Tag Archive | "Suspension"

STANDING OUT FROM THE COMPETITION

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STANDING OUT FROM THE COMPETITION


James Bourn shows CAT around suspension firm Powerflex in Uxbridge, Hillingdon

You might be familiar with the Powerflex purple and yellow livery but did you know its portfolio of polyurethane bushes are produced here in the UK?

The line-up is popular as upgrades from OE parts on cars owned by enthusiasts. Powerflex Sales Director James Bourn explains that the crux of it comes down to the materials for its steel bushes, which he says are not used by many competitors. “We use premium quality materials such as stainless steel in a lot of our products whereas our competitors tend to use a lot of plated steel”, said Bourne. “We’re a UK manufacturer so all of our R&D is done here by us”, he said, adding that the supplier also develops bespoke technical products in line with its core suspension range.

FACTORY UNITS
We’re curious to see how these products are produced, so Bourne takes us to the CNC Factory, where most of the magic happens. The unit is home to many high-tech computer-controlled machining centres and other equipment used for geometry work, metal bending and test fittings; producing bushes, engine mounts and sleeves forged from aluminium and stainless steel. Once created, parts are then tried and tested before receiving the thumbs up.

Indeed, having all of its manufacturing operations in-house has sped up productivity and product turnaround by cutting out a third party who would normally carry out the nuts and bolts of the process. Bourne expands. “Doing this internally gives us greater control over lead times and quality rather than delegating to a third party. We can diagnose and fix problems quickly, likewise with lead times, order turnaround time is fast”.

The firm’s developments of polyurethane bushes and chassis systems in general has enabled it to triple its warehouse capacity by acquiring three extra units. Apart from the CNC Factory, the parts maker has in effect knocked three buildings into one; consisting of a large manufacturing space where bushes begin their journey on conveyor belts, before they are solidified and enter a cutting and fitting area to get rid of built-up material, post production.

BESPOKE SYSTEM
To keep track, a management system has been set up to notify sales staff and technicians of customer orders coming in and the parts required for each job. This can be accessed by factory workers through computer monitors, located at multiple assembly points around the premises. “Believe it or not everything is stock controlled”, said Bourn. “The system tells us what we’ve got to make, how many and by when”. In addition, the system has helped the manufacturer organise its stockroom efficiently; allowing staff to source the correct components without any grievances. This was evident on our tour with trays of suspension bushes, mounts, and sleeves labelled and stacked tidily on each aisle so workers can locate wares and send them out to dealers, post haste.

Bushes begin production in liquid form

To help customers distinguish the differences between products, the company launched its Black Series and Road Series a few years ago not only to highlight the key differences, but also allow trade customers to understand what requirements they’ll need for each one. Bourn elaborated: “For years, our parts were only fitted by people that wanted a performance edge to their car or if their car was being used in motorsport”.

“So what we’ve tried to is move away from that slightly not in terms of how we want the brand to be seen, but so we can establish that our parts are not just a replacement product but a performance and motorsport one. That’s why we launched our Road Series and Black Series – with the Black series targeting track cars while the Road Series is specifically designed for road vehicles” he noted.

PRACTICE AND LEGISLATION
The firm is a member of the Performance Automotive Aftermarket Association (PAAA), which will keep it abreast of any legislation changes that may or may not affect it in the near future. “The idea behind the PAAA is to give companies like ourselves strength in numbers, a greater voice and hopefully greater influence should there be any plans for legislation changes that could impact our business and the performance aftermarket as an industry”, said Bourn, concluding, “We’re going to keep working hard to make sure we’re developing new products and continuing to look after dealers; providing them with the best possible service whilst ensuring we continue to grow and progress as a business”.

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SPREADING KNOWLEDGE ABOUT SUSPENSION

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SPREADING KNOWLEDGE ABOUT SUSPENSION


Is training garages partly the responsibility of the supplier?

TADIS training platform

As vehicles get ever more complex, do parts suppliers and factors have a responsibility to train garages about the systems that use parts that they sell?

Brian Sanders, Buisness Support Manager at Tenneco says that they do. “We do indeed encourage training throughout the industry, and since its launch in 2007 Tenneco has actually delivered education to 360,000 trainees. Our trainings actively cover technical aspects of our products in both the Ride Performance and Clean Air categories as well as providing soft skills such as sales and negotiation, presentation and communication skills”.

Taking a slightly different angle, Yvette Koehorst from air suspension maker Arnott Europe says: “Arnott believes it’s shared responsibility. We actively try to educate the garage owners and mechanics, especially because replacing air suspension is seen as ‘complicated’ which is not the case” she says. “Anyone that can replace a normal shock absorber can replace air suspension. For example, we have created a ‘tips and trick’ and a ‘most common made mistakes’ sheet which we will also be distributing at Automechanika Birmingham as well”.

VALUABLE INFO
Kevin Price, a Manager at ZF Aftermarket is of the belief that manufacturers cannot provide enough information to garages. “We have long advocated making our technical information freely available to the garages” he says. “If we and other OE quality manufacturers don’t do this, then eventually the IAM business model will collapse. Contradicting the ethos of block exemption, this would limit customer choice and force drivers towards the more expensive main dealer – whether they wanted to or not; as they would be the only ones with the ability and the money to cater for the new and emerging technological system environments in which the components operate.”

“Suppliers must also play their part in ensuring that the manufacturer messages and available resources are passed on in an unbiased way to the garages,” Price adds. “Their business model is such that they have the biggest access to the garages and the means to inf luence decision making”.

For all of this, Price believes that it will ultimately always be the garage owners who will decide how well their workforce are trained. “The garages should take advantage of the training available and embrace it as a vital investment in order to remain competitive and future proof their business” he says.”Of course, this can be difficult in terms of time off versus labour needed to complete the jobs won – and this is where online and remote training comes into its own”.

On that subject, Price’s firm offers a subscription-based workshop concept called ‘Pro Tech’. This allows garages who have joined the scheme access to a number of short courses and training modules. “The courses have a strong practical emphasis that complements the theory, and are continuously updated in line with ZF’s development in its chosen areas of driveline, chassis and steering” explains Price. “The course content ranges from assembly, repair and servicing of power steering units and clutches, to the trouble-shooting of 6HP and 8HP automatic transmissions and torque converters. The modules include the detailed specifics of popular passenger cars sold across the defined markets”.

Arnott’s Koehorst says that her firm has also put some training resources online. “For a growing number of products we also have installation videos where mechanics can literally see step-by-step how a replacement should be done. Most of our products are made as ‘plug & play’ solution so that with the guidance of the manual, any mechanic is able to replace the worn down air suspension part” she says. “Additionally they can always email or call us for technical assistance”.

Tenneco’s Sanders explains that his firm has put its training materials into an online portal, where customers can access all the content in one place. “It is called TADIS (Technicians Advanced Digital Information System) and you can find technical bulletins, fitting instructions, technical videos, and comprehensive product support and cataloguing in one place” he explains.

It seems that these technical resources are more than just added value as they offer useful advice for technicians, which should encourage repeat business and fewer non-faulty returns – plus of course, a nation of delighted motorists. Now isn’t that something we could all subscribe to?

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THE FORD MUSTANG (2005-2014) S197


Ford MustangThere was a fashion for retro-styled cars at the turn of the century. For example, you’ll remember cars such as the Mini, Rover 75, Jaguar S-Type and the PT Cruiser. Perhaps the coolest looking of the lot was the 2005 model year Mustang. It was the much-needed replacement for the SN95, which was itself a re-skin of the third generation built on the ‘Fox’ platform that spanned back to 1978.

Apart from the styling, buyers loved the traditional front-engine rear-drive layout, although reviewers noted that the live axle coupled with thin interior plastics made the car feel unrefined and tiring to drive. The normally aspirated V6 or V8 engine line up felt pretty old fashioned by modern standards too.

The car wasn’t officially sold in the UK, so the majority on the roads have been imported used from the USA and other countries. Ford never made a RHD S197, although there are a few out there that have been converted, notably for the Australian market.

IGNITION
Strangely, it seems that the spark plugs fitted at the factory on early cars were prone to breaking on removal. The plugs in question are Motorcraft PZT 2FE featuring an unusual two- piece design. Website aa1car. com explains that the crimped lower electrode shell that becomes coated with carbon, causing it to stick in the cylinder head. Rust and corrosion on the lower plug shell can also cause it to stick. When you attempt to unscrew the plug, the lower shell can twist off and get stuck in the head. If you are going to be looking after a number of these vehicles it might be worthwhile investing in a small tool that has been developed to extract it. Snap-On produce one in the US, if you ask your local rep, they should be able to order it for you. Once you’ve got the Motorcraft plugs out, don’t refit like-for-like. Use one piece items (NGK, Denso, Bosch and Champion all produce good quality plugs that won’t break).

ENGINESDSC01701
If you have a customer who brings you a newly- acquired V6 and complains that it is sluggish, then he is probably right, but that’s how these cars are designed. In standard form the 4.0 V6 (which is not dissimilar to the Cologne unit you might remember in the Capri) is not as sprightly as the on-paper figures suggest. Unlike earlier versions of this engine, the 4.0 is of SOHC design with a jackshaft in place of a camshaft to drive a timing chain to each cylinder head. 2011-on V6 models used the far more modern Duratec V6 engine. It is more likely that cars you encounter have a version of the venerable Ford V8. These mills are tough and straightforward to service (other than the aforementioned issue with two-piece spark plugs). However, access is a little tight.

GEARCHANGE

FM part missing on stereo

FM part missing on stereo

Unusually for an American car, the sporty Mustang is often specified with five on the floor.

The gearbox is not a problem in itself, but many used examples feel loose and notchy. This is easily sorted as it is usually down to worn bushes, bent linkage etc. However, the problem is symptomatic of an example that has been thrashed: bear this in mind if you are preparing it for resale.

SUSPENSION
Cart springs and a live axle were old hat when the marquee was first introduced in 1964, so it is perhaps not surprising that 40 years later Ford scored a fair amount of flak from the motoring press for continuing to use them instead of indepen

LIGHTS

Lights need to be modified

Lights need to be modified

As with all imported LHD cars, the lights need to be converted before the car can be registered in the UK. As with most cars imported from outside of the EU, the vehicle will have needed to go through an SVA test before it can be registered. There’s a number of specialists that can help with this, but as it is always a DIY job, the results can be patchy.

Like most American cars, the S197 benefitted from various year-on- year changes, and as you might expect from Ford, the options list was as long as your arm.

INTERIOR
Suffice it to say that 2005-2008 cars had fairly rattly interiors, where later models enjoyed a notable improvement in fit and finish. Standard stereo systems were pretty good, though most customers ticked the option of a ‘shaker’ sound system. If your customer’s goal is just to listen to the Archers, they might be disappointed as US radios only tune on ‘odd’ FM frequencies (94.3, 94.5, 94.7 etc). There’s also no RDS/TP or TA etc. As the dash supports a standard double DIN, your customer might prefer to update the head unit to a modern touchscreen model.

SERVICING
US-market cars are designed to be serviced every few months and don’t demand the high- performance oils that we are used to writing about. That said, the V6 and V8 in the 2005 cars are designed for a thin 5w-20 oil which can be hard to come by in the UK. Several of the Mustang owner’s forums show that many owners use a cheaper and more commonly available 5w-30.

ROTATING
Diode pack failure in the alternator is relatively common, and as it is not an off-the-shelf part you would be best advised to have the customer’s existing unit rebuilt. Fortunately there are a number of specialists such as Autoelectro that will be prepared to undertake this
for you.

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