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.