Servicing Your New VehicleJuly 28, 2015
“We would love to keep coming to you for service, but we just bought a new car and we have to take it back to the dealership for maintenance while it’s still covered under our factory warranty. ”
I hear this at least a couple times a month and while this statement may be accurate, it probably isn’t. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which is enforced by the FTC, makes it illegal for manufacturers or dealers to claim that your warranty is void or to deny coverage under your warranty simply because someone other than the dealer did the maintenance or repairs. What they are saying is that if a manufacturer offers a warranty on the vehicle, they can’t require you to pay any additional money specifically to them in order to keep that warranty. However, if the dealership provides your maintenance for FREE during the warranty period, they can require you to bring the vehicle back to them for that maintenance. So where should you bring your new vehicle for service if it isn’t provided for free at the dealership? Here are a few things to consider when you are making that decision.
Many people think that the place to bring their vehicle to ensure that the best educated and competent technician works on their car is to the dealership. This isn’t necessarily true. Most dealerships do have a few high quality technicians, but they are probably not going to be the ones changing your oil and checking your vehicle over. More than likely it will be one of the younger less experienced technicians that is doing the work. You can usually find technicians at independent shops that are just as educated and capable of servicing your vehicle. Don’t be afraid to ask about certifications, at an independent shop you should expect ASE Master Certified Technicians.
Guaranteed Work and Customer Satisfaction
No matter who you chose to do the work, ask what sort of guarantee they offer. While dealerships are backed by manufacturers; any Napa Autocare Center will also offer a 24 month 24,000 mile warranty on their work. No reputable shop will have any problems with you asking these type of questions because they want you to feel comfortable with the facility you are trusting with your vehicle.
When it comes to customer satisfaction the independent shop will be very motivated to make you happy, they want you to return to have work done in the future and they want you to tell your friends about your excellent service, word of mouth is the best way for independent garages to secure new customers.
Recalls and Tech Service Bulletin
It may seem that the dealerships have the upper hand when it comes to recalls and technical service bulletins, because they have a direct line to the information released by the manufacturer. It used to be that it was very difficult for independent garages to gain access to this information, but that is no longer the case. Most independent shops today have access to the same information and can let you know when your vehicle has to go back to the dealer for something that is a covered repair. We use a program called Identifx that allows us access to manufacturer suggested maintenance schedules, technical service bulletins, recalls and repair information, as well as a database of common problem and solutions for most makes and models. We are also able to re-flash computers on some vehicles using data from manufacturer websites.
One benefit of using a neighborhood garage is that it’s close, you don’t have to drive 20 or 30 minutes to drop the car off for the day. Most independent facilities will work with you, allowing you to wait while they repair your vehicle or providing a shuttle service home or to work. We will even pick your car up from your house or business if it is local. Be sure to make arrangements when you schedule an appointment so the facility knows what your needs are, a good line of communication will make the process easier for everyone. For example, if you know that you need to have your car back by 3pm it’s better to mention that if you can when you make the appointment.
You want to make sure that you are bringing your vehicle somewhere that cares about what they do. Look for a neat and relatively clean facility that has a comfortable waiting area for customers. Ask questions like if they have the equipment necessary to scan the computer on your vehicle, can they do re-flashes, do they have an alignment machine, are they able to do state safety inspections and emissions testing and do they have a state certified emissions repair technician on staff.
If using OEM parts (parts made by the vehicle manufacturer) is important to you, make sure that you ask the facility what kind of parts they use. Today many aftermarket parts are just as good, sometimes better than the ones made by the manufacturers. NAPA parts are manufactured to meet or exceed OEM standards. Many people assume if they take their vehicle back to the dealership that they are using OEM parts, but often times that isn’t the case. Many local dealers are getting parts from Carquest, Advance Auto Parts and Auto Zone. If the brand of parts used is important to you, make sure you let the garage or dealership know that ahead of time. Most independent shops will install OEM parts if you request it.
One Last Thought
Ask yourself if the dealership that sold you a car is going to be best served by helping you keep a well maintained vehicle that will last you many years to come, Will they alert you to developing problems that may be covered under warranty? Or are they better served by keeping for car going for four years and then convincing you that the little problems that are popping up are just the beginning of bigger things to come and that you need to trade up for a newer model. Even if you are bringing your vehicle back to the dealership for regular service, it’s a good idea to bring it to an independent shop once a year at least to be checked over. We have found many problems for customers that were still covered under their manufacturer warranty that the dealership had failed to point out during regular service. An independent garage is going to be best served financially by keeping your car in good running condition. Even if you tend to trade your vehicle in after a few years, a well maintained vehicle will have a higher resale value.
Why Change Your Vehicle’s Coolant?July 2, 2015
The cooling system on your vehicle has a pretty difficult task, it has to keep the engine, which runs at incredibly high temperatures, from overheating and direct heat through the heater core to keep you warm in colder months. Antifreeze (or coolant) is pumped through all the heat producing components of the engine, picking up heat as it goes and getting rid of it as it goes through the radiator. Components in modern engines are made from several different types of metals which corrode at different rates. Those different metals together in an electrolytic solution lead to galvanic corrosion, a severe type of corrosion. Therefore special care has to be taken to prevent the buildup of rust and other materials and to make sure that the acidity of the coolant is kept at the correct level. Over time, that coolant will start to break down and quit doing it’s job like it should, which is why a coolant flush is such a vital part of the maintenance of your vehicle.
This is a service that you should consider doing at least once a year, unless your vehicle uses an extended life antifreeze, in which case you could probably do it every other year. At a cost of $50 to $100, though, it’s a lot less expensive than buying a new radiator or water pump. When you have your oil changed, you should ask your technician to check your coolant for signs of breakdown.
A coolant flush will:
• Remove rust and deposits from your cooling system. Corrosion is the leading cause of failure in cooling system components. Flushing away the rust and scale deposits makes it possible for the coolant to flow freely, reducing the possibility of overheating. Heater cores have extremely small passages that the coolant flows through, when these passages get too much buildup from rust and scale, you quit getting heat.
• New antifreeze has corrosion inhibitors. Not only are you removing the old rust with a coolant flush, you are also pumping through fresh antifreeze which has anti-corrosive agents in it, helping prevent future rust.
• All the old antifreeze is removed and the pump is lubricated with a flush. The traditional method of changing coolant was to drain it all out and then refill the system with new antifreeze, the drawback to this method is that not all the antifreeze comes out when you do a drain and refill, so you are mixing fresh antifreeze with the old worn out stuff. Also, when the coolant is flushed, clean antifreeze is run through the water pump lubricating it.
• New antifreeze will help the engine run at the proper temperature and prevent freezing If you live in colder climates, new antifreeze will prevent your engine from freezing. It will also help keep the engine at it optimum operating temperature during operation.
Still not convinced? Remember that new antifreeze acts as a lubricator, keeping seals and gaskets lubed in your engine in addition to acting as a rust inhibitor. Blown head gaskets, leaking intake manifold gaskets, water pump replacement, heater core replacement and radiator replacement are all examples of expensive repairs that could be caused by failure to change your coolant.
The Digital Visual InspectionJune 15, 2015
The Digital Visual Inspection
If you have been into our shop since the first of the year you have probably gotten an email from us with a copy of the Digital Visual Inspection for your vehicle. This is a service that we are particularly excited about so I wanted to give you an idea of what it is if you haven’t been in this year yet and to review how to read yours if you have gotten one.
The inspection is a free service that is done through an app on an Ipad, it’s the first thing we do when your vehicle is pulled in. We start by getting exact data on your vehicle by scanning the barcode on your door or windshield. This makes it easier to make sure that we have the precise information on the vehicle’s year, make, model, engine code etc. Basically it makes it easier if we have to look up parts to make sure we get the right ones. From there the technician answers a series of questions that the app will prompt him with, from how the vehicle drives, to the condition of all the fluids, to the brake measurements. It’s an extremely detailed and thorough examination. The technician will make recommendations based on what they see from suggesting an oil change or alignment to pointing out worn out brakes or rusted brake lines.
At any point during the inspection process the technician is able to take pictures that will be included in the report. This is one of the reasons I prefer to email you the report instead of printing it out. The pictures do not translate as well on my black and white printer as they will in an email. The pictures are nice because it makes the issues that the find a fact, not an opinion, when you can see the visual evidence.
When they finish the inspection process the final report comes to the office and then gets emailed out to you, the plan is that it gets sent to you immediately if we have an email address. That gives you a chance to review the report while the car is still here so if there is something you want addressed that day we have the time to do it. Remember when you get the report that the inspection is the first thing they do, many times even before they look at the schedule to see why the vehicle is here. So if you bring the car in for an oil change and the report indicates that an oil change is due, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t doing what it was scheduled for, it just means it was something they noted as needing done when they did the initial inspection.
During the vehicle check the technician is able to indicate if the problems they find are things that need done right away and things that will need done in the future. When you get the report the first set of information will be under a green heading, and that will be the things that they looked at that were fine. Next will be a yellow heading where you will find the list of things that will need future attention, and finally an orange heading with a list of things that should be addressed right away. After that you will find any pictures that were taken.
The important thing to remember about this report is that it’s just providing suggested repairs. You will find a list of repairs my technicians think you should look at doing to keep your car safe and breakdown free, but the final decision is yours. There is no pressure to have anything done that you don’t want to have done.
We are committed to making it a pleasant and enjoyable experience when you have to bring your car in for repairs, and this report will hopefully be a part of that experience that you will like. I like that it allows for complete transparency. Being able to send you a report with objective data makes the process of showing our customers just what is going on with their vehicle easy and understandable. When I would call in the past to let you know that your brakes were wearing unevenly you might not have known exactly what that meant or just how bad they were, now I can send you a detailed explanation direct from the technician that eliminates the guesswork.
The report will include the date and the vehicle mileage and if you save the email with the link you will be able to access the report at any point in the future. This will make it easy for you to keep track of things like mileage driven throughout the year and services done.
The digital inspection is something that we will do for free for every scheduled appointment, it’s not something we will ever charge you for if you have an appointment for other services. From now until the end of July we will offer free digital inspections to anyone who would like to make an appointment to have it done. We can do it while you wait if you like, but we will only do them by appointment so that I can make sure that I have a technician available to go over your vehicle thoroughly for you. You can make an appointment directly through the website if you like, or you can call me at 724-238-4436.
How to Find a Garage You Can TrustJune 8, 2015
Studies have shown that more than 72% of Americans do not trust the technicians that service their vehicles and that they list it as the third most untrustworthy profession, just below car salesman and politician. It’s difficult when you are entrusting your vehicle, something that you have a large financial investment in and something that you need to depend on in most cases on a daily basis, to someone you barely know. There are several things that you can look for in a repair facility that will help make the process easier and that will help you feel better about trusting the work that is being done on your vehicle.
1. Training and Competency There are a couple of questions that you should ask before you decide to begin a relationship with a garage. Do they employ ASE certified technicians? Do they have the computerized diagnostic equipment necessary to care for your vehicle? Are they certified by the state to do safety and emissions testing? These are all basic questions that any half decent shop should be able to answer yes to. In Pennsylvania the state also offers emissions repair technician certification, this certification allows the emissions inspector to issue emissions waiver stickers. The course is significantly longer and much more difficult to pass than the standard emissions testing class and is another indication of a shop that is employing technicians who are intelligent enough to diagnose the complex problems with cars today.
2. Research the Shop Do they have any complaints filed against them with the BBB? Do they have any Google+ reviews? Do they have a Facebook page and a website that appears to be well maintained? Stop and talk to the service advisor, is the shop clean and well cared for? Is there a decent waiting room? Is the business associated with any national chains? Do the employees seem friendly and engaging or remote and angry? Look for signs that the shop is somewhere people like to work.
3. Transparency This is probably the biggest one. Look for a technician that is able to speak intelligently with you about what is wrong with your vehicle and who isn’t afraid to show you specifics on the vehicle. In this digital age there is almost no reason for someone to feel like they have been taken advantage of. Email and text messaging allow for instant photographic explanations of what is going on with your car. Look for a shop that is willing to use technology in a positive way to help you build trust with them. In the past the standard recommendation was to ask the shop to see the old parts. While this still holds true, it can also be easy to fake. Look for texted photos, emailed reports and a willingness to let you come in for a detailed explanation of what is going on with your vehicle.
4. If it Sounds Too Good to be True… Change your oil for $19.99? For less money than what the shop is paying to do it? Think about that for a minute. If a shop is willing to take a loss to perform a service you can be pretty sure that they are going to pressure you to do other work that may or may not be necessary in order to make up the loss they took on that discounted oil change. In some cases there are deals to be had, just keep in mind that nothing is free. Also watch out for warranties that seem too good to be true. Lifetime warranted brake pads are a perfect example. Brake pads are designed to wear out. That’s how they work. The only way that you can get lifetime warranted pads replaced under warranty is if the brake pads wear out exactly evenly, which almost never happens, especially in Pennsylvania where rust is such a huge problem. If those pads wear out because a caliper slide freezes up or because the clips rust to the point where one pad sticks and wears out faster, the warranty will not be honored.
5. Personal Responsibility Look for a facility that has a vested interest in doing a good job the first time. Look for employees that have a reason to the best job they can. Too many times I hear shop owners talk about hiring a young, inexperienced kid “just for oil changes and brake jobs”. Well those are two of the most important jobs you can have done on your car. Look for employees who care about taking good care of you and your car. Ask about what kind of warranties are offered and if they garage can offer any sort of nationwide warranty in the event you are travelling and have a problem.
JuneJune 1, 2015
It’s June. June has always been my favorite month. June means swimming, bonfires, fireflies, no school, summer rain, long days, vacations and birthday cake. For as long as I can remember June has meant all good things; it’s a shiny, happy month. This year June means just one thing for me. June is when Chris is leaving. We have known since January that he was moving to Colorado in June, but in January it seemed so far away. Then all the sudden I woke up and there it was, June 1st.
Chris is our oldest son. He was the first person to call me mom. When he was 15 he started working after school for us at the shop, and when he graduated he started full time. It’s difficult to work with your family, it’s also wonderful. Chris has always managed to bring levity to a work day that is usually pretty serious, I know that we will miss that.
Raising kids is hard, we are meant to do our best and then let them go figure the rest out on their own, in my head I know this. So we will soon send Chris off on his next adventure with the hope that everything works out for the best, whether that means he comes home after a year or he stays out there for good, as long as he is happy. I hope that you will stop in between now and the 17th to say goodbye. Chris has not always loved working on cars, but he has always enjoyed talking to each and every one of our customers. The one thing that he really enjoyed about this job was the people.
So June is here, whether I want it to be or not. School is over on Friday, the pool is open and the fireflies are back. We will still have bonfires and eat birthday cake, it will still be a good month, just not quite so shiny and happy.