NEW CAR FOCUS: Ford Fiesta

Spanning eight generations over 45 years and 4.75 million UK sales, Rob Marshall looks mainly at the petrol tech that underpins Ford’s best seller

Any car model cannot notch-up eight successful generations by being starved of investment. Despite FoMoCo being renowned for keeping a close eye on production costs, it has updated the Fiesta regularly to maintain desirability. Compared with its 1976 original, the 2021 ‘Mark VIII’ is bigger, safer, faster, more economical and better equipped but – even when adjusted for inflation – more expensive.

Despite the current version being more complex than its ancestors, the Fiesta has never been a technical innovator. Instead, Ford has relied on regular styling and specification updates to keep the model fresh, even if the mechanical hardware remains relatively unremarkable. This is not necessarily a bad thing; tried-and-tested engines and transmissions help to suppress repair costs, plus technicians also appreciate a degree of familiarity.

The two 1.5-litre diesel engines are based on the PSA/Ford DV6 units. Of particular interest are their very low lubrication and coolant capacities, of 3.8 and 2.5 litres respectively.
Image courtesy of Stellantis.

Fiesta for today
The strategy shines through to the current cars, which share their transverse-mounted engines and transmissions with other models in the Ford range. Clearly the old Kent-based OHV and later CVH petrol engines of the past can deliver neither the environmental performance required by legislators, nor the performance and economy demanded by drivers. Time has moved on.

The more sophisticated three-cylinder ‘Fox’ petrol engines may feature cast iron blocks and aluminium cylinder-heads but they deliver the required emission and fuel savings that Ford needs to keep competitive. A notable feature is a low-friction Belt In Oil (BIO) timing belt system, developed by Dayco and used initially in Ford’s earlier 1.8-litre ‘Lynx’ diesel engine from 2008.

When fitted to the first of the Mark VIII Fiestas in 2017, the Fox engine family was five years-old already but Ford upgraded it with a cylinder deactivation system, co-developed with Schaeffler. It uses engine oil pressure to activate a valve rocker that interrupts the connection between the camshaft and cylinder No 1’s valves at speeds up to 4,500rpm. To deal with the new NVH frequencies, when the engine operates in two-cylinder mode, the dual mass flywheel specifications were revised and a vibration-damping clutch disc was fitted, along with a different camshaft chain and reworked valve rockers. A video of this technology in action, demonstrated on the Fiesta ST’s all-aluminium ‘Dragon’ three-cylinder 1.5-litre engine, can be viewed below:

Fitted to the least powerful Fiestas, the 1.1-litre Ti-VCT boast a 1084cc capacity that produces either 70, or 85PS, with variable valve timing operating on both overhead camshafts. Rather than featuring direct-injection (GDI) technology, both versions are members of the Fox engine family and are port-injected and normally-aspirated.

The more powerful 1.0-litre ‘Ecoboost’ version (998cc) comes in 100PS, 125PS and 140PS outputs, all of which are direct-injected and turbocharged. Like the smaller non-boosted offering, it features BIO timing gear, a split-cooling system that employs two thermostats, and a cast-iron crankshaft that is supported by four main bearings.

Last year, the Fiesta inherited a low-voltage mild-hybrid system from the new Ford Puma crossover, with a choice of 125PS, or 155PS. Available with the 1.0-litre Ecoboost Fox engine, the system comprises a conventional combined belt-driven integrated starter-alternator (BISG). Unlike the 12v alternative, fitted to the Fiat 500/Panda mild hybrids, which AT investigated last January, Ford employs the more orthodox 48v but the Fiesta mHEV is more expensive than the Fiats. Yet, the higher voltage delivers superior results. Compared to the 125PS non-hybrid Fox, the BISG version is 5% more fuel-efficient and raises the engine’s torque output by up to 50% at low RPMs. This torque increase has given Ford the flexibility to reduce the engine compression ratio (to increase efficiency) and install a larger turbocharger for more top-end power. The system also complements the start-stop system, allowing it to be activated at speeds below 15mph, including while the vehicle in gear and the clutch pedal is depressed.

New DCT gearbox to replace Powershift
It is no secret that the Powershift dual-clutch automated manual transmission, a joint-venture between Getrag and Ford, gave the company and its owners more than a few headaches. Since then, Getrag has been renamed Magna PT and is supplying its 7DCT300 DCT for both the Puma and Fiesta hybrids. As the name denotes, the seven-speed gearbox has a 300Nm torque limit but the advanced unit saw service first in the 2015 Renault Espace, a model not imported to the UK, as well as BMW MINIs since 2017.

An interesting change over more recent Powershift DCTs is the reversion to wet clutches, lubricated by the transmission oil. Clearly, a crankshaft-powered oil pump is unsuitable for a mild-hybrid, which needs to cut the engine while the car is still moving. Therefore, the 7DCT300 possesses an electrically-powered pump, driven not by the 48v circuit but the 12v electrics. The gearbox utilises lubricant to Ford-specification WSS-M2C218-A1, which is freely available and has a change interval of 6 years, or 56,000 miles. Thankfully, the procedure appears relatively straightforward, with fill and level plugs provided on the transmission case.

An interesting aside is that the Magna PT HybridDrive 7HDT300 integrates a high-voltage electric motor within a transmission case of very similar (if not identical) dimensions to that of the 7DCT300. This could give the Fiesta a bolt-on hybrid/plug-in hybrid capability. While nobody at Ford would confirm such a model is planned, technically (and in theory), it is viable.

Summary: Ford continues its winning formula by keeping the Fiesta contemporary but not too radical. The three-cylinder petrol engines (and four-cylinder diesels) are produced in huge numbers and the aftermarket is familiar with them. The new mHEV also offers well-proven hybrid technology. We hope that Ford and Magna PT have learned from the errors made with the earlier Powershift but, as other makers use the 7DCT300, major issues should have been ironed-out. Fiesta prices range between £16,640 to £27,075, with the mHEV DCT costing £21,565, when introduced on March 25th, 2021.

The mild-hybrid Fiesta mHEV uses a 48-volt belt-driven integrated starter-alternator (pictured blue) and a Lithium-ion battery pack (pictured yellow), positioned beneath the passenger seat

Lockdown: oil under pressure

It is well established that engine oil deteriorates faster over short journeys – but why? Rob Marshall addresses this question and looks at how you should maintain the lubrication system to minimise the effects of past and future lockdowns.

Oil chemists have a tough job. It is hard enough to develop a lubricant that provides optimum anti-wear, fuel consumption and low emissions levels in average use. Yet, these are far from normal times.

Almost since the dawn of the mass-produced motorcar, manufacturers have advised both mileage and time-based oil drain intervals, whichever occurs first. More recently, many carmakers insist on an earlier service schedule for ‘severe’ conditions. Unless you face a moderately technically-minded customer, it can be difficult to persuade an owner that gentle pottering to the local shops and back is harder on the engine oil than a longer and faster commute.

Most cars do not possess an oil temperature gauge any more. Where one is fitted, the needle does not rise as quickly as the equivalent coolant temperature instrument, because oil takes longer to reach its optimum temperature.

Low use, high wear
Most engine wear occurs soon after a cold-start and during the warm-up period. While many modern cars heat their coolant comparatively quickly, thanks to electronically-controlled thermostats, on-demand water pumps, and such-like, many drivers do not know (or even care) that the oil takes far longer to warm. Cold weather and short trips are especially tough on engine oil and it is precisely those conditions that many vehicles have faced repeatedly over the last four months.

BG Products highlights that “Short trips do not allow the engine oil to reach peak operating temperatures”, while Motul UK explains: “Much like brake pads and tyres, modern oils have a preferred temperature before certain elements can perform at their best. However, the sophistication of the materials used in a modern oil means that they are engineered to also provide a high level of performance until reaching this optimum.”

Additionally, if the oil does not become sufficiently hot, water and petrol contamination cannot evaporate from it. This situation promotes oil oxidation, a consequence of which is thickening. The resultant increase in viscosity reduces oil flow, meaning that it takes longer for the lubricant to reach moving parts, especially following a cold start. Oxidation also increases the oil’s acidity. While additives combat this to an extent, the risk of corrosion heightens as those antioxidant ingredients deplete. Many technicians are familiar with oil sludge but may not realise that oxidisation tends to be the root cause. Varnishes and lacquer deposits might also result from oil oxidation, which can be even harder to shift. Chemical degradation is also a further complication.

Modern engine oils contain a balance of additives to achieve the required longevity and anti-wear characteristics but they do not last forever. Indeed, they deplete faster, as the oil becomes increasingly contaminated. If the car has not been used during wintertime, which is common among classic and cherished vehicles, even fresh oil is not immune to ageing. Castrol told us that, while engine oil is generally stable (i.e. its chemicals tend not to react with each other), moisture and other impurities can still enter the sump, even if the engine is not started. Annoyingly, an oil drain and refill is unlikely to remove all of these impurities, a proportion of which is likely to remain within the crankcase. At the very best, they will reduce the life of the fresh lubricant.

Add the quantity of oil specified by the manufacturer. Trusting the dipstick alone is unwise, especially on certain diesels, where the ‘max’ mark may consider the natural fuel contamination that results from active DPF regenerations. Should you notice that the level exceeds the ‘max’ mark, query the customer and suspect multiple aborted DPF regenerations, which may warrant further investigation.

A case for flushing
Going by Castrol’s logic, changing the oil and flushing-out these harmful deposits are beneficial for not only engine life but also tailpipe emissions. Indeed, a borderline MOT exhaust gas failure might be solved by an oil drain, flush and refill. Yet, you can choose from a huge variety of engine flushes, including dedicated machines that pump heated cleansing fluid around the lubrication system. Despite their availability, most garages dose a flushing additive into the old oil, instead. Unless oil changes were neglected in the past, flushing should not cause any problems but consider that they do not have to comply with any fixed technical standard. Wynn’s advises that an engine flush should have not only cleaning and acid neutralisation properties but also lubrication functions. It highlights that obtaining all three qualities from a single product is far from easy. Castrol agrees but claims that the flushing market is:

“dominated largely by solvent-based products, which can degrade engine seals and dislodge sludge in larger, denser deposits. This can cause blockages in vital oil ways and lead to oil leaks.”

The company highlights its latest Engine Shampoo pre-oil change treatment, which reduces this risk by dissolving and flushing out up to 85% of sludge, while being solvent-free. Naturally, other producers extol the benefits of flushing; this video of BG Product’s EPR at work is especially telling of its benefits:

A quality oil flush is a worthy upsell, to clean-out the crankcase of deposits that result from dirty and saturated oil.

Looking beyond oil
Multiple short journeys affect more components than service items alone, which you must consider. Should these components not work at their optimum, a consequence will likely be reduced engine oil life. Multiple aborted DPF regenerations, for example, risk over-contaminating the crankcase with diesel fuel, raising the oil levels excessively and speeding the rate of lubricant degradation.

BG Products also reminds us that fuel injectors, EGR valves, air intake plenums, oxygen sensors and catalytic converters are among the many critical areas on which deposits form. This highlights the benefits of further maintenance procedures, including fuel system additives and air intake system cleaners. JLM Lubricants also adds that, especially with short trips:
“Fuel injectors and GDI injectors especially carbon-up. This causes uneven spray patterns, or even leaking/dripping injectors. When the engine does not run at its optimum operating temperature, these droplets of fuel do not evaporate but wash past the piston rings and end-up in the engine oil.”

High-quality oil conditioners are designed to reduce the oxidisation rate of fresh oil, which is ideal, when the engine is tasked with numerous short trips.

Preventative measures
The topic about whether you should upsell an oil supplement, or not, is a contentious one. Many (but not all) engine oil blenders argue that there is no need for you to supplement their lubricants’ additive packs. The VLS shares a similar stance and told AT that:

“Oil fortifiers can actually cause issues of their own. They generally will either thicken the oil, which might make it fall outside the design viscosity and hence impact performance, or they contain additional additive metals which could cause problems with exhaust after-treatment devices.”

Yet, quality additive companies argue that, while aftertreatment compatible oil supplement additives were beneficial during pre-COVID times, they are especially relevant now. Aside from cold weather, reduced driving speeds and shorter trips place the oil at a greater risk of contamination and oxidation. Therefore, especially if we face further lockdowns in the year ahead, it may be useful to give customers’ engine lubrication systems an extra helping hand.

BG Products highlights its MOA fortifier, which is designed specifically for petrol engines and fortifies the oil against premature breakdown and degradation. JLM states that its Bortec oil additive’s anti-oxidant ingredients help the lubricant to tolerate multiple short runs, which reduces sludge formation. Furthermore, it also helps to reduce engine wear, by decreasing the risk of metal-to-metal contact before the engine oil pressure has built sufficiently, during the cold-start and warm-up phases. The Dutch lubrication experts told us that, even if the engine is not new, Bortec slows-down wear rates, as well as helping to clean the engine’s internals. It also highlights that, as the formulation represents the very latest in friction modification technology, it contains no solid particles, making it suitable for newer cars’ tighter tolerances.

Do not forget that anything that reduces combustion efficiency will decrease oil life. Fuel additives can help to maintain cleanliness but do not overlook the ignition system and other serviceable items, such as filters.

Getting it right
The extra stresses that lockdown driving conditions have placed upon engine oil highlights the importance of selecting the correct lubricant. While modern oils, made by credible manufacturers and used in the appropriate applications, provide decent low temperature protection, the VLS highlights that not permitting the lubricant to reach its optimum operating temperature of between 75 and 105 degrees centigrade is far from ideal.

Using an incompatible oil specification can create even worse problems, including accelerating wear to not only the engine but also catalytic converters and particulate filters. The VLS emphasises that, as engines become ever more sophisticated, the demands on lubricants are more stringent. Therefore, it is increasingly relevant to use a product that meets the OEM requirements in full, especially in these challenging times.

Preparing for winter: plugs and coils

With Bosch Aftermarket reporting that ignition failure is more prevalent in cold weather conditions, you might wish to prepare now for an increase in demand. Rob Marshall gives an overview of spark plugs and coils, investigates how they fail, describes routine checks and examines low-cost tools to help you with dismantling and diagnosis.

Should you maintain classic British cars, in particular, the quality of pattern ignition components is so poor that you may wish to consider offering an upgrade that replaces the contact breaker points and condenser with a sealed hall sensor and transistor unit. Pictured is a maintenance-free PowerSpark unit, fitted to a Lucas 45D4 distributor, which ensures a constant dwell angle and more powerful sparks at higher engine speeds.

Despite the huge advances that have been made in engine electronics, the spark ignition internal combustion engine remains reliant on a high voltage circuit to generate the several thousands of volts necessary to jump-across the spark plug electrodes’ gap. The vast majority of modern ignition systems employ a coil to generate this high voltage (or High Tension – HT ) output from a low voltage (or Low Tension – LT ) input, employing Faraday’s Law for readers that have either good memories, or an O-level/GCSE Physics textbook to hand. Essentially, once power is cut to a primary coil of wire within the coil assembly, the resultant magnetic field collapses and high voltage is subsequently generated within another internal coil winding. The spark plug is connected either directly to the coil unit(s), or via a series of high voltage flexible HT leads, or both. Naturally, the type of coil fitted depends on the car model being worked upon, the attributes of each type will be examined in a future issue. Even so, a mechanical distributor might be employed on some older cars, made until the early 2000s, despite lacking ‘Old-Skool’ vacuum-advance timing mechanisms and contact breaker points that are present on most historic vehicles.

Rendering contact breaker points obsolete, a transistor within the engine ECU supplies the LT to the coil(s). Naturally, this is controlled by a microprocessor that considers the many other signals received by other sensors fitted to the running gear. Among many benefits, modern transistorised ignition systems can ensure an optimum dwell angle, an advantage of which is that the coil is supplied with LT voltage for long enough to ensure optimum spark strength. The HT voltage tended to reduce gradually on older cars with contact breaker points and is one reason why the driver would notice a significant improvement in engine performance after a service had been completed, which is not always that obvious today.

While modern spark plug electrodes should pre-gapped for your engine application, it is worth double- checking them with a dedicated
wire gauge, in case the plugs have been dropped in transit. Never
place pressure on the centre electrode. Pictured is a NGK Iridium IX spark plug, which offers superior performance, as well as a longer lifespan. Yet, some engines require precious metal spark plugs, so do not downgrade them.


Even so, a modern ignition system is not immune to neglect and premature ignition coil failure tends to be the result of neither making the appropriate checks at service time, nor the owner heeding maintenance schedules. Mobiletron advises that poor fuel economy, stalling, back-firing and difficult starting are typical symptoms of coil issues. SMPE reports that the main checks tend to be restricted to visual inspections that might not be stated specifically in maintenance literature, which comprise checking the insulating gaiters and the LT electrical connections. More detailed advice is included within our earlier feature, bright-spark.

“High resistance in the ignition system will prematurely kill any coil,” reports Morten Hansgaard Jensen, Product Specialist of Ignition at the Bosch Aftermarket Division. He adds: “While a resultant misfire might cause unburnt fuel to overheat the catalytic converter, the coil has not had a chance to release the energy that it has ready for the spark plug. Instead, it is transferred as heat within the coil that will shorten its life.”

When inspecting coils, look for corrosion, cracks in the coil body and rubber insulators, as well as evidence of ‘tracking’ (which may be displayed as a dark line on the white spark plug ceramic insulator). Be suspicious if you find any oil/water contamination within the engine’s spark plug tubes, these issues can cause misfires and premature coil failure.

Apart from internal short and high resistance, Denso adds that defective cables, low battery power, vibration and mechanical damage also reduce coil service life.

Walker Products says that other factors within the cylinder, such as a faulty fuel injector producing an incorrect spray pattern, or even low compression, can vary the voltage demand on the coil. This means that a spark plug can be used as a combustion chamber sensor. Coil-on plug systems that employ Delphi’s Ion Sense Technology, for example, can monitor conductivity at the spark plug electrodes to detect misfires, knock and even fuel mixture/quality. The resultant signals are then sent to the engine ECU. While skilled technicians have used oscilloscopes to diagnose poor running conditions for years, Ion Sense enhances and simplifies this technique, by providing real-time feedback directly to the ECU, while the engine is running.

Rubber gaiters from either coils, or HT leads, can fuse to the spark plugs. Peter Wallace, Senior Business Line Manager at Motaquip, says that a suitable grease should combine decent lubrication/insulation properties and have an operating temperature of between -40 to +200 degrees Celsius. Its use will make fitting/separation easier and the insulation layer should prevent arcing that guards against subsequent misfires and component damage.

When servicing, however, Tim Howes, Deputy General Manager of the Supply Chain & Technical Service at NGK Spark Plugs (UK), advises that, “If the coil is mounted directly on the plug, the coil would need to be removed to gain access, giving the opportunity to visually check for perishing/contamination of the rubber parts, plus corrosion, cracks and evidence of current leakage ‘tracking’. It is important to use the correct specialist tools when removing and refitting ignition coils, in order to prevent damage to the insulating materials, circuit boards, windings, connectors, etc.”

Denso adds that, should an ignition coil be identified as defective, the root cause should be determined, to avoid the replacement part failing prematurely as well. Naturally, the vehicle manufacturer’s ignition system instructions should always be referred to in the first instance but disconnect the negative (-) battery terminal and wait at least 90 seconds before removing the coil. Naturally, corner cutting extends to replacement parts. NGK reports that sub-standard coils tend to be cheaper but their inadequacies are not obvious by inspecting the outside, because the quality of the internal windings and potting materials tend to be where savings are made. Lower HT voltage and even internal short-circuiting can ensue. These inadequacies can result in an engine that is more reluctant to start, increased misfiring frequency, raised exhaust emissions and increases the likelihood of damage to the catalytic converter and engine. Both SMPE and ACtronics also advise that low-quality coils can cause severe damage to the engine ECU, due to the incorrect fly-back voltages received.

Yet, ELTA advises that technicians should check the spark plugs first, because they tend to cause suspected coil-related issues, before embarking on an exhaustive diagnosis procedure.

Pay specific attention to any tightening instructions and note the sealing design
at the thread base. Bosch Aftermarket, for example, recommends that if you encounter
a spark plug with
solid washer for a GDI application, you should always use a torque wrench to ensure correct installation. Image supplied courtesy of NGK.


It is easy to forget just how much of a hard life a typical spark plug endures. Even at engine idling speeds, each one must ignite the fuel mixture eight times a second, be expected to withstand huge temperature variations in milliseconds, because combustion heat is followed immediately by a cooling effect from air being drawn in through the inlet valve(s), and resist forces that can be the equivalent of fifty times the force of gravity. Should any replacements be fitted that do not combine high mechanical strength, with effective insulators that can contain at least 30,000 volts, misfires could be the least of the problems encountered. The plug could disintegrate, causing catastrophic physical damage to the combustion chamber.

While NGK told us that it has witnessed plugs being mis-sold as premium precious-metal types, the arrest and subsequent charging of an online trader in May, who sold counterfeit spark plugs that could have damaged engines had they been fitted, proves that you should prioritise not only trusted brands but also proven suppliers.

Yet, incorrect fitting can also damage even the best plugs. Antoaneta Spiridon, Motaquip’s Business Line Manager – Spark Plugs, advises that plug threads should not be lubricated, because this reduces the friction at the thread faces, risking overtightening. Distortion of the plug’s metal shell can result, which interrupts the heat transfer path within the plug, causing the electrodes to overheat. These ‘hot spots’ make pre-ignition more of a threat, which is something that you do not wish to promote in certain GDI engines that are prone to Low Speed Pre Ignition. Follow any fitting instructions carefully with GDI engines, so that the ground electrode is positioned correctly, relative to the fuel injector. The use of either a dial, or torque wrench, is essential; use a short as possible extension bar and keep it straight. Tilting the extension bar/socket may exert excessive side pressure on the spark plug and crack the brittle insulator. Incidentally, periodic adjustment of the spark plug gap between services tends to be unnecessary on modern cars, although it is recommended on cars that run on gas.

Never downgrade specifications, either. While older cars may benefit from being fitted with a precious-metal spark plug, due to the more focussed spark offering a more efficient burn, they are mandatory on some newer and high-performance engines. Fitting a more conventional nickel-alloy type risks prejudicing engine efficiency, which is likely to promote an illuminated MIL. Just like a spark plug that is worn-out, fitting replacements of an incorrect specification risks placing extra strain on the ignition coil, something that can then have ramifications for the entire engine management system.


As separating ignition components by hand might damage them, ask your supplier about the range of tools that are available to reduce the risk. Pictured is Laser’s spark plug gaiter lead removal tool (part no 2719), the use of which should save workshop time. It is also worth investing in coil removal tools, especially for pencil-type designs.

Simple high voltage diagnostic tools can pay for themselves the first time that they are used. Pictured is Laser’s HT lead spark tester (part no 2780), which can be used to deduce whether a spark plug, or its voltage supply is at fault.

You can also evaluate whether, or not, the coil is supplying a strong-enough spark to the spark plug, by adjusting the electrode distance with Laser’s 5655 adjustable spark tester.


Managing your MOT equipment

Since last year’s MOT upheaval, Rob Marshall now looks at the options of modifying, or upgrading, two person MOT test lanes and queries the DVSA about its connectivity plans.

Consider the condition, range and specification of your ancillary MOT tools.

Change is inevitable but, regarding MOT Test hardware especially, the equipment is not designed to cost you a fortune with no apparent advantage. Take the One Person Test Lane (OPTL) and its more sophisticated sister, the Automated Test Lane (ATL), as examples. Their chief benefits are to reduce the number of technicians needed to conduct an MOT from two persons to one, therefore permitting the garage to reduce their direct costs related to testing. 

RBTs can still be repaired; Butts of Bawtry reports that its roller regritting kit does not require a professionally- trained operative to apply it. However, as regritting can alter the roller diameter and, therefore, affect RBT accuracy, follow the instructions carefully.

Surprisingly, not everybody is convinced. The Director of Euro Car Parts’ Workshop Solutions division, Adam White, enlightened us about his field experiences: “Many workshops are still operating on older setups and, when replacing equipment, they tend to choose older technology synonymous with two-person testing. Businesses don’t always realise that it only takes around six months to recoup the investment cost of a new OPTL; something that ultimately improves productivity, freeing-up technician time for other profitable work.” 

Considering that Workshop Solutions supplies MOT equipment from respected specialists that include Tecalemit, Liftmaster, Crypton, Bradbury, Hofmann Megaplan and John Bean, Mr White emphasises that there is considerable flexibility and bespoke packages are available, as well as leasing options. 


Butts of Bawtry explains that you can still modify an existing two-man MOT Test lane to a OPTL and recommends the equipment range from Ravaglioli for class III, IV, V and VII applications. Yet, is the inconvenience of converting your existing two-man lane worth it, versus changing the entire ramp? Involve your chosen workshop equipment supplier for advice, because your equipment preferences may not fit in with your ambitions. The provider might also advise that it could be more cost-effective to upgrade, not to maximise their own profits, but primarily to give you the best value. For example, the cost and hassle of modifying a two-person ramp may be neither possible, nor worthwhile, in certain cases. 

Should you decide to upgrade, rather than modify, two options lie ahead: OPTL, or ATL. The basic difference between them rests with the roller brake tester (RBT). The ATL’s RBT is connected to the computer/screen and, therefore, will feature upgradable software, hence offering a degree of future-proofing to meet requirements, such as offering direct connectivity to the DVSA’s servers (as detailed later). The RBT should also be able to weigh the vehicle, compared to the more basic analogue weighing hardware that is found on a typical OPTL set-up, which is harder to upgrade digitally and, therefore, is less likely to comply with future regulations without the garage experiencing additional expense and downtime. 

While an ATL tends to cost £1,000+ more than an equivalent OPTL, Workshop Solutions’ Adam White highlights that it can be a false economy not to choose an ATL, such as in cases where the RBL has to be moved to accommodate the new lift. Consider also that ancillary equipment might have to be changed; again, your equipment supplier should advise you. The lifting jack, for example, might not fit the new ramp and a new one will need to be procured. Yet, you might consider expanding your technical capabilities. Should you have to move your existing headlight beam aligner, for example, it provides the opportunity to upgrade to new hardware that will cater for LED headlights – the DVSA may not have mandated these for the MOT Test, yet, but it is likely to occur in the future, with so many current car models featuring them as standard equipment. The same is relevant for other camera/radar technologies, such as those encompassed under the ‘ADAS’ category. These issues must be considered and balanced against your funding and payback calculations but consider that upgrades tend to involve garage downtime and getting everything done in one fell swoop tends to be preferable than having to repeat the exercise several years later. Workshop Solutions told us that it takes around six months to recoup the investment cost of an OPTL and that ATLs will be upgradeable to comply with future technologies for 7-10 years at least.  

As always, choose a workshop provider that can reconcile your future plans, budget, forthcoming DVSA requirements and maintenance requirements, moving forward. 

The DVSA is not going to make connected equipment compulsory for existing Vehicle Testing Stations anytime soon but it is a requirement for new VTS. It is likely that emissions equipment, beam setters and decelerometers will follow. Boston Garage Equipment reports that its RBTs are DVSA approved as Connected MOT Equipment. As specified by the DVSA, all data must be transferred in the form of a JSON file via a secure Application Programming Interface (API). 

We made the switch! 

Astley Cross Garage, Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire 

As with many garages, Astley Cross supports local private car owners not only with repairs but also buying and selling all makes and models. “MOT testing, therefore, is a critical service we offer through our business,” reports Workshop Manager, Jamie Clark, who continues: 

“Being based just outside a rural town, our customers would not tolerate the labour rates that they might encounter in a big city. Due to our relatively low hourly rate, we do not consider MOT Testing as a loss-leader, because we do not discount the maximum permitted rate set by the Department of Transport.” 

This long-established garage changed hands around five years ago, which Jamie admits introduced a slight issue, because the sale included a lot of outdated hardware, which Jamie says was adequate but far from ideal. “One of the main issues was a large pit, over which MOT Tests used to be conducted; we were never happy with it,” he recalls: “So, I planned for the entire garage to close over a fortnight for a complete refit. As we have only a relatively small workshop, the building work would have stopped us from working anyway. We decided to replace an elderly, worn-out ramp, have the pit filled-in and an ATL installed next to it.” 

Was it worth it? 

“It was absolutely worth it!” Jamie states. Not only are MOT Tests safer but they can also be conducted quicker, helped immeasurably by the shaker plates that (like those fitted to OPTLs) negate the need for a colleague to sit inside the car and operate the controls. Astley Cross Garage’s MOT Testers agree as well, although it was voiced that inspecting steering rack gaiters for rips is not as easy, with the vehicle raised and its suspension dangling – but this is a very small gripe. It was also appreciated that the roller brake tester is linked into the main computer; again, speeding-up the test procedure. 

While Jamie is happy with the installation two years- on, he admits that anybody considering installing an ATL must consider not only the hardware but also the installer. “We found that, as can happen with any building work, the fitting of the ATL was subcontracted to another company and there were a number of delays that could have been avoided, prolonging the work, which was more than slightly frustrating at the time”, he explained. 

Therefore, consider the practicalities, including any potential disruption to your business, as part of your costings.

The DVSA speaks to AT about connectivity 

Prior to going to press, a number of MOT Testers and garage owners voiced concerns to us about the DVSA mandating that certain MOT equipment must be connected to their servers, so MOT data can be seen by the department in real time. Responding to your concerns and our questions, Neil Barlow, the DVSA’s Head of Vehicle Engineering, told us that the authority is introducing connected equipment to modernise testing and reduce the potential for mistakes. He says: “There are several benefits to using equipment that connects directly with the MOT Testing Service. For existing equipment, such as roller brake testers (RBTs), it will save time in re keying data and reduce the risks of error. The same approach can also enable newer equipment, such as digital camera-based technology, to improve confidence that the right vehicle is being tested, and on- board diagnostic readers that will set the foundations for potential new areas of the test. 

“For RBTs, the connected equipment will provide the same information that we receive now but without the need for re-keying. For other equipment, such as emissions equipment, or headlamp aim, we will be able to have similar levels of detailed data. This will help with consistency, but also give us better information on which to make future decisions, for example, test criteria based on the ‘state of the car fleet’. 

“We set ourselves a target of changing the approval specifications for new models of class IV, V and VII RBTs to require connectivity from 1 July 2019. We have agreed with the Garage Equipment Association (GEA) not to approve any new models of RBTs in the relevant classes unless they are connectable. 

“We are also working with the GEA on rule changes for diesel smoke meters, exhaust gas analysers and decelerometers. We have agreed with the GEA that no new models of these kinds of equipment will receive approval from 1 August 2019 unless they are connectable. We will continue to work with the garage trade, the GEA and manufacturers on this. This will enable us to work towards a wider implementation of this technology, starting with new garage approvals. 

“The DVSA has worked with the GEA and continues to work with all manufacturers who are keen to develop new products across the range of equipment. Typically, the software development has taken days rather than months to complete. We have worked on live products with around five manufacturers and are open to working with any manufacturers in the future.”  

The GEA’s Chief Executive, Dave Garratt, informed AT that the DVSA and the GEA are currently testing the quality of Connectable RBTs and the GEA will publish a list on its website,, shortly, showing those that have been accepted for use in the MOT scheme. 


Up-selling: Wheel Alignment

Not only is it critical to safety but wheel alignment adjustment is also a highly profitable up-sell, prompting Rob Marshall to look at some of the current equipment offerings for garages seeking to take full advantage of the opportunity.

With pothole damage alone costing the average British driver £109 (and totalling over £1.2bn) every year, potholes have become the main source of anxiety for the modern motorist. The RAC and TyreSafe, for example, recommend that motorists request that their garage conducts suspension alignment checks, should they suspect pothole damage. Yet, many car owners are unaware that alignment can drift gradually from its optimum settings through regular daily use. In most cases, unless premature tyre wear is noticed at home, it is down to the garage to recommend periodic alignment checks, especially after suspension components and tyres are replaced. 


Absolute Alignment recommends that, to maximise profit, garages should perform a free suspension alignment check on every car, because its research has found that 80% of them will require subsequent chargeable adjustment. The company insists that training is necessary not only for the technicians but also receptionists, so they are equipped to explain the results of an alignment report to the customer and why an adjustment is in their best interests. Pro-Align concurs that a printout is the best tool you have to help upsell alignment, as well as the importance of training customer-facing staff. 

If you plan to check every vehicle that arrives on your premises for free, Pro-Align highlights its QuickCheck system as being ideal for the task. It can be placed at the entrance of the workshop, where a preliminary wheel alignment check can be undertaken within 60 seconds. Vehicles requiring adjustment are identified swiftly, without the need to set-up every car on a dedicated alignment system, which would be impractical for most garages. While adjustment services can be upsold as a result, print-outs that confirm no extra work is needed has positive customer care aftereffects. 

Pro-Align highlights that workshops equipped with the HunterNet cloud-based application can also email the alignment results, or send notifications directly to a customer’s smartphone, as a high-tech alternative to a sheet of A4. It can also provide printouts that contain more detailed technical information, for use by either technicians, or for the interest of more technically-interested customers. 


If the upselling opportunities are grasped, the payback period should be prompt. ECP’s Workshop Solutions advises on a variety of aftermarket issues, including providing a full-suite of inspection, installation and maintenance services for new equipment. It recommends that repairers consider the value proposition because, dependent on circumstances, it can be worth paying more for equipment that will increase efficiency and deliver better safety and usability. 

In terms of technology, Supertracker advises that there are two main differences. Despite the big price differential, however, neither system is more accurate than the other one. Computer aligners measure all four wheels together and display the manufacturer’s specifications against the figures recorded. Laser aligners are more time and labour intensive to prepare and require the operator to mount the laser heads to the road wheels and record/remember the results. Supertracker advises that the alignment specifications need to be sourced from books, or charts, from the main dealers, in many of these cases. 

Never forget the value of
a print-out that you can present to your customer but ensure that your customer-facing staff knows how to upsell any additional necessary work.

Tecalemit says that you should consider three main factors when deciding to purchase alignment equipment. Consider the time it takes to set a car up; cheaper aligners may be as accurate but can eat into your profit margin because of the extra time needed. As an example, Absolute Alignment’s Bluetooth 3D aligner is 30 seconds faster per job than the best-selling, but less expensive, Bluetooth Pro; this time adds-up, if you were performing adjustments virtually on a continuous basis. In addition, Hunter’s RX45 integrates different features to reduce adjustment time further, such as including an automatic tyre inflation facility and automated locking/ unlocking of the turn/slip plates. Supertracker’s very high-end four wheel touchless aligners possess neither moving parts, nor equipment to fit to the wheels and can produce wheel alignment readings within five seconds. Therefore, you need to balance the money invested against the labour time saved. 

Secondly, consider that more sophisticated aligners produce a lot of data; is it all necessary? Will technicians require extra skills training to interpret the information into additional repairs? Finally, consider that some aligners might require extra equipment, such as additional diagnostic equipment, or an alignment lift – all of which adds to the cost. 

Many high-end aligners tell the technician what is adjustable and how, by using technical drawings, or images. Some aligners possess a registration number look-up, so you can be sure that the correct data is supplied for the car upon which you are working.

Should you decide to save money by choosing used, or reconditioned equipment, be especially careful; ensure that it can be updated. GEMCO comments that alignment equipment is subject generally to regular database and software updates. As general advice, Tecalemit says that hardware quality is critical because most systems rely on the accurate mounting of equipment to the vehicle. In terms of lifts, the company advises that good quality turn and slip plates are critical for fast, efficient and accurate measurements/adjustments. 

You need to decide if choosing an OEM approved system is better for you. Absolute Alignment comments that OEM approval gives the garage owner confidence that the aligners are checked by and conform with particular OEM specifications and sets the equipment apart from the many cheaper options, such as the makers of kit that originate from China, which do not have the same level of service support in the UK. Pro-Align adds that OEM-approved hardware tends to be the same as a good-quality standard-system but the software will have been adapted to meet individual brand requirements. The main benefit of choosing dealer-specific aligners is that you can be confident that your equipment matches franchised dealer standards. This can be useful to prove your credentials to a sceptical customer, notably if you are a marque-specialist. 

Should you wish to upgrade to an alignment lift, again consider your needs. Pro-Align recommends that you consider the ramp’s wheelbase and weight capacity and warns that lighter and insubstantial lifts are likely to affect the accuracy of your alignment measurements. Absolute Alignment, meanwhile, has announced a new two-post lift option, which negates the need to purchase additional stands, or equipment. This gives smaller workshops the facility to offer wheel alignment services, where there might be insufficient floor space to accommodate a four-poster. Choose a good- quality installer, too. Many lifts require an entirely level floor, for example. 


When deciding which system to buy, take your time, research carefully and consult your supplier. Absolute Alignment, for example, told us that garages like to see the equipment working at their premises with their technicians, which is why it offers free on-site demonstrations. Quality suppliers should also provide technician training, showing them how to use the equipment, but you should not expect comprehensive suspension alignment schooling, this may require additional training. Consider if you need a full range of services and if your supplier could provide it, from initial advice, through to installation and aftercare. 

ECP’s Workshop Solutions offers maintenance services and recommends that alignment equipment is serviced at least annually. Gemco highlights that it is the UK’s largest garage equipment workshop, service and spares provider, stating that it has more engineers than anyone else in the garage equipment industry. Nonetheless, it recommends that workshops perform their own alignment equipment checks, including keeping the equipment clean and lubricating all moving parts adequately. Tecalemit has over 80 mobile customer support engineers and told us that aligners, generally, will need periodic recalibration. Tecalemit CCD wheel aligners, for example, issue an automatic warning, when they reach the end of their set tolerances. Pro-Align concludes that workshops, which set their own daily and weekly maintenance procedures and inspections, coupled with recommended professional servicing, will not only obtain optimum performance from their investment but also will provide more accurate alignment services for their customers. 

Alignment: Top 5 Technician Tips 

Perform pre-alignment checks: Look for excessive wear in suspension and steering components, plus assess the condition of the tyres, including inflation pressures. 

Do not cut corners: Some procedures can be time consuming but do not rush. 

Follow the instructions and avoid shortcuts: Some requirements might seem strange, such as weighing down certain vehicles, but not doing so will affect the accuracy of your alignment service. 

Not forgetting the ramp: Remember to ensure that the ramp is level and that the locking pins are taken-out of the slip and turn plates, when required. 

Communication with customer: Develop a plan to upsell alignment adjustment but never forget the importance of highlighting when adjustment is unnecessary, which helps to build longer- term customer loyalty. 



Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems

While the importance of ADAS calibration must not be understated, Rob Marshall discovers why it is necessary, what common mistakes are made and asks if the tech really is flash in the pan.

Like many other types of progressive technology, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) were introduced to very high-end executive models before their applications became more widespread. In the early days, even many main dealers decided not to equip their own workshops with ADAS calibration equipment, despite having the option, leaving the responsibility to a manufacturer’s sole UK technical centre. Since then, franchised workshops have adopted a different stance and the aftermarket must follow suit. Chris Dear, Technical Director of Absolute Alignment revealed that, “Every garage we now go into is aware of the need now, or in the near future, for ADAS. This has changed from a year ago, when some garages had no idea what ADAS was. The market is just getting bigger.” 

ADAS, therefore, has been available for a surprisingly long time and is one reason why Bosch Automotive justifies its almost 20 years’ worth of experience, making ADAS repair/calibration equipment. Hella Gutmann Solutions, the equipment division of the global OE supplier, Hella, is also renowned in the aftermarket ADAS scene. The company realised that the aftermarket requires relevant calibration equipment and suitable training, which led to the launch of its first aftermarket ADAS apparatus, the Camera and Sensor Calibration (CSC) tool, six years ago. 

Follow all instructions carefully – missing out a step is likely to result in a failed calibration. Note that wheel alignment adjustment and steering angle sensor resets are recommended before calibrating ADAS.

Indeed, ADAS technology continues to develop. Euro NCAP started assessing driver assistance technologies ten years ago. Today, in order to gain a maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash safety score, a new car model must have Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Support System, and Speed Assistance Systems available throughout its entire range. Ironically, motorists are confusing these emergency systems with pure autonomous technology and crashing as a result of over-relying on ADAS. Even so, any independent workshop must include ADAS calibration as part of its duty of care, to ensure that these emergency systems are working perfectly. The consequences of not doing so can be serious; a misalignment of a windscreen camera by one degree can cause an inaccuracy of up to seven metres, for example. 

ADAS calibration is very sensitive to the position of the vehicle, in relation to the equipment.


While a driver is responsible for controlling the vehicle, the workshop has a duty of care to ensure that all safety- related repairs are carried-out correctly. As with all jobs, the workshop could be liable for events that occur as a result of an incomplete repair. At best, this could result in an illuminated fault warning lamp, because many (but not all) systems incorporate self-test algorithms, and a dissatisfied customer revisiting your premises. More seriously, the system might be triggered unexpectedly, creating a dangerous situation on the road. For example, a vision system might not be able to determine correctly whether a pedestrian is waiting at a kerb, or crossing the road; an inappropriate automated application of the brakes, or steering, might result. Similarly, an incorrectly calibrated adaptive cruise control sensor may assess a car in another motorway lane, rather than the vehicle in front, resulting in the car either accelerating, or braking, at inappropriate (and potentially, unsafe) moments. 

ADAS sensor locations are not always obvious.


When presented with a vehicle, it is not always obvious which ADAS systems are fitted. Just as many cars of the 1970s and 1980s shared the same wiring loom between the basic and top-of-the-range versions of particular models to realise cost savings for the manufacturer, certain modern cars are being equipped with the same hardware but some lesser trim variants might lack the relevant software. Therefore, should you notice either a sensor, or front-mounted camera, present through a small cavity in the top centre of the windscreen, do not presume that it works. Perform a full diagnostic scan, to determine which ECUs are present, to provide a better idea of a particular car’s specification. For example, a current BMW 5-series can feature Lane Departure Warning, Collision Warning, Emergency City Brake, Pedestrian Warning, Active Cruise Control, Night Vision, Parking Assistant, Parking Assistant Plus and Adaptive Headlights, at the very least. Each one, or combination, of these systems will have a different sensor configuration, requiring a specific calibration routine. Bosch recommends that its KTS diagnostic tool and ESI [tronic] 2.0 software can determine which system is fitted and will detail the appropriate calibration processes. Conceived as a modular system, Hella Gutmann Solution told us reassuringly that its well-established CSC tool is developed continually to keep pace with the rapid developments of ADAS. 

Generally, you will encounter two types of hardware. Radar/ lidar/ultrasonic sensors detect distance and speed; vision cameras are used for object detection and positioning. The main problem is finding them, because their locations vary even between models from the same carmaker. The current Volkswagen Golf, for example, has the active cruise control radar sensor mounted beneath the grille, whereas the Passat has it installed behind the front ‘VW’ badge. Older Volvos used to have their Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) cameras situated within the door mirrors; with the current V90, the radar sensors are mounted to the back face of the rear bumper. 

While these camera/sensors appear remote from each other, they do not work independently. Therefore, you might discover that one faulty, or uncalibrated, ADAS system might affect another one. 


The majority of ADAS systems require recalibration after any work has been carried-out that affects the suspension geometry, such as replacing track-rod ends, suspension arms and springs/dampers. Hella Gutmann Solution’s Head of Business Development, Neil Hilton explains: “Incapable diagnostic tools, lack of knowledge, expertise and training, combined with unsuitable processes, are proving to be real headaches with maintaining the calibration of these critical safety systems.” 

Bosch told AT that it offers solutions to workshops that wish to conduct ADAS calibration only when the technicians have been trained appropriately and are aware that every manufacturer’s implementation of the sensors varies; even if the same sensor is used on a different model, the setting procedure can be different. You should also ensure that you possess the appropriate diagnostic systems and calibration hardware to cover both the vehicle model ranges and ADAS systems that you intend to calibrate. For example, static calibration of radar-type systems (such as Adaptive Cruise Control, or Active Emergency Brake) tends to require a reflector set positioned at a known distance and angle for calibration. The camera-based ‘vision’ systems require to ‘see’ a specific target pattern, printed on a board. 

A global scan will help you ascertain which ADAS systems are fitted.


While static calibration procedures differ, the hardware’s position in relation to the vehicle remains critical. This is why setting-up the car and equipment takes the most time; the calibration adjustment itself is very quick. With this in mind, it can be argued that a painstaking procedure that has to be followed to the letter seems to be at odds with the high- tech nature of ADAS systems. Are auto calibration systems about to appear, which would negate the relatively fiddly and expensive but critical calibration procedures? Hella Gutmann Solutions told us that it does not expect auto-calibration to become a reality within the next five years, because it is more costly for the carmakers to develop and install. Furthermore, auto-calibration systems would require the owner/driver to report a problem, which is not an ideal situation for safety- critical systems. We could be cynical, however, and theorise that manufacturers prefer manual calibration to help generate service income but this, of course, presents an opportunity for you as well. Thanks to updates in hard and software being available to the aftermarket, independent workshops can take advantage of the extra business and customer retention opportunities that embracing ADAS technology can bring, especially as there are no signs of manual calibration disappearing in the near future. 


Light and Level: 

Ensure that your workshop has plenty of illumination and that floors are level. 

Read the instructions: 

Digest all of the calibration instructions on the diagnostic tool before starting work; missing-out seemingly irrelevant tasks risks the calibration failing. 

Take your time: 

Rushing the set-up of calibration tools increases the chance of the calibration not completing. 

Check the boot: 

The vehicle needs to be emptied before calibration begins. Ask the customer to remove all unnecessary items from the interior, if necessary. 

Make the car ready: 

Ensure the car is prepared. For example, check that the tyre sizes and pressures are correct and the fuel tank is full, if required. 


Staying on the road

With manufacturers developing and building ever-more complicated suspension systems, Rob Marshall looks into the supply and fitting implications that affect you. 

Many adaptive suspension systems require diagnostic interrogation. Pictured, is a schematic of Mercedes-Benz’s oleopneumatic Active Body Control, which utilises 13 sensors and an ECU to control roll, dive and squat, as well as offering a self-levelling facility.

While some workshops are concerned that their regular servicing work will be affected adversely by the mooted growth of EVs, they can take some comfort that the aftermarket steering and suspension markets remain buoyant. Federal-Mogul (MOOG) told us that it expects further growth. Naturally, increasing newer car model sophistication brings its own opportunities. The multi-link front suspension that is commonplace on many Mercedes-Benz, VAG and BMW cars, for example, can feature up to 40 different chassis-related parts, all of which can (and do) wear. In their never-ending search for optimum efficiency, OEMs are prioritising aluminium forgings over steel castings/pressings for certain suspension and steering parts, but the weight advantages are offset by strength. The ZF brand, Lemförder, advises that pressing out old bushes and inserting replacements can damage a light alloy control arm, even if the correct tools are used. This increases the risk of the casting failure through fatigue, once the part is reinstalled. Prior to removing the part, therefore, check if the manufacturer of the vehicle (or component) recommends that aluminium control arms are replaced and not repaired. 


With modern cars being heavier, subjected to higher speeds, not withstanding the state of our roads (the cost of repairing pothole damage to cars has rocketed by 32% since last March, according to Kwik Fit) and the typical lack of mechanical sympathy of the archetypal motorist, maybe we should be unsurprised that steering and suspension repairs remain in high demand. The situation has resulted in fierce competition between replacement parts manufacturers and new players are entering the aftermarket every year. While this has led to competitive prices, be wary that this has been at the expense of quality in some cases. Getting a customer to agree to a repair in the first place, unless mandatory for an MOT Test pass, is not always easy, so can you afford to sacrifice your repute by fitting cheaper parts, only for the repair not to last? Yet, this is not the only consideration. Parts that are either worn, or of an inferior quality, can not only risk the occupants’ safety, by compromising the vehicles’ stability and handling, but Delphi reveals also that these components can also accelerate wear and tear on other parts of the vehicle, such as tyres, and can even worsen fuel consumption. Postponing repairs, or fitting white-box parts, therefore, can be a false economy as well as a safety issue – facts that are worth pointing-out to a hesitant owner. 

When comparing the quality of its OE-fit track control arms to certain pattern components from the Orient, Lemförder’s metallurgical examination found that the copies contained little (or no) manganese, meaning that they were more brittle than the OE part. Therefore, the recommendation is to fit parts from a trusted brand, so you can be sure that the products that you install (and are guaranteeing) have been through comprehensive testing that followed the initial research and development phases. Reduce the risk of fitting counterfeit parts, by using a trustworthy supplier, which will not cut corners. TRW, another ZF brand, emphasises the importance of OE-quality, under its True Original marketing campaign, based on the concept that everything about the TRW brand is a true original, especially the part. Delphi, meanwhile, offers a useful extended repair solution, meaning that all ancillary parts that are required to install the individual component are supplied within the same box, negating any need to order smaller parts separately. 

Product improvement does not stand still and OE parts suppliers admit openly that development of a steering/ suspension part does cease, once the vehicle is in production. 

Modified/Lowered Suspension 

Changing a car’s ride-height alters the wheel geometry. This not only affects tyre wear but can also add extra load on the wheel bearings, reducing their life expectancies. Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) can occur on vehicles, where the suspension has been lowered (or raised), due to the bushes working at a different angle than intended. Care should be taken to ensure that the wishbone/control arm bush pinch bolts are slackened and retightened to suit the new ride height with the vehicle weight on the wheels. This will ensure that the bushes are not preloaded torsionally when at the new ride height. Should you encounter a DIY lowered car especially, it may be worth you offering these services (not forgetting alignment) as an upsell opportunity, alongside inspecting the work in closer detail to ensure that it was well-executed. Consider also that OE bush design is intended to influence steering, such as offering a degree of rear-wheel steering, as well as changing front-wheel geometry under heavy corning, for example. Fitting harder aftermarket bushes could prejudice these beneficial handling features. 

Air Suspension 

Like the dampers on a more conventional system, the rubber air spring assembly is a wearable part, with a typical lifespan of between six and ten years, which is influenced by mileage, climate and both driving and road conditions. When choosing a replacement part, the quality of the rubber is crucial. Arnott, for example, reports that it partners exclusively with Continental Contitech and uses premium Conti rubber, alongside other OE supplier components, such as seals, new polyurethane bump stops, VOSS connectors and heavy-duty crimping rings. This ensures that quality standards are maintained but the repair cost is kept competitive. On some vehicles (Citroën C4 Picasso rear suspension is a notable example), conversion kits from air to coil-spring suspension are available, which can be a satisfactory economical alternative. From a technician’s perspective, replacing air suspension is easier than a conventional coil-spring. Unlike oleopneumatics, the lack of a high pressure system means that no special safety precautions are needed; Arnott reports that most technicians should not have any problems fitting replacement air suspension systems, provided that the fitting instructions are followed. The main problem that arises is technicians lowering the car onto its wheels, before starting the engine and inflating the air bag. This results in the air spring becoming folded beneath the car, causing it to seat incorrectly. The suspension must be pressurised while the car body is supported. 

Aside from obvious mechanical changes, internal damper construction can be unappreciated – it is vital to replace like-for-like in many circumstances. Pictured, is a sectioned Double Hydraulic Shock System, which was developed by KYB for Citroën to provide a ‘magic carpet ride’ without the cost and complexity of the earlier oleopneumatic systems.

Therefore, you could fit an OE quality component with subtle differences to a factory-fitted suspension/steering part that you removed but this does not necessarily mean that you have the wrong part to hand. ZF aftermarket clarified that a typical supersession example is the rubber-to-metal front subframe bush used in several Volkswagen Group vehicles, such as the Seat Cordoba and Ibiza IV, Skoda Fabia, VW Fox and Polo models. For the same reason, the Japanese brand, KYB, explained to AT that it offers either OE specification dampers, or upgrades. 

MEYLE told us that its engineers analyse OE parts and assess their potential for improvement to develop better parts, which is backed-up by a four-year guarantee on its MEYLE-HD range. MOOG has patented its Hybrid Core Technology to its enhanced parts that include innovations such as carbon-fibre reinforcement within its ball-joints, control arms and tie-rod ends, the main advantage of which is to reduce the amount of radial deflection (‘play’) generated as the components wear, thus extending their lifespans. Such parts are packaged in a zany bright yellow packaging and are being introduced progressively into the marketplace. 


Look at data: Check that bushes can be replaced or renew the complete component. Ensure that any extra parts, including fixings, are ordered. Heed fitting data, including torque settings and suspension alignment information. 

Wishbones/control arms: Tighten pinch bolts on parts with horizontal bushes, with the vehicle’s weight supported by the suspension, not with the wheels dangling. This can pre-load the bushes, once the suspension is at its normal ride-height. 

Bush installation angles: Rubber to Metal bushes possess features to maintain low NVH levels and possess a specific angular alignment, when they are reinstalled. Ignoring the correct angular position will lead to poor performance of the bush and reduce its operating life. 

Use a torque wrench: Use the appropriate data and a torque wrench that is calibrated regularly. Fasteners should also be torqued with the full vehicle weight supported by the road wheels. 

Avoid reusing old fasteners: Nyloc nuts, whether fitted to the ball joint or pinch bolts, are designed for single use only. New nuts should be used on installation and torque- tightened to the manufacturer’s recommended values. New split pins should be used, where necessary. 

Do not omit parts: Ball-joint heatshields should be refitted, or replaced, because they protect against high temperatures from braking. Removing the heatshield risks decreasing rubber gaiter life, resulting in premature failure of the joint. 

Use the correct tools: Utilising a hammer to release a ball-joint that will be reused, for example, can damage it sufficiently to shorten its life. Use a splitting tool that will not damage its gaiter. When removing springs from dampers, a gated spring compressor tends to be recommended for safety reasons. 

Replace in pairs: When replacing any suspension component, replace in axle pairs to maintain safe, balanced handling and ride comfort. This becomes more critical, when the design parameters of a replacement part have been superseded due to ongoing product development. 

Final alignment: Four-wheel alignment should be carried out, according to the manufacturer’s alignment procedure, after any steering or suspension repair. 

Consider ADAS: On newer vehicles, consider that ADAS calibration tends to be required after any steering and suspension repair has been completed and is an important part of your duty-of-care obligations. 


Keeping your customers cool

With winter firmly behind us, dormant air conditioning systems are failing to reawaken; Rob Marshall looks at the latest news and repair tips for HVAC repairs.

While air conditioning leaks can be difficult to diagnose, even with UV dye, use common sense. This condenser leaked due not only to impact damage but also corrosion.

Neglect can be a form of abuse, especially when it comes to air conditioning. Many motorists seem oblivious that regular use of ‘air-con’ not only demists their interiors during the winter months but it also keeps the system ‘exercised’. Sadly, many owners remain unaware that the cost of fixing neglected air conditioning can eclipse the notional fuel savings many times over. Communicating this to your customer can help them to avoid expensive repair bills, as well as reassuring them that you have their best interests at heart. 




While the air conditioning system seems to be a standalone element, it works in conjunction with the car’s heater. The whole unit tends to be described as Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC). Therefore, should you discover that there is insufficient pressure in the air conditioning system, it is worth interrogating the entire HVAC system diagnostically. Physical damage, such as inoperative, or broken, heater mixer flaps within the heater box, can give the impression that the air conditioning is not working. Therefore, your diagnostic procedure may take you beyond the basic air-conditioning circuit. 

Electric Vehicles and some Hybrids utilise compressors that are powered electrically and wired to the inverter. The car’s high-voltage circuit should be powered-down, before work starts. PAG oils cannot be used in their repair, because it is electrically-conductive.

Most issues stem from low refrigerant pressure. While most systems in good order discharge around 10% of their gas annually, leaks are not always easy to spot. Ultra-Violet leak tracer fluids have been essential to pin-point them; Primalec’s Glo-Leak has been a respected manufacturer of such products for over thirty years. While the company will be present at Automechanika Birmingham, showcasing its air conditioning service and repair solutions, it is worth noting that its latest Glo-Leak 1234 product is formulated for the latest synthetic R1234yf refrigerant and is back-compatible with the earlier R134a. Apart from using your own experience and procedures to guide you, Behr Hella Service has advised AT that it has updated its ‘know-how’ tool, which provides non-vehicle specific information about potential faults and remedies. 

2019 Parts and support news 

Behr Hella Service told us that it has formulated a comprehensive service package to support the independent workshop for 2019. This includes a free compressor app, which details vehicle-specific refrigerant and compressor oil-filling quantities. Expanding technical information and parts lines for hybrid and EV applications have been introduced too, including electric water pumps, alongside its usual range of Sanden electric compressors. Further information is available at the HELLA TECH WORLD portal. 


Annual replacement of the cabin filter and disinfection of the evaporator/air outlets presents valuable upsell opportunities, which AT will investigate soon. Monitoring the refrigerant pressure should be undertaken every two years, due to the natural depressurisation that takes place over time, and it is strongly recommended that the receiver/dryer is replaced too, although this can add significantly to the cost of a routine service. Consider also that, just as air conditioning and the car heater influence each other, so too does the engine’s cooling system. Therefore, adding it to your preventative maintenance programme is a wise idea. 

Laughing gas (all the way to the bank) 

Rising refrigerant prices continue to raise eyebrows. As R134a is 1,300 times more damaging than CO2 from a global warming perspective and degrades in 13 years, the EU is restricting production, which has led to price rises. On more recent cars (introduced progressively from 2012) R1234yf was introduced, which requires only 13 days to dissipate and is only four times as harmful as CO2 as a greenhouse gas. 

Since 2017, CO2 has been adopted as a refrigerant (R744), with obvious environmental benefits and, according to Behr Hella Service, it provides tremendous opportunities for its customers. While AT will examine CO2-based systems in more depth soon, the main differences include pressures ten times greater than those of a non-CO2 system, as well as different sealing methods employed, which must be respected during repair procedures. Primalec will be explaining more about CO2 systems in its Automechanika workshop session at 12.30pm on June 5th. 


Find the fault 

As with all repairs, spend time diagnosing the problem before ‘firing the parts cannon’. It has been known, for example, for technicians to blame a faulty dual mass flywheel, when the real culprit is a rattling compressor clutch. 

Spare part compatibility 

Check that any replacement matches the original component, including mountings and connections. Use new O-rings that are compatible with the refrigerant employed. Do not use unsuitable lubricants on O-rings and seals, this will contaminate the system. 

Keep the system sealed for as long as possible 

No connections should remain open for an extended period – use caps, or plugs, to reduce the amount of moisture from the atmosphere affecting the circuit. 

Renew the receiver/dryer 

This component is designed to absorb moisture. When the pressurised circuit is opened, the receiver/dryer is likely to become saturated. In some cases, silicate particles can break free and be distributed around the system, causing severe harm. New compressors can fail soon after replacement, if the reason behind the break- down is not established, or the expansion valve and receiver/drier are not renewed at the same time. 

Use two wrenches 

As the connections are formed from soft aluminium, they can distort easily; use two spanners, during loosening and tightening operations. 

Watch for sharp edges 

Panel and trim edges can damage components, such as condensers, hoses and cabling, so take extra care, especially when manoeuvring the parts into tight spaces. 

Final leak checks 

Once a repair is completed, the system must sustain a vacuum (negative pressure) to ensure that it is leak-tight, prior to being evacuated. This will remove all moisture from the system before it can be refilled with gas. 

PAG oil considerations 

PAG oil is hygroscopic. Unless you remove all the oil from the system and flush it through, prior to fitting a new compressor, you will have no idea of how much oil to add. An overfilled system causes ‘liquid lock’ in the compressor, promoting failure. Use the correct oils – never opt for a lubricant with a ‘universal’ specification. 

Observe specifications while filling 

Heed the quality and specification of refrigerant that
is specified by the vehicle manufacturer. Excessive pressures place extra strain on the compressor and its clutch (if fitted), unless a pressure switch cuts the power, first. After filling, start the engine and compare the values measured at the low and high pressure ports with the VM’s specifications. Verify the cold air temperature at the centre vent is comparable with that provided by the carmaker. 

Post-work considerations 

Protect the service connection valves and threads with clean protective caps and fit a service label sticker to the bonnet, or slam panel, as a record of the work performed. 

Upselling: Diesel particulate filter services

Despite being a relatively simple component, DPF problems open up a wealth of upselling options, but consider that blocked filters tend to be the symptom of a problem, not the cause, says Rob Marshall.

Should a DPF-equipped diesel engine experience neither constant higher speeds and loads, nor high enough temperatures for long enough, most problems tend to stem from something else. This is when cleaning the DPF alone can be an almost feckless exercise, because it will block again if the underlying issue is not resolved, increasing the chance of an irate customer returning the car to you, destroying the profit from that repair and damaging your credibility. Therefore, explaining to a customer from the outset that DPF problems can be the ‘tip of the iceberg’ will help to brief them. 


Before problems are reported on a car that you see regularly, use your detective skills. If you know that the engine may be suffering from the effects of contamination, it may be worth upselling engine carbon cleaning services, such as those offered by Terraclean, or FlexFuel, at service time. This is because lacquered fuel injectors and carbonised EGR valves can expose the DPF to higher soot loadings. Yet, be aware that a DPF regeneration tends to be needed after such processes have been carried out, because deposits that are loosened from within the engine will travel into the filter to be combusted. 

March’s issue of Autotechnician looked into fuel additives that you can upsell at service time. Yet, when you know that a DPF-equipped diesel is not exposed to conditions that promote regeneration, you might wish to recommend that a DPF cleaning fuel additive is used periodically. Darren Darling of the DPF Doctor will be covering this issue at Automechanika Birmingham and he warns that some members of the public are adding too much additive, in the mistaken belief that doing so is beneficial. He advises that: 

“We are seeing huge damage being caused by DPF additive over-dosing, which causes the filter to overheat and even melt internally – the only cure for which is a new filter. Emphasise, therefore, that the dosing instructions are followed; more is definitely not better.” 

On-car cleaning services are good revenue opportunities – pictured is the three-step process offered by the DPF Doctor, where cleansing solutions that break-down carbon deposits are flushed into the DPF through the pressure differential sensor pipes.

BG Products told us that it feels that the metallic fuel borne catalysts give a temporary improvement but can have a long-term negative effect. Instead, it recommends its DPF cleaning system that cleans the intake, intake valves, injectors and piston rings, but the additive chemistry survives the combustion process to clean the DPF as well. 

Consider the service history of the vehicle, too. On cars with auto-dosing fuel-borne additive systems (such as the Eolys system used mainly on PSA brands, Volvos and Fords), has the additive tank/pouch run empty, been disabled, filled with diesel, or an incompatible fluid? If so, the risk of DPF blockage will rise considerably, because the soot particles are not encapsulated by the additive, which promotes their combustion at lower temperatures. 

An overloaded DPF tends to be caused by another fault. Here, the unequal pressure waves, measured at the DPF using a PicoScope, highlights a running problem. A slight ‘chuffing’ at one fuel injector, caused by a leaking seal, is likely to be a culprit, because it would reduce compression slightly, adding to the DPF soot load.

DPFs block not only with soot but also ash, which is incombustible. As it has to be removed via the DPF’s inlet, the filter must be taken off the car and sent to a specialist cleaning company, such as those that possess a Flash Cleaner machine, marketed by DPF Recovery of Norwich. TerraClean reports that it offers an enhanced DPF and ash cleaning service to its network aside from its DPF, EGR and engine carbon removal tools, which includes testing, cleaning and return of the filter within 72 hours. 

Poor maintenance, such as not using low SAPS engine oil, will increase ash levels markedly. Eventually, the ash level within the DPF can even exceed that of soot. This leads to high regeneration frequencies, which fail to reduce the pressure difference sufficiently, which is calculated from readings taken from both ends of the DPF. Should you be looking at vehicles with mileages over 150,000, upselling an ash removal service is a wise idea, especially if the car’s diagnostics are indicating regular active regenerations. 


Talk to your customer. After all, a lit dashboard DPF warning light may not be indicating a fault but could be an instruction for the car to be driven in ways that facilitate active regeneration. Should there really be a problem, you could be involved with a complex investigative process, because DPF blockage tends not to be the filter’s fault. Rather than jumping to the wrong conclusion, you may have to convince your customer that charges made for extra diagnostic workshop time are worth the investment. Naturally, you may discover a host of other issues that provide potential opportunities for your workshop; unless the customer decides that the car is not worth repairing… 

Venturing beyond fault code reading, investigating diagnostically the frequency of active regenerations and the past driving conditions may lead you to discover that regenerations are not taking place because of a fault that can be as trivial as the service indicator not being reset, or even a faulty heated seat. Low fuel levels can prevent regeneration too, something that may be worth pointing out to the customer, should the gauge’s needle be buried in the red ‘reserve’ zone. 

Looking into whether the DPF has a blockage, or if its pressure differential sensor is giving erroneous readings, should be part of your diagnostic procedure beyond simple fault code reading and basic live digital data analysis. Once the engine is running, you may be able to detect any abnormalities that may result either in a regeneration being aborted, not attempted at all, or conditions that can cause excessive soot loads, such as faulty EGR valve(s), injectors, or mechanical engine wear. 


Training is available on DPFs, which some tool suppliers provide. Pictured is TerraClean training being undertaken by Randstad Limited; 2019’s dates are notified to its service centres by e-mail and via its Facebook page.

Once you are satisfied that the underlying faults have been resolved, cleaning the DPF can be undertaken by either driving the car, or by executing a more mechanically-stressful forced regeneration. A number of gentler methods involve injecting a cleaning fluid though the pressure differential sensor pipes in the engine bay, or by unbolting the pressure pipes from
the DPF and pouring the additive through the aperture(s). Naturally, once cleaning is complete, reassemble the car, delete any fault codes, take it for a drive and double-check the live data readings afterwards, to ensure that you feel confident in handing the car back to its owner. 


Ash (and cerium) remain within the DPF and are removed only by taking the filter off the car and flushing the deposits out via the inlet. This is because they cannot pass through the filter and can be responsible for creating a high pressure differential and, therefore, a number of ineffective active regenerations might result. Upselling an ash/cerium removal service may be necessary, prior to refilling the Eolys additive tanks on vehicles thus equipped, because the cerium content survives the combustion process and becomes trapped within the filter. While you might trust in a mail order service, DPF Recovery of Norwich told us that its Flash Cleaner machine restores the DPF to 98% of its original as-new condition and can run the entire cleaning cycle (washing and drying) with one machine only, enabling the cleaning process to be faster, less expensive and more environmentally-friendly than alternatives. We hope to look into the off-car DPF cleaning process in more detail at a later date. 

After-Treatment Systems

Treating gases post-combustion has led to a number of new systems being fitted to exhaust systems. Rob Marshall looks at some of them – including the most recent developments.

As they are ‘end of line’ systems, it is all too easy to blame catalytic converters and DPFs, when their faults might be a symptom of another problem, meaning that a more detailed analysis tends to be necessary. While catalytic converters can be damaged by a tired engine, a faulty fuel system, or incorrect maintenance, so too can Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs). 


A spurious situation in the UK is that you can buy Type-Approved catalytic converters and DPFs, installed to non-Type- Approved exhaust systems. They can cause the measured emissions to increase. 

Speaking to AT, Helen Robinson, Marketing Director at Euro Car Parts, explains why they and Klarius exhausts have been lobbying the UK government to address the situation: 

“Euro Car Parts has long called for tighter regulations around the sales of exhaust systems, to reduce the number of non- compliant products being sold and fitted across the UK. Last year, the Department for Transport introduced strict requirements for selling catalytic converters and Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) into the UK, a move we welcomed at the time. However, we believe exhausts should also be covered. 

“Introducing stringent guidelines would ensure that all exhausts are manufactured to the equivalent quality of an OE system – and have been through the same extensive quality and safety checks. At Euro Car Parts, we only sell Klarius exhausts, which meet the tightly regulated type-approval standards laid out by key industry bodies including the British VCA and German TUV. As part of our partnership with Klarius, we are lobbying the UK government to follow the suit of its Irish equivalent and make type approved exhaust systems a legal requirement.” 


Certain lubricating oil deposits damage catalysers and DPFs, which is why low SAPS oils are critical for DPF longevity. Some DPF-equipped cars are fitted with tanks/pouches that dose
a Cerium-based additive into the fuel tank. Used mainly on brands that employ PSA engines, they require routine topping- up with three different types of ‘Eolys’, some of which are incompatible chemically with each other. The main reason for their use is that the newer generation of ‘Eolys’ deposits less ash in the DPF, which (unlike soot) can be removed only by dismounting the DPF and seeking professional assistance. Therefore, be wary of aftermarket alternatives to Eolys that claim to substitute all generations, especially if the ash content is not revealed in their data sheets. We hope to revisit this important topic another time in more depth. Yet, the result of using wrong oils and incompatible Eolys fluids will not be noticed immediately but several tens of thousands of miles later. Resist resetting a low-level Eolys warning counter, without replenishing the tank. Use the correct Eolys fluid, not AdBlue. 

According to Darren Darling of the DPF Doctor, operating conditions tend not to be the main reason for DPFs becoming overloaded with soot. The driver either ignoring, or misunderstanding any dashboard symbol that encourages a longer journey is more common, as is running continually with a low fuel level which can inhibit regeneration. Incomplete, or incorrect servicing and ignoring seemingly minor faults are also the most common causes of a successful regeneration cycle being either aborted, or not attempted at all. He advises that, the longer a car is driven with excessive particulate content within its DPF, the greater the repair cost will be. 


Low pressure EGR and NOx traps are two methods by which manufacturers have achieved Euro 6 status. From a technician’s standpoint, they are simple systems and require no special maintenance but disadvantages include limited effectiveness and high fuel consumption. Therefore, the additive system that uses AdBlue (1/3 Urea, 2/3 distilled water) has been found to be the most effective at reducing NOx emissions, despite considerably more hardware being required. 

While some technicians have reported problems with these systems, passing these tips to your customers will reduce the risk of a breakdown. 

  1. Do not pour AdBlue into the diesel fuel tank. It is dosed into the exhaust system, not into the fuel (unlike Eolys systems).
  2. AdBlue deteriorates over time. Never use AdBlue after its expiry date.
  3. Ultra-violet light speeds-up AdBlue’s deterioration. Instead of buying bottles that have been sitting outside a petrol forecourt, seek those that have been stored indoors, or in the dark.
  4. Do not ignore AdBlue refill messages. The engine will not restart and some types may require diagnostic equipment after the tank has been replenished.
  5. Do not overfill the AdBlue reservoir. This can create a vacuum inside the tank that prevents the AdBlue from being injected into the exhaust initially. On some cars, the AdBlue pump and circuitry are located on top of the tank, so overfilling risks moisture contamination that can damage the circuits. 


The SMMT argues that Euro 6 and current production diesels are considerably cleaner than those of previous generations, but it has been suggested that AdBlue could be responsible for another emissions ‘crisis’. A concern is that AdBlue is injected into the SCR catalyst continually and the required reaction temperatures of 350-450°C cannot be achieved under all driving conditions, resulting in harmful ammonia being expelled into the atmosphere. 

We raised this important issue with a number of car brands, whose technical personnel disagreed with several presumptions. Firstly, the operating temperature for successful SCR operation is around 170°C, a temperature that is reached very soon after a cold start and tends to be maintained even idling during heavy traffic conditions, and not 350- 450°C. Secondly, the SCR conversion rate is controlled and AdBlue injection is regulated by extra means, such as with a NOx/ammonia sensor – it is certainly not a continual uncontrolled injection. Faults in the system must, by law, prevent the engine from being restarted, although on many cars, the driver is given plenty of notice about a potential issue. 


Popular Ford applications are well serviced in a range update from Klarius, including new exhausts for the latest models, such as the Focus 1.6 and 2.0 litre, the C-Max compact MPV, Fiesta 1.6 hatchback and the 2011-2014 Transit 2.2. 

The Volkswagen Golf 1.4 and the Honda Civic 1.4 are provided with new exhausts, alongside the Peugeot 5008 people carrier, Citroen C4 Picasso, Audi A3 1.4 and the Isuzu Rodeo SUV. 

Klarius provides emission control system parts for a wide range of applications, from sports cars, saloons, MPVs, SUVs, luxury cars and superminis, to light commercials, crossovers and hybrids old or new. 

All parts adhere to all relevant Euro emissions standards, type- approval certification requirements and are backed by a two- year manufacturer’s warranty and a ‘Fit First Time’ guarantee. 



BM Catalysts kickstarts 2019 with 30 new part numbers, including eight Euro 6 references. These join its existing range of catalytic converters, Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF), front pipes and DPF Pressure Pipes. 

The new Euro 6 range of products are references for vehicles such as the Fiat 500X, Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Mondeo. The parts are designed to provide ease-of- fitment for installers and workshops can benefit from fast delivery times. 

Speaking about the new product launches, Commercial Director Mark Blinston, comments: “We want to ensure that all of our customers have components that are designed to meet set emission’s levels. Whether it’s a Euro 4, 5 or 6 vehicle, distributors and buyers know that the parts they buy from BM Catalysts will be of the highest quality.” 


EuroFlo supplies exhausts, pre-Cat front pipes, catalysts, diesel particulate filters, exhaust fittings, catalyst fitting kits and consumables to the aftermarket. Here, Adrian McComas provides his top five exhaust fitting tips. 

  1. Ensure that a proper ramp is used and the vehicle is completely level – jacking the vehicle up on one side can skew the geometry, which can make replacement exhaust components difficult or even impossible to fit.
  2. Always use new fittings and gaskets.
  3. Ensure that the exhaust on the vehicle is the correct one, and
    has not been amended or altered.
  4. NEVER use exhaust paste in front (engine side) of a Cat or DPF.
  5. If replacing a Catalytic Converter or DPF, ensure that you have corrected whatever caused them to fail in the first place – otherwise, the replacements will almost certainly fail again!