Jul 172011

Specialists are a sign of the times. Doctors, nurses, dentists, even auto maintenance and repair are fields which have their own specialists. Get your muffler fixed one place and go to another franchise for tires. Go to some other franchise for oil change and another one to fix the brakes.

Whatever happened to mechanics who knew everything about cars and could fix it all? Consider this scenario.

You go to a quick lube franchise for an oil change. You also noticed something strange with the brakes and ask them if they can check that out, too. But they can’t because they only do oil changes. So you go to another franchise that fixes brakes.

An honest mechanic at the brake place tightens something on the brakes and says that is all you need on the brakes, but he noticed there was some transmission fluid leaking. So you ask if he can fix it. But he cannot fix it because he only does brakes. He can’t even tell you if it is serious or not.

So you drive on to a shop that fixes transmissions. But the guys at the transmission shop are not as honest and helpful as the guy at the brake shop and they see just another customer with a lot of money. So they tell him that it will cost a lot of his money to fix the transmission leak. This may be true, or maybe it’s a leak easily fixable, but the mechanics at this place plan to take their time and bilk it for all it’s worth. They already know you won’t be back later.

You could have gone to one shop for all these repairs and maintenance. Instead you spent your time driving around to different franchises, waiting for estimates, waiting while repairs were done, waiting while mechanics that didn’t even know your car were fooling around trying to figure out what was where. You may be wasting your time, but you pay for their time.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to take the car to only one place, have all the repairs done at once for an honest and fair price in a timely manner by people who want to help you so that you will return when you need something else done to your car? Auto repair shops like this do exist. Usually they are family owned, and have been in business for quite a long time.

You find such a repair shop by asking others where they return to. A shop where customers keep coming back for all standard maintenance and repairs when they need them is the place to go. You could have dropped your car off and taken the bus or gotten a ride with a friend. They’ll call you with the information about what work needs to be done and the costs. And when you picked it up later in the day you would have spent only the time taken to drop off and pick up the car, instead of all day or more driving from franchise to franchise. And probably saved a lot on the repair bill, too.

Learn more about car repair. Stop by 3A Automotive’s site where you can find out all about mechanic and what it can do for you.

Jul 172011

She was on her way by car to assist victims of a major hurricane. She was driving down a turnpike and took an exit to a freeway. On the fly-over the power steering stopped and the electrical system just stopped and there was no place to pull over. She coasted down the fly over and pulled off on an exit but there was still no place to pull over until she got to a dirt road. She coasted to the dirt road and stopped.

The car didn’t start. The dirt road led to an oil field. Eventually two men in a truck were driving down the dirt road going the other way. She jumped out of her car and stood in the road hoping they would stop.

When the men opened the hood, they found a belt that drives the electrical devices had slipped off. But when they tried to put it back on the belt just fell apart – the rubber had deteriorated to a point where it wouldn’t hold together.

Although there was no auto parts store nearby, the guys drove the lady to a place where she could buy a new belt. When they returned to her car, the guys installed the new belt and suddenly the car started and everything worked fine. She did arrive at the coast, albeit a few hours late, and hurricane victims were grateful.

This is an example of something that could have been prevented on the car if standard maintenance were done in a timely manner. For a rubber belt to arrive at the point where it will shred to pieces in your hands takes a long time. Any auto repairman who looked at that belt would have known it wasn’t long for this world. And since the lady did actually have the oil changed on occasion – at a franchise oil change place – one must assume that the guys changing the oil didn’t even look at the belt like their 20 point or 50 point inspection says they do. If they had looked they would have told her to change it.

If you find a reliable mechanic, you should have all the work on your car done at the same place, even the regular maintenance like oil changes. Mechanics at a competent auto repair shop will get to know you and your car, and you will get to know them. The people at such an auto repair shop should treat you right, because they want to keep your business.

The kind of auto repair shop you want is a place that will do an oil change or replace the engine. All work at a fair and competitive price. They will do a good job because they want to keep your business and they want you to return. They will explain to you what needs to be done to your car, and they won’t skimp on a maintenance inspection.

You can find such garages by asking friends and family where they take their cars – and where they are satisfied with the work so much that they return to the same place. It’s a good idea and can save you some headaches down the road.

Want to find out more about car repair, then visit 3A Automotive’s site on how to choose the best mechanic for your needs.

Jul 162011

She’d been driving around a lot in the Arizona summer, using up lots of gas to run the air conditioner. She was only 150 miles away from home, and had already dropped off the VIP she had been chauffeuring at the airport. Except for getting home, her job was done. But even with A/C on it felt hot in the car.

The dashboard was really hot! A lot hotter than just sitting in the Arizona sun all day. She pulled off the highway into a gas station and opened the hood. She thought maybe it needed water in the radiator, so she opened that, but the water was not very low. She put some in anyway.

Finally some knights in shining armor came by and asked to help. They checked the oil and found not even enough to cover the end of the dipstick. The engine was overheating because the oil was almost gone. When asked about the last time she checked the oil, she said she doesn’t check oil – her husband takes care of the cars. But she’d been away from home for a couple of weeks and done a tremendous amount of driving.

The good Samaritans saved her from a repair bill of many thousands of dollars, because lack of oil can completely ruin an engine. If you check the oil once in a while when you fill the tank with gas, you might be able to prevent such a disaster from occurring.

A different woman who was driving a long distance in a van did routinely check the oil, and although there were no other indicators, one time she checked the dipstick was dry – as if all the oil had leaked out. She put some oil in the van, but still the dipstick was dry. She put in some more oil, but this time the dipstick appeared and was marked overfilled. A few minutes later it came up dry again. Yet no oil had leaked out under the van.

When she took it to a garage, the mechanic discovered a small hole in the metal tube where the dipstick rests. Sometimes when the dipstick was placed in the tube it went into that hole, in which case it came back out dry. And sometimes it went into the crankcase, where there was plenty of oil – in fact, too much oil.

Too much oil could also cause damage to the engine because it creates pressure. So it is fortunate that she found a place to pull into to get it handled.

Car stories are interesting and sometimes funny when you look back on them, and everyone has a few good ones. But most of the situations could have been prevented with some standard maintenance and inspection, and they aren’t very funny when they are happening. One good idea is to have the same auto repair shop do all your car repair and standard maintenance – they’ll get to know you and your car. But finding a reliable auto repair shop can be another matter entirely.

Hats off to all the knights in shining armor who help damsels in distress at the side of the road. We’d be lost without you, guys! But standard maintenance of the car will result in fewer incidences of distress.

Looking to find the best deal on car repair, then visit www.3aautomotive.com to find the best advice on mechanic for you.

Jul 062011

The best way to save money on gas is to not drive. But perhaps breaking your leg so you can’t drive is a rather extreme measure. Here are some other tips on how to save money on gas.

Inflate your tires to the proper pressure. When tires aren’t inflated properly it’s like driving with the parking brake on and this can waste a mile or two per gallon. By maintaining the correct air pressure, you can realize a 10 percent improvement in gas saving. Check your owner’s manual for the proper air pressure for your vehicle’s tires.

Check your owner’s manual for the correct octane level for your vehicle’s engine. 20 percent of drivers purchase premium fuel when filling up at the pump, but less than 5 percent of cars on the road have engines designed for high-octane fuel. If your engine was not, then pumping premium is only putting you at a loss.

You can realize a 15 percent improvement in gas mileage by driving at a slower speed. If you don’t need to hurry, check out the scenery – 55 mph instead of 65 mph will get you that 15 percent better gas mileage. Using cruise control on the highway will also save gas. You also waste gas by stomping on the gas pedal to accelerate quickly or braking suddenly.

You can get a one to two percent improvement in gas mileage by using the proper grade of motor oil. Check the owner’s manual. If you put 10W-30 weight oil in an engine that is supposed to use 5W-30, you are wasting up to two percent of gas. Pay attention when you go for an oil change.

One hundred forty-seven million gallons of gas evaporate into the air and are wasted every year because of damaged or missing gas caps. Check your fuel cap and make sure it is secure. Replace it if it is damaged.

Don’t let your engine idle. Get out and walk into the restaurant instead of going through the drive thru. Cut down the time you let the car warm up in winter. If you are going to be waiting for a while, like picking up your child from school, shut the engine off.

The days when we could just fill up the tank and not even notice the price of the gas are well behind us. So we hope these tips can save you some money at the pump. And when you need help with that oil change and you want to be sure the tires are inflated properly, take your vehicle to a reliable auto repair shop, where they know what they are doing and you can be sure the work will be done right.

Want to find out more about car repair, then visit 3A Automotive’s site on how to choose the best mechanic for your needs.

Jun 202011

This is part 2 in our series about how to save money on gas. These days every little bit helps and if you attend to the needs of your vehicle, you can really get a lot more gas mileage out of it – not to mention longer life for your car.

Take the junk out of the trunk. Gas mileage decreases as extra weight is added. Remove items you don’t use daily to make your vehicle fuel-efficient. Improving your vehicle’s aerodynamics will help lower your fuel cost. Take down any bike, ski, cargo racks from your roof. Washing and waxing your vehicle and rolling up the windows will help improve aerodynamics.

However, air conditioning may use up more gas than you would spend on rolling down the windows and enjoying the fresh air. A/C uses the motor, thus uses gas. Whenever possible, turn off the A/C and open the windows. It’s not a good idea on one of those 100 degree summer days, but often we use the A/C when we could easily enjoy the breeze.

You can also open air vents to get a breeze flowing through your car. Vent your windows slightly when you park and always try to park in the shade. That will make your car cooler when you get in and perhaps you won’t need the A/C set on high. At highway speeds roll the windows back up and use A/C as necessary – the open windows will put a drag on the aerodynamics of the car and use up more gas than having the A/C on.

On vehicles with manual transmission, you will save more gas if you shift at lower speeds rather than gunning the engine before you shift. Cars that have 5 speed manual transmissions and 4 speed automatic transmissions also have an overdrive gear. If you shift to overdrive as soon as you are going fast enough, this will save some gas. The owner’s manual for the vehicle can help you determine correct speeds for shifting.

A tanker truck at a filling station means that truck is pumping gas into the tanks at the station. And stirring up dirt and debris. If you fill up, you are likely to get that dirt and debris into your gas tank, so if you see the tanker, drive on by for now. Also, the best time to fill the tank is the cool early morning, when the gas is compressed to it’s smallest size and less evaporation occurs.

General maintenance and regular tune ups will save you gas money. Things like dragging brakes or worn spark plugs can cause the engine to overwork, wasting gas. You should be able to find a maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual.

If you’re like most folks you want to get that regular tune up and maintenance, but you don’t want to do it yourself. Hopefully, you are already a customer at a reliable auto repair shop where you know you can get the work done for a reasonable price. What? You don’t have a regular garage? Start asking around – where do your friends and family take their vehicles? And are they satisfied with the work and price so that they keep returning to the same place? That would be a good indicator – a garage that others trust.

Want to find out more about car repair, then visit 3A Automotive’s site on how to choose the best mechanic for your needs.

Jun 192011

Most states require that your vehicle be inspected every year, but if you personally do not inspect your own car more often than that, you could run into a lot of trouble. We are so used to just starting up the vehicle and driving away that we often wouldn’t even notice a flat tire. A moment’s inspection could prevent an accident.

When you go out to start the car just look. It doesn’t take long. Are the tires full of air? Periodically make sure all the proper lights on your car work and the windshield wipers work. Read the dials on the dash board and make sure they are in the proper range. People run out of gas every day. What an unnecessary delay!

One woman drove off in her small truck one sunny day and stayed in town for the day. Driving home to her farm it started to rain. It hadn’t rained in ages. She flipped on the windshield wipers and two stubs about 3 inches long waved back and forth across the bottom of the windshield. A horse had reached over at some time when the sun was shining and chewed the windshield wipers off the truck. She never noticed, although that horse was renown for chewing on the tailgate or whatever part of the truck he could reach when it was available.

If you don’t inspect your car regularly, you won’t get a ticket like you do if you don’t renew your yearly state inspection sticker, but you certainly might get some unpleasant, if not dangerous, surprises.

If your car is making strange noises that’s also a signal to find out what is wrong. One driver head a sound like metal scraping on metal. It went on for a few weeks, until he finally took it to a garage. The mechanics couldn’t find out what was wrong because they could not get the car to make the noise anymore. The driver didn’t insist they check out the mechanical systems of the car (which they should have anyway), and just drove off.

A couple days later driving on a freeway, the driver discovered he had no brakes. Using the emergency brake he coasted off an exit ramp and into an auto repair place. All the brake fluid had leaked out. The mechanics discovered that a brake line was rubbing against another piece of metal in the mechanical workings of the car, and that had been causing the noise. When it finally rubbed a hole in the brake line, brake fluid began to leak out which lubricated the metal and the car stopped making the strange noise of metal rubbing on metal. Then when all the brake fluid leaked out, no brakes.

It was a very strange situation, but the mechanics at the first garage should have looked for anything wrong with any of the car’s systems. If they had, they would have found the brake fluid leak.

Not all auto repair shops are created equal. When you need a good mechanic it is fortunate if you already know one and unlikely that you will find one on the spur of the moment. Take some time and find a reliable garage that you can trust. It may not be the first shop you use, but find one that you can return to whenever you need something done on your car.

Learn more about car repair. Stop by 3A Automotive’s site where you can find out all about mechanic and what it can do for you.

Jun 092011

Did you ever go out to start your car and it wouldn’t start? Or maybe it started but made terrible noises? Even though you’ve been good to your car and kept up with oil changes and maintenance, you got the message – something was wrong with the car. Hopefully you had a good reliable mechanic to take the car to for repairs. But if not, perhaps you just got it to the nearest auto repair shop.

Maybe the guys at the nearest shop seemed fine, but then they couldn’t hear the noises you heard from the engine. They thought you might have made it up. You told them what you heard, but they couldn’t seem to duplicate it.

Or perhaps it did make those noises and an hour later a mechanic came out to the waiting room and told you what was wrong. “The vaggigator is rubbing against the incidenterator and the doodlydo on the incubator is shot,” he says.

And then you look at him like he was from Mars. “What does that mean?” you said.

He says that the indlydenator is broken, and since that helps the vaggivator we might have to clean out the dindonator and the whoosher.

You look puzzled and the repairman looks self-satisfied. You ask again what it all means.

He tells you that it means it will cost $1421 to get your car fixed.

Hours or days later the bill comes to $1585. You’re still wondering what it was that was wrong and why it costs all that money. The mechanic is sorry the estimate was too low, but it was just an estimate.

You leave with a feeling that you’ve been had. Maybe they were right, maybe you just don’t know enough about cars. Or maybe they were taking advantage of someone who didn’t know enough about cars. But where can you go for honest work that you can be sure of? And where the mechanics will speak a language you can understand?

If this sort of thing has happened to you, if you feel you are not sure you can trust the guys who fixed your car, you need to find a good reliable auto mechanic and stay with that garage over time. You can build a relationship with the staff. You find out you can trust what they say because it’s always proven true.

How can you find such a garage? Ask people! Where do they go for car repairs where they keep going back? What better recommendation can there be than that the owner was so satisfied with the price and work that he returns whenever something needs to be fixed.

That’s an auto repair shop you can trust – one that has returning customers. It’s great advertising – word of mouth. And obviously the owners who return are happy customers – if they weren’t they would go elsewhere. Fast, honestly priced service may seem hard to find in the auto repair business, but there are places that specialize in it.

Looking to find the best deal on car repair, then visit www.3aautomotive.com to find the best advice on mechanic for you.

May 282011

Summer is almost here, and as many folks take off on vacations or other longer drives, the chance of an overheating the engine expands. The higher temperatures can present a problem to an engine cooling system that is not in tip top shape.

Normal maintenance of the cooling system would include making sure the radiator is full with the proper ratio of water to anti-freeze (yes, even in summer) and that there are no leaks in the radiator and cooling system. You can look on the driveway to see if the car is leaking anti-freeze. But there are a few other things you might do to prevent overheating down the road.

There are hoses under the hood that are part of the cooling system, and since they are made of rubber, they deteriorate faster than a metal radiator. Sometimes they need to be replaced. Some of the hoses under the hood also belong to the power brakes or the cruise control, but you might as well check them all at once. You can’t drive anywhere with a broken hose. When the engine is cool and off, inspect the hoses. Squeeze them to see if they are sticky, hard, very soft or if they make a cracking noise. All of these are indicators of hoses that will soon break. Also look for a bulge or a collapsed section of hose. Replace these hoses.

If you plan to do a lot of towing and your vehicle is not already equipped with coolers, consider having them added. Cooler operating temperatures of engine oil and transmission fluid can add significantly to the life of your engine and transmission. Aftermarket engine oil and transmission fluid coolers are simple, low-cost add-ons that operate on the same principle as your car’s radiator. The fluid flows through them, taking heat away from the engine and transmission and many small fins absorb and dissipate heat.

If you already have a leaking radiator and the leak is not too big, you might try sealing it with a product called Alumaseal, available at auto parts stores. Alumaseal comes in powder or liquid and you put it in the radiator. When it arrives at the hole and contacts air, it becomes hard and seals the hole.

If you are driving down the road and in spite of your care of the cooling system, the car’s engine starts to overheat, pull over and let it cool off and see if you can locate the problem. If not, or if the overheating is just caused because you are towing a trailer over a mountain pass, open the windows, turn off the A/C and turn your heater on full blast. Turning on the heater will draw heat away from the engine, and allow you to get over the mountain pass or drive to the nearest repair shop that can help you fix the problem.

When the heat in the engine is high enough to make the temperature gauge go into the red zone, you need to stop and wait until the engine cools. If you drive with a seriously overheated engine, you can expect a huge repair bill for the damage done to the engine.

Have your regular mechanic check out your car’s cooling system before summer heat is full on. Oh, you don’t have a regular mechanic? You ought to find one. Ask around to friends and acquaintances and find out who has a mechanic that they are happy with and they return to time after time. It will save you hassle in the future – you can build a relationship and come to trust the mechanic and shop and they can get to know you and your car and thereby deliver better service.

Looking to find the best deal on car repair, then visit www.3aautomotive.com to find the best advice on mechanic for you.

May 272011

Starting out on a 500 mile drive to visit some friends, Pat told his girlfriend not to be too surprised if parts started falling off his car. It was an old Ford he had just bought for $200. The engine then began to make clunking noises about 100 miles down the road. That was a long time ago. Pat was a very young man. More than 40 years.

Parts did start flying off the car. And then the engine quit entirely. It threw a rod, as it was called then – a piston rod came loose. The engine was a goner.

Pat’s Dad came and got him and towed the car home. Pat spent the next week searching junkyards for another engine, and when he found one he put it in his car. Pat drove that car another five years.

In those days there were plenty of junkyards that would sell parts of cars cheaply, so any young man who had some mechanical know-how could find used parts that would work and install them on his own car and make his car run again. Cars weren’t as complicated as they are these days.

But even with the simplicity of car and engine design at that time, there is a trade off. Those wonderful simple cars that some of us long for only had a life of about 50,000 miles or less. No air conditioning, no seat belts, no fancy amenities, not to mention the fact that they spewed pollutants into the air at a rapid rate. It’s not surprising these days to have a car last 200,000 miles or more.

Cars used to break down so often in those days that you practically had to have someone in the family who could repair cars. Yes, cars are now more complex to repair. There are more things that can break. But they break less often, and you don’t have to be a mechanic to drive one.

High schools taught classes on automotive repair. Fathers were expected to teach sons and sometimes daughters car repair and maintenance. Owners expected they would not go far without being able to at least fix basic things on a car.

Back in the day if you couldn’t fix it, you could always take your car to a mechanic who could fix anything. Now you have a chain store for tires, another one for oil changes, another one for brakes and on and on. It’s more difficult to find an auto repair shop that will fix anything and that you can rely on. But there are still many. The mechanics of these shops are well trained and know the entire car, and when they do an oil change they’ll let you know if there’s something else that needs to be taken care of. It’s a place where customers return again and again because they are happy with the work. They trust the shop.

Learn more about car repair. Stop by 3A Automotive’s site where you can find out all about mechanic and what it can do for you.

May 032011

In the summer time in Arizona it can get very, very hot. So when his pick up truck started overheating, he didn’t think it too unusual – lots of trucks were overheating. When he saw the radiator fluid leaking out, he put some water in. The truck cooled off and down the road he went. When more of the fluid leaked out, he just put some more water in.

After some time went by, he knew he needed to fix the leak and bought some stuff in the auto parts store that promised to fix it. And it did fix it. He filled up the radiator with water. He didn’t want to buy anti-freeze in the hot summer – not needed, he thought.

One day during the winter, the old truck wouldn’t start. He tried everything before calling the repair shop to come get it. This was after an unusual occurrence in our winters – many days of below freezing temperatures.

Although he had intended to put anti-freeze in before winter, even in the warm climate, he forgot. The repair shop guys told him the water in the radiator was frozen solid. The repair shop had to let it thaw for a couple of days, hoping that the water hadn’t expanded and cracked the radiator or worse. But it did, and you don’t want to know how much that cost to replace the radiator.

So here are some tips about taking care of the cooling system in your vehicle. Your cooling system needs both coolant-antifreeze and water; so don’t pour undiluted coolant into your cooling system. Dilute it with water to the commonly recommended 50-50 ratio. Similarly, don’t use straight water in your system either. The coolant protects against corrosion and freezing. The water ensures good heat transfer from the coolant to the radiator.

There is a translucent radiator overflow tank under the hood. You should check it weekly to see if it is low, and add a mix of 50/50 water and anti-freeze if it’s not up to the maximum mark. If you don’t want to bother with mixing it, some auto parts stores sell it already mixed. Be sure to read the labels, and know what you are buying.

Every two to five years, depending on whatever your owner’s manual says, you should flush out the radiator – that is, drain all the coolant out and put in fresh coolant/water. If you don’t do this, the radiator can be damaged or the thermostat and water pump could be harmed or even the heater could get clogged. This is because the anti-freeze degrades over time and becomes dirty.

Sometimes you will have a couple of jugs of different coolants in the garage. If you mix them up you might wind up with a sticky solution that won’t cool the engine. Use whatever coolant is recommended in your owner’s manual. Anti-freeze comes in different colors. A good rule is to not mix up different colored anti-freeze.

A good reputable auto repair shop can help you with these things as part of standard maintenance if you rather not do it yourself. Pick a garage where customers keep returning – you can be assured they will do a good job.

Looking to find the best deal on vehicle maintenance, then visit www.3aautomotive.com to find the best advice on auto repair for you.