Frequently Asked Questions
It takes time, knowledge, and costly equipment to determine the cause of problems. It is not simply a computer code, contrary to popular opinion
Even though most repair shops have scanners to access the computer, all this does is provide an idea of what the problem might be. Sometimes there are multiple codes, and depending on what the rest of the car is doing only certain codes need to be taken seriously. A good example is a BMW that is leaking at the intake gaskets, which is very common on the late 540 and 740 series. The codes that the scanner pulls up range from O2 sensor malfunction to multiple misfire. If you don’t know where to look and what to test, less experienced techs will assume the car needs a tune up and O2 sensors. This type of repair is called guessing and in most cases a guess will cost you a lot, and still not fix the problem. In the above example this guess cost the customer $900 and to do the repair correctly it cost the customer an additional $875 to fix the real problem later. You can avoid this problem by paying a specialist to diagnose the problem correctly, which prevents costly mistakes and unnecessary repairs.
Not all oil changes are the same. All European cars have specific oil and oil filters. Using non-factory oil and oil filters can lead to oil starvation and engine failure. Spending a few dollars more for the correct oil and oil filter at a specialist shop can save you thousands down the road. Needed work can be missed by the untrained eye during routine oil changes. Stripping drain plugs or using the wrong oil often occurs. Most turbo cars must have a special filter and synthetic oil otherwise it can damage the turbo.
When your check engine light comes on in today’s cars it can mean many different things from a simple disconnected vacuum line to a malfunction in the engine. When this light comes on, take it to a specialist who has the proper tools to find the problem quickly and correctly. If the car is running poorly, bring it in immediately. If you have not noticed any changes in your car’s performance but the light is on, you can schedule a visit as soon as convenient.
Note the oil light is different and if the oil light comes on you need to stop driving immediately and have the car towed in. The same applies to the coolant light. Driving at all with either of these lights on can cause immediate and expensive damage to your engine.
In today’s cars, the battery is vital to trouble free operation. The price of a battery can run from $49.99 for a subpar battery to the dealer battery which can cost over $300. All batteries are not the same. Cranking amps (CA) and cold cranking amps (CCA) are very important. CA refers to how much stress the battery can take when you start your car. CCA refers to how much stress your battery can take when it’s extremely hot or cold. So how do you choose a battery? Look for a battery that will give you a 50-month warranty. Look for a battery that you can add water to because this will extend the life of the battery. The battery that we use is made by Interstate which is your best value long term.
Models that are 2004 and newer need transmission service every 40,000 miles due to the complex electronics involved in controlling the transmission. Without doing this you greatly increase the chance of expensive transmission failure.
The first question I always ask is: how hot was the car? If the car did not reach operating temperature at least twice the day of the test then there is a good chance the car failed because the car was not hot enough to burn the excess gases. If the car was hot enough, then you need to look at the test results. If you failed by just a small amount on the HC or CO and everything else is fine, it’s probably just a minor adjustment. If no adjustments are possible then you need to look at when the last time the spark plugs, distributor cap, rotor and plug wire were changed. If any one of these items are worn out they will cause the ignition system to not work as well as it should which will result in carbon deposits in the engine. If your car burns oil this to will cause you to fail the test. Carbon build up is the biggest cause of failed smog tests. To avoid this, take your car out on the highway and blow it out by driving hard from time to time. Use an injection cleaner while doing this, and make sure that the entire emission system and injection system is working properly and free of vacuum leaks. Last but not least if you failed the NOX and everything else is ok you probably need a catalytic converter. This is very common with cars from the mid 90′s with over 100,000 miles.
If the ABS light and the brake warning light are on there is a good chance that the ABS system if failing. Most places will try and sell you a complete ABS system, which is very costly. We offer a good alternative. If appropriate for your situation, we can replace the ABS controller, saving you significant money.
If you own an Audi or VW, starting at 65,000 miles your car will be due for a timing belt replacement. Other German cars may not have a timing belt. The timing belt keeps the upper and lower halves of the engine in sync with each other. When the belt breaks both halves meet and can do some serious damage, resulting in major repairs ranging from $4000 to $6000 dollars. The timing belt replacement is a major job. When replacing the timing belt it is a good idea to also replace all the components that are related to the timing belt like the water pump, all pulleys, the hydraulic tensioner and the thermostat. Many shops don’t take this extra step, but it saves you money to replace worn parts when the whole system is taken apart for service, because these other parts often fail when worn and can cause major damage. We have found that there are shops that quote a very low price for a timing belt replacement. The reason is that all they change is the timing belt. None of the other items mentioned are included. These shops are hoping you will return again and again so they can do the same job over and over again and make more money off of you.
Each year the European auto makers continue to make the cars more complex and with more computers. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes not. To work on cars from the year 2000 and newer, you will need access to a factory computer for certain items. On many cars you need a computer to access & reset multiple systems on the car, including but not limited to brakes. The days of the “do it yourself” are coming to an end. The cheap scan tools sold for do-it-yourselfers will not reset many items and in some cases will even damage the car’s on board computers.
Before buying ANY car it is a good idea to get the car inspected by a certified tech. This will in most cases let you know what you are buying, if it is a good deal, and what to expect to repair in the future. Our inspections typically range from $150-$300 depending on the car and what is involved
A basic inspection includes a visual inspection of the car, road test, check of all fluids, removing wheels and checking brakes, checking the suspension, electrical and drivetrain, and looking for evidence of past accidents. Compression tests and cylinder leak down tests are an additional cost but are a good idea to detect possible engine problems in older cars.
First, remember to distinguish between the “free maintenance” packages that come with some new cars and the warranty. If they offer free maintenance, you most likely need to do that at the dealer. A warranty covers failure of items on the car, but does not cover routine preventive maintenance.
For routine maintenance, the dealer legally cannot prohibit you from going to an independent repair facility. It does not void their warranties, though you should still keep your repair receipts to show you did proper services. If something fails on your car (non-preventative maintenance) during original warranty, you should go to dealer. If you have an extended warranty on a used car, we often can do the work by coordinating with the warranty company.
Besides turning off the A/C the easiest way to solve this problem is to turn on the car’s heater and open the windows. The car’s heater acts as a secondary radiator.
Take something hard (i.e.: piece of wood, hammer or screwdriver) and tap on the alternator to be sure it’s clear of any moving parts. You may get lucky and this may turn off the light.