Have you looked at your seats, carpets and floor mats lately? It can be surprising how fast they show the dirt…

Its Monday, I’m late, and I just spilled my coffee all over inside my car…

Your car is a perfect petri dish for rapid growth of stuff we’d rather not know about. The mold and bacteria that is really behind the odor from that spilled drink is only masked by fragrant cleaners and the stains always come back!

At Finn, we have been extremely fortunate to be the test grounds for revolutionary new disinfectant cleaners thanks to a developmental partnership with a local corporation. Not only are we impressed by how well these chems clean, they also meet our environmental standards as they are biodegradable and made from environmentally friendly ingredients.

To top it all off, we use equipment that leaves your seats dry instead of the sopping mess that can take more than a day to dry out giving all of those bugs and fungi ample time to grow back!

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See the before and after! Half of this seat was treated first to show the contrast. Nasty!

Techs have to “hack” into your car every day…

The automakers are torn between the open-source/open-access mandates of the U.S. Federal Government and protecting their proprietary technology. This dynamic feeds the oem’s drive to make their specific diagnostic interfaces conveniently accessible to dealership service departments only. Public demand in the marketplace for competent, economic automotive services drives the aftermarket development of diagnostic service tools that are basically professional assemblies comprised of reverse engineering and hacks. Unfortunately with this market driven necessity there is also a corresponding evil.

Original Article…

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By Jim Finkle

BOSTON | Mon Aug 20, 2012 5:17am EDT

(Reuters) – A team of top hackers working for Intel Corp’s security division toil away in a West Coast garage searching for electronic bugs that could make automobiles vulnerable to lethal computer viruses.

Intel’s McAfee unit, which is best known for software that fights PC viruses, is one of a handful of firms that are looking to protect the dozens of tiny computers and electronic communications systems that are built into every modern car.

It’s scary business. Security experts say that automakers have so far failed to adequately protect these systems, leaving them vulnerable to hacks by attackers looking to steal cars, eavesdrop on conversations, or even harm passengers by causing vehicles to crash.

“You can definitely kill people,” said John Bumgarner, chief technology officer of the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, a non-profit organization that helps companies analyze the potential for targeted computer attacks on their networks and products.

To date there have been no reports of violent attacks on automobiles using a computer virus, according to SAE International, an association of more than 128,000 technical professionals working in the aerospace and the auto industries.

Yet, Ford spokesman Alan Hall said his company had tasked its security engineers with making its Sync in-vehicle communications and entertainment system as resistant as possible to attack.

“Ford is taking the threat very seriously and investing in security solutions that are built into the product from the outset,” he said.

And a group of U.S. computer scientists shook the industry in 2010 with a landmark study that showed viruses could damage cars when they were moving at high speeds. Their tests were done at a decommissioned airport.

SAE International charged a committee of more than 40 industry experts with advising manufacturers on preventing, detecting and mitigating cyber attacks.

“Any cyber security breach carries certain risk,” said Jack Pokrzywa, SAE’s manager of ground vehicle standards. “SAE Vehicle Electrical System Security Committee is working hard to develop specifications which will reduce that risk in the vehicle area.”

The group of U.S. computer scientists from California and Washington state issued a second report last year that identified ways in which computer worms and Trojans could be delivered to automobiles — via onboard diagnostics systems, wireless connections and even tainted CDs played on radios systems.

They did not say which company manufactured the cars they examined, but did say they believed the issues affected the entire industry, noting that many automakers use common suppliers and development processes.

The three big U.S. automakers declined to say if they knew of any instances in which their vehicles had been attacked with malicious software or if they had recalled cars to fix security vulnerabilities.

Toyota Motor Corp, the world’s biggest automaker, said it was not aware of any hacking incidents on its cars.

“They’re basically designed to change coding constantly. I won’t say it’s impossible to hack, but it’s pretty close,” said Toyota spokesman John Hanson.

Officials with Hyundai Motor Co, Nissan Motor Co and Volkswagen AG said they could not immediately comment on the issue.

A spokesman for Honda Motor Co said that the Japanese automaker was studying the security of on-vehicle computer systems, but declined to discuss those efforts.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security declined to comment when asked how seriously the agency considers the risk that hackers could launch attacks on vehicles or say whether DHS had learned of any such incidents.

The department helps businesses in the manufacturing and transportation industries secure the technology inside their products and investigates reports of vulnerabilities that could allow attacks.

Bruce Snell, a McAfee executive who oversees his company’s research on car security at the Beaverton, Oregon garage, said automakers are fairly concerned about the potential cyber attacks because of the frightening repercussions.

“If your laptop crashes you’ll have a bad day, but if your car crashes that could be life threatening,” he said. “I don’t think people need to panic now. But the future is really scary.”

A McAfee spokeswoman said that among those hackers working on pulling apart cars was Barnaby Jack, a well-known researcher who has previously figured out ways that criminals could force ATMs to spit out cash (bit.ly/bqwEbS) and cause medical pumps to release lethal doses of insulin ( reut.rs/sCD4Pr). Makers of those products responded by saying they would work to improve security.

COMPUTERS ON WHEELS

White hats are increasingly looking beyond PCs and data centers for security vulnerabilities that have plagued the computer industry for decades and focusing on products like cars, medical devices and electricity meters that run on tiny computers embedded in those products.

Automobiles are already considered “computers on wheels” by security experts. Vehicles are filled with dozens of tiny computers known as electronic control units, or ECUs, that require tens of millions of lines of computer code to manage interconnected systems including engines, brakes and navigation as well as lighting, ventilation and entertainment.

Cars also use the same wireless technologies that power cell phones and Bluetooth headsets, which makes them vulnerable to remote attacks that are widely known to criminal hackers.

“There is tons of opportunity for attack on car systems,” said Stuart McClure, an expert on automobile security who recently stepped down as worldwide chief technology officer of McAfee to start his own firm.

Security analysts fear that criminals, terrorists and spies are gradually turning their attention to embedded computers, many of which can be attacked using some of the same techniques as regular computers.

Automakers are rushing to make it easy to plug portable computers and phones to vehicles and connect them to the Internet, but in many cases they are also exposing critical systems that run their vehicles to potential attackers because those networks are all linked within the car.

“The manufacturers, like those of any other hardware products, are implementing features and technology just because they can and don’t fully understand the potential risks of doing so,” said Joe Grand, an electrical engineer and independent hardware security expert.

Grand estimates that the average auto maker is about 20 years behind software companies in understanding how to prevent cyber attacks.

Chrysler said it was addressing security issues with industry groups and outside organizations including Battelle Corp, a non-profit company that recently established an auto security research center in Columbia, Maryland known as CAVE, or the Center for Advanced Vehicle Environments.

CAVE, which declined to discuss its research on auto security, has hired hacking expert Tiffany Strauchs Rad, a professor at the University of Southern Maine. Last year, she was part of a team that identified flaws in prison networks which could enable hackers to remotely open or lock cell doors.

‘SELF DESTRUCT’

Concerns about such possibilities emerged after a group of computer scientists from the University of California and the University of Washington published two landmark research papers that showed computer viruses can infect cars and cause them to crash, potentially harming passengers.

The group chose a fairly banal name, the Center for Automotive Embedded Systems Security. Yet their work is as imaginative as that of Q, the fictional scientist who supplies weapons to British secret agent James Bond.

They figured out how to attack vehicles by putting viruses onto compact discs. When unknowing victims try to listen to the CD, it infects the car radio, then makes its way across the network to more critical systems.

For instance, they came up with a combination attack dubbed “Self Destruct”. It starts when a 60-second timer pops up on a car’s digital dashboard and starts counting down. When it reaches zero the virus can simultaneously shut off the car’s lights, lock its doors, kill the engine and release or slam on the brakes.

In addition to designing viruses to harm passengers in infected vehicles, the academics were able to remotely eavesdrop on conversations inside cars, a technique that could be of use to corporate and government spies.

The research group disbanded after publishing two technical papers, in May 2010 and August 2011, that describe multiple types of attacks and ways to infect cars using Bluetooth systems, wireless networks as well as the car’s OnBoard Diagnostics port, which is also known as an OBD-II port. (bit.ly/oao8a8)

One issue of concern is fighting ordinary PC viruses that could potentially infect cars when laptops and other devices are plugged into infotainment systems.

“Viruses are something that needs to be addressed directly. How we guard against that transfer to our system is a primary focus of our efforts,” said Toyota spokesman John Hanson.

(Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Detroit; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

We stumbled across a great value add on this one!

Most vehicles like this Toyota have switches, knobs and labels that are backlit by the headlight system. However, for some odd reason, too many of the automakers failed to get the message about transitioning into the 21st century and still used incandescent bulbs to light these up. LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are brighter and last longer than miniature incandescent bulbs.

 

Most manufacturers such as with this particular 2002 Toyota 4Runner consider these bulbs a non-service item. Basically, they are saying “when the knob doesn’t light up anymore, don’t buy a new bulb for pennies, buy the whole control at hundreds of dollars”. At Finn, we’ve found a happy middle ground. We searched out and spec’d replacement LEDs that plug and play in the same sockets as the original bulbs.

 

Let us take apart the component and retrofit the incandescents to LED! Its actually an upgrade. The new light is crisper, more reliable, consume less power per lumens, and wont heat up the neighboring circuits.

Once in a while, every now and then, from time to time, this one reoccurring nightmare of mine seems to come to life thanks to our dedicated pals at Miscrosoft. It begins at the end of another rigorous productivity session at the laptop busy programming a website, a server app, or a Solidworks model. Shortly after comes a key distraction in the shop. Someone needs a part pried and held out of the way, or a diagnostic troubleshoot that requires multiple heads in concert, or something that requires me to step away from the screen abruptly and then keeps me away for around 30 minutes or so. When I return, I see that my computer has been automatically updated and restarted leaving virtually every program choking on the file-recovery versions of their former selves. I know, I know, you’re thinking “should have hit save” to which I reply “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts…”

But why was it necessary for Mr. Gates’ stooges to cast this evil on my Monday afternoon? Well, the truth is that the market, the economy, and common sense wont wait for a reliable product tomorrow when the threshold for something that might be sellable has been crossed today. On top of that, there is no realistic expectation that engineers can forsee every method of attack or mode of failure and close those holes before they occur for the first time in a real world setting. So what is this ‘automotive blog post’ getting at? Your car as it turns out is seemingly being designed today by former Microsoft engineers exiled by Mr. Gates in the fallout of the dot-com boom. This real world trend is evident from computers (processor driven modules) controlling just about every function in the vehicle. Why you ask? Take your tail lights… The functions of your tail lights are, stop, reverse, left turn, right turn, hazard, headlight, and alarm flash. Each of these functions requires at least two circuits and possibly three. We have to run all of those wires from just in front of our knees clear back to the rear bumper. The cost and expense of 20-30 wires, the likelihood of defect, and overall complexity is much larger than say,  a single computer mounted in the rear bumper, receiving commands on a single wire and then commanding the different lights on. So now we have computers to roll up and down windows, lock and unlock doors, control our alarms, hook up to our ipods, and warm our dairy-aire on a cold day.

So what happens when an ex-Microsoft lackey fouls up the code on our seat heaters? Well, if it might kill you they (the oems) will issue a recall. If it wont kill you but will probably make you angry, they will issue what is called a Technical Service Bulletin. These notices inform us that there are indeed updates waiting to be loaded to our various computers. Voila! Now we have cars that will routinely and increasingly be repaired with the download of a software patch, a new service pack, or an updated calibration. Que the tech-savvy technician with his vehicle programming interface and “bam”, its fixed. Take solace in knowing that there are no automatic updates to surprise you in your car. Imagine if there were, in the blink of an eye, a typical days distraction might teleport you and your car 3 hours away from where you needed to be…

You’ve heard me rant about the timing belt over and over. Well this time I’m going to share a little tech-tip secret on how to service one of Mr. Timing Belt’s close neighbors and associates… The Camshaft/Crankshaft seals. These babies are typically replaced on a thorough timing belt job merely because, while they are likely to outlast one timing belt, they are far less likely to outlive two timing belts. Getting these seals out can be a royal pain. In fact special tool after special tool has been made to simplify the act of getting these old babies out of their pressed fit hole. While you will find several of these special tools in my toolbox, one of my favorite old go-to methods involves a sharp punch, a sharp pointed wood screw, and any old pair of pliers…

Step 1: Make a small pilot hole through the flat face of the seal closer to the outer edge.

Step 2: Thread the wood screw in only a couple threads and probably less than 1/8 inch. Be carefull not to thread it in any farther than necessary because there are often polished metal bearing surfaces behind that can be compromised by a little scratch.

Step 3: Grab the wood screw with a pair of pliers and find a metal ledge to cantilever over to easily pull the seal out of its press fit.

Step 4: Make sure you have a chuckle at the guy next to you who has been going to town with his ‘special tool’ for a while now.

Not your average FOAM PARTY!

Posted: August 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

CAFS >> Compressed Air Foam Systems…

A firefighting term used to classify a pump that mixes compressed air, water, and a foaming additive (more or less soap) into whipped cream consistencies and then rocket them as far as possible coating surfaces up to a couple hundred feet away with a shaving cream like consistency. Just as a gob of shaving cream sticks and hangs on the bathroom mirror for hours, the finished foam holds on to surfaces while it slowly drains the water it is composed of on to the surface over an extended period of time.

Small militarized versions of these systems were in widespread use in Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan to put out military vehicle fires after they would get hit with an IED. While the militarized version costs upwards of five thousand dollars, we put together the identical inside components (with some design improvements) for a few hundred dollars and then use the systems with mild environmentally friendly chemicals to clean the shop floors, gunky parts, and vehicle undercarriages. I’m always impressed at how powerful 100psi expanding compressed air rockets the air-water mixture up to 50 feet out of our special nozzle. The floors have never been cleaner and we use chemicals you could safely drink!

Want the plans to cheaply and easily build your own version to use for anything from parts cleaning to combat firefighting? Let me know.

He Who Holds the Key

Posted: August 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

Did I get your attention? Well I hope I don’t disappoint you but there are no Gregorin-esque Lord of the Ring themes or monty python references in this post…

Oh, and did I also mention Ghost Busters???

“Are you the keymaster”, get it?… Nevermind.

What am I going to blab about? Keys. Plain and simple keys… Well, not that simple.

I love all of the bells and whistles in my new car keys. I can open the tail gate, lock, unlock, and even wake the neighbors with this special feature so aptly labeled ‘panic’. We wound out, several times, why they named it panic when our toddlers commandeered our keys and pushed the pretty red button made exclusively for their fingers. First you hear the horn sounding off over and over with the first though being “what jerk is making that kind of racket this early in the morning” when suddenly you realize, Its mine! Subsequent scramble and mild PANIC and , yep, the kids got them.

However, when kid slobber shorts out the buttons, the dog picks the wrong chew toy, or heaven forbid you lose your keys, the steps for replacement might surprise you. Car keys these days have identification mechanisms in them that make the special knobs and notches in your metal key pretty much useless. Most keys these days are chipped and communicate with an electronic reader mounted behind the plastic close to where you put the key in. Just as we wouldn’t want our keys in the hands of an untrustworthy individual who could duplicate a basic key, we also don’t want him to have access to the encrypted key codes that the vehicle computer is programmed to accept. Of course with any new technology advancement comes a committee for the system of committees that ultimately is responsible for the limited access and protection of your system. Did you get that? Well, I am talking about The manufacturers who upload your key codes to the Secure Data Release Model Registry which is administered by the National Automotive Service Task Force who vets individuals that gain registered access to these codes from the manufacturers proprietary data interface. There, isn’t that simple? No? Well, we seem to have cracked the code, paid off all of the fees to all of the agencies and can readily fill out the forms to replace the key that your dog chewed up so you can start your car once again.

We have the computers to program-in new keys, the locksmith certification and registration (i.e. permission), and access to replacement parts for your ride. Of course there are more hidden complications to the process, but leave them up to us. If you’re down to only one key and no spare, make an appointment to have a replacement coded TODAY!

Cottonwoods for Cabin Filters

Posted: August 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

Like christmas in July, the massive amounts of cottonwood tree excriment filled the gutters and sidewalks with puffy alergen. For someone sensitive to this seasonal allergies, having these featherlight fuzzies stacked up in your cabin filter could make your ride your worst trigger. From cottonwoods to forrest fires, 2012 has proven to be the year of the airborn particulate. And these tiny babies are guaranteed to have taken up camp in your vehicle’s cabin air intake. Change your filters today!

Get Fresh Air Inside Your Car In Broomfield.

Love the article.

It shows that for almost a decade and a half now automotive engineers have been paying attention to your own personal cabin air quality. Just imagine the nasty dust and sludge that builds up at home under your refrigerator, around your home air conditioner, or at your furnace air handler. All of these machines are continuously heating up then cooling down providing alot of surface area for wet films of condensation to form and dry out repeatedly. These are exactly the characteristics of a cozy place for toxic mold and irritating spores to grow. Your car, on the other hand doesn’t have all of these machines spread throughout an entire building. Instead it crams them all into a tight space and then gives you an attached, semi-sealed bubble to ride in. So you can imagine next time the heater or ac vent blows out a funky smell that it may becoming from your own private growth culture of health-threatening slime.

Getting to know us at Finn will inform you of an incredible technology being developed right in our back yard by some of our closest friends. A disinfectant without any of the toxic ingredients found in every other chemical. In fact, this stuff has been lab-proven to be less toxic for you than toothpaste! On top of that, it is entirely biodegradable and was specifically designed with ingredients certified by the EPA to be ‘designed for the environment’.

Ahh yes, it is good to have friends in the right places, in fact, these specific friends of ours let Finn Mototech AND ONLY FINN use this product to clean out vehicle interiors with a special process that uses only a mere mist to circulate, clean, and disinfect nearly every surface of your ride’s interior.

The July 2012 issue of Consumer Reports hit the stands recently. In it, a very titillating article summarizing the top reasons people get bent with their repair shop. Our Napa distributor rep Gary was eager to get me a copy because the top items on this list of gripes were the exact items we had discussed in a recent brainstorming discussion surrounding the most prevalent customer concerns and the best business practices to minimize and address them. Thanks Gary, it is a perfect segue to this blog entry.

In the article poll…

38% Said that the price was too high

-Finn Mototech was established with efficiency and innovation as core values used to accomplish lower overhead and corresponding labor rates than the competition. On average, our labor rate is $12/hr less than the local competition.

28% Said that the initial repair did not fix the problem

-As a standard operating procedure, we test drive vehicles before and after repairs both to verify the initial complaint and to validate the repair. Additionally, we place high value on continued-current education so that our techs stay fresh and relevant as technology evolves. We constantly research and read about case studies, recalls, and manufacturer technical service bulletins to be readilly informed about whatever may come through the door.

21% Said that the repair took longer than expected

-Manage the customer’s expectations. Of the many things from Chris and my shared past experience one practice stuck with us. Namely the AAR (which stands for after action report/review). Found in many military-like command structures, the AAR is a brainstorming session in which all participants in an event get together to brainstorm what worked well, or didn’t work at all in the incident. We used to use them when fighting fire to analyze the ergonomics of our product designs after the intensity of the fire had passed and there was time to calmly and carefully reflect. If we are ever disappointed with our own performance, or disappoint a customer by being late with their vehicle we do spend quite a bit of time in discussion and reflection to ensure our normal practices keep the customer informed and updated on the status of their repairs. If a unique set of circumstances surprises us we build in a procedural trap to catch/or prevent it from reoccurring. Additionally, if experience has demonstrated any potential pitfalls that we may encounter on a particular job, we try to convey those risks in the form of additional costs and delays to the customer in advance.

18% Said that they had to take the car back because the repair did not “hold up”

-Many of you have suffered through my rantings about part quality and the need to align your reputation with a brand with quality that bolsters it. Finn Mototech is a Napa Autocare Center installing original equipment quality parts wherever possible. We don’t choose the company with the cheapest part or highest profit margin, instead we choose the part we can feel proud of installing and most importantly confident of its quality and durability. Our constant yearning for techy-knowledge keeps our guys in classes and seminars to ensure proper diagnosis and installation of the right part to begin with.

11% Said that the price was more than originally estimated

-Absolutely not! This is what I tell my customers and my crew. Customer will absolutely not be surprised by price at Finn Mototech period. As a company SOP every repair job is estimated and discussed to the exact dollar amount with the customer before work begins. Prices estimated to customers include taxes, disposal charges, and shop supply incidentals so that any number communicated to a customer is an out-the-door price they can expect to pay. This is especially tough when a customer puts you on the spot and says “give me a rough idea” but our crew has been trained to try to restrain from any loose suggestion of price and we always offer to take the time to work up a specific estimate that we are ready to commit to. Even our customer’s mere curiosity is worth the time to work up an estimate that will be linked and saved in our system so that regardless of who you talk to, price is not a moving target.

8% Said that the car was not clean when it was picked up

-Perhaps my biggest pet peeve! My crew knows well about my training emphasis on knowing if and where you are dirty and being ultimately aware of every painted or interior surface of the car that you touch. Disposable floor mats and seat covers (made from recyclable materials) are always on hand and automatically used on most vehicles.

7% Said that they were sold unnecessary parts

-Training, training, training… We love training and learning about new technology. We’re practically obsessed with getting it right the first time and utilizing advanced diagnostic techniques that are beyond even the techniques taught in factory training. Like oscilloscopes… I was amazed to meet and work with a GM-trained master technician who had accomplished the prestigeous “World-class” factory certification that didn’t even have the slightest idea how to operate an oscilloscope. He owned one, and it sat still in the plastic wrap in his tool box. When I told him to get it out so we could test a circuit, he was confused at how we would watch something as simple as a transient voltage spike. Needless to say, I was no longer impressed by his “world-class” stature. Many automakers want to keep the repairman’s technical acumen as low as possible, you will not find a diagnostic strategy in a factory service manual that involves an oscilloscope. After all “If we expect them to be smart, we’ll probably have to pay them more. Now back to that recall”, is what I imagine the auotmaker-engineering manager saying. For the rest of us, oscilloscopes give us a wealth of information and improved strategy at effectively finding the exact gremlins in your ride.

Beyond our commitment to staying current with technology, we take pride in what we do and value honesty and integrity.

6% Said they were treated poorly by staff

-Not at Finn Mototech. We are all courteous and respectful by nature (thanks to our mothers). We have no ‘bad eggs’ that need to be kept in the corner or avoided when in a bad mood.

4% Said that they had to wait more than 30 minutes to pick up their car

-Actually, we identified this as a common problem amongst auto shops a while ago and decided to establish our own unique approach to tackle the efficiency busting situation in which everything is done but the paperwork. We developed a networked system in which input is collected from every employee involved from any of several terminals located throughout the shop and we implemented standard procedures where distinct data entry opportunities are capitalized on so that we’re always ahead of the game with regard to any after-repair delays.

4% Said that the shop they went to did not honor the warranty

-Well this is simply a non-issue at Finn. Not only do we stand with pride behind our work but with our alliance with Napa as a Napa Autocare Center repairs that we make are covered by a nationwide ‘peace of mind’ warranty that is honored at thousands of locations.

3% Said that they felt taken advantage of because of their gender

-Just ask our wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers… Not at Finn, period. Everyone gets the same high standard of professional treatment.

2% Did not honor a coupon or advertised special

-Thankfully, our advertisements have never written checks that our tools cant cash. We do heavily promote our business with coupons and advertised specials and we also implement unpublished/unadvertised grace periods for every expiration date. On top of that, we honor the purchase price value of and pre-purchased service indefinitely beyond expiration.

Of those who fired their shop

  • 1/2 fired a dealership
  • 1/3rd said it was an independent shop
  • 1/5th said it was a franchise chain (Such as Midas or Big-O)

[Article: 2012, July Issue Consumer Reports]