Sunday, December 11, 2011

Winter

With winter finally here, it is time to talk about getting the car ready for the withering weather conditions. Dead batteries are usually the biggest culprit on cold days. This happens because as a battery gets cold, the chemical reaction that makes a battery work slows down as the temperature gets colder. There are several ways to prevent this from happening.

  • One is to make sure the car is parked in a garage on colder days.
  • Take the battery out of the car and store it inside when you know the vehicle is going to be sitting for a while.
  • If none of those options are very realistic for you for whatever reason, there are warming pads designed to go around the battery to keep it warm.

With all of these options being available, one of the best ways to prevent such a problem is to be proactive. Before the cold weather starts to set in it is a good idea to get your car into a repair facility for a battery check. This would also be a good time for a maintenance check.


A thorough maintenance check should include a good look at all of the cars components to make sure everything is ready for winter. Some of the more important things to have checked would be the tires, as well as the coolant. Coolant is a very vital fluid in your vehicle for several different reasons. Coolant not only helps to transfer unwanted heat away from the engine while it is running, it also has additives to help prevent corrosion in your engine as well as additives to lower the freezing point and raise the boiling point. With all of the important things that coolant does you can see why it is an important fluid to keep in proper working condition. Another important component of your car that needs to be in good working order for the winter would be your tires. Having enough traction, and keeping the air pressures at the proper level are very important. There has been some discussion the past couple of years as to if the best tread should be on the front or the rear of the vehicle. The biggest discussion is on front wheel drive vehicles. Some say that you want the best tread on the front of the vehicle, while others say to put the best tread on the rear. Putting the best tread on the front is done because that is where your drive wheels are, putting the best on the rear is done because that is where there is less weight. In this particular situation I find it best to consider the shops advice. Discuss with them the driving conditions you find yourself in the most. Hilly conditions, icy roads or other things that might be particular to you and go with what makes you the most comfortable. After all you are the one driving the vehicle.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Information to Provide

So far we have been talking about the components that make up a well run automotive repair facility. We have also talked about what signs you should be looking for when you are a new customer. From what kind of questions you should be asking the service writer, to what you should be looking for in the automotive technicians. The one thing that we have not been talking about is the what kind of information that you should be walking into the shop with. The more information that you give the service writer the better the chances are that the technician will be able to find your problem faster. The sooner the problem is found the less money will be tied up in diagnostic testing and that means more money in your pocket. So here is some information that you can go into the shop with that can help everyone involved. Here are only a few of the bits of information that a technician finds to be very helpful.
  1. How long has the problem been occurring?
  • Days?
  • Weeks?
  • Months?
  1. What are the conditions when the problem occurs?
  • Is speed a factor?
  • When turning?
  • Going over bumps?
  • When the brakes are applied?
  1. How often does the problem occur?
  • Every morning?
  • After the car has time to warm up?
  • After the car has time to sit and cool down?
  • All the time?
This is a very short list of some of the things that an automotive technician would find helpful when trying to diagnose the problem that your car is having. When you first start to notice the problem with the car, pay very close attention to what is happening when the car is acting up. And when you go into the repair facility, be as specific as possible. The more accurate information that you give the service writer, the better the chances that the technician can duplicate the problem in a timely manner. One of my other favorite things to do when the customer has a problem that I think would be a little tougher to find is to send one of my technicians for a ride with the customer. This helps to insure that we are all looking for the same problem. So if you think that your problem might be a little harder to find, offer to go for a ride.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New Position

Wow, I am excited to be getting back to the writing of my blog. I have been promoted to a great new position at work. Back in the middle of August I was given the position of store manager of my shop. While I am very excited for the change and new responsibility, it has cost me some personal time. Just one of the things that happens when you take on new responsibilities. Between the long hours that have been required, and trying to learn all the ins and outs of this new position, I have not had a lot of time to do much else. Now that I have learned what my new job title entails, as well as how to manage my time better, I will be getting back to the writing of my blog. I apologize for the long delay between my posts. I am looking forward to sharing my ideas, as well as hearing some of yours. I will keep this post short so we can get back to finding a reputable repair facility. Thanks for understanding, and happy reading.  

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Automotive Technician

While in the last post, I did say not to pick a shop solely on a technician; Yes I did mean every part of that. However I do not want any of you thinking that the automotive technician is not an important part of the dynamic of the shop. While this may sound a bit like a contradiction, I assure you that it is not. I am not saying to pick an automotive repair facility based on one individual technician. What I am saying is to pick a repair shop based on the quality of the technician that the management chooses to employ. You would not want just anyone working on your car. There is nothing wrong with asking the service writer about the technicians that they have employed. Some of the questions that you may want to ask. What kind of training do the technicians have? Are any of your technicians ASE(Automotive Service Excellence) certified? If you are not familiar with what ASE is I would suggest looking it up. I have provided a link at the end of this post. The short version is they are a non profit organization designed to increase the quality of service one would receive at an automotive repair shop. These would only be a couple of the questions that I would suggest that you ask. Some of the training that would be important, schooling, any dealership training, or just how many years of experience a technician might have. Ask about anything that might grab your attention when arriving. The quality of the technician is an integral part of the running of a shop. Almost as important as the ownership and management of the shop. A good ownership and management team will try hard to employ good technicians. This is not always a guarantee. I would encourage you to ask as may questions as possible.
                                                                 http://www.ase.com

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ownership & Management

One of the most important things to keep in mind when looking for a reputable repair facility, is to choose a shop based on the ownership and management. As I write this I am sure some of you are thinking the same thing that I am. Why is this post not one of the first? I am aware of the fact that it should have been, however the subject of this one did not come to me until after I had already made a few of the other posts. However I think that this would be a very important thing to keep in mind. As I have already said in the first part of this article, choose a repair shop based on the ownership and management. You would not want to choose an automotive repair facility based on the technician. While the work could not be done without the technician, the management is what would make the shop run like a well oiled machine or in complete chaos. Technicians also have a tendency to move from shop to shop a lot more frequently than the management does. This can go both ways as well though, you would not want to stop going to a shop just because of one technician. If one of the technicians has managed to do something that you did not like, you would always be able to request that they do not work on your vehicle anymore. If you were to start going to another shop just because of something that a technician did, there would be a slim chance that one day that same technician could be working at the new shop. So choosing a shop based on the ownership and management would be the best thing to do. Finding a shop that has a good reputation for doing what is best for the customer would be ideal. To try and find a shop where nothing ever went wrong would be next to impossible. From things like some spilled oil to something more major; it is how the management team handles the problems that arise is what makes a good repair facility. Also looking for a shop that has employed the same people for a long period of time is a sign of good ownership. An owner that realizes that they have good employees will do everything in their power to take care of the employees and to keep them happy. It would be difficult to be comfortable with a shop as a customer, when every time you walk in to get some work done there is a new service manager and new technicians. I have had several customers tell me that they are happy to be dealing with the same crew for as long as they have been doing business with us. It makes them feel comfortable knowing that every time they come into our shop that there will be someone that they know and trust there to greet them.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Appointment Part 2

With your first appointment well under way it is time to start talking about what kind of things you should be looking for from the service writer, as well as the technicians that will be working on your vehicle. The way in which you are greeted is a very big thing. For myself, I always like to be sure and greet the customer with a smile and to welcome them to my shop. After I have determined what the customer has come into the repair shop for and am writing the estimate, I like to make a little small talk with the customer. Ask how their day is going, or perhaps what kind of plans they have for the rest of the day. Just something to break the ice a little bit, to make you the customer more comfortable. Another thing that should be looked at is what kind of questions did the service writer ask you as you were being checked in. If your appointment was for something basic like an oil change or perhaps something like a tire rotation, chances are there were not too many questions asked. However if you are there for something like a brake inspection or tire alignment, there should be more detailed questions asked. With a brake inspection one of the biggest questions that should be asked is, what kind of problems are you having with your brakes? For example, does your care vibrate when the brakes are applied? Or perhaps, is there a squeak when the brakes are applied? If you are there for something like an alignment, the questions would start with something like does your car pull? Or perhaps, have you noticed a tire wear problem? With any of the questions that are going to be asked the more detailed that your responses are, the better the chances are that the technician can properly diagnose the problem. One of the biggest tools in a automotive repair shop is communication. The better the communication in the shop the more effective the repair facility will run, and the better the repair work will be on your vehicle. Be as forth coming with all the information that you can think of. Maybe write down a few of the symptoms before the appointment, so you don't forget any details. If you are getting your vehicle checked for a noise, try and be as specific as possible as to when the noise started and what are the driving conditions when it happens. For example if your car has been making a noise when going over bumps for the last month, and only does it at speeds of 20-30 mph. That is information that you as the customer would want to tell the repair facility. At the same time the service writer should be asking you questions and trying to get to the root of the problem. If the service writer is not doing any of these things, chances are that you should be starting to look for another repair facility.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Appointment

So to recap, the first few things that we have talked about are how important it is to find a reputable repair facility and how to start the process of finding that repair shop. This time we are going to come in contact with one or more of the shops that you have chosen. This is the stage that I call “The Appointment.” This one is a very important step into finding a reputable repair facility. You would want to start looking for a repair shop before there is a major problem with your vehicle. There would be nothing that would hinder your hunt for an honest mechanic more than being ripped off at a time when you are very stressed out. So, start the look for a good technician before you have a major problem. Start with calling one of the repair facilities that you have found on the internet. Make an appointment to get your oil changed or a tire rotation. And yes make an appointment. It is very difficult for a good repair shop to take walk in oil changes. Chances are they are booked a couple of days in advance. If the repair facility is going to charge for a tire rotation, go ahead and pay for it. It will be a minimal charge anyway. Plus a shop that believes their time is worth money, also believes in and will stand behind their work. As you are making the appointment, pay attention to how you are being treated by the person on the other end of the line. Is the person taking the time to find out everything needed for the appointment, or are they in a hurry to get you off the phone? When walking into your appointment go ahead and take a look around. A repair facility that takes the time to keep a clean office and customer waiting area, will also take the time to take proper care of your car. And some of you may wonder what those two things have to do with anything. The shop that is going to have a clean and friendly waiting environment knows that a person's first image of their shop is one of the most important. At the same time they also know that the last image of their shop (was the work done properly and on time, and did the technician leave a mess in the car) is the other most important. Both of those will help you as the customer to decide if you would like to return to that repair facility for future business. As this posting has been a longer one, I'll try to wrap up. However I will be making another posting in just one or two days time. With this one we will cover how you as the customer should be treated, as well as cover what kind of questions that the service writer should be covering with you. As always please leave comments and let me know what you are thinking. Please also share some topic ideas if you have any. That way we can cover some of the topics that you might have questions about.