Project Trans Am – Month 35, Interior Coming Together

I’ve moved the monthly updates on Project Trans Am to my Mods and Rods.tv blog and podcast.

My latest post covering everything I’ve done last August with photos is available here: http://www.modsandrods.tv/2013/04/04/project-trans-am-for-march-2013-insulation-completed-focusing-on-the-interior-and-wiring/

Outline of Accomplishments LAST MONTH

  • Insulation Completed
  • Carpet Installed
  • Kick Panels, 1/4 Panels and Sill Plates installed
  • Oil Pressure and Water Temperature Lines Installed
  • Added a 4 Blade Fuse Block in Glove Box
  • T-top Headliner Cut and Glued

IMG_20130324_182622 IMG_20130310_200404 IMG_20130323_180652 IMG_20130323_180748

Car is finally coming together! I should have the interior back together this April. If I can stay on schedule hopefully Fathers day weekend the Trans Am will be back on the road!

Project Trans Am – Month 30, Focus on Interior

I’ve moved the monthly updates on Project Trans Am to my Mods and Rods.tv blog and podcast.

My latest post covering everything I’ve done last August with photos is available here: http://www.modsandrods.tv/2012/11/05/project-trans-am-month-30-interior-and-wiring/

Outline of Accomplishments

  • New Windshield Installed
  • Interior  hard plastics and metal restored (except headliner, seats and carpet)
  • Carpet and headliner material ordered
  • Inner fenders painted
  • Wiring problems assessed and added 4 relays to power windows with my own changes

Window Interior

Plans for November

  • Remove rust from floors, paint, and seal seams
  • Install sound deadener and insulation in passenger compartment
  • Install carpet, dashboard steering column and center console
  • Slowly install remaining interior while working on the motor

Hopefully I can get the interior far enough that all the necessary gauges and wiring is hooked up so I can focus on finishing and installing the new motor.

Project Trans Am – Up to October 2012

My Trans Am resto-mod project is finally coming together!

October is ending up as the interior and wiring month for the project, something I’m more comfortable working on frankly. The interior parts have been refurbished with fresh coats of interior paint applied. The electrical wiring is being evaluated currently, the plan is to reuse the existing harnesses as much as possible and only repair as necessary. Check out some pics of the freshly restored interior.

Hopefully over the next 2 weekends I will have all the wiring fixed, dash installed and sound deadener/insulation with carpet installed, which will allow me to think about installing the engine this November!

Check out the work I did last month on ModAandRods.tv blog: http://www.modsandrods.tv/2012/10/02/project-trans-am-month-29-brakes-and-ac-delete

Amazon.com and Raybestos Brakes – Bad Customer Service, Poor Quality Control

Update on May 2nd:

I got an email apology from Raybestos about the experience I had with them and they want to call me to discuss further.

Other than my experience dealing with the product warranty with Amazon, the Raybestos rotors are good quality. Just knowing that they do want their customer experience to be a good one may have just restored my faith in their products.

Original post on April 23rd:

Part of my Trans Am restoration includes restoring the brakes. After seeing a number of endorsements for Raybestos products on TV I decided I wanted to use Raybestos brake pads on my project car.

In early January I ordered AC Delco Advantage rotors to go along with the new brake pads, but when I received them I found their casting and machine work in the wheel hub area was quite horrible. I returned them and decided to pay the extra $10 a rotor on Amazon.com for Raybestos 5040 PG rotors. Since I’m using their brake pads, I may as well use their rotors!

When I received the Raybestos rotors in mid January, I quickly inspected the wheel hubs and found the machine work was excellent and casting was nice and centered. I did not think to inspect the rotor surface on the rotors assuming that they were fine (why would they sell a rotor with a bad surface). From what I understand, the wheel hub area needs to be right otherwise you get a serious wobble. Anyway, my failure to review the rotor surface right away was my mistake. Even so, the rotors have a no rust and no turn warranty, so if I didn’t get to the rotors till March then that’s fine, so I thought assuming there wasn’t rust on them. At that point I stored the rotors in my house until the weather warmed up.

In March, the weather did warmed up and I had an opportunity one weekend to tackle the front brakes. I did my normal procedure with the first rotor, cleaning the surface with brake cleaner, packing the bearings and installing the rotor hub on the spindle. When I started unpacking the second rotor, to my surprise the back side had 8 obvious spots of rust (see photo). Aside from that, there were 3 deep scratches that ran against the pattern of the rotor, meaning they were not caused by being machined. From that point on, I dealt with both Amazon and Raybestos and had a horrible experience with both companies. The details follow.

First I called Amazon.com. Initially they did not want to help me because it has been over 30 days since I purchased them. Then after being persistent, they said they would take the rotor back and issue me a refund, and that if I wanted a replacement I could order a new one. Well that was super lame, the price of these rotors went from $51 to $64 on Amazon.com between January and March.

So then I called Raybestos to see if I could have them exchanged directly under warranty. The gentleman I spoke with wasn’t technically rude, but he sure had an attitude. He was utterly surprised I was even able to buy Raybestos products from Amazon.com as he personally was the one who made the deal with Amazon to sell Raybestos products. The first impression I got was he didn’t believe I got them from Amazon directly (you can buy things on Amazon.com that are not actually sold by Amazon). Furthermore he made it very clear all warranty handling of Raybestos products is handled by the retailer.

So the only option was to get a refund from Amazon and order a new rotor. I paid another $63.66 and ordered a new rotor right away, and shipped the bad rotor the following day back to Amazon. 3 days later my replacement rotor arrived, with the box ripped open (see photo). A quick look inside and the rotor appeared ok, but rather than take a risk that the rotor may have slipped out and bounced around some UPS sorting facility I decided to ship it back and get another one. This time because I made the request within 30 days I was able to exchange the rotor without incurring additional costs. Thanks Amazon, you could have done this in the first place and I wouldn’t be telling this story!

The 3rd rotor arrived 3 days later, box in tattered but unopened condition. I inspected this rotor inside and out and it appeared ok.

Two weeks later I got an email from Amazon.com that they received my returned Rotors (both the original bad one and the second one I got in an open box). The email went on to explain that they will not refund me the full 51.49 that I paid in January, but instead only refunded me 41.19, the $10.30 difference going to a restocking fee (which was not mentioned to me when they finally let me return it with my call with Amazon.com). I sure hope they did not restock that rotor, it needs to be shipped back to Raybestos and the rust needs to be fixed.

If Amazon refunded the $51.49, I most likely would have left the whole ordeal alone, but the restocking fee for a faulty part just pushed me too far.

These are Automotive Brakes People!

The lack of seriousness to get the problem resolved for this particular type of item bothers me. We’re not talking about a book or a computer gadget, we’re talking about the brakes that go on a vehicle.

Amazon.com and Auto Parts

After this whole experience, I wouldn’t buy any critical or important automotive parts from Amazon.com. If I have a problem, I’ll take my part to my local auto parts store and get it resolved without dealing with 3 days to wait, product inflation and paying restocking fees to get a warrantied item replaced.

Raybestos and Warranty Coverage

Raybestos, you messed up big time. Seeing what Raybestos does for charities and watching their products on some of my favorite car TV shows, combined with their rotor “NO TURN GUARANTEE” and warranty, I expected a better phone call when I gave them a ring. Instead I was not treated as a customer or product advocate, I was treated as some guy who bought their products from someone else and it’s not their problem. Uncool!

My Conclusions

If Amazon wants to be in the automotive parts business, they are going to have to take it seriously and handle returns/exchanges accordingly. This stuff is serious business, brakes stop cars, they are serious parts to the safety of vehicles. They either need to support these products or don’t sell them in the first place.

If Raybestos does not want to deal directly with its customers, they should only sell their products through automotive retailers that will honor their warranties. Furthermore, they should still offer to warranty their products directly for those cases like mine or when retailers go out of business leaving the customer with no place to go.

I’m no longer going to purchase critical automotive parts from Amazon.com, and I’m certainly not going to recommend Raybestos products anytime soon. When you get a good Raybestos rotor, they rock, but the quality is not worth the poor customer service and lack of warranty support.

The Web is getting Sloppy, Why is it a Problem and Who’s Fault is it?

Lately I’ve observed a few web sites that have been “re-launched”. Web sites vary from a small time blogger, a popular car forum, a very large automotive vendor and even Google!

First, let me define what I mean by “The web is getting sloppy”. Essentially the Internet is organized by domain names, for example www.google.com. Each domain name or web site is then organized by paths and files. Between the latest additions of domain name combinations (e.g. example.cc) and the past couple years of sloppy organized paths and files on these web sites, the web is becoming a really big mess.

Google.com

So how does this effect you? Well lets start from the top down and discuss Google’s latest sloppy web site changes. The new iGoogle start pages are now available, they have a fresh new look to them to make them easier to use. The problem is, they did not copy or replicate the past behavior. For example, with the old iGoogle pages, you could middle click on the Inbox link for the iGoogle Gmail widget and it would open your Gmail account in a new tab in your web browser. The new iGoogle Gmail widget doesn’t do this. Why is this sloppy you ask? Because when I do middle click, it opens a new window with JavaScript error. Google should know better. they could even add JavaScript logic to capture the middle click and cancel it, the 1 line of code looks like this: event.preventDefault(); Sloppy!

For Google to make such a simple mistake, it really shows that anyone is susceptible to web sloppiness.

YearOne.com

Lets look at a popular automotive parts vendor, YearOne.com. They recently launched a new web site, which is great! Unfortunately, no attempt was taken to route the old paths and pages to the new paths and pages. This means that years of YearOne loyal customers who have been posting links to their favorite products on YearOne.com are now wasted. Bloggers call these links “gold” for a reason, they bring new visitors to your site on a continual basis, usually in situations where traditional means of attracting those visitors is not effective (such as advertising). When the guy down the street recommended a steering wheel 3 years ago on your favorite Chevy forum, you take the recommendation seriously. Well now that YearOne.com failed to correctly redirect the old pages to the new ones, that coveted potential customer traffic is lost.

In the case of YearOne’s problem, this is something that could be solved in 1-2 days with some basic script writing and access to the old and new databases. 2 days of a programmers labor is definitely worth keeping these potential customers coming and buying your products!

Unnamed Car Enthusiast Forum

I absolutely love this site, but it recently violated a number of cardinal rules, such as moving forums to different folder paths on the server and using capital letters in URLs. The forum was moved from www.example.com/smf/ to www.example.com/SOMETHING-ELSE/ and a not so friendly message is now present on the old forum with a link to the new forum. To add insult to injury, the link is just text on a page, it’s not even surrounded with the necessary HTML to make it click-able. The owner of this site missed an opportunity when I offered to help him fix the problem for free. A simple PHP script that automatically redirects traffic from the old forum to the new one would help him keep the old traffic that would come to his site remain, while also keeping the old links on the new forum to going to the right topics on the new forum. The CAPITAL LETTER folder name is no big deal really, but if search engine optimization techniques was ever applied, the folder really should be called “forum”.

Capital letters are frown down upon in web development. When URLs are typed in manually, the possibility of error is increased when someone has to remember to hold down shift. Furthermore, on Linux and Unix based servers, you can have separate folders with the same name since the capital letter folder is recognized as different than a lower case folder.

In this case, I fixed the problem for myself by writing my own GreaseMonkey script which redirects links to the old forum automatically to the new one. My script also removes links that may appear on Google that go to print page versions of the forum to it’s normal readable versions.

Every Day Bloggers

So this is where I will definitely feel bad calling someone out specifically, and luckily the problem is so common I don’t have to anyway. The biggest thing I see is bloggers trying too hard with their sites, injecting every little widget and gadget into their pages till you can’t even tell what was written by the blogger to what is an advertisement. If you take yourself seriously as a blogger, keep your sidebar clean, limit the amount of images you put in your blog posts and don’t over-do your site navigation. And what ever you do, don’t move sites around like checkers. If you don’t have the technical knowledge how to both move a database, reconfigure settings and how to perform 301 permanent redirects, you have no business doing anything with moving sites. Hire someone who knows what they’re doing or leave it as is.

The latest generation of bloggers are unaware of the importance of their blog’s feed URL. What ever you do, treat this as the keys to the castle! If you change this URL in any way, you will have consequences, even if properly redirected it can lead to lost readership and subscribers. Think of your feed as your postal mailbox. You don’t put the mailbox in the back yard and you certainly don’t move it around your front yard either. Once you have a place for your feed, keep it there and never move it!

Who’s fault is it?

I don’t think it’s any one person’s fault. We’re now seeing a new generation of web sites lead by a new generation of web developers who are green, learning the mistakes that my generation had to learn. Unfortunately in an advertising revenue and sales commerce driven web world, even one lost web visitor could mean the difference of gaining or loosing a great customer.

I’ve been developing web sites professionally since June of 2000. If you need a web developer who takes details like these seriously, contact me at www.mandato.com.