Thursday, March 02, 2006

Motorcycle Tune-Up

Tuning your engine will keep your motorcycle in optimal running condition and will result in a safer and more enjoyable ride

ust as with automobiles, motorcycles need to be tuned up periodically to keep them operating at peak efficiency. In this demonstration we perform a tune-up on a newer model motorcycle as well as a 1972 Harley Davidson Superglide. There are some significant differences since the older bike uses breaker-point ignition while the newer one has electronic ignition.Tuning your engine will keep your motorcycle in optimal running condition and will result in a safer and more enjoyable ride.

Important: Following are the steps used to perform tune-ups on the two motorcycles used in our demonstration. This summary should be regarded as a general guideline only. There are likely to be differences in procedures for other motorcycle brands and models. Consult your motorcycle's service manual for specific information that you may need when tuning up your particular model.

Performing a Tune-Up on a Newer Motorcycle

For our new model tune-up, we replaced only the spark plugs
and air
filter on a 1996 Harley Davidson 883 Sportster.


Motorcycle service manual
Replacement air filter
Replacement sparkplugs

Socket wrench
Torque wrench
Spark-plug gapping tool
Antiseize lubricant
Dielectric grease

1. After unplugging the spark-plug wires, unscrew the spark
plugs (figure A) and remove them.

2. Using a gapping tool, gap the new spark plugs
(figure B) to the specifications recommended in your
service manual.

3. Apply some antiseize lubricant to the threads on
the new plugs.

4. Install the new plugs and, using a torque wrench,
tighten them to
the torque specifications
recommended in your service

5. Apply a small amount of dielectric grease to the
contacts on the
plug-wire connectors (figure C), and
reinstall the plug wires.

6. Once you've finished replacing the plugs,
proceed to changing the air filter.

Remove the air-filter cover (figure D) and remove
the old f

7. Install the new air filter according to the
instructions (figure E).

8. Replace the air-filter cover and tighten it down

Older motorcycles use breaker-point ignition system. With wear and use, the surfaces on the points contacts wear out and become pitted (as in the point assembly in the foreground). A good tune-up should include replacing the points and condenser as well as the spark plugs and air filter.

Performing a Tune-Up on an Older Motorcycle

In our tune-up demonstration on an older motorcycle,
which uses
a breaker-point ignition system, we replaced
plugs, plug wires, points, condenser, air cleaner and in-line
fuel filter.


Replacement parts: plugs, plug wires, points, condenser,
fuel filter, etc.

Motorcycle service manual
Socket wrench
Torque wrench
Spark-plug gapping tool
Needle-nose pliers

High-temperature engine lubricant

Antiseize lubricant

Dielectric grease

1. Unplug and remove the old spark-plug wires
(figure F).

2. After unplugging the spark-plug wires, unscrew the
spark plugs and
remove them.

3. Inspect the old plugs for signs of wear, and compare
ir appearance to that of new plugs (figure G). The
condition of the spark-plug electrodes
speaks volumes
about the condition of the engine and how we
ll it's
operating. Your service manual may feature a chart
showing varyin
g conditions of spark plugs and the
corresponding causes for each. Sooty,black plugs, for
example, may indicate an overly rich fuel/air ratio, a

malfunctioning choke or a dirty air filter. Oily deposits
may be a sign of
worn pistons or valves.

4. Before replacing the plugs and plug wires, proceed to
replacing the
points and condenser. With a high-
compression engine such a
s the one on the cycle used in
our demonstration, it will be
easier to turn the cam and
replace the points with the spark plugs removed from the
ngine.Use a screwdriver to remove the screws holding
the points cover in place,
and carefully remove the cover
and internal gasket to expose the breaker.
The condenser
is located in this area as well (figure H).

5. Use the kick-start to turn the cam, advancing the cam
nut un
til the points are in the open position (i.e., with the
points separated by a small gap as in figure I). Positioning
the mechanism in th
is way before removing the old
points will make it easier to install the new points.

6. Using needle-nose pliers, carefully unplug the condenser
wire and
remove the condenser. Use a screwdriver to
remove the screws that
hold the breaker-points in place,
and to release the bracket
holding the condenser in place.
Remove the points and condenser.

7. With the points and condenser removed, take advantage
of the opportunity to check the condition of the advance
ism on the cam while the area is clear of other parts
(figure J). The cam should be movable but should snap back
into place when released with a distinct return spring-action.
You may want to apply a small amount of high-
grease to the cam in order to provide

8. Install the new set of points and condenser in the same
manner as the old ones. Reconnect the condenser wire. Once
the points are installed, follow any manufacturer's instructions
and specifications provided in your service manual to set the
gap on the points (figure K).

9. After you've installed the plugs and condenser, go ahead
and install the new spark plugs. Using a gapping tool, gap the
new spark plug
s to the specifications recommended in your
service manual.

10. Apply some antiseize lubricant to the threads on the new

11. Install the new plugs and, using a torque wrench, tighten
them to the torque specifications recommended in your
service manual.

12. Apply a small amount of dielectric grease to the
connectors on
the new plug wires, and reinstall the plug

13. In our demonstration we upgraded the air cleaner to
a newer version with a larger housing. To do so, we removed
the old air-filter cover (figure L), the air-cleaner assembly
and the plate at the base of the air cleaner (figure M). We
then replaced the entire assembly with a new one (figure N).

14. As a final step, you may want to replace the inline fuel-
filter (figure O). To replace the filter, simply loosen the worm-
style clamps that hold it in place in the fuel line, remove the o
ld filter, replace it with a new one and reinstall the clamps.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Impala: Building On A Solid Foundation

The Impala SS is back with a 5.3-liter small-block V8 under the hood. At a stated 0 to 60 mph of 5.7 seconds, assistant vehicle chief engineer Ron Dershem calls it "The fastest production Impala ever."

The Chevrolet Impala is a stealth-like car. Who—outside of GM HQ, where this fact is undoubtedly celebrated with much glee—is aware of the fact that with 2004 sales of 290,256 vehicles, the midsize comes in in third place behind Camry and Accord in sales? Impala? In addition to which it must be noted that the vehicle in question was one that was introduced in 1999 as a MY 2000 vehicle, which is to say that when it hit that number for '04, it was by then a rather, ah, mature product. Chevy marketing manager Mark Clawson observes that the Impala buyer is a loyal one, and clearly this is borne out by the numbers. Ed Peper, general manager of Chevrolet Div., says that in the GM lineup, Chevy is a "foundational brand," the business of which is "critical to GM." So one has to believe that the sales of Impala are of more than passing concern to the people at Chevy (they've sold 1.2-million of them since '99).

BUILT-IN QUALITY. So, when you're doing the '06 with the comparative success of the previous-generation model behind you and some new products on the market since that's been released (e.g., Ford Five Hundred; Chrysler 300), what do you do? Try to provide a package that is refined and improved, not something that would be, as the Chevy tagline has it, "An American Revolution." It's more of an evolution. Clawson admits that when it comes to, say, the cubic feet of available cargo room the Five Hundred has it beat. And although the Impala SS is back with a 5.3-liter small block V8 under the hood, the HEMI available for the 300C has it beat. Still and all, there are other factors going for the fact that when it comes to the J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey, the '05 Impala beat the Accord, Altima, Five Hundred, and 300...and, Ron Dershem, assistant vehicle chief engineer observes with reasonable pride, this marked the fifth consecutive year that the Impala bested the Camry in I.Q.S. In addition to which, the GM Oshawa Assembly Plant #1 where it is built received the Silver Award for quality in the most-recent J.D. Power I.Q.S. (coming in second to Oshawa Assembly Plant #2, which is right next door); the GM Oshawa Assembly Plant #1 is cited in The Harbour Report North America 2005 as the benchmark plant when it comes to productivity, requiring 15.85 labor hours per vehicle, taking over from the perennial leader in that category, Nissan's Smyrna, TN, assembly plant (Ron Harbour, president of Harbour Consulting (; Troy, MI), stated: "Oshawa's achievement is stellar.").

Sales, loyalty, quality, and productivity—a respectable achievement on all counts. But they worked to make things better for the '06.

IMPROVING THE DESIGN. According to designer John Manoogian, when approaching the '06 they had three things to solve: improving the interior; providing a "clean, contemporary design" that would still look like a Chevy; and improve the vehicle overall. The '06 Impala has what they're calling "the new face of Chevy." This is characterized by having the dual split grille, top and bottom. The headlamps are pulled back into the fenders and within the housing are three individual lighting units. Around back the tail lamps are discrete triangular units, not the full-plastic masque that's on the previous model. Yet within the new red housing the circular lamps characteristic of the Impala (and considered to be an all-around Chevy cue) are discernable. The A-pillar is moved forward 50 mm, the overhangs are shortened 80 mm, and the car has bigger wheels and tires (the base model comes with 16s; the top-of-the-line SS gets 18s; Dershem comments: "18-in. tires on an Impala? Pretty amazing.") so that the vehicle appears more substantial and planted. Inside the materials are much improved, with reduced gloss on the plastic components and even real metal for the metal door release handles. The double-hump IP configuration is said to harken back to early Corvettes.

STRONG, SILENT TYPE. Noise, vibration and safety were among the key concerns of the Impala engineering team. So they did things ranging from lengthening the jounce bumpers to styling the flat-blade windshield wipers. They stiffened the boxed upper frame rail assemblies and the ties between the upper and lower rails; Dershem describes the use of high-strength steel in the vehicle structure as "extensive." "Quiet Steel" laminate (see: Hush: Improving NVH through improved material) is used at the front of the dash to not only quiet the interior, but to help provide additional strength. The side glass is 5-mm thick to help attenuate noise.

There are three engines, the aforementioned V8 (303 hp @ 5,600 rpm; 323 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm and Displacement on Demand to provide 18/28 mpg) and two sixes—a 3.5-liter that provides 211 hp @ 5,800 rpm and 214 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm; a 3.9-liter that provides 242 hp @ 6,000 rpm and 242 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. According to Dershem, these latter two engines are the first with an overhead valve design that use variable valve timing.

All in all, it's probably a value story more than anything. The base model has a starting MSRP of $21,990; the SS starts at $27,790. Which continues to make Impala a fundamental of GM's foundation brand.

By Gary S. Vasilash, Editor-In-Chief

The Possible Future of Robots at VW

Swing axle assembly line in VW’s Braunschweig plant.

Robots have considerable potential for application in Volskwagen plants, according to Dr. Werner Schreiber, director of Research, Volkswagen AG, speaking at the 2004 Robotics Industry Forum held by the Robotic Industries Association (Ann Arbor; Looking at the four major sectors of a vehicle assembly operation, he sees it this way:

Press Shop. As VW has installed high-speed presses with integral part handling, the place where there is robotic potential is handling stamped parts coming out of the presses on conveyors. Presently, due to the part volume (e.g., door panels are stamped by a press at a rate of 40/minute) and due to the fact there is typically misalignment of the parts as they move on the conveyors, the stampings are manually removed and stacked. So Schreiber said that there is a need for robots that are fast and have vision so that the parts can be located on the conveyor. Accuracy and reliability are other characteristics they’re seeking.

Body Shop. Here they’re seeking robots that provide speed, accuracy, more payload capacity (e.g., they’re using robots to move bodies from station to station rather than fixed automation), and are easy to integrate. Speaking to the issue of integration, Schreiber said that one of the things they would like to do is to have the means to quickly integrate robots into lower-volume lines. In addition to which, he wants more robot control capability to use various joining methods—thermal (he said that VW uses lasers for 50% of its spot welds) as well as non thermal (e.g., rivets, adhesives, self-driving screws).

Paint Shop. He said that because there is such extensive use of robots in the paint shop now, the future shouldn’t look different from the present. However, he said that he would like to have robots that are “a little cheaper than today’s.” (Speaking to the issue of cost, he said that he’d like to investigate the ways and means to pay for robots in a different way than straight-out acquisition. He noted that presently in the paint shop the paint supplier gets paid based on each individual vehicle processed and that there is an incentive for the paint supplier to improve the operation in that half of the savings garnered go back to the supplier.)

Assembly Shop. He said that he would like to see robots that have the abilities to do such things as see and feel so that they can be used for operations beyond things like inserting spare tires into trucks and batteries under hoods. Also, he would like robots to have the ability wherein they can work with assembly line personnel without the levels of safety devices that are necessary today.—GSV

Friday, February 17, 2006

Ford Making Tracs for Thailand

when Ford launches the next Ranger pickup in NorthAmerica in 2008, it will share more than its name with the Ranger pickup produced in Thailand. Both will draw heavily from the 4-Trac Concept shown here.

The redesign of the Ford Ranger has stopped and started more times than rush-hour traffic as it moved from an entry-level small pickup to a mid-size entry and back again in the concept phase. Ford insiders insist the 4-Trac concept shown at the Thailand International Motor Expo in Bangkok in late 2005 is the latest—and, they hope, final—take on the vehicle scheduled to hit North America in 2008. With Thailand’s position as both the largest small pickup market in the world and a low-cost producer, Ford sees the Asian nation as a center of excellence where it can design, develop, and produce light trucks jointly created by Ford and Mazda cost effectively.

The joint Ford/Mazda AutoAlliance Thailand (AAT) assembly plant currently builds the Mazda Fighter and Ford Ranger pickups, and ships to 130 markets. (It does not supply vehicles to North America, and the Ranger it produces is not the same as the vehicle of the same name sold in North America.) Under the latest plan, Ford’s smallest light truck offering will be a common global vehicle that eliminates the need to design and engineer a unique vehicle for North America, will give suppliers larger and more stable volumes, and force the adoption common design and development standards in this segment. In theory, these changes should help reduce costs and give Ford a low-cost manufacturing plant from which to source its entry-level pickups.

Yearly capacity at the AAT plant is 155,000 units, though this is expected to rise to 200,000 vehicles once a $500-million investment to upgrade the facility, support new vehicle programs, and expand capacity is complete in 2008. Output would have to rise substantially above this number, however, if Ford was to source the nearly 150,000 Rangers it currently sells in North America from Thailand. It is unlikely it would make so drastic a change so late in the game, especially when the Chinese market for small pickups continues to grow. However, the prospect of producing Rangers for sale in North America from outside the region is an idea that has grown in importance as Ford struggles to improve its profitability. Sourcing at least some of these vehicles, and parts for those produced elsewhere, from Asia is reportedly high on Ford’s list of priorities with this project.—CAS

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Two More Doors, One "New" Truck

It's a Dakota! It's a Durango! No...It's the 2000 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab!

Yes, many truck-crazed American consumers will think that this latest DCX product is unequivocally trick. (Just look at our cover; even we're buying into the hype.) But pick-`em-up trucks with four doors are not exactly a new idea. Yes, compact pickups with four doors are new to the U.S. market, however they are common in other parts of the world. And why shouldn't they be? The functionality of a 215.1-in., 131-in. wheelbase truck with a 5-ft. 3-in. bed and a four-door cab whose full rear doors open 84° is undeniable. Although Dodge PR describes the Dakota Quad Cab as "the best kind of hybrid in the world," the bottom line is that this vehicle is not another "segment-buster" (think minivan). It's just another truck, which is not necessarily a bad thing. In this market, the Quad Cab and every other SUV-pickup "hybrid" will undoubtedly sell. (It's funny how everyone wants to label themselves with the ultra-cool hybrid vernacular, even if they couldn't tell an electric motor with a regenerative-braking system from a fuel cell.) The real story here is how DaimlerChrysler's Truck Engineering designed the Quad Cab to take advantage of parts commonality with other models and used a low capital-investment manufacturing strategy. Remember, this business isn't really about building cool new's all about makin' money.

A: Putting It Together
At the Dodge City Assembly Plant (Warren, MI), there is not a lot of space in the body shop. This would have lead to a bit of a problem had they decided to assemble the Quad Cab box themselves, just like they do the other Dakota boxes. Normally, stampings for the inner and outer box sides and box floor are supplied to the body shop where they are sub-assembled with other standard brackets and smaller pieces. These subassemblies are then fit into a framer where they are welded into the complete pickup box. While the other Dakota boxes are either 6.5 ft. or 8 ft. long, the Quad Cab box is only 5.25 ft. This means that there is no commonality between the stampings, which further means that new equipment and tooling would be necessary to build the subassemblies. So the decision was made to farm out all of the subassemblies, with Tower Automotive (Grand Rapids, MI) picking up the contract. This is a first for the former-Chrysler Corp. Not only does this contract save that ever-so-precious floor space, but more importantly gets the burden of owning all the equipment off DCX's back. (Which will be important when the truck/SUV market is saturated.)

B: Composites On Board
The optional skid plates on the Quad Cab are made from a fiberglass-reinforced polypropylene and supplied by Cambridge Industries. This composite is said to provide equal strength and weight compared to steel plates, but with improved protection. One cited benefit of the composite is that it springs back to its normal position after encountering an obstruction. (We'll let one of the off-road magazines test this claim.)

C: The Dakotas
Look at the A-pillar forward. That's all Dakota, common to every version of the platform (Dakota, Dakota Club Cab, Dakota R/T, Durango, and now Dakota Quad Cab). So is the IP and its cross-member. Suspension components are also shared among the vehicles, however, each system is tuned to compensate for the weight bias particular to each truck. The Quad Cab's tailgate is shared with the rest of the Dakota pickups. The frame begins its life the same as the Club Cab, but the Quad Cab's mounting points are in different locations.

D: "I hail from Durango"
The front doors and the front half of the floor-pan come from the Dakota-based SUV. The regular Dakota doors are too large to allow the four-door arrangement.

E: Under The Hood
Three engines are offered, and they're all shared with other DCX vehicles. The base 3.9-liter Magnum V-6 and 5.9-liter Magnum V-8 are carryover Dodge truck engines from last year's models. But Dodge's old 5.2-liter Magnum V-8 has been replaced in favor of the 4.7-liter V-8 which is also found in the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

F: Jeepin'
An "all-new" aluminum four-wheel-drive front axle housing is actually a design that's borrowed from the stables of Jeep. It weighs 11.5 lbs. less than the cast iron unit it replaces, helping to offset the hefty 300 to 375 lb. of extra weight that the Quad Cab carries over the Dakota Club Cab (this amount varies due to configuration).

By Jeff Sabatini, Instigator

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