Mechanics

Driver Tips

Step by step guide on common automotive related drivers tips and helpful repair shop information.

Tip 1 - Auto Repair Garage: When taking a car to a repair shop, they should inspect the vehicle before providing an estimate. Once repairs are complete, the final bill should not be more than 10% of the original estimate. Check the repair shop warranty duration, also inquire if labor charges cover a part that fails prematurely. Ask to see the damaged or worn parts at the time the work order is placed.

To ensure quality, insist on factory OE parts (many part manufacturers produce sub-standard replacements) original manufacturer parts offer better usability and durability. If the reason for part failure is unclear, ask the mechanic to show specifically how and why the part needed replacement. When receiving the repair estimate, inquire to a few additional shops or dealerships for their prices.

This list will help avoid the uncomfortable situation of having paid more than expected for a repair, or a repair that is not needed.

  • Word of mouth is best, recommendations from someone that is already using a service, and that knows the owner or manager can be the best information to an honest repair shop.
  • Try to pinpoint the origin of the problem before repairs are performed.
  • Warranty information should be featured on the estimate paperwork.
  • Check state licenses which are required by repair shops to operate.
  • Check the Attorney General's office, or local BBB for complaints about a particular repair shop.
  • Inquire about mechanics qualifications and certificates of intelligence from such agencies as ASE.
  • Once the work is completed, a repair order describing the each labor operation and parts used should be furnished while recording the vehicle's odometer reading.
  • Warranty for repairs should be at least 1 year or 15,000 miles which every comes first, if a repair shop will not stand behind their work for at least this duration do not trust them.
  • Ask about shop labor rates if they are not posted.
  • Record the vehicles mileage before leaving it.
If a repair shop does an inspection on a car, and it is removed from the place of business without any repairs being made, a diagnostic charge will ensue.

Estimate Should Include

  • Complete identification of the problem to be repaired, the parts needed, and the anticipated labor charge.
  • Additional charges must be agreed upon before continuing the job.

Rebuilt or Refurbished Replacement Parts: What is the difference? A rebuilt replacement part, engine, transmission or differential means the unit has been disassembled and wear items have been replaced, such as bearings, brushes, guides etc. A rebuilt part will sometimes have individually painted parts. A refurbished unit is basically cleaned, painted and then resold.

Generally a rebuilt part is better quality than a refurbished part or unit. Unscrupulous repair facilities will sometimes pass the refurbished unit off as a rebuilt unit. To stem this practice ask to see the replacement parts before installation. New parts are optimum for best performance and longevity, rebuilt is the next best, refurbished replacement parts should be used as a last resort. Salvaged parts are taken from another vehicle and then re-installed.

Low Bid

Some repair shops and dealers practice the low ball bid method of business to get customers in the door. A service writer estimates a job for a low price, once the car is in the repair shop, they call the owner and up sell more repairs which are anything but cheap. The service writer calls... "Mrs. Gonzales, I have bad news, the cooling system needs to be flushed, the thermostat is shot, and the water pump is leaking... I'm sorry the car is already in pieces so I can't put it back together"...and you know the rest. To safeguard from this practice get several estimates for the same repair, if one is much lower there could be something wrong. Most repair garages know what it takes to stay in business and stay competitive, its safer to go with a middle to upper end repair shop.

Resolving Disputes

Document all transactions, as well as experiences with dates, times, expenses, and the names of people dealt with. The customer has the advantage when small claims courts are involved because Judges generally side with the consumer, repair shops know this. Auto repair is the number one service fraud in the country.

Bureau of Automotive Repair 1-800- 952-5210

Autorepair.ca.gov - for California (.ca - substitute the state two letter abbreviation for the area service.)


Tip 2 - Freeway Flat Tire: A flat tire on the freeway or any other busy highway can be dangerous. There are mainly two kinds of flat tires, either the tire is very low on air or the tire is already flat and beginning to fall apart.

In the first condition (tire very low on air) you have a chance to get off the freeway to a safe place where you can change the tire or wait for service,

In the second case (flat and falling apart) it is best not to worry about saving the tire, your main objective is to get to the freeway off-ramp or to a safe place, the car will have more rolling resistance but it will continue moving on the flat tire, proceed very slowly and use caution, most of the time when a tire is run very low on air the inner layers of the tire will breakdown rendering the tire useless anyway. Don't get hung up on the idea that you need to save the tire or rim. Far too many times people try to save a sixty five dollar tire and end up getting seriously injured or worse in the process.

If a safe place cannot be found and the car will not move, walk as far away from traffic as possible to a more protected area.

Tip 3 - Dealership Problems: A new car can be great, but sometimes these vehicles have problems and in some cases the dealership may not be as helpful as they were when the car was purchased.  If a problem exists with a dealer that is unresolved, recourse is necessary. Contact the manufacturer of the vehicle not the dealer. Car manufacturers provide a customer help line which will involve a manufacturer representative. Most dealerships are independently owned and operated, involvement with a manufacturer's representative will provide leverage needed to resolve the problem quickly.

Tip 4 - Getting Better Gas Mileage: Maintenance and driving habits can significantly effect fuel economy, here are a few tips to help get the most for the buck.

  • Check the air pressure in the tires, recommendations of such pressure is located on a sticker in the driver's door jam, or on the side wall of the tire. Proper air pressure will reduce the rolling resistance of the vehicle, in turn increasing gas mileage. While tire and car manufacturers recommend a prescribed tire pressure, it has been shown that running at the maximum tire pressure is optimal for achieving higher fuel economy. Some hybrid cars are manufactured with tires that can hold up to 65 p.s.i. as compared with the usual 36-45 p.s.i.
     
  • Analyze driving habits, taking off from a stop quickly uses excess fuel which hurts fuel mileage, try easing into the throttle and allow the vehicle to accelerate slowly.
     
  • Observe the traffic and signals, if a stop is imminent release the gas pedal and allow the car to coast the remainder of the distance before using the brakes.
     
  • If the engine is misfiring it will decrease mileage, if engine oil and filter changes have been neglected it will cause additional friction inside the engine and hinder performance.
     
  • Remove all un-necessary objects from the car, added weight will decrease mileage.

Tip 5 - Sticking Throttle: A car with a stuck throttle is scary, the number one thing to remember is to simply push the gear selector to the neutral position, or push in the clutch pedal, depending on the transmission the car is equipped with. This will disengage the engine from the transmission allowing the brakes to operate. The engine will be loud, and rev up, which usually doesn't harm the engine which is better than being involved in an accident. (Manufacturers have built in a fail safe that will not let the engine produce enough RPM's to suffer damage.)

Tip 6 - Change Engine Oil: Some car owner's never change engine oil or filters, but maintain oil levels by adding oil when needed. This practice will cause the engine to have internal engine part wear which will ultimately cause breakdowns. Changing the motor oil and filter, is cheap insurance. Visit - Oil change and filter.

Tip 7 - Window Defrosting: If the windshield defroster stops working, simply roll down the windows on both sides of the vehicle about one inch. This allows air to circulate and remove the moisture from inside the car effectively clearing the windows.

Tip 8 - Knowledge is Power: A car owner is having a problem with a 2001 Toyota Avalon (V6 engine), which has 76,000 miles. The engine would crank over and start, but then just stall, this happened three times before it would run, after stalling the check engine light came on. The owner was told by a repair shop it needed an idle air control motor, and an air mixture sensor for $1,200.00 dollars. A different repair shop checked the car and discovered a coking build up problem had occurred on the idle speed control motor. Once the unit was removed and cleaned, and codes cleared from the computer the problem was fixed for the cost of a can of carburetor cleaner and a small amount of labor. With the right information costly repairs can be avoided while saving money.

Tip 9 - Car Storage Tips: If a car is not prepared for storage properly, it can create problems. When preparing a car for storage begin with draining the fuel from the system including the tank, most fuels become unstable after a couple of years which can clog the fuel system. Next, disconnect the battery and remove it from the vehicle, this will prevent battery acid from leaking out and corroding the battery box. Completely wrap the vehicle with a car cover or plastic and then uncover periodically to remove moisture. When removing a car from storage inspect cooling hoses and all other rubber components such as the serpentine belt. Also check the charging system by testing the alternator output after the battery and gas have been reinstalled.

Tip 10 - Dim Instrument Cluster - When traveling long distances at night with low ambient light, it can sometimes help visibility to lower the instrument cluster lights.

Tip 11 - Rodent Prevention - In winter months rodents will climb into the engine compartment to take advantage of a warm engine. To thwart these unwanted guests use mothballs or repellent to help discourage these animals.

Tip 12 - Distractions - Drivers of today are faced with more distractions than ever before, cell phones, passengers and drive thru food restaurants make driving a second priority, minimize these and many other obvious distractions to stay safe while on the road.

Tip 13 - Emergency Road Kits - All vehicles should be equipped with some basic supplies; medical supplies, road flares, tire flat stop leak (this will temporarily inflates a flat tire), reflectors, water bottles, blanket, basic tools, duct tape, disposable gloves, flashlight and safety glasses.

Tip 14 - Sun Reflections / Glare - Every sunrise and sunset present unique problems for drivers, morning frost and glare can make windshields difficult to see through, thoroughly defrost all windows before driving. Dirty windshields pose a similar dilemma, a glass squeegee and a small amount of soap make great tools for cleaning windows.

AUTHOR


Written by
Co-Founder and CEO of 2CarPros.com
35 years in the automotive repair field, ASE Master Technician, Advanced Electrical and Mechanical Theory.


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