Gene’s Car Tips

Dipsticks – They are Disappearing

Dipsticks – They are Disappearing

I remember when we checked engine oil and transmission fluid by pulling the dipstick out, wiping it clean, putting it back in, and pulling it back out.  That simple process enabled us to check the fluid level.  We could tell many things by that dipstick, but today it isn’t that simple. Many new models don’t even come equipped with an engine oil or transmission dipstick!

Modern automobiles have become marvels of precision and durability over the years. Many transmissions have 5, 6, 7 or even 8 speeds and do not have a dipstick to allow checking or adding to the fluid level or inspecting the fluid condition, unless you have specialty tools to do so.  Some engines are following suit by removing the dipstick as well. These cars rely on the engine computer to check oil level and condition. Not sure about you, but that scares me.

Vehicles with dipstick-less engines and transmissions came about to keep people from adding incorrect fluid. A person or non-qualified shop would add or change the fluid using the incorrect type. The engine and/or transmission would fail prematurely because the less-expensive fluid did not lubricate properly, and failure was eminent. The consumer might put the fault on a poorly designed or defective car. This is happening more and more.

Some of these engines and transmissions are filled with what the manufacturer says is “long life” fluid, claiming it does not require changing for many miles. I recommend you find a trust worthy service center and use the manufacturer recommendations along with your service advisor recommendations to make the final decision on when to service your car.

With rules regulating the automotive manufacturers that mandate fuel mileage be increased every year, vehicles require very specific synthetic fluids. The cost of today’s fluids can be staggering, ranging from $6.00 to $26.00 per quart. Adding the wrong fluid will damage the internally lubricated parts over time.

Please do your homework when having any service performed; it can be devastating if the wrong fluid or incorrect fill procedure is performed.

Certified Auto Specialists wants to be your GO-TO place! Feel free to call 626-963-0814 with any questions and we will be glad to help.

Hometown Service You Can Count On!

The Role of the Check Engine Light

Car Talk

Your car has many computers that monitor your engine for the best performance, your transmission for proper shifting, your braking system for safe stopping, and it monitors many other devices to make sure they are working properly. If a system detects a problem, it needs to alert you, so you can bring the car in for service. This is the role of the check engine light.

The check engine light looks different from car to car.  It is usually a yellow or orange color. It will rarely be red. Most of the time it illuminates in the shape of an engine. If the check engine light comes on solid (not blinking), you can continue to drive the car until you have a chance to bring it in. This does not mean you should ignore it.

When the check engine light is on, the car defaults to a backup system that controls all the important systems. Driving around for a short time until you can set up an appointment is no problem, but continuing to drive more than 20 miles is a bad idea.

If the check engine light is blinking rhythmically, this indicates a serious problem! A computer system has had a major malfunction that will damage the catalytic converter. If you notice a blinking check engine light, you do not need to stop in the middle of the bridge and call a tow truck, but you do need to stop driving as soon as it is practical. Whether the check engine light is solid or blinking, it’s a good idea to drive gently.

The modern car is more complex than ever, and many folks believe a small hand-held code reader will tell you what’s wrong with the car. This is incorrect information. It is called a code reader for a reason; it reads the trouble code for the major systems only. A code reader will not tell you the complete story of the car’s condition.

Please don’t diagnose or replace parts based on a code reader device. The only way to correctly find all the issues with your car is to use a scanner. The scanner does what it says; it scans all the modules and systems of the car, instead of a select few that a code reader does. Most cars have 20 to 100 modules; a code reader is not set to read even half of those.

Quick story; we recently had a car come in with a catalytic converter code. It would be easy to recommend and replace the part. The cost was $1200.00. Testing and analysing the system with scan data revealed that an oxygen sensor (one of the four that are on this car) was the culprit. The cost was $400.00. We felt good doing a proper diagnosis and repair. The customer was also happy!

No one wants to pay for expensive testing, but it beats changing parts and losing that hard-earned cash we all want to spend elsewhere. Please use a shop that is well equipped and don’t rely on the old code reader any more.

Certified Auto Specialists wants to be your GO-TO place! Feel free to call 626-963-0814 with any questions and we will be glad to help.

Hometown Service You Can Count On!

Is Your Automotive Service and Repair Shop Certified?

Is Your Automotive Service and Repair Shop Certified?

In a recent study of several hundred people, the question was asked, “Does the auto shop you use have certified technicians?” The vast majority said they assumed that they were.

The shop you use may have certified people, but the reality is there is no mandatory certification required to own or operate an auto repair shop in California. To be an auto shop owner, you must have a state license issued by the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR), which any person can apply for and receive with no automotive experience at all.

To apply and receive an automotive repair dealer’s license (ARD), just show up to the Bureau of Auto Repair (BAR) with $200.00, a name for the company and a tax ID. Wala! You’re in the automotive repair business, no proof of insurance, no tools and no experience necessary.

This is one part of our industry that I would like to see reviewed. A professional that cuts hair or fingernails is required to be state certified, but a mechanic who works on tires, engines or brakes doesn’t need a single day of training or any tools to do so.

The only certification system we have is voluntary, with the exception of being a smog station. Smog technicians are licensed by the state and require continuing education.

Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) offers a series of tests that a technician can take to be certified in many different areas of the car. All tests are voluntary, not required. At my shop, I require all staff to be ASE certified and I know many other shops do as well. ASE tests are all written tests and it does not necessarily mean a person is competent to work on a car.

AAA Approved auto shops must have ASE certified technicians employed as well as have a minimum set of tools for the cars they work on. I recommend using an AAA approved shop due to their tough standards, and you have a voice through the arbitration system, should you have a concern with the service or repair.

In these uncertain times, saving a few dollars is always something to consider. But don’t get caught up with a low price that will cost you more later. Have a knowledgeable certified technician perform the service or repairs on your car; it will save you time and money in the long run. Before you agree to have any work performed, ask if the technician working on your car is certified. If you wonder sometimes why someone is lower in price than everyone else, there’s usually a reason.

Certified Auto Specialists wants to be your GO-TO place!

Hometown Service You Can Count On!

Hyundai Car Warranty May Be Illegal

Do you drive a Hyundai? If so, you’re probably familiar with one of their major selling points – the “America’s Best” warranty, which is one of the best in the industry. It offers drivers 10-year, 100,000 mile warranties, which is almost unheard of from any other make. However, there’s a catch. According to the fine print, to keep the warranty intact, Hyundai owners must use only Hyundai parts.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, this is illegal. Based on previous precedent and current law, a company can’t force consumers to only purchase and use their own proprietary products in order to keep a warranty intact without permission, or without offering those products free of charge. This stipulation is in place to prevent monopolizing the system. A company can’t directly tie a consumer to their products in this way without any wiggle room or prevent them from seeking auto care from a third party if they choose.

Hyundai Car Warranty May Be Illegal

The FTC has sent Hyundai a warning, along with several other companies who had similar policies. This is a disreputable practice that has only one goal – make the parent company more money by keeping repairs in house. There’s a reason we disapprove of this practice. In a free market, consumers need to be able to choose how they spend their money and which businesses they want to frequent. It’s not acceptable and is, in fact, illegal to offer a benefit like a warranty but only with the stipulation that your company is the only option.

Other companies who received a similar warning are ASUS, HTC, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony. Much like Hyundai, they also had practices that required consumers to use only their parts to maintain a warranty, as well as other stipulations. This sort of behavior is damaging to competitors and smaller third-party businesses that are trying to eke out a living in a highly competitive industry. For a healthy consumer economy to exist, people need to have access to options. Warrantees like these limit or completely eliminate those options.

If you have any questions about whether you can have your car looked at by an independent auto shop or have specific parts placed in your car without voiding your warranty, feel free to come see us. We’ll be able to advise you on how to protect yourself and your car’s warranty. We can be reached by phone at 626-541-2149 with questions or to schedule an appointment.

Are You Driving with Recalled Takata Airbags?

Takata airbags are a specific type of airbag manufactured by the Takata Corporation and they’ve been subject to recall for about ten years. However, millions of people are still driving around with these defective airbags in their car. Are you one of them?

To date, fifteen people have died from injuries sustained from these defective airbags and many more have been injured, sometimes after very minor collisions. Takata airbags have been known to explode, sending shrapnel at drivers and causing serious and sometimes deadly injuries. Millions of the airbags have been recalled, but only a small fraction of drivers have had theirs replaced. Even people who have been informed of the recall may not realize their car is affected.

Are You Driving with Recalled Takata Airbags?

These airbags are used in dozens of makes and models of car, including both economy and luxury makes. Among the brands affected are Toyota, Volkswagen, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Subaru, Lexus, Jeep, Jaguar, Honda, Acura, Ferrari, and many more. The years most frequently affected are 2006-2013, although cars made earlier or later may also contain the airbags. Some models from as early as 2001 or as late as 2016 may also be affected.

Is your car one of those subject to the Takata airbag recall? There’s a simple way to tell. Visit the website and input your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) into their recall look-up search. Also make sure to take a close look at all your mail before you toss out “junk” because there may be a recall notice that you’ve missed included in there somewhere.

Thirty-seven million vehicles have recalled airbags and only about 40% of drivers have actually heeded the recall and brought their car in for a replacement. Airbags are meant to be explosive in nature, expanding quickly to prevent injury to drivers and passengers. In these particular airbags, however, the chemicals causing that explosion are cheap and/or defective, releasing dangerous shrapnel. Please check to see if you need a replacement – it could be a matter of life and death. It’s so sad to hear stories of minor accidents that turned deadly because a recall warning wasn’t heeded.

An airbag replacement procedure is relatively simple for a professional but very dangerous for an inexperienced auto mechanic. Especially in the case of airbags with a known defect that could cause a serious explosion, you’re going to want to bring your car in to a reputable auto service center for replacement. Our technicians are highly trained and able to take all the necessary precautions to prevent damage to themselves and your car while replacing the airbag.

Please don’t leave a potential time bomb in your car because you’re not sure whether it’s part of the Takata recall. Do a quick check or reach out to us and we’ll be able to let you know whether your vehicle is affected. It’s always to better to be safe than sorry! You can reach us at 626-541-2149 with any questions.

How To Tell If The Transmission Is Slipping

Is your transmission slipping?First things first: what does it mean when someone says your transmission is slipping? A “slipping” transmission is what happens when you’re driving in one gear and suddenly it changes gears without you doing anything. You may notice strange noises from your engine, like “whining” or grinding. This can happen with either a manual or automatic transmission, so it’s a good thing to be aware of no matter what you drive.

The Importance of Routine Maintenance

Some of the common causes of transmission slips include worn holding devices, electronic control problems, lack of internal pressure, or bad transmission fluid level/condition. The vast majority of these causes can be avoided or eliminated by keeping up with your routine vehicle maintenance, but sometimes transmission problems can’t be helped.

The easiest way to tell if your transmission is slipping is to simply pay attention to your car. Make a mental note of how it drives normally so that you can quickly tell when something isn’t quite right. Take your car to an empty parking lot and shift gears while you drive so that you know what each one sounds like. When you’re driving normally, notice if your car’s handling changes without warning. Turn the music down and listen for changes in pitch or whining from the engine. If any of your gear shifts feel “clunky” or jerky, that’s another sign that your transmission is having problems.

If you do notice your transmission slipping, there’s no reason to panic – it doesn’t mean the car’s ruined, it just means you need to go in for maintenance right away. Waiting will only make the problem worse and cause issues that can’t be easily fixed. Procrastination is rarely the answer, and especially not in this case. If you catch the slippage in time, your car may just need a minor part replacement or a fluid change. Wait too long, though, and you could be looking at serious transmission repair or replacement.

We hope this answers your question! If you have any other questions about transmissions or other maintenance concerns, let us know.

Windshield Wipers Not Working?

Windshield Wipers Not Working?Your windshield wipers aren’t just helpful — they’re also essential for driving safety. Visibility is a must when you’re driving in good daytime whether, let alone at night or in inclement weather. Old wipers can leave smears that obscure your vision. Sometimes they barely work at all! You may also find that over time, your windshield wipers get “weaker” in their movement or fail to turn on at all. That can be very bad news during a downpour or a snow flurry.

So how do you fix it? First, you have to determine the problem. Here are a few common issues we see.

Buildup on the Blades

If you notice that your blades are smeary, streaky, or not clearing specific areas of your windshield, it could be because there’s snow or ice built up on them. Wipers are made for clearing away rain and some snow, but for heavy snow and ice, trying to use your wipers alone could actually damage them. Inconvenient as it is, you should always use a scraper and snow brush to clear any buildup on your windshield before attempting to use your wipers. You may also want to inspect them for ice, which can cause tears in the rubber or bent blades if you try to use them when they’re frozen. Turn on that defroster and get clearing!

Old, Torn, or Brittle Blades

Age and exposure do a number on your blades. After a while, they’re simply too beat up to do much good. When they get torn, they don’t make proper contact with your windshield, which is why you get that smeary, streaky mess. The solution to this one is simple: replace the blades.

Loose Parts

If you replaced your wiper blades but you notice that your wipers still aren’t making proper contact with the glass or they look shaky when they’re running, in may be because the mechanism itself is loose. A quick check should confirm whether any nuts or bolts need to be replaced or tightened, or whether something is bent.

Broken Motor

Wipers straight-up not working at all no matter what you do? There’s likely a problem with the parts that make up your wiper system. If you can’t even get the blades to move, it’s probably an issue with your motor. Either it gave out due to age or overuse, or the blades were working too hard (maybe trying to push too much heavy snow?) and the fuse burnt out. A fuse is an easier and more inexpensive fix than a full motor, so make sure to bring your car to an experienced auto technician so they can determine exactly what’s going on. We don’t recommend trying this fix yourself unless you have a lot of experience in auto repair.

Whatever the issue, having it fixed is a breeze when you bring it into your favorite independent auto shop. If your wiper blades aren’t working, come see us. You’ll be right as rain in no time. Plus, you’ll be able to get that rain off your windshield again!

Are Car Repairs Tax Deductible?

Are Car Repairs Tax Deductible?Do you use your car for business? Not commuting to work, but to actually perform business functions, such as deliveries or service calls? Then you’re probably already aware that you can deduct your typical vehicle expenses when you do your taxes. You may be wondering if there’s a car repair credit or deduction as well, however.

How Can You Deduct Car Repairs?

Even if you only use your vehicle for business part-time, you may still be able to find some savings during tax season. In order to figure out whether your vehicle is eligible for tax credit, you should ask yourself the following three questions:

  • Would my car be considered a business vehicle?
  • Which deduction method will I be using?
  • What are deductible repairs?

When we ask whether or not a car is a business vehicle, we’re only considering cars, trucks, and SUVs that are used for business. Equipment vehicles like fork lifts or “cars for hire” like taxis are not eligible. It’s also important to note that you can’t subsidize a “luxury” car used for business. Make a note of who, or what, officially owns the vehicle – employee, business, or business owner?

Next, you should understand the difference in deduction methods. Many people who use cars for business use the “standard mileage rate” for deductions (53.5 cents per mile in 2017), which is considered to include general wear and tear on the vehicle, including repairs. If you want to deduct repairs specifically, then you need to keep records of all individual expenses incurred for the vehicle while it was in business use, usually as an itemized list.

Which brings us to the next important factor: if you use your car for business, then keep good records! You can’t just guess when tax season comes around. You need the actual miles and/or expenses. You can actually buy a “vehicle expense log” that’s made exactly for this purpose. Keep it in your glove compartment and get into the habit of recording everything! This will also help you determine whether you’ll get a better deduction by using the standard mileage rate or filing individual expenses.

If you choose the standard mileage rate, then the only other deductions you can make are on registration fees and taxes, loan interest, and tolls or parking fees. When you keep an itemized list of actual vehicle expenses, however, you can also include gas and oil, licenses, tires, depreciation, insurance, maintenance and repairs, and a few other odds and ends.

Record everything if you’d like to deduct your car repairs during the next tax season. If you use your car for business, your repairs should be deductible as long as you file your actual car expenses. You can’t deduct repairs if you use standard mileage rate, so keep that in mind. If you have other questions, feel free to ask us here in the shop – we’re very familiar with the process!