Are You Traveling This Holiday Season?

The holiday season is here and with that many people will be travelling. If you are one of the “many” there are some things to consider before beginning your journey to wherever it may be. Do you have a road emergency kit? If not you may want to consider purchasing one to have in your vehicle this holiday season. There are so many choices here, options to fit almost any budget. An emergency kit is available at any parts store, or just google it and you will be overwhelmed with choices. An emergency kit is a good idea for anytime you are travelling, but with the issues we encounter in winter it is essential. Not a bad idea for a gift either…

Other considerations for winter holiday travel include:

Tune-up ~ If your vehicle is due for a tune-up, have it done. Cold weather and winter driving conditions are demanding to say the least. Existing problems are magnified, a current tune-up will help to reduce unwanted surprises.

Battery ~ Cold temperatures can leave you stranded if you have a weak battery. Have your battery and charging system checked for proper operation.

Cooling System ~ Antifreeze. Enough said? This is a huge item for winter maintenance. It goes beyond just making sure you engine won’t freeze. Clean antifreeze and proper ph levels are essential to keep you car running cool as well as not freezing. Your vehicle cooling system should be serviced every two years.

Heater / Defrost ~ I probably don’t need to explain this one, but seriously, make sure it is all working before you travel. Is your heater getting warm enough? If your thermostat is stuck open, you may have heat while driving, but what if you get stuck somewhere and can only idle, will your heater keep you warm?

Windshield Wipers ~ Good wiper blades are important for winter driving. Generally wiper blades should be replaced every six months, the get baked in the hot sun and of course the ice and snow takes it’s toll. Is your windshield washer fluid the proper solution for winter temperatures?

Tires ~ Of course you know to put winter tires on, but do you monitor your tire pressures? Tire pressure affects winter driving, tire pressures should be checked weekly. When was the last time you checked the air pressure in your spare tire?

Brakes ~ Well this one is not necessarily a “winter” concern, it is the most critical safety concern on your vehicle.

Exhaust System ~ Exhaust leaks can be a real concern in the winter months with the windows all closed to keep the chill out. Carbon monoxide from exhaust leaks can enter your vehicle and create a very dangerous environment.

Lights ~ A simple walk-around can tell you if your lights are all working. How are your headlamps aimed?

Oil and Filter ~ Are you using the proper oil viscosity? Your vehicle manufacturer has a recommended oil viscosity for your vehicle. This is important in winter months. Also the condition of your air & fuel filters is a consideration.

A few more thoughts:

~          Keeping your fuel tank at least half full can help to keep moisture from forming in the gas lines and freezing.

~          A blanket in the car

~          Ice Scraper…well just saying…also, a shovel may not be a bad idea.

~          Extra clothes, boots, gloves, hat. Be prepared for having to walk in winter conditions.

~          Bottled Water, dry food snacks. Do you have medications that you would need if  you were stranded?

Enjoy your holiday season!!

As the year comes to a close, I would like to wish you a Happy Holiday Season and please, be careful out there and BE PREPARED!

Is Your Mechanic “Pushy” or Informative?

I just read an article in a trade magazine that brought a question to my mind. The article was titled “Time For Service Advisors To Get Pushy”. I have worked in dealerships and independent repair shops and have seen “pushy” sales tactics that customers have been subjected to. I have also seen honest maintenance advice. The question I have is how do customers feel about advice on vehicle needs?   So…I would like some feedback as to what your thoughts are here.

I know it is not an easy thing to hear that your car is due for some maintenance. You take your vehicle in to have something repaired and then you hear “Your car is due for a coolant flush”, or it is time for a 60,000 mile service. $$$… Well, the truth is that yes, your car will last longer if it is maintained. I have seen a situation where a customer didn’t get the cooling system serviced and it became so rusted up that it could not be reversed. The freeze plugs were rusting from the inside. That particular vehicle owner wanted it fixed, after five complete power flushes, it was still not clean. Will this happen any time that a cooling service is not service per maintenance recommendations? No. Could it happen? Yes.

On the other side of the story you have service advisors that are paid on commission for what they sell.  Hmmm, does that create a situation where you might get sold things you don’t really need?  Kind of seems like that could happen.  I have never agreed with commission sales tactics for auto repair and service. What I hear from my customers is that they want to trust what their mechanic tells them. In some cases, the customer doesn’t really know a lot about their cars and how they work, so it seems that customer could be a very easy target for “pushy” sales tactics.

OK, back to the question, when you take your car in for service do you appreciate being told what your car needs, or does that come off as “pushy”?   I have heard customers say, “nobody ever explained it like that before” when I tell them what can happen if the maintenance is neglected. I know car repairs and maintenance are expensive, I also know that not doing it can be more expensive. Do car owners get taken advantage of in some cases? Yes they do.   How do you know if you are taken advantage of, or if you are being care of? Do you feel that when your mechanic tells you your car needs something that he is just trying to drive the bill up, or do you want to know how to keep your car safe and avoid costly repairs?

As a business owner, I will tell you that it can feel really uncomfortable to tell someone they need to spend some money now to prevent huge expenses later. The last thing I want is to have a customer feel they are being sold unnecessary services.   It sometimes feels that the customer is thinking “here we go, the sales pitch.” I guess I have some perspective of this, I had a dentist one time that every time I went in, I needed “more work”. I found a new dentist. Is that how it feels when you go to your mechanic?

So… feedback on this topic would be appreciated, do you want to know what your car needs, or do you just want the problem you came in for fixed and not hear about more expenses?   Can you feel the difference between someone telling you something is due on your car and someone that is selling you? There are not many cars that come through my shop that don’t need some type of maintenance done. Do you want to know? I feel that my customers should know. I also feel that they can take the information and make their own decisions. Why “get pushy”?

The Used Car Game

Are you thinking about buying a used car? The dreaded car shopping journey can be a frustrating and scary experience. I have been a used car dealer, and may venture into that world again. I have seen things that are scary to me, and I know cars. I recently visited a used car lot and was floored by the lack of knowledge the sales people had about the vehicles they were selling. I wondered if they had even driven the cars they are trying to sell to their customers. I test drove a car and knew more in a drive around the block than they knew. I was appalled, is it really all about money? Do they not even care that the cars they sell are unsafe?

Please, take the time and spend the money to have your purchase checked out by a professional mechanic before laying down the money for what may be unsafe, or a money-pit. I can do a Comprehensive Vehicle Inspection and tell you more about the car you are considering than the person selling it probably even knows.

There are honest car dealers out there. For example, when I sold cars here, and at my previous business, I ALWAYS checked each car out and did the needed repairs and maintenance needed to make those vehicles safe and not needing repairs or maintenance when leaving my lot. A majority of the cars I bought for resale were missing jacks and spare tires. Imagine buying your car and getting caught on the side of the road with now spare or jack. I know for a fact that many used car dealers do not even take the time to check at least that. I suspect some don’t even check the oil.

I am not saying that all car dealers practice business this way, but I do know that some do. I have had calls from customers who had just bought a car and then discovered they have huge repairs that need to be done. The cost of a “Buyer’s Inspection” by a qualified mechanic to help you avoid costly surprises is worth every penny.

Know what you are buying.

Are We Ready for Automated Driving?

General Motors has announced that in two years, they will introduce a Cadillac with “Super Cruise” capable of “semi-automated driving” including hands-off lane following.  Combining radar, ultrasonic sensors, onboard cameras, and GPS data, the car would be “capable of semi-automated driving including hands-off lane following, braking and speed control under certain conditions.”

Bloomberg has a very good article on it here. Wow!  The future is two years away!  Are we ready for that?

While vehicle manufactures including Honda Motor Company’s Acura luxury line and Hyundai Motor Company offer cruise control that adjusts to the speed of cars ahead and automatic braking, GM has said that this is a “new type of driving experience.”

It is coming, we have all heard about Google’s “Self-Driving Car”, video here, and Michigan Department of Transportation is working on “Intelligent highways” with what “will be the largest deployment of connected vehicle and highway technology in the world.” Several vehicle manufacturers are working on V2V tech, a communication system that is intended to reduce traffic congestion and accidents by allowing similarly-equipped vehicles to communicate direction of travel, location, and speed.

Well…guess my age is showing, I remember very clearly when car manufacturers broke into the “space-age” with “CCC”, Computer Command Control, where a computer actually controlled the fuel mixture in the carburetor.  Do you remember carburetors?  The techs at the dealership where I was working at that time all shared the belief that “computers do not belong in cars.”  Well, guess time has illustrated the humor in that!

I find this fascinating and think it is going to be so interesting to watch this all unfold.  Technology keeps moving forward.  The first point-contact resistor was invented in 1947, the first working silicone transistor was produced by Texas Instruments in 1954.  Cheaper radios, computers, calculators…fast forward…self-driving cars?  I often wonder if those physicists had any idea what the were unleashing back then.  Seems we are only limited to our imagination as to what can be done with electronics.

SO…getting a bit long-winded here. I guess the question is, is this a good thing?  On one hand, we have seen the massive amount of vehicle recalls out there, on the other hand we see the problems we are facing with inattentive driving.  Time will tell if this is the answer or not, but one thing is certain –  technology has changed, and continues to change, our world at a very rapid pace.  Good or bad?

I have to wonder…in 30 years will this seem as antiquated as “CCC”?



Feeling a Chill iIn the Air?

Winter is coming, whether we like it or not. With winter comes a different way of looking at driving and maintain your car. The last thing anybody needs during the upcoming holiday season is unexpected car repairs, or breakdowns in cold wintery conditions. While nobody has a crystal ball, there are things that can be done to help you get through the winter with as little discomfort as possible, at least with your automotive concerns. As always, when seasons change it is time to look at your vehicle maintenance schedule and mace sure everything is up to date.

Some key items are: Anti-freeze levels, tire condition, windshield wipers, washer fluid, battery condition, tune-up condition, brake operation. These are just a few of the essentials. At R&L Automotive, I can do a Comprehensive Vehicle Inspection and advise you of the condition of all the systems on your vehicle to reduce the chance of getting caught in the cold. I can advise you and you can make the decisions of what you want to do to ensure that your vehicle doesn’t let you down.

NOAA has further useful information on Winter Safety and Awareness

Preventative Maintenance

Why Preventive Maintenance

Vehicle manufacturers provide maintenance schedules to ensure your car will last longer, be more dependable and to help you avoid costly repairs and breakdowns that could leave you on the side of the road. If a vehicle is not maintained properly, components wear out prematurely and unnecessarily.

What’s in it for you?


  • Dependability
  • Your car stays “Happy””
  • reduces risk of a costly breakdown
  • Keeps you safe on the road
  • Doing your part for cleaner air
  • Better resale
  • Keeps warranty valid

Maintenance Schedules

When manufacturers create a maintenance schedule it is with the intention of giving you guidelines to ensure the longevity of your vehicle. Operations for various services, operations, and component replacements. If you follow these guidelines, you will get the most out of your car or truck.

The manufacturer creates detailed maintenance schedules outlining specific operations to be performed on various components and systems. This is done at different mileage intervals to ensure proper operation and prevent premature wear. The manufacturer also indicates what services must be done to maintain the factory warranty and extended warranty.

Timing Belts and Why Replacement Is Needed

What does a timing belt do?

Most cars today have timing belts which have evolved from timing chains.  They are called “Timing” belts because, like chains, they keep the camshafts in time with the pistons and crankshaft to keep the valves from hitting the pistons.  Manufacturers started using timing belts instead of timing chains because they are quieter, lighter and overall more efficient than chains.

Why should timing belts be replaced?

Timing belts, like any other belt, wear out.  When a belt wears, it can stretch and cause the camshaft(s) to jump time, or in the worst case, they can break.  Most engines are “interference engines” which means that if the belt breaks internal engine damage will occur.  This is caused by pistons hitting the valves and in many cases requires expensive engine repairs or even replacement.

Where is your timing belt?

Timing belts are under a cover, usually plastic, at the front of the engine.

Maintenance Schedules give replacement intervals

Automobile manufacturers typically give Maintenance Schedules that outline when timing belts should be replaced as well as many other preventative maintenance items.  I can tell you what the recommended replacement interval for your timing belt is if you do not know.  It is not something you want to put off, when a timing belt breaks, your engine stops.  Even if your car has a “free-running” engine, it will at a minimum have to be towed to a repair shop, and if it is an “interference engine” that is just the beginning of the costs.
Preventative Maintenance

The timing belt is one example of why you should do preventative maintenance and follow your manufacturers recommended maintenance schedule.  It is far less costly to maintain your vehicle than to forgo maintenance and incur high expense repairs.