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British American Auto Care Blog

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Toyota Service and Repair in Columbia for 30 Years


1980 Toyota Corolla30 years of service and repair on Toyota cars and trucks in Columbia -- wow how time flies! I remember the first Toyotas were “nothing to write home about”, basic and unreliable, but every year they improved.  The Toyota Corolla was the most popular model. For a while we owned a 1980 Toyota.  Back then they were pretty basic -- four speed transmission and the only extra was air conditioning.

When you think of how popular the Toyota Camry is now, it is hard to believe that in the 1980’s it was a very poor quality car. They had such bad brake problems; the whole brake calipers assemblies had to be replaced under warranty. So many ignition control modules failed; independent shops were replacing them, and, Toyota was paying the bill. On top of this, the transmissions were poor.  The suspension links on the rear of the Camry failed so often we kept them in stock! But the one thing you can say about Toyota is that they improved.  The Camry got better and better every year. By the early 1990’s it was one of the best cars you could buy. Toyota stood by their product, and they have stood by their customers. In recent years they have moved away from this, but a good self examination following the recent brake problems has gotten Toyota back on track. Now, Toyota’s only problem is every other car maker has followed their example so they no longer have the lead in quality and reliability.  

New Honda Maintenance - Should You Use the Dealer?


servicing a new hondaYou've purchased a new Honda.  You've taken your photo with your new car and driven enough miles to form that special "car/owner bond". Now it's time for your first maintenance service...Should you use the Honda dealer for your maintenance? 

A Honda dealer is an independent auto service facility with a franchise to sell Honda vehicles. A specific dealer's auto servicing expertise will vary in quality just like any other independent service facility. Computers, technical hotlines and increased lines of communication between automotive technicians have leveled the playing field. Product knowledge for Honda dealers and independent shops is now very comparable -- the real difference is in the quality and thoroughness of the auto shop you select.

Ten to twenty years ago, when Honda was selling just a few models and cars were a lot simpler, there were a few Honda technicians that had sufficient knowledge to give them a competitive advantage. But now Honda has 12 vehicle types and each of these has many variations.  It takes a lot longer for an auto technician to develop that special "expertise" and by the time they do, the expertise will probably be outdated.

Here, at British American Auto Care, we service our customers' Hondas from the first service onwards.  We use genuine Honda parts, and because we focus on high quality, complete auto service, we feel we offer some of the best Honda service in the Columbia / Ellicot City / Clarksville area. The most important thing is we keep an independent eye on the vehicle throughout the warranty period; we want to catch anything going wrong before it goes out of warranty.

So, when you are making the decision to service your new Honda or other new car model -- don't just assume the dealer can offer better service. Do your homework and find a great service facility that meet your needs and utilizes ASE certified technicians.  Your new Honda will thank you for it, and that special "car/owner bond" will last a whole lot longer!

Moved Recently? You Have 60 Days to Register A Car in Maryland!


new-to-MD-state-inspection-requiredThat's right, add registering your car in Maryland to your long list of "Things to do After the Move." Automotive shops are involved in this process because you must have a Maryland Vehicle Safety Inspection Certificate. To get this certificate, a comprehensive check of all the safety systems on you car that includes aligning the headlamps has to be performed.

The Maryland inspection is performed at auto service and repair facilities around the state that have been certified to do the MD Safety Inspection. The state police oversee the program and make sure that facilities follow the Maryland Code related to vehicle safety inspections. The inspection takes from 1.0 to 1.5 hours; if the repair shop allows you to wait for this service, plan on waiting at least a couple of hours. The inspection can only be performed on dry days because the car has to have a road test on a dry surface and must be dry under the car so the rain does not cover up leaks in the brake and suspension system.

The cost varies any where from around $50 to over $100.

If your car has tinted windows you will also need to have them inspected by the state police, they will issue a sticker certifying that they meet code.

 Maryland Safety Inspection Check List

  • You have 60 days to register you car in Maryland.
  • A Maryland Safety Inspection certificate is valid for 60 days.
  • If your car fails the Maryland Safety Inspection you have 30 days to perform the repairs. Anyone can perform the repairs needed to pass the inspection.
  • The inspection station that did the original Maryland Safety Inspection must perform the re-inspection.
  • The inspection station can charge for a re-inspection.

On top of the Maryland Safety Inspection certificate you will also need the following to register your car.

In some cases you'll also need:

  • Proof of value. (This is to calulate the tax you are going to pay which is 6% of the vehicle value.)
  • Lien information if you are still paying for the car or a lien release if you title shows that there is a lien on the car.
  • Lease agreement with proof of payments (for leased cars only -- if you have paid excise tax to another state, you may be eligible for a tax credit.)
  • Power of Attorney - This is needed if someone other than the owner is signing the titling forms. 

To register your vehicle you can go to the Department of Motor Vehicles, the nearest places Glen Burnie or Frederick. This can take a whole morning or afternoon, I suggest you pay a small fee and have a local title company perform this work for you. Calculating the time spent and the cost of gas it is cheaper and certainly a lot less stressful to use a title company.

In addition to registering your car, you will also need to apply for a Maryland Drivers License within 60 days. In Howard County, this can be done at our local DMV off Dobbin Road in Columbia.  

For more information check out the MD MVA site.


photo courtesy of akeg

Practice "Informed" Auto Maintenance and Avoid Potential Car Problems


maintenance & warranty bookletLast week, we published a blog on the importance of preventative maintenance, even in a poor economy.  In addition to taking your car in at least twice a year, you should make sure that your auto repair shop is following the maintenance schedule recommended by the manufacturer.  All manufactures have service schedules that should be followed to maintain your vehicle in a safe and reliable condition.

Here at British American Auto Care, we see examples where customers have taken their car to an auto technician and the MANUFACTURER’S RECOMMEDATIONS WERE NOT FOLLOWED.  An example of this relates to removing wheels on (mainly) European cars. You would not think this would be an issue, but we have had problems in removing wheels from vehicles that customers have told us have been serviced "from day one" by "my mechanic", "my dealer", or "my local service center"!

For example, we will start to perform a scheduled service and then when it comes to removing the wheels, they will not come off!  In each of these cases it has been because the wheels are aluminum and the hub is cast iron, corrosion builds up and welds the two together. After working for half an hour to an hour just to get the wheels off (without damaging the expensive aluminum wheel), we then have to clean up the hub and the wheel to remove all the corrosion.  This is followed with applying special grease so this will not happen again.

Imagine if one of these owners had a flat tire!  They would have had to have the vehicle towed just to replace a wheel!! (Yes, we know this is the safest option, but you don't want it to be your only option.)

How do you to avoid this kind of problem? Make sure the services performed by your service center carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and that they are experienced and follow good industry practices. 

For example:

1. Do they require the technician to follow service schedules?

2. Are the procedures described in detail so no matter whom works on the car the service is consistent?

3. Are technicians required to fill out a checklist, and is this kept in your file?

4. Do they check your file and history and recommend services that reflect your usage patterns, as well as modify the schedules to reflect your use?

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