Auto Maintenance and Repair

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Guide to Auto Maintenance and Repair

We rely on our cars for commuting to work, going to school, running errands and getting us away when we need a vacation. That’s why it’s essential to keep your car in good repair. Find expert advice on everything from tires to transmissions so you can be confident your car will take you to your next destination.

  • Get Started: Read articles on a variety of auto repair topics.
  • Find: Find a top rated professional for your car’s needs.
  • Research: Dive into tips and videos on auto repair.
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Auto Repair Essentials

  • Often-Overlooked Aspects of Auto Maintenance

    Complete Maintenance

    Auto repair professionals often see drivers forget these aspects of car maintenance.

  • Replace or Maintain? Calculating the True Cost of Car Maintenance

    Your Budget

    Deciding if it's worth repairing an older vehicle can be surprisingly difficult.

  • Under the Hood

    Advice From Auto Experts

    Auto industry professionals share their tips for properly maintaining your car.

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AUTO REPAIR TIPS FROM LOCAL EXPERTS

Eduardo Porta

Fremont Foreign Auto

Ryan Cordes

European Sales & Service

Nana Sarkisian

Cal Auto Body

Paul Jancis

Driven Auto Care

Joel Ramos Diaz

American Canyon Collision Center

Alex Nunez

B & J Transmissions

Yann d’Argence

All Autos, Inc.

Chester Kniss

Delta Transmission

Manuel Garcia

George McGill’s Body Shop, Inc.

Mike Schwarzbart

Berkeley Motor Works

Josh Cherry

Big O Tires – Pleasanton

Richard Cordes

European Sales & Service

Ron McLeod

ASAP Automotive, Inc.

Dave Proffer

Empire Auto Repair & Smog

Thuan Le

T & T Auto Repair

Bill Faulconer

Renson Automotive, Inc.

Cliff Do

A1 Performance Auto Repair

Will Trbovich

Acurit Auto Repair

Walee Gon

Faxon Garage

Alex Rodriguez

A-Rod Auto Collision

Kacey Copeland

autoTech Blackhawk

Savi Singh

Auto Collision Experts

Tommy Ngai

Exclusive Auto Care and Auto Body

Eric Zugnoni

Antioch Napa Auto Care

Ray Kunz

Orinda Motors, Inc.

Dana Meyer

Dana Meyer Auto Care

Sergio Garcia

S G Auto Repair

Why You Shouldn’t Resurface Your Brake Rotors

Why You Shouldn’t Resurface Your Brake Rotors

FREMONT — Whether you drive an older or newer car, whether it’s a foreign or domestic model, there’s one thing you shouldn’t waste your money on: resurfacing your brake rotors. Resurfacing is a method for restoring and extending the operating lifespan of rotors that are still in reasonably good condition at the time of brake pad replacement. While this may sound like a good idea, it’s usually more trouble than it’s worth.

It’s not uncommon for problems to arise with resurfaced rotors. For example, within six months of having your brake pads replaced and the rotors resurfaced, you may start to have pulsation issues when coming to a stop. You shouldn’t have to deal with this kind of issue so soon after having your brake pads replaced.

Additionally, when it comes to car models from 2004 and earlier, new rotors are so inexpensive that it’s not worth the money to machine the old ones. That’s why, whether you drive a newer or older vehicle, it’s typically worthwhile to replace the rotors along with the pads—you’ll avoid headaches, stay safe on the road and maximize the lifespan of your brakes.

Caution for Buying a Used Mercedes-Benz

Caution for Buying a Used Mercedes-Benz

SANTA ROSA — If you’re interested in buying a used Mercedes-Benz, there’s something you should be aware of. Certain models from 2004 to 2008 are known to have a problem with their timing chains, caused by a defective balance shaft. Essentially, the balance shaft’s gears tend to wear out prematurely, which causes the timing chain to slip. Besides leading to engine problems, this defect can cause your car’s “check engine” light to come on, which is a problem if you need it to pass a smog check.

The cost to repair this issue can easily exceed $4,000—a substantial addition to any car’s price tag, much less a used one. So, when shopping for a used Mercedes-Benz, consider your options. One is to avoid models from the 2004 to 2008 range altogether. However, if you do find a car from this period that you like, you should ask the owner if they’ve addressed the balance shaft issue. If they say they have, ask for paperwork to verify the proper repairs were done.

What to do in the Event of an Auto Collision

What to do in the Event of an Auto Collision

COLMA — A car accident can be a jolting experience, even if it’s just a minor collision, which is why drivers sometimes forget what to do next. Besides confirming the safety of all passengers involved, there are a couple crucial steps to take following an accident.

After making sure all passengers are safe, the first thing you should do is obtain the other driver’s information. While writing down contact and insurance information is standard protocol, the prevalence of smartphones often makes it more efficient to simply take a picture of the other driver’s insurance card and license. Also, be sure to take a few photos of the damage sustained by each vehicle—these pictures can serve as documented evidence for any legal issues that come up in the future.

While photos can protect you legally, you also want to protect yourself physically. After taking photos and swapping information with the other driver, you need to determine if your own car is in operable condition before driving it. While a flat tire is an obvious indication that you need a tow truck, it’s also important to look underneath your vehicle to see if any liquid is leaking from the engine. If you see any leaking fluids, your car needs to be towed, not driven, to a repair shop.

The Importance of Manufacturer-Recommended Maintenance

The Importance of Manufacturer-Recommended Maintenance

MOUNTAIN VIEW — As vehicles get more expensive, it’s becoming more common for owners to keep their cars for longer periods of time. However, if you want your car to be reliable for the long term, you’ll need to be proactive about regular maintenance. As automotive technology continues to advance, today’s vehicles don’t just consist of mechanical parts—they also incorporate a lot of sophisticated computer technology. For this reason, it takes more than mere oil changes to address the full spectrum of your car’s maintenance needs.

The best way to ensure your car is being comprehensively maintained is to follow its manufacturer-recommended maintenance schedule. This schedule (which can be found in your owner’s manual) outlines a sequence of service appointments to be performed at specific mileage markers. For example, the 90,000-mile service typically includes replacement of the engine’s timing belt, spark plugs and vital fluids. These regularly scheduled appointments are designed to keep your vehicle running optimally for the long haul.

While these maintenance intervals are important, you should avoid add-on items and services that your vehicle’s manufacturer hasn’t recommended. In many cases, these will interfere with your car’s operation and end up costing you money. That’s why it’s crucial to take your car to a quality repair shop that’s familiar with your car’s maintenance needs.

Maintaining Your Car’s Headlights

Maintaining Your Car’s Headlights

AMERICAN CANYON — As the winter brings shorter days, it’s important to make sure your car’s headlights are in good operating condition. Over time, headlights can become foggy, which obscures the shine of the bulbs and reduces visibility while driving at night. This fogginess occurs as the plastic comprising the headlights becomes oxidized due to continued sunlight exposure. You might think of it as cataracts developing on your car’s “eyes.”

To prevent the safety risk posed by reduced visibility, look at your car’s headlights and see if they appear foggy. If they do, bring your car to a local automotive shop to have them repaired. After sanding off the oxidized layer, a technician will apply a UV clear coat protectant to shield your headlights from the effects of sunlight. Keep in mind that you’ll need to have your headlights recoated every few years, as sunlight will gradually erode this clear coat.

How to Check Your Transmission Fluid

How to Check Your Transmission Fluid

SAN JOSE — Most drivers know to keep an eye on their engine oil, but not everyone is so diligent about checking their transmission fluid. However, due to the important role a transmission plays in vehicle operation (as well as the substantial expense of repairing it), you should make a point of checking yours regularly.

Checking your transmission fluid involves the same steps as checking your engine oil: Just pull out the red dipstick (as opposed to the yellow one for engine oil) and inspect it. Most importantly, check the fluid’s integrity. Transmission fluid should have a clean, pink color and a semi-sweet aroma. If it looks dirty or smells burnt, you’re past due for a change, in which case you should schedule a service appointment with your auto technician as soon as possible.

In addition to independently checking your transmission fluid, have your transmission professionally serviced at regular intervals. Ideally, you should get a complete fluid and filter change every 40,000 miles. This simple step will add years to your transmission’s life and prevent costly damage.

Demystifying the “Check Engine” Light

Demystifying the “Check Engine” Light

The “check engine” light may be the most commonly known dashboard warning light, but it’s also the most misunderstood, and for good reason: Not only can any number of issues cause it to come on, it can also signify anything from a minor issue to a major emergency.

The most important thing to know about your “check engine” light is how to tell the difference between a minor concern and a major one. Fortunately, this is easy to do. If the light stays on steady, the issue isn’t an emergency; you can continue to drive your vehicle until you get a chance to bring it to a repair shop. If, on the other hand, the light is blinking, this indicates an immediate concern, whether a threat to safety or imminent engine damage. In this case, you need to pull over right away, turn off your vehicle and call for a tow to an auto repair facility.

Another aspect of the “check engine” light that confuses vehicle owners is the fact that a multitude of factors can cause it to come on—in some cases, several at once. That’s why it’s important to work with a professional auto technician who has the tools and problem-solving skills to get to the bottom of things. When multiple codes have been triggered, the instigating issue can be masked by others, which is why technicians often have to rely on instinct to uncover it. However, even after your technician returns your car, there’s always a chance the light may come on again. This is a common byproduct of the computer age of automotive, so don’t be discouraged or upset—just work with your technician to solve the issue as efficiently as possible.

Transmissions: To Flush or Not to Flush?

Transmissions: To Flush or Not to Flush?

ANTIOCH — Much like a “quick stop” oil change, a transmission flush provides a fast and affordable means of maintaining a vital vehicle component. However, upon closer inspection, this convenient service may not be as good an idea as it appears.

The problem with a transmission flush is it only addresses the fluid itself, which means components like the filter and gasket are ignored. While the fluid gets changed, any debris buildup inside the transmission case gets left behind, most of which becomes trapped in the filter. Over time, if the filter becomes plugged up with debris, it can result in a worse issue with the transmission than existed previously.

For this reason, instead of having your transmission flushed, take your vehicle to an auto technician for regular transmission service—preferably every 30,000 miles. The technician will remove and replace the pan gasket, filter, and fluid, which will keep your transmission running cleanly and smoothly.

What to Do After an Auto Collision

What to Do After an Auto Collision

SAN LORENZO — Following a minor collision, there are four steps you should take to ensure both physical safety and legal protection:

1. Remove any traffic obstructions. After safely pulling to the side of the road, turn off the ignition and turn on your hazard lights. If you have cones or flares, use them to warn oncoming traffic of the accident.

2. Confirm the safety of other drivers. If anyone is injured, call 911 immediately. Do not give emergency medical assistance unless you’re trained to do so. Never move an injured person unless they’re in danger.

3. Gather pertinent information. Get the names and phone numbers of drivers, witnesses, and injured persons. Also, secure the make, model and license plate number of every car involved. If possible, take a photo of the accident scene.

4. Remain calm and courteous. Remember, it’s never a good idea to accept a claim settlement at the scene of an accident; rather, you should contact your insurance agent and report the incident.

An Easy Way to Protect Your Fuel Pump

An Easy Way to Protect Your Fuel Pump

ALBANY — If you’re like most vehicle owners, you want to get the maximum longevity out of your car or truck. One of the best ways to promote your vehicle’s long-term health is to properly maintain its fuel pump. If you’re worried this will require some type of hands-on maintenance, relax: it requires far less effort than you’d expect.

Most vehicle owners have a tendency to wait until the last minute to refill their gas tanks, which means they regularly run their vehicles on low fuel, even to the point of being nearly empty. What few people realize, however, is that the fuel pump is lubricated and cooled by the fuel in the tank. That means continually running a vehicle while it’s low on fuel can lead to premature wear and even pump failure, which is a costly repair.

Luckily, you can avoid this problem by adopting a simple habit: keep at least a quarter tank of gas in your car at all times. This will ensure the fuel pump stays lubricated and help extend your car’s lifespan.

Maximizing Vehicle Performance with Proper Tire Pressure

Maximizing Vehicle Performance with Proper Tire Pressure

PLEASANTON — One of the simplest ways to maximize your vehicle’s performance is to check and maintain the air pressure in your tires. In addition to improving fuel economy, keeping your tires correctly inflated helps ensure even tread wear and better road safety. Checking your tire pressure is easy—all you have to do is unscrew the valve stem cap and use a tire pressure gauge to get a reading. Compare your gauge’s reading to the one recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer, which can be found on the driver’s side door jamb of your car or in your owner’s manual.

When inflating your tires at a gas station, be sure to use your own gauge for checking tire pressure, as gas station gauges aren’t always accurate. You can purchase a gauge at any auto parts supply store. Also, consider filling your tires with nitrogen rather than regular air. Since it’s a denser molecule that doesn’t contain or support moisture, nitrogen doesn’t fluctuate as much as air, which makes it better for gas mileage and tire lifespan.

The Benefits of Specialized Auto Care

The Benefits of Specialized Auto Care

SANTA ROSA — If you own a high-end imported car like a Porsche, Mercedes-Benz or BMW, you’ll want to make sure it gets the best care possible. A good way to do so is to take your car to a shop that specializes in servicing its particular make.

Since every vehicle make has its own unique idiosyncrasies, the in-depth knowledge of a specialist can prove invaluable when it comes to diagnosing problems and anticipating future needs. In addition to having the right training and certifications, a specialist possesses all the pertinent tools and technology, including manufacturer-specific diagnostic equipment that a general repair shop might not have.

The Other Reason Oil Changes Are Important

The Other Reason Oil Changes Are Important

FREMONT — Most vehicle owners know (or are at least somewhat aware) that engine oil changes are important, but few understand the actual extent of their importance. Many people think it’s just something you’re supposed to do, but they don’t really know why—which might explain why they don’t take it seriously. The reality is that oil change appointments are important, but their importance goes beyond the basics of the job.

First of all, oil changes are crucial for the healthy functioning of a vehicle’s engine. That’s because engines depend on oil to lubricate their many moving parts. Over time, engine oil gets dirty, which makes it less effective at its job. Furthermore, oil can start to run low if it’s not changed and refilled. Either of these scenarios can lead to severe engine damage.

Oil changes are also important because they double as safety check-ups for your vehicle. In addition to changing the oil, an oil change technician checks several aspects of the vehicle, including tire pressure, fluid levels, the functionality of the lights and the condition of the wiper blades.

At ASAP Automotive, we know firsthand the value of these safety inspections. Over the years, we’ve seen everything from broken axle boots to completely bald tires to near-empty brake fluid reservoirs, all of which represent major road safety hazards. That’s why engine performance isn’t the only reason you should stay on top of oil changes­­—they also help ensure the rest of your vehicle is in safe driving condition.

Check Engine Light Tips

Check Engine Light Tips

SANTA ROSA — Most drivers know to be concerned when their vehicle’s “check engine” light comes on, but few are aware of the potential complexity of the situation. Here are a few tips to help you better understand your “check engine” light:

1) While the purpose of a “check engine” light is to alert the driver of a problem sensed by the vehicle’s onboard computer system, there are several things that can cause it to come on, from an issue with the emissions system to something as simple as a loose gas cap. Though it’s a good idea to get an illuminated “check engine” light diagnosed, you may save yourself a trip to the mechanic by checking to see if your gas cap is screwed on tightly.

2) There’s a significant difference between when a “check engine” light is illuminated and when it’s flashing. When flashing, the light is warning of an imminent crisis that usually involves the catalytic converter, which is why it’s crucial to pull over and turn off the vehicle as soon as possible. Otherwise, you may end up with severe catalytic converter damage that requires expensive repairs.

3) Most people know an illuminated “check engine” light will cause a vehicle to fail a smog inspection, but many don’t realize that with modern vehicles, even past incidents can be an issue. Even if it’s off during the inspection, if your “check engine” light has been on recently, your vehicle’s computer memory will have stored the code, which will show up during the test. So, if you’re aware that your light was previously on, let the technician know about it upfront to avoid an unnecessary inspection fee.

Under the Hood: Getting to Know Your Vehicle

Under the Hood: Getting to Know Your Vehicle

MONTEREY — Even if you have no prior knowledge of auto maintenance, the first step to becoming acquainted with the inner workings of your vehicle is to simply lift the hood. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn by taking some time to examine the various fluids and filters found inside.

Fluids
To maintain ongoing functionality, your vehicle requires several different kinds of fluids. Some of the most important fluids include coolant (also known as antifreeze), which helps maintain the temperature of the water in the radiator and engine; transmission fluid, which lubricates the transmission’s moving parts; and engine oil, which lubricates the engine’s moving parts. Other important fluids to know are brake, power steering and windshield washer fluid. While all fluids should be replenished at regular service intervals, it’s also a good idea to routinely observe fluid levels on your own. While most fluids can be monitored by simply looking at the reservoir, engine oil and transmission fluid levels can be checked with yellow and red dipsticks, respectively.

Air filters
Your vehicle has a couple different air filters, including the engine air filter, which stops abrasive particles from entering the engine’s cylinders, and the cabin air filter, which helps ensure clean cabin air for the driver and passengers. Replacing either of these air filters is easy: Once you’ve located it and removed the protective casing, simply pull out the old filter and put a new one in its place. By replacing your vehicle’s air filters on a regular basis, you’ll be able to optimize air quality for both your engine and yourself.

To learn more about maintaining your vehicle’s fluids and filters, take a look at your vehicle owner’s manual.

Do-It-Yourself Vehicle Maintenance

Do-It-Yourself Vehicle Maintenance

CAMPBELL — Many aspects of auto maintenance are best left to a professional, but there are some things you can easily do yourself. Here are two do-it-yourself measures you can take to improve your driving experience:

Tire pressure maintenance
While regulating tire pressure is important for safety, performance and tire longevity, many drivers don’t know that it can also affect fuel economy. While vehicle manufacturers set recommended tire pressure at a minimum specification, raising the pressure slightly above this number can actually improve your car’s gas mileage.

To maintain the air pressure in your tires, you’ll need a tire pressure gauge. Pocket gauges are simple and inexpensive, but a digital gauge offers improved reading accuracy. After removing the valve cap, use the gauge to check the air pressure and make sure it’s at or slightly above the manufacturer recommendation (this can be found in your owner’s manual or on the inside of the driver’s side door).

Air filter replacement
An engine air filter helps keep the engine running clean by stopping abrasive airborne particles from entering the cylinders. In most cases, replacing an air filter is simply a matter of popping off the adhesive clips, pulling out the old filter and putting a new one in its place. Before replacing an air filter, determine whether replacement is necessary—even if the filter isn’t completely clean, it may still be functional for a while longer.

How to Tell if You Need New Brakes

How to Tell if You Need New Brakes

SUNNYVALE — Brakes are one of the most important components of any vehicle, which is why it’s vital to proactively maintain them. A crucial part of brake maintenance is being able to tell when they need to be replaced altogether.

To take the guesswork out of brake replacement, some modern cars are equipped with brake pad wear sensors. Mounted on the brake pad and routed through the caliper, this sensor warns drivers if the pad is becoming excessively worn and needs to be replaced, usually by triggering a warning light on the vehicle’s dash. However, not all vehicles are equipped with such warning devices, which is why you should have your brakes inspected on a routine basis.

If you notice your vehicle’s stopping time seems to be increasing or you have to press harder on the brake to come to a stop, these are good indicators that it’s time to get your brake pads changed. Ignoring these warning signs can result in potentially dangerous consequences, whereas promptly addressing brake issues will ensure better safety for yourself and others on the road.

Understanding Your Vehicle’s Air Filters

Understanding Your Vehicle’s Air Filters

ROHNERT PARK — You’re probably aware that your home’s furnace has a filter that keeps your indoor air relatively clean. But did you know there’s a similar situation in your car? In fact, your vehicle likely has not one but two types of air filters.

First, there’s the cabin filter. Just as a furnace filter provides clean air for the home’s inhabitants, a cabin filter provides clean air for the vehicle’s driver and passengers to breathe. Since the air on the roads and freeways can be saturated with smog and other noxious elements, a cabin filter is a valuable asset for driver and passenger health.

Cabin filters are typically located at the front of the vehicle interior (below the dashboard or behind the glove compartment) and can be removed and replaced as needed. However, cabin filters are often overlooked, even by auto repair shops, so when you bring your car in for service, make sure your technician takes the time to check out yours.

More well-known than the cabin filter is the engine air filter. Whereas a cabin filter provides clean air for the driver and passengers, the engine air filter ensures the engine is receiving clean air. Engines need air for combustion, but when an engine’s air filter is dirty, it can’t breathe properly, which causes it to burn more fuel. That’s why any engine maintenance service should always include an inspection of its air filter.

Fortunately, both of these vehicle air filters are fairly easy to check yourself—just consult your owner’s manual to find out how.

Maintaining Your Shocks

Maintaining Your Shocks

SAN FRANCISCO — A car’s tires may be “where the rubber meets the road,” but another important aspect of a vehicle’s traction is its shocks. Unfortunately, unlike tires, shocks tend to be overlooked, which is why the first time you typically hear about them is when they’re leaking, at which point they’re already well beyond their useful lifespan. However, due to the critical part they play in vehicle operation, it’s important to be proactive about inspection and replacement.

Most people think shocks are primarily there to make driving more comfortable, but in reality, they have a far more versatile function. For example, shocks’ role in controlling vehicle body movement also translates to safety and stability while driving, which is why worn-out shocks are actually a safety concern. Also, when shocks are no longer functioning properly, it often results in premature wear of other vehicle components and ultimately leads to expensive repair bills. So, to ensure comfort, safety and optimum performance, ask your mechanic to inspect your shocks on a recurrent basis.

How to Assess a Scratch on Your Vehicle

How to Assess a Scratch on Your Vehicle

SAN JOSE — If there’s a scratch on your vehicle’s body, you may assume the area will need to be repainted. However, this may not be the case. Vehicle body scratches often look similar, but their impact can vary substantially depending on how deep they are.

So, how can you tell whether a scratch requires repainting? It’s simple: run your fingernail over it. If you can feel a groove as your nail runs over the scratch, this means it has penetrated the paint and needs to be repainted. However, if you don’t feel any change in texture as your nail runs over the scratch, it likely hasn’t penetrated the paint. In this case, all you need to do is buff it out. You can do this yourself or take it to your local auto body shop. Within minutes, the scratch should be gone.

Rethinking DIY A/C Maintenance

Rethinking DIY A/C Maintenance

DANVILLE — If your car’s air conditioning system has stopped working, you may have considered fixing it yourself. All you need to do is add some more refrigerant, right? The truth is, A/C system maintenance is more complex than you might realize, and by attempting it on your own, you could create bigger problems.

First of all, most people don’t realize that refrigerant essentially lasts forever—it doesn’t go bad and it doesn’t dissipate over time. The only reason refrigerant would need to be recharged is if the A/C system has a leak that caused it to evaporate. Furthermore, a lack of refrigerant isn’t the only thing that can cause an A/C system to stop working. For example, the blower mechanism can fail, in which case recharging the refrigerant won’t solve the issue.

Another often-overlooked fact is that refrigerant isn’t the only thing a car’s A/C system needs to function properly—it also needs oil to lubricate the compressor. Do-it-yourselfers who attempt to recharge their refrigerant often forget this crucial ingredient, which can result in a compressor failure and a costly repair bill. This is just one example of how a cheap DIY fix can get expensive fast. So, unless you have prior experience, it’s best to leave A/C maintenance to a professional who’s properly equipped to perform the job.

Reviewing Your Auto Insurance Coverage Options

Reviewing Your Auto Insurance Coverage Options

SUNNYVALE — One mistake many vehicle owners make is overlooking their auto insurance coverage options. A lot of people just go with the most basic coverage, but there are several additional options that can benefit policy holders.

One worthwhile option is getting an OEM endorsement: a clause on your policy that ensures aftermarket parts won’t be used to repair your vehicle. This policy clause is key for newer and leased vehicles. For newer cars, OEM parts are recommended to maintain the vehicles’ long-term integrity, and leased vehicles are required to have OEM parts when they’re returned to the dealership.

It’s also wise to look at your policy’s deductible and make sure it’s an appropriate amount. In the event of a collision, a higher deductible will lead to higher out-of-pocket costs, whereas a lower deductible will lead to lower out-of-pocket costs. By considering the age and value of your vehicle, you can choose a deductible that makes sense and will minimize your out-of-pocket expenses.

Other auto insurance coverage options to consider are rental and towing coverage—two affordable add-ons that can benefit you in the event of a collision. Overall, by taking the time to review your options, you can make sure your policy is giving you the most value and benefit for your money.

The Importance of a Pre-Purchase Auto Body Inspection

The Importance of a Pre-Purchase Auto Body Inspection

REDWOOD CITY — You probably know that before buying a used vehicle, you should take it to a professional mechanic to have it checked out. However, an additional step you might not be aware of is having your potential purchase inspected by an auto body professional as well.

While a mechanic can assess the condition of a vehicle’s engine and important safety components, they won’t be looking for issues related to the body. Used vehicles frequently have hidden body issues, and it often takes the trained eye of an auto body professional to spot them. In some cases, a technician will pull back a suspicious-looking body panel to find hidden damage that wasn’t properly repaired. For example, it’s not unusual to find damaged panels that were “repaired” using Bondo®, which is essentially like putting a bandage on the problem.

While resources like CARFAX can be helpful for learning about a used vehicle’s history, the reality is that important details can (and often do) get missed. That’s why, if you want to ensure a wise purchase, you should bring the vehicle to a body shop as well as a mechanic for inspection.

An Unintended Consequence of Extended Oil Change Intervals

An Unintended Consequence of Extended Oil Change Intervals

ANTIOCH —As automotive technology continues to evolve, vehicle maintenance needs are changing as well. One of the biggest examples of this is oil change intervals. For many years, the standard oil change interval was 3,000 miles, but the past decade has seen this interval stretch to as many as 10,000 miles for newer vehicles. This is largely due to advancements in synthetic oil technology, as well as the integration of onboard monitoring that allows car owners to keep tabs on their oil levels and quality without opening the hood.

While vehicle owners will be happy to know they don’t need to change their oil as often, this extended interval brings an unintended consequence. In the past, more frequent oil changes meant that mechanics got to see their customers’ cars on a fairly frequent basis. With today’s longer intervals, a year or more may elapse between oil changes, which allows a lot of time for problems to develop undetected. These include problems that aren’t related to engine oil at all, such as issues related to brakes, tires and emissions.

If you drive a newer car, it’s wise to schedule regular checkups with your mechanic—ideally every six months. These routine inspections aren’t very expensive, and they can save you a lot of money by allowing your mechanic to catch and fix vehicle issues before they get costly.

5 Things to Look for in an Auto Repair Shop

5 Things to Look for in an Auto Repair Shop

 

ORINDA — With so many auto repair shops to choose from, it can be hard to find one that provides expert and reliable service. That’s why, when searching for the right shop, you should look for the following attributes:

1. A strong warranty
Besides providing more value for your investment, a robust warranty serves as a reflection of the shop’s confidence in its workmanship. Warranties can range from six months/6,000 miles to 24 months/24,000 miles, so be sure to ask about the specifics.

2. Quality parts
When it comes to vehicle repairs, quality parts offer a more reliable solution. Not all parts have to come directly from the dealer to be high-quality (although certain parts should). Ask the shop about its policy for using parts, whether aftermarket or OEM. Keep in mind that the quality of parts used on the repair can impact the warranty terms.

3. ASE certification
Most (if not all) of a shop’s technicians should be ASE Certified. Automotive work requires ongoing education and training, and ASE certification serves as assurance that the technicians are keeping up on theirs.

4. Good customer service
The shop’s office staff should make you feel comfortable and confident about bringing in your vehicle. They should listen to you and be forthcoming with information about your car and the diagnosis/repair. The best auto shops are happy to educate their customers about their vehicles and what’s needed.

5. Convenience
If you have to drop off your car at an auto repair shop, you’ll likely need a ride home or to work. Most quality shops provide transportation for their customers as needed, whether internally or by procuring a ridesharing service. Additionally, if you have a long-term repair, ask the shop if it can get you a discount on a rental car.

The Truth About Auto Repair Labor Rates

The Truth About Auto Repair Labor Rates

ALBANY — One of the first questions you might ask when looking for an auto shop is, “What’s your labor rate?” While this is good information to have, it’s far from the most important question you can ask, and it certainly shouldn’t be the determining factor in your decision. The truth is that a shop’s labor rate means almost nothing—it has little to do with the actual cost of the job and even less to do with the quality of the work.

Consider the following example. One mechanic tells you their labor rate is $200 an hour and gives an estimate of $200 for the job. Meanwhile, the mechanic down the street says their labor rate is $50 an hour and quotes the same total cost for the job. Now, who would you rather have work on your car: the mechanic who can do the job in an hour or the one who’s going to take four hours? What does this say about the latter mechanic’s proficiency?

This is why labor rate is far from the most important detail to consider when choosing an auto repair shop. A much more pertinent question is, “Can you fix my car?” Can the mechanic explain the problem and how they plan to solve it? Will they be able to accurately diagnose the issue? Will the repair be final or will you be back again because it wasn’t the right solution? These types of questions will give you a more accurate insight into which auto repair shop will provide the best value for your money.

2 Often-Overlooked Aspects of Vehicle Care

2 Often-Overlooked Aspects of Vehicle Care

PINOLE — When it comes to maintaining your vehicle, make sure you don’t overlook lesser-known yet equally important services. Here are two such services to remember:

Brake fluid check
Brake fluid absorbs moisture from the atmosphere, and over time, water can build up inside the brake lines. This buildup can cause lots of problems, including corrosion of the wheel cylinders and brake calipers, which can eventually result in a fluid leak. To prevent this, have your brake fluid inspected every time you get an oil change.

Transmission service
Most vehicle owners are diligent about getting regular oil changes, but a similar maintenance step that sometimes gets overlooked is transmission service. I recommend having your vehicle’s transmission serviced every 65,000 to 70,000 miles. There are a couple of different types of transmission services. Sometimes all you need is a fluid flush and refill, whereas other times a full transmission service is required, which includes filter and gasket replacement. Ask your auto technician which service is right for you.

Diamond Certified Experts: Auto Insurance Advice From Auto Body Experts

Nobody wants to pay for auto insurance, but it’s a necessary protective cushion when it comes to dealing with the consequences of an unforeseen accident. Since auto insurance is something you must have, it makes sense to assess your policy and make the most of your investment. Also, when working with an auto insurance provider, it’s helpful to collaborate with someone who can show you how to navigate these sometimes-confusing waters. Read the following insurance-related tips from five Diamond Certified Experts in the auto body industry.

1. Make sure your deductible makes sense.

While it’s easy to gloss over the deductible amount on your auto insurance policy, by doing so, you may end up spending more money than necessary.

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