We hope that these questions and answers will help you understand our services. If you have any question that is not answered here, DO NOT HESITATE TO ASK! We like our customers to fully understand how they are spending their hard earned money.
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In general, yes, but it depends on the issue. In the old days (dating myself), diagnostics were pretty simple. The most sensitive electrical device on the vehicle was the voltage regulator, and the only tools you needed for electrical testing were a test light, volt meter, and tach/dwell meter. Now vehicles can have over 80 computerized control modules, with over 1,500 wires totaling over 5,000 feet, requiring $50,000 or more in test equipment and endless hours of continuing education. In the old days, to get the engine to crank, the ignition switch had to send voltage to the starter. Now, the key reader has to communicate with a chip in the key and send the signal to the vehicle antitheft module, which communicates on a network to the body control module, which decodes the signal, checks to see if the brake is applied, and sends a password on the network bus to the engine control module, which checks the password and checks to make sure you are in park and neutral, and energizes a relay which finally sends voltage to the starter. If any of the dozen or more modules on this network bus are defective, it is like someone screaming into a telephone party line, and no one else can hear a conversation. We have found cars that would not start due to a bad instrument cluster, bad ABS control module, and even a bad radio. Anyone who has ever spent hundreds of dollars to solve a problem, only to have that problem still there when they pick up that car, understands that the diagnostic process is the most important part of the repair. There are times when more time is required to identify the malfunction, than to actually replace the offending part. Today’s diagnostician has to be part electrical engineer, part computer engineer, part hydraulics engineer, part heating and air conditioning engineer, and part mechanical engineer. We must charge for that education, time, and equipment. On the other hand, if we are going to check for an exhaust leak, we are not going to charge you. Diagnostic charges generally run $30 to $100, or rarely higher for special or intermittent problems.
In general, no. Virtually no one does today. If they say that they do, they are often hiding the charge elsewhere. Example: Man came in with an issue that had been to the dealer twice, unsuccessfully. He had spent $??? And still had the same problem, so he brought the car to us. He asked if we waive the diagnostic charge and when we said no, he said “but the dealer does”. After we solved his problem, I asked him to bring in the receipt from the dealer. On the first dealer invoice, where we would have charged 1 hour diagnostic and .5 hours labor to replace the part that they did, they had charged no diagnostic and 1.5 hours labor on the part. On the second invoice, where we would have charged .6 hours to replace the part that they did, they had charged 2.0 hours labor. There was no diagnostic charge on the invoice,,,,, but he certainly had paid it, and then some. We prefer to be honest and up front about our charges.
Intermittent problems are the worst, for the customer and the technician, especially if the issue is electrical. We can identify the interruption of power between point A and point B, when it is being interrupted. We cannot find the cause of interruption when the interruption is not present. The solution of an intermittent problem, more than any other problem, requires close cooperation between the vehicle owner and the shop. We are willing to stick with the issue, attempting to make the problem happen, so that you don’t have to wait until you are totally stranded. We will ask that you leave the vehicle with us long enough to make the problem show up. We also do not want to throw our parts (translate “your money”) at the problem until it is properly identified. In rare cases of very intermittent problems, this may be cost effective, but only after extensive discussion with you. The charges will be actual time spent, with updates to the customer. It will also help if you can track what conditions may be necessary to recreate the symptoms (warm or cold, forward or reverse, left turn or right turn, etc).
Yes, and we have a 100% success rate. If you failed an emissions test, it is because your sophisticated computer system found an error in one of it’s sub-systems. Most often, this error can affect gas mileage or durability, as well as emissions. The computer will register a failure code as to which system is failing. We will read the code and run a failure flow chart on that specific system. The code, by itself, does not tell us what is wrong with the car. Example: Code P0171 or P0172. This means that the engine is running lean or rich, and the computer is straining at its limits to keep the engine running decently. The code does not tell us why the engine is running lean or rich. It could be a vacuum leak, a failing fuel injector, incorrect fuel pressure, a bad temperature sensor, bad mass air flow sensor, bad ground wire, or 50 other possibilities. Once we diagnose the problem, we will call you with an estimate of parts and labor to make the correction. If we cleared the codes after the repair, and gave you the car back, the emissions test would “reject”. Clearing the codes also clears the “monitors”. Monitors are the 6 to 8 banks of tests that the vehicle runs on itself while you are driving (different tests under different driving conditions). As part of the Emissions Service, we will drive the vehicle through these specific “drive cycles”, to set the required monitors. Once the monitors are set, we take the vehicle to the testing station and get it passed. You will not have to go back to the testing station. The charge for this service is approximately $145, plus the parts and labor for the actual repair.
When will my car be ready? This is always a tough question to answer. Ours is one of the most difficult industries to schedule. When we take an appointment for a ticking noise from the engine area, we don’t know if this will be a 5 minute repair or a 5 hour repair, until we diagnose it. This makes it very difficult to schedule the labor time of the technicians. We also will not know if the parts are available right away, until we identify what parts are necessary. We fully appreciate that in today’s environment of cutbacks and full schedules, it is often difficult for you to be without a vehicle. We will do our absolute best to get your vehicle completed in a timely fashion. If this is a “spare” vehicle for you, please let us know, so that we can focus on those vehicles that are urgently needed. Conversely, if you need your vehicle back by a certain time, please let us know when you drop your car for service.
Sorry, but we do not. Loaner cars are expensive to maintain, insure, and a logistical issue when they do not come back on time. We would rather focus our expenses (and therefore your expense) on high quality repairs at a fair and reasonable price. I had a customer pick up a car the other day, and as he was paying his $400 bill, he said: “You know, when I go to Lexus, I get a loaner and a car wash”. I knew he had brought the vehicle to us from the dealer, so I asked: “And what did they quote you for this repair?”. His reply was: “$700”. I have had this same conversation numerous times. The expense for loaner cars comes out of someone’s pocket, and you can rest assured that it will be yours. We do work closely with a rental car company, that will deliver a car here for you if you need it. When your car is done, you just drop the rental here, and they will pick it up at their leisure.
Yes. We do offer rides to “nearby” work or home in the morning hours. We understand that, logistically, it is more difficult for you to arrange for a ride in the morning than in the evening. Taking you somewhere in the morning is no problem when you are there to give directions. Picking up in the afternoon is more difficult. We are busy trying to get those cars finished that have to go that night and our staffing is different at that time of day. Most of our customers agree that it is easier for them to catch a ride from a coworker or family member in the evening, and we do stay open later (6:30 PM on weekdays). For these reasons, we ask that you make your own arrangement to pick up in the afternoon or evening. We are also partially staffed on Saturdays, performing lighter duties for those that have a hard time getting here during the week. Due to the lighter staffing, we do not offer shuttle service on Saturday.
No. We are about the middle of the curve for expense. We do not try to be the cheapest in town, but we do strive to be the best and the most cost effective. We are almost always less expensive than the dealer, and usually less than other similar high quality independent shops in the area. In the rare case that your vehicle might require a factory proprietary piece of equipment to cost effectively diagnose the problem, we will tell you so. We try to make sure that you will never pay a penalty to come to us for for the same level of service.
Yes, we have all the factory print outs of what services are due when, in order to maintain your factory and/or extended warranty. Federal law mandates that you do not have to return to the dealer for your warranty work, in order for your warranty to be valid. We maintain all of the documentation in order to validate those services as done, should you have a warranty issue. These services are necessary, even when the vehicle goes out of warranty, in order to protect your investment, as well as to document your history, should the vehicle qualify for a special factory warranty extension program for a special issue. Each year and model varies as to what is necessary, but they all have one thing in common. They all start out with basically the same list of items to be inspected (suspension parts, steering, brakes, rotate, and so forth). This is equivalent to our GCA (General Condition Appraisal) for $79.95. Then they add various services (transmission flush, or spark plugs, or cabin filter, etc.) that are due at various times and mileages depending on your year, model, and engine. We will advise you individually of cost depending on what your year and model requires for that mileage. The total cost usually runs about 25% to 50% cheaper than the dealer.
Yes. We understand that sometimes you just need a simple maintenance service and do not want to arrange for a ride. You can call or sign up on line for a particular service at a particular time. We do request appointments, since random drop-ins can bunch up and delay your service. We have a comfortable spacious waiting room with wireless access, magazines, and a TV. A typical oil change with up to 5 quarts of a standard grade of oil and a 20 point inspection runs about $29.95 and takes about 30 minutes. Vehicles that take additional oil and/or expensive filters are additional. Coupons are available.
This varies depending on year and model. In general, oil changes with regular oil should be done every 3 months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first. We recommend tire rotations every 10,000 miles. All other services vary according to your owner's manual. Read the small print. Oil changes follow the "severe service" intervals in this area. Most others follow "normal service". For more details, click here.
Yes. Personal referrals are our largest source of business. We have worked hard to build our reputation since 1978 and we like working with our customers. Auto repair should never be an adversarial relationship, but rather a cooperative effort between the vehicle owner and the shop. We have supported that relationship for years, and our customers support it by sending their friends and family to us. If you have been referred by someone, please tell us, so that we can extend our thanks and a gift. Click here for samples of testimonials from our customers.
Bulbs are one of those things that used to be simple, but are no longer. We used to stock 10 part numbers of bulbs, to cover 95% of all vehicles. Now we stock over 100 part numbers of bulbs to cover 85% of all vehicles. It used to be that we could just match the socket and bulb shape to find the right bulb, now we need to look them up, since many vehicles have bulb monitor modules to monitor the current draw of the bulb and warn when it is out (not drawing enough electrical current). In these cases, if we use the wrong bulb, that may be identical in appearance and function, but with a different current draw, it may operate, but the warning lamp will still light on the dash. It used to be that a Phillips head screw driver would remove 2 screws to remove the lens and replace most bulbs. Now the variations are infinite, ranging from trap door access, to trim removal, to entire sealed lamp assy removal in order to access the socket or socket PC plate. Some vehicles can take over an hour to replace just a headlamp bulb with removal of the entire front grill assy, or in the case of the 2008 Acadia, .8 hours for removal of the front wheel and inner fender to access the headlamp bulb. So what do we charge labor for a bulb? We charge .2 hours (12 minutes) to identify which bulb is out, gain access to the bulb, identify the part number, replace the bulb, and reassemble and test (unless major components must be removed for access). On some vehicles, this can be done in 10 minutes, but most vehicles take 15-20 minutes (not including rusted fasteners and/or emptying of personal belongings in trunks to access tail-lamp bulbs). We keep this at a flat fee of .2 hours for 95% of the bulbs replaced, as more of a customer service than a profit center.
Last revised: 03/27/2012