Why auto manufacturers need to invest in Buzz, Squeak and Rattle Testing
Annoying noises in my brand new car
Automobile manufacturers and their suppliers have invested heavily to improve the quality of their vehicles and enhance customer satisfaction in terms of driver comfort. But despite noticeable improvements in engine and suspension design, irritating buzz, squeak and rattle (BSR) sounds still persist for many automobiles, hindering the customer experience.
For that reason, buzz, squeak and rattle testing should be seen as a key component of the auto manufacturing process. BSR noises are among the most common complaints drivers have with new vehicles, and this dissatisfaction can lead to numerous direct and indirect costs for the OEM or supplier responsible.
What is BSR testing?
Most commonly, BSR testing is done with a four-poster system, which consists of four actuators that go under a vehicle’s wheels to simulate a wide variety of terrains. As the automobile progresses through different stages of testing, quality inspectors can listen for BSR-related noises that arise in the testing process. Automakers worldwide use this four-poster to help diagnose BSR concerns or provide audit sampling. Most four-posters globally are hydraulic, but some of the newest four-posters are electric. The distinct deference, the electric four-poster is more accurate and capable of achieving the higher frequency conditions you would normally see while driving on today’s roads. The electric four-poster is also green technology for those OEM’s looking to reduce their overall impact on the environment. The electric four-poster designed by TÜV SÜD America uses a Servo Electric Actuator or SEA for short and is replacing most hydraulic systems globally. Four-posters can be made in a variety of options, some which include In-Ground, Modular Above Ground (MAG) or Transportable systems.
But detecting these kinds of noises can be difficult, especially when a buzz, squeak or rattle is hardly audible. That’s why whenever possible, a four-poster located inside a soundproof chamber that allows testers to check for BSR issues in near-silence. The chamber is also important because it allows testers to control environmental conditions. How does the noise change in different conditions, such as fluctuating temperatures? Two components or subassemblies right next to one another may be silent in cold temperatures, when the material contracts, but they may produce an annoying sound in warmer weather that causes the material to expand.
Of course, testers don’t always have the luxury of a controllable environment. It’s important for them to be able to complete the testing in less than optimal conditions.
How BSR testing pays for itself
Often, OEMs and auto suppliers will give BSR testing short shrift, and in some cases, they skip it altogether. Sometimes, this is simply because they lack the proper equipment and internal expertise to conduct the tests. Other times, it’s because they don’t see the value of BSR testing. Internal pressures to ship products on tight deadlines and bolster short-term financial performance can overshadow efforts to ensure quality in all facets of the product.
Working with a third-party auditor is a great way to overcome these issues. An outside technical service provider is less influenced by internal requirements and it can take the time to do thorough testing without a major capital investment in testing equipment on the part of the OEM. Even still, cost-conscious managers may be leery of hiring an outside partner to help with BSR testing. This can lead to considerable downstream costs:
High warranty expenses.
Costly rework & repairs at assembly.
Hard to fix at dealerships. Very few dealer mechanics have the equipment or knowledge to fix BSR problems correctly.
Annoyed and frustrated customers, leading to reduced consumer initial quality rankings which impact sales.
That last point can have a material impact on an auto manufacturer’s ability to successfully market its vehicles. Steve Miaskowski, OnSite Manager at TÜV SÜD America, explained that popular consumer rankings, like J.D. Power Rankings, put a lot of weight on criteria like comfort and ease of use when determining which cars pleased customers the most. BSR noises can lead to a diminished rating, which can open the door for competitors to gain popularity.
“BSR noises are a common complaint when it comes to calculating these ratings,” Miaskowski said. “The testing is about cost avoidance. If you pay for these testing services, you’ll avoid both indirect and direct costs later on. It can pay for itself quickly.”
Miaskowski also pointed out that renting a four-poster system and hiring expert BSR testers requires much less initial investment than it would do buy a system and hire personnel with the skills to do it. Additionally, working with a technical services provider allows manufacturers to bring in a fresh set of eyes that can identify areas for quality improvement, creating additional ROI from the relationship.
In the next post, we’ll look at the added benefits of TÜV SÜD America’s OnSite Services. In the meantime, you can learn more about our automotive services by clicking here.