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Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Replacing the Achieva's radiator (and yet another rant on Haynes manuals)

Spent a lot of yesterday swapping out the radiator in Kelly's Oldsmobile. It wasn't an easy task, and predictably, replacing the radiator in an Oldsmobile Achieva with a Quad Four is a lot harder if you try to do this the way the Haynes manual says to do it. For example, the manual states that you should remove the radiator fan, and that you can simply unbolt the fan and drop it out through the bottom of the engine compartment. Wrong. After a couple hours of fighting with that fan, I finally realized that it isn't physically possible to pull the fan out of the Achieva's engine compartment if both the radiator and the engine are in place. There is literally not a single gap it will fit through without cutting the front subframe up with a Sawzall. So I finally pushed the fan back and as far down as it would go, and gained enough space to pull the radiator out the top of the car.

This morning, I checked on Alldata, which is more or less transcribed from the factory service manuals. The procedure they give for removing the radiator fan shows the Hayes manual left out a critical piece of information: The only good way to remove the radiator fan on a Quad Four powered Achieva is to unbolt the front motor mount and push the engine back.

I mentioned this to a co-worker, and he noted that in the Subaru world, Haynes is notorious for leaving out a key note in the timing belt directions that results in one part being installed 180 degrees out. I can understand making a mistake. What I can't understand is that, when this mistake was brought to their attention, Haynes neither chose to come up with a second edition nor even include an errata insert noting this. Protecting a reputation is vital to ensuring your product's success. If you don't make sure your repair guides are accurate, word will get out, and people will turn to competition. That's why I make a point of buying factory service manuals instead, although this is the first time I've personally encountered a Haynes manual botch a description so badly that their procedure isn't physically possible. The Haynes manual came with the car, in case you were wondering.


Monday, May 25, 2009


A Memorial Day post

Because this blog is mostly about automotive technology and the like, I'd like to open my post with this video:

This is a prototype of the Ripsaw MS1 combat robot, which I found out about via Popular Science. Will gun-toting robots replace human soldiers soon?

Not really. The Ripsaw is what's called a force multiplier. It's there to help soldiers, but it can't fully take their place. There's a need for somebody to control the Ripsaw and tell it what is and isn't a legitimate target. A Ripsaw can't fight insurgents house to house and leave the houses standing. It may have artificial intelligence, but that's not going to be a substitute for human intelligence. There's still going to be a need for American soldiers to put their life on the line defending her safety. And to those soldiers, I would like to acknowledge my debt of gratitude. Valor and courage are not obsolete.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


One automotive related company may be going belly up - and I'm glad to see it

Looks like the Feds finally got Transcontinental Warranty Inc and Voice Touch Inc. - the scum who are apparently responsible for those robo-calls announcing that your car warranty is about to expire. I had a run in with these guys a couple months ago, or at least someone with the same business model. I asked for a live operator when they called, and the first thing I did was ask for their company's name and contact information. The operator's response was "Very funny," followed by an immediate hang up. Now what sort of professionalism is that, training a company's reps to not even tell prospective customers what company they're dealing with? The only actual identification they gave was, "Warranty center, this is Matt," and I was able to trace the call to what may have been a spoofed number. I have to wonder what he would have done if had stayed on the line and found out the only cars in the household were a 1995 Oldsmobile Achieva with nearly 200,000 miles, a 1995 Honda Civic that sees occasional racing use and a number of dyno flogs at work, and a 1966 Dodge Dart.

For further reading, check out the FTC filings against Voice Touch and Transcontinental Warranty. My experience seems to be in line with item 14 on the complaint: "In some instances, Defendants expressly claim to be calling from the consumer’s automobile dealership or manufacturer. Defendants’ telemarketers routinely hang up on any consumers who question Defendants’ affiliation with the consumer’s automobile dealership or manufacturer."


Saturday, May 09, 2009


Mad Scientist Matt's Lair: The Book?

Well, not quite, but Jerry and I just finished up writing a book on fuel injection and sent it off to HP Books last week. Next it needs to make its way through editing, so it could take a year or so before it hits the shelves. Readers of this blog may be able to spot most of the cars I've owned that I mentioned here on this blog - the Civic, Corvette, Spitfire, and Dart all made it in either as illustrations or mentions in the text.


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