AutoTalk: Car problem sparks technology gap

Zachary Benedict, Beacon blogger

Welcome back from Easter break! I hope you all had as great an Easter break as I did. However, my break wasn’t completely perfect, which made me think of the perfect topic for this week.

I was driving with two of my friends to go to the store on our “late-night adventures” as we like to call them, and the car we were driving, a 2012 Ford Focus, suffered a major power loss, which forced us on the side of the road.

My initial instinct was a loose battery or a loose serpentine belt, perhaps even a bad spark plug. I had to get out and inspect the engine and make sure we were mechanically stable. After my inspection showed nothing wrong, I called my dad to make sure all my work was correct.

We got back on the road, and we lost power again. We were forced to pull over again and do another inspection. After we inspected everything, with dad guiding me, nothing showed to be wrong. We had to drive about 20 miles to get home with a car that periodically lost power.

After digging into the problem a little further, we came to the conclusion that the PCM, (Powertrain Control Module, which controls every aspect of your car) which was recently replaced, was wired incorrectly and kept resetting the electronics.

It was replaced by the Ford dealership that my friend bought the car from, and she waited three months to get her car back and pay $1,000 out of pocket. Now she is forced to go back to the dealer and get it repaired again.

This brings me to my first point. Why is there such a lack of quality in the work that the dealership mechanics? They get paid based on a system called the flat rate system. For additional information, I highly recommend going to YouTube and searching ETCG1 Flat Rate System. He explains the flat rate system perfectly. So, if they’re getting paid all this money, why can they not do their job right?

This leads me to my final point. With all vehicles being electronically controlled, is any mechanical knowledge relevant in today’s day in age? Of course, there are a lot of fundamentals and diagnosis procedures that are the same. However, there are drastically different culprits that can cause a problem.

Let’s use my grandpa’s 1967 Buick GS400 as an example. If we were to have a no-start situation, and we determined that fuel is getting to the carburetor, but there is no spark, there are three main culprits that could cause no spark. The main concern would be spark plug wires, move to the spark plugs and then check the distributor.

If we were to have the same situation in my friend’s 2012 Ford Focus, there would be a significantly larger amount of situations that could cause this. Naming a few, there could be a problem with the spark plug wires, the spark plugs, checking the ignition coils, the computer could be improperly calibrated, there could be an issue with the timing, or there could be a problem with the sensors.

With today’s technology, there are many more culprits that could cause our no-start situation. If our cars were more simply engineered like the “good ol’ days,” diagnosis and car problems could be less expensive, and there would be a higher degree of quality in our dealerships.