Rookie Installation Mistakes and How To Avoid Them
By Gene Olvera, Mobile Technical Training - South Hackensack, NJ
In my many years of experience in the mobile electronics field with both our custom shop (Synergy) and now serving as director of Mobile Technical Training. The instructors and I have seen it all when it comes to rookie installer mistakes. Here are a few examples and helpful tips on how to avoid them.
One of the most common mistakes made by the typical beginner installer is the cracked panel and/or broken clips. When removing panels it's easy to underestimate their strength and pliability. It is not just important to use the proper tool but also to take other factors into consideration.
Tool placement is very important. Finding the stronger and thicker areas of the panel to pry on will make it a safer removal. Older vehicles may require extra care since their panels may be brittle from years of sun exposure. Knowing the type of fasteners is also very helpful.
Doing some research, using service manuals or partnering up with an experienced installer could probably save you a trip to the auto parts store or dealer to replace a clip.
I knew of a rookie installer that tried to remove the front door panels off a Cadillac Escalade. His customer wanted to replace the front speakers. He had removed all the screws and was certain that after using his handy Snap-On panel popper the job would be complete. He tugged, pushed, and pried with no luck. He figured he had to use a little more force to get the job done.
That’s when the panel came off with a few cracking sounds with it. The Installer had broken the L shaped fasteners that hook onto the door skin. Had he done a little research, he would have found out that all he had to do is pull up and out on the panel.
Another issue that plagues installers is the faulty ground. A loose or high resistance ground connection can cause chaos in any type of system. It can create multiple types of problems in a circuit and therefore making it difficult to pinpoint at times.
The best story that comes to mind about this would be the instance when one of our new installers finished a remote start and came across a very big challenge. Upon completion of the job the installer could not get the '98 Honda Civic started. Not even with the key. The vehicle was perfect all around except for the starter motor not turning over. As if the car had a kill switch the installer didn't know about. After hours of troubleshooting he decided to remove the remote starter. This did not help his problem. He figured the starter motor had gone bad and replaced it with no good results. Finally he decided to get help and asked one of the veteran installers to check over the car electrical system. Within a few minutes of looking around he noticed a loose negative battery clamp. After tightening down the clamp the car started without problems. The ground on the battery was loose enough to open the connection when the starter motor engaged and drew high current. While at rest the battery still powered low current draws and gave out proper readings. Needless to say the proper maintenance of battery connections, free of corrosion and tight clamps are crucial.
Making all your ground connections in one spot for any sound system will prevent ground loops. Using factory bolts make a good ground connection and save time. Also, take the time out to sand and remove all paint from any chassis grounds.
One word you learn very quickly entering our industry is "liability." In most cases the installer and the shop he works for are potentially responsible for any and all damages that may occur to a vehicle they work on. What many installers forget is that even after that car leaves the shop that does not change. For this reason, it is always necessary to use good judgment when making modifications to safety features in some products.
In my opinion the two most popular are the emergency brake wire inputs on both in-dash monitors and remote starters. These have been designed with safety in mind. As much as it has become the norm to be able to watch video while driving it is still illegal to do so in many states and with good reason. I'm sure every installer as been approached by a customer or a friend that wants to be able to watch music videos while driving 65 miles per hour down the highway as he's drinking his coffee and eating a donut. Tell them sorry can't do it, for your own safety and the safety of others.
Grounding these wires every time is very tempting but after this story, you may think twice. A few years ago we knew an installer that drove a Dodge Ram with a manual transmission. He wanted a remote starter and had a unit that was not designed for it. He installed it against our advice but did hook up the emergency brake wire. The vehicle only remote started with the brake engaged. I guess this was not to his liking because as soon as he had a chance he bypassed the brake and grounded the wire. The few days later he tried to remote start his vehicle. He had forgotten to put it in neutral the night before and drove through a fence. That same day he stopped by our shop and still had not replaced his brake wire. Finding it hard to get out of the habit of leaving his car in gear he attempted once more to remote start the car. This time he crashed into a newly restored 1964 Lincoln Continental that was parked in our lot. I'm sure he had to do some explaining to his insurance company.
At first glance certain procedures may look unnecessary. I assure you if it deals with safety, it's worth the time.
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