Maximize the life of your Asian, European or American Car. We're just off Snowden River Pkwy in Columbia.  Call us at 1-410-381-2700

Car Batteries. When to Change Them?

by Brian England on Tue, Feb 24, 2015

preventive_battery_service_3With the cold temperatures we have been having lately,  a lot of people worry that they will wake up in the morning, and their car won't start. The good news is that automotive technology has come a long way, and cars are a lot more reliable. We used to have cars lined up for battery service on cold days when the temperatures dropped to the single digits, but that's just not the case anymore. People are hopping into their cars, turning the key, and the cars are starting... even if they are a little hesitant at first.

But... if you are really worried about your car starting, you can always bring your car in for a battery check. The important thing to know is that if you are getting regular preventive maintenance service with us it's probably not needed. At every preventive service from the smallest to the largest we check your battery, on larger services (15k and larger) we perform more comprehensive battery charging and starter tests. If your car battery fails any of the tests, we recommend a new battery.

Notably, we often find ourselves in a difficult situation. We want you to get as much life out of your battery as possible, but we also don't want it to fail and leave you stranded! Unfortunately, there is no definitive way of knowing how much life is left in your battery. Some batteries last longer than you would think is possible (i.e. 6 to 7 years) while others fail after only two years.

Some of the tests we use on batteries can point to a future problem. When this happens, we let you know that your battery is marginal and that it's the best time to change your battery. We also suggest that if your battery is over four years old, even if it passes all our tests, for your peace of mind it is wise to change your battery.

Changing the battery before it goes bad has another positive effect. A weak or marginal battery can cause your alternator (the generator that replenishes the battery) to work harder. When your alternator works harder it gets hotter and this can lead to a shorter life expectancy. Alternators cost up to $400, even more for some imports, so it pays to have a good battery, and not put any extra strain on your alternator causing it to fail early.

We always recommend good quality batteries. We believe that AC Delco has the best quality batteries. They cost a little more, but they last the longest. AC Delco batteries are installed in Honda and GM cars at the factory. We keep a complete range of AC Delco batteries on hand. They come with a 2 year direct replacement warranty.

So, when to change your battery? There is no hard and fast rule, but our tests help us to advise you when to change yours - before it leaves you stranded at the roadside!

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Topics: car battery, car battery problems, auto battery maintenance, auto battery testing

Preservation Focus: Reaching 200,000 Miles – It Takes a Little TLC

by Brian England on Mon, Feb 09, 2015

Reach_200,000_miles_on_your_car

We celebrated the tenth birthday of our white 2005 Dodge Caravan free courtesy shuttle van last year, and not long after that, in December of 2015, we hit the 200K milestone.  

We purchased the shuttle van new back in the fall of 2004, and since that time we have only had one major repair.  Back in January of 2012, we had to replace the transmission.  At that time there were about 147,000 miles on the car, and it was just over seven years old.  A transmission replacement is not that unusual for a car of that age with that many miles on it. As it turns out, we had a problem with the transmission again in 2014, but it was still under warranty, so it was replaced at no charge.

The repair records also show a few times we completed a “Noise, Vibration, and Harshness” evaluation that ended with us replacing the stabilizer bar bushings (2006), replacing the serpentine belt tensioner (2007), securing the spare tire that was hanging low (2011), and replacing the T-belt & drive belt tensioner (2013) [ side note:  The first tensioner we installed was defective and had to be replaced.  Should this ever happen to you, the important thing to know is that if its under warranty, the replacement is free.  Also, all repairs are covered by a 2 year / 24,000 mile warranty, and a defective part would fail during this period.] We also had to replace the left axle shaft a couple of times (2009) and (2011), but everything else looks like pretty standard maintenance.

Courtesy_Van

Most importantly, the car was serviced with mini lubes (our 5K oil change service) or major lubes (the 15K, and 30K mile services) on a regular basis, and that’s what allowed us to surpass 200,000 miles.  We keep handwritten notes in a file as well as computer records.  Here’s a snapshot of the handwritten service notes on the van.  They serve as a quick reference check.

Courtesy_Van_Service_Notes

As your partner in caring for your car, we can help you provide the TLC needed to get to 200K and beyond! Then, once you're there, you can make the choice of whether to keep going or sell.

Need your vehicle serviced?  Don't hesitate to contact us.

Make an Appointment

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Topics: preventive auto maintenance, high mileage vehicle, auto repair records, 200K Miles

My Nissan has a Fluctuating Idle When Hot. Is this a Problem?

by Brian England on Tue, Feb 03, 2015

Fluctuating_Idle

In general a fluctuating idle is not a serious problem; however, if it is accompanied by the check engine light coming on or the engine stalling that is more cause for concern.

In the video below, the idle on this 2009 Nissan Maxima is fluctuating.

A fluctuating idle can be caused by many things.  A common cause is a vacuum leak. But like all problems, a logical step-by-step process to diagnose the problem should be followed. Some preventive maintenance items that can cause this problem include a dirty throttle body, an old PCV valve and related hoses, or a build-up of carbon on high mileage vehicles.

If you are experiencing this problem, start out by observing what is going on.  Use our diagnostic form as a guide in helping you to record when the problem is occurring and exactly what is occurring,

Once you’ve finished recording the observations on the form, take it to your favorite automotive shop and have your service adviser or mechanic observe the problem first hand with you.  That way, you’ll both be on the same page at the start of the diagnosis.

This article lists a number of other items that could cause the problem.  That's why a proper diagnosis is so important.

If you are experiencing this problem and live in the Columbia, MD area, schedule an appointment.  We'll help you get to the bottom of the problem.

Make an Appointment

 

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Topics: fluctuating idle

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

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.

Make an Appointment

 

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Topics: 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?

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. 

Car_Differential

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 of 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 lengthen the lifespan of your differential. Consult your vehicles handbook for your manufacturer’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.

car_differential_3-d

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

 

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Topics: differential fluid, differential, change diffferential oil

Top 10 Ways to Love Your Car in 2015

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.  

luv_your_car_in_2015_-_pose_with_it

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

Cleaning_junk_out_of_your_car_can_improve_your_gas_mileage

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

How_Dirty_is_Your_Car_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

Keep_Your_Car_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.

Carry_some_alcohol_wipes_to_keep_the_windshield_wipers_clean

#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.

change_oil_soon

#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.

tech_working_on_car-1

#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.

Premium_Fuel_Recommended

#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.

Custom_Corvette_Clear_Floor_Mats

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!

Columbia_MD_Mini

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

 

 

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

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

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.

Make an Appointment

 

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Topics: intermittent car problems, car won't start

Our Columbia Auto Shop Customer Bill of Rights

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.

Download Our Auto Services Guide

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Topics: auto shop customer rights, bill of rights

Avoid Having Your Dream Car Turn into a Nightmare

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!

Columbia MD Used Car Evaluation

 

 

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Topics: used car evaluation

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

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's nothing to worry about.
  2. A damp chemical 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.  

Make an Appointment

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Topics: smoking car

About this blog

When it comes to auto service we believe that excellent customer service is all about information and relationships.  The more you know about automotive services, the easier it is to have a good relationship with your auto shop because you understand exactly what's happening with your car.We hope this blog will help to facilitate a good relationship with your auto shop, whether it's British American Auto Care or any other shop. We're happy to provide you with great information about auto service, repairs, and a few other topics we love.

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