Daily Telegraph Business Club features the Parts Alliance

Recognition for our prowess is gaining momentum, and not only within the automotive industry. Our innovative business model and reputation for customer service has drawn the attention of The Daily Telegraph. Who recently spent the day with us, filming for part of their ‘Business Masterclass’ series.

Impressed with our shrewd acquisitions and commitment to technology, they sat down with CEO Peter Sephton to discuss the growth of the Parts Alliance. He made it clear that our success in this industry stems from our due diligence and unique business philosophy. “The decision making is at the branch level, as it should be, close to our customers.”

Take a look at the video below:

In order to understand how we’re taking the lead in this field they also visited local independent garages, speaking directly with the people who are benefiting from working alongside us. However, it’s our future thinking and investment in technology that’s really caught their attention. Innovations like PartVend, successfully trialled by the AA and which allows for 24 hour access to parts is an unprecedented step forward in the industry.

By integrating the above with our systems such as AlliCat and Parc, we displayed how we have simplified and improved the process of sourcing parts for garages and private customers alike.
It should be clear to all that we will continue to grow and evolve within this sector, revolutionising the industry for the benefit of all our customers.

Read the full feature in the Daily Telegraph Business Club here.

Understanding & preventing brake judder

What is brake judder?

A major cause of brake judder is disc thickness variation (DTV). This is often misinterpreted as ‘warped discs’. Disc thickness variation (DTV) is the term used for the variation in thickness on the friction faces of the brake disc. DTV occurs when the Brake Disc becomes worn in a single area of the disc surface.

This wear is caused by excessive run-out during installation of the disc due to corrosion of the hub face and /or wheel studs, elongated bolt holes or the presence of foreign matter or debris, for example those found in copper based grease products.

What are the symptoms of brake judder?

Initially none, but ‘run-out’ will cause DTV and then judder and vibration during braking, typically after approx. 2000-4000 miles.

Although excessive run-out is a major factor in the generation of DTV It is equally important to check the following:

  1. Check the brake caliper pistons for any signs of sticking or seizure.
  2. Check the brake caliper slide pins and bushes, where fitted, for excessive wear or stiction.
  3. Where pad guided calipers are fitted, check the caliper mounting bracket pad abutment faces for wear.
  4. Check all steering and suspension joints / bushes for excessive play.
  5. Check the front wheel bearings for correct adjustment and excessive play, ( Refer to manufactures’ workshop manual for adjustment procedure).
  6. Check for damaged wheels / tyres, incorrect wheel nut / stud torque and wheel imbalance.

Installation tips to avoid brake judder

  • Always replace discs in axle sets to ensure even braking.
  • Clean away debris trapped between hub and disc mounting faces which will cause run-out, leading to DTV (thick/thin) and Judder.
  • Check that the disc thickness is not less than that indicated on the edge-marking of the disc.
  • Check the braking surface of the disc for damage or scoring – replace as necessary.
  • Thoroughly clean the faces of the new discs to remove the protective coating (not painted discs).
  • Ensure that the caliper carrier is clean, and that the pads are able to move freely in the caliper.
  • Check discs for run-out with a DTI.
  • Avoid heavy braking for the first 200 miles to allow your new pads to bed in and maximise their performance.

5 areas to invest in your garage

The way to grow your business, stay profitable and increase trade through your doors is by investing in new equipment and MoT-testing bays. And while it’s often not cheap, new tools, equipment and fresh training means you and your colleagues keep up to date with the latest technology – and means you can meet the main dealer threat head-on.

So what do you need to be thinking about when it comes to investing? Here are 5 important areas to invest in your garage.

Lifts & ramps

Cars are more complicated underneath than they used to be, and getting to all the various parts isn’t easy with an old-school inspection pit. The solution is to go for a lift, and with single-, two- and four-post types available, there’s bound to be one suited to your workshop and the types of jobs you do. If you’re having a new lift or ramp installed, consider where it’s being installed. Most lift suppliers offer a design and installation service to take the worry out of this sometimes extensive job, and help you to then get the most from your new purchase. Electro-mechanical and electro-hydraulic models broaden the choice further.

When you’re using your lift remember that some cars need to be lifted in a particular way, or on a certain type of lift, because of potential weaknesses in their bodyshell or underside components.

invest-diagnostic-toolsDiagnostic tools

The heart of any service or repair job, diagnostic equipment is a must-have for any workshop whether it’s big or small, or in a rural or urban location. Without a basic diagnostic tool you’re no longer able to find where the fault lies, and you won’t be able to reset the dashboard lights either. Unfortunately modern cars need more and more diagnostic
equipment support to handle repairs, so when you’re buying diagnostic equipment make sure it’s as up to date as possible, and that it can be upgraded to keep abreast of new models when they’re launched. Consider all the types of work you handle, what cars you’re working on (if you’re a one-make specialist you won’t want information on other cars) but, most importantly, make sure you’re aren’t buying a fake. Don’t fall for any tools with a low price – it’s cheap for a reason, and that usually means it’s not the real thing.

“Don’t fall for any tools with a low price – it’s cheap for a reason, and that usually means it’s not the real thing.”

invest-air-conditioningAir conditioning

With spring just around the corner drivers could be thinking about using their car’s air conditioning. But it’s very much a forgotten part of the car, despite filters needing changing and the gas being changed or replenished. Only when the interior glass isn’t cleared almost immediately will a motorist think something’s amiss with the aircon system, and they’ll be perplexed why that’s the case, so it’ll be up to you to put things right. It’s important to have efficient, effective air conditioning testing equipment to help do any related jobs as quickly as possible.

invest-toolsTools

These days it’s easy to overlook hand tools: Screwdrivers, sockets and spanners often play second fiddle to diagnostic equipment but once the fault is discovered it’s time to get the hand tools out. Most workshops favour higher-quality tools that might be more expensive to buy in the first place, but work out cheaper in the long run because of their greater service life. Remember too that the number of model-specific tools is increasing: Crowded engine bays mean more restricted access when it comes to removing the timing belt, the alternator or the starter motor. Model-specific tools are designed to overcome those problems, speeding up the job and doing it more accurately. Talk to your local member of The Parts Alliance about new tools and any offers they might be running.

invest-trainingTraining

Like it or not, new cars are changing more quickly than ever before, with a bewildering array of electronics taking on more and more tasks under the bonnet and the floorpan. So if a customer brings in a fairly new car with an undiagnosed malady, are you up to the job? Assuming your diagnostics’ capability is up-to-date, are you equally clued-up (and
confident) you can find the fault and put it right? That’s where training comes in, because courses from many suppliers to The Parts Alliance will keep you informed of that new technology. Courses can last from just a couple of hours to a few days, but however long they are, they’ll give you more information so you can tackle more jobs quickly, efficiently and safely.

ATA standards

Remember that The Parts Alliance and Associate Members, through its suppliers, offers the very best in training courses – ones that are Automotive Technician Accreditation (ATA) courses. Covering all aspects of a technician’s job, ATA courses are overseen by the long-established Institute of the Motor Industry. Sixteen automotive disciplines are covered and are regularly updated to take technology changes into account. To become an ATA registered technician technicians have to pass knowledge tests and practical assessments, while workshop bosses have to show their commitment to technical expertise.

Replacing batteries on stop-start vehicles

Fitting cars with Stop Start, Alternator Energy Management and Brake Energy Recuperation technology is one approach vehicle manufacturers have taken to reduce CO2 exhaust emissions. In fact one in seven cars on the UK’s roads now have a stop / start system – that’s around five million cars. To support these technologies and emissions savings, new battery technology needs to provide:

  • Extended operation in lower states of charge
  • Acceptance of current from brake regeneration
  • Greater lifecycle to support the vehicles electrical system when the vehicle is stopped and the alternator is not charging

Fitting like-for-like is vital

This is why batteries originally fitted to vehicles with stop start are made to perform to higher specifications than standard flooded batteries. For instance a Yuasa AGM battery has over 200% more cyclic durability than a conventional battery. For this reason, when you replace an original equipment battery with an aftermarket battery, it’s vital that you fit like-for-like. That means using the recommended AGM or EFB battery of equivalent size, when replacing the original equipment AGM or EFB battery.

When a conventional flooded battery is fitted to a Stop-Start vehicle, it will typically fail very quickly – perhaps within just four months. The resultant expense and inconvenience is sure to be remembered by your customer.

Even if the battery has obviously been replaced in the past, it’s definitely worth checking whether the original battery was an AGM/EFB type, particularly if the vehicle is registered after 2008. Clearly explaining to your customer the importance of fitting a battery of correct technology for the smooth running of their vehicle will help them understand why you’re recommending a different type of replacement battery.

Tools to help you find the correct replacement battery

So you know that batteries should be replaced like-for-like, but how do you identify the correct battery in the first place? The good news is that The Parts Alliance and Yuasa can help. The Parts Advisors at your local Parts Alliance branch use the industry leading parts catalogue. With just the vehicle registration or make/model, they can check whether the vehicle should have an AGM / EFB battery or standard flooded battery.

Alternatively, renowned battery manufacturer Yuasa have developed an Online Battery Lookup system. Simply enter the vehicle registration, make / model or VIN and you’re able to see which Yuasa batteries should be fitted to the vehicle. There’s detailed information about the battery itself, along with technical specifications, diagrams and the option of downloading a Technical Data Sheet. It even estimates how long it’ll take to fit the battery. This comprehensive tool is free, quick and simple to use.

To compliment the system, you can request a ‘USB Smart Button’ from Yuasa.  This saves you having to remember the website address, as one press of the Smart Button takes you straight to the Online Lookup system. It couldn’t be any easier to use.

Care when fitting

Whilst there shouldn’t be any dangers when fitting a battery, there are still a few risks to avoid, such as electric shocks and the emission of hazardous gases from the battery itself. Firstly it’s important to wear protective clothing, such as gloves and suitable eye protection, to minimise the risk to personal safety.  It goes without saying that you should never smoke near a battery or allow naked flames nearby.

One of the main dangers is short-circuiting the battery terminals. Tools or jewellery can generate enough heat to cause serious burns and in some cases, cause metal to melt and splash.

So remove any metal objects you’re wearing, such as watches, never place tools near the battery and remember to disconnect the battery before starting work. Batteries can emit hazardous hydrogen gasses, so they should always be charged in a well ventilated area.  When handling a battery, make sure the mains is switched off before disconnecting charging leads and that cables are handled so they don’t cause sparking.

Finally, once the battery has been changed, reset the battery management system (BMS). This will be done through the on-board diagnostics port. If you skip this step, the stop/start system might not work and the battery’s operational life could be shortened or system faults could develop.

How to diagnose steering & suspension faults

Often when motorists think of vehicle safety and performance, they will automatically think about the braking system and engine. However, the power generated by an engine is useless if the driver cannot control the vehicle. Likewise, the effectiveness of the brakes will be impaired if the suspension is poor.

The main function of the suspension system is to maximise the friction between the tyres and road surface whilst steering has the main role of providing stability and good handling.

Typically two main areas require constant inspection. These are the rubber to metal components, such as the track control arms, torque rods, ball joints and the shock absorbers.

Tips for fewer comebacks

  • Check all the mounting nuts and bolts to be sure the problems aren’t being caused by looseness.
  • Inspect any visible parts such as the bushings, ball joints, steering linkages. If you see any damage it will need to be serviced or replaced.
  • Shake the steering wheel quickly, turning it left and right at quarter of full circle. There should be excessive free play or knocking noises. If the car has power steering, do this with the engine running. Check rack and pinion type steering mechanism, as well as steering boots. If any of them are damaged, the part needs to be replaced.
  • If the car makes noises while turning, it could be a sign of a worn ball joint. If the ball joints use a grease nipple, they can wear out if not lubricated properly or are in prolonged use. Worn ball joints should be replaced.
  • Replace the entire ball joint where the rubber boot is split, cracked, damaged or even missing. Never replace the boot only as this can seal in any damaging substances the joint has been exposed to, resulting in increased dust and corrosion.
  • If the suspension bushing is worn out (located at the inner end of the control arms), steering problems and abnormal tyre wear may happen. Replace the bushings in this case.
  • Always tighten components to their correct torque as specified by the VM in its loaded position, not wheel-free, to prevent additional stress when the vehicles is lowered to the ground.
  • Check the wheel alignment after replacing any steering or suspension components to prevent excessive tyre wear. The new parts will have less play and set the wheels at a slightly different angle.

Fault diagnosis

Tie rod end damaged boot

Causes:

  • Use of incorrect tools
  • Contact with oils and fluids or stone impact

Effects:

  • Premature wear of the joint
  • Internal corrosion
  • Abnormal tyre wear

Deformed inner tie rod

Causes:

  • Accident damage

Effects:

  • Incorrect wheel alignment
  • Wandering or general instability
  • Excessive tyre wear on inside or outside edges

deformed-inner-tie-rod

Steering rack gaiter split

Causes:

  • General wear and tear
  • Contamination by oils or fluids

Effects:

  • Possible premature wear of the inner tie rod joint or steering rack
  • Incorrect wheel alignment
  • Abnormal tyre wear

steering-rack-gaiter-split

Wishbone or track control arm worn bush

Causes:

  • General wear and tear
  • Contamination by oils or fluids

Effects:

  • Wandering or general instability
  • Vehicle pulls to one side
  • Knocking

wishbone-track-control-arm-worn-bush

Ball joint excess play

Causes:

  • General wear and tear
  • Water ingress due to damaged boot

Effects:

  • Wandering or general instability
  • Knocking
  • Incorrect wheel alignment

ball-joint-excess-play

Deformed engine mount

Causes:

  • Accident damage
  • Engine oil contamination

Effects:

  • Excessive vibration/knocking

deformed-engine-mount

Corroded wishbone or control arm

Causes:

  • Water or road salt

Effects:

  • In extreme cases component failure and possible loss of vehicle control

corroded-wishbone-control-arm

Link stabiliser sheared ball pin

Causes:

  • Use of incorrect fitting tools (i.e air tools)

Effects:

  • Inability to fit the part onto the vehicle
  • Premature component failure/damage

corroded-wishbone-control-arm

General Tips

  • Replace all damaged parts as required following manufactures instructions and carry out wheel alignment check.
  • Always replace self-locking nuts and bolts and tighten to the specified torque.
  • Use only the correct tools

DPFs explained

Diesels have been fitted with DPF’s as standard since 2009, when Euro 5 came into force. 50% of all new car registrations are diesel. This means more and more DPF related jobs entering your workshop. Replacement is recommended from around 75,000 miles onwards (depending on vehicle model).

What is a DPF?

DPF’s are designed to reduce emissions from diesel fuelled vehicles. They remove soot from the exhaust gases, before they’re emitted into the atmosphere.

How do DPFs work?

The DPF traps the particulate matter (soot) from the exhaust gases.

  • Exhaust gases flow into the DPF but cannot exit down the same channel, because the exit is blocked.
  • This forces the gases to escape through the porous cell walls.
  • The holes within the cells walls are not large enough to allow the particulate matter to pass through, so trapping the matter inside the filter.
  • Clean exhaust gases exit the filter

Maintaining a DPF

Over time soot builds up within the DPF. Unless it’s regularly regenerated (cleaned), the build up of soot will eventually block the DPF and adversely affect the performance of the vehicle.

To avoid the DPF being blocked, a process called regeneration must take place. There are two types of regeneration – passive and active. Passive regeneration takes place automatically on long or high speed journeys, when the exhaust temperature is high. The soot inside the fi lter burns off naturally.

Active regeneration occurs when the soot reaches a pre-determined level. Depending on the vehicle model, the ECU makes small adjustments to the fuel injection timing to increase the exhaust gas temperature, burning off the soot. Some vehicle manufacture’s, notably Peugeot / Citreon / Ford use a fuel-borne catalyst called ‘EOLYS’ fluid, which is added to the diesel during fuelling. This
fluid enables the trapped particles to be burnt at a lower light-off temperature.

Why do DPFs fail?

Typically the DPF will become too blocked and cannot regenerate. Although the MIL light

may show, there could be many reasons for the blockage, including:

  • Continual urban driving
  • EGR valve stuck or failed
  • EGR pipes blocked
  • Turbo failure
  • Injectors – leaking and / or stuck open
  • Incorrect oil
  • Faulty sensors
  • Incorrect oil temperature
  • Fuel additive too low

These should always be investigated, before replacing a DPF, otherwise the new unit is likely to quickly fail because the actual cause of the blockage hasn’t been found.

DPF fitting advice

If the DPF definitely needs replacing, remember that DPF’s are a direct fit item. Follow the same procedure as fitting a catalytic convertor.

  • • Do not use exhaust paste on the joints
  • Ensure all flanges and joints are properly sealed
  • Ensure the fuel borne additive tank is full (if fitted)
  • Ensure that the fuel injection system is working correctly
  • Normal engine working conditions apply
  • Use correct oil during the service change

Is it illegal to remove a DPF?

From February 2014 the MoT test must include a check for the presence of a diesel particulate filter. A missing DPF, where one was fitted when the vehicle was built, will result in an MoT failure.

Whilst a vehicle may still pass the MoT visible smoke emissions test, it’s an offence under the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations to use a vehicle that’s been modified in such a way that it no longer complies with the air pollutant standards it was designed to meet. Removing the DPF will almost certainly contravene these requirements, making the vehicle illegal for road use.

Owners could face fines of up £1,000 for a car or £2,500 for a light commercial vehicle, if the DPF has been removed.

Protect DPF’s with low SAPS oils

  • Sulphated ash within the passing exhaust gas can cause the ‘mesh’ structure in a DPF to become irreversibly blocked. For this reason, using normal oil could block the DPF.
  • To protect the DPF you should use Low SAPS oils. These oils have been specially designed to be low in Sulphated Ash.
  • You can identify a Low SAPS oil by looking for the ACEA ‘C’ classifi cation on the bottle. However, as most manufacturers have their own specifi cations for Low SAPS oils, we’d recommend you call your local branch.

 

Understanding and preventing brake noise

When the Beach Boys were singing about ‘Good Vibrations’, they definitely weren’t referring to the braking system. When vibrations occur between the brake pad, brake disc and caliper, the resultant brake squeal can make any driver wish they too could be on the beach, far away from that irritating high pitched noise.

Causes of brake noise

There are many causes for brake squeal. Excessive corrosion, seized or bent location pins, partially seized calipers, built up dirt and brake dust or worn brake discs can cause vibration between the brake disc and the brake pad under braking conditions. Any vibration within the brake set up will result in noise being generated, which is often referred to as brake pad squeal. Glazing of the friction material surface may also contribute to brake noise. Manufacturers of braking systems and friction materials have taken extensive measures to suppress brake noise in recent years.

Improvements to reduce brake noise

Demands for higher performance and overall weight reduction on modern vehicles have led to material changes. This has resulted in the increased use of supplementary processes to counteract vibrations. Noise fixes include the addition of shims, slots, chamfers and underlayers within the friction material. For example, Delphi carefully selects friction materials, using more than 19 different compounds in their brake pad product line to ensure the closest possible match to OE comfort characteristics and performance. These compounds are developed to provide consistently high levels of performance.

All Delphi brake pads also incorporate underlayer technology. This is a process used by many OE manufacturers to dampen noise-producing vibrations and ensure a higher bonding strength with the pad back plate. Delphi brake pads also feature shims, slots and chamfers that match OE specifications and provide superior performance and durability.

Brake installation tips

Whilst we’re on the subject of braking, here are some handy installation tips.

  • Ensure that all corrosion, built up dirt and brake dust is removed from the caliper. Ensure that moving parts of the caliper are free to slide.
  • Always clean exposed caliper piston surfaces before retracting the pistons. Ease piston retraction by opening the bleed nipple. Retract piston(s) with a suitable tool. Never lever against the disc friction face.
  • Thoroughly clean pad contact points in the caliper.
  • Check pistons, seals, boots and sliding elements on the caliper to ensure that they are free from damage and corrosion.
  • Always check the disc for minimum thickness and uneven wear when fitting new pads.
  • Never use clamps on brake hoses. Hoses contain multiple layers of braiding which give them their structural strength. The hose may become damaged or crushed, leading to hydraulic issues such as blockage or fluid leaks.
  • Never use mineral oil based lubricants on parts with rubber seals, this will cause the seals to swell.
  • Always fit a new pad fitting kit.

6 brake fault symptons to ask your customers about

There are typical symptoms a customer may come into a garages that suggest faulty or worn brakes, here are the six main symptoms to spot and ask a customer if they are experiencing them. Some of the below symptoms may also be caused by the vehicle’s suspension system.

1. Vibration on the steering wheel

This is where the steering wheel shakes while braking or shakes all the time while the car is in motion. The reason it happens is because the brakes shudder when the pad meets the disc. The disc could have different thicknesses around the diameter or they could be warped from overheating.

How is it fixed?

Check for different thicknesses around the diameter of the discs. If the discs have varying thicknesses, both discs on the axle should be replaced. While the discs are being replaced, your mechanic should also be changing your brake pads to ensure peak braking performance (It is not safe to only replace discs).

2. Noise from brakes

The noise from your brakes could be high pitched squeal or a it could be a grinding noise. This could be because your brakes could be worn to the minimum where the back-plate is grinding on the disc or the screech ware indicator, the shim (which covers the back-plate of the brake pad) could be missing or damaged or the calliper is sticking.

How is it fixed?

Replace the brake pads (and the discs if they’re damaged) and also service the caliper.

3. Pulling to the side upon braking

When you brake there may be a pulling to the left or right (this is different to poor wheel alignment where the car pulls to one side while the car is in motion). The brake pads may have been contaminated by oil or grease with inefficient braking on one side. Or the caliper could be sticking – the brake pads on one side are unable to brake effectively.

How is it fixed?

Check the brake pads and replace them if necessary (both sides) and check the caliper for efficient braking and service if required.

4. Long or spongy pedal stroke

This is where you’d feel as though you have to press the pedal quite far down to achieve deceleration or the pedal literally feels spongy or softer than usual when you depress it. There are several reasons why this happens:

  • Your car may have a brake drum system and the brake shoes are poorly adjusted
  • The brake fluid has either air in the system, leaking or is in poor condition
  • Load sensing in or load proportioning valve has seized
  • Brake hoses are leaking or ballooning

How is it fixed?

Depending on the problem, do the following:

  • Re-adjust the brake shoes
  • Check the quality of the brake fluid, bleed the system and replace with new brake fluid
  • Check the master cylinder and wheel cylinders for leakage and replace if required
  • Check the brake hoses for any leaks or ballooning and replace if any faults are found

5. Hard pedal

This is when you depress the brake pedal and feel very little “give” it is literally hard to press. This could happen either because the brake pads are “glazed”, the friction material cannot cope with the braking demands.  The caliper is sticking holding the pads to the brake disc, the brake service unit is leaking, or has poor vacuum supply leading to low force applied to the brake system.

How is it fixed?

Check the pads for glazing and replace them, service the caliper or check the servo and replace or repair as necessary.

6. Brake roughness

You’d usually feel brake roughness if the car has been parked for a while and you brake for the first time, there is a slight grinding. This happens because the brake disc becomes corroded, usually in the winter with salted road or near the sea. The metal in the pad has rusted and adhered to the disc – the rough wire-brush type sound happened as the corrosion is cleared off the disc.

How is it fixed?

The corrosion usually clears from the disc after a few light brake applications. If the corrosion is severe, the brake pads and discs should be replaced.

Angry Jester pocket jump starters

The Parts Alliance exhibits at Automechanika Birmingham

The Parts Alliance was amongst the exhibitors that took part in the first Automechanika Birmingham at the Birmingham NEC between 7th and 9th June. Automechanika exhibitions are held in 15 countries worldwide, with events attracting 600,000 visitors.

Throughout the three day exhibition attendee numbers soared, with 12,000 attending this week’s event, giving us an unrivalled opportunity to do what we do best, interact and exceed expectations.

Our group has grown rapidly over the last year, with significant investment we now supply over 30,000 of the UK and Ireland’s independent workshops, fast fits and other distinguished national accounts. This is due to newly established strategic partnerships, organic growth and acquisitions such as GSF Car Parts, which gives us an unrivalled footprint of over 200 distribution centres. Throughout the course of the three days, it became obvious that our industry leading systems, fast delivery times and return rates are the envy of the aftermarket.

Over 12,000 visitors attended the exhibition in total and their response was overwhelming. Event Director, Simon Albert said: “We are delighted with the success of Automechanika Birmingham. We listened to what the exhibitors and visitors wanted, and with significant investment in the marketing campaign, we delivered an all-encompassing event that exceeded all expectations. We have something unique here that the industry needed.”

It is expected that next year’s show will surpass the success of this years, falling perfectly in line with the philosophy of the Parts Alliance.