British American Auto Care Blog

My Car Will Not Start Sometimes - How Much Will it Cost to Fix This?

Posted by Brian England on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

Ever had this happen?  You drive your car, park it for a few minutes to run an errand -- then when you return your car won't start.

Intermittent_No_Start_Car_Problems

Recently a customer dropped by our auto shop with his son.  They were having this same issue. 

"Our car used to not start if I had to leave it for five minutes, but now it has gotten even worse,"  he shared. "It's not even starting first thing in the morning after leaving it overnight." 

Well, the first thing we did was to complete a diagnostic form.  After finishing this the customer suggested that I go and start the car.

"Go and try it now," he offered.  "I bet it won't start."

Well, I went out and tried to start the car, and to his surprise, the car started right up.  This is one of the most frustrating of issues -- intermittent problems.  What do you do?  How much will it cost to fix?

Well, to start, you should be prepared to pay for checking the basics -- in other words, checking for known problems that might match the symptoms. From our end this includes things like calling a hot line and checking data bases. Additionally, if there are any issues we identify like a weak or incorrectly sized battery then that work should be performed.

The next step is to hook the car up to a data collector and test the car. You'll need to give permission for the technician to drive the car with his equipment hooked up and ready. We typically have customers authorize from two to four hours of labor to identify and fix the basics associated with an intermittent start problem. So if the hourly rate for your shop is $100/hour you could expect to pay $200 to $400 for this service.

But...you should be aware that getting to the bottom of intermittent problems isn't easy and can be very frustrating for both the service facility and the customer. Think about it, even Toyota, with all their resources, took months to pin down the issues related to sudden acceleration!

So, if there is some difficulty getting to the root of the problem, get angry at the car -- not the technician. Concentrate on thinking about the circumstances that occurred at the time when the car would not start. Fixing an intermittent problem requires a partnership between the car owner/driver and the auto repair shop. Ultimately, the problem can be identified, but it may require patience and tenacity.

One final point -- if you search the internet for a solution, make sure the solution matches the symptoms EXACTLY. Don't call the technician with a list.  If you do he will have to respond to everything on your list, and this could increase the price of the repair.

If you ever notice an intermittent start problem, get a electrical diagnostic form immediately.  It will give you an idea of some of the things to look for.  Keep it in your car so that you can record the conditions when the problem occurs.  That way, the chances of figuring out the problem faster increases substantially.

And remember, the holidays are coming up.  The last thing you want to happen is to not have your car start right before you are set to take off for a holiday celebration.  So if you are experiencing this problem, and your car will not start sometimes, get it checked out as soon as you can.

 

Tags: intermittent car problems, car won't start

Our Columbia Auto Shop Customer Bill of Rights

Posted by Brian England on Fri, Dec 12, 2014

With December being Human Rights Awareness Month, it got us thinking about a Customer Bill of Rights for all British American Auto Care Customers.  

As part of the Automotive Service Association, we have agreed to adhere to the ASA Code of Ethics. As it turns out, this code serves as an excellent framework for a Customer Bill of Rights.

Bill_of_Rights_for_British_American_Auto_Care_Customers

Every British American Auto Care Customer has the right to:

  1. High quality auto service at a fair and just price.
  2. Have all automotive repairs and services completed using only high quality original equipment manufacturer parts whenever they are available.
  3. Services from the best skilled auto technicians we can find with the assurance that they will stay up to date on the latest technology via annual training.
  4. An itemized invoice that lists auto parts and services along with their respective prices highlighting any remanufactured parts.
  5. Inspect any replaced part.
  6. Recommendations regarding corrective and preventive maintenance services along with an explanation of which services are required to correct existing problems and which are preventive in nature.
  7. A price estimate for any work to be performed, and our promise to be within 10% of that estimate.
  8. A tour of our shop area where service and repair work is performed.
  9. Provide prior authorization for all work done, in writing or by other means satisfactory to the customer.
  10. Copies of or access to via posting any warranties covering parts and service.
  11. Notification if appointments or completion promises cannot be kept.
  12. Review prior service records which we will maintain for a minimum of 12 months.
  13. Expect us to exercise reasonable care for customer property while in our possession.
  14. To maintain a system for fair settlement of customer complaints including cooperating with established customer mediation services when necessary.
  15. Expect the highest professional standards of service and integrity.

Rights, whether they are human rights, civil right, or customer rights are so important in our society in ensuring an optimal environment for business and life. Our Customer Bill of Rights is just part of our promise to you when you do business at British American Auto Care.

Interested in learning more about our auto shop?  Download our services booklet.

Tags: auto shop customer rights, bill of rights

Avoid Having Your Dream Car Turn into a Nightmare

Posted by Brian England on Wed, Dec 03, 2014

luxury_car_maintenance_cost

We've all seen the commercials.  A guy wakes up Christmas morning, and waiting for him outside is his ultimate dream car --- all wrapped up with a bow and a card from Santa.

It is so tempting. You see the car you always wanted selling at an affordable price, particularly for this time of year. What a great gift to yourself, right?  

So, you buy it.  Then you find out it costs an arm and a leg to maintain.

Recently a customer brought in a 2010 Audi A8.  This particular Audi only cost the customer $33,000. Not much for a car that sells for over $100,000 new.  When we checked it out for its 60,000 mile service, our customer discovered that it was going to cost $3000 to get the vehicle up-to-date on maintenance and make it safe and reliable -- not to mention the fact that soon this same car was going to need four new tires.  That's another $2000!

It's not just Audi; it can be any luxury car. A 2010 Jaguar can sell for an affordable $27,000.  A huge discount from its $75,000 new car price tag. The problem is that now, it's right at the point where it's going to need a big investment in maintenance.  When looking at high end vehicles, particularly from Europe, beware. Have the car evaluated before you purchase it, and then budget at least $3000 to $4000 for maintenance and repairs annually. On some Mercedes Benz models, changing the brake pads and rotors can cost $2750.

Edmunds.com has a really cool tool, a "True Cost to Own" calculator.  When I plugged in a 2010 Audi A8 4.2 Quattro Sedan, the repair and maintenance cost came to $16,597 for the first 5 years for a zip code in Ellicott City, MD -- with $3240 of that in the first year. That's not far off from what our customer was facing on the recently purchased Audi.

The point is... do your research. Start with edmunds.com and see how much you should expect the car to cost you over the next five years.  Then have a used car evaluation performed on your vehicle to make sure it's in line with your expectations, and then budget for maintenance. Do all this and you will love driving the car of your dreams.  Plus, you will have budgeted appropriately for it!

 

 

Tags: used car evaluation

Smoking Car? 6 Types of Auto Related Vapor / Smoke to Be Aware Of

Posted by Brian England on Thu, Nov 20, 2014

Don't let smoke get in your eyes!

 

Smoking car - know what is causing the problem

 

Every third Thursday in November is the American Cancer Society's designated day for the Great American Smokeout. Today, people all over the country are taking steps to quit smoking. Just like it's a good idea for people not to smoke, it's definitely something you don't want to see your car doing.  There is one thing the internal combustion engines (ICE) should not do, and that's smoke.  

The smoke coming from your tailpipe should, for the most part, be invisible except on very cold days when the water in the exhaust shows up as water vapor. In fact, for every gallon of gas you use, your car produces one gallon of water. Excessive smoke is one of the things they check for in emissions inspections. So aside from those "very chilly days", it's important to know when a smoking car could be a signal of trouble. Here is a list of 6 different types of automobile related smoke or vapor that you should be aware of.

  1. Icy cold vapor from heating and air conditioning ducts. - This is caused by a change in temperature of the AC evaporator core. This mainly happens on very humid days and clears in a few seconds so it nothing to worry about.
  2. A damp chemically smoke/steam/smell from vents. - This is not good news. It could be the heater core. This small radiator device is buried in the dash, and hot coolant from the engine flows through it. With age or neglect it can start to deteriorate and leak into the vent system. If this happens, you should limit your use of the car, and have it repaired as soon as possible.
  3. An electrical burning smell with or without smoke. - This is a major problem and should be tended to right away. It is best not to drive the car when this happens. The good news is electrical issues of this type are rare in newer vehicles. Be aware that if you have experienced a musty smell and water leaks into the car this can short circuit the parts of the electrical system. Cars have many computers and those located near the floor can be prone to getting wet and shorting out.
  4. Steam rising from front of car or from under the hood. This can be as innocent as a rain soaked radiator drying out to a major coolant leak. The later has the same chemical smell as the leaking heater core. It is also associated with colored fluid on the ground.
  5. A bluish smoke coming from your car that smells like cooking oil burning. This signals that there is an oil leak that is running or seeping on to a hot part of the engine. This should be attended to ASAP. You might also smell this inside the car.
  6. A white smoke/vapor with a strong smell of gasoline. - This is the scariest of all.  If this happens do not open the hood. Evacuate the car, and get as far away from the car as you can.  Then call 911.

These tips should help you guide your way through any auto related smoke.  Whether it's your car smoking or the smoke of someone's cigarette, don't let smoke cloud your vision. And, on this day, the Great American Smokeout of 2014, help a friend stop smoking by giving them the support they need to quit!

Is smoke coming from your car?  Call us at 410-381-2700 to schedule an appointment to have your car checked out, or use the button below to schedule an appointment online.  

Tags: smoking car

How Can I Keep My Car's Cabin Air Filter Clean?

Posted by Brian England on Mon, Nov 17, 2014

cabin_air_filter_-_aka_rodent_home

What is the cabin air filter?  It is the pleated, fibrous filter that cleans air that comes into the interior of the car via the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. It keeps the air inside your car free of contaminants.  Some cabin air filters even trap odors.  When this filter gets clogged, your car's HVAC system may not work as efficiently as it should.  That's why it's an important filter to monitor.

You should note, there are other filters in your car, specifically, the air filter that keeps contaminants from entering your car's engine and the fuel filter that keeps contaminants from clogging your car's fuel system. These are three different filters. The photo above is of a cabin air filter that needs changing.  This one is clogged with debris and has served as a supply source for a rodent's nest. (This is not as unusual as you may think).  

Typically, auto manufacturers recommend a replacement annually or every 15,000 miles, but this can vary depending on the environment you drive in and the level of dust and debris in the air.  Air goes through these filters whether you car's HVAC system is on recirculate or it's pulling in air from outside.

What causes the filters to get clogged? In this area of the country, the biggest contributors to dirty air filters are dog hair and trees, though in other parts of the country where there are desert environments, dust can be a big contributor.  Air from the interior circulates through the filter and dog hair can get matted across the filter element. Similarly, debris from outside like seeds, acorns, pollen and leaves migrate through the fresh air intake and clog the filter. One of the ways to tell that your car's air filter is clogged is if you notice a decrease in air quality or a decrease in air flow through the vents.  

How do I keep the cabin air filter clean? Like many things related to keeping your automobile in peak condition, following a regular preventive maintenance schedule is probably the best thing you can do to keep the filter clean.  Cleaning this filter after spring and fall can prolong the filter element's life, so now (or certainly a few weeks from now) is a good time for having it checked as in some areas, many of the trees are already bare. In our auto shop we clean this filter as part of all our preventive maintenance services, so if you are getting you vehicle serviced regularly, you're probably okay.

If you're handy with do-it-yourself tasks, you can vacuum out the air filter yourself. Check your vehicle manual to find the location of the cabin air filter. In some cars it's fairly easy to access -- for example, right behind the glove compartment, but in others you may need tools in order to access the filter.

Happy filtering!

Are you behind on your auto maintenance?  Schedule an appointment today.

Want to know more about auto service at British American Auto. Download our Services Booklet.

Download_our_Services_E-Booklet

 

 

Tags: cabin air filters

Yes, Some Auto Services Can Wait

Posted by Brian England on Mon, Nov 10, 2014

Not long ago I was on the front line, servicing cars for our "while you wait" customers. I was performing a 5000 mile service on a Honda Fit. The car is getting up in miles, but it is in perfect condition. My report to our customer, Robin, is a good one -- just a tire rotation and an alignment that can wait until next year. This is fantastic news for Robin because she is finishing her degree so she can become a librarian, and for now, she needs to spend as little as possible on things like auto maintenance.

Our chat gets round to smelly cars. Robin tells me that occasionally there is this smell that she can’t seem to find the cause of.

“It's sort of a musty odor or an old food smell". Robin shared.

I ask about the heating and ventilating system settings and Robin mentions that her daughter goes to school near a turkey farm so she keeps the system on recirculate so the horrible Turkey Farm smell stays out of the car. This might seem like a harmless thing to do, but in the winter it can cause all sorts of problems.  The windows can mist up, and the heating system might stay damp and start to smell very musty.  Robin is thrilled with the answer.  She’s happy that it's not a big issue and the next thing is a Tweet to her friends!  

Robin is the daughter of a long time customer. Her parents own a game store in Savage Mill.  Also her mom is a great architect who did a wonderful job of designing the deck at our home in Columbia, MD. 

The next thing I hear is my phone. Ding! I have a new Twitter follower!  It’s Robin.

Columbia_MD_Auto_Shop_Tweet_-_Delaying_Repairs

We are so fortunate to provide service to so many Columbia area families.  We take care of your family just like we would take care of ours. 

You'll find other causes of odors mentioned in this blog.

 

Tags: some auto services can wait

10 Things You Can Do to Prepare Your Car for Winter Driving

Posted by Brian England on Wed, Nov 05, 2014

Prepare_Your_Car_for_Winter_Driving

I don’t know about you, but I glimpsed a lot of people sporting their winter coats this past weekend.  Snow has already hit Maine (no surprise there), but it’s hit Tennessee and South Carolina too! Yes, the winter weather is already here in some parts of the country. It’s best to be prepared for it.  

When it comes to auto safety, there are quite a few things you can check on yourself to prepare your car for winter.  Many of these are general car safety tips, but they become particularly important in the winter when visibility can decrease significantly and stopping distances, chances of stalling, and chances of getting stranded increase.

  1. Check Your Tires – Your tires should be checked every six months.  We did a blog a while back on tire safety and maintenance.  You’ll need to check the thickness of the tread, the condition of the rims, check for dry rot and more.  Ideally these checks should be done on a lift, so if it has been over six months since your last preventive maintenance service, go ahead and schedule a service.
  2. Brakes – Make sure your brakes are working well.  They should be responsive, not too soft or too difficult to press.  Additionally, you shouldn’t hear any squealing.  Check out this brake article about other things to look out for.
  3. Antifreeze – Check your engine antifreeze level.  If it is below the recommended fill level, add more.
  4. Battery – Your car should start without any hesitation.  The battery terminals should be free of corrosion.  If you notice a problem, it might be time to get your battery serviced or replaced.
  5. Heater & Defroster/Defogger – Make sure your heat is working before freezing temperatures come & check to make sure the defroster is working.  You can check out if the defroster/defogger is working the next time those windows fog up.  Don’t wait for the ice!
  6. Snow & Ice Removal Equipment – Do you have a windshield scraper, brush, and shovel in your car?  If not, get one now, you never know when we will get an early snow.
  7. Safety Equipment – Be sure to have flares, flashlights, blankets, salt, sand or kitty litter and other safety equipment in your car in case of a storm or emergency.
  8. Windshield Wiper Fluid Jets & Wipers Working – Check your windshield wipers and the washer jets.  If they don’t seem to be working properly, try cleaning them.  Also be sure the washer jets are working.
  9. Exterior Lights and Warning Lights – An emergency is a terrible time to find out your car’s emergency flashers aren’t working.  Take a walk around your car; make sure all the lights, including parking and warning lights are working.  Take a look at the manual; make sure you know how to turn the emergency lights on.  If your headlamps appear foggy, they can be restored.  If bulbs are out, get them replaced.
  10. Snacks & Water – Just in case you get caught in a storm.  Have some non-perishable food items and drinking water in your car.


These ten winter auto safety tips should help you be prepared for the change in seasons.  Do you have other preparations that help you to get your car ready for winter driving? If so, share them in our comments section.

Of course, if you live in the Columbia, MD area, and would rather have us check your car out for you, just make an appointment online or call us at 410-381-2700.

 

Tags: winter auto safety tips, prepare your car for winter, winter safety, winter driving

My Car's Windshield Washer Fluid Won't Spray. What Should I Do?

Posted by Brian England on Mon, Oct 27, 2014


Yes, I know it's just the end of October, but before you know it winter will be here.  In fact, the Farmer's Almanac says we should expect about three inches more snow than normal this December!  

When was the last time you tested or used your car's windshield wiper fluid?

Give it a try before you need it. If you find your car's windshield washer fluid won't spray, then follow this three step process to troubleshoot the problem.

Step 1: Check the windshield washer fluid reservoir.

If your washer fluid won't spray, it may be because your washer fluid reservoir is empty. I know it seems obvious, but how many times do we overlook the obvious in our everyday lives. The windshield washer fluid reservoir is easy to locate.  Most of the time it has a picture of the washers on the reservoir cap. Go ahead and open the cap.  Then check the dipstick to see the fill level.  If you need to refill, use a premixed fluid so that you will know that you have the correct solution.  The last thing you want to happen is for the fluid to freeze-up in the winter.

windshield_wiper_fluid_reservoir_check

 

If you have to refill your reservoir, once you've completed the job, be sure to check under the car, on the ground, for fluid. Make sure that a leak in your reservoir tank wasn't the cause of the problem.

Step 2: Listen to see if you can hear the washer pump running.

The best way to do this is with the ignition on but the engine not running.  That way it will be easier to hear.  Get a helper.  You'll need someone to push or turn the knob while you listen.  If you can hear the motor running, that's great. If the windshield washer fluid still won't spray go on to Step 3...

Step 3: Make sure the washer nozzle jets are free.

The problem could be that your windshield wiper nozzles are clogged. Polish can easily block these nozzles. The location of the nozzle jets varies from car to car. Look around the base of your front windshield for yours.  If it's the rear wiper jets that won't work, then check near the topside of the rear window for the wiper jets. Once you've located them, use a straight pen to clear out the jets. 

Hopefully that gave you some insight into the cause of the problem.  If so, congratulations!  Job well done.

If you gotten them started and they are smearing, check out this blog post on stopping windshield wipers from smearing.

And finally, if you can't identify what's causing your windshield wiper fluid not to spray, contact your local repair shop to have them check it out. Remember, if you are in the Columbia, MD area, you can always bring your car by British American Auto Care!


 

Tags: wiper fluid, wiper fluid won't spray, windshield wiper, windshield wiper fluid pump, adding windshield wiper fluid, clearing wiper fluid nozzels

From the Morris Minor-Mini to the new 2015's - Mini Continues to Evolve

Posted by Brian England on Fri, Oct 17, 2014

When it comes to Mini's, my family has a longgggggggggggggggg history.  

Back in 1955 my Uncle Bob bought a new Morris Minor that was made in Oxford England.  My other uncle, Uncle Sid, worked in the drawing office at the factory that produced Morris Minors and secured him a good deal. The photo below shows a 1955 Morris Minor.  Not a very different look from many of the cars at that time.

1955_Morris_Minor

Before the launch of the Mini, in 1959, they, Morris Motors, produced a car called the Morris Mini-Minor, shown below.  It had a much different look than the Morris Minor, with lots of similarities to what would one day be the Mini.

1959_Morris_Mini-Minor

Then, a few years later, when I started work as an automotive mechanic, I worked on the first Mini. At that time it was marketed under the brand, the Austin Mini.  As you can see from the photo below, the evolution from the Mini-Minor to the Austin Mini was, shall we say, "minor".

Austin_Mini     

Now almost 60 years later, my family still has a close relationship with Minis. Our company, British American Auto Care, works on many of the new Minis that are produced at that same factory in Oxford.

The Mini is one car that has retained much of its historical, award-winning design. Originally, this 2-door car was intended to offer an economical, space saving alternative and was developed in response to a fuel shortage in the UK back in 1959.  MINIs still get great gas mileage. The 2014 MINIs get anywhere from 30 to 42 miles per gallon (highway) depending on the model.

Despite the consistency in look, the Mini has undergone many changes since back in the 1960's - from its highly efficient 1.5 liter, 3 cylinder engine, to the cool lighted circles on the dashboard display that make you feel like you're driving into the future.  But, some of the other changes seem more like "Back to the Future". For example, check out this commercial “MINI Van”. It seems that some of the newer models are headed in the direction of the “MINI Van” at least as far as space is concerned. 

MINI_Van   

The fact is, MINI continues to offer roomier models each year.  MINIs five door model addresses one of its potential buyers biggest concerns - not enough cargo space.  Have you ever looked into the trunk of an older Mini? Not much will fit in there!  There is no doubt that the newer models will attract some new customers, maybe even a few golfers, with almost 9 cubic feet of cargo space, more legroom and more boot room. 

2015_Minis_from_Car_and_Driver

We're sure the Mini will continue to evolve, and right now we agree with many of the reviewers – that the new Mini’s are evolving in the right direction.

For more info, here is USA Today’s take on the new Mini’s.

Mini photos are sourced from Wiki, CarandDriver.com; and New Old Car UK.  Each photo links to attribution and/or licensing information.

Tags: Mini Cooper, Minis, Mini history,, New minis

My Car Runs Hot. Do I Need a Coolant Flush?

Posted by Brian England on Wed, Oct 08, 2014

 

So, you’re driving along, and suddenly you notice the temperature gauge registers “hot”.  What do you do?

 

Car Runs Hot - Do I Need a Coolant Flush

 

Well, one of our customers experienced this.  This particular customer owned a 2001 Audi. The car had been running fine and then it overheated. The temperature gauge went up very high. The good thing is that he stopped as soon as could and had the car towed to our shop. This avoided thousands of dollars in potential damage! 

Was a coolant flush the fix? No, it is rare that flushing the cooling system will cure overheating, especially in this case as there was no history of the vehicle running on the hot side. 

If a customer neglects the cooling system for a long time and then reports that the engine is running progressively hotter a flush may fix the problem or at least make it run a little cooler.  What’s important to know is that a neglected cooling system can cause a lot of damage so it is best to have your cooling system flushed every three years or 50,000 miles if you are using long life antifreeze or every two years or 25,000 miles if you are using regular antifreeze.

Some of the other things that can cause an engine to run hot include:

  • cooling fan that’s not operating properly broken/bad thermostat
  • low coolant level
  • clogged or leaking radiator 
  • broken water pump
  • broken head gasket
  • split hose

So, if you find yourself in a situation where your car runs hot pull over and have your car towed to your local auto repair shop.  You can check the coolant level to make sure that’s not what’s causing the problem, but don’t run the engine while it’s hot or you’ll risk damaging the head gasket or the head itself.

Blue_Bar-1Blue_Bar-1

Do you live or work in the Columbia, MD area and are overdue for regular preventive maintenance service on your automobile?  Make an appointment and let us help you protect your engine and maximize the life of your car.

 

Tags: coolant flush, Car Runs Hot

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