If you would have told me I would see something like COVID-19 in my lifetime, I would not have believed you. But…here we are. Not only has it changed the world, it has also changed the way we deliver car care. In my opinion, that change has been mostly for the better.
We slowed down here at the shop. While I was fortunate to keep a full staff, that slow down really put things into perspective. This became the time to truly “walk the talk.” For the past 32 years, my shop has prided itself on being a family-owned business. As a leader, I promote and constantly talk about being a “family-first” business. So, at the onset of COVID-19 my mission had become how to best protect our families. A full staff would mean absolutely nothing if I could not keep them all as safe as possible here. In my previous posts, you see that I call my clients my “Automotive Family.” My mission included them too. What does a family do in a crisis? That’s right–they take care of each other. Keven, my Service Director, and I reached out to client after client just to make sure they were okay and had what they needed. There, my friends, was a lightbulb moment:
This is the type of behavior humankind should always exhibit.
Over the past 7 months, I have seen the CDC guidelines and social distancing measures done all kinds of ways and in many different businesses: grocery stores, restaurants, parts stores, banks. Some get it right. Some REALLY knock it right out of the park! So, what is it that sets the winners apart? It comes back to service–finding a way to deliver the highest level of service, and we did that for our entire “family.”
Car Care in a COVID-19 world is different. It must be. We come into contact with so many cars each day, and you come into contact with your own squad of people each day too. I developed three layers of protection between you and my team, and I did it without losing the personal touch I spent my 26-year career creating. Even as our state and county began the phased re-opening, I opted to keep that 3-layer system without losing the humanity and kindness we found when we called just to say “hello,” and “are you doing okay (not your car, but you.”
Here we are several, several months later and traffic patterns are just about back to what they were pre-COVID. Despite the rise in telecommuting, I see more and more cars on the road every day. As this banner year continues and we enter into cold and flu season (possibly COVID-19, Part II) taking care of each other is the new standard. I want to keep the service bar raised high. As my Automotive Family, you should expect no less. In case you have not had the chance to see for yourself, my team’s service is different. You should expect your car’s common touch points to be sanitized–not just covered. You should expect to know what we use to sanitize your car. You should feel invited to join us or use our “touchless” amenities–or both. Last, but certainly not least, you should receive amazing car care.
You have heard me say it before. I believe in doing what is good for the car, the client, and my company. So, when I am faced with the request of “can you squeeze me in for an oil change,” I will not say no. I will, however, take an opportunity to teach you why this is not good for you, me, or your car.
About 2 years ago, I stopped doing oil changes and started performing oil services—at a minimum. It isn’t because I do not want to do an oil change, or I want to charge more money. It is actually far from that. Your car is not designed to just have the oil changed—especially with the change to Synthetic Blend Engine Oil, Full Synthetic Engine Oil and Detergent Engine Oil. Service intervals are changing.
Unless your car is still using Conventional Engine Oil, you are not coming in to see me every 3 months or 3,000 miles like you used to. While I miss you terribly, that is okay. The new minimum is every 5 or 6 months or every 5,000 miles—but we are going to dig a little bit deeper. Have you every opened your glove box and read your owner’s manual? The material is not exactly captivating, but it is informative—especially if you want to get the most out of the life of your car. In it, you will find what services get performed and when. These services are broken down by time, mileage, and in some cases by indicator. I mention this to you because it is the system I use to determine what service I will recommend when you come in to see me for your “Oil Change.” I have your car’s entire owner’s manual in my computer database, including Technical Service Bulletins and Safety Recalls.
Nowhere in your owner’s manual will it ever tell you to only do an Oil Change. That, my Automotive Family, is why I stopped doing them. Now, let’s talk about some of the chain stores that specialize in Quick Lubes. I have heard, both in my shop and on shop owner forums that clients can get Oil Changes done cheaper. Here is what you are actually getting: your Engine Oil Filter replaced, your Engine Oil replaced, Fluids topped off, and in some cases your carpets vacuumed and your windows cleaned. I am a mom and I love having clean carpets and windows that I can see out of (please forgive me my child, your hand drawings on my windows are great, but mommy needs to see). Those added “benefits” do not add life to your car. They do not let you know what may be needed soon so that you can prepare your budget for upcoming car expenses.
Let’s look at price versus time too while we are at it. The Oil Change shop Near Me may charge, let’s say $19.99 (with a coupon NOTED MOST CARS to get you in the door) to $55 for a quick 20 minute service. Let’s average that: $37.50. That works out to an hourly cost of $112.50.
Here is what you get from me when I perform an Oil Service (at a minimum) or a Factory Scheduled Maintenance Service: a 2-mile pre service Test Drive, Battery Test, Fluid Sample Comparison, Digital Vehicle Inspection that covers 30 or more points on your car with pictures sent to you with a full health report, the Engine Oil Filter replaced, the Engine Oil replaced, Maintenance Reminder Light reset, Tire Pressure adjusted, and a 2-mile post service Test Drive. You receive a full estimate of items that require immediate attention and items that will need attention soon so you can stay on top of the health of your car.
I take longer—about 45 minutes. I cost more. In fact, my service starts at $55 to $110 (without a coupon). Let’s average that: $82.50. That works out to an hourly cost of $110.00. It looks like I am not more expensive than the cheap guy down the road with the coupon after all—and you get more for your money that is…
GOOD FOR YOU AND YOUR CAR!
I can make you these solemn promises. I will never be the least expensive shop. I will always have your best interests in mind when I custom build a maintenance package, recommend a service or a repair for your car. I want to be your partner in the life and health of your car. I want to be your Automotive Home. Come in as a new client. Leave as a new friend. Return as Automotive Family.
Did you know your car can talk? It isn’t necessarily a spoken language like English, Spanish, French, or Italian, but it does have a lot to say if you know how to translate what it is trying to tell you. Let me explain.
When I inspect a vehicle, I use all of my senses. Okay, not all of them–taste-testing is not recommended. I replace that one with common sense so I still use 5 of them when I evaluate a car. I put all of the information together to process not just what the car needs, but find out why does the car need it.
Why would that last part be important—“why does the car need it?” It is great to be able to determine what is wrong with the car. However, if you cannot find the underlying cause—why it went wrong in the first place; you will be replacing or repairing the same things again and again.
A few weeks ago, I had two new clients come in for inspection. Both cars had a lot of black residue on the mufflers. You have probably seen that before yourself and wondered what is the black stuff on my exhaust? Technically speaking, it is carbon build up. A little bit of it is considered normal. However, in both of these cases, the build-up was more extreme. My eyes translated this to mean a couple of things: a possible rich running condition or misfire condition. To take care of my client properly, I would want to pay close attention to how the engine performed during my test drive, if the check engine light was on, and make sure to ask when the last tune up was performed. One client had just had his tune up at his 50,000 Mile Factory Scheduled Maintenance Service. One client was due for his tune up at the 150,000 Mile Factory Scheduled Maintenance Service. By catching and correcting the excessive soot, I am helping prevent wasted gas expense and premature failure of the catalytic converter and oxygen sensors.
During a test drive, a car pulls to the right while driving down the road. First instinct would be alignment, right? Let’s see what else the car has to say. I detected a slight burning smell and felt a shimmy or vibration when braking. I also saw the right front rim was darker than the other three. On the lift, the right front wheel does not spin freely by hand either. It is a seized brake caliper. Why did I give you all of that information? My client may ask me for an alignment because his or her car is pulling to one side. What the car says may be something different. Using my sense of smell, feel, sight, and touch I could understand that the car did not need an alignment. It needed the brakes repaired.
I could tell you so many different ways your cars speak to me, all of them fascinating…at least to me. It is why I love what I do so much. Discovering and interpreting what the symptoms mean; diagnosing and pin-pointing the causes; repairing the problem and what caused the problem to begin with; taking care of my clients and their best interests…I get it. I understand cars.
If you car needs someone to talk to, I’m all ears…and eyes, nose, hands…You can click on this link to my website and request a reservation now.
It is the most wonderful time of the year….until it isn’t. Twas the week of Christmas and all over town, people were hustling and bustling, but some cars were breaking down. In this tale you will be visited by three spirits of the cooling system: Hoses, a Radiator, and a Water Pump. There is hope for you. Grab a mug of cocoa, sit back and go with the anti-freeze flow.
Anti-freeze or Coolant is a vital fluid. It has several properties to it that allow it to do its job. It has a freezing point, or a specific temperature it can drop to before the fluid freezes, and a boiling point—the highest temperature the fluid can reach before it begins to boil. -34 degrees F to 265 degrees F is considered optimal regardless of your coolant type (did you know there are several types of coolant?). If you have ever looked at your temperature gauge in your instrument cluster or Driver Information Center, you can see the engine temperature usually stays at about 200 degrees. Step one of our coolant tests checks the freeze and boiling point of your coolant and indicates ranges of -34 to 400 degrees. Coolant also needs to maintain a pH balance—if you remember from science class there is acidic, basic, and neutral. Another amazing property of your car’s anti-freeze is “Acid Corrosion Protection.” Or, in more basic terms, it has a built-in rust inhibitor. Step two of our test identifies the reserve alkalinity and step three is the overall pH balance. Ultimately, you would like to see a strong reserve and a neutral pH balance. Why does any this even matter? As I show you just three pieces of your cooling system (by the way there are SOOOO many more) you can see how they are affected and what could happen when the coolant is out of whack.
Radiator hoses and heater hoses transport the anti-freeze in its circuit, which simply stated includes the water pump, thermostat, engine, radiator, overflow tank (or reservoir) and heater core. What you may not know is that your radiator hoses wear from the inside out. Follow me here. Hot, 200+ degree anti-freeze flowing through rubber hoses—over time the hot fluid is going to wear away the integrity of the hose. If you have ever had a technician tell you your hoses feel soft, now you know why. You also know that you should replace them as a preventive measure. They are weak and could fail at any point. Hoses are relatively inexpensive versus the cost of a tow, or compounded damage from losing coolant and overheating the engine.
The radiator works as a heat exchanger. Cool air flows over by the fan as the hot fluid passes through. Heat is extracted the fluid temperature is changed. While this is an over-simplified explanation, the tiny tubes and fins that run through the radiator are pretty small and the system is pressurized which is why your radiator cap is designed to hold a specific amount of pressure. What I see most frequently are radiators that crack at the plastic tank and metal seam are joined. Other common failures are oxidation and calcification—or rust and crust. I have included an image of a radiator that not only failed at the seam, but you can see the calcification. The coolant lost the attributes that made it effective and it the crust you see around the radiator was gumming up the works—think clogged arteries…
WATER PUMP. That just sounds important. That is because it is. It pushes or pumps the coolant. It is belt driven, metal, and mechanical. It has rotating parts that need to spin freely. Some things to keep in mind—your belt needs to be kept in good shape because if the belt breaks, the water pump will not turn. Your coolant needs to stay clean. Corrosion and deposits will deteriorate and rust the moving pieces (remember your coolant has rust inhibitors) and any calcifications could affect its efficient movement. Should you change it before it breaks? On most vehicles that are equipped with timing belts, it is a good idea to replace the water pump at the same time. They are usually very close together and are cost effective in terms of labor down the road. Also, the same idea applies here as with the hoses—should it fail you could experience compounded damage from overheating the engine. If you are not sure what time and mileage interval is best for your water pump, I will be happy to help or you can ask your trusted technician!
As I mentioned earlier, there are still so many other cooling system components that I have not even begun to cover with you. This is what I have seen in the past few weeks since our weather has started to become consistently colder and we have not even gotten into February yet. There are so many different types of coolant—green, orange, red, gold, blue…At a minimum, a standard 50/50 mix of ethylene-glycol (anti-freeze) should be replaced every 2 years (for the rust inhibitor) or 30,000 miles. Other coolants should be changed every 5 years or 50,000 miles. The best plan is to replace the fluid before it reaches the end of its useful life. The next best plan is to perform a complete system flush. I highly recommend the BG Cooling System Service which not only cleans, protects and maintains the entire system, but offers* you up to $4,000 in cooling system repair coverage.
Scrooge got it—he changed his ways. I hope my tale helped you in some way…maybe you will consider stopping in and changing your coolant or at least having it checked to make sure it is in great shape for the rest of the winter. Have a safe and wonderful holiday and a happy New Year!
It is pretty standard. We get in our vehicles and we turn the key–or push the button now–and drive. We never really stop and think about all of the mechanics involved in keeping everything working in harmony. In this article I want to introduce you to your brake system. It is more than just the pedal on the left, and I want to do it in a way that doesn’t over complicate or over simplify the system. Recently, a client wanted to know more about calipers, specifically and I thought maybe you would too. So, first stop: the pedal on the left.
Your car’s brake system operates using pressure generated from brake fluid. While you may press the brake pedal with your foot, that foot pressure is converted to hydraulic pressure. The brake fluid is diverted between the front and rear of the car and distributed to each wheel.
Your stopping power, or how effectively your brake system works is determined by the clamping force of your calipers. The brake fluid, now pressurized and passing through the brake hoses to your brake calipers now push the brake caliper piston against the brake pad causing them to clamp down against the spinning rotor, slowing it down and forcing it to stop rotating. The brake caliper pistons come out of a hollow cylinder (you might laugh at me right now, but think push-pop…) As your car’s brake pads wear down naturally over time, the pistons become nearly fully extended.
In order to replace the brake pads, the brake caliper pistons would have to be retracted. Using improper tools and forcing the pistons back into their cylinders causes damage to your braking system. Some may be threaded and would have to be wound in, some are electronic and require a computer to retract them. In any event, as a professional I try not to cringe when someone has done their own brakes–without the proper tools it could lead to caliper damage.
Your car’s braking system has a few other moving parts that make you stop. Like the pistons, you may also have caliper slides (some are piston-only systems). In a piston and slide type caliper, the way your brake pads wear tell us how your brake system is failing. When we perform a brake inspection, we are not only looking at your brake fluid level, brake fluid condition, brake pedal height and operation, and measuring your brake pads and rotors, we are also comparing that information from side to side as well as inboard to outboard. Let me translate.
I had a client who recently brought in a 2018 Jeep Wrangler. It had just over 24,000 miles on the odometer. The tires were rotated by a local dealer and the client was told the rear brakes were at 4/32″ and should be changed soon. That was all true–2/32″ is considered discard and I would make the same suggestion. However, I found something quite odd with the overall recommendation–I knew that the likelihood of the rear brakes wearing out before the front brakes were rare and their was an underlying problem. We needed to dig further. The front brakes were still practically new and had in fact never been replaced. We measured the inside (inboard) and outside (outboard) pads–front and rear. There was a discrepancy in the rear–they were not wearing evenly. The right rear wheel was excessively hot. The rear caliper on the right side had failed. While brakes are considered a wear item and do not fall under factory warranty, calipers are not. My client received new calipers and brakes under warranty because I could interpret what the wear pattern meant.
Your car’s braking system has a lot of fail-safes built in to prevent premature wear. Dust covers on the calipers over the pistons, dust or debris shields behind the brake systems, dust boots over the brake caliper slide pins–all of those are geared to keep dirt and debris out of the braking system. Once dirt or road debris infiltrates the brake system, say on the polished surface of the piston, the continuous back and forth motion already creates friction. Now you have an abrasive friction and a perfect storm for a leak scenario. Tying back in to my opening, this is a fluid based or hydraulic system. Fluid loss equals pressure loss in the sense that your brakes can no longer build up enough piston force to push the pad against the rotor and stop your car.
So, here is the deal. I care. I care a lot. I want you to look out for a few things. If you hear a squeal or squeak, please don’t turn up your radio–well, make a reservation to get the noise checked and then turn up your jams. If the brake pedal feels different–drifts to the floor, feels spongy, feels hard, pulsates–it is time for a brake inspection. If your car pulls to one side or the other when you brake or the steering wheel shimmies a bit–let’s get you on the schedule. We do have a very small fee for our brake inspections, but we do apply it towards the repair. I have great specials on my website: http://www.aanthonys.com I want you to be safe. Especially with the holidays right around the corner. Stop by if you can. You’ll be glad you did!
There are a lot of different types of people in the world, from those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wondered “what just happened?” I like to think of myself as someone who makes things happen whether that is in work or in life. One of the things my journey in life has taught me is that this world moves at an unforgiving pace sometimes. While my core value is family—being in the moment with my loved ones and making a meaningful life, I also have to continually maintain, train and grow to keep up with the ever changing needs and demands that I will face every day. Not only do I practice that philosophy personally, I share it with my team too. My goodness, these guys are awesome!
Recently, I sent my Shop Foreman to leadership training. To build and lead a successful team, there are key skills every leader should learn and practice. Today’s workforce has different needs than when my foreman and I first joined the workforce xxx years ago and we have to be able to understand what that looks like—“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” (Stephen Covey). I knew that in order to help him become more successful, I had to give him access to as many tools as I could for him to accomplish his job. After two full days of intense training, instruction, and peer-to-peer discussion he came back pumped! I had no doubt in my mind that would be the result. However, what surprised me was that he also returned with a reading list—books he wanted to read independently that his instructor recommended which also focused on improving leadership and interpersonal skills. Mind blown.
Considering I am a leader, this is a habit that I had already created for myself. I never thought to ask my team to join me. I ask them to go to training for technical knowledge (I will get to that hot topic in just a second), but a book? A non-automotive based book? Huh. Since TRAINING IS WHAT WE DO, I offered to join him in his reading list and provided chapter take-away work sheets so we could have active discussions and we invited the rest of the team to voluntarily join. We have 3 out of 5 joining us for round one. I think we have just launched our first ever A. Anthony’s book club. Look out Oprah.
Last night from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm, after a full day at the shop, my entire team and I attended Advanced Engine Mechanical Diagnostics. Auto mechanics and technicians are not born with a wrench in their hands and have to learn this trade like a lawyer or a doctor would have to learn their trade (more on that topic in another blog). Engineers are always creating newer, better, faster, more efficient vehicles and technology and therefore TRAINING IS WHAT WE DO. This class was absolutely amazing—for instance diagnosing a vehicle that has lack of power using specific scan data. We were able to compare Engine Speed, Throttle Position, Mass Air Flow grams per second, Volumetric Efficiency and Oxygen Sensor voltages to pin down the base engine fault…have to calm myself down for a second! It is amazing what our cars are equipped to do today. What is even more amazing is the technical knowledge my team and I continue to amass to stay on the cutting edge of this technology. I will not even start on the equipment and tools it takes to perform these levels of diagnosis.
For a world that can be so domineering sometimes, it is refreshing to see it in this stage—one where my personal growth has bled into the culture at the shop. Where picking up a book, or the entire staff going to class is something we all volunteer to do. Here is to being a not just a person but a team that makes things happen and continuing to enjoy the ride!
When I was a little girl, Labor Day meant 3 things: the end of summer break, the Labor Day Festival in my hometown, and one last trip to the beach for the year with my family. As I grew older, it was a long weekend marked with cookouts and the first Monday of September closing the shop. Until today…
2019 actually marks the 125th anniversary of Labor Day being celebrated as a national holiday and was signed into law by President Grover Cleveland. This holiday is meant to be a public exhibition of the strength and spirit of the trade and labor organizations along with festivals for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. As we are quickly approaching Labor Day weekend, I wanted to take a moment and pay a special tribute to my very own team. These are the guys that make it all happen.
Keven, my Service Director, was a client for 6 years before joining our team. This November will be his 8th year! While he may be the pretty face of the company, he genuinely cares about making sure our clients are taken care of. If you ask him what his job is, he will tell you he is a Customer Service Representative and that his mission is all about taking care of people. I really could not have said it better myself. I hope you enjoy some excellent grilling time this weekend #1! Thank you for being a wonderful Customer Service Representative and partner to work with every day.
Butch is my Senior Technician. I remember him being on our team throughout the years back to my elementary school days. This man can fix diesel and gasoline vehicles, is a fantastic diagnostician, and is as he calls himself “a company man.” When it comes to my team, he is one loyal son of a gun. Thank you for everything you do for our team and our company. I wish you a wonderful weekend and a relaxing time off. If you get a chance to get out on the boat, I hope the fishing is good!
Meet the newest member of our family, Paul. This guy has really stirred things up in a great way. He loves what he does–fixing cars. He pushes me outside of my comfort zone as a leader and manager to take bold steps and make changes to grow our shop which is exactly what I brought him on to do. He is great with our clients and is great at bringing fresh solutions and ideas to make the service we provide that much better. As a true adventurer at heart, may this Labor Day weekend bring you tons of thrill and family time!
I would love to show you Shawn. He is a pretty great guy–if you cannot tell, that is the theme here. He prides himself on being meticulous and detailed. Also a diesel and gasoline technician, he has a wealth of automotive and truck knowledge. One of the highlights of my day is to share new funny memes with Shawn. Since Keven has already claimed pretty face of the company, Shawn did not wish to share a photo and challenge the spot…Please actually take some down time this weekend Shawn. You have earned it!
And that, my Automotive Family, is a wrap! My fantastic team and I wish you a safe and joyous Labor Day weekend. As it was intended, may it be full of recreation, festivities, and time spent with family. We will return to the amazing vehicle service on Tuesday!
Over the past 26 years of working in the automotive repair industry I have heard a wide range of what car owners should and should not do when it comes to routine maintenance. Especially when it comes to fluid services. Then you throw in the word “flush” and it is either the absolute “must-do” or the “oh-never flush that!” So what do you believe? What should you do? Although slightly long-winded, I am going to share with you the philosophy that has never steered me wrong–and yes, it comes from my father, Anthony:
“If you keep the fluid clean, the parts last longer.”
It really is that simple. You do it with your engine oil on a regular basis. Why would the other fluids in your vehicle be any different? Your ability to inspect your own fluids is slowly being taken from you, AND you are being told (as you buy your newer, more advanced vehicles) that the fluids are “lifetime.”
In an effort to make vehicles more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly, engineers have re-imagined and re-designed many of the systems we use. The average consumer can no longer check most of their own fluids. I will go all the way back to the year 2000–my good old Pontiac Grand Am did not have a Transmission dipstick–the transmission fluid was “good for life.” I want to pause right here…whose life? What is General Motor’s definition of “Lifetime?” I really want you to think about this–how long does a car dealership really expect you to own your vehicle?
Let’s fastforward back to today and look at another manufacturer. Take Audi for example. The engine oil level is displayed in the driver information center–there is no longer a traditional dipstick. Most vehicles have to be filled or have capacity verified by computer.
So, how do I help my clients? How do I know who needs what and by when? I research each vehicle that comes in my door–what type of fluid does each system use? What is the life expectancy? How does my client use the vehicle? Then, I pair it with one of the best services on the market today. If you have not heard of BG Services, I really urge you to take a look.
While I absolutely do not believe fluids are good for the “life of the vehicle,” I do belive that BG Protection Plan and the Lifetime Protection for your vehicle are phenomenal. Remember that 2000 Pontiac Grand Am I mentioned–over 224,000 miles strong with regular flush services.
Here is where I will break your fluid systems down and give you my two-cents on when you should change or flush which systems. Read through or scroll to the system that you wish to learn about!
Engine oils are evolving rapidly. We went from conventional with a lifespan of 3 months or 3,000 miles to a synthetic blend, and now to full synthetic engine oil. Here is the guts of it. Engine oil, like the other lubricants in your vehicle, has 3 main functions–to CLEAN, LUBRICATE, and DISSIPATE HEAT. Whether it is conventional or synthetic, it has to do that job. How does it do it? The oil itself is merely a vessel to transport the additives and the synthetic properties are defined in the oil refining process. Your engine is designed for a specific weight or viscosity of oil. For instance a 5W30 oil is a 5 weight oil that has the same burning point as a 30 weight oil. What you really want is the optimum number of additives and each brand of oil has a different recipe. While your oil life indicator or owner’s manual may tell you 7,500 miles, or every 12 months, I am a firm believer in not letting it go to the end of its useful life. Let that sink in for a minute–just because you aren’t at 0% yet, do you really want degraded or ineffective oil to try to CLEAN, LUBRICATE, and DISSIPATE HEAT in the heart of your vehicle? Using dad’s philosophy, I recommend the 3 months/3,000 miles for my conventional clients and no more than 6 months/5,000 miles for my synthetic and synthetic blend clients. If you want an extra additive boost, the BG MOA does it for me everytime!
Brake fluid is surprisingly overlooked. So much so that we have made it a Standard Operating Procedure to dipstrip test every vehicle for corrosion. I can tell you exactly how it gets overlooked, too. In most cases what I have come across are clients who have had brakes serviced: pads, rotors, shoes, drums. The brake fluid has been bled, but the hydraulic system itself has never actually been flushed. If you learn anything about your brake system today, I hope it is this: your brake fluid is just like a sponge. It absorbs water at a rate of approximately 4% each year. I will never forget the client who had purchased a brand new Buick LaCrosse that came with a maintenance plan from the dealer. He had finished his last service (after 3 years) and had finally come “home” to my shop. When I read the results of the dipstrip, I was mortified! Sure, the fluid level was great. However, the corrosion level was off of the chart! Since the brake fluid is responsible for translating your foot pressure to hydraulic pressure that actually applies the brakes, keeping this fluid clean is very important. I recommend every 12 months/15,000 miles or flushing the fluid in combination with a brake service. I would rather see my clients spend a little bit of money on a brake fluid flush service than a lot of money on a brake master cylinder or calipers.
YOUR ENGINE COOLANT
Have you seen coolant lately? I am not sure what these manufacturers were thinking when they started playing around with the coolant colors. We used to have it easy. Ethelyne-Glycol mix. Simple. Then we went to long-life. Okay–two is fine. We can deal with two. One (the green stuff) gets changed every 30,000 miles or 2 years and one (the orange stuff) gets changed every 50,000 miles or 5 years…AND WHATEVER YOU DO IN LIFE DO NOT MIX THEM! Dodge/Chrysler got fancy with the red colored HOAT (hybrid organic mix). Now we have all kinds of colors–pink, blue, gold…AND YOU STILL CANNOT MIX IT! First, let’s talk about why you should not mix coolants. In the time of the two main coolants (the green and the orange) if you mixed the two, they would coagulate and become like a jelly….in your cooling system. It would literally gum up the works. Going back to my earlier statement of researching every vehicle that comes through my door, I will only fill with the fluid that is recommended from your manufacturer. If it is blue, you get blue. If it is purple, you get purple–capisce! The purpose behind flushing your cooling system has to do, again, with the efficacy of the fluid itself. Coolant has a lifespan. The standard green coolant gets replaced every 2 years whether you hit 30,000 miles or not because the rust inhibitor in the coolant only lasts that long. Your longer life coolants should only stay in your system for 5 years. Between rust, calcification, and the erosion of the rubber components (your hoses wear from the inside out) keeping the coolant clean can make the difference on the hottest (or coldest) day of the year.
YOUR POWER STEERING
For those of you who still have hydraulic power steering systems, this one is for you! You probably take your power steering for granted. You have always had it. Your parents have probably always had it too. However, if it has ever gone out on you and you had to try and turn that steering wheel, oh! Your power steering pump pushes power steering fluid out through a small hose–called a pressure hose, and you guessed it, it is under pressure. If you have ever heard a whine or moan when you turn the steering wheel it is because you are putting a load on the pump and asking it to perform. Your pump is tired and weak from pushing gross fluid around and it has a leak somewhere in the system so air got in there too…The pressurized fluid is sent to your rack and pinion which pulls on your linkage to make your wheels turn. The fluid then travels back through the return line to the power steering reservoir where the cycle continues, over and over again. Your power steering fluid is either going to be ginger ale in color (hydraulic fluid) or red in color (transmission fluid). Either way, this fluid is what we call “high in detergent value” and once a leak starts, the fluid starts taking out other rubberized components that lie in its wake (like motor mounts, bushings, belts and hoses). Two years or 30,000 miles. Period. Flushing this system regularly saves you so much money in the long run–your pump and rack last longer, leaks are possibly prevented, and the other rubber components won’t have to be collateral damage. Who knew a flush could be so good. I did, it’s me…
In this segment, I am going to throw the front differential, the transfer case, and the rear differential all together for the sake of your time and sanity. For my 4×4 friends and AWD lovers, please do not overlook this service. Again, we have been inundated with synthetic fluids. The first thing I look at (besides the type of fluid in each component) is how is this vehicle used? Does my client tow with the vehicle? Do they tow heavy weight? Do they tow frequently? Next, is it a standard fluid or a synthetic? Does it require an additional additive, like a limited slip lubricant? Has it ever been serviced–EVER? Standard or conventional fluids are going to fall under the 30,000 mile rule of thumb. Synthetics are going to fall under the 100,000 mile rule of thumb. The one caveat is dirty, commerical, or towing. These types of usages will have a more frequent interval.
I have saved the dreaded component for last. I have never seen a service get such a heated debate and argument of for or against. So much so, that we have adopted a Standard Operating Procedure for how and when to recommend a BG Transmission Flush Service. If a vehicle has 30,000 miles or less, it is a no-brainer, you will flush it. The same with 50,000 to 75,000 miles as long as the client is not experienceing shifting concerns. After 100,000 miles is when I started getting push-back from my technicians, even with the proven successes and my 26 years of using the BG Services. However, they are the professionals who perform the work and I trust their hands-on, hands-down. We agreed we will flush and service (drop the pan and change the filter) or just service the unit if it is over 100,000 miles. The way I see it, BG will guarantee your transmission as long as you have it flushed before 100,000 miles. Here is what I have experienced first-hand: a Chrysler Town & Country with nearly 100,000 miles was starting to slip. We performed the BG Transmission Flush Service. The line pressure improved, the slipping diminished, and my client went another 80,000 miles before having to replace the transmission. By the way, do you remember my 2000 Pontiac Grand Am with over 224,000 miles–just seeing if you have been paying attention. Original transmission. Thank you BG.
Obviously I am a fan of fluid flushes, exchanges, drain and fills, services, whatever you wish to call them. They are paramount to getting the most life out of your vehicle. So flush the brake fluid–don’t just bleed it. Flush the coolant–before it is the hottest or coldest day of the year. Drain and fill your differentials and keep those gears turning smoothly. Change your engine oil a little earlier. Flush your power steering system (if it isn’t electric) so it doesn’t moan and whine at you. And, what the heck–flush your transmission!
For more information, or to reserve your Fluid Service, please visit my website at www.aanthonys.com
Summertime! For the past several weeks I have heard from my daughter how excited she is that summer is coming. Our weekends have already been filled with softball games and outside play while the sun stays in the sky longer and longer…and the interior of the car gets hotter and HOTTER! She says to me, “Mommy, I learned a tip today. Turn your steering wheel all the way around so that the bottom is up at the top. That way, when you get in to drive after your truck has been in the sun for a while, you don’t burn your hands!” Okay, first of all she is 8–smart kid. Secondly, it made me think of you, my Automotive Family, and other cool things your car might need to beat the heat this summer.
A helpful place to start would be to define how your car’s air condition system works. Refrigerant (current examples would be R134a and R1234y) circulates in a closed system. This closed system works under high and low pressures. Heat and humidity are removed from the passenger compartment. Remaining cooled air is then pushed back into the passenger compartment.
CHANGE YOUR CABIN AIR FILTER
Changing your cabin air filter has so many wonderful benefits. Just saying the words “Cabin Air Filter” should say enough–it filters the air you breathe in the cabin or passenger compartment. I am sure you have seen the pollen collecting on your car and I know I, for one, have had to “up” my allergy meds. Oh, and have you ever turned on the air and had that “what died in here” smell? Well, that is your cabin air filter and I am willing to wager it is at the end of its useful life. When it becomes clogged, air cannot efficiently pass through it, let alone return out of your vents. Changing this filter will not only help you breathe a little easier, the force–or flow of air improves too. For my friends with cooled seats (you lucky dogs) this is also one of the first trouble-shooting steps in diagnosing cooled seat malfunctions.
IS IT ALL IN YOUR HEAD
Your control head, that is. One of the first things my staff and I do is perform a preliminary check to verify where the problem actually lies. We are in the age of multiple “Comfort Zones,” manual HVAC systems, digital displays, ambient temperature sensors, knobs, buttons, switches, IN-CASE-OF-EMERGENCY BREAK GLASS (just kidding).
We actually like to verify that your AC system is being electronically requested by the control head. Then, we like to see what the vent temperature is and compare it to the ambient temperature. Next, we check your AC compressor to see if it is seized and perform a quick pressure test. Lastly, we look over your car’s major visual AC components for any noticeable damage or signs of leaks including using a UV light. If a dye has ever been put in your AC system, it will glow at the source of the leak. I would say “kind of cool, right,” but if you are having this test chances are you are a little sweaty–sorry.
The Farmer’s Almanac for Maryland this summer says we are in for a soggy and humid treat. The good news is you do not have to drive in the hot seat. I do have some of the “coolest” team members in the industry (I should stop with the cool puns, I know) and we would love to meet you. I did add some AC specials to my website so feel free to take a look around, get more information or reserve a custom service just for your car.
From my family to yours, have a safe and wonderful summer!
As I scrolled through my social media feed, I came across a thread from local woman in our community who was looking for a recommendation of where to take her vehicle for a Maryland State Inspection. She could easily have Googled “Maryland State Inspection Laurel Maryland” and more than 5 million results would pop up!
The fact is, there are approximately 1,600 inspection stations licensed throughout the state with roughly 3,000 Certified Maryland State Inspectors. I love reading who the members in my community recommend and why–I constantly want to improve what our clients receive and it helps to know what is happening right here in our “back yard.” One of the comments on the thread really jumped out and stuck with me. It read “good luck…Maryland safety inspection will steal your money every time.” I could not help but think how sad it is that this is the impression our vehicle safety inspection system has created on the nearly one million commuters it is designed to protect.
That’s right–ONE MILLION COMMUTERS. In 2018, there were 1,037,976 commuters who reside in Maryland AND work in Maryland–so excluding Marylanders who travel to D.C., Virginia and Pennsylvania for work that is a vast number of vehicles on the road. On average, approximately 750,000 vehicles are inspected annually. That is not a nationwide statistic. That is right here in Maryland–3,000 inspectors doing their part to help ensure that one million commuters stay safe.
The most common thing I hear from clients when they bring in a vehicle for a Maryland State Inspection is how it was just inspected in another state and passed. What you may not know is vehicle inspections vary at the state level and in some instances at the county level within the state. The Maryland State Inspection program was created and is enforced by the Automotive Safety Enforcement Division of the Maryland State Police. While there are 100 SAFETY POINTS that are inspected, tested and measured, unlike some other states, it is performed only ONE TIME.
I will admit, it is among some of the most stringent processes and when administered correctly you can rest assured that your vehicle is safe to be on the road. Once certified, you not only should have peace of mind, you have also improved the resale value of the vehicle too–a Maryland State Inspected vehicle tends to look more attractive to a buyer than one that is offered “AS-IS.”
After achieving your certification, the Maryland Automotive Safety Enforcement Division believes it is up to you, the vehicle owner and motorist, to maintain your vehicle in a safe operating condition. That, my friends, is why you only have to perform our rigorous inspection one time. Should a police officer (local, county or state) feel that your vehicle poses a risk while on the road, you will be pulled over and given a S.E.R.O., or a Safety Equipment Repair Order. With so many vehicles on the road, this system allows Maryland to have a robust inspection program and a way to maintain those standards without putting its citizens through such a tedious process every one or two years like many other states.
Did you know that Maryland State Inspections are tech-savvy? In June 2014 electronic inspections were launched in an effort to streamline the inspection and MVA registration and license plate processes. Maryland State Inspectors can now perform inspections electronically as well as submit the inspection report and certification instantly to the MVA. Like any system, it has pros and cons. I, personally am a huge fan of the electronic inspection system especially since I prefer to operate under the three Cs–Good for the Client, Good for the Car and Good for the Company. My client receives a Maryland State Inspection report in their email inbox instantly, as does the MVA. The certificate is electronic as well and my client has the option of entering the certificate information in a kiosk at the MVA which could eliminate long lines and shorten wait times. Secondly, performing the Maryland State Inspections electronically has reduced fraud on a state-wide level. A vehicle can go from station to station and inspection reports can be compared by the Automotive Safety Enforcement Division immediately if need be. Finally, the electronic Maryland State Inspection process has reduced paperwork–less paper inspection reports and paper certificates. PLUS, if my client ever needs another copy of their report or electronic certificate, it can be emailed within a matter of minutes!
You are probably thinking, great–thanks for all of the statistics…but I shared this information with you for many reasons. For my clients, I represent many things from a customer service representative that addresses your concerns and needs to a vehicle care specialist that makes recommendations for repairs, service and maintenance to keep your vehicle safe, dependable, enhance your vehicle performance, and extend its life expectancy–and so much more. However, as a Maryland State Inspector, I am an agent of the State and I am responsible for meeting the rules and regulations that the State of Maryland has outlined. My clients know (and our Google Reviews show it!) that taking care of them is what matters. I want to set an expectation with you. I want you to know that going into the Maryland State Inspection process, while a big deal, is not as hard as it seems. I am not out to “steal your money.” I identify any areas of concern that may be deemed unsafe. I give you the information you need so your vehicle may pass inspection. More than that, this is your vehicle and you are my client–I am committed to informing you of the best way to maintain, service and repair your vehicle which will exceed the standards that Maryland has mandated. For what you invest in your vehicle and count on it to do for you, you deserve no less…right?
Even with all of this being said, inspectors are human–we are not all-knowing and infallible. I use my inspection book all of the time to ensure that what I pass or fail fits within the definitions and guidelines. I report to a Maryland State Trooper, or T.I., to ensure quality control. Each Maryland State Inspection is performed the same way, every time for consistency and accountability. My clients deserve the best and so should you.