The First Step Towards Change is Awareness
"The First Step Towards Change is Awareness" -Nathaniel Branden This can be applied in every aspect to our lives. When we educate ourselves or when we pause for a moment to take stock of our position, we often learn something that enlightens us. Let's apply that to vehicle repair shall we? Computers are not infallible, and most modern cars have upwards of 10 computers or modules! Internal engine parts are subject to significant heating and cooling cycles, friction, vibration, and chemical factors that will cause wear and tear. Your tires are constantly meeting different surfaces, potholes, rocks, all things that will wear on your rubber. Air filters become clogged with debris, oil filters collect residue that will clog them. Overtime the additives in your coolant break down and it loses the ability to cool adequately and protect against corrosion. Brake fluid will absorb contaminants over time causing improper brake pedal reactions. Manufacturers are under intense pressure and scrutiny to mass produce vehicles quickly and in quantities never seen before. As a result of quickly changing environmental policies, development has been streamlined to overlook 5 and 10 year implications of design with the expectations that customers will purchase new greener cars rather then maintain existing vehicles-in my opinion. Never before have I seen so many vehicles with service bulletins requiring shorter oil change intervals for high oil consumption! During the period of time you own your vehicle, you will inevitably experience several of the circumstances defined above. Understanding where you are in your maintenance cycle, what types of fluids are best for your car and what a Technical Service Bulletin is is vital to preventing yourself from being the unfortunate recipient of dishonest repair work. I truly wish I had the ability to guide you and give you a definitive outline for finding a trusted mechanic or shop! There is no hard fast set of check points that will guide you without fail to the right hands, but there are a few things to look for and think about. Your vehicle is your safe transport and having repairs done correctly will keep you, your family, and any number of other human beings (and their pets) safe, even wildlife will be impacted by poor mechanical work. When we bring vehicles in, we understand that we're literally taking your life into our hands. If we miss a bolt here or fail to verify a torque specification, it could impact you when you most need reliability. Taking this in mind, ask yourself "Does my shop or mechanic appear to care that I am a person" If you feel like you're just a dollar sign, walk away, your safety is worth so much more than that, you are not just a $ without a life. Make sure you're treated with respect, your questions are answered without deflection (by the technician scheduled to work on your car). If you feel like any of your questions have been deflected, then you may be talking to someone who is not actually qualified to do the repair you're asking. Ask what kind of updates you'll receive along the way. Often we hear about people who receive additional charges at the end of a repair they weren't expecting. We live in a technological age, there is no excuse for poor communication! You have the right to know what failures were experienced along the way and what caused them. If you have a prematurely worn component, why did it prematurely wear? Does something else need to be repaired, or a different fluid need to be used in order to prevent that from happening again? Sales people are everywhere and you should truly be wary of a long list of "suggested" repairs. When you receive an inspection there should be details, specifications, photos, videos, test results etc. Your mechanic or shop should be 100% willing to show you, on your car specifically, why this service is necessary or needed to prevent other damage or maintain your performance or safety. I began to type "there are of course a few exceptions" but I honestly could not think of one. Have you had someone recommend a cooling system service? Ask them to see the pH strip, or the coolant tester, review the results with your own eyes. Did someone say you needed a brake flush? Ask them to see the brake fluid test results. (Both of these fluids should be replaced at manufacturer scheduled intervals, so keep that in mind, even then however it is difficult to determine appropriate intervals because no generic table will be perfect for 20 similar cars with 20 individuals who work at different hours, drive in different traffic, and drive differently. Consider 7500 miles of stop and go traffic verses 7500 miles of driving on the highway, this will cause totally different wear and tear on a vehicle). Did you just change your transmission fluid last January, and you were advised to do it again? There is a bigger problem happening and it will not benefit you in the long run to reduce your intervals without understanding why. Ask your technician why this is happening, that recommendation is not normal! Talk to your technician, if they do not have time to talk to you, don't go back to them, they are not taking care of you appropriately. Especially for most European, and all newer cars (2012 and newer) pay attention to the type of diagnostic test equipment your shop or mechanic has. They should never troubleshoot a check engine light without a bi-directional scan tool. A bi-directional scan tool is one that allows your technician to communicate with the computer by sending and receiving data. A scan tool that you can read codes on does not have that ability. When your technician can communicate with the computer, they will have the ability to view freeze frame data to determine exactly what condition your sensors detected when your running conditions were out of specification(a trouble code was generated). If your technician has the ability to run pre-programmed tests the manufacturer designed, it gives them defined diagnostic data that can speed up the diagnostic process which will save you time and money in the long run. These tools give them the ability to view live data and literally see most things the computers see. With newer cars every single system is integrated into the next, so if one system is performing sub par, others are designed to step in to modify performance until the computer can no longer compensate, at that time, a trouble code will be generated. Without the appropriate diagnostic computer, defined data is impossible to retrieve, and a best guess is employed. Do you want a best guess when it comes to safety? If you have a newer vehicle, realistically 1996 and on, ask if your shop or mechanic has a "Bi-Directional Scan tool" If they do not, there is a risk in faulty troubleshooting. Now, please don't misunderstand me. You do not need a scan tool to determine if your battery is faulty, your alternator is undercharging, your starter is malfunctioning, or your tie rod end is failing. If you have a check engine light, or rough running condition however, I believe you are safer with someone who knows how to use a bi-directional scan tool. Lastly, expect to be treated like you're important, because you are, don't let anyone make you feel like your concerns are not important.