A customer recently brought his Ford in for service. At the time he was informed he needed new bakes front and rear. The customer declined the repair, citing “I can do that myself”. No problem at all, give us a call if there is a repair we can help you with.

A couple weeks later the customer returned, asking that the brakes be bled. He had replaced the brake pads, and had the rotors turned, but ever since the brake service he had a spongy brake pedal. Not knowing exactly what when wrong, we complied with the request and found that no matter how much the brake system was bled, the pedal was not quite right. The first time the pedal was depressed, it was soft, nearly going to the floor. If the pedal was pumped, the brakes would operate normally after the second or third pump. It seemed to be the classic air bubble, or a bad master cylinder. The question remained, why can’t we bleed the bubble out, and how could a brake service cause a bad master cylinder?
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A relay, in the most technical terms, is an electro magnet that acts as a switch. As the video shows, when power and ground are applied to the relay, the magnet becomes active, and the switch is completed. The infamous “clicking” one hears when a relay is activated, is the switch being magnetically drawn over to complete the circuit (please see video).

Ok, so a relay completes a circuit when power and ground are applied to it. How can we test if a relay is good in order to diagnose an electrical problem?

Most relays have a diagram of the relay right on the side of them, such as this fine relay here ….

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Whatever your relationship with the automobile, it is important to understand who built it. The trouble with auto manufacturers is that they are always building stuff for each other. This post will help sort out who built what, for who, and why it matters.

First thing first, let’s get acquainted with the major automotive families. Automotive families are different makes that are all made by the same manufacture. Many times manufactures will want to produce a regular run of vehicles, and then a more luxurious run of models. They will produce what is essentially the same vehicle, but badge them differently and pack one with all the high end wonders people love.

The major automotive families include …

Toyota, Lexus, and Scion. Honda and Acura. Nissan and Infinity. Hyundai and Kia. BMW and Mini. Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda and Seat. Jaguar and Land Rover. Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury. Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Plymouth and Eagle (Here shortly, toss in Fiat). General Motors, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Cadillac, Pontiac, Buick, Hummer, Saturn, and GMC (As well as Opel, Vauxhall, Holden and Daewoo). You can always tell a terrible product, because they will have numerous names for the same bad product.
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