British American Auto Care Blog

My Battery Died Right After a Maryland State Inspection. What Caused This?

Posted by Brian England on Mon, Jan 26, 2015

dead_batteryRecently a customer’s battery died the day after she picked up her car. She was convinced we had caused her battery to die. She told us her boyfriend knew about cars and told her,  "I suspect they cooked [overcharged] the battery."

How can a battery suddenly fail?

In this case when the technician went to start performing the Maryland State Inspection he found the battery was low. He jump started the car, performed the inspection and then charged the battery as an added complimentary service.  The battery chargers we use charge very slowly and are computer controlled -- it's virtually impossible to overcharge a battery using these chargers.  Far from causing a problem, the car was returned in better condition because the car now started without a jump start.

In hindsight we should have recommended a battery charging system check or a least a battery check. Ironically we do perform a battery test on all our services so it would not have taken much effort to perform a test. Still this is hindsight.  What’s important is that we learned an important lesson from this incident, and next time we will perform a battery test.  That's why your feedback is so important.  We are constantly learning, and our goal is to keep our customers happy and satisfied with their auto service.

So why does a battery suddenly die? Well in most cases it's a shorted cell. One of the 6 cells in a 12 volt battery shorts, and instead of a fully charged battery reading 12.65 volts it reads 7.7 volts. For example, we recently serviced a car and checked the battery.  The reading indicated it was “good”.  Then, three days later, the reading said “replace”. So if you battery dies not long after being in a repair shop, and your shop is using updated, modern equipment, blame the battery not the repair shop.

Think you need a battery check?  Make an appointment; avoid a stall.

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Tags: car battery, battery preventive maintenance, dead battery, battery, car battery problems, auto battery maintenance, auto battery testing

What is a Differential on a Car and What Does it Do?

Posted by Brian England on Mon, Jan 19, 2015

So many times we'll hear words related to our cars and not even understand what they are. An automotive service adviser may tell a customer, "We need to change the differential oil," and the customer may have no clue what he's referring to.  So what is a differential?

Well, here's a short description of what a differential on a car is.

A differential is part of the front and/or rear axle assembly.  The axle is the central shaft that the wheels on the vehicle rotate around.  The photo below shows where it's located on a vehicle with a four wheel drive automatic transmission. 


The differential allows wheels on the same axle to rotate at different speeds. When your vehicle goes around a corner the wheel on the outside has to travel faster than the wheel on the inside. The differential allows this to happen. Two wheel drive vehicles have one axle and four wheel drive vehicles have two.

On front wheel drive vehicles the axle/differential assembly is located in the transmission axle assembly (transaxle). The differential fluid or oil in transaxles and axles should be changed as part a preventive maintenance schedule.  It’s part of your transmission service.  Some four wheel drive vehicles require changing the axle oil every 30k miles. On other vehicles it’s every 60k miles or more. This service can lenghten the lifespan of your differential. Consult your vehicles handbook for your manufacture’s recommendation. If you use your vehicle in extreme conditions then change it more often. In the photo above, the point of the arrow at the front differential is touching the cover.  This protective cover holds the oil in the cavity where the gears are.

The photo below is a 3D rendering of a differential. You can see the gears, and as you can imagine, they need to be kept well lubricated in order to deliver optimal performance.


So, the next time the service adviser mentions changing the differential oil, you'll know exactly what he's referring to.


Tags: differential fluid, differential, change diffferential oil

Top 10 Ways to Love Your Car in 2015

Posted by Brian England on Mon, Jan 12, 2015

Are you familiar with David Letterman’s Top Ten List that started back in the 1980s? Even though we’re missing real “punch lines,” here’s our top ten list to start out 2015 with a bit of retro flare!

Drumroll please.......

Here are the Top Ten Ways to Love Your Car in 2015.

#10 Take a Photo With Your Car – Just think about it.  How much time do you spend in your car?  If you commute back and forth to work for 20 minutes per day in ten years that’s about 100,000 minutes in the car -- not a small chunk of time.

In the earlier part of the 20th century, people seemed to appreciate their cars a little bit more.  They were always taking “car” photos.  These days, how many of these photos do you see?  So go ahead, preserve that image for posterity.  


A bit old fashioned for your taste?  Snap a 21st century selfie with your car and post it to our facebook page.  We would love to see them!

#9 - Toss Out All That Extra Junk


Chances are your car doesn't look quite as junky as this one, but are you headed in this direction?

If so, make 2015 the year to turn over a new leaf and clear out all the junk.  You can increase your mileage just by decreasing the weight you are lugging around in your car --not to mention the fact that there will be more room for passengers.

#8 - Clean That Interior Windshield


Okay, we know the photo is an exaggeration, but for some people, perhaps not.  What happens when you get a little sunglare on your windshield?  Do fingerprints, dirt and residue from the last five years become 'glaringly' obvious?  If so, show that windshield some TLC and clean the interior.  

#7 - Keep the Tires Properly Inflated


In addition to helping you get better mileage, properly inflated car tires can actually help your tires last longer, not to mention enhancing tire safety.  So, don't ignore that tire pressure warning light, or if you don't have a warning light, be sure to regularly check the tire pressure.

#6 - Clean off the Windshield Wipers

There's a bit of a "clean theme" going on in this blog article, but what we really wanted to do is to highlight some items people may not think of. Cleaning the windshield wipers is one of those things.  Carry some alcohol wipes around in your glove compartment and use them to clean the windshield wipers whenever you feel it's necessary.  We did a demo of this at last years' Howard County Greenfest and it was very well received.


#5.  Change the Oil on Schedule

 If you don't do anything else one of the best ways to love your car is to get the oil changed on schedule.  We can help you find out exactly the right auto change schedule based on your driving habits with our oil change consultation.


#4 Why Stop at Just Oil Changes?  Get Your Car Serviced on Schedule

Need we really say more here?  If you follow a regularly scheduled preventive maintenance plan you can expect your car to last for 200,000 to 300,000 miles before repairs and expenses really start to climb.  And, no matter how you calculate it, over the long term it's much less expensive to keep your car well maintained than to have to purchase a new car every four or five years, or to need an engine replacement early.


#3 Use Premium Gasoline if it's Recommended

Some cars are actually built to perform better with premium gasoline.  Pop open the gasoline hatch and read the label that's beside the gas tank or check the manual.  If it says "premium recommended" give your engine a little TLC with premium gasoline.  Now with gas prices at their lowest since 2008, it's a bit easier on the wallet.


#2 Switch to Rubber Mats for the Winter.

Give your car's carpets a break by switching to rubber mats for the winter time.  With all the salt, slush and mess that can come with winter, this simple switch will definitely keep your car's carpets looking cleaner a lot longer.

Don't let not finding a matching color stop you, go for the clear plastic if you can't find exactly the right color. Below is example of a custom plastic floor mat cover for a Corvette, but you can find them online for many makes and models.


And..... the #1 Way to Love Your Car in 2015....

Bring it to British American Auto Care for servicing of course.  We really will help you take great care of your car.  From tires to oil changes to helping you decide on the right car to purchase. We'll even snap a photo of you and your car!


We aim to be a great partner in helping you care for your car.



Tags: car care, tire pressure, save gas, premium gasoline, car mats

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.


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. 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.

Make an Appointment


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.


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.

Download Our Auto Services Guide

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


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. 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 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!

Columbia MD Used Car Evaluation



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.  

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Tags: smoking car

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

Posted by Brian England on Mon, Nov 17, 2014


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.

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


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


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.

Make an Appointment


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

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