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MAY 2013 ™

The Exclusive Maintenance Resource for the Transit and Motorcoach Indust r y ! Delmar prepares bus techs Page 5

Four steps to longer tire life Page 10

A touch of mercury can smooth tire rotation Page 6

maintenance letter Vol. 3 No. 5 Publisher / Editor in Chief Steve Kane Associate Publisher Sali Williams Editor David Hubbard Managing Editor Richard Tackett Senior Account Executive Andy Pieri Account Executive Maria Galioto Production Director Valerie Valtierra Art Director Dominic Salerno Accountant Fred Valdez

BUS industry SAFETY council

Steve Kiner

Senior Technical Advisor Motor Coach Industries Schaumburg, IL

How can I feel less intimidated by technology? With today’s coaches coming loaded with new technologies, I get this question quite often in one form or another. Ongoing technology advancements are a fact of life. Multiplexing has improved reliability far beyond what some consider the good old days of circuit breakers and relays. The good old days were never that great, we were just used to working with that type of system. To make the new technology more understandable in our Technical Tune-up sessions, I offer four steps to help deal with the modern coach. 1. Take advantage of all OEM training. Training is essential and OEMs are an excellent source. Good mechanics rely on their training to know what questions to ask. 2. Keep it simple. Approach the problem first as a simple fix, rather than assuming the solution will require a major repair. Nearly every key coach component comes with its own diagnostic feature for fast and easier troubleshooting. Not surprisingly, the simplest solution usually works best. Just knowing the basics such as keeping batteries charged and connections tight, clean, and free of corrosion will always be important. In multiplexing, components “talk” to each other. If they don’t talk, they don’t work. 3. Know your limitations. If you can’t solve the problem yourself, get a second opinion. Don’t do anything you are not qualified to do. Call your OEM technical support center or talk to a field rep.

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4. Fix the problem; don’t aim to please. While a coach owner may think he knows the problem, the technician may be doing him a disservice by addressing his diagnosis. With all due respect for the owner’s expertise, the technician would do well to ask the right questions and conduct his own testing and analysis firsthand. Believe it or not, our sophisticated technology makes finding the right answers easier than ever. BRM

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MAY 2013


Be prepared 5

Delmar’s program prepares transit bus technicians for ASE certification By Richard Tackett

Balance Masters help increase tire life and reduce wear By David Hubbard

These steps address concerns about tire wear-and-tear By Robert Buchwalter

Sun-Tech helps balance performance 6 Four steps to longer tire life 10

de pa r tm E N T S 3 Letter from the industry 11 Products and Services 4

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Be prepared Delmar’s program prepares transit bus technicians for ASE certification Finally, the timed mode features a scenario very much Delmar Cengage Learning, Independence, KY, currently the only provider of transit bus ASE test preparation like sitting through an exam at an ASE testing center. “All of our test questions are authored and checked by products, have released the Online ASE Technician Test Preparation (TTP) Transit Bus Courses for transit bus tech- ASE technicians,” Clayton says. “We constantly monitor the ASE exams. We’ll update whenever it’s necessary because nicians. ASE certification is crucial in standardizing skills for technology is constantly changing in the automotive, transit technicians, and Delmar aims to bring high-quality test and heavy duty trucking industries.” Clayton says that a psychometrician process ensures preparation to the transit bus field. The courses feature a three-tiered preparatory methodology (practice, standard, that the course’s questions are qualitative and unbiased. Additionally, Delmar has and timed testing modes) the ability to create custhat help technicians feel confident in the ASE’s tom-oriented reporting for timed exam environenterprise-type clients. “We can provide a ment. number of different angles “We’re a comprehenin reporting to employers,” sive ASE certification he says. “We keep track preparation provider,” of the progress they’re says Greg Clayton, vice making, training gaps and president, Technology progress against met& Trades Professional Business Unit. “We’re rics. It definitely helps an top tier. We probably employer manage their have the most comprebusiness a lot better. We tell to our enterprise cushensive offering for automotive and heavy duty tomers that they can’t truck tests. Once ASE manage what they can’t took a look at the tranmeasure. We aim to help them with that.” sit industry segment and First Transit, Inc., part started to develop the of FirstGroup America, will preparation, we gained be the first to utilize the an interest. FirstGroup In Practice mode, remediation for incorrect answers is disabled. Online TTP Transit Bus America was interested, courses. so we took a look at it.” “FirstGroup is a very large fleet-oriented service,” Clayton says that while Delmar offers both print and electronic products, most clients prefer online products Clayton says. “In terms of a client profile, they are right in our wheelhouse. They have complex needs and a need to because all ASE exams are computer-based. “For one, the ASE tests are all on a computer,” he says. manage their technician force and keep them up-to-date in “Secondly, there’s a lot more quality in terms of value to training. There are statistics that show that ASE workforces learners. Many prospective technicians are in for a big are more efficient than non-ASE workforces. They’re better trained and better prepared.” surprise if they don’t prepare before taking an ASE exam.” Clayton says that First Transit is ideal because they Clayton says the three modes of test preparation closely mirror the ASE testing process. Standard mode allows tech- have the ability to assess their large workforce, deliver nicians to go through and answer test questions that are Delmar’s training and see instant results in preparation for very similar to ASE questions. When they answer a ques- ASE exams. “It speaks to their commitment to excellence and their tion incorrectly, they can learn why they got it wrong. The commitment to providing quality technicians,” he says. preparation features animation and visual aids. Practice mode, Clayton says, is similar to Standard “Other large fleet-oriented organizations are interested in mode. The only different is that remediation for incorrect signing on now.” BRM answers is disabled.

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May 2013


The active ingredient mercury moves smoothly without wear patterns to its correct position around the balancer.

SUN-TECH helps balance performance Balance Masters help increase tire life and reduce wear By David Hubbard

Sun-Tech Innovations, Northridge, CA, has been manufacturing active balancing devices for more than 33 years. As the creators of Balance Masters, the company is the pioneer of a tire balancing system that does not rely on sand, oils, steel balls or prebalancing.

How Balance Masters works

Vibrational resonance is the up and down vibration pattern created by a rotating tire that is out of balance. The pattern forces the mercury moving freely within the ring to positions along the ring, which exactly offsets any light and heavy spots, eliminating the vibration and creating equilibrium within the rotating mass. The active ingredient is mercury. It is impervious to extreme temperatures and, with no frictional materials, the liquid moves smoothly without wear patterns to its correct position around the balancer. Centrifugal force holds the mercury in position unless a different vibrational resonance pattern develops from tire wear, forcing the mercury into its new equilibrium positions.


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Balance Masters responds to the natural forces created by the weight of the vehicle rolling down the highway in an effective way. When sudden braking or slowing occurs, the mercury continues to spin for several revolutions as it slows to the speed of the wheel. Moving at high speed and weighing nearly 28 ounces per wheel, the mer-

cury whips around the ring at 10 to 15 revolutions per second. This weight, pulled along by gravity over the top of the wheel, falls over the front side of the wheel, creating the force that pulls the wheel down onto the pavement during braking and slowing. Sun-Tech owner Chris Gamble says he invented Balance Masters in 1979 for essentially anything that rotates — aircraft, motorcycles, engines or truck wheels. He says the self-adjusting wheelbalancing system is the only product of its kind that has been formally tested and approved by the U.S. military. “Military vehicles must perform flawlessly under extremely difficult conditions,” says Gamble. “If Balance Masters is good enough for the military, it is certainly good enough for bus and coach fleets.” The fluidity of mercury marks the difference in this patented system in actively compensating for any out-ofbalance condition and vibration. “It eliminates wear patterns and only requires a single installation,” says Gamble. “It can save vehicle owners from countless trips and additional costs for repeated rebalancing.” Sun-Tech maintains its Balance Masters system can increase tire life by 50 percent or more at all speeds. German scientists understood the physics to wheel balancing as early as 1908. American engineers perfected the idea in the late 1930s and early 1940s in their search for a way to continuously balance the jet turbine engine.

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Sun-Tech Balance Masters provide balance solutions for anything that rotates on a transportation vehicle including driveshafts.

Balance Masters work off the same long understood and basic engineering principles. The major components of the Balance Masters are the ring and the mercury. Both are integral parts of what makes the balancer work. Both work in cooperation and are precisely proportioned in order for the physics to function properly. Hebaragi & Lemi Bus, Inc., Gardenia, CA, is testing two sets of

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the Balance Masters system on two coaches in its fleet of 28 MCI J4500s. One set is the steer axle, the other is on the tag axle. General Manager Eric Song says he was hesitant at first, but agreed to the test based on the results he saw in a video presentation featuring U.S. Air Force vehicles. According to Song, as tires on the tag axle typically wear the fastest, he will move the steer axle tire to the tag

half-way through its life. Then he’ll move the tag tire to the steer and compare wear patterns and any cupping issues that may have developed. “We are about halfway through a three-month test on both sets,” he says. “At this point, I have nothing to report. We are just taking a wait-andsee approach.” Song says if the system proves out, he will consider Balance Masters for each of the J4500s. BRM

May 2013


oem direct

Four steps to longer tire life By Robert Buchwalter Operators can regard some motorcoach systems as seasonal depending on the regions where they operate. A particular component or system may not be critical year round. The air conditioning system may not be a critical a system in Vermont in January, but would be in California. The reverse is true for the heating system in these same locations. Not so for wheels and tires — critical at all times even when parked. Coach tires are exceptionally sophisticated and have evolved over the years to suitably adapt to unique conditions for each operator. I won’t address the relative merits of one brand over another, but rather offer some basic guidelines to ensure maximum tire life for any brand.

Remember Tag Unload

Begin with inflation pressure

Make everyone an inspector

Tire maintenance begins with the most basic concern — inflation pressure. A well-designed quiet-riding tire offers sidewall flexibility, traction, rolling resistance, stone rejection and tread life, but the air in the tire supports the load of the coach. Running on the incorrect air pressure — too little or too much — only handicaps its capability to transport the load of the coach safely. Too often a tire inflation pressure check is relegated to tire thumping to check for pressure. Certainly the investment in the coaches and the lives they carry make it incumbent upon operators to provide proper and calibrated tire pressure gauges to all service personnel and coach drivers. As maintenance supervisors and managers demonstrate the importance of tire pressure and the use of proper gauges, the employees will respond with a similar attitude. At Prevost we use the Michelin table that lists tire inflation per axle to determine the correct pressure. We use only the tire manufacturers’ recommendations. The weight of motorcoaches will vary based on passenger and luggage load, so it is best to consider the maximum weight. Tire pressure monitor systems are becoming more popular as the earlier systems have become more robust and accurate. Still, the drivers are critically important to maximizing tire life, and must be made aware of all the tools to achieve this.

The Tag Unload is one of the most often underutilized features on a Prevost coach. Instruct drivers on Tag Unload and how to employ this valuable feature. Though it’s a manual feature, the driver can select automatic tag unload as an option. It quickly dumps the air pressure in the tag axle airbags during a low-speed turn. Otherwise the coach pivots on the drive tires and the tags skid or scrub through the turn, which reduces tire life and adds a strain on the suspension. With Tag Unload, the tag tires have time to rise, but by dumping the tag axle air bag pressure they slide across the pavement more easily. It reduces scrub, tightens the turn radius and promotes a longer tread life.

There is no replacement for conscientious inspection and maintenance technicians that are so critical to the safety and longevity of a tire. But don’t overlook the people at the fuel stations who see the coaches regularly in the basic inspection process. These are the primary observers for cuts, bulges, worn treads or any other anomaly.

Lift the coach carefully

Lastly, a word about wheel lifts and tires. We see wheel lifts, as opposed to pits, in use in shops across North America. Companies typically invest in six lifts to support all three axles when the coach is raised. Some companies, however, only purchase four lifts and raise the coaches using the steer and drive axle. Often the lifts will have forks long enough to extend only under a single tire. My concern is for the drive axle tires. Each tire and wheel has an expressed maximum load rating — somewhere in the 9,000 pound range. In choosing to raise a coach using only four lifts, with the lift forks only extending under one tire, think of the weight the outer drive tires must absorb. It’s probably well in excess of the load rating for the tire/wheel system. Such a strain could possibly distort the belts and inflict other hidden damage on the tire. On coaches converted into motor homes, the weight borne by the outer driver tire in this situation is even greater. BRM ________________________________________________ Robert Buchwalter serves as one of two Prevost technical field instructors conducting seminars at the Prevost factory in Quebec, customers’ shops, and transit agencies. He is a member of the BUSRide Editorial Advisory Board.


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products & services

Herkules on the FastTrack Herkules Equipment Corporation introduces the FastTrack, an inexpensive lightweight paint gun washer to speed the cleaning process anywhere in the shop. The company says the FastTrack works with Herkules Sparkle Clean Blast aerosol can cleaner to clean both waterborne and solvent paints. The Blast can is fastened upside down to the top of the FastTrack. The FastTrack’s nozzle pushes up with the paint gun, releasing the cleaner down into the paint channel with just the right amount of pressure to clean the inside of the gun. Use the attached brush to easily clean the outside tip of the gun. Herkules Sparkle Clean Blast contains the same low VOC cleaning formula as Herkules Sparkle Clean aerosol can cleaner. The product mounts easily in the shop or a mobile work station to keep projects moving quickly. Herkules Equipment Corporation Walled Lake, MI

ODYSSEY Performance Series for commercial vehicles ®

Enersys, the manufacturer of ODYSSEY® batteries, announced the availability of its Performance Series™ 31-800 battery for heavy-duty/ commercial applications and onboard accessories. The company says the 31-800 battery keeps all components running even when the engine isn’t and delivers reliable starts. ODYSSEY® Performance Series batteries combine long service life, high reliability and deep cycle capabilities Enersys says Performance Series batteries provide the same reliability as the newly rebranded ODYSSEY® Extreme Series™ batteries without the high cold cranking amps (CCA) or reserve capacity (RC). EnerSys Reading, PA

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King Pin Press speeds removal The new King Pin Press generates 46,000 pounds of force and weighs only 30 pounds. The company says that with 75 percent less weight than its closest competitor, the Tiger King Pin Press provides an effective, user friendly design for ease of use. One technician can operate the press, which incorporates the use of a forcing screw and anti-torque arms to prevent twisting the main body. Tiger Tool says the press now removes kingpins in minutes with relative ease and efficiency. Designed for use on straight and tapered kingpins, the tool accommodates sizes from 7/8-inch to 2 & 5/32-inch kingpins. Tiger Tool International, Inc. Sumas, WA

Mobile Tire Pressure Equalizer reduces

IPA says minute discrepancies in tire inflation can profoundly affect both tread wear and fuel economy as even a 1/4-inch variance in tire size will cause the larger tire to support extra weight. The company has developed its new Mobile Tire Pressure Equalizer to accurately read and inflate tire pressure on up to five tires at a time. The company says the product can help achieve the best possible fuel economy and tire life when used in conjunction with preventative maintenance and safety lane procedures. The IPA Equalizer is equipped with two integrated high-capacity air regulators and two accurate, highresolution, glycerin-filled pressure gauges for consistent and precise tire pressure readings. The Equalizer mounts on a welded steel cart with pneumatic tires and features wheel-specific, colorcoded hoses with corresponding panel indicators and convenient hose hangers. Innovative Products of America (IPA) Woodstock, NY

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The Exclusive Maintenance Resource for the Transit and Motorcoach Industry! Our May 2013 cover story: A touch of mercury can smooth tire rot...