10 Facts about Car Service Repair

As great as it is to have someone to talk with, your car should be relatively quiet when it runs, but if it's not, you will want to take it to the nearest car repair service shop for some diagnostic work. But before you head out, there are some things you should know about car service repair so you're not surprised by the results.

All car service repair shops are not created equal. Today's cars are run by high-tech computers that require quite a bit of training and finesse to understand. Check with AAA (www.aaa.com) to find out what approved auto repair shops are in your area. You don't have to be a member to access the free list of shops that have undergone an inspection by AAA and deemed to provide high quality service at reasonable prices. You can also ask friends, relatives and others for what shops they use and recommend.

Beware car kiosks that "read" the car's computer and give you a "code" to take to an automotive parts store. The premise is that the "code" will diagnose what is wrong with the car and allow you to go to a retail automotive supply store, give them the code and purchase the correct part. Car problems are rarely that easy to diagnose. There are myriad stories of drivers who've relied on the kiosks and still had problems with their cars.

Expect car technicians to use a machine that will give them codes to help diagnose your car's service problem. However, the difference between a technician using one of these machines versus a driver using a self-service kiosk is great. The technician will use the code to begin to diagnose the car's problem-much as a physician would use blood tests or x-rays to begin diagnosis-but they do not consider the codes the ultimate diagnosis.

Don't be surprised if the technician points out that your car has a recall notice for a part. When cars are brought into shops for service, computer alerts for recalls are a routine part of the service.

Stick to a routine maintenance schedule. Keeping tires inflated, moving components properly lubricated and ignition and emission systems operating properly will extend the life of your vehicle and lessen the need for car repair.

Batteries are adversely affected by heat as cold. If your battery dies, think twice before you "do it yourself." It's easy to buy the incorrect battery for your car, which wastes money and could damage your car. Rely on a car repair service for this replacement.

Ask the technician at the car repair service shop to check the hoses of your car. Extreme heat can cause hoses to dry out over time and leak, leaving you stranded. Technicians will gladly check your hoses for deterioration.

Technicians will give you a list of repairs that need to be done immediately and a list of those that can wait a few months. If they don't offer that list, ask.

Remember that antifreeze/coolant levels are very important, especially in extreme hot or cold weather. The technician will check to ensure that the proper 50/50 mixture of water and coolant is in your system.

Talk to the technician at your car repair service shop about the driving conditions you expect to encounter. If you are driving in very hot temperatures or towing a heavy trailer, you may want to take preventative measures such as switching to motor oil with higher viscosity.

Top 10 Car Maintenance Mistakes

Compared to the family trucksters of a generation ago, modern cars require about as much maintenance as a toaster. This is a real liberation from the oil, lube and tune merry-go-round that ruled not so long ago.

Curiously, many people haven't adjusted their thinking to keep pace with new car maintenance schedules. The preoccupied still run their daily drivers without service until the dash warning lights burn out, while over-achievers fret about running synthetic oil more than 2,500 miles without a change.

Although maintenance intervals are now more widely spaced, even the newest cars require scheduled service to live long, productive lives. Whether yours is the latest model or you paid it off years ago, the trick is giving your car the maintenance it was designed to receive. 

Surprisingly, the answer to what maintenance is required is hiding no farther away than the glove box. Every car is supplied with a maintenance schedule — in the owner's manual or in a separate maintenance log book — that details that vehicle's needs. A few minutes assimilating these requirements will help you avoid the following common car-maintenance pitfalls.

Proper Tire Inflation and Rotation

Tires leak naturally and need the occasional check. Figuratively speaking, underinflated tires suck up gasoline. Under- or overinflated tires wear out sooner, and deliver the same emergency maneuver handling as marshmallows. You probably aren't going to check tire pressures monthly, but how about twice a year?

Furthermore, front and rear tires wear differently and should be rotated to even that wear. Your owner's manual will have a recommendation on both pressure and rotation periods.

Wiper Tales

Here's a news flash: It's much easier to avoid hitting things you can see. Simple as it is, that's the concept behind replacing your windshield wipers before they fossilize into noisy uselessness.

Fall is the ideal wiper replacement time: after the blade-baking summer and before the fall and winter nastiness. Depending on location, wiper replacement may be an annual affair in the Southwest to a biannual chore in northern climes.

Tune-Up Anachronism

There are no more "tune-ups." Valves no longer need adjusting, ignition timing is computer controlled and there are no carburetors to fiddle with. About all that's left of the old tune-up drill are the spark plugs. These are often good for 100,000 miles, so don't change parts just to change parts. Instead, save up for those big 60,000- and 120,000-mile services when the timing belt, spark plug wires and coolant are due for replacement.

Octane Overdose

"If some is good, more is better" thinking does not apply to octane. Here the rule is to supply whatever octane the engine is rated for and call it done. Higher-than-required octane does not yield more power or mileage, only oil company profits.

Some engines are rated for premium 91 octane fuel but can burn 87 octane regular, thanks to the magic of knock sensors. In that case, run regular gas if puttering around surface streets, and premium fuel if full-throttle driving is part of your daily repertoire.

Oil Change Timing

Oil changes every 3,000 miles used to be required jobs, just like cleaning the accumulated fuzz from record player needles or defrosting freezers. Today, advances in engine design and lubricants make oil changes something to be done when the schedule calls for it, not when granddad says it's time. Some cars call for 5,000-mile change intervals, some up to 15,000-mile stints. Others have a variable timer. Follow the schedule and use the oil called for by the manufacturer.

Tired Tires

Tires wear out, but they also time out. The tire industry says tires are toast after five years, but they're selling tires. It all depends on heat, sunlight and ozone conditions. There's little argument from any pundits that after seven years those black donuts are dried and better off holding down a farmer's tarp than carrying your family around. If you're not sure how old your tires are, a tire shop can read the date code stamped into the sidewall.

Dirty Air Filter

Semi-clogged air filters hurt fuel economy for the same reason you don't like to run with a potato in your mouth. The question is, when is your filter dirty? Under a Norman Rockwell schedule of small-town errand running and church duty, an air filter might not see much grit. But grimy city surface streets or just looking at a dirt road on a map are often enough to overwhelm air filters. This one is about conditions. If you go near dirt, the air filter may need changing twice as often as the schedule calls for.

Ignoring Your Brakes

Note to the Wandering Unconscious: If you notice anything different about your brakes — sound, feel or response — they are telling you to visit a mechanic. Now.

Tighten Your Gas Cap

Is the Check Engine light on? Then make sure the gas cap is on tightly before calling the dealer. No joke, this is one of the most common ways of setting off your car's diagnostic system, since a loose gas cap defeats the fuel system's venting arrangement.

The Garage Is for Parking

Let's review. Your house is your most valuable investment. Your car is likely your second most valuable investment. If you're paying all that money, then why are you storing empty cardboard boxes, broken skateboards and plastic holiday wreaths in the garage? Pitch that junk and get the car in the garage!

India's 20 BEST selling cars

In the time of slowdown, car makers are bringing in their best product to pep up sales. Ford introduced EcoSport, Honda debuted diesel engine in a new car, Amaze, and Hyundai launched Grand i10, a formidable competitor to Maruti Swift.

The only way to realise the changing customer preference is to look at the sales figure. Let’s look at the top 20 best selling cars in India in October and see if the new cars have managed to catch the fancy of buyers.

Eeco

Manufacturer: Maruti Suzuki

Rank: 20

Price (ex-showroom Mumbai): Rs 337,000 - Rs 446,000

Eeco is a minivan that Maruti launched in 2010. The car comes with 5- and 7-seater option. Maruti managed to sell 3,239 units of the car in October.

Car brands with best, worst image with public

Car brands Subaru and Tesla have risen considerably in the esteem of potential car buyers, according to Consumer Reports latest Car-Brand Perception Survey.

Subaru and Tesla broke into the top 10 just this year. Tesla's fifth and Subaru is sixth.

Toyota, Ford, Honda and Chevrolet are the four brands with the most-favorable public perception, the survey shows.

And people disdain some very high-end machinery, such as Land Rover and Rolls-Royce.

Perception isn't necessarily reality. The scores are unrelated to CR's surveys of reliability or the publication's road and track tests, nor are they connected to government and private crash-test scores.

Thus, a well-regarded car brand actually could be selling bad vehicles, and a poorly regarded brand might sell some of the best. Eventually the reality would change perceptions, but it could take a long time, CR says.

The telephone survey of 1,578 random adults in households that owned cars was conducted Dec. 6 through 15 last year.

People were asked to name brands, then were questioned about those brands. They were not read a list of auto brands.

As part of the process, people were asked to name the brands that they thought were stellar in seven categories: quality, safety, performance, value, fuel economy, design/style, technology/innovation.

The overall score is a blend of how each brand did and how important each of the categories is to people.

"The key word here is 'perception,' as influenced by word-of-mouth, marketing, and hands-on experience," CR Deputy Editor Jeff Bartlett says.

In the end, most people make actual buying choices based, not on techno-whiz or glitz and hype, but on "wallet issues," Bartlett says, such as value and fuel economy.

He says it's clear to most shoppers that "you might think a particular super-model is hot, but she's not wife material."

In his view, the best match between perception and reality is Toyota, which is No.1 on the perception survey, and also scores high on other surveys that measure quality, fuel-economy and other attributes people say they value most.

It's also a mass-market brand with many models "so hits the hot buttons on a lot of people," he says. Niche brands that target small audiences might have a tougher time earning public esteem, he says.

A mis-match, Barlett says, is Ford.

It's No. 2 behind Toyota on the overall rankings, and No. 3 in separate rankings of quality perception. But "Ford has been very inconsistent. A lot of their new models have been less than stellar," he says.

The redesigned 2013 Escape SUV, for instance, went on sale June 2012 and was recalled seven times by late November 2013, five of those involving fire risks in models with the 1.6-liter engine.

Perception often is tied to brand loyalty -- people who buy another and another -- and that's important to car companies' profits.

"The important takeaway is, as a consumer, don't make an assumption. Just because your daddy's car was great, that doesn't mean it still is and you should buy one," Bartlett says.

For automakers, the CR perception scores are a report card on marketing.

Electric-car maker Tesla, for example, has been hit by sensational reports about several fires. But CEO Elon Musk quickly has gotten the drivers of the cars on record saying the cars weren't at fault and indeed, saved them from worse harm.

Tesla cars also have good crash-test scores, which Musk has heavily publicized.

In the latest survey, Chevrolet booted Ferrari out of top spot in the performance perception category. That could be because "the new Corvette's been (advertised) everywhere," Bartlett says, while Ferrari advertising and marketing are much less aggressive.

Car brands at the bottom of the list aren't doomed.

Both of Jaguar Land Rover's brands are tail-enders. Land Rover, maker of high-dollar SUVs, is at the bottom. Jaguar is only two spots higher.

But sales of both are growing fast, and more buyers are repeaters than used to be the case.

"We're a niche luxury brand so we're not necessarily going to score highly in some of the categorizes with the general public," says JLR spokesman Stuart Schorr. "A large luxury SUV isn't going to be appropriate, for instance, for people concerned about fuel economy or value."

"A number of high-end brands are at the bottom, so it could be a reflection on public awareness" of those brands, he says.

Of the 39 brands tallied in the 2014 Consumer Reports Car-Brand Perception Survey, here are the brands with the best and worst scores:

Best :

1) Toyota

2) Ford

3) Honda

4) Chevrolet

5) Tesla

6) Subaru

7) Mercedes-Benz

8) Volvo

9) Cadillac

10) BMW

Worst:

30) Jeep

31) Infiniti

32) Mitsubishi

33) Mini

34) Ram

35) Scion

36) Rolls-Royce

37) Jaguar

38) Maserati

39) Land Rover

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