Canadian Technician: The authoritative website and magazine for professional auto technicians, mechanics, automotive repair shop owners, service managers in the business of repair, maintenance in the automotive aftermarket.
The fact that you're perusing our website likely means you're a fan of Canadian Technician. Well, we happen to be big fans of our readers, too. Thus, can you kindly help us help you?
Namely, we're continuing our search for a few good men (and women) to join Canadian Technician 's Editorial Advisory Board.
We're currently putting together a panel comprised of our most committed readers - savvy and knowledgeable technicians and shop owners who can advise us on the hot button issues worthy of coverage in our magazine. So, if you'd like to be part of the Canadian Technician family, we'd cherish your input.
To become a member of our Editorial Advisory Board, simply click on the Advisory Panel tab on our home page or contact publisher Martyn Johns at email@example.com.
I speak of our first ever Readers' Issue (June 2009), which has just been put to bed.
It was truly fun cobbling this issue together. The lion's share of the articles was penned by you, the readers of Canadian Technician. And the subject matter certainly runs the gamut - from dealing with a repair nightmare to learning how to paint.
I hope you enjoy the issue when it hits the streets early next month. And I want to give you a heads up that if you'd like to send in contributions regarding something you feel passionately about, by all means do so. If there are indeed more compelling stories to be told, we'll consider doing another Readers' Issue next year. (Simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a submission or if you'd like to discuss a column idea.)
And to all our current Readers' Issue contributors, thanks so much for your prose - it was both entertaining and enlightening.
Bill C-273, a.k.a., the "Right to Repair Bill," was passed by Parliament Wednesday evening by a vote of 248 to 17.
The outcome surprised many observers. While the bill was expected to pass second reading, few industry-watchers predicted it would receive such resounding approval.
New Democrat Industry and Auto Sector critic Brian Masse (Windsor West) - who originally introduced the private member's bill two years ago - called the vote's outcome a resounding victory for consumers, the environment and public safety.
"Today, the House of Commons chose to side with every vehicle owner in the country," said a jubilant Masse. "No environmental or consumer protection rule is voluntary. No public safety measure is voluntary. A law is the only real protection for vehicle owners that is available."
Evidently, the vast majority of MPs are fully cognizant that as cars and trucks have become increasingly more advanced over the years, the use of computer control units is essential to their operations. Yet, independent Canadian auto repair shops (although not U.S. shops) have faced significant difficulties in accessing the tools and software required for repair. This has ultimately limited consumer choice and challenged the effectiveness of emissions and public safety regulations.
But Bill C-273 "ensures a level playing field and creates the mechanism for disclosure," noted Masse.
The "Right-to-Repair Act" has been endorsed by the Automotive Industries Association, Canadian Automobile Association, Pollution Probe, The Retail Council, Canadian Association of Retire Persons, Building Trade Council and numerous other automotive organizations.
A breakdown of which MPs voted for and against the bill can be found on AIA Canada's website, www.aiacanada.com.
As well, it is now clear that the recent strategy adopted by several automobile manufacturers calling for a letter of intent for a voluntary agreement was seen as nothing more than a stalling tactic. The aftermarket industry has successfully convinced the federal government that the only real solution to this problem is legislation (as is the case in the United States.)
As Bill C-273 heads to the Committee stage, the hard work now begins as any interested party can challenge the bill or request amendments. Observers say a Committee report to Parliament should be ready sometime in September.
My take: Bill C-273 has massive industry, political and populist support - indeed, more than 9,000 letters were sent to federal MPs advocating passage of the bill. It is inherently wrong on so many levels that independent repair shops continue to face restrictions on tools, training and diagnostic information. AIA Canada notes that in 2004 alone, blocked access to OBD II (On Board Diagnosis) shifted as much as $2 billion worth of auto repair work away from independent shops.
Bottom line: it is high time to get Bill C-273 passed into law. And the sooner the better: if a federal election is called before third and final reading, the bill will die on the order table. Here's hoping such a scenario doesn't take place and that Parliament ratifies Masse's bill at the first opportunity. At the end of the day, it's all about doing the right thing.
A last-minute heads up: the Society of Automotive Engineers, in collaboration with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), is presenting an Advanced Vehicle Symposium this Saturday, May 9 from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Oshawa, Ont.
The symposium will showcase the latest and most advanced environmentally-friendly vehicles. In addition to up-close viewing of these vehicles, guest speakers from Toyota, General Motors, Chrysler and the UOIT will deliver presentations covering the fundamental operation, technical details, and challenges of several next-generation automobiles.
Perusing the remainder bin of my local book store, I happened upon 365 Ways to Save Gas: Everyday Tips to Stretch Your Dollar by Ronald M Weiers, PH.D. Given the tome had been marked down to $1.99 from $11.99, I thought I was getting a sweet deal. I tucked into the book and prepared to "Save fuel, save money, save the planet" as the header on the cover promised.
Granted, I was skeptical. I mean, everyone knows about the de rigueur no-brainer gas-saving tips such as Tip #50: Avoid extended idling and Tip #135: Keep your tires properly inflated.
But as I read on, I was beginning to think I had been pranked. For example, consider these whiz-bang whoppers:
Tip #11 When not in use, lower the antennae (it creates wind drag, you see);
Tip #35: Drive on the flattest surface (too bad if you live in San Francisco, I suppose);
Tip#100: The electric garage door opener (pressing the "open" button prior to your arrival, you can continue your momentum without having to stop. No, I'm not making this up);
Tip #200 Wash and Wax (by washing and waxing the car, this helps make the vehicle's sheet metal a little more slippery and less air resistant... hate to be a crank here, but did the author take into account the $12+ cost of a wash and wax job versus the $0.002 in potential fuel savings?)
Tip #201: Take the bus or subway (by this point I was really regretting I had spent the equivalent of two litres' worth of fuel on this book);
Tip #254: No hitchhikers (not because you might end up with some maniac channeling Rutger Hauer. Rather, hitchers aren't good due to the additional weight; the chance you might have to make an unnecessary stop; and the possibility of the hitchhiker distracting you from your task of driving efficiently.)
At this point, I could go no further. Instead, I simply chucked the book atop my Honda's spare tire. Alas, that's when I realized I wasn't abiding by Tip #231: Remove the junk from the trunk.
I thoroughly enjoyed meeting numerous technicians, shop owners and suppliers at Lindertech North in Toronto late last month. There was plenty to discuss, and on many an occasion, there was lively and spirited debate around the table.
Only one conversation left me scratching my head in bewilderment. I asked one fellow if he had joined the legion of technicians and shop owners in contacting his Member of Parliament regarding Bill C-273, the definitive solution for the "right to repair" issue.
His response? "Nah. What are you gonna do, eh? What will be will be."
Trust me: now is not the time for complacency regarding Bill C-273. It goes without saying that just about everyone in our industry thinks access to tools and information is a good thing when it comes to remaining competitive and relevant to all consumers. So why, pray tell, hasn't everyone in this industry logged on to AIA Canada's Right to Repair website (www.righttorepair.ca) to voice their concerns?
The fact is there's less than a week to go before this bill is slated for second reading in Parliament (May 13.)
The first hour of debate for Bill C-273 took place on March 6; prior to the debate taking place, more than 5,000 Canadians wrote a letter to their MP. I even know of some techs who phoned or personally met with their MPs - and good for them.
Now is not the time to ease up. In fact, a new letter has been posted on the "Take Action" section of the Right to Repair website for you to send to your Member of Parliament asking for their support of the passage of Bill C-273.
Please spend a few minutes visiting this site in order to make your feelings known. And spread the word about Bill-273 - email your co-workers, family and friends and write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
As the saying goes, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease." And indeed, politicians tend to react to pressure. If we fail to make our voices heard as we enter the stretch run, we all might end up missing a golden opportunity in terms of repairing an egregious wrong.
GM's once-iconic Pontiac division is officially motoring off into the sunset, a victim of The General's frantic restructuring attempts.
Certainly, the demise of Pontiac comes as sad news for the remaining fans of the brand. But I believe the mismanagement of the Pontiac brand makes for one of the tell-tale reasons why GM is in such dire straits today.
When I think of Pontiac's glory days, the image that springs to mind is that of the flamboyant John DeLorean, the driving force behind the GTO - the vehicle responsible for the muscle car phenomenon of the 1960s.
From a pop culture perspective, when I think of Pontiac, I recall Jim Rockford's always-reliable golden-hued Firebird from The Rockford Files. And I recall that wicked ebony Trans-Am driven (and in some cases, flown) by Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit.
Before they became indistinguishable from models sold by Chevrolet and Oldsmobile, Pontiac cars of yester-decade were cool and kick-ass and had cachet. But in later decades, despite Pontiac's advertising bravado of "We Build Excitement", the precise opposite proved true. Pontiac vehicles - from the Grand Prix to the Grand Am to the Montana minivan - existed as monuments to blandness. (Can someone kindly explain the bizarre Pontiac design fetish which entailed affixing chunks of grey plastic to the sides of vehicles?)
On the odd occasion when Pontiac decided to think outside the box, the results often proved disastrous. Case in point: the Pontiac Aztek, a vehicle that resembled a garbage truck from the rear. When the Aztek launched in 2001, its tagline boasted, "Quite possibly the most versatile vehicle on the planet." Yet, thanks to a grotesque mishmash of angles, the Aztek emerged as a punch line for comedians the world over.
Recent stabs at performance cars - such as the last incarnation of the GTO (2004-'06) and the current G8 - have proven about as awe-inspiring as lukewarm oatmeal. From a design perspective, it seemed as though Pontiac executives were hell-bent on boring consumers to death. True, the Solstice convertible is a thing of beauty. Yet from a performance and handling perspective, this two-seater doesn't stack up against a competitor such as the Mazda Miata.
If there's a silver lining in Pontiac's demise, perhaps it is this: as the saying goes, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." When the new and improved GM emerges in the weeks ahead, hopefully those running the revamped entity will take a page from Pontiac's glory days and remember that "excitement" is indeed a key element to selling automobiles.