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Mar 212015

Choosing a mechanic, can be a lot like choosing a doctor. You would never choose a doctor on the basis of price alone. A personal recommendation  from friend or relative  is the best possible avenue. The internet is a good source to read other’s experience at a shop. It’s also possible to view the history and experience of the facility you want to do business with. A  visit to the facility  in question is always a good idea. The appearance and cleanliness of the facility is always good indication of how they might treat you car. Other cars like yours in the parking lot is always a good indication that there is knowledge of your particular car. Accessibility is important. Will the shop be accessible when you need help or merely when it is convenient for them? Is there accessibility to the technician who is actually servicing your car? Can you describe directly to that person, the problem existent in your car?

Find a good independent mechanic whose passion is doing the job right. Find one that is cerebral enough to know that servicing your best interests  serves his as well. Find one who is interested in establishing a long term relationship based on mutual trust and good work.

Mar 142015

I had a customer come into our shop with a 2008 automatic with mid sixties on the odometer. The dealer inspected the car and came up with $10,000.00 of necessary repairs. A shocking thought that a quality European car with a mere 67,000 miles would need work amounting to the value of the car. They did offer to help him out by allowing him to trade it in on a new model. The technician, in my opinion, was up-selling the necessary work. Up-selling denotes when the technician who services a car looks for items that can be sold to the customer. In some cases this can reflect the interests of the repairer rather then the consumer. For example upon inspection of the braking system the pads had some wear on them but were certainly not worn out or in need of replacement at the time.

In our shop we always try to act as advocate for our customers. We do sell necessary repairs but only when needed. When we inspect a car during service we look for required work to keep the car safe and reliable. The repairs needed are prioritized into three tiers. 1) repairs needed immediately for safety or reliability  2) Those you might expect in the next six months to a year. 3) Lastly those items that are existent , needed to be watched, but no further action is required. The customers best interests are in our best interest as well.

Oh, by the way the customer with the $10,000.00 estimate from a dealership was repaired at our shop for $3,570.00 plus tax.

Mar 142015

Service is the key to longevity. As the age of a car on the road these days is 10 years old, it is apparent that cars are lasting longer. Engine and major drive train components are built to last for 250,000 miles or more. Synthetic oils and new technology have lent to longer lasting engines. But even with synthetic oils in place, oil changes and regular servicing are necessary to prolong the life of your car. So called flex servicing isn’t regular servicing. A mere oil change doesn’t necessarily address the the tire pressures, brakes or other fluids. We recommend an oil change every 5000 miles with synthetic oil. At that time we road test and inspect the car on a lift to determine any needs the car might have. The chassis is inspected for rust. The brakes, suspension and steering are all checked for worn parts. The tires are checked for wear and the pressure is adjusted, including the spare. All the fluids under the hood are checked and topped off. Belts, hoses, and rubber parts that can age, are checked for wear and cracks. All lights, wipers, horn and other safety aspects of the car are inspected. In short our minor service, which includes an oil change insures that your car will provide reliable and safe  service you can count on.

Mar 072015

Routine service used to mean two  or three trips to a service facility per year. During these visits the oil would be changed and the car looked over for needed repairs.However with the advent of synthetic oil, their change interval is between 5,000 and 10,000 miles, depending on service recommendations. I like my cars and tend to keep them for a long time. As such I service and change the oil every 5,000 miles religiously (classic cars at least once a year).

When I say service the cars, I don’t mean merely an oil change. A quick visit to Oil Express for an oil change is insufficient for preventative maintenance. A minor service should start with a road test by a qualified technician  for an overall feel for the car and to illuminate any issues that should be checked. Next the car is put up on a lift. The engine oil is drained from the sump. While the oil is being throughly drained, the undercarriage exhaust, brakes, suspension and steering are checked. The tire pressures are checked and adjusted, including the spare. Next the car is lowered on the lift. Whereas the oil filter is changed and related O-rings, belts and hoses checked, battery connections checked and cleaned as necessary. All fluids under hood are checked and topped off and fresh oil is added. Lastly all safety items such as lights, horns and wipers are inspected to be in good working order.

Service is not merely an oil change. Service is the insurance policy that your car is ready for the road. Servicing your car is the best way to keep you and your car going down the road and to keep costly breakdowns at bay.

Mar 072015

It may not look like it outside but Spring is imminent. The snow will be receding and the blacktop revealed. Don’t wait to think about your hibernating car until April when you want it running and available for Caffeine & Carburetors. Charge the battery, pump up the tires and check the fluids. If you didn’t change the oil before storing the car away,  it’s best to do it now. Over a period of time oil becomes gas fouled and therefore doesn’t lubricate internal engine parts as well. Fuel is another consideration as the alcohol mixture we are all mandated to  use is hygroscopic and absorbs moisture ( water) from the atmosphere. In the cold of winter there can be separation and water contamination of the fuel. Hopefully you installed Sta-Bil or some other additive to prevent such an occurrence. Best to top off the tank with fresh gasoline before using the car.

If you are like me, I keep a “To do list” on my cars. Wanting everything in good order come spring, I cycle the cars through the shop. All the aged rubber parts and brake hydraulics should be inspected. Even though there are few miles on the belts and hoses they are made of rubber and can age. Visual inspection can save you costly and inconvenient breakdown. Brake calipers, and wheel cylinders  are similarly made with rubber parts. Cracking or leaking can be detected by visual inspection  and dangerous failure prevented.

yAll fluids should be checked under the hood, the transmission and differential a well. Checking the cars underside can reveal leaks that could cause component failure. Oil as I mentioned before, if it wasn’t changed before storage should be changed now. As my mentor used to say “Oil is cheap engines aren’t.”

I try to use my cars close to home to feel them out before a long trip. The tires may be flat spotted from sitting in one position for to long. A few warm-up cycles may also help. Whatever your agenda for the coming months, service the car now at your leisure and prevent stress on the part of your mechanic  and yourself.

Feb 282015

The gold rush is on! With car prices soaring, the impetus to restore and sell is great. The problem is in the haste these cars are finished, they are not sorted out. Often as not, they are not driven after restoration and before auction or private treaty sale. No milage since restoration often is not a plus. Details that make a restoration are not satisfactorily completed. All the things that the restorer couldn’t get quite right are left for the new owner to sort out.

We have a saying in the shop “99% restored and 99% left to go.” The last percent is often the most expensive.

Recently a customer had his newly purchased at auction Mercedes Benz 190SL towed into our shop. It had been backfiring and running poorly and ultimately refused to start altogether. Upon inspection the shoddily rebuilt starter and the ring-gear on the flywheel were in need of replacement. In addition the carburetors needed work. The point is that no one seen enough time on the car. Seat time, even modest seat time, would have revealed much. Albeit a very pretty car with a nice coat of paint, it was far from what I would call roadworthy.

The moral of the story is Caveat Emptor. In all cases try to drive the car in as many conditions as possible

Feb 282015

Rebuilding your engines not to be taken lightly. It takes expertise, care and precision.

Rebuilding an engine in our shop means putting out a product that is as good as when it left the factory or better, with modern upgrades.

To some rebuilding merely means a “target repair,” replacement of piston rings or engine bearings and a valve job. Unless the engine block and crankshaft are machined to achieve exacting tolerances,  the “target repair” will be short lived. The clearances on the bottom end of the engine are critical in achieving good oil pressure. This can be achieved by cutting the journals of the crankshaft and installing oversized bearings to establish the correct clearance. Once machined, but before final assembly these clearances should be rechecked. Meticulous cleaning of all parts is essential before assembly.

The pistons ride up and down in the cylinders  several thousand times a minute when the engine is running. After years of use the cylinder chamber is worn and not completely round. Once again by merely replacing the piston rings to account for wear the result is short lived and the engine will use oil. To obtain proper results establishing the proper clearances the cylinders need to be bored out to accommodate new oversized pistons.

Once again Valve job has several translations. It can mean merely cutting the valve seats and lapping in the existing valves. Valve stems and the guides with which they ride wear cause oil usage. When the valve head does not properly close against its seat a loss of compression will result. At the machine shop the head is surfaced, checked for straightness and crack tested. The guides,valves,springs, and seals are all replaced. The valve seats are cut on several angles and finally the valves are hand lapped in place.

Engine rebuilding is not to betaken lightly. When someone asks”Why so expensive?”

It takes time and experience to do it right.

A few images from before and during a rebuild.

Feb 282015

To begin with a bit of soul searching needs to be done. To determine exactly what needs the car is to fulfill. A Maserati Spyder may not be the correct choice for a station car. Next it is best to determine a budget and explore cars within your means. Cars can depreciate  quickly or maintain their value. A car that is long lasting without frequent repairs will have a higher premium on the used car market.

Having found a car that meets your criterion, it is best to check the car out. Carfax is a useful tool to determine if the car has had issues or was involved in a collision. Then consulting a professional to ask advice or to have the car inspected is a worthwhile investment. n independent mechanic will know which cars are high maintenance and require frequent repairs.

Furthermore it is best to consult service records to see what upcoming maintenance  is due for. For example a timing belt on n Audi could set you back $1000.00.

If you are sending a child off to college and are seeking transportation for you son or daughter, several things should be considered.

I bought my daughter a car to go to collage with. I wanted a car that was safe, reliable and virtually bullet-proof. She was attending collage in Maine, so a 4 wheel drive was mandatory. I decided on a Honda CRX, in addition to being safe and reliable car, there was a dealer in her town which could help her should she require anything. I paid a premium for the car, but it gave me piece of mind.

There is nothing wrong with buying a used car, especially as a second or third car for the family, so long as you do your homework!

Feb 072015

Sure it’s cold outside and the last thing you have on your mind is the scheduled maintenance on your car. The very same car you are relying on to start when it’s 5 degrees above zero and you need to get to work.

All the systems in the car are stressed out in extreme weather. No one can anticipate a failure or breakdown, but the best way to prevent that is to have a professional look over your car regularly. Servicing your car may be an inconvenience, but breakdowns are more so and generally much more expensive.

When was the last time you checked your fluids or air pressure in your tires. Even though it’s your daily driver, don’t ignore it, because you count on it.