Yearly Archives: 2011

The sleek Saturn sedan saga

We recently had a Saturn towed to our shop with very low power and an engine making a tapping noise. The customer was referred by an existing customer who trusts us. The customer stated he recently bought the car from a coworker who had taken great care of it. The car was clean and looked great—a sleek black sedan. The car was heading north out of KC when it slowly began to lose power and finally just quit. It was towed to a Saturn-qualified dealership. The dealership told him the catalytic converters (CATs, part of the exhaust used to keep the air clean) were plugged up and the replacement cost would be great. They actually recommended (for unknown reasons) that he take it to a local chain store exhaust shop where he could save some money. The exhaust shop replaced the CATs as requested by the customer. The customer then paid his bill, drove the car a short distance, just to find the same problem of low power and now a few more lights on the dash, and a tapping noise. Th ... read more

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Is dealer service always best?

Is dealer service always best?

We operate in a pretty affluent area of suburban Kansas City where, for the most part, people can afford the best of everything. Many customers assume that dealer service is the best thing for their cars. Some believe they must use dealer service centers to keep warranties in place. Some even presume their car salesman is looking out for them when they return to the dealer for service. Don’t get me wrong. Most dealers provide fine service. But there are some things that simply must be pointed out so you can be sure you’re making the best choice for your situation. Let’s do a little fact checking: 1. Independent service does not void your warranty. Be federal law you are allowed to have an independent technician service your vehicle for issues not covered by your warranty (Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975). The law states that “no warrantor may condition the continued validity of a warranty on the use of only authorized repair service and/or authorized replacement parts fo ... read more

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What’s so special about your technician?

An auto repair shop consists of two main parts—the front end and the back end. The front end houses the service advisor who interacts directly with the customer and is the face of the business. The back end is where the technicians operate. Auto technician is the modern title for the person actually working on your car (traditionally called a mechanic). When it comes to your car, the modern independent shop technician must be technically savvy, careful and consistent, and respectful to customers and their cars. I am a shop owner and a technician. I began on the technical end and learned about business. I have been thinking about cars ever since I learned how to get my little red wagon to go 25 mph down the hill on Easter Ave. in WaKeeney, Kan. I recognize cars I have worked in grocery store parking lots and struggle to remember who the driver is. I stare at bouncing tires on the highway, trying to judge if the strut is worn out or the tire is just out of balance. I belie ... read more

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Emotions drive parts purchasing decisions

I have learned over the last 15 years that who I decide to buy parts from simply boils down to an emotional decision. That has not always been the case. I buy all kinds of auto parts. About half come from aftermarket companies and the other half from local dealerships. When I first started in business for myself in 1994 I looked for the lowest price, best quality, and quickest service. Other things I considered were warranty, the ordering process, and payment terms. How I make the decision now is not that cut and dried. Price Price is like a funny piece of art in the middle of your coffee table. Guests look at it and ask because it’s there, then the conversation goes elsewhere. I order most all my parts online now. It is very easy to look up the part and see who has availability and price. This Internet stuff was a great idea. The accuracy of selecting the correct part is as good as the computerized catalog you have to pick from and my ability to use a mouse. The errors are ... read more

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What to do when your car overheats

What to do when your car overheats

Most cars have a temperature gauge on the dash. Some just have a warning light. The normal reading for a gauge is usually just below halfway. If your temperature gauge should read abnormally high, which I call near or in the red zone, there are some important steps to take to keep from damaging your engine and to keep you safe. It is not unusual to hear a little gurgling sound from under the hood, especially on a very hot day with your air conditioner on. However, puddles of green fluid under the engine are not normal. It does not take long to damage an engine when it overheats. If your gauge never quite reaches the red zone, then generally you need not worry about damage. However, if it is operated in the red zone while driving or idling,even for a few minutes, you can potentially damage or weaken the engine. First off you should form a habit of glancing at your gauges periodically. I usually look at all of them when I check how much gas I have. If you are dri ... read more

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Restoration fueled by fond memories

’m a car guy, gearhead, hot-rodder and enthusiast, and was fortunate to grow up during the late 60s muscle car era. To this day, I feel they stopped building great cars after 1972. My ride is a 1966 Chevrolet El Camino, which is the pickup truck version of the Chevelle. The story of how and why I unexpectedly ended up with the El Camino is an important chapter in my life. Here are the specs: The engine is an early 1990 small block Chevy with a Z28 profile roller cam of the same era. The Racing Head Service cylinderheads are reworked with epoxy downsized intake runners for better low end response; dual plane intake with flow work, Holley 650 carb, HEI ignition, header and two-and-a-quarter-inch dual exhaust. The lower end is pretty much stock, zero deck height and nicely balanced. The engine was designed for low rpm throttle response, good torque and fuel economy. The 700R4 transmission gives great off-the-stoplight acceleration, plus the OD and 3.73 rear gear combination makes fo ... read more

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