Blog from October, 2016

 

The Hack Mechanic Guide to European Automotive Electrical Systems

This is an intelligently-written course that deals quickly with the general theory of automotive electronic systems and then goes about informing how to diagnose and treat (I mean repair) both simple and complex electronics components that are vital parts of the nervous systems of a number of brands of very popular off-shore car brands. 

 

This new and latest edition in Bentley’s Hack Mechanic series … “European Automotive Systems”, true to its title, deals with the mysteries and (sometime) madness of the electrical systems of cars imported from the Continent.

Thorough, surely scholarly, but still written in understandable terms, and with an almost uncountable (every page) wealth of sharp, understandable diagrams, photos, and charts … this book is (almost) fun to read, even if it is only to try to better simply understand what’s going on under the hood of your car and not necessarily to trace problems down and fix them oneself.

Like a book on medieval warfare techniques and technology, or the ins and out of brain surgery, this book can easily be read just for the information … Knowledge is (pardon the pun) power here.

You KNOW that your car runs on gasoline, right? You’re quite aware of that at the pump every time you fill your fuel tank up and slide that pair of twenties across the counter or swipe your credit card in the slot. (By the way, if your European car or truck is a hybrid plug-in all-electric, go on to the next book review here. On the other hand, if it relies on an internal combustion engine, stay tuned…).

OK right, that running on gasoline question was bogus. Your standard car, truck, and/or motorcycle all need highly complicated electronic systems, not only to run and control the motor and automatic transmission, but to see to a huge number of your needs and desires, from sun/moon roofs to 20-way adjustable seats, and on to NAV systems and super-vigilant safety systems that guard and guide the vehicle as well as providing protection in collisions and crashes.

This book is most assuredly not for everyone, even though it’s written in some of the clearest and easiest to understand language, not everyone is all that worried about the electrically system(s) in their cars.

Until they fail.

This book is the one that 8 out of 10 people reading these words will never even crack … but those two, the ones who this book is for, can be very important to the rest of us.

And that’s the idea here. This is an intelligently-written course that deals quickly with the general theory of automotive electronic systems and then goes about informing how to diagnose and treat (I mean repair) both simple and complex electronics components that are vital parts of the nervous systems of a number of brands of very popular off-shore car brands.

WARNING: PERSONAL FLASHBACK: Many years ago, when I worked at HQ branch of Region 7 of the LA County Library System in West Covina, I developed a theory. (Bear in mind that this was long before the Internet and only in the early stages of videotape … most technical knowledge was still only available in books.)

My theory was that well past half of the books that we had that pertained to doing some specific task (let’s say your own plumbing, or re-roofing your house, or tracing down a short in your car’s wiring system) were often, and in fact, how NOT to do it books … in their use in informing the reader of the degree of difficulty of a certain task.

Readers were apprised of the how complex a job was and often (after assessing themselves) went with professional help.

Like the books in the LA County Library system, this one is very good at separating the adept from the less adept. And especially the less adept who understand that they really do not have to be able to re-wire their twelve year old Audi in order to be fulfilled, and who understand that far more clearly because they looked at the process in this book and said: “Pass … let’s get a pro in here.”, which sometimes is the smartest, most efficient, least expensive, and safest approach to a serious automotive electrical problem.

One feature of this electronic textbook is the author’s very informative information on the dangers of working with electrical devices. By now, I’m going to guess that we’ve all felt the vibrating sting of an electric shock. Since you’re reading this, I’m going to guess that the shock did not wipe you out, but author Siegel is very careful to explain that a nasty shock CAN be very bad (life-threatening in many cases) and that caution and common sense is the only pre-antidote for this one. His warnings here are clear and correct.

And (aside from a radio not staying on station, or a CD getting stuck in the player) most modern automobile electrical problems are just that, serious. There may be sufficient gasoline in the tank, but if a very long list of electrical signals aren’t followed precisely to the letter, and dozens of minute connections aren’t made exactly on time and in a very precise order, in the words of Bob Dylan, “… you ain’t going nowhere”.

 

– Doug Stokes, LACars.com


Physics for Gearheads

Even if one never calculates a compression ratio, figures optimum gear ratios, wants to talk a few basic kinematic ratios, get heavily involved in spring rate calculations, or figure out the precise center of gravity of their racing car, this remarkable 604-page masterclass in (playfully titled “Physics for Gearheads”) will give its reader a sharpened appreciation for and understanding of a branch of science that can be almost mistaken for an art.

 

Hey … Gearheads! … Did you see that first number above? 604 pages, RIGHT, six hundred and four pages (count ‘em!) of first-rate, hard-core, right-up-your-dragstrip (or front straight) highly-useful technical information that reflects equally on the causes and the effects.

Name a component of high performance motorsports: horsepower, handling, roll, traction, braking, aerodynamics, friction, spring rates, slip angles, and every other immutable dynamic laws or forces that racing machines do their work under, and you’ll find page after page of interesting, informative, and understandable information. Maybe even a bit more than you were looking for, but this is not really a line-by-line, page-by-page, cover-to-cover book. Open it up, look around, find an illustration that grabs your eye, and dive headfirst into the amazing physics of performance.

There’s information here on what it really takes to go Supersonic at Bonneville with a speed against time chart on page 156 that spans exactly 161.7 seconds and shows Richard Noble’s sound barrier-busting run from zero to 1,138 feet per second (about 778 miles per hour) that found him fully 13 miles away from his starting point a short 2.695 minutes later.

…Maybe you want to talk about the perfect line around an oval track or a road course, as you might suspect, it’s all about physics and Doctor Beikmann has the numbers and the formulas. And, his new book will show you the way to calculate that and a whole lot of other very important bits and pieces of the full performance envelope that that racers flat out need to know and that gearheads of all varieties are going to have a lot of fun learning about.

Math was always my worst subject in school, but I still grew up a car nut, a racing nut, and someone who has fought to get all my sums right all my life. I only wish that I had had access to a book like this that really puts math (and physics) into direct a direct, working, logical relationship with motorsports.

Much the electronics book we looked at earlier on this dual review this one will be a book that, if nothing else, will help its reader to far better appreciate the art and science of the subject, in this case motorsports.

Every time that I get into an automobile, I almost instantly forget my own counsel and think that all you really need to do to be a racing driver is hold the gas pedal down a little harder for a little longer… of course that’s not the case, but everyone drives and everyone THINKS that’s all it takes. Take it from me, it doesn’t.

Same thing happens with racing cars, they (generally) work so well and go so fast that a lot of the hard work behind the horsepower and the handling is just taken for granted, and the driver gets all the glory.

Even if one never calculates a compression ratio, figures optimum gear ratios, wants to talk a few basic kinematic ratios, get heavily involved in spring rate calculations, or figure out the precise center of gravity of their racing car, this remarkable 604-page masterclass in (playfully titled “Physics for Gearheads”) will give its reader a sharpened appreciation for and understanding of a branch of science that can be almost mistaken for an art.

– Doug Stokes, LACars.com

PERSONAL ASIDE: I can’t imagine that one of the engineering schools (Cal Poly SLO … are you listening?) wouldn’t want to offer introduction to racing physics course using this book as the basic text, it would be a great way to excite, encourage, and really teach a large chunk of the basics of motorsports.



 


 

 


The Hack Mechanic™ Guide to European Automotive Electrical Systems

by Rob Siegel and the Bentley Publishers Technical Team

List price: $49.95

Now Available !

 

For more information on Physics for Gearheads, including the table of contents, an excerpt and much more, visit www.BentleyPublishers.com/physics.

 

 

 

Physics for Gearheads

An Introduction to Vehicle Dynamics, Energy, and Power - with Examples from Motorsports 

by Randy Beikmann

List price: $79.95

 

 



 

 

 

"Consider it a tool to help get over the fears and confusion regarding electrical circuits, sensors, relays, and switches. In fact, it's more than a tool; it's like having your own electrical therapist. As a test, I used the book to troubleshoot an odd lack of spark on an Austin-Healey last week.
Even when used for Edwardian perversions of circuitry, such as those found on British cars, the book
provided everything I needed to know to methodically trace and resolve the issue." - Roundel Magazine

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW:
The Hack Mechanic Guide to
European Automotive Electrical Systems
by Rob Siegel

REVIEW BY PAUL WEGWISER

Like all good scams, this one started with a brief e-mail message and the words, "Paul, my darling, just so you know...." I've fallen for that one at least twice before. People don't call me their darling nearly enough, and I'm nothing if not desperate for affection in all its often-twisted forms. The e-mail continued, requesting that I review another of Rob Siegel'sautomotive books published
by Bentley Publishers, this one titled The Hack Mechanic Guide to European Automotive Electrical Systems.

Siegel's writing is well known to Roundel readers, and since the publication of his first book, Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic, his colorful and heartfelt writing has connected with an enormous audience of "other" car fanatics, as well as those curiously connected with them. I was excited to be reading another one of his books, with the prospect of reviewing it in published form, until I realized that it was a book ... about. .. automotive electrical systems. Perhaps the driest subject matter imaginable, right? Even though I'm a professional mechanic, only math fills me with more dread than the prospect of diagnosing and repairing errant electrical malfunctions in a car. Most people are visual learners. Things like math and electricity are invisible, mysterious, haunting forces - invisible, that is, until it's too late. Ever seen an electrical circuit burn up in smoke because two wires decided to get a little too friendly? Some things are best left unseen - and unsmelled.

But here is a book thoughtfully and exhaustively crafted to put our fears at rest, and explain the nature of the scary, complex things connected to all those wires. It's not as warm and fuzzy as Siegel's first book, but it digs immediately in to the nitty-gritty of why electrical things work - or don't work - on our cars, in a manner that still makes for thoroughly pleasurable reading. (I was so happily submerged in this book while on vacation at the beach that I received the worst sunburn of my life.) I only wish that this book had been presented to me about 25 years ago. In fact, I'd suggest it as textbook material for professional educational programs, and it is essential reading for the do-it-yourselfer.

Siegel's book has all the elements: hilarious personal anecdotes, entertaining warnings, loads of photographs, and easy-to-understand diagrams - along with the sort of personal touch rarely found in technical guides. Often, I'll open a technical manual in search of the simple answer to a simple question, and invariably stumble upon some word or term that I've never understood. This is usually the point at which my monkey brain takes over and I lose my train of thought, ambition, and patience to solve what began as a simple repair or troubleshooting project. But this book kept me on track the entire way through. Among my favorite things, was a clear, easy-to-navigate index and table of contents. I find myself constantly flipping through the pages of most technical reference books, going from glossary to index to maingroup sections to table of contents, and back. This book makes that process a cinch.

Consider it a tool to help get over the fears and confusion regarding electrical circuits, sensors, relays, and switches. In fact, it's more than a tool; it's like having your own electrical therapist. As a test, I used the book to troubleshoot an odd lack of spark on an Austin-Healey last week. Even when used for Edwardian perversions of circuitry, such as those found on British cars, the book
provided everything I needed to know to methodically trace and resolve the issue. That sunburn doesn't feel so painful anymore.

I'm often asked for advice by people interested in working on their cars for the first time. I almost always respond the same way: "Get a Bentley book for it-then go from there." This particular book isn't just for novices; it has the good nuts-'n'-bolts stuff to refresh the skills of even veteran technicians and mechanics, while still making the world of automotive electrical service accessible and welcoming to the beginner. Whether you're working on a 1970s coupe or something still functioning on its second 14,000- mile oil change from 2013, this book will assist you in understanding, diagnosing, and repairing the many simple and notso- simple electrical circuits designed to make your car function properly.

And Rob, my darling, just so you know: This isn't another automotive book that will sit on my book case at home. This one's going in my tool box at the shop. Permanently. Besides, it's already got greasy fingerprints on it.

 

 

 

 


The Hack Mechanic™ Guide to European Automotive Electrical Systems

by Rob Siegel and the Bentley Publishers Technical Team

List price: $49.95

Now Available !

 

 

Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic

by Rob Siegel

List Price: $29.95

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