Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
We often get asked questions that we believe every consumer should know.
Here we have compiled a list of these questions, click on any headline to view the respective article.
If you have any more questions please give us a call at: (905) 670-8535
- 1. Should I use a Quick Lube?
- 2. Should I keep my car or just get another one?
- 3. Do I need to take my vehicle to the dealer to maintain my warranty?
- 4. How do I choose a good auto repair shop?
- 5. Why don’t my spark plugs last 150,000km?
- 6. How important is maintenance to my vehicle?
- 7. What is exactly is a tune-up?
- 8. Parts are parts right?
1. Should I use a Quick Lube?
Quick lube stores have their place in the world, but you have to consider exactly what their role is. They primarily sell fluid changes, wiper blades, light bulbs and filters. These are all necessary service items. Going to a quick lube for an oil change when you’re in a pinch is better than no oil change at all.
But the problem with the quick lube is that you don’t get the trained eyes of a Licensed Technician looking at your car during each oil change. Since they don’t service CV joints, for example, they’re not apt to notice or tell you that a CV boot is cracked and should be replaced. (A CV joint is a type of universal joint used in the axle shafts of almost all front-wheel-drive cars.) Another example is your brake flex lines. A Licensed Technician’s trained eye will spot a swelled or cracked line and will recommend replacement to prevent a possible brake failure. If the above problems are caught early it not only saves you the consumer money, but most importantly improves the vehicle’s safety.
Going to a quick lube store is like going to your doctor and getting examined by the receptionist. The person that’s most qualified isn’t going to see you. The important thing is to find a shop that you trust and stick with them. Just as your doctor comes to know you and your medical history, by being loyal to one shop, the shop gets to know you, your car and its “medical” history. A shop can then check the entire history of your maintenance and repairs, saving both time and money in terms of diagnosis, maintenance and repairs.
2. Should I keep my car or just get another one?
Keeping your vehicle for a longer time can save you substantial amounts of money!
A well known rust control company recently published a study on the costs of owning a vehicle. They found that owning a vehicle whose purchase price was $25,300 including tax would cost $43,593 for 4 years. They also found that keeping that vehicle for an additional 4 years would only cost $16,871; saving you $26,722!
Although repair bills and other expenses may seem high, the cost of insurance, maintenance and a new vehicle greatly exceeds that of keeping your vehicle running as if it was new.
3. Do I need to take my vehicle to the dealer to maintain my warranty?
No! You do not have to take your car to the dealer to maintain your warranty!
You DO NOT have to take you car back to the dealer in order to keep your warranty valid. It is in fact illegal for the dealer to tell you that. The owner’s manual spells out the maintenance required to maintain your warranty. As long as you follow the schedule in the owner’s manual for oil change intervals and other required service, the manufacturer cannot deny a warranty claim based on the work being done elsewhere. That is the law.
Many dealers have their own maintenance schedules that include services that are not required by the manufacturer. These services may include such things as fuel additives, engine oil additives, power steering fluid additives, and transmission fluid additives. Look at the owner’s manual and compare the dealer’s maintenance schedule to the one in your owner’s manual. If items appear in the dealer’s schedule that are not in the owner’s manual, that service is not required to maintain your warranty.
4. How do I choose a good auto repair shop?
There are several different things to look for when choosing an auto repair shop, here are just a few.
Like a doctor or any other professional, it’s best to find a good repair shop before you need one. Hunting through the Yellow Pages for a repair shop while waiting for a tow truck is not the way to go. You’re not likely to make as good a decision when you’re under pressure. The best way to find a shop is on the recommendation of a trusted friend or acquaintance. Ask friends, neighbors, family member and coworkers if they use a shop that they are happy with. Preferably , a shop with which they’ve had a relationship for a year or more. This shop is likely to be an excellent choice.
If you can’t find someone with a recommendation and you’re forced to go shop hunting on your own, here are a few suggestions:
- When calling on the phone, look for someone who answers the phone courteously and professionally. If they must return your phone call, look for promptness.
- It’s always a good idea to check with the CAA or other consumer organizations for referred shops. Organizations like the CAA usually research their approved shops and keep records on them.
- Don’t choose a shop strictly on a convenient location or business hours. No matter how close the shop may be to work or home, it’s never convenient to have to take your car back two or three times for the same problem. When choosing a shop, consider convenience as a bonus, not a major criterion. Convenient is a shop that does everything you need … minor services, routine maintenance, major repairs, glass, etc. That way, no matter what your car needs, you know that that shop can handle it for you.
- The shop should be relatively clean and well organized. The staff should be well dressed and courteous.
- Make sure the shop works on your make of vehicle. Some shops specialize in one or two makes. If you own a Chevy and the shop just repairs Hondas, that shop is not for you no matter how good they are. Be sure to ask if they work on your make of vehicle and perform the type of repair you need.
- Don’t be concerned with the labor rate. The labor rate does not dictate how much your bill will be. Charges are generally based on time multiplied by a labor rate. But there is nothing to say that two shops will charge the same amount of time for the same job. Which is less expensive, 2 hours at $80 per hour or 3 hours at $70 per hour? Furthermore, there is no “book time” or “flat rate” time for diagnosis. The correct diagnosis at $100 per hour could be a lot less expensive than an incorrect one a $50 per hour. The point is, a competent shop is likely to save you money by correctly and efficiently diagnosing and repairing the problem, regardless of the labor rate. They won’t be replacing parts that are not defective.
- Ask the shop for several names of satisfied customers. They should be willing to provide that information.
The important thing is to find a shop that you trust and stick with them. Just as your doctor comes to know you and your medical history, by being loyal to one shop, the shop gets to know you, your car and its “medical” history. A shop can then check the entire history of your maintenance and repairs, saving both time and money in terms of diagnosis, maintenance and repairs. Another perk is that a loyal customer is more likely to be given special consideration in times of need, such as that occasional and unavoidable delay when you can’t get there before the shop closes, you need immediate advice, or warranty extensions when a part fails just outside of warranty. Loyalty has its rewards.
5. Why don’t my spark plugs last 150,000km?
That depends on what you mean by “last.” Is it possible for a spark plug to function for 150,000km? Under ideal conditions, yes. Spark plugs made with platinum or iridium coupled with today’s high output ignition systems may be able to create a spark sufficient to fire the air/fuel mixture in the cylinder for 150,000km . But , there may be some severe consequences to waiting for the 150,000km mark. One is the additional burden placed on the ignition system by worn spark plugs. An ignition system will only produce enough voltage to fire the spark plug, typically 5000 volts at idle to perhaps 15,000 volts under acceleration. Some modern ignition systems such as DIS (Distributorless Ignition Systems) or COP (Coil-On-Plug) systems can produce as much as 50,000 volts!
As a spark plug wears, the gap becomes wider and the electrodes more rounded. Both conditions require more voltage to create a spark. So, if your worn spark plug requires 40,000 volts to fire, the ignition system will do it. But producing that kind of voltage will take its toll on the ignition system. The question becomes, “Would you rather replace four, six or eight spark plugs at $5 each or four, six or eight ignition coils at $90 each?”
There’s an even greater reason to replace spark plugs before 150,000km. They have been known to seize in the cylinder head if left in that long. If that happens, you could be looking at a $2000 repair bill to remove the heads and replace the spark plugs. Will that happen to you? Maybe, maybe not. Are you willing to take that chance?
The 150,000km spark plug is nothing more than a 80,000km spark plug that the carmaker’s marketing department calls a 150,000km plug. It sounds impressive to say that their car doesn’t need a “tune-up” for 150,000km. It’s really a marketing driven claim, not one based on sound engineering. Manufacturers often add stipulations to the 150,000km interval that’s in the owner’s manual, but is often overlooked.
The most prudent thing to do is to replace standard spark plugs every 60,000km. Platinum and iridium plugs should be replaced every 80,000km.
6. How important is maintenance to my vehicle?
Very important if you plan on keeping your vehicle.
The subject of vehicle maintenance is a murky one at best. Vehicle manufacturers have recently found that promoting their vehicles as “low maintenance” plays well with prospective buyers. Who wouldn’t want a vehicle that needs nothing more than fuel? So, their recommended service intervals are not based on what will make your car last as long as it can. After all, they want to sell cars, and they’d rather sell you one every 100,000km rather than every 300,000km.
You can find the manufacturer’s maintenance schedules in the back of your owner’s manual. This used to be considered the minimum required maintenance to keep your vehicle running efficiently for a long time. Note that these schedules are the minimum required. If you plan on keeping your vehicle for only 100,000km, these schedules will suffice. However, with proper maintenance, many of today’s engines can easily exceed 300,000km without a major overhaul or rebuild. But that’s not likely to happen if you follow the manufacturer’s schedule.
Here’s the main problem for the consumer when he or she shops for maintenance. It’s extremely difficult to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. There is no standard for maintenance. You could ask 10 different repair shops for a price on a 50,000km service, for example, and get 10 different prices that vary dramatically. That’s not because they all have vastly different labor rates, it’s because all 10 have different ideas of what the service entails. One shop may have a “one-size-fits-all” approach, so that no matter what kind of vehicle you drive, a 50,000km service is the same.
The cost to replace a timing belt may be several hundred dollars before it breaks, but if you wait until it breaks, it may do several thousand dollars worth of damage to valves and pistons.
So how do you know what you need? The key here is to find a shop that you trust and follow their advice. They will have many years of experience and know what maintenance is needed based on your make of vehicle and your driving style. Maintenance is not free, but it’s much less costly than a repair.
Consider the implications of not flushing your cooling system for 150,000 km. Proper cooling system maintenance will reduce corrosion in expensive items like radiators and heater cores. But it will also reduce the corrosion on inexpensive items like freeze plugs. Freeze plugs are small metal discs that seal access holes that are cast into engine blocks and cylinder heads. They may cost only 50 cents each, but some are located in the back of the block. If they rust through and leak, the engine or transmission must be removed to replace them. The other freeze plugs are apt to be in the same condition. You could easily spend $1000 to replace all of the freeze plugs, which are worth about $10 for all of them. It’s a lot less expensive to flush the cooling system every other year.
Frequent oil and filter changes are critical to extended engine life. Yes, engine oil is much better than it used to be. And modern engines don’t contribute as much “blow-by” to the crankcase. But modern engines also run much harder and hotter than those large engines of years past. Also, some engines are more prone to “sludging” than others. Sludge plugs oil passages within the engine and starves critical components of oil, resulting in severe engine damage. Changing the engine oil and filter every 5000km or 3 months will ensure that you won’t be plagued by expensive lubrication problems.
7. What is exactly is a tune-up?
Unfortunately, on modern vehicles, a “tune-up” is almost anything you want it to be. Years ago, a “tune-up” was a fairly well defined procedure. Back in the days when cars had carburetors and distributors with points and condensers, a tune-up involved replacing the points, condenser, spark plugs, air filter, and possibly the distributor cap, rotor and ignition wires. The carburetor had mixture and idle speed adjustments that needed to be set, and the point dwell and ignition timing had to be adjusted. On many vehicles today, there are no carburetors, distributors, distributor caps, rotors or ignition wires, let alone points or condensers. So, if you go to a shop and ask for a tune-up, what are you going to get?
Oftentimes, a motorist will take their vehicle to a shop and request a “tune-up” because the car is exhibiting some kind of symptom. This is a big red flag for a knowledgeable service advisor. If you ask for a “tune-up,” a service advisor who knows his job is going to ask you why you think you need a “tune-up.” (See “What To Tell The Shop About Your Car’s Problem.) The reason is that if a “modern day tune-up” is defined as spark plugs and filters, chances are a “tune-up” is not going to fix a problem.
A “modern day tune-up” should be though of a maintenance and not as a cure for some problem. The reason the service advisor wants to know why you want a “tune-up” is so that he and the technician are aware of any problems that you have that the requested “tune-up” will not fix. It makes for a bad situation if you request a “tune-up” and the shop does a “tune-up” and the problem that you thought would be fixed by a “tune-up” is not fixed. The shop did what you asked, but that didn’t fix the problem. Who’s responsible? Good communication between you, the motorist, and the shop, is essential.
When do you need a “tune-up?” If you think of a “tune-up” as maintenance, consider service intervals of 50,000km to be average. The best thing to do is just get the term “tune-up” out of your mind. If you meticulously follow a maintenance schedule with one professionally run repair shop, you’ll never need to concern yourself with a “tune-up.”
8. Parts are parts right?
WRONG! Remember the old Pennzoil commercial where the old man says, “Motor oil is motor oil”? The point was that there is a difference between various types of motor oils and they are definitely not all the same.
Now, more than ever, the same is true of automotive parts. Parts are not all the same. Over the last decade, there has been an unbelievable proliferation of poor quality parts in the market. They come from all over the world, and a brand name does not necessarily guarantee that the part is a high quality part. Due to the expansion of low cost parts, even reputable parts manufacturers now offer a “value” line of parts. They have done this because they were losing market share to the importers of low price, low quality parts.
Oil filters are an excellent example.Oil filters range can vary in price and in quality. Below is a picture of 2 major oil filter brands with the outer shells removed. As you can see, the oil filter on left the uses only a small spring and spring steel to retain the oil filter on its seat, while the filter on the right uses a heavy spring. If you look at the how the filter element is held together, on the left it is merely glued to a cardboard backing, while on the right it is held together inside a heavy metal cartridge. Although the photo does not show it clearly, the filter on the right also has around double the pleats of the the filter on the left and is made of a sturdier material. Obviously the consumer can’t tell by looking at the outside of the filter there is a difference, but as you can see, on the inside there are major differences.