Auto Expressions Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

"Why is my check engine light on?"


Your vehicle is equipped with a sophisticated On-Board Diagnostic (OBD) system. This is what has turned on your Check Engine light, or MIL (Malfunction Indicator Lamp). In some vehicles a transmission malfunction may also illuminate the Check Engine light.

We are familiar with these systems and well-equipped to repair, so in most cases we will be able to diagnose and correct problems quickly and accurately. However, there may be more than one problem present, even though only one “code” appears in your computer.

The OBD system performs a series of “self-tests” to determine whether all systems are working as designed. Once a failure occurs, many of these tests are temporarily turned off. This means once we repair the problem that caused the original code to set, we may discover other problems that could not be detected until the first problem was solved. This is especially likely if you have been driving with the Check Engine light on for more than a few days.

Some of the self-tests require certain specific conditions to occur before they can be run. Some, for example, may require that the engine not be started for at least eight hours since the last trip, and that when it is started, the outside temperature must be warmer than 15 degrees F. Others require that the fuel tank be between one-half and three-quarters full. Most require that the vehicle be driven for several minutes at a steady speed of more than 50mph. There are many other requirements for each self-test, and all must be met before those tests can be run. Additionally, some tests must be run more than once before they will register a failure code.

It would not be practical for us to have to keep your vehicle and drive it so extensively. That’s why we must rely on you to do your part. Each of the OBD self-tests will run eventually during normal driving. You will need to bring back your vehicle for further repairs if the MIL illuminates. When you pick up your car after it has been repaired, you will be given a list of the specific codes present in your computer prior to the most recent repair. That way, you can have the confidence that any future problems are not related to the same cause.


"What Is A Service Advisor?"

Service advisors, what are they? They can be your very best friends when it comes to avoiding costly repairs or inconvenient breakdowns on the road. A service advisor simply keeps you informed about your vehicle, letting you know what repairs are needed and when they’re needed. Working with them as your liaison between you and your vehicle can add many more serviceable and cost effective miles of enjoyable driving. What’s their sole purpose? To help you.

No one knows your car better than you, so don't ignore small warning signs. Communicate with your service advisor. Let them know about weird smells, sounds, drips, leaks, warning lights, unusual gauge readings and smoke. Don’t be embarrassed if they sound silly. Tell him about your car's acceleration, gas mileage, change in fluid levels, change in steering, handling and braking. Tell him when problems first became apparent and under what driving conditions. Consider writing down a list of symptoms or keeping a log of possible problems. Don’t rush the service advisor for an on-the-spot diagnosis. Your service advisor will inform you of the problem when the technician has had time to properly diagnose it.

All of this information will be appreciated by the technician and will save you a lot of money over the life of your vehicle.


"When Do I Have my Car’s Oil Changed?"

Changing your oil regularly is the single most important service you can do for your car, and it's one of the easiest. Oil is produced to conform to the needs of your car; it's the life of the engine. Dirty oil creates leaks, scored bearings and over consumption. You can never change it too much but we recommend every 3,000 miles.

Oil is the lifeblood of the engine. It not only lubricates the engine, it also cools, cleans and protects it. But mineral oil by itself can't do all of these jobs without some help. Nearly half a pint of various additives are added to the typical quart of mineral oil to improve the oil's ability to resist heat, friction, oxidation and contamination.
Short trip driving is especially hard on oil because the engine never warms up enough to boil off the moisture that accumulates inside the crankcase. The moisture comes from combustion gases that blow by the piston rings (the older the engine, the greater the amount of blow by). Most of these gases are removed by the Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) system. But in a cold engine much of the moisture condenses and ends up in the oil. Water reacts with oil to form sludge and acids, and the result is accelerated engine wear.

The only way to get rid of the accumulated moisture, acids and sludge is to change both oil and filter periodically (every 3 months or 3,000 miles is a typical service industry recommendation, though some vehicle manufacturers allow up to 7,500 miles between changes under ideal driving conditions).


"Why Should I Do Anything? My Car’s Running Fine."

Manufacturer's Recommendations
A regularly serviced vehicle will last 200,000, 300,000 and possibly 400,000 miles. A misfire can cause up to 50% less fuel mileage and a major increase in harmful emissions.
Improper tire inflation wears tires faster and wastes fuel because the engine has to labor harder to move the vehicle. Improper tire alignment can wear out your tires more quickly.
The more timely vehicle servicing you do, the more money you save in the long run.

The longer you wait until you service, the harder your car has to work. Cars suffer carbon build up, dirty fuel injectors, and dirty throttle bodies. City driving is especially hard on cars. Fuel filters get plugged causing the pump to labor harder. This creates a domino effect on everything from the spark plugs to the transmission. Waiting doesn't make sense.

Each manufacturer has compiled a list of recommended service intervals. For details, just look in your owner's manual. Each make and model has different recommendations, but here are some general guidelines:

Oil/filter change and safety inspections are recommended every 3,000 miles. Minor service is recommended every 15,000 miles. At a minimum, this consists of an oil/filter change, a safety check and fluid check. Major service is recommended every 30,000 miles. This can include changing the oil/filter, spark plugs, gear oil or transmission fluid, air and fuel filter, flushing some or all fluids and adjusting valves (unless hydraulic).


"How Come It Cost So Much?"

If you think a high-tech car is one that talks to you, think again. Most cars on the road today are high-tech, and it’s the computers on board that have increased your costs for automotive repair. In response, shops across the U.S. re-equipped their facilities to change the way they diagnose and repair today’s cars, which led to an overall increase in their cost of doing business.

To repair a vehicle, a technician cannot simply hook a car to a machine and receive a printout describing the problem, instead, the machine acts as a tool, giving outputs based on electrical signals. These outputs must be analyzed against the vehicle’s problematic "systems." Because the outputs are only cues, it can often take two, three or more hours to diagnose the problem.

Before 1980, technicians spent 20 percent of their time engaged in analyzing the cause or nature of the car problem, commonly call "diagnostics," and the rest of their time doing repairs. Today, repair jobs usually consist of 80 percent diagnostics and 20 percent repairs. This 180-degree change redefined the job of "auto mechanics," who today are titled "automotive technicians" because of the skills required to do the complex job.

When a customer takes their car in for repair, he or she is essentially asking the technician to "analyze my computers." Vehicles today are made up of multiple microprocessors that interlink all the systems under the hood and throughout the vehicle. Most cars on the road today contain more computer power than the Apollo spacecraft that landed on the moon.

To reduce the number of costly repair bills, we recommend that consumers follow a regular tune-up schedule and get an annual engine performance evaluation. Because today’s cars have "adaptive strategies," the computer system on board compensates for failing components by utilizing complicated computer "maps" to keep the vehicle running. By the time a consumer detects a problem, usually several problems exist and need attention. That’s why preventative car maintenance and a solid relationship with a repair shop are important.


"Where Should I Go For Service?"

Types of Facilities
Generally speaking, there are three different types of facilities where you will take your car to be serviced or repaired. Choosing which facility is right for you can be a difficult decision. We want to help you work through that decision to ensure that you get the highest quality service and convenience at a fair and reasonable cost.

Dealership Service Facilities
These facilities usually specialize on the one or two makes that they sell. Dealership facilities usually have specific diagnostic tools and machines. Dealership hours and locations can be inconvenient, and they can be a bit expensive. If your car has a warranty failure, this usually where you will take it.

Independent Service Facilities
Many of the owners of these shops have opened their own business after many years at a dealership or other vehicle service facility. Good independent shops generally have more diagnostic equipment than dealerships and are better diagnosticians, because they have to know about many kinds of vehicles. These are usually your best bet for new vehicle maintenance repairs and even repairs done under some extended service contracts that you may have purchased from your car dealer. Independent shops often specialize on certain makes and models or types of service.

National Chains
This type of shop is usually managed by a large corporation and is sometimes attached to retail outlets associated with the corporation. Most of these shops do not specialize in a make or model. Instead, they specialize in a vehicle repair function, e.g., mufflers, brakes and shocks.

       
 

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