There are times....

john_gApril 4, 2006

Another shop called me, and asked if I could look at a Subaru for a power outlet problem. I said sure. The car is a right hand drive Subaru Legacy that the lady uses for a rural mail delivery vehicle. She needs the power outlet for operating her yellow revolving light, and a few other things on occasion as part of her job.

She showed up without an appointment, just after we had started eating our lunch. To top it off, I had pulled every car that was dropped off inside because of an incoming thunderstorm where large hail was reported. I shuffled the cars around a little bit and made enough room to get hers in to, just before the storm hit. The hail was 1/2 golf ball size!

Getting started on it I was told by the other shop there was no fuse for the power outlet. To me that made no sense, it had to be fused, something made it hard to determine what or where it was. Checking the schematic I saw that the power mirrors were operated by a fuse that also controlled a relay to "the rear power outlet" As I was looking at the schematic she kept talking to me, and told me her car does not have power mirrors. Oh well, there went one quick check. I go to the car, locate the fuse block on the passengers side, oops, I mean the RH drivers side (VBG) and start checking all fuses, they are all OK. I check underhood and they are all OK. Meanwhile she is hovering over me like a worried mother, the "do this, and you can do that's" clearly made me feel like she didn't think I could test a fuse let alone figure her car out. Checking the fuse cover, I saw that there was a fuse for "cigar" listed, and the fuse block was empty at that spot. Now remember she said she didn't have power mirrors? Well she does have power mirrors, sure enough I put a fuse into the holder and then check the mirrors and they worked. But still no power to the power outlet. The next step has me needing to make a diagnostic decision, either pull the power outlet out far enough to test for power there, or go to the relay that controls it. The problem is, I have no way of knowing exactly where that relay is, my information is decidedly for a LH drive car, and I cannot be positive about how many things are the same with a RH. My service information showed the relay in the RH kick panel. Pulling it back I found the original fuse, checked it it was OK, so I put her fuse back in and kept mine.

Now the relay turns on and off with the key. So I very carefully turn the key on and off several times and listen for the relay. Silence is all I hear, it's not tripping, or at the least it's not loud enough to hear if it is. But thats enough of a reason for me to go after it for my next step.

Then she says, what did you do to my radio? The lights were on in my radio, and now that you messed around under there they went out?


I hope I looked as disgusted as I felt, I reached up to the key and turned it on, and the lights came back on. I then proceeded to collect my tools and laptop, pulled her car outside, gave her the keys and sent her away. I was within 10 minutes of finishing the diagnostics. The dealer is some fourty miles away, she can take a day off work and drive there if she wants this fixed.

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Not familiar with the power outlet bar you mentioned, but I would think the fuse block would still have provision for the option. You just have to fuse it, even if it live- wires the disconnected options. The other options on that line still have their connectors, and they are left dangling and are electrically insulated from ground anyway.

But when I get to the point of frustration you mention, it would take less time to wire the outlet bar on it's own with #12 braided wire and 20Amp fuse(pretty close capacity as #10 solid) with a two tone color insulator to make it unique from the other wires, then in-line fuse it next to the fuse box so's everyone can find it, and mention it in the owner's manual in the fuse section. Better location and safer is to fuse it at the battery positive of course. Unless all the loads have their on-off switches (again, not familiar with power bars), you'd have to provide a switch on the dash for it passing out through a grommeted hole in the firewall.

Tapping off from the cigarette lighter would be a mistake as it's a high current line and anyone lighting up when the power bar is active I'm pretty sure would blow the fuse, and you can't upgrade the fuse without frying the cable harness.



    Bookmark   April 4, 2006 at 9:22AM
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The fuse block does have a position for that fuse, it simply was empty, because some was there before me and pulled it to check it (thats the wrong way to check it) and dropped it inside the RF kick panel. Then proceeded to put the cover back on without installing another fuse. I wont rig stuff, fix it right, or send it down the road.

Which brings me to yesterdays occurance.

Fellow calls a few days back, has me on the phone for about 5 minutes and finally makes an appointment to drop off his car at 8AM. He comes into the shop about 1PM and wants to talk to me. I'm in the middle of repairing the EGR backpressure transdeucer system on a Nissan pick-up. But he asks that I talk to him instead of him talking to my wife who is my service writer. The problem with his car is occasionally he drives it, shuts it off, then it will crank but not start. This problem is random in nature, it may not do this in several times of driving the car, and then it may do it a couple times in one day. He could not give me a pattern to follow beyond the rough description of it not restarting. For ten minutes I explained to him how I approach this kind of a problem and what it will cost for me to try. For that same ten minutes, he could not understand that there is always a chance the car may not act up in the hours time that I will spend, which would mean I would likely not get to diagnose the failure but he would still be responsible for the minimum diagnostic fee. It would be his choice to continue beyond that first hour. He finally left when I said I had to get back to the Nissan and said he'd think about it.

He called back about 3:30 while I was road testing another car. It turns out his car was acting up, but instead of telling my wife that he simply wanted me to call him back. When I got back from my road test I called the number he left, but didn't get an answer. About 4:15 I called it again and talked to his wife, she told me his car acted up again and he was trying to get it started. Oh well, if he had left it....

    Bookmark   April 5, 2006 at 5:55AM
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I can simpathize with both ends here.

Have tried to explain a problem to the ticket-writer-upper and gotten the opposite of what was required. When my Lemonzeen was new under warranty the steering was too tight. Well it was that Ford power steering that uses no power going exactly straight. So it would steer ok straight ahead but if you turned the wheel it would hang a bit and veer off. I splained it to the youth at the counter (Dealer) and the streering came back tighter. Twice. I finally adjusted it myself same as an old Chev or whatever and it then steered with one finger like it should. Hated to touch it under warranty (about 200 miles) but couldn't get thru to em.

Next thing was the horn would beep any old time car running or not. I tried to get a pattern like only on left turns or only when braking, lights on or off etc. They (Dealer), older-writer-upper, tried my observed patterns a couple times but got nowhere. They were quite apologetic. Well I finally parked it in our garage and pulled a fuse then sat in the dinnette (December) and read a book till it beeped. Tried another fuse and on and on till I established the circuit in which the problem occurred. It took 2 full days and part of one night. I couldn't fix it, of course, but they took it from there and fixt it up right quick. Then it turns out there had been a service bulletin from Ford that covered it but it wasn't obviously the same problem. I can't see how the dealer or anyone could have solved it in any reasonable amount of time.

I offered my services as a trouble shooter but they declined :-)

    Bookmark   April 5, 2006 at 12:44PM
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John, most shops keep the customers out of the work area due to insurance reasons. I install telephone switching equipment. When I'm diagnosing a problem, the last thing I want is someone distracting me with stupid questions. I "feel your pain" with the situation and would keep customers away from the work area, especially when troubleshooting.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2006 at 8:45PM
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I just love the customers that bring in a problem and want to tell you how to fix it. Why did they bring it in? they obviously know better than we do how to fix.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2006 at 2:22PM
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