Running the Gauntlet: GM’s Stringent Tests for Quality in Its Cars

A fresh car is something that you cherish as long as possible; it is a state of existence that the car can never go through again, no matter what parts or features are altered. And we as consumers expect it to be perfect when we set foot onto the lot. So then, how does a car company like GM meet that level of expectation? What steps are taken to ensure such quality? In this video, such questions are answered.

Screen Shot 2013-05-30 at 3.59.19 PMWe are introduced to Brett Slotka, the manager of quality engineering at the Detroit Hamtramck Assembly–the plant responsible for building Impalas, Volts, and Malibus. He shows a variety of tools used to prepare the cars, including ostrich feathers and some simple gauges.

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Going into more depth, we will find that ostrich feathers are the world’s most efficient and reliable attractor of dust and other small particles; this is due to the long and numerous barbs that protrude out of the quill, more so than any other type of feather. The feathers are rigged to rollers that cover every square inch of the car’s surface, all so that the paint can be applied perfectly each and every time without the nuisance of dirt and particles clinging to the areas that need painting.

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On to the next item, Slotka shows us the gauges that are used to measure the gaps between the door and side panel, trunk and fender, and elsewhere to test how flushed the parts are to each other; no one likes a noticeable gap in a new car, to be sure, nor a lack of one which could lead to chipping and grinding. A velocity meter is introduced next to assess the force needed to fully shut any of the latch-closing parts of the car. As Slotka states, “Nothing is more frustrating than when you go to close your door, and then you’ve got to turn around and do it again.” He says that ideally the effort required is “between 1.1 and 1.3”; in other words, a very slight effort.

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Afterwards, we are shown the “sniffer,” or rather the Inficon HLD 5000, a device that selectively seeks out sulfur hexaflouride (used as an inert filling for insulated glazing windows), as well as carbon dioxide. The sniffer detects leaks of any kind to a high degree of accuracy, and is applied to the engine bay to make sure none of the pipes or tubes are cracked.

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Regarding water leaks, GM’s standard operating procedure is to subject every car to an eight-minute flood and then use a special probe to find any source of water collection. That done, if any is would necessitate removing bits and pieces to find the culprit.

It is an exhaustive and labor-heavy process, but a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes to both you and GM when the car on the lot is in the apex of its condition. As GM’s slogan states: “We are professional grade.” But this level of care and finesse clearly demonstrates how serious they are when it comes to that declaration.

About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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