Power To Weight

When buying a car most drivers look for more power but they rarely consider two even more iportant performance factors. Just buying horsepower doesn’t guarantee a great feeling or performing car. More important are — – power to weight ratio and torque. Power to weight ratio has a huge effect on how a car performs. Read More

The Trouble With Leaves

The trouble with leaves is they aren’t vehicle friendly. They’re beautiful that’s true, but leaves damage paint, cause rust, plug things up, and in general make a mess of your car.
Paint and leaves are a nasty combination so don’t allow them to sit on your car. Leaves combined with moisture and some sun can truly wreak havoc on today’s clear-coat finishes. If you think bird-stuff is bad for paint wait till you see the damage leaves can do.

Leaves are imbued with methyl-ethyl bad stuff, which if activated by water and allowed to sun dry can etch their likeness into clear coat. It isn’t unusual to find the outline of a leaf permanently embossed into a cars horizontal paint surfaces. The imprint resembles a prehistoric leaf fossil. Unfortunately the only way to prevent this is to clean the leaves away as soon as possible after they fall on the vehicle.

A few innocuous looking leaves can also present a serious rust hazard. When leaves land on a car they may wedge themselves under moldings. Once wedged they often don’t let go until you reach cruising speed where the wind causes the leaf to flap back and forth until it finally breaks loose. If you’re wondering what this has to do with rust, read on.

That dastardly leaf doesn’t come loose, no indeed, it breaks into two pieces. The visible part is blown away while the invisible portion remains trapped behind your molding. There it stays and over time is joined by other chunks of leaf debris. Every time the car gets wet the trapped leaf parts soak up moisture and hold it. This leads to those ugly rust blisters around moldings and windows. The only way to prevent this is to thoroughly flush away all the junk that collects behind moldings with a garden hose at least twice a year.

But there’s still more! Leaves can really do a number on your car’s drains. The evaporator drain for the air conditioning is a common problem area. Leaves get sucked through the heat and air conditioning air-inlet where they are promptly sliced and diced by the blades of the fan. The now minced pieces of leaf collect in the bottom of the evaporator housing where, over time, they plug the drain. This causes water from the air conditioner to spill onto your feet or carpet inside the car.

You may also experience raindrops on your head thanks to leaf debris. That is, if your car has a sunroof. Sunroofs have drains that can be blocked with small chunks of leaves. Contrary to what you might believe sunroofs are not water tight. Water easily flows around the glass, collects in a trough, and is channeled into drains. The drains are usually positioned at each corner of the sunroof. Clogged sunroof drains cause water to build up in the troughs. Once the water exceeds the capacity of the troughs it drips inside the cabin or gives you a startling surprise when it cascades over your head.

Keeping leaves off your car is an important task that takes a little effort and planning but can save a ton of grief.

What You Can’t See, Can’t Hurt You, Right?

Wrong! Many of today’s vehicles have timing belts. Like other components, timing belts wear out. But they are hidden behind a cover on the front of the engine. This makes detection of imminent failure improbable.

If the timing belt breaks on a free-running engine, the engine stops and you will need a tow to the repair shop. Usually no mechanical damage occurs and the installation of a new belt is all that is needed to get you on your way.

If the timing belt breaks on an interference engine, mechanical engine damage occurs. It most commonly involves open valves being struck by pistons, resulting in the need for expensive repairs. In extreme cases, a replacement engine may be required.

How do I know if I have a timing belt? Most manufacturers have a recommended service interval for this critical component. Your owners’ manual may tell you – but you should ask your technician.

Keep your engine running strong by eliminating potential problems that may leave you stranded.☺

© Copyright 09/30/2015 Pat Goss all rights reserved

Scrap it or keep it?

When is enough, enough, or when should I give up on my old car and buy a shiny new one? That’s a tough question but perhaps these general rules will help you make a financially realistic decision.

Let’s begin with how the vehicle is used which has an enormous impact on how long you should keep it. Here’s a shocker! If the vehicle has been used mainly for short trip driving it will probably be ready for its trip to the bone-yard in fewer miles than the car that has primarily been highway driven. Short trips and low speeds are very hard on a car and are very misleading as to actual wear on its components.

Those of you who drive mostly at slower speeds may have a lot more hours on your car than you realize. Amazingly, automobiles and pickup trucks are essentially the only machines on earth that measure use by the number of miles covered by their wheels.  Nearly everything else measures use in hours of operation.

Hours-of-use is a far better indicator than miles driven. The math: if you drive at thirty miles per hour you’ll cover thirty miles every hour and at sixty you’ll cover sixty miles every hour. Rocket Science 303 not necessary for that! Okay, but that begs the obvious question, why doesn’t anyone pay attention to the obvious?

Drive your car 50,000 miles at thirty miles per hour and you’ll have twice as many hours on your car as the person who drives 50,000 miles at sixty miles per hour. That’s one reason why preventive maintenance recommendations are given in both time and mileage not just mileage. Those who drive short distances at slow speed accumulate hours while those driving longer distances at higher speed accumulate miles. In either case the number of hours of use will be similar.

But, when should you dispose of the old bus? There is no-one-answer-fits-all but a short-trip, slowly driven vehicle may be ready for retirement just as soon as a vehicle with significantly more miles but routinely driven at higher speed. Now doesn’t that just fly right in the face of what everyone accepts as car-gospel?

Analyzing your driving habits is step one of this momentous decision. If you’re a slow lane type person, the low miles on your odometer may present a flawed impression about overall condition, likewise for the high mileage vehicle. Typically, you’ll assume your low mileage car is in much better condition than it really is or your high mileage car is a lot worse than it is.

Do not assume! Have a bumper-to-bumper evaluation before, not after spending a lot of money for a major repair. Check all the normal things plus all the not so normal bits as well. A skilled technician can provide you with a good read on “what’s wrong now” and “what’s borderline or soon to fall off.” The physical should include checking the battery and electrical system, cooling system, brake system, steering and suspension systems, exhaust system, and engine and transmission condition plus an exam for structural rust. Also important is a search for recalls and technical service bulletins. Finally there’s your Internet appraisal which you’ll use with your test results to determine whether to fix or not to fix based on facts, not emotions.

Speaking of emotions, a car is metal, plastic and rubber and there are thousands made every day so forget emotional attachments and make your decision based on the numbers. You may love your old refugee from a junk yard but I guarantee it will never love you back.

© Copyright 05/07/2015 Pat Goss all rights reserved.

OFT-FORGOTTEN WINTERIZING

Winterization time is also a great time to improve your vehicle’s reliability, convenience, and safety. Whether you’re a gear-head or neophyte you surely realize there are numerous parts on a car that could suffer from harsh winter weather and chemicals.  Most repair shops are well versed in conventional winterization procedures but not necessarily with protecting obscure parts.

Door locks are a good example of forgotten services at most shops. What could be more frustrating than a door that won’t open with the unlock fob and when you try to use the key the lock is frozen solid. Not only is being frozen out of your car a problem so is worn-out locks and wear they will unless they’re lubricated. To prevent both problems use a graphite lock lubricant in all the locks on your car twice a year. That’s especially true of the lock that gets the most use, the ignition lock. Ignition locks get lots of wear and tear plus they are expensive to replace. Locks are mechanical devices and like all mechanical devices proper lubrication is their key to long life.

White lithium grease is an elemental product that adds years of life to door hinges and latches so lubing them at every oil change is recommended. This keeps moisture out of door latches, which prevents rust, wear, and freezing. Latches only freeze when it’s bitter cold and when they do the door can’t be opened.

Another frozen-out, can’t-open-the-door challenge results from frozen weather-strip. Weather-strip is the rubber surrounding car doors and windows. This usually happens when snow or ice on the car’s roof melts from warm daytime temperatures or heat from the heater followed by night-time freezing. Melt-water runs down over the doors and collects between the doors and the body, then proceeds to, you guessed it, freeze solid! Frozen doors won’t open; you’re cold, you’re miserable, and you’re locked out.

Either waiting for spring thaw or pouring hot water over the car is not realistic. Hot water makes matters worse and may cause damage to parts inside the door or cause glass to shatter from thermal shock. I don’t know about you but settling in and waiting for spring just isn’t an option so what to do?

This is one where you have to be proactive because waiting until it happens doesn’t work. During winterization and at each oil change, have your weather-strip sprayed with silicone. Silicone prevents moisture from collecting on weather-stripping and keeps the rubber soft and pliable for longer life. Even if water collects and freezes silicone is so slippery that ice can’t stick to it and the doors can’t freeze shut. For most of us winter driving is no fun but a couple shots of white lithium grease, graphite and silicone spray goes a long way toward making winter driving safer and more tolerable.

10 point checklist for visiting the repair shop

“My car died” isn’t the most helpful explanation you can provide.
While auto technicians are always happy to diagnose your car’s problems, giving them as many details as possible is the key to an efficient repair. “The more details a car owner can provide about a particular problem, the less they’ll pay in diagnostic time,” says Tony Molla, a technician who is certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). He encourages car owners to have answers to the following questions when they drop off their car: When does the problem occur? Are any dashboard lights illuminated? Can you describe what the car is doing or not doing when the problem occurs? Is the problem intermittent? Are there any unusual noises, odors or vibrations when the problem occurs?
 
Leave the diagnosing to us.
Doing your research and coming to the repair shop with all the details about your car is great. But don’t be so informed that you distrust your mechanic. “Sometimes a little knowledge is dangerous,” says Gus De Ipola, owner of APA Automotive Center in Woodland Hills, California. “It’s especially frustrating when a customer comes in having incorrectly diagnosed a problem and orders a specific repair. He may be wrong, but he doesn’t want us to argue with him.”
 
If you don’t have an appointment, be prepared to wait.
Minor repairs or safety checks can be performed while you wait, but according to Molla, it’s best to have a scheduled appointment. “It allows the shop to prepare in advance and allows enough time to do the job properly. If you drop by unannounced, you’re probably going to have to either leave the vehicle or wait while they work your repair into the day’s schedule.” Can’t wait to make an appointment? Molla recommends avoiding repair shops’ two busiest times: first thing in the morning, when everyone drops their car off, and around 5 p.m., when they pick it back up.
 
Pay attention to your warning lights.
“They’re called warning lights for a reason,” says Michael Anderson, proprietor of Wagonwork Collision Center & Consultants in Alexandria, Virginia, and member of the Automotive Service Association (ASA), an organization for auto business owners. Letting your car deteriorate because you don’t want to take the time to handle the problem when it first appears will only make things more difficult down the road. If you get your car serviced regularly (consult your owner’s manual for a recommended service timeline) and bring it in right away if you see a light come on, you can prevent larger repairs later on.
 
You may actually be the one to blame for certain car problems.
Worn-out brakes? Troubled transmission? You may actually be the one at fault when it comes to some automotive issues. Thanks to the way we drive, we often unknowingly inflict damage upon our vehicles. De Ipola notes that hill driving can wear down brakes, stop-and-go traffic can cause overheating and flooring it as soon as the light turns green can wreck a transmission. To prevent future problems, pay attention to road conditions, slow down for speed bumps and keep clear of the curb when parking—knocking into it can really mess up your car’s alignment, says Molla.
 
We wish you knew more about your warranty.
“It would be helpful if the customer would read their warranty to understand the limits of what is covered and who must do the service,” says Howard Fleischman, owner of Community Tire and Auto Services in Arizona and member of the Neighborhood Auto Repair Professionals Network (NARPRO), an organization for family-owned auto repair shops. He adds that many people leave the dealership believing they can only go there for services covered by the warranty, but often “that’s simply not true.” According to Fleischman, a qualified repair facility can perform all manufacturer maintenance to support warranty requirements. One thing to note: Most warranties cover breakage, not wear, so if your brakes are worn out from overuse, you might not be covered.
 
We like coming in under our estimate!
Think all auto technicians are out to swindle you? An honest repair shop aims to give you the best deal possible. “We shop the competition to be sure we’re in the right ballpark for maintenance costs,” says Fleischman. “For repair estimates we make an educated guess, but if we miss the mark and cut ourselves short, we just live with it. If it’s the other way around, we love the expression on our clients’ faces when we come in under estimate!” And don’t expect a very accurate estimate online or over the phone. “Oftentimes the vehicle owner just doesn’t have enough information, so an accurate estimate can’t usually be given on the Internet or over the phone,” says David Kusa, owner of Autotrend Diagnostic in Campbell, California, and an ASA member. The bottom line: Feel free to use the Web or call your shop to get a ballpark estimate for your repairs, but don’t expect to nail down an exact figure until you bring in your car.
 
Do your homework—it will pay off.
To be sure you’re seeing a trusted auto technician, look for credentials, such as Better Business Bureau ratings, ASE certification and AskPatty.com or NARPRO approval, says Fleischman. He also recommends checking out the shop you’re considering on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Look for positive comments, but also note how the shop responds to negative ones. “If they don’t reply to social media, they may not respond to customer concerns at their counter,” he says.
 
It’s best to have an exclusive relationship with your mechanic.
Once you’ve found a mechanic you trust, stick with him. “Auto repair is very much a relationship business,” says Molla. “Having a vehicle history with one repair shop will allow them to keep track of what work is done, and as mileage builds, they can recommend various periodic maintenance services that will keep your car running efficiently.” Plus, the more familiar your mechanic is with your car, the more likely he or she will notice when something seems off—which could prevent a major headache down the line.
 
Not every shop can accommodate your problem.
Don’t get frustrated if you bring your vehicle to get serviced only to be told the facility can’t help you. “Some repair shops only offer a limited menu of services. Some specialize in certain types of service, while others only service certain makes and models,” says Molla. “Full-service shops do exist, but it’s not unusual for them to refer a specific problem to a specialist, just like doctors do.” When considering a new repair shop, be sure to ask the service desk what types of repairs they typically handle so you don’t show up only to be turned away.
 

Coolant Test

Fall usually follows summer and precedes winter which might happen again this year. In case it does now is the best time to get your car ready for cold weather. Procrasting by waiting until the first prediction of a hard freeze means you may have a long wait — get sub-par work and pay more. The checkup begins with engine coolant which for decades was tested by sucking some coolant into a turkey baster looking device with floating balls or discs inside. That’s a hydrometer and it tells how cold it can drop before your engine freezes. Freeze protection still needs to be tested but if that’s the only test the technician does — politely say thank you and take your car to a real shop. Today’s coolants are different and so is the way they’re tested. In addition to checking freeze protection it’s important to perform a PH Test. Which tells how corrosive coolant is. Many coolants age gracefully and become dangerously acidic. It doesn’t take a chemistry degree to visualize what acid would do to a cooling system. The lower the PH the more acidic and damaging your coolant is. Don’t play the numbers here. Wheen coolant PH drops out of spec flush the system and install the proper new coolant for your car. Remember one size does not fit all! © Copyright 09/05/13 Pat Goss all rights reserved

Ten point checklist for visiting the repair shop

1. “My car died” isn’t the most helpful explanation you can provide.
While auto technicians are always happy to diagnose your car’s problems, giving them as many details as possible is the key to an efficient repair. “The more details a car owner can provide about a particular problem, the less they’ll pay in diagnostic time,” says Tony Molla, a technician who is certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). He encourages car owners to have answers to the following questions when they drop off their car: When does the problem occur? Are any dashboard lights illuminated? Can you describe what the car is doing or not doing when the problem occurs? Is the problem intermittent? Are there any unusual noises, odors or vibrations when the problem occurs?

2. Leave the diagnosing to us.
Doing your research and coming to the repair shop with all the details about your car is great. But don’t be so informed that you distrust your mechanic. “Sometimes a little knowledge is dangerous,” says Gus De Ipola, owner of APA Automotive Center in Woodland Hills, California. “It’s especially frustrating when a customer comes in having incorrectly diagnosed a problem and orders a specific repair. He may be wrong, but he doesn’t want us to argue with him.”

3. If you don’t have an appointment, be prepared to wait.
Minor repairs or safety checks can be performed while you wait, but according to Molla, it’s best to have a scheduled appointment. “It allows the shop to prepare in advance and allows enough time to do the job properly. If you drop by unannounced, you’re probably going to have to either leave the vehicle or wait while they work your repair into the day’s schedule.” Can’t wait to make an appointment? Molla recommends avoiding repair shops’ two busiest times: first thing in the morning, when everyone drops their car off, and around 5 p.m., when they pick it back up.

4. Pay attention to your warning lights.
“They’re called warning lights for a reason,” says Michael Anderson, proprietor of Wagonwork Collision Center & Consultants in Alexandria, Virginia, and member of the Automotive Service Association (ASA), an organization for auto business owners. Letting your car deteriorate because you don’t want to take the time to handle the problem when it first appears will only make things more difficult down the road. If you get your car serviced regularly (consult your owner’s manual for a recommended service timeline) and bring it in right away if you see a light come on, you can prevent larger repairs later on.

5. You may actually be the one to blame for certain car problems.
Worn-out brakes? Troubled transmission? You may actually be the one at fault when it comes to some automotive issues. Thanks to the way we drive, we often unknowingly inflict damage upon our vehicles. De Ipola notes that hill driving can wear down brakes, stop-and-go traffic can cause overheating and flooring it as soon as the light turns green can wreck a transmission. To prevent future problems, pay attention to road conditions, slow down for speed bumps and keep clear of the curb when parking—knocking into it can really mess up your car’s alignment, says Molla.

6. We wish you knew more about your warranty.
“It would be helpful if the customer would read their warranty to understand the limits of what is covered and who must do the service,” says Howard Fleischman, owner of Community Tire and Auto Services in Arizona and member of the Neighborhood Auto Repair Professionals Network (NARPRO), an organization for family-owned auto repair shops. He adds that many people leave the dealership believing they can only go there for services covered by the warranty, but often “that’s simply not true.” According to Fleischman, a qualified repair facility can perform all manufacturer maintenance to support warranty requirements. One thing to note: Most warranties cover breakage, not wear, so if your brakes are worn out from overuse, you might not be covered.

7. We like coming in under our estimate!
Think all auto technicians are out to swindle you? An honest repair shop aims to give you the best deal possible. “We shop the competition to be sure we’re in the right ballpark for maintenance costs,” says Fleischman. “For repair estimates we make an educated guess, but if we miss the mark and cut ourselves short, we just live with it. If it’s the other way around, we love the expression on our clients’ faces when we come in under estimate!” And don’t expect a very accurate estimate online or over the phone. “Oftentimes the vehicle owner just doesn’t have enough information, so an accurate estimate can’t usually be given on the Internet or over the phone,” says David Kusa, owner of Autotrend Diagnostic in Campbell, California, and an ASA member. The bottom line: Feel free to use the Web or call your shop to get a ballpark estimate for your repairs, but don’t expect to nail down an exact figure until you bring in your car.

8. Do your homework—it will pay off.
To be sure you’re seeing a trusted auto technician, look for credentials, such as Better Business Bureau ratings, ASE certification and AskPatty.com or NARPRO approval, says Fleischman. He also recommends checking out the shop you’re considering on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Look for positive comments, but also note how the shop responds to negative ones. “If they don’t reply to social media, they may not respond to customer concerns at their counter,” he says.

9. It’s best to have an exclusive relationship with your mechanic.
Once you’ve found a mechanic you trust, stick with him. “Auto repair is very much a relationship business,” says Molla. “Having a vehicle history with one repair shop will allow them to keep track of what work is done, and as mileage builds, they can recommend various periodic maintenance services that will keep your car running efficiently.” Plus, the more familiar your mechanic is with your car, the more likely he or she will notice when something seems off—which could prevent a major headache down the line.

10. Not every shop can accommodate your problem.
Don’t get frustrated if you bring your vehicle to get serviced only to be told the facility can’t help you. “Some repair shops only offer a limited menu of services. Some specialize in certain types of service, while others only service certain makes and models,” says Molla. “Full-service shops do exist, but it’s not unusual for them to refer a specific problem to a specialist, just like doctors do.” When considering a new repair shop, be sure to ask the service desk what types of repairs they typically handle so you don’t show up only to be turned away.