Gene’s Car Tips

Give Your Brakes a Break!

Does it feel like you just can’t catch a break sometimes? Your brakes might just feel the same way! They work hard for you. Your car is a heavy hunk of metal and when it is rolling down the road it takes a lot of friction to slow down all that momentum, especially when you need to stop quickly. If you don’t take care for your brakes, they can’t do their job. And it’s pretty important work! The well-being of you and your passengers is dependent upon the health and strength of your brakes.

How long has it been since your brakes have gotten a check-up? Here are some signs that they are going to need some attention:

  • Low brake pedal or brake fade (reduction of braking power)
  • Car pulls to one side during braking
  • Shimmy or pulsating feeling when you apply the brakes
  • Squeaking, squealing, or grinding sounds
  • Spongy or mushy feeling when you step on the brake
  • Brake pedal becomes hard to depress

If your brakes are showing any of these signs, it almost always means the brake pads and shoes need replacing.  It also means that you should bring your car to us for a brake inspection. This includes checking the brake linings, the drums and rotors, and the brake fluid. If you have waited too long, it may be more serious and we may have to turn or replace the rotors.

Don’t wait for your brakes to get to metal on metal! It takes much less time and money to repair them before your car is vibrating and groaning every time you pull up to a red light. It isn’t just embarrassing to attract attention at intersections for all the wrong reasons. Don’t forget. You’re transporting precious cargo. The safety of your friends and family is your most important job—so give your brakes a break!

What is the Actual Cost of an Oil Change These Days?

oil change

Oil changes are never “one type fits all cars” and the cost is never the cost advertised. How many times do you see an advertisement for an oil change?

  • $29 for conventional oil
  • $44.00 for semi-synthetic or synthetic blend (same oil)
  • $59.00 for full synthetic oil

Pretty straight forward, right? When was the last time you paid the price advertised? I would venture to say never. Here are the additional items that you will be charged:

  • Over 5 quarts ($6 to $12 per quart additional)
  • Specialty oil for many cars (especially European makes)
  • High mileage oils
  • Canister oil filters ($10 additional)
  • Hazard fee ($2- $4 additional)
  • Sales tax ($2 to $5 additional)

Always ask what the cost will be including all fees and taxes before you visit!  NEVER, EVER use oil in your car that is not recommended for it.

Do your best to be knowledgeable about what oil is recommended for your vehicle. Be informed by checking your owner’s manual; go online or open the hood and look at the oil fill cap. Feed it the fluids it needs, just as you feed your body the nutrition it needs to live a longer, heathier life.

Here is what I have observed as a professional automotive shop owner for 41 years; folks that have a local shop take care of them, will have cars that easily have 150,000 to 300,000 miles on them, because all the correct oils and fluids are being used. Folks that bounce around from shop to shop in order to get the cheapest oil change and do not use the recommended oil and fluids for their car, usually have cars that won’t make the 100,000-mile mark without major repairs.

An oil change is starting to become part of a mileage service, but again check your manual or better yet find one of the many automotive service professionals out there and get to know them, trust them and enjoy a long-lasting car.

Who wants a Blowout?

Talk about a rough relationship!

Roads are not easy on tires. Uneven asphalt. Potholes. Excessive heat. Roads take and take while tires give and give. If you go down that road far enough, a blowout is inevitable!

But you can take some preventative steps to move your tire-road status from “It’s Complicated” to “In a relationship.”

Under Pressure

First off, check that air pressure! If your car monitors individual tire pressure for you, you’re good. But, if not, do you have a tire gauge? No? Get a good quality tire gauge. Check the pressure monthly and check the number listed on the inside of your door, not the tire!

The structure of your tire needs air to hold itself together. Even a10% loss of tire pressure can eventually cause a blowout. If you’re regularly losing pressure, bring it in. We can let you know if it is a leak we can fix. If not, we can get you a great set of tires at an affordable price!

Rotation, Rotation, Rotation

Roads are purposely sloped to allow for drainage. This can cause uneven wear. You need to get your tires rotated every 5,000 to 6,000 miles.

We can maximize the life of your tires with this simple, affordable step. We will also make sure they are balanced and keep an eye on wheel alignment. If you are steering crooked down a straight road, give us a call! Getting a wheel alignment is much cheaper than a new set of tires!

George Washington Never Lies!

Checking tire wear costs just 25 cents. Insert a quarter into a tread groove with Washington’s head facing down. If you can’t see the top of his head, you are good-to-go. If you can see the all of George’s wig, it means you have less than 1/8” of tread left. This is the point at which you should consider replacing your tires. The more of Washington’s head you see, the more unsafe turning and braking become!

Remember, most tires don’t make it past the 50,000-mile mark.

It’s always good to visually inspect tires each month, especially before a long trip. If you notice low tread, tread wear on one edge, uneven wear (called cupping), or raised tread or sidewall, bring your car or truck on in!

The experts at Certified Automotive Specialists will make sure your tires—and everything from that keeps you running down the road—are in great shape. If you have questions or feel you have something we need to look at, set up your appointment online or give us a call us today at 253-854-6762!

Our Name Says It All, We Are Certified!

Finding a trusted, expert mechanic has been just as important as finding a reliable automobile since before Henry Ford started pumping out the Model T.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) began in 1902 as an advocate for those driving that zany new contraption, the automobile. It took them until 1975 to realize that members would benefit from pre-screening repair facilities.

We are proud of our AAA approval. It means that our hard work continues to pay off! Our shop has continually been judged as reliable, honest, fair, and clean with properly trained personnel. You can stop by and feel confident you are in good hands!

ASE Certified Technicians

We are also proud that our technicians are Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified. ASE, started in 1972, is a nonprofit formed to improve the repair and service of vehicles. ASE tests and certifies automotive professionals in all major technical areas of repair and service. 

When you see the ASE sign at a shop, it doesn’t mean the service and repair center is certified, it means the people working there are!

ASE certification tells you that the technicians, service advisors, and owners are skilled, knowledgeable, and professional. It means we have the experience and education to pass rigorous ASE testing.

There are nine tests, just for auto technicians! To retain certification, technicians are re-tested every five years. This ensures they remain up-to-date with evolving technology. Master Certified technicians have passed all nine tests.

When you see a “Blue Seal of Excellence” at a shop, it means that at least 75% of the service staff is certified. We take great pride in the hard work that our mechanics have put in to earn this designation for our shop.  

What Does This Mean to You?

Why is certification important? How do all those letters and certifications on our walls help you?

We know that what you care most about is a safe, reliable vehicle to transport you and your loved ones down the road of life. When you come to Certified Automotive Specialists, you can trust that we are certified to get you there, wherever you are going! Call us today at 253-854-6762 or set up your appointment online.

Engine Sludge Ain’t No Fun!

Sludge is a dark, dirty tar-like substance that mucks up your engine over time. It develops slowly as oil breaks down and collects around your car’s motor. Sludge slows the oil in your engine from lubricating all the moving parts that get your vehicle down the road. 

Back in the day, an attendant checked your oil every time you pulled up to a full-service gas station you called out: “fill ‘er up.”  Now your oil is only checked when you take it in for service

Owners’ manuals are stretching those service intervals out. Because of this, we are seeing more sludge buildup than we used to. Some vehicles are poorly designed and more sludge-y than others. When engine passages are smaller, oil bakes and reduces down to sticky sludge.

Are you thinking of purchasing a vehicle? We recommend typing “engine sludge” and the vehicle you are considering into your search engine to check if that vehicle is prone to sludge problems.

Build a Hedge Against Sludge

One of the most important hedges against sludge buildup is to have your oil and filter changed quarterly. We recommend that our clients get on a regular schedule. We love it when a car we have serviced makes it into the 200,000+ mile club!

Another way to reduce sludge is to do less stop-and-go driving. Going to the store a block away? Walk or take your bike! Short commutes are hard on your engine and contribute to buildup that makes your engine less efficient.

Sludge removers can also help, though some are better than others. Ask us to help you sort through the many options.

Professional help can be critical to performance. Cutting your own hair costs less, but it may require wearing a hat for a while. The same is true for your car except the cost could be expensive repair bills. Contact us online or call us at 253-854-6762 or set up your appointment today!

Does Your Car Have Trouble Getting Out of Bed in the Morning?

Do you ever have mornings when you’re sluggish and downright unhappy to start the day? We all have mornings like that, for sure. We can sip some coffee or promise ourselves to get more rest the next night. But your car is different. If it seems more ready to hit the snooze button than the road, you might want to have us take a look at it.

What Does the O2 sensor Do?

The engine control computer needs precise data about exhaust gasses to gauge fuel metering, delivery and timing. O2 sensors detect and offset changing levels of altitude, air temperature, engine temperature, barometric pressure, and engine load. One or more O2 sensors are mounted in the exhaust stream. Often one is placed near the exhaust manifold and another is farther down the system, beyond the catalytic converter.

Newer vehicles even have a heated element for the sensor to make up for when it’s cold outside!

After a while, O2 sensors tend to get mucked up with carbon and deposits of soot. Leaked silicone from lubricants or grease and oil from coolant can also leak into the exhaust system and cause trouble. When this happens, you get lower gas mileage, loss of power, black tailpipe smoke, rough idling, hesitation, stalling or poor starting. Unfortunately, if you don’t address these symptoms, you can damage the catalytic converter and other components. This might mean an expensive repair sooner, rather than later. 

Older sensors tended to last 30,00-50,00 miles, though newer ones can up to 100,000 miles before replacing them. Replacement is not a difficult job, though on some cars the sensor can be difficult to access and may require removing other parts. Occasionally, they have gone through so many heat-up/cool-down cycles that the threads seize, making removal more difficult.  

This is where you need a true professional! You can count on us for all of your automotive needs! We have been recognized four times in the last ten years by industry leader Motor Age as one of the top ten auto repair shops in the nation. In 2012, we were honored as the absolute best automotive repair shop in all of America!

Get out of Bed, Sleepyhead!

When you and your car are feeling sloth-like in the morning, have a cup of joe and call us at 253-854-6762 or set up your appointment online. Getting to bed earlier is on you. But we can make sure your car is ready to rise and shine every time you need it to!

Car Maintenance Tips Part 1

Car Talk

Belts – They Keep Us Moving

What causes failure in belts?  They do over 35 million revolutions a year, are exposed to heat, vibration and contamination.  They twist, and turn, bend and flex.  This produces heat that hardens the rubber that causes the belts to loosen and slip. The rubber then cracks and frays and the internal cords will become brittle and weak. This happens from the inside out so it isn’t visible. Car manufacturers recommend replacing belts every 36,000 miles.


What causes failure in hoses?  Tiny cracks develop in the rubber causing the hoses to split, blister and/or leak.  Contamination from oil and atmospheric ozone can accelerate the process.  Hoses deteriorate on the inside as much as the outside.  They can even look fine on the outside and be totally ruined on the inside.  Small cracks and pinhole leaks weaken hose fibers.  If you squeeze the hose near the clamps or connectors and the ends feel soft and mushy, the hose has been contaminated and needs replacing. Manufacturers recommend replacing hoses every 48,000 miles.

Anti-Aging For Your Car

We seem to be an “anti-aging” society.  Everywhere you look there is some commercial for an anti-aging herb or cream.  They all promise to keep us looking and feeling years younger. Many consumers are proving it is more than possible not only with themselves but their cars too!  They are keeping their cars going 200,000 miles and longer!  How?  By getting their vehicle’s serviced regularly.  Ask us how to keep your car’s youth!

Best Value or Just Cheap?

In today’s economy there are many businesses offering ‘cheap’ prices to get a consumer in the door.  To me, these businesses aren’t offering ‘value.’  Value is when you want to provide the best possible solution for your customers.  Now the best doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive, but it doesn’t always mean the cheapest either.  For example, when you have to replace a part on your vehicle, you want it to be a part that has good quality and a good warranty and you want that part to last you more than a month or two.  We promise value each and every time!

Buyer Beware

By now most of us have had a strange telephone call telling us our “extended auto warranty” is about to expire.  If you are on a no call list at home, they may have reached you on your mobile phone. Some have been very puzzled because they knew they didn’t have an extended warranty.  Some though, assumed it was a call from their dealership, incorrectly as it turned out. Consumer Reports states that whether a service plan is offered by a broker, car dealer, or manufacturer, they recommend skipping it. These ads promoting extended auto warranty may sound good but if they don’t deliver consumers’ have wasted their money.  Don’t become a victim. If you really want an extended warranty plan, read the fine print, do your research and don’t be pressured by a fast-talking salesperson.

Does Your Ride Have A Mind Of Its Own?

We get calls from consumers complaining that their car seems to have a mind of its own.  It wants to bounce and rock and drift and sway.  We know exactly what the problem is when we hear these complaints.  It is either your vehicle’s shocks or struts.  Usually they wear out slowly and you don’t notice that they are aging, then suddenly, it seems like you can’t keep your tires on the road! 

How Are Your Wiper Blades Holding Up?

Wiper blades are one of the most neglected components on vehicles today. Many blades are cracked, split, torn, brittle, worn or otherwise in obvious need of replacement. Others may look okay, but does a lousy job of wiping when put to the test. Ninety percent of all driving decisions are based on a clear unobstructed view of the road, which means good visibility is absolutely essential.  All wiper blade materials fall victim to environmental factors. Exposure to sunlight and ozone causes the rubber to age, even if the wipers aren’t used much. Then when the wipers are needed, they streak and chatter because they’ve taken a set and won’t follow the curvature of the windshield. It can be very annoying as well as dangerous. Wiper blades should be replaced every six months to a year so you are always prepared when you need them.

Checkups – They Keep Us Healthy


Our calendars are filled with important “checkups”.  Just for our health alone we have:

  • Doctor and dentist every 6 months
  • Yearly blood test
  • Vision and hearing test every year
  • Don’t forget your pets’ trips to the vet!


Our homes require checkups, too!

  • Smoke alarm batteries need to be changed every 6 months,
  • Fire extinguishers also need a 6-month check!
  • Clean the gutters!
  • Service the furnace/air conditioner systems and don’t forget to have the chimney cleaned!


Our vehicles also require a complete semi and/or annual physical checkup.

Many drivers think all that they need to do to keep their car healthy is change the oil.  While that is vitally important, that isn’t all your vehicle needs.  Not only does your car need the fluids and tires checked, it also needs a health scan and an analysis of the “class 2 communication systems” on board your car.

We offer a comprehensive inspection that includes a check of the exterior lighting, mirrors, flashers, interior doors, locks, seat belts, tilt wheel, windows, clock, spare tire/jack, trunk latch, air conditioning and blower motor, heater, defroster, battery and cables, starter, charging system, washer/wipers, power windows, warning lights, horn, complete cooling system performance test, brakes/rotors/calipers/master cylinder/brake lines/fluids/parking brake and engine condition and filters, fluid leaks, exhaust system, mounts, emission systems, transmission condition, steering and suspension, power steering, ball joints, bushings and of course, the tires!

All of these components need to be in peak performance to keep you safe on the road.  A reliable vehicle gives you peace of mind and prevents inconvenient breakdowns!


Certified Auto Specialists: the friendlier and more helpful auto shop! Feel free to call 626-963-0814 with any questions and we will be glad to help.

Hometown Service You Can Count On!