We have found that electrical connections are biggest contributor to most failures in your automobiles electrical system. Your system is only as good as the weakest link.
So if a connector is corroded / broken, how does a shop fix the problem (correctly)?
There are a couple of options, first being the replacement of the entire harness. This can be anywhere between $200.00 to $2000.00 for the wiring harness, add installation (upward to $600.00) and sometimes more, depending on the vehicle and complexity involved.
The second approach that we like to practice is to replace the connector that is broken, repairing the harness as a whole.
This practice has become very popular to the point that we stock many of commonly used connectors for many makes and models.
Wires, Terminals, Connectors, Harness Repair | Every part must meet OEM specifications
This repair consists of extracting the wires from the harness connector (with the aid of special tools), and replacing them with a new connector in the correct order.
Great care is needed to make sure that the wires fit and are secure within the connectors consistent with OEM specifications so that performance is restored. This can be a tedious and precise process, however this is where quality matters.
The Terminals may also need replacement if damaged, if you take a closer look at the terminal removed from the connector, you will see they can be pretty delicate, and need to be in good shape to make proper contact with the other mating half. Damaged terminals can cause intermittent connection problems or no connectivity at all.
- Can you use any connector to complete the job? No, it is really crucial that you get the connector that matches the terminals and the other mating half of the connector.
Another is the compatibility factor; is it sealed, or does it have a locking secondary tab?. Installing a unsealed connector in a high moisture area is a recipe for disaster.
If that connector requires a secondary lock, many of these are installed on safety and critical systems. Without the secondary lock in place and locked, the component that it is connected to will not work properly. It will fail.
- The big advantage of repairing a wire harness.
Time and Money:
- The first is cost when compared to replacing it with a OEM harness. And that doesn't even include installation.
- The second is time, anybody who is in the auto body repair business understands, time is money, and one wrong part or unexpected problem that adds to the time it takes for a good repair.
If any of the two options go beyond what is acceptable, the repair may not be worth the price of the vehicle.
In my next blog, I’ll discuss what happens when either of these issues lead to a bigger problem for the owner and the shop doing the repair.
Convertible top rear glass replacement doesn’t have to be a difficult process.
This can be frustrating process for many people, not only are they laced with the broken window, but they have just been directed by their insurance company down a potential path to nowhere, including uncertainty / frustration.
- To understand, I want to share with you how insurance companies work. They don’t intentionally send you on a wild goose chase, it is just a by-product of trying to organize / group glass claims into one process.
Most insurance companies have turned a major share of their glass claims to third party companies, for this discussion, we will call it xyz glass claims.
Many of the times the insurance companies will have a name for this, like their “glass network”. These xyz companies process many claims on a daily basis, but have forgotten about a small component (that a convertible top rear glass repair isn't the same as a normal glass repair) and don’t quite know how to handle these claims when it concerns a convertible.
As we have evolved since our inception (1982), We pride our services on the fact that we keep up with the tactics, and work arounds to better serve our customers. This may not sound like a big deal to the newbie, so…
You call your claim into your insurance company, they intern pass it to their xyz claims people (aka their glass network).
This company has a list of preferred glass installers. To this point, this sounds like this process of convertible top glass replacement will move efficiently and smooth.
And this is where everything goes south for convertible top owners. They are not the same as the other vehicles, yet insurance companies will try to work it from the same process / platform.
- Note: Insurance companies make money being very efficient, that is no guaranty that your vehicle will receive precisely what you expect it to. With that, it is good to ask plenty of questions, and become knowledgable to ensure that you get what you choose.
Ever heard stories of the many hours of phone calls, drive time, and sometimes days before you hear of positive progress on your convertible top repair? This does happen more than you think.
Replacing this type of a window involves a specially shop, like an upholstery shop that also services convertibles. READ more to understand some key differences of your convertible top, and the standard vehicle glass replacement process.
To understand why you need a specially shop like an upholstery shop, it is best to understand how this type of window is installed.
- Most rear glass windows in cars are glued to the body using special urethanes, like windshields, and for back window installations, this is what most glass companies are set up to install.
When it involves installing something in a convertible, you will need to fit material, be able to staple, deal with fabric, fasteners, nuts and bolts. Here, the process is much more complicated than a simple replacement of glass.
And in some instances replacement of the whole convertible top is required.
- So if this happens to me, what can I do so I am not wasting my time?
You are still going to need to contact your insurance company, and your next step will involve you, as the consumer, to be proactive.
It is highly recommended that you contact the upholstery shop yourself. This not only lessens your frustration, but will speed up your repair time dramatically.
Secondly, have your insurance company contact the shop directly.
At some point in the claim process, they will send out a claims adjuster to inspect the damage and make payment.
Convertible top glass repair | Is this the easier way?
Ask someone who has been through it and what their experiences where, I meet some pretty frustrated customers that have gone through this process…. the hard way.
So how is the interior of a Hybrid or Electric car any different?
The addition of the High Voltage Electric system can make a big difference on what can be done on the interior.
Hybrid Repair | As automobiles become more sophisticated in terms of safety and comfort, also does the demand for qualified people who understand 'how' to work on them.
Now granted, it has some of the same technology driven ideas as most cars, until this same vehicle needs attention.
You might consider the obvious; the high voltage.
All of these cars have some form of disabling the high voltage system to make it safe to work on. This can be a removable plug, or a switch that once removed may result in the opportunity to safely perform procedures to get everything back up and running or an initiation process.
And where to do you think this disconnect is? It is on the inside of your car. Lets say you just disconnected the high voltage power, did you disable all the electronics in the car? (Always get the right information before you just start looking)
Nope not by a long shot. Why?
Well lets understand the system you just disabled.
It has capacitors that store power that need to be bled down, and this sometimes can take up to 5 to 10 minute and the use of lineman's gloves is a very good idea.
So now is the car disabled? It is still not, Hybrids will also have a secondary 12 volt system. This 12 volt system runs many of the interior systems, like the radio, power windows, and the airbag system. Now the airbag system is nothing to fear if you know how to handle it properly. But knowing it is still live as long as the 12 volt system is intact is important to know.
How can I tell the difference between the 2 systems? The high voltage system has bright orange cables, and these cables will run from the battery which is sometimes located under the rear seat or trunk area to the electric motor(s) usually under the hood (however, for a few, like the lexus, they could be at the rear wheels).
So why should this concern me, and the owner of the vehicle?
What would happen if you were cleaning out your car and stuck your handle in the area of the hybrid battery? Or you wanted to mount something inside your car that required you drill holes? Or you dumped over a bucket of water you were using to clean the interior.
If you can’t answer these questions, its a big deal. If your not completely confident that a repair shop can answer these questions, an even a bigger deal. Many shops will look up online or even call us when they enter the technical arena that is ‘hybrid technology’.
The point of not knowing is dangerous. Choosing someone that understands technology of today’s hybrids including especially the advanced level of education necessary to properly perform repairs. Safety and Comfort, that is what we stand for.
photo by www.thetorquereport.com
The Repair Process | Here are a few things you can expect when having your interior repaired.
- First, is the inspection process,
This where we take a look at what is wrong with your interior, (aesthetics and performance). In this process we write you an estimate so you can understand costs of the repair.
We also ask you about your needs, expectations, and how we can meet them. We don’t make an appointment at this time if parts are needed to be ordered. Too many times we would expect parts to arrive at a specified time, and instead have a car taking up your time and our space, but no parts to do the repairs (nobody wins on that one).
- The second step involves placing the order for parts, and or materials.
This will require a deposit beforehand. This part of the process can move forward swiftly, as we are fully aware of parts and materials timing, from a couple of days to a week to acquire. We have a vast number of suppliers, those relationships depend on being efficient to keep us all happy.
We order parts based on what works best for your car, not always convenience and price. We can air freight parts in, but this will add to the cost of repairs. Again, keeping you fully informed about the whole process is our expectation to giving you a good return on your investment.
- Third, once the parts have arrived to Dick and Rick’s, we will call you to set up an appointment that works for both our schedules. We have a couple of options for dropping off your car. One is; during normal hours, also if your car is dropped off the night before, we normally park them inside.
For those dropping vehicles off after hours, we have a key drop and envelopes, in which case, we can grab the keys, and start repairs in the morning.
We always try to work around the customers schedule as much as possible and most of our jobs can be completed that same day.
Occasionally, we will have a customer that would like to wait, this is possible, but not always recommended.
There are many circumstances that can dictate the length of time for a quality job done well. Some of them can be unexpected repairs in addition to the work order, workload adjustments, and these are cars that are being repaired, complex repairs and calibration (making sure that systems are OEM or better in safety and performance) don’t always go as planned.
Please, when you come into the shop, take a look at some of the projects we have going on, you’ll be amazed at how much there is behind the dash or beneath the seat.
We would rather take the appropriate time to complete this process correctly, than to give the customer uncompleted job.
Our goal in the end is to complete the necessary repairs to our high quality expectations with the least amount of down time. Our experience has shown us that when we do a little more planning in the beginning, we’ll spend less time on the backside.
Auto Repair Estimates | Expectations of a quality estimate.
During the day we receive many phone calls and emails with a wide assortment of questions. Many of those questions are about what a repair will cost.
Look at the insurance industry:
- They want to get things right and reduce paperwork. They want the car to be disassembled before the estimate is written so they can dramatically reduce the need to keep changing the estimate.
So, how do we deal with estimates when you call or fill out a form on our site? Being thorough and providing quality service starts with a good estimate, Let’s go deeper and show how we operate.
There are a lot of things that go into an estimate of repairs, and almost always, seeing the extent of the repair is very critical to have a full understanding for both parties to accomplish the goal, getting your car back to the performance and comfort you expect.
- Are requests for price to get a repair a valid question? Sure, well maybe kind of. It all depends what kind of an answer you're expecting. Think of this as the beginning of a dialogue.
If your goal is to get a general idea, great, I think this way might serve you well. If your answer has to be absolute, and right on the money when it comes to the cost, this is a bad choice for good reason.
- We encourage everyone to get an estimate, verbal is good for some, but we would rather you have it in writing.
Will we give you a written estimate without seeing the actual repair? No, not one that we can stand behind, and we state that on the estimate. Do we e-mail estimates? Yes, that is why we ask for not only your email address, but also a phone number, history has shown us that people who are serious about finding a quality provider, are also serious about having a quality dialogue.
The best method for all involved is to stop at one of our locations, have one of our estimators look at it, and talk with you, sharing valued information on what we know about your vehicle, the history of previous repairs, etc. Then let us do what we do, most times we let you get back to your busy life, and we begin the process to acquire the additional necessary information needed to provide a quality estimate. We know that for many, shopping around is part of the process.
Second method is that we ask that you send us pictures,(our forms here on the website allow you to add photos) or describe it to us on the phone.
In this instance, most of the time the quote can be dramatically off, if you are serious about your repair I would suggest the first method.
Would you jump into a project without knowing all the particulars of what is actually wrong, what needs attention, and of course what it is going to take to provide high quality performance once the work is completed?
- So what is the importance of an estimate?
This is a document that both sides can work from if any questions should arise. Can estimates change? Yes, they can and do change from time to time. 99% of the time the estimate covers the job. Being prepared will lead to a great experience for both parties.
Reality has shown us that when we disassemble and get to the root cause, we find parts that are worn and/or broken. In order to achieve good performance, it needs to be repaired or replaced, thus adding to the complexity and cost. Due to the extensive knowledge base and experience, in most cases we are able to bring to your estimate this information to keep you from having sticker shock after the fact.
Sadly enough, I wish that our estimators (as well as all others out there) were like Superman and had x ray vision, but we do not. There are too many companies that give quick estimates to get you in the door and later tell you that they need much more, we’d rather give you as much as possible up front.
What should I expect when having the repairs done in respect to what is quoted on the estimate?
There are many operations that are cut and dry, then there are some that aren’t and will not be until one digs in to find out what is below the surface. So what are those hidden necessary repairs?
Anything that can not be seen because it is covered up, this may be rotten wood in boats, broken seat frames or internal seat parts under the cover, or even broke or cut wires in a loom or holder. This list can go on, but the basic idea is that problem areas present themselves at some point, and it’s usually not at the beginning. Let’s keep going...
- Older cars that may have had been repaired before
- Parts and pieces that over time have become brittle and break easily.
- Parts that were not properly removed, and reinstalled.
- Removable parts that were left in place or worked around during other repairs on the car, etc.
So when a line item states “this is only a guess” or “pricing may change after tear down”, understand that the estimate is just that, now is the time to participate, and ask yourself ‘is this the quality shop that I want working on my vehicle’?
Auto Interior Estimates | What you can do as a savvy consumer:
Please, have the discussion with the estimator about the “what ifs”. Not all repairs are going to involve reality checks, but if they do, we want you to know ASAP and be apart of the process.
This could be so simple as to give a dollar amount to proceed, and if that is exceeded, we will call you. In the event something does arise above and beyond, our staff will call you to inform you of addition problems and charges that will occur to move the process forward.
So, now back to the original issue when that person called on the phone and asked what the cost of a repair that the repairer hasn’t seen. Was it a good question to ask? Yes, it is always good to ask questions, was it an answer you could have taken to the bank? I wouldn’t.
photo by Comicvine.com
Convertible Top Repair help | Despite the cold winter weather, the same thing happens every year.
Spring decides to appear sooner than you might think. What happens then?
Everyone else that has had a problem with their convertible top last fall, now finally realizes it, and decides to get it repaired. What to do? When to do it?
How does this impact you?
This might impact the length of your repair, worst yet when you could be riding around with your top down, it is in the shop.
A couple things to think about right now on your top:
- Is the binding falling off? This is the edging of the convertible top, as it ages, it will fray and wear until it can't hold up to the elements.
- Does your convertible top have holes in it?
- Is the back window experiencing wear & tear that might have the material coming off around it.
- Full inspection time is better now than later when you really need it to work correctly.
These are all things that are probably not going to get better on their own, but in fact, it will get worse when you start to put your top down.
Another fact is if you drive your convertible in the winter time, most of the moisture (AKA snow) is either blown off your car or brushed off. In the summer all that liquid, and every bit of it goes into your interior. If you keep your car in storage over the winter, try to an get a jump on the repairs needed.
The same thing applies to your car when you are fighting everyone else for a spot.
- One strong word of caution; don’t run your top when it is below 50 degrees for several reasons.
If you have a plastic rear window you might want to wait even longer, the older the window has become the less flexible it is in lower temperatures. They will eventually crack and fail to keep the weather out.
Also, the tops mechanical system will not fold correctly, this is in-part to the differences in the metals that are used in the frame, oil in the hydraulic system is extremely thick, and any lubricant in the joints has doubled its stiffness forcing the top to not function properly.
On some cars, the top will not even work at all because sensors and computers on the car keep them from operating when temperature and friction are not in their normal range. This is a very good thing, as to avoid a damaging event.
If you are unsure what needs to be done, seek a qualified professional, and if it is really cold out or if you're questioning the operation of the frame, plan on leaving it for awhile so it can warm up in the shop before testing.
The next time you lower your convertible top, take notice of just how many functions take place to make the event look and feel seamless.
The process is pretty amazing from what convertibles used to function like.
Every retractable convertible hard top built after the early 90’s have added technologies that make the convertible a bit easier to enjoy.
- Do you notice that the windows drop down just enough to make sure the top goes down seamlessly, and it provides a good seal for keeping the bad weather out?
- Or how about the door as you close it, again, the windows drop and then go back up allowing the door to close easily, and the windows go back up to provide a perfect seal to the top. This is technological magic that raises the bar for what a convertible top should do.
When things work really well, the experience is a good one. So, what if when things aren’t so rosy? Form is nothing when it doesn’t function properly.
Problem diagnosis / understanding:
Let’s start with something obvious, like the windows dropping down before the top. The reason I choose this example is it is easy to notice, unlike many other inputs and processes that happen behind the scenes.
Fixing this problem could be as simple as initializing your windows. This can happen with loss of power to the car, maybe you changed your battery, or you needed to jump start it after it sat for a period.
Some of these process may include having a divider or panel properly installed in the trunk (like the new Sebring, or BMW that has been equipped to keep the top from damage when retracting it).
The top in these same two cars will also not work if the trunk is not closed all the way.
Like I said, sometimes the problem isn’t so obvious.
- A couple more not so evident safety features are; speed, some require the parking brake to be engaged, or your foot on the brake pedal.
- How many people know temperature is also a factor, if it is too cold many tops will also not operate, not because it is too stiff, but the car will cut the power to the top itself to render it inoperable in order to save potential damage.
Fail safe systems are built into today’s cars to minimize damage, some end up being too sensitive or not sensitive enough. We hope that the engineers take the necessary steps to avoid issues, not always the case.
Todays convertibles have many features to protect the operator from what they don’t know, and sometimes from themselves.
These are only some of the factor that control your top. So what do you think happens when one of these features fail to do what they were designed to do? When things go wrong, or even start to be out of alignment, or worse don’t work at all, then what?
Always refresh your memory and read / reread the owners manual. I know, no one wants to hear that, we just want it to work (it worked yesterday, why not now?).
Simple, over time, things get out of alignment, when they do, we are a great resource to get things right again.
Asking questions to better understand your situation is just one of the many things we do for convertible tops, if you want it right, we are here to help.
photo from iveho.com
Heated seats have become as common as power windows, and air conditioning | Repairing them is more than put part A into slot B.
Think back 10-20 years, what was expected of a standard and luxury vehicle? Today, we take many more items for granted as technology pushes us forward.
Along came heated seats, with that, again, expectations of what is comfortable is forever changed for the better.
Over and over, we hear:
- What’s wrong with it?
- How much is it going to cost?
What we hear people really saying is: I want it fixed right, for a reasonable cost, and I will shop around for the best deal.
We understand, we are consumers much like you. Heated seats are another thing to deal with when they don’t work. We want to get things fixed and move on with our lives.
Reality of the situation: Without physically getting involved with it, how do you really know what the cost to properly repair it will be? You don’t?
And besides, if you do just throw replacement parts and it, and it still doesn’t work, you still have the time and parts cost into a project that doesn’t have a desired result.
We have done extensive research on the topic of seat heaters, we make it quite clear that we do not want to be the lowest priced shop around. Our experience has shown us that what looks like a simple repair, isn’t always put part A into slot B, move on to the next vehicle, if it is we will share that as well when that happens.
If your heated seat fails to do its job, it isn’t as simple as just throwing parts at it with the hope that it will work. This process can be a costly way to solve the problem.
To fix a problem like this, it is important (as a shop or dealer, or DIY) to understand how the system works. Most people that choose us, want it done right the first time, and end up using us for other work as well. Why?
All seat heaters are not the same, the principle might be, however, that is where the similarity ends.
- Case in point, many seat heater systems work in series, meaning the cushion heater is dependent on the backrest heater to be working correctly to be able to heat.
This will double the cost of the repairs if both components are bad, even worse if heater element is part of the seat cover itself.
Now the repair has really gotten expensive.
The other scenario is they may work independently, but you need to remember there are other electrical bits that allow this to happen.
These items can include modules, switches and relays. How does this affect the process of the repair? There are more parts that can fail, and more to the proper diagnosis of the heating element system. This explanation is for a factory system, there are also aftermarket heaters that have same general process, but with variation.
So you can see by simply asking “what is wrong with the heated seats, they don’t work” should lead to a full diagnosis before just replacing components.
It is not the repair or replacement of components that matter in most cases, it is the diagnostic capabilities of the shop working on it.
Yes, the seat heater is failing to work, one must ask why?
Where is the exact problem?
Having the experience in diagnostics and understanding the complexity of the system as a whole leads us to having an edge to getting it fixed correctly, and in the shortest amount of time.
Problem analysis isn’t always so simple to answer.
I will say, the most common problem is the seat cushion element burning out . This is due to the fact that every time the car is used, the drivers seat is sat in, and over time the flexing can cause the element to break.
Sometimes you can get lucky, and that will solve the problem on the other hand there is nothing worse than spending to your money, and time without satisfying results.
When you ask for a price, please know that getting it right may take a little more time up front, however the long term value will be worth it, as in reliably warm buns in the winter.
Fixing a seat can range all over the scale. Some common factors that can dictate what it may
cost can range from types of material, and amount used, to brand, and year of the car.
When we look at a seat repair, we look at all the components involved,...
many times, there is a lot more going on than just a torn cover (as in the interior of the seat is worn out as well).
We have repaired many other shop repairs because the seat cover was fixed, and now the seat looks wrong, all loose fitting. The seat cushion was compressed and worn out, a good looking seat cover won’t look so good when the internals are broken down.
Let’s start with something quite common; take a look at this truck seat in a General Motors vehicle. Here we have a common occurrence, a torn and worn out seat cover and padding.
When you bought it, they told you you had leather seating surfaces. They are right you have leather in your seat, just not all of it.
Leather Seat Repair | Now is this a bad thing? Not necessarily.
In some areas, vinyl actually works better, tends to hold up in terms of durability and appearance better than leather.
Now leather is leather, nothing feels, smells, and looks like leather.
Leather also requires different and more care than vinyl.
Knowing this can help you understand what goes into the cost of a good repair and what to expect.
Additional note on pricing: Automotive grade leather is sold by the square inch and vinyl is sold by the yard, so there is a huge cost difference in cost of materials needed to do the repair (this is an industry standard).
The next factor is how it stitched together, decorative top stitching, and difficulty of how it is assembled will also play a factor in cost, simple is less expensive. We utilize all OEM spec patterns, and many chosen for personalization, please check with us.
Now, sometimes the hidden factor is the seat foam pad. This will also add to the cost, but repairing the pad while the cover is off makes the most sense.
When getting the seat cover repaired it might be a good idea to mention that if the seat sits low or crooked. This is much easier corrected instead of making this an afterthought in which case the seat will need to come back out of the car and cover removed for a second time, remember if you plan on keeping your car your back and butt will thank you for this foresight.
How do you know what it will cost to get a quality repair?
Pictures are a good way, but it doesn’t replace actually sitting in the seat live, and in person with the technician to better understand / identify problem areas.
We give many estimates based on pictures, but stand behind none of them. Experience has taught us that only works some of the time, and always leads to bad start to a great repair.
Getting a quality repair estimate & outcome | If you want a quality repair, getting all that is important leading up the actual work is better if we both work together to create a win-win situation.
Auto Interior Tech | With every new year and new model, the automotive industry makes design changes.
The biggest design advancements of today’s vehicles are in occupant protection and electronics. Let’s take a look:
- “Steer by wire” whereby the front wheels are turned by electric motors as you turn the wheel. This method is going to become the norm, steering mechanicals being replaced by more advanced, multiple fail-safe systems.
- Interior monitors embedded on the inside of your car for your safety and comfort, the result of data collected from NTSB, and 1000’s of black boxes add to the engineering of a safer, more enjoyable transportation experience.
- Noise canceling signal negates low level sound in the car to make a quieter and more pleasant experience. A great addition to making a long daily drive smoother and quieter from the outside noisy world.
- Inflatable seat belts, think about it as having an Airbag in your seat belt to lessen the strain / impact on person wearing during a collision. Why does that matter? If you have been in a head on hit, the slamming into the seatbelt can easily leave you bruised and sore.
These are just a few examples of technologies that are out right now, and there are many more to come. Today's automobile technology is 5x greater than just 10 years ago.
For anybody that works on cars, it is important to have a solid understanding of what, where, how electronics impact the car as a whole. Simple put. electronics are the backbone of the car, we truly live in the information technology age.
We are an automotive interior shop. so I will put the question out there;
- What does this have to do with the interior or why would you need to know this type of information to properly fix a car?
Simply put, everything at one point ends up either going through or is incorporated in the interior of the car. This is a game changer when it comes to effectively repairing your automotive to OEM specs / performance.
Every safety system that protects the occupants ends up in the interior and this might be a wire harness, computer, sensor or even action items like airbags.
Lets take something like the brakes as an example. The brakes in many cars have skid control, ABS, traction control, wheel speed sensors and laterteral and longitude sensors.
Including the warning lights on your instrument cluster, it is important to note that over half of the mentioned items reside on the interior. Take those systems add in the fact that they are tied into / monitored by other safety systems (cruise control, engine management system, etc.).
Just remember, some of these cars will even stop for you if they sense an object either in front or behind you with reverse sensors or radar cruise control, thus the hope of avoiding a collision.
Knowing this stuff is not a one day tech seminar every couple of months. Having the knowledge and equipment to properly work with it is the second part. Being a leader in Automotive interiors is more that fixing seat and replacing carpet. It’s understanding what you are working on and keeping updated on product improvements, and processes (they are constantly changing) to meet the needs of consumers when their remarkable automobiles need repair over just replacing parts until things work properly.
photos by I-car.com