Got Your Ears On? - Tire Review Magazine

Got Your Ears On?

Every good organization has a procedure for conflict resolution...or at least they should. At Slim Shambles Tire & Auto Repair, we use the volume method: whoever yells the loudest wins.

Every good organization has a procedure for conflict resolution…or at least they should. At Slim Shambles Tire & Auto Repair, we use the volume method: whoever yells the loudest wins.

“It had to be you, Beanie!” thundered Tooner, holding a shop rag up to his nose.

“No way!” our apprentice hollered back. “I say it was Quigley!”

“Hey,” protested Quigley. “It wasn’t me scarfing down those burritos at lunch!”

“He’s got a point, Beanie,” snarled Basil. “You know what they say: ‘Garbage in, garbage out.’”

“Hey! Everybody settle down!” I looked at Tooner. “If you’re so worked up about bad air, do a sniff test on everyone’s coveralls. That way you’ll know for sure and we can get on with our work.”

“Ha! Very funny, Slim.” Tooner glowered at his co-workers as he stuffed the rag back into his pocket. “If it weren’t so noisy ‘round here all the time, we’d find the culprit by sound alone. Somethin’ that smelly don’t sneak out quietly.”

Now that my employees had ‘cleared the air,’ we were able to get back to work. Quigley handed Tooner a set of keys for a 2004 Dodge 4×4 pickup. “The customer complains of a howl or whine between 30 and 60 mph, but only on acceleration. I’d suggest a quick road test.”

Tooner reached for a seat cover. “Good! I could use some fresh air right about now.”

Once he was gone, I went over to Basil’s bench to see what had caused all the fuss. “Was it really that bad?” I asked.

Basil looked sheepish. “Sorry for the overreaction, Slim. Things got a little out of hand.” He shrugged. “I actually didn’t smell it myself, but Tooner claims it almost peeled the paint off his roll cab. I didn’t know he had such a sensitive nose.”

Right now I was more interested in Tooner’s ears than his nose, and when he returned from his road test, I asked him what he’d found. “Don’t know yet,” he grumbled. “Sounds like the transfer case, but I gotta run it on the hoist to confirm.”

Soon he had the vehicle in the air, with Beanie inside holding the throttle at highway speed. I joined Tooner under the hoist. “Say, aren’t you being a little overcautious,” I asked.

He glared at me from behind the surgical mask he was wearing and pointed to the cab floor above us. We were right under the driver’s seat where Beanie was calmly minding his own business. “Being this close to ground zero, I ain’t taking no chances.” Turning back to our noise problem, Tooner jabbed at the transfer case with his stethoscope. “Near as I can tell, the problem’s in here.” He paused. “But because it only happens under load, it could also be the pinion bearings in the rear diff.”

Basil was listening in from the next bay. “Wheels in the air may spin paths of deception,” he commented.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Tooner.

“The problem with running a vehicle on the hoist, my friend, is that although you can bring the drive train up to speed, you can’t simulate the actual load conditions.”

“That’s obvious,” said Tooner. “But what d’ya expect me to do about it?”

“Hold on,” I said confidently. “I think I can answer that one.”

I made a quick phone call to Charlie’s Chassis Palace, a 4×4 shop on the other side of town. Not only do they get to play around with off-road trucks, they also have some real nifty tools.

“Hey, good buddy,” I said when he answered the phone. “You got your ears on?”

Charlie laughed. “Howdy, Slim. My ears? No, as a matter of fact, they’re hanging on the tool rack right now.” Charlie was referring to his Chassis Ears, a set of four electronic wireless transmitters used to detect remote noises during a road test. “Why? You got a noise problem over there?”

I explained our dilemma and accepted Charlie’s offer to borrow the ‘ears.’

“What am I s’pposed to do with these?” asked Tooner, when I handed him the kit.

“Time to get rid of the guesswork,” I replied. “Place a transmitter at each location you want to listen to – like the rear diff or the transfer case – and then go for a drive. This speaker lets you listen to each location so you can pinpoint the noise.”

In spite of his grumbling nature, Tooner knew a good thing when he saw it. He rigged up the gear and went for another road test. When he got back, he was ecstatic. “Unbelievable!” he raved. “It’s the rear diff, no doubt about it!”

A set of differential bearings solved the noise problem, but now Tooner was on to new things. “Hey, Tooner,” I said later, coming into the bay from the front office. “Where are those ears? I should return them to Charlie.”

“Sh-h-h!” Tooner was crouched beside his roll cab, hunched over the Chassis Ears receiver like a fisherman with his fish finder.

“I snuck the transmitters into the back pockets of the other guys’ coveralls,” he chortled. “If anybody cuts the cheese, I’ll know!” Suddenly the LED for transmitter number four lit up like a Christmas tree, accompanied by a loud raucous sound from the speaker.

“Hey, you caught him!” I exclaimed. “Who’s number four?”

Tooner looked bewildered. “I don’t know! I only used units one, two and three on the other guys…” Suddenly his face fell. Reaching into his back pocket, he pulled out transmitter number four, staring at it in disbelief.

Meanwhile, the other guys were making their own discoveries. “Hey, who put this in my back pocket?” Beanie yelled out. “Tooner!!”

Basil was mortified when he checked his own pockets. “Sir, your suspicion offends me!”

Ducking back into the office, I found Quigley staring at the small transmitter he’d just discovered in his shop coat. That’s when I decided to make a run downtown to the auto parts store. This was one conflict resolution session I didn’t want to be a part of.

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