Where Your Car's Care Becomes a partnership
Where Your Car's CareBecomes a partnership
The ill effects of highway treatments are very evident in the undercar area of your vehicle. Brine, road salt and calcium and magnesium chloride are all used to deice roads. What they all have in common is their harmful reaction to your vehicle's metal components. The most vulnerable part of your vehicle is the part that faces the roadway. It's here that the fuel and brake lines and various suspension parts (not to mention the frame itself) live. So how can you combat nature's war on your vehicle's metal? According to Popular Mechanics the car makers try by treating their cars with different rust preventative chemicals but over time the protection gets blown away as your vehicle speeds down the highway. What they do think is effective is to rinse or wash your car often, including the undercarriage. Another suggestion is to identify the drain holes at the bottom of doors and the frame itself. These drains prevent water from laying in the cavity of the part and rusting it from the inside out. So the idea is to keep the drains free of debris by using a pipe cleaner or similar object to open the holes.It is also recommended to dry out the cracks, crevices, and depressions of the steel parts of the vehicle. Sound impossible? It is, but don't feel bad because it's not unusual for the car manufacturers to resort to recalls to replace poorly designed components that retain water and fail prematurely. So the takeaway is to keep your car clean as best you can including under the vehicle. The attached photo shows the badly rusted brake lines from a Chevy Tahoe that graced our shop recently. Badly Rusted Brake Lines
In the medical arena, the definition of a diagnosis is pretty clear cut - you go to a trained professional and are told what ails you. In the automotive industry, the lines have been blurred. The availability of on-line advice and parts store willingness to scan a vehicle free of charge has changed the driving public's perception of the most important first step in the repair of a vehicle. Auto repair facilities themselves subscribe to databases that aggregate repair information from shops worldwide. Those same shops belong to automotive forums, trade groups and have accumulated relationships within their communities all of which they use to inform their decisions about what is needed to repair your car. But the written or spoken word (to date) has never, by itself, repaired a vehicle. All accurate information is helpful in the hands of a committed technician whose first priority has become the most expedient and economical repair of your vehicle. It is the notion that one piece of information whether acquired from an online source, water cooler talk, or a first-cousin once removed can be a magic bullet, which causes angina for technicians. Unfortunately, that "one piece" of data is just that and does not constitute a diagnosis much less a repair path. A true diagnosis combines information from a number of sources including the owner's experiences and perceptions, measurable data of the vehicle's performance gleaned in real-time through the use of sophisticated diagnostic equipment and a look at the vehicle's Achilles Heels which is available through industry repair aggregators. But this only generates a theory, not a diagnosis not to mention a repair. The diagnosis then needs to be verified. Technicians use a number of methods to confirm a suspected failure ranging from manipulating a component through the use of a tool to something as low-tech as a wiggle test. Remember, all this effort is going into a diagnosis- the first step. So, when you are certain that you know you have struck diagnostic gold on the internet, be reminded of that old saw, "When you're carrying a hammer everything looks like a nail."          
We would like to see you always respond to deficiencies in your vehicle. That's what we do- make those things right. However, we do understand that there is competition for your available funds and that sometimes auto repair and servicing must take a back seat to  a clogged sewer line or moving expenses. But sometimes you must push car problems to the top of the list or take it off the road. So when do you have to make a choice between getting your car fixed and walking to work? Please understand that this is not an all-inclusive list, but rather some problems that you may experience and not realize their gravity. Fuel Leak- The odor of fuel must be tended to immediately. If it's under the hood there are numerous sources of ignition ranging from the heat of the engine to hundreds of electrical connections. If it's an exterior leak the ignition could be almost anything in the nearby environment.   Bald Tire- Driving on a badly compromised tire is like walking around with the pin pulled on a hand grenade. It's only a matter of time before something is going to happen and it can't be good. Bulges in tires, visible steel cord, ply separations and smooth tires should all trigger the same sense of concern. Flashing Check Engine Light- The Malfunction Indicator Lamp or Check Engine Light is designed to illuminate when a diagnostic trouble code is set in your vehicle's Powertrain Control module or computer. If the light is on constantly it's important to know the cause, but if it begins to blink you should pull over and get the car towed. The higher level of concern that is represented when the light begins to flash could mean that damage to the engine is imminent. Low Oil or High Temp Indicator- The low oil light is signified by an oil bottle. When it lights up, safely drive to the side of the road or to a service facility and check and add motor oil before resuming your trip. If the "Hot" light comes on or the temperature gauge goes up to "H" you must stop driving the vehicle and get it towed. The mechanical consequences of running a car while hot far exceed any inconvenience that might be incurred. There are more instances when vehicles should not be driven, many of which are signaled by  noise or visible evidence such as a leaking fluid. The point is that care should be taken to be aware of what's going on with your vehicle and respond accordingly.  Bald Tire with Cord Showing on Edges              
Every driver has had experiences when a decision has to be made as to whether to continue on or seek help. I was reminded of this one morning this week when I was greeted by a Chevy HHR that wasn't there when I left the night before. The owner called to say she had gotten a message on her Driver Information Center that said, " Car Slowing Down Can't Get Traction." She prudently heeded the DIC message by pulling to the side of the road and ultimately calling for a tow truck. She did this while taking note of the conditions of the failure and eventually conveying them accurately to us. The result was that no one was endangered and the vehicle problem was resolved with no further damage to the vehicle. The tension between attempting to reach our destination and seeking help was demonstrated to me when my wife and I were traveling to Virginia this past Christmas Eve. In six lanes of stop and go traffic on the Capitol Beltway (I-495) our Tucson's transmission went south and like the HHR would not accelerate. What to do? The answer was to ease our way from the fast lane to the nearest exit and work something out. This whole experience gave me a much better appreciation of our customers' stress over vehicle failure episodes. By comparison, consider the "tire" pictured here or should I say the remnants of it? The entire sidewall is gone and only the tread area remains. This only happens when a tire is driven flat for miles and the wheel cuts away the tire 's rubber. What could have the driver been thinking? Could the cost of a tow truck or the prospect of being late for an appointment have been the reason he would continue on? And what danger was he imposing on himself, his passengers and those on the road with him that day? Copyright 2016 Joe & Tony's Service Inc.    
20.12.2015
Autoexperts
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Replacing a battery isn't as clear cut as it used to be, vital memory can be lost in the process, affecting everything from radio presets to important KAM (Keep Alive Memory). The newer vehicles need a continuous stream of power to protect this data and special devices may have to be attached to do so. But if you are a dedicated DIYer here's one of my most popular articles originally published on Yahoo Voices. By the way, if you replace a battery preemptively (prior to a failure) we do not charge a labor charge for the replacement on most vehicles.                                                         How to Select a Battery BCI stands for Battery Council International. Now you can forget that bit of information because the industry just uses the term BCI when referring to a type of battery cataloging system for cars. What the BCI or battery group number allows you to do is to determine the length, width, height as well as the terminal configuration of your car’s battery. This is helpful when confirming that the replacement battery that you have selected is a direct match to the one you are replacing. Here’s what you do. Find the catalog number for your existing battery. It will say something like 8475 if it’s sold by NAPA. What this is telling you is that this battery is in the 75 BCI group and carries an 84-month warranty. Now measure your battery and record the dimensions. Next go to batteryweb.com  and click on BCI Group Sizes to confirm your decoding of the catalog number. Always move the battery so that the terminals are closest to you to correctly determine the position of the positive and negative terminals. So you will find that 8475 ends up being a side terminal battery with the positive terminal on the left. Now that you know that the battery will fit and the cables will reach and tighten properly, let’s make sure that your battery selection is going to start the car. Look for CCA or CA on the battery, these stand for cold cranking amps and cranking amps respectively. These ratings indicate the battery’s ability to turn over your car’s engine in stressful conditions – the higher the rating the better. CCA is just a higher standard than CA. We’re looking for a battery with a rating that equals the one you’re replacing or fulfills the requirement as listed in your owner’s manual. The final rating that appears on the battery is RC which stands for reserve capacity. The battery manufacturers have thought of everything including the hapless possibility that your vehicle might have to run all of its accessories solely off the battery. So reserve capacity is a rating in minutes of how long the battery could sustain that condition if the alternator or its belt failed. Even though cold weather is associated with car battery replacement, probably because of the visceral reaction of seeing the service truck in your driveway during a snow storm, heat-related issues are just as destructive to batteries. So whether you’re trying to replace your battery wearing a winter coat or a tee shirt, start first with the numbers that you find on the battery to make the job easier.          
We all are very familiar with the impact of low voltage on our cell phones. So take that chaos and multiply it by 30-100 which is the number of micro-processors that  a 2010 NY Times article estimated are in today's cars and trucks. This estimate precedes the onslaught of factory installed infotainment systems in cars, so I'm sure you get where I'm going. But then again maybe you don't. What I'm proposing is a new way to look at replacing the battery in your vehicle. The old way is to milk every day that you possibly can out of the power supply that starts your vehicle and helps to run all its computers. Car batteries can be purchased with warranties of anywhere from 48 to 84 months, but the fact is that most batteries fail at about the 48 month mark depending on where you live. This reality is the reason that a well respected consumer publication recommends that in hot climates owners begin to test their batteries' condition every year beginning at 2 years old and in cold climates beginning at 4 years. Yes that's right, sweltering heat is harder on batteries than freezing cold. The point of all this is that it may be penny wise and dollar foolish to squeeze an extra day or two out of your car's battery. Since a lack of available voltage could trigger a diagnostic trouble code and illuminate your check engine light, you should consider a marginal battery a threat to your vehicle's diagnostic system. Although the initial check of your vehicle's condition would include an evaluation of battery health, why not eliminate exposure to a misdiagnosis and all the angst that goes with it. The cost of diagnosing an erratic code could exceed the money saved by extending the replacement time of your battery by a few weeks. Have your battery tested as it ages Copyright 2015 Joe & Tony's Service Inc.    
The National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) has ended a multi-year investigation into 1999-2003 full sized pickup trucks and sport utilities vehicles which have experienced brake line failures. The government agency has decided the problem is due to "end of life wear out" and will not be recalling the subject vehicles. The lines that NHTSA looked at carry brake fluid throughout the brake system and play the primary role in the hydraulic functionality of the brakes. Fluid in the lines is responsible for applying pressure to the mechanical brake parts that stop the vehicle. Lines compromised by rust and corrosion eventually leak and result in loss of pressure greatly increasing stopping distances. If this condition is not addressed all the fluid is lost resulting in no brakes. NHTSA offered consumers in the "Salt Belt" (a list of 20 states & DC where deicing preparations are applied to roadways) suggestions to "protect against brake pipe corrosion in older vehicles". They are: 1.) Periodically remove from the undercarriage of your vehicle road salt that leads to corrosion        2.) Monitor your brake system and the undercarriage components        3.) Replace the entire brake pipe assembly at any sign of scaling or flaking The agency also describes what to do if you experience a brake failure while driving. These instructions can be viewed at NHTSA Brake Corrosion Press Release. Comment -As covered in the last blog post and reinforced here by NHTSA,  there is no substitution   for a trained eye periodically looking over your vehicle. Dripping Brake Line Copyright 2015 Joe & Tony's Service Inc.            
28.03.2015
Autoexperts
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J.D. Power's Automotion Blog forecasted that the average new vehicle transaction price for March 2015 would be $30,530, which would be a record for the month of March. Median income adjusted for inflation has been hovering around $52,000 in recent years. The math indicates that we are plunking down nearly 59% of a year's wages when we give the salesman the OK to place the happy tags on our new ride. This makes a case for maintaining a vehicle. Some of the other reasons are... 200,000 Miles is the New 100,000 Miles - Admittedly, we don't see an abundance of brand new cars since the the first 36 months and 36,000 miles are covered by the new car warranty. But the odometer readings we do see actually make a case for vigilant maintenance, since the best way to maximize your investment is to exploit the 200,000 mile potential your vehicle can achieve. Longer Power Train Warranties- Hyundai broke new ground when, many years ago, it introduced the 100,000 Mile/10 Year power train warranty. Today the decision appears to have been prescient since the average age of the national fleet is 11 years. The stickler here is that you have to maintain the vehicle per the manufacturer's specifications to avail yourself of warranty coverage- no service history, no warranty. Higher used car values - It is no secret that selling used cars is profitable - think CarMax CarSense and Autotrader. So how could you use that knowledge to your advantage? Yes, by diligently maintaining your vehicle. Don't consider it a transportation device, instead think of it as an investment. Make deposits into it in the form of oil changes, inspections and scheduled maintenance and think of your technician as a vehicular adviser who is there to protect your nest egg. The Golden Rule- If self interest doesn't motivate you to keep up on your car, consider this. I have always been struck by the democracy of the road. Find a vehicle, register it, insure it and you can enjoy the same rights as everyone else as long you follow the rules of the road. Your piece could be a Mazda 2 or a Hennessey Venom GT and you're equal on the roadway. But isn't there an inherent responsibility that comes with that freedom? Of course there is, and it's the regard you must have for yourself, your passengers and the guy in the other lane on I-95. That regard is shown when you seek regular and competent advice about your vehicle. Rusted Rear Suspension Copyright 2015 Joe & Tony's Service Inc.                        
One of the benefits of working in an auto repair shop is that you are on the front lines of the used car market. Without much effort, you know who is in the market to buy and who would like to sell a vehicle. So over the years I have purchased a number of cars from customers and likewise have sold a few to other clients. A 1975 Mercury Monarch and a 1985 Chevy Caprice Classic were OK buys for me. They provided sound transportation and maintained their integrity in terms of appearance and reliability for the duration of my ownership. I sold the Chevy to another customer who drove it for a number of years without spending much on repairs. Unlike stocks, when it comes to cars, past performance can be a guarantee of future results, as long as they are properly maintained. But without a doubt the best car I ever owned was purchased from a little old lady in 1979. When she owned the car she would drive by to have me check the gas gauge and inquire whether she should fill up or wait. Usually I would tell her to wait and try to use up her current inventory, because I was concerned that the gas would “go bad”. All the details of this 1969 Chevy Nova are burned into my brain, because she decided to sell it to me when it turned 10 years old when it had only been driven 1500 miles. No, I didn’t forget a zero, in a decade the owner had barely driven the car beyond the inspection lanes and back and undoubtedly could have taken a taxi as cheaply on all of her jaunts. So how do you establish the value of a car that has been driven so few miles? We called the Chevrolet dealership and arrived at something that made sense to both parties and I became the proud owner of a two door, glacier blue Nova with a standard transmission and a 6 cylinder engine. On the showroom floor its price tag was less than $2500. What made it the best car I ever owned? It’s simplicity. Although its amenities were non-existent, the vehicle’s Spartan functionality provided reliable transportation and it didn’t put up much of a fuss when something went wrong. When is the last time you raised the hood of a car and could actually see the pavement below? But like many things in life, everything has a time and the tipping point for the Nova was a growing family that required a vehicle with two more doors. This brings me to the other reason that this Chevy is so memorable. I did indeed sell it to another customer. Let’s call him Len. Len was a very good customer, who was well appreciated, but in today’s jargon  he would earn the label “high maintenance”. I was anxious to move the Nova and mentioned it to Len contrary to the advice of my co-workers. He said we had a deal as long as I agreed to teach his 20 something son how to operate the stick shift. So one Saturday we found a parking lot that had a couple of elevated grades on which we could simulate preventing the car from rolling back at stop lights and with Len kibitzing from the back seat we practiced and practiced. Of course, on Monday morning everyone wanted to know how my tutorial had gone. Without any hesitation I told them, “Len said it was a deal.” I didn’t mention that he was insisting that I have the clutch replaced prior to the sale.         
In my role at the repair shop I don't often road test vehicles before and after repair procedures, but I have found that I really enjoy driving one that has had suspension work performed on it. To me there is nothing that improves the driving experience more than the sense of control and ease of handling that renewed suspension parts offer the driver. Insidious degrading- The gradual wear process that occurs in the suspension of a vehicle accounts for the reason why these parts are often neglected until a noise or a catastrophic failure occurs. Over time, the rubber bushings in control arms and ball joints degrade. They are of course susceptible to load driven wear and tear, but contaminants like oil and road grime take their toll as well. Attention grabbing sound- The first sign that makes the driver aware of a problem is usually a "clunking" or "banging" sound. As those rubber bushings go away after years of driving, two metal parts that were previously separated by rubber begin to contact each other when the vehicle's suspension is stressed by going over irregularities in the road like a speed bump or a pothole. This produces the noise that alerts you to the failure. Clicking noise- One part of the suspension that can produce a "clicking" noise when it fails is the sway bar links also called stabilizer links. These parts connect the front or rear (if so equipped) sway bar to the suspension. When the links break a vehicle may lean more on turns and signal its condition with a rattling sound. As we pointed out in our previous post the senses are important when evaluating the condition of your vehicle. In the case of suspension problems, hearing plays a very important part in your ability to convey what ails your vehicle to the service facility. Try to describe the type of noise, where it is coming from and when it is evident such as when going over a bump or when the brakes are applied. Failed Control Arms (Complete Arm & Failed Bushing Views)Copyright Joe & Tony's Service Inc. 2014