Auto Service World
Feature   May 1, 2001   by Rick Cogbill a.k.a. Slim Shambles

Too Much of a Good Thing

"What's the matter, Quig?" I asked. "You look like you just lost your best friend.""Worse than that," he replied, his hands shaking as he logged on to the computer at the front counter. "I may have to...


“What’s the matter, Quig?” I asked. “You look like you just lost your best friend.”

“Worse than that,” he replied, his hands shaking as he logged on to the computer at the front counter. “I may have to give up coffee.”

This was not good news. As service writer for our busy shop, Quigley relied on strong Java to keep him going throughout the day.

“How come?” asked Basil. “Not sleeping at nights?”

Quigley sighed. “I sleep fine. It’s my nerves that are getting bad. I notice it most when I’m driving my truck. I can hardly keep it on the road.”

I frowned. Something didn’t sound right, because Quig owned a glossy black 1998 Chevy pickup, loaded with every option available. If there was an easier vehicle to drive, I hadn’t seen it yet.

Basil must have thought so, too. “Your truck can just about find it’s own way to work,” he said. “Are you sure there isn’t something else wrong here?”

“Well, I first thought there was something wrong with my power steering,” admitted Quigley, “because it’s been acting funny for the last few months. I’d be taking a corner when all of a sudden the truck would oversteer and jump into the next lane.” He was starting to sweat now as he looked over the day’s appointments. It was going to be a busy one, and without some Maxwell House in his system, things didn’t look promising.

Basil was intrigued. “So now the steering is even worse?”

Quigley rubbed his sleepy eyes and grimaced. “I barely touch the steering wheel and the truck takes off all over the road. It’s like there’s too much power assist. But that doesn’t make sense, does it? I mean, if the power steering quits, wouldn’t the wheel get harder to turn?”

Basil didn’t reply, but picking up his own coffee cup and humming to himself, he wandered off to the service computer to do a little research. I could tell that something had twigged his memory but it would do no good to ask. In his own time he would reveal his thoughts and more often than not, a solution to the problem.

For now Quigley was on his own. With no coffee to kick-start his day, he was trying to handle all the phone calls, parts orders, and scheduling problems on his own steam. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

“What’s wrong with Quig?” asked Beanie, running out of the front office as a paperweight hit the door behind him.

“Coffee withdrawal,” said Tooner, as he worked on a wheel alignment. “Best stay out of his way.”

But by mid-morning, relief was in sight. Our glum service writer was sitting on his hands in the coffee room when Basil walked in with two steaming mugs and a computer printout. “I’ve found your problem, Quig. Have a cup of coffee while I fill you in.”

Quigley was suspicious and kept his hands where they were. “What are you talking about?” he snarled through tight lips.

“Service bulletin #86-32-06,” our resident guru replied. “You have a faulty steering wheel speed sensor. That’s the sensor that controls how much power assist you have.” Basil took a long sip of his own coffee and sat back with a sigh of pleasure. It was more than Quigley could stand. He dove for the other mug and downed the scalding brew in one gulp. I don’t think it even had time to burn his throat.

“Tell me more,” he gasped, darting his eyes towards the coffeemaker.

“In essence, your power steering hasn’t quit; it’s working overtime. GM uses a signal from what they call the Electronic Variable Orifice (EVO) sensor located at the bottom of the steering column to govern how much assist you get. What’s happened is that due to inadequate contact pressure of the electrical contactor in the sensor, the sensor resistance is too high, resulting in full power assist at all times.”

“How can you tell if the resistance is too high?” asked Beanie.

Basil pointed to the printout. “You measure the resistance at the sensor connections, between the orange/ black wire and the light blue wire. When turning the wheel from lock to lock, there shouldn’t be more than 12K ohms resistance. If there is, replace the sensor.”

As Quigley headed over to the coffeepot for his second cup of the day, the customers in the waiting room heaved a collective sigh of relief. But as he poured his fourth one, I cautioned him. “Hey, Quig, don’t you think that’s too much of a good thing? Remember your power steering problem; too much could make you jumpy.”

He tapped his head and grinned. “Not to worry, Slim. I’ve got a better computer upstairs than GM does. It knows how to compensate.”

About The Writer

Rick Cogbill is a freelance writer living in the Okanagan valley of Southern British Columbia. A licensed technician with over 25 years in the automotive repair industry, including ten years as a shop owner, Cogbill creates his comic scenarios with Slim, Basil, Tooner, and The Bean out of actual case histories. “What you have just read is true,” drawls Slim Shambles. “Only the names have been changed to protect my hide!”


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