Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy 25th Birthday, Wheels!

Wheels' chief scribe Jim Kenzie with a copy of the first Wheels section (Dave Cooper/Toronto Star image)
You can find Wheels editor Mark Richardson's article regarding the 25th Birthday of the Star's Wheels section here. While there, you'll also find additional links to looks back and looks forward from several regular contributors and the automakers themselves.

I'm personally proud to have been associated with this section, and am looking forward to as many more years as they'll have me. Wheels' contributors and staff are a good bunch of people who really do share a passion for automobilia and writing, and I think that it comes through in the final product. As the saying goes, "imitated, but never duplicated!"

So here's to another 25 years - at least - of Wheels. Congratulations!

Monday, September 26, 2011

When Engineers Get Bored

Actually, this entry falls more into the "When Engineers Get Stupid" category, though you could argue that to be completely accurate I'd have had to title it "When Engineers Try Stupid Things To Try And Impress Someone In Accounting By Saving The Cost Of Three Fasteners".

Heater fan motor - pre-replacement

From an assembly standpoint, incorporating the heater fan motor assembly into the heater case itself makes a certain amount of sense. Unfortunately, these things do fail. I won't say "occasionally", because in certain applications, it isn't. Consequently, some provision has to made to service it (translation: replace it). In the case of this particular design, you actually cut the heater case open to access the motor assembly.

Now, to their credit, the designers of this farce have made cutting the case open fairly simple - there's a clearly delineated circle where you're meant to cut, and the plastic is molded thinner at this point to accommodate the process. A good sharp utility knife will do it, if you're careful not to snap the blade. As this particular part lives on the underside of the heater case, beneath the passenger side of the instrument panel, and is accessed from the passenger side foot-well (a common location for these things), it would help to be triple-jointed or perhaps a retired circus performer.

Cut here... carefully. Getting light-headed yet?

OK, so you've cut the blasted thing out. The problem is, now you've got to somehow install the replacement part. A hot glue gun won't make it happen. (Well, it might, but only if you're truly desperate.) If you've already quoted the customer on this job and the parts counter staffer missed the little footnote on the listing for the fan when you called, you just might consider that option. (Fortunately, we hadn't priced the job yet - we'd just been told to fix it.)

Something's missing here...

No, you need the $62 kit, which is comprised of a stamped steel ring that bridges the gap between the heater case and the piece of the case you cut out earlier (that the fan motor itself bolts to), eight self-tapping screws, a couple of strips of foam (to seal the opening), and an instruction sheet. At least for that price the adapter comes painted.

...that'd be it

Tada! You may now reinstall the new motor assembly and bask in the return of functional heating and cooling.


In most vehicles, this sucker is held in by screws already. Undo them, remove the motor, reinstall, simple. In this one, someone at Delphi re-invented the wheel. It's half asinine, half brilliant. After all, not only do you have to buy a motor, but the adapter too! It's obvious that the whole thing is designed with this in mind - note the pre-molded screw holes. So deviously clever that I just can't bring myself to give it a Jackass Award.

Probably not too many of these cars out there.

So, what vehicle family might you find this in? That would be GM's Epsilon cars; this one was a 2007 Pontiac G6, but I'd bet that the Chevy Malibu and Saturn Aura of the same generation use the exact same setup. Probably not too many of those running around.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Shameless Self-promotion

Press Conference; BMW Stand, Frankfurt Motor Show 2011

You can find my Wheels coverage of the latest high-end exotic and sports concepts from the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show here.

Shameless Self-promotion

2011 Ford Explorer XLT

You can find my Wheels review of Ford's 2011 Explorer XLT here.