Auto Service World
Feature   January 1, 2006   by CARS Magazine

Yeah Baby, VEGAS!

Do you have thirst for new tech? Industry Week is like drinking from a fire hose

The annual SEMA/AAPEX shows that made up Industry Week in Las Vegas between October 31st and November 4th, 2005 were joined this year by the body shop side of the aftermarket as the NACE show took up residence at the Mandalay Bay’s conference centre. The result was a mammoth show that literally stuffed every square foot of convention space in the city. This is a sort of Mecca for the aftermarket, something everyone in the business should see at least once. “See”, however, is a relative term, since the 4000-plus exhibitors showing to over 100,000 attendees makes covering the event a quick glance at best. For aftermarket professionals with a thirst for new products, this show is like drinking from a fire hose. There was far too much to see, do, eat and spend your money on than can be described, so here’s a tiny sampling of the new products that caught my eye. They’re in no particular order and may not even be available at the time of writing. Some are serious money makers, and some just plain goofy, but they will give you an idea about what you can see at Industry Week’s Automotive Aftermarket Products Exposition and Specialty Equipment Market Association venues. The 2006 edition runs October 31st to November 3rd, but book early because the hotels fill fast, even in Las Vegas. Jim Anderton, Editor

Mitchell1 OnDemand5 Service Information

What it is: A venerable repair database

Why it’s cool: Repair databases are updated and enhanced regularly, but one that literally caught my eye is the CircuitSelect feature of OnDemand5’s version 5.8. Circuit select lets the user highlight individual circuits in a wiring diagram and colour the wires to mark feed or sense wires, for example. You can even hide wires the tech doesn’t need to see, making modern “spaghetti” wiring diagrams a lot easier to use.

Denso SC Alternator

What it is: The alternator, with a twist

Why it’s cool: The field wires in the stator are square, not round, meaning 20 percent less weight and 10 percent better efficiency compared to conventional designs. An added bonus is reduced EM noise. It’s been in OEM applications since 2000, but is now available to the aftermarket. A new twist on a mature technology.

Delphi DSD Online

What it is: Lower cost high-end diagnostics

Why it’s cool: Delphi’s DS series of driver’s seat diagnosis products are award-winning, but too expensive for smaller independents. The new DSD Online service gives smaller shops much of the functionality of the full system without the costly hardware. It’s sci-fi diagnostics for the masses.

International RXT

What it is: A pickup on steroids

Why it’s cool: Las Vegas, indeed America, is about “big” so it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that International Truck and Engine Corp. would manufacture what are essentially the world’s biggest pickup trucks. International claims excellent towing capacity. No kidding! It can haul 4-6 tons and tow up to 7 3/4 tons. The base V-8 diesel makes 230 HP with 540 ft. lbs. of torque, driving through a 5-speed Allison automatic. With a GVWR of 25,500 lbs., you may need a heavy truck license, but the brakes are hydraulic. You can also dress it up like an Escalade, including DVD and an in-dash navigation system, although strangely missing from the option list is a CB radio. The fuel tank capacity is an eye-popping 260 litres. If you need one of these, you’re either insane or a promotional genius, because you can’t help but get noticed in an RXT.

WD-40 Smart Straw

What it is: A famous name in a new package

Why it’s cool: Ever lose the straw on that handy can of penetrating oil? I do all the time and the result is an essentially useless spray can. The folks at WD-40 have attached the straw permanently to the can, making it possible to reach down into tight spots and use the correct amount of lube, instead of soaking everything. It’s a small thing, but it solves an annoying problem that’s been around for years.

SKF X-Tracker Hub Unit

What it is: A different way to build bearings

Why it’s cool: X-Tracker hub units use a larger bearing on the wheel side of the hub with more balls, increasing hub stiffness by over 50% compared to regular tapered bearing units. That’s good for reducing noise and vibration, but what’s better is the ability to sell customers on a repair that’s better than the OEM part. It’s a real advantage that can be exploited to push back against the dealer challenge.

Hitch Critters Ball Hitch Cover

What it is: An animated bass ball hitch cover with light-up eyes

Why it’s cool: Every year brings its share of the weird and wonderful to Industry Week and 2005 was no exception. Hitch Critters are animated animal ball covers that plug into your trailer harness. The bass flops and its eyes light up when you hit the brakes. There’s also a deer version with a target on its chest that throws up its hooves under braking. According to the company, all products are “Redneck Approved”. You won’t see one on my truck, but they sure got my attention.

Bosch ICON Wiper Blades

What it is: A bracketless, high-performance multi-fit wiper blade

Why it’s cool: In what might be one of the least interesting of all aftermarket part categories, the Bosch ICON rolls all the firm’s wiper technology into one product. ICON is bracketless, uses a dual compound blade, connects with a weatherproof fitting and includes an integral wind spoiler. Bosch claims a 20% longer life compared to their Micro Edge Excel product, but in my book the real impact is the ability to counter the runaway bracketless sales hit in the wiper segment by a certain Canadian big box store. You know, the one with the really annoying guy in the TV commercials?

Fram High Mileage Oil Filter

What it is: Oil filtration for older engines

Why it’s cool: Regular readers know that I love upsell parts and service, especially if it trumps the dealer offering. The FRAM High Mileage oil filter is a classic example. A viscosity improving additive is stored as a timed-release gel inside the filter body, eliminating the need to use bottled additives separately. It saves time and gives the consumer a more customized, vehicle-specific service experience. And it’s often a lot easier to upsell a premium filter compared to premium oil.

Beissbarth Touchless Wheel Alignment System

What it is: A new angle on wheel alignment

Why it’s cool: It’s completely touchless, using cameras instead of wheel mounted reflectors. The system uses a 20,000 vehicle database; runs in multiple languages and can complete a full test including a caster sweep in less than two minutes. It was displayed with a gorgeous Mercedes SLK which is appropriate; the system costs about as much as my house, but it’s way cool.

SPX TIF Infrared Pocket Thermometer

What it is: Pocket-sized non-contact thermometry

Why it’s cool: Checking the running temperature of cooling system and HVAC components is pretty common, but what about the other areas where it could be a really useful diagnostic tool? The TIF IR pocket thermometer lets you read temps of everything from alternators to tire treads by simply pointing the instrument at the component and pressing a button. That’s good, but what really makes it work is the unit’s shirt pocket size, meaning it’s there when the opportunity arises. You might not take the temperature of an electrical connector if it means going back to the box or bench, but if it’s in your pocket, why not?

Dunlop Grandtrek PT9000

What it is: One of the biggest performance tires ever built

Why it’s cool: Dunlop, once a brand about as exciting as Argyle socks, has gone off the deep end with a 24-inch “tuner” truck tire in an outrageous 305/35R24 size. It’s H-speed rated for 130 MPH, so slammed Escalade owners can now head for Bonneville with impunity. On the show floor, the Dunlop folks were shaving tread patterns into volunteer’s heads, so the crazy new rubber probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. This isn’t a prototype or styling exercise; Dunlop expects to sell these steamrollers. Other companies offer big tires, but the slightly crazed look of the Dunlop team suggests that they’ll try to build just about anything that’s round and black. Get security in here!

Goodyear E-Z Coil

What it is: A novel way to make your own molded heater hoses

Why it’s cool: I love simple solutions to tough problems, and Goodyear’s E-Z Coil is one of the best I’ve seen in years. It’s simply a coil of bendable wire with a steel backbone that, when slipped over a length of heater hose, lets you hand-form bends up to 90 degrees without kinking. Currently available for 1/2, 5/8 and 3/4-inch heater hose, this could be great where tight underhood clearances mean chafing or burning of standard hose. Goodyear claims that you can replace over 200 heater hose numbers with these coils and standard heater hose. It’s so simple it’s sick … why didn’t anyone think of this before?

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