Automotive Service Tips
Automotive service tips!
Just because vehicles are complicated do not let owning one keep you from living a simple life.
1. Are you being overcharged?
Owning a vehicle is a wonderful thing but can be stressful especially when it breaks down or needs some type of repairs.
What the average person who takes their vehicle into service does not know is there is a labor time guide that estimates should be built from. I can tell you from my most service centers do not use them, and their employees are not being held accountable to use them. Over my years I have seen techs inflate those labor times by double or more, I have seen advisors inflate estimates and I have seen managers do nothing about it. I will say as a tech I did not and as a manager I do not tolerate it, and neither should you.
You will have instances where they will need to charge more than book time. Remember they are in the business of selling technicians' time. If you have some old rusty bolts that look like they will break the tech will include that in the estimate. If they are fixing an oil leak and there is oil all over that will take more than normal time to clean up, they will price in an extra half hour or so. Whatever they charge you just make sure they can justify every hour. If they cannot or will not it may be a time to find a new service department. Remember it is your car, your money, and an automotive industry standard.
2. Where Should you get your oil changed?
Why get your oil changed at your vehicle manufactures dealership? Number one reason it should be cheaper. Most vehicles today take specific oil, and that is usually fully synthetic. Oil change places and tires stores make money on one thing, oil changes and tires. Most oil changes from my dealership to a Valvoline will cost you double what ours is priced. Our standard fully synthetic oil change runs $48.95 where Valvoline is usually close to double. Like I said that is what they must make money on. They have lower paid, lower trained people doing the work, and they do not get the big repair work and manufacture backing the dealerships do. Most of the dealership's profit comes from repair work being paid from the manufacture warranty, extended warranties or customer pay. Most oil changes are done at a wash, or a loss to keep their customers coming to them.
Other benefits include the trained professionals, the proper parts including oil, the fact they should be checking the vehicle for any recalls or other work that is free to you from the manufacture. Also, if you ever seek some type of goodwill, it is usually calculated by loyalty. If you never come to the dealer for anything but what is free the odd of getting help is slim. Most people go to an oil change place on the corner because of convenience. If they just understood the long-term price that cost them, they would build a good relationship with their dealer. Personally, my dealership picks up and drops off vehicles for customer and does everything we can to make the experience as convenient as possible.
3. Do not Skip on Maintenance!
The better you treat your vehicle the better it will treat you. Two things I want to make sure you are aware of that can keep your vehicle running longer and in better shape.
One thing which is not normally recommended by manufactures until problems occur. That is a top engine induction service. What happens is you have major carbon build-up on the intake and/or exhaust valves due to fuel contamination or incomplete burning of the fuel. This can create the following.
Crank no start.
GM has a bulletin to clean the valves and if cleaning does not work you may have to replace them. Personally, I clean the carbon from my throttle body and perform a top engine induction service every 20k miles or so on my car. Why wait for your vehicle to develop a misfire, rough idle, extended crank, or other issue? At that point you are going to have to pay for diagnostic for the concern, then pay for the cleaning. They valves are usually so dirty at that point it may take a couple cleaning procedures or even replacement of the valves. I prefer to keep mine clean and running smooth. See the pictures below to see how carbon can accumulate on valves, piston rings and even your fuel injectors causing rough idles and bad fuel mileage.
The other is simple, change your oil in a timely manner. I have seen engines that needed replaced because someone missed a couple oil changes. When that happens, no warranty will cover an engine. You are left with a huge expense that could have been avoided for a hundred dollars or so. What happens is your engine oil starts getting thick and sludge starts building up. This sludge will clog oil passages and cause bearing issues, valve issues, clog oil feed pipes to vehicles with turbos and do a lot of damage to your engine. GM recommends oil changes at 7,500 miles. The max I would go is 5,000. Most extended warranties require it by 5k miles. If it is an older vehicle 2011 or older, I would recommend 3,000.
4. Do you have a relationship with your service department?
Bare minimum you should have to get your oil changed twice a year. So, about every 6 months you should be taking your vehicle in for its normal maintenance and a basic multi-point vehicle inspection. If your vehicle has any other types of issues that will require more visits or maybe if the timing is right, you can get it handled when you get your oil change done. A service department should be seeking to build a relationship with every customer it is called a rapport. It helps the customer to trust the service department and find that one person they feel comfortable going back to and talking with every time about their vehicle needs. As a customer this relationship can also be valuable to you. when a customer comes in that everybody knows or that has that one special relationship with that one service advisor unbelievably, they do get a little bit of a better experience because of that relationship. This relationship should be built on trust on both sides and the proper explanations of what is going on with your car how your vehicle looks and any deals that is going on that can help you save money.
You may not even have one relationship with a service advisor themselves. The service department's going to be more inclined to help you out more inclined to discount tickets more inclined to take care of things that they may not take care of than a normal basis but because you are their customer and you have that relationship, they feel good about doing it. as much as I would like to say everybody gets treated equally that is not always the case. If you are a Good customer to that service department and especially if you know and deal with only one person usually when you go in your tickets can automatically get discounted and you can automatically move right through the process. It is not always the case, but I will tell you a good service department they value their repeat customers and their relationships with their customers. Do not get me wrong we value every customer but those that have established a relationship and do business with us on a consistent basis we get to know and treat like family. I always make sure all my advisors advisor customers as they would a family member but when you have a family type relationship there everything just flows smoother.
5. What’s Necessary to Fix the Issue?
That is one question to ask when in for repair work. Your service department should tell you everything they can see wrong with the vehicle and any manufacture recommended maintenance. This should be all stuff you need done, and if not, that is another topic. When they go over everything that your vehicle needs it may be overwhelming. A good service advisor will break everything down for you and let you know what you need for your actual concern you brought it in for. The problem is a lot of them do not. They may go over $2k worth of work and not really break down that you only need to spend about $500 to fix your problem.
I am not saying you do not need the other work, but it is something you can get fixed later if need to. If you get hit with a high estimate, make sure you ask them to break it down. Then make them break down the labor they are selling and justify with labor time guides. I have seen a lot of customers get overwhelmed when a service advisor goes over the total of the estimate and barely breaks it down. I have had to get involved a lot not only in my dealership with new advisors but with estimates from other places to find out the customer only needs to spend about a quarter of what the estimate was. Sometimes the advisor does break it down but when they start with the $2k total you do not hear much after that. Make them break down and justify everything they try and sell you.
6. If it is something you can see, ask to see it.
If you are paying for something usually you want to see it. Sometimes when you are paying for a service it might be hard to see unless you are there watching them do it. With car service you are usually paying for some type of parts. It is never a terrible thing to ask and should make you feel better about seeing the parts that need being replaced. If your service department is telling you that you need brakes, ask to see them. One of my favorite things to do is show a customer their old parts or the parts they currently have on the vehicle that need replaced while giving an explanation about what exactly takes place when replacing them, and why they need to be replaced. It should give you as a customer a sense of knowing what you are paying for and being able to see what you paid for.
Now you are also paying for technician's time. That is something you may not be able to see unless you are there waiting and watching. To be able to see the parts you are getting replaced should help you feel better about spending your hard-earned money. It should also help you trust a service department. If you are dealing with a service department that will not show you your old parts by law, they need to give them back to you if you are paying for them. Regardless unless they have some good reason that to not be able to show you that kills the trust factor between the service department and customer. You as a customer should start thinking if it is time to seek somewhere else for your service needs. You asked to see your brake pads that need replaced and they show them to you, and they still have half the life left on them. That would be a suitable time to speak with the service manager and explain to him he has a technician recommended brake pads that do not need replaced. Unless there is some other reason, they are replacing them sometimes you will replace brake pads just to get rid of an annoying noise and you may have plenty of life left on them. Still ask to see what you are paying for old parts or new parts, feel comfortable spending your money at your service department. Most people do not ask to see their parts new or old but anytime someone has a question and I show them and explain it to them they feel a lot better. Not only do we as a service department but they feel better as a customer bringing it to our service department.
Simple question, can I see it?
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