Winter has arrived: are you prepared for what’s ahead? Do you know what needs to be done to make sure that you and your vehicle make it through to spring?
Here’s a helpful list:
1st Be sure that maintenance services are up to date (oil changes, inspections and previously recommended services that are due)
2nd Be sure that your wiper blades are in great condition.
3rd Be sure that your engine’s antifreeze protection is good for colder temperatures than you will be driving in.
4th Be sure that your washer fluid has antifreeze protection
5th If you use snow tires have them installed in November (or sooner if you live in early snowfall country). If you don’t use snow tires this is a good time of year to replace marginal all season tires.
6th Be sure that your battery is in good condition.
7th Be sure that your air conditioning is functioning well (it helps to very quickly defog your windshield and increases your visibility)
8th Be certain to have an emergency kit if you are planning a trip. This kit includes warm blankets and/or sleeping bag; a candle and matches; water and couple days worth of snacks.
Following these suggestions will help you and your car survive whatever type of winter that might be thrown at us.
In mid October the CBC ran a story about premium gasoline and how, for most cars it was a waste of money (http://goo.gl/G5qR4). They went so far as claiming that its use caused higher levels of pollution from the tailpipe than regular fuel. While I agree almost entirely with the statement that it is a waste of money if your car does not require premium I found the claims of excessive pollution to be dubious. I admit that I did not watch the TV program, however while looking at the website article the picture of the technical expert with his gas analyzer set off alarm bells for me.
I had some discussions with those in the know about auto emission testing and they confirmed my thoughts: that it is very unlikely that using premium fuel when the manufacturer does not recommend it is going to cause any noticeable increase in tailpipe emissions. The gas analyzer shown in the picture is a piece of equipment similar to one that we own at our shop and while it is highly precise it is not capable of reading the very low emission levels that modern vehicles put out with enough detail to make such a conclusion. Modern vehicles have very sophisticated electronics, sensors, computers and catalytic converters which control emission levels and the simple use of premium fuel verses regular fuel cannot be detected by this type of gas analyzer. My recommendations are: 1) Don’t worry about the pollution increases as they are negligible to none-existent. 2) If your manufacturer doesn’t recommend premium, save your money and use regular. 3) If you own a premium fuel recommended vehicle as I do you can run it on regular if the engine performs well and doesn’t knock and ping: mine works great.
Premium fuel (91 octane) at 14 cents more per liter is usually not worth the extra cost over regular fuel (87 octane).
Your car’s brakes rely on brake fluid to transmit the force that your foot applies to the brake pedal to each wheel’s brake. Occasionally a brake system will develop a leak and if left unchecked for long enough this can cause some serious safety concerns. Fortunately modern cars have a warning light which illuminates on your dash when the fluid level drops too low.
Recently we serviced a vehicle with the dash warning lamp on. We inspected the fluid and found the level very low. Upon performing a brake inspection we found the left brake caliper leaking, and further inspection revealed something more interesting and potentially very dangerous: the inner brake pad soaked in fluid was disintegrating. This could have crumbled apart upon hard braking and caused a serious inability to stop. Fortunately we caught this in time, repaired it and made the car safe. While it is normal for your brake fluid level to drop over a long period of time you should have your brakes inspected at least yearly to be sure that the system is safe.
Brake pad damaged by excessive brake fluid soaking: arrows point to the disintegrating pad material
Studies have found that drivers over 45 years old are far more proactive with car maintenance than the younger generation is. Why would this be?
I would say that a couple of factors are at play.
1st: the older generation has grown up with cars that required more routine maintenance than today’s generation of cars. Cars of 30 years ago required annual tune-ups just to keep the engine running properly.
2nd: as people gain more life experience with age, they experience the consequences and costs of neglect and many know that maintenance does in fact save money and reduces stress.
A typical car owner’s manual maintenance schedule
For younger drivers it is essential to know what your car or truck needs for maintenance. The manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, which is part of your owner’s manual, has this list.
There are also additional services that are not shown in the manual that can greatly enhance your car’s life and save on overall vehicle operating costs. To be properly informed, read your owner’s manual and find a shop that you trust to advise you on the proper maintenance to keep your vehicle running trouble free. A good maintenance routine will save you money and the stress of an unwanted breakdown!
VW TDI diesel engines have been around for two decades in several evolutions: distributor type and common rail injection. They are fabulous engines and have always been state of the art, featuring quiet operation, lots of power and acceleration, and best of all their fuel economy allows a trip from Vancouver to Calgary on a single tank.
Maintenance is relatively simple requiring routine oil and filter changes, fuel and air filter changes and rarely, timing belt replacements. Reliability of the engines is excellent however there are a few concerns that occur from time to time. Glow plugs and glow plug system failures occur from time to time.
One other concern is clogging of the intake manifold which happens commonly on late 1990 to early 2000 Jettas and Passats. Over time the EGR valve, located in the intake stream allows fine soot particles to build up, eventually building up so severely that air flow is restricted. It can become so bad that the engine has too little power to pull the car up a hill.
Partially blocked intake manifold. Surprisingly, in spite of being 50% restricted this engine still had plenty of power. Soon it will suffer from severe power loss.
When it becomes this sooted, the intake manifold must be removed to do a thorough cleanout. In exceptional cases the cylinder head must also be removed and the head dismantled to clean the valves. Obviously it makes sense to service the intake before blockage becomes severe.
At 100,000 kilometers it makes sense to remove the EGR valve and inspect for deposits and at this point clean them if present. From that point on, reinspecting and cleaning if needed every 50,000 kilometers will ensure a reliable and trouble free TDI experience; just be sure to replace the timing belt every 150,000 kilometers.
The best way to save money on car repairs is simple:
It’s with routine maintenance.
Routine maintenance means that at specific time intervals, based on how much you drive, you have your car serviced following a maintenance schedule.
The very minimum schedule that should be followed is the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule. Following this schedule will make certain that you fulfill all of your requirements should you have a warranty claim. Some manufacturer’s schedules are more thorough than others and a good maintenance shop will review the schedule and make additional suggestions to help further maintain your vehicle.
It is almost always cheaper to do Car Repairs before they break. Here are a few examples:
One oil change every 6,000 kilometers for 60,000 Km equals 10 oil changes and a total cost of around $600.00. A lack of oil changes causing a blown engine is $4,000.00 and could easily cost double that based on the type car that you drive.
An average, thorough timing belt replacement (with water pump, pulleys and oil seals) can range from $1,000.00 to $1,500.00. Neglecting it and letting the belt break puts you back in the $4,000.00 and probably far more expensive price range.
Replacing brakes before they start grinding could be as low in cost as $300.00 but if left until grinding could easily run you $700.00 or far more.
Other Tangible costs:
• Lost work hours
• Arranging transportation to and from the Repair Shop
• The stress of readjusting your schedule
• Being without your car when you need it
Through routine maintenance you will know the condition and lifespan of many of your vehicle’s parts. At specific intervals critical services like oil changes and fluid flushes will be done extending the life of your vehicle.
Will routine maintenance eliminate all surprises? Unfortunately it will not, but it substantially increases your odds of trouble free driving.
1 Page of a maintenance schedule for 2005 Ford F350 6.0L Diesel
So there is your key to save money on car repairs: Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance!
It seems innocent enough… your car’s working great, you live an incredibly busy life, you drive a lot and the car’s new. Why bother following your vehicle’s maintenance schedule?
We encounter this scenario at our shop from time to time. It shows up as a vehicle that has not been maintained to factory specs; in fact the factory schedule has been completely ignored. The consequence of this is two fold: first, damage is taking place to your vehicle even if you can’t feel it right now; and second, your warranty will be void should you need to make a claim.
Recently we had a client who came in for his first oil change on a Japanese vehicle with 50,000 kilometers on the odometer. It was quite frankly a miracle that his engine was still running but it was and in fact running fine.
However tell tail signs of abuse were present as grungy deposits were visible inside the engine. Hopefully this is one of those rare engines that can take excessive abuse and still survive: we do see that… not very often, but sometimes.
What is perhaps worrying is that, should our client have an engine problem, he will have no warranty coverage as he has not followed the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule. This could be very costly as a replacement engine job could be $5000.00 or more. Five oil changes costs around $300.00 and more should have been done, but 5 would have satisfied the manufacturer’s schedule.
That’s a huge cost difference.
Be certain to follow your maintenance schedule: it definitely saves you lots of money and gives you peace of mind. Remember – poor maintenance can void your warranty.
Oil dipstick after 50,000 km with no oil change. Note the baked on deposit and sludge to the right of the bump in the stick (center of photo): this will be present inside the engine and likely lead to an early engine failure
A tire pressure monitoring system offers convenience, are a smart safety addition and they are proven to increase the life of your tires!
Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems TPMS
TPMS show inflation pressure which governs the performance of a pneumatic tire. Safety performance like braking distance and lateral stability require the inflation pressures to be maintained as specified by the vehicle manufacturer.
Extreme under-inflation can lead to thermal and mechanical overload caused by overheating and subsequent, sudden destruction of the tire. Plus, under-inflation adversely affects fuel efficiency and tire wear. Tires leak air naturally and over a year, even a typical new, properly mounted tire can lose from 20 to 60 kPa (3 to 9 psi), roughly 10% or even more of its serviced proper pressure.
The significant advantages of TPMS are illustrated by the costs of tire under inflation:
• Consequences of low tire pressure: Punctures (approx. 80% of punctures are caused by inadequate tire pressure), Increased tire wear due to added flexing work, Increased fuel consumption due to higher rolling resistance
• Fuel usage: for every 10% of under-inflation on each tire on a vehicle, a 1% reduction in fuel economy will occur (According to the GITI). In just the US, the DOT estimates that under inflated tires waste 2 billion US gal. (7,600,000,000 litres) of fuel each year.
• Poor tire life: Tire disintegration, heat buildup, separation and sidewall/casing breakdowns are mostly caused by under inflated tires. Running a tire even briefly with low pressure breaks down the casing and stops the option to retread the tire.
• Increased downtime, higher maintenance and repair: Under-inflated tires cause expensive downtime, maintenance and premature tire replacement.
• Poor safety: Under-inflated tires lead to tread separation and tire failure, resulting in 40,000 accidents, 33,000 injuries and over 650 deaths per year. On the other hand, tires properly inflated provide greater stability, handling and braking efficiencies and more safety for the driver, the vehicle, the loads and others on the road.
• Environmentally Bad: Under-inflated tires, as estimated by the Department of Transportation, release over 57.5 billion pounds of unnecessary carbon-monoxide pollutants into the atmosphere each year in the United States alone.
Tire pressure monitoring systems are mandated in many countries now and offer real advantages; call us to find out about equipping your vehicle.
We love servicing new vehicles and always appreciate working with the clean, shiny and newly painted undercarriage and suspension components.
Many of our clients bring their new vehicles to us for service but some take their new cars to the dealer. Is it because they feel their warranty will be voided if the dealer doesn’t service it? Is it because the glitzy feel of the dealership somehow pulls on them and makes them feel like these are the folks who will best service this car? Were they told that their car must be serviced by the dealer? Or perhaps, after years of fixing their old car we are thought of as the “old car repair shop.”
Whatever the reason it is time to bust a few myths:
My warranty will be void if anyone other than the dealer services my car.
Fact:Any qualified auto service facility can perform the manufacturers recommended maintenance and your warranty remains valid. By the way it is illegal for anyone selling you a new car to state that you must have your car serviced at their dealership.
If there is a warranty related problem the dealer won’t take care of me because I have done my service elsewhere.
The dealer is obliged to repair any warranty concerns that the manufacturer authorizes and most are happy to do so as it is business for them.
The dealer knows my car better. It’s new technology and they have the tools to fix it.
While dealer technicians are specifically trained on their type of vehicle all cars function the same way with only subtle differences. We have state of the art equipment and repair information that is equal to or better than the dealer.
If there is a recall only the dealer will know that.
We have a state of the art database which lists all manufacturers maintenance schedules as well as recalls. We look these over every time your car is brought in for service.
I hope that this sheds some light for you and helps you make a choice as to who services your car.
As a further advantage to dealing with us we are your 3rd party advocate to be certain that your vehicle is being properly serviced and any warranty related concerns are brought to your attention. So much of your car is hidden and unless someone mentions a concern you are unlikely to know that it is needed.
If you like the service and value that you get from the dealership by all means stick with them; however do know that you have a choice, and I believe that we offer a fabulous choice, superior to the dealership.
Underside of 2011 Dodge Avenger in for its first service
Pawlik Automotive is an auto service shop located in the Marpole area of Vancouver, BC. We’ve been in business since 1991 which makes us 20 years old this year. We service most makes of cars and light trucks and we do pretty much all the maintenance and repairs that your car will need. What we don’t do is bodywork, windshields and detailing.
I want to speak today on a few aspects of our business that are unique.
Let’s face it there are a lot of auto repair shops out there but there are several things that make Pawlik Automotive an excellent choice for servicing your vehicle.
We take what I call a wholistic approach to vehicle service.We look at the whole car, evaluate it and let you know what service is required now and what is required in the future. The basis of that service comes via this very colorful and detailed inspection form. Having us as your partner in vehicle service undoubtedly saves you money in the long run.
An Honest Mechanic
We don’t use a heavy handed or fear based tactics as a way of selling service.
I can give an example from this week: we had a client who complained that her brakes were making a noise. I drove the car and noted a grinding noise at some times: it was intermittent and coming from her front brakes. Upon inspection we found 4 mm remaining on the brake pads and the rotors were in good condition. 4 mm on this car could last another 20 to 30,000 kilometers and there was no safety issue involved. We let her know that we could replace her pads & rotors now and eliminate her noise or she could safely leave them and live with the noise. She opted to leave them, a $500 sale walked out the door while our integrity remained intact!
Another area of specialty for us is fleet maintenance: essentially these are vehicles used for business and most often these would be trades companies: plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, rubbish removal companies and garden maintenance companies just to name a few.
What makes our service so valuable to fleets is our thorough inspections along with accurately recording the work needed and booking future appointments along with reminding them of when service is needed.
I can give an example of how we’ve helped one of our fleet clients:We service a company called Action Integrated Security who have about 15 vehicles, mostly heavily loaded vans. When they started bring their vehicles to us they were in pretty bad shape but we got them maintained to our high standards.
One area of concern remained and that was that some of their vans were eating brakes at an alarming rate and this was in spite of our use of the best quality brake parts available. After a few of their trucks ran into horrifically expensive brake jobs which could have been prevented by inspections, the company’s owner, upon my suggestion now brings all of their vehicles to us for every service.
They had been going to quick lubes for oil services as this was convenient for them as their technician did not have to be without a vehicle. Unfortunately quick lubes don’t look at the whole vehicle and much was being missed. We now inspect their brakes at every service and note any quick wearing brakes so they can be dealt with before they wear out. This is saving them a lot of money.
Diesel cars and diesel trucks are another area of specialty for us. Many auto repair shops don’t do diesels but we love them and have invested in the equipment and education to diagnose and repair them properly.
An example of some of our diesel service is on 6 liter Ford diesels: these are very common in pick up trucks from 2003 to 2006 model years. Unfortunately this engine is not reliable stock but with proper repairs it can be made bulletproof and we have done this to a number of these engines.
Doing proper diagnosis is very important to fixing a modern vehicle and it is a big part of our business and it’s something that we do very well. There are many expensive parts to go wrong so it is essential to take the time to find out what the exact cause is so that our client’s money is not wasted.
Here’s an example of the value of diagnosis: A couple of days ago we had a Dodge truck with a check engine lamp on and it’s engine running with a slight misfire. His previous shop had not done diagnosis but had installed many parts in hopes of fixing the concern: new spark plugs, ignition wires, distributor cap & rotor and a fuel injector in 1 cylinder.
They had charged him a fair amount of money and while some of these parts may have been needed they had not solved his concern. We diagnosed his concern and found a bad intake valve in #8 cylinder which required some engine work. Chances are most of the other parts were unnecessary and were a waste of his money: had this vehicle owner done diagnosis first he would have undoubtedly saved hundreds of dollars.
Over the past few years I’ve invested heavily into our website and created educational materials. I write blog articles frequently about all sorts of auto repair topics and have created several videos on how we do our work and what makes us unique.
I encourage you to take the time to look around as it explains a lot about how we do things here at Pawlik Automotive.
If you have someone that you’d like to refer to us please ask them to look at our videos as it will give them an idea about how we do things and what makes us unique. While I have fun making these I do it so that people will learn about what makes their vehicle tick and what goes into the work that we do so they can get a better understanding of the value that we offer.
Please take a couple of minutes to view one of my videos this week. Just go on You Tube – Pawlik Automotive. I’d love to hear your feedback.