Newsletter No 43
To be able to survive in this very information-intensive repair
industry, we need to complete a huge amount of advanced training
and research. Last week, I got a break from the daily routine and
attended a Volvo seminar. Whenever that happens, it seems to open
up a little processing power for reflection in my mind.
So, a few days ago, while driving to work in a circa 1965
“classic” car, I was suddenly struck by how simple that car
really is. I was also, at the same time, struck by how little
some things have really changed. Although these two statements
may seem contrary, they aren’t at all.
A modern car is anything but simple, true, but it has practically
everything you might find on a 1965 car. The real difference is
in somewhat superfluous details. Cars sensing your presence as
you approach, dashboard maps displaying position and routes, windows
moving with the touch of a button, throttles connected only
electronically to your accelerator foot. The common thread
here? Electronics! Most of the changes in our modern cars
have to do with “advances” in electronics technology and
just plain style.
Lately, I’ve started to wonder if we are getting a good value for
our money. For example, if we replace a part, we may need to hook
up to a server somewhere and reprogram an onboard computer to make it
work. It can now cost hundreds of dollars just to replace spark
plugs. Ever wonder why they are stretching out the change
interval on spark plugs? Hint: it’s not because the
plugs last longer. And, on some cars, you can no longer
disconnect your battery without great risk of destroying various
I often hear comments wondering why the heck some seemingly simple
repair operation is sooooooo expensive. Believe me, I am on your
side. I wish things were still designed to be simply
replaced if they fail. And, I wish it did not cost $5,000 to
$15,000 to buy a tool to communicate with just one type of car.
Technology is, inherently, neither a good nor a bad thing. This
has to be judged on a case-by-case basis, depending on the desired
outcome. The question of whether you, as a driver, are getting
“value” from all these technological advances is not easy
to answer. I am often dismayed by the decisions automotive
engineers make to use technology inappropriately. On the other
hand, I am sometimes pleasantly surprised by their innovation in using
I do think that as automotive consumers, we need to make a lot of noise
when we see particularly egregious examples of bad design. Some
examples of this include switches that won’t work after
replacement until a new program is downloaded to the computer, or
burying a commonly-replaced air conditioning component so deeply in the
dashboard that it requires complete dashboard removal to replace!
Another example is the crazy maintenance schedules and oil change
intervals (discussed under “Hot Sludge Someday”).
Yelling and screaming in the lobby of your local dealer is not likely
to get any real results. However, if you feel you need to let
someone know you are unhappy, by all means write to the
manufacturer. They may listen if enough people say they were very
unhappy when their car broke down and they had to pay for a tow to get
it repaired. You may even get reimbursed for a repair.
Also, most manufacturers have owners’ groups on the internet, and
these sites are a great source for owner information and a good
place to vent if you are not happy. These sites have been the
starting point for recalls and class-action lawsuits.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about gas prices lately.
become quite angry when I hear that high gas prices are our fault
because we’re addicted to oil. We do have a huge oil
problem, but we have very few reasonable alternatives to what we drive
(assume for the moment that we’re not talking about gas guzzlers
here). We don’t have any choices other than what the
us. Why wouldn’t we want our cars to get 40 miles to the
instead ofthat it thinks the catalytic converter has stopped
operating. Should we just assume the code is correct and replace
the catalytic converter? Or, should we look into why the computer
has recorded that information? More commonly, an oxygen sensor
upstream of the catalytic converter has failed and taken the catalytic
With good equipment and a good brain, it is usually far less expensive
to knuckle down and diagnose a problem instead of just
“trying” replacement parts to see if that will fix
it. Anyone who tells you differently just isn’t being
honest. We consider each car on an individual basis, and help you
make the most informed decisions for you and your car. Maybe
you’d rather replace a part based on our “this is the most
likely scenario” recommendation, just to avoid the hassle of
having to return if the “check engine” light
returned. Or, maybe you’d rather wait until a part actually
has a hard failure before you replace it. We are here to help you
make those tough repair decisions.
HOT SLUDGE SOMEDAY
Saab and Toyota owners, take note: if you own a late model car,
you probably have received the now infamous “Oil Sludge”
letter from Saab or the “Oil Gelling” letter from
Toyota. Be very careful if you decide to take your car in to the
dealer for an “assessment”. For example, the Saab
dealers are, last time we checked, charging $500 for an inspection,
which they will reimburse to you only if they decide your car qualifies
for a free engine rebuild.
We have had success in helping some of our customers work with Saab to
qualify their cars for the free rebuild. And, remember, we have
done several engine rebuilds already, and our prices are more
economical than the dealer’s.
I am pleased to introduce Nyia as the new office manager of the Foreign
Service. She is the new voice you’ll hear when you
call. Nyia is already up to speed on taking appointments and
estimate requests. If you have some technical questions, please
ask for Betsy, who is now service manager. The fact that you are
reading this newsletter shows how helpful Nyia has already been.
WHEELY, WHEELY NICE
The WR’s, Nokian’s true all-season tires, have proven that
they live up to all the hype about them last year. They do a
great job on the icy roads and you don’t have to change (and
store) tires and wheels every fall and spring. For those of you
who don’t remember, the Nokian WR’s are the first true
“all season” tires, meaning that they perform exceptionally
well in winter conditions. In Finland, where winter tires are
required by law, the WR’s are the only all-season tires to meet
their winter tire regulations.
Nokian also makes a less expensive line of tires (the i3 Series).
They are significantly less expensive than the WR’s. I am
very partial to the Nokian line of tires, and am pleased that we can
offer these two choices for you.
If you would like an estimate, please give us a call with your car
information and tire size and we’ll be happy to do a quick
estimate for you.