no help in this case. There were no codes.
- Look at the data from the system in question. We are looking for something out of the normal range. We don’t always know what a normal range is for each piece of data. In those cases we are looking for something that seems illogical or that just doesn’t seem right. Houston we have a problem. The steering angle is 48 degrees off. At this point we are 15 minutes into the diagnosis, haven’t driven the vehicle, and it’s still parked where the tow truck left it
- Test drive the vehicle and confirm the condition so we can prove it’s fixed after the repair. There is a procedure to relearn “0″ degrees but we wanted to drive it first. This vehicle has a switch on the dashboard to disable the VSA system, so it was safe to test drive. If the vehicle did self-brake, hitting the switch would correct the condition. We test drove it and tried everything we could think of; highway speed, higher speed highway ramps, abrupt lane changes. Nothing worked, the Pilot drove fine.
Here’s where it got interesting. But first you need to understand a stability assist or control system. It’s usually integrated into the AntiLock Brake System (ABS) because it uses many parts of the ABS system in addition to it’s own sensors. The ABS system only functions if you’re stepping on the brake. The VSA functions all the time. It uses the wheel speed sensors, the yaw sensor, the lateral sensor and the steering angle sensor to determine if the driver is in control of the vehicle. For example: if the back end end starts to slide out the computer would apply brakes to one or more wheels to get the vehicle straight. It may also slow the engine down if it decides that’s what needs to be done. In most cases the driver never realizes there is a problem and doesn’t notice the correction. It’s fast and subtle.
In this case when the steering wheel is straight ahead the VSA system thinks the driver is trying to take a slight left turn (steering wheel turned -48 degrees). When turning left it thinks the driver is turning left turning 48 degrees more than he actually is. When taking an easy right turn (steering wheel turned 0- 48 degrees) the VSA thinks the driver is trying to turn left. Harder right turns are inaccurate by 48 degrees. The other sensors tell the computer the vehicle isn’t going where it’s being steered. How did the Pilot get to highway speed without it happening? The software in the VSA decides how much deviation is acceptable and when to help the driver.
Even though we couldn’t duplicate the condition we need to fix the problem we found. We connected a computer to the VSA system and were going to perform a steering angle learn procedure. We would put the steering wheel wheel straight ahead and tell the computer to “learn” this position as 0 degrees. Houston we have another problem. We haven’t relearned it and it reads 0 degrees. We moved the Pilot several times and it was accurate every time.
The Pilot was parked. We rechecked and moved it several times over the next 2 days. It was accurate every time. Finally we had the condition again; it was 116 degrees off. But what was different about this time. This time the Pilot had been moved to access another car and was left in the middle of the yard, not in a parking spot. The tech started it, moved it to a parking spot, left it running and checked it. We had it!
When it was turned off in the middle of the yard the front wheels were turned. The first time we checked it, the tow truck driver had left the wheels turned and we straightened the wheel after starting it; to check 0 degrees – resulting in the -48 degrees. Each time we rechecked it the Pilot had been parked with the steering wheel straight ahead from pulling into the parking spot. The VSA was learning 0 degrees every time the vehicle was started. Wherever the wheel happened to be became the new 0 degrees. If it was turned on with the steering wheel turned all the way right that became zero. Straight ahead became -420 degrees and full left became -840 degrees. Think that might cause a problem? We tried relearning 0 degrees but nothing changed.
The VSA module has several circuits that supply power to it. Some provide power even when the vehicle is turned off. This maintains the memory and 0 degree setting. These were fine and we condemned the VSA module. It is a sealed unit and the problem is internal. We documented our findings for the client, advised the client to have Honda replace the VSA module and that it would be safe to drive if the VSA was turned off with the dashboard switch. She decided to tow it home and pursue the issue with Honda. Fast forward to today. She did pursue this while the Pilot sat in her driveway for 2 years & 3.5 months.This week it was announced that Honda would be recalling 250,000 vehicles for this problem based on her efforts.
After the first Pilot we began checking every Pilot that came into Hometown. Every 2005 we checked had this condition, bringing our total to 5 in just 2 months. One was brought to us by a salesperson from Cambridge Honda as a pre-purchase inspection. When we found the condition our client decided not to buy the vehicle. We showed the salesperson the condition, told them the Pilot was unsafe and shouldn’t be sold to anyone until fixed. We gave the salesperson a copy of the documentation from our first Pilot and recommend they take both the Pilot and documentation back to their General Manager. Did they do anything about it – it appears not.
The other Pilot owners were advised to take their Pilots back to Honda. We doubt this happened. Even though we explained the problem it didn’t seem to concern them as it “never happened to them”
With so many vehicles in the recall, why have there been so few complaints? Most people park with the wheels close to straight ahead. They pull into a parking spot or the garage and the steering is straight ahead. So the vehicle relearns close to zero every time and they don’t have a problem. The problem occurs when the vehicle is started with the wheels turned and then driven under the right conditions. How far off does it need to be to cause a problem? We can’t tell you.
We didn’t do anything amazing to find this problem. What we did was use a very logical and planned diagnostic strategy. Why didn’t couldn’t the dealer find this problem or the others listed on the NHTSA website? Our guess is they didn’t take the customer seriously and didn’t take the time to wait for the problem to reappear.
If you saw the news at 11 last night you heard about an Arlington woman, who’s fight with Honda led to the recall of 250,000 vehicles. She was driving along at about 40 when her 2005 Honda Pilot slammed on the brakes by itself. After this happened a second time she had it towed to her dealer, Honda Village in Newton. They were unable to find a cause or duplicate the problem. The news story goes on to say the Honda has sat in her driveway for 2 years while she pursued this; leading to the recall. That’s not the whole story.
Here is the rest of the story. While the Pilot was still at the dealership the owner was referred to Hometown Garage. She described what happened and we agreed to look at the Honda Pilot. It was towed from the dealer to Hometown Garage. After 15 minutes we had isolated the system causing the problem and had found the problem. The problem then went away and everything appeared ok. We spent 10 minutes a day rechecking it, the condition we found didn’t reoccur. After 2 days the problem came back and the hunt was on and in 30 minutes we found it. We documented everything we found including data captures from the computer. We presented the owner with the documentation and she towed the vehicle home.
We began checking every pilot that came in for this condition and found four others. One of them was a pre-purchase inspection. A sales person from a local Honda Dealership brought the Pilot to us and our client met them here. The physical check was fine but when we checked it for this previous condition; it had it. Our client decided not to purchase it.
- We showed the salesperson the condition
- Provided them with the documentation from the first one
- Warned them it wasn’t safe to drive
- Told them to take this information back to their General Manager
- Advised them to repair the vehicle before selling it
Did the Dealer do anything? Since nothing happened for two years, it appears they didn’t do anything.
What was actually causing the problem? The issue is related to the steering and a confused computer. Want to know more? Check back tomorrow when we post the diagnose, data captures and an explanation of what happened.
High Tech Service – Old Time Value
We will be closing early on Thursday and will be closed on Friday for training. We are off to Kansas City for 3 days of training and bbq .
Hometown Garage will be closed on Monday in observance of Presidents Day.
We hope the crew will have a great day with their families.
If you decide to do the traditional car shopping thing, we are available to do per-purchase inspections (for used cars) on Tuesday & Wednesday. If you decide to buy a new car, Hometown Garage can perform all your scheduled maintenance to maintain warranty coverage. You are not required to have your maintenance performed at the dealer, it’s illegal for them to imply or tell you that it has to be done there. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnuson–Moss_Warranty_Act
Thank you all for voting us the Best Auto Repair in Region since 2003, in the Reader’s Choice Awards. We really appreciate your confidence and trust. We strive to earn them each and every time you come in for service.
It’s time to vote in the 2013 Reader’s Choice Awards and once again we would appreciate your vote.
The Hometown Garage Team
Annual Open House & Pre-Holiday Car Check
Friday December 21st
7:30am – 3:00pm
Friday December 21st will be our Annual Holiday Open House. Stop by for refreshments & holiday treats.
- Check / Top-Off Fluids
- Check Tire Pressure & Conditions
- Check Belts & Hoses
- Check Wiper Blades
- Test Battery
Congratulations to the Diamondbacks. The Burlington Intermediate Softball team, sponsored by Hometown Garage, finished the 2012 season with a 7-6-1 record. Great job!