British American Auto Care Blog

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.


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.


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".


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. 


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. 


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,; 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.


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

Drive a Mini Cooper, Audi or BMW? Beware of Low Engine Oil Levels.

Posted by Brian England on Tue, Aug 26, 2014


Mini Cooper running low on oil

"Every time I bring my Mini Cooper in you say it is low on oil, why?"

Well this is a good question, we have been asking the question the other way around: 

"Why are so many Minis coming in very low on oil or even dry?"

Time after time we have seen Minis come in with dangerously low oil levels. What is going on? We have also seen Audis and BMWs with very low oil levels!

Well, purely by chance, I have at last found out.

A customer asked to meet with me to go over this issue and other Mini problems. I arranged to stay late so that I could meet with the customer and his father.

We went over item after item, and then, while showing them how to check the oil level the son shared with me,"The salesman said I can go 15,000 miles between oil changes. He said don't worry, the computer system will tell you when to have the oil changed."

At that moment it hit me.  Most people have been indoctrinated by the quick lube places to have oil changes every 3000 miles. Most cars go 2000 to 3000 miles before using one quart of oil. You never see people putting oil in their cars. In general they don't know how to check the oil level. There has been no need.

Now, along come vehicles like Mini, BMW and Audi that have extended oil change periods. These vehicles are owned by people that have never learned how to check the oil level of their vehicles. Put these two things together and you have a major problem. 

Lets do the math. A normal European engine uses oil at the rate of 1 quart per 3000 miles. The engine oil capacity is 5 quarts. The salesman said change the oil every 15,000 miles. Well by the time you get to 15,000 miles the engine damage has already been done! The engine has run out of oil. Bearings are worn out. Rings are damaged. Minute passages are blocked. Valve train guides are worn.

So how do you prevent this from happening?  Just check the engine oil level.

And...what is the correct oil change schedule?

Well, check out the video below.  It will show you how to check you oil between preventive maintenance services.


If you would like to find out the right oil change schedule for your car. Schedule a free oil change consultation. We'll help make sure you avoid running low on oil.

Tags: Mini, Audi, BMW, low oil level, check the oil, how to

Columbia Auto Shop Starts Fixing Old Jaguars, MGBs, Minis &Triumphs

Posted by Brian England on Thu, Aug 14, 2014

One of the most exciting things about owning a business is being able to make rapid decisions and changing things quickly and efficiently. It's like having your own world. You can innovate and try things without too much fuss.

You never know what the next challenge or opportunity is going to be, but you know it is going to be interesting.

Here is an example.........

1963 Jaguar XKE


About ten years ago we moved away from working on old British cars. We kept some of the basic parts and sold the rest. We were busy with the day-to-day jobs, and we concentrated on the rapid changes in technology.

Then along came the Mini, and with it a renewed interest in British cars.  Coupled with that, as customers got older, their children, now in their 30s, started getting nostalgic. They wanted to get the old family fun car out of mothballs. Also, unfortunately, some customers had lost loved ones and had inherited an old British classic.

We started receiving calls that went something like this...

"My Dad's car has been sitting for five years. Can you get it started? Will you work on a 1970 MGB?"

"I have a 1969 Jaguar XKE. It won't start or go into gear. Is this something you can fix?"

The problem we faced was... who was going to work on these old British cars?

I talked over the problem with one of our technicians who had shown some interest, and he told me, "Brian, if you say yes to these customers I will commit to working on these old British cars".

The problem was, to make the situation work, we really needed two people committed to working on the old MGBs, Minis, Triumphs and Jaguars.   Well, I thought to myself, I love these cars, why not me? So, I agreed to start working on them!

We have not looked back since, and now we have a new technician who shares our love for these old cars. Now he wants some of the action too.

As a result, we have gone in one year from working on a dozen or so Minis to over 100.  We have also repaired about a dozen classic Jaguars, MGBs and Triumphs.

Going forward we are going to actively seek out these cars. We have technicians that like old cars, the institutional knowledge, and great parts resources.  There is nothing to stop us from embracing this change!

Do you have an old British classic that's stuck in park? Our Columbia, MD auto shop is now geared up and ready to help you get your old classic back on the road.  Give us a call at 410-381-2700 or click the button below to make an appointment.





Photo of '63 Jaguar XK-E by Dan Smith via Creative Commons License

Tags: auto, Columbia, British classic cars, Jaguars, MGBs, Minis, Triumphs, repair

The Myth of the $19.99 Oil Change

Posted by Brian England on Wed, Aug 06, 2014

Have you ever gotten an oil change for $19.99 or less?  How much do you think the value of that oil service really was?  

We did an infographic on the value of an oil change.  The bottom line is, when you receive any product or service for less than its value, someone is paying for it.  It can be that the business is covering the cost and using the product or service as a loss leader to get you into their establishment --hoping they can get you to purchase more goods or services.  It can also be that the workers there are paying the price through low wages.

Take a look at our infographic.  Let us know what you think.

The Myth of the $19.99 Oil Change (2)

Tags: oil change, cheap oil change, $19.99 oil change, cost of oil service, fair wage, living wage

Auto Transmission Repairs - What Every Driver Should Know

Posted by Brian England on Tue, Jul 22, 2014

You can expect your car's transmission to last for 200,000 to 300,000 miles, but some maintenance may be required. Check out this video to find out what you should know about your car's transmission.

Tags: automotive, transmission, changing transmission fluid, auto transmissions

Car AC Works Sometimes? Blowing cold today but warm tomorrow?

Posted by Brian England on Mon, Jul 07, 2014

One of the most difficult automotive air conditioning problems to diagnose is an intermittent A/C problem.  In other words, one day your car's A/C is blowing cold air, the next day it's warm air.  

Feeling a bit frustrated?  We know the feeling.

car ac cold one day hot the next

Ironically, the very thing that makes an air conditioning system convenient, easy to use and reliable is the thing that most often causes intermittent problems -- electronics.

Over the last ten years more and more features have been added that make automotive air conditioning and heating systems more complex. The first thing to do if you experience an intermittent auto air conditioning problem is to take notes. Record everything related to the event.

1. How long were you driving before the system failed?
2. Were all the air vents starting to get warm?
3. Is the air conditioning control panel functioning normally?
4. How often does the system fail? Completely or partially?
5. Does it fail on the highway or in stop-and-go traffic?

The list goes on and on. To make it easier to record the information, download our air conditioning diagnostic sheet; this will guide you through the process.

The next step is to bring your car in, along with the diagnostic sheet, and have it checked out.

First of all, the basics have to be right. This means ensuring that that the refrigerant system is fully charged, there are no leaks, and that the pressure readings are within the specifications.  Next the electronics are checked for fault codes and any other saved data. Expect to pay from $120 to $250 for this service.

If there are leaks, they should be repaired first, as they could contribute to the problem. Once the system is running correctly and the technician has all the data, the next step is to see if there are any common problems that match the data you have provided and the technician has collected. To do this we use a data base and a hotline. If this doesn't uncover the problem the technician will hook up monitoring equipment and see if he can reproduce the problem. If the problem still does not surface we might recommend that you drive the vehicle and see if the problem shows up as well as to identify if any of the symptoms have changed. Intermittent problems can be a challenge for both the automotive technician and the customer.  Both parties have to work in partnership to arrive at the solution to the problem. 

Common electronic problems relate to sensors that give input to the heating and air conditioning computer and the electronic control head.

People often ask whether it's worth it to check online to find a solution.  If you are good at performing your own repairs then it may be worth trying some inexpensive suggestions. But if the problem isn't properly diagnosed, you may end up repairing something that wasn't actually causing the problem. 

For more information about auto A/C issues, check out our earlier blog post.  

And in the meantime.....stay cool!


Tags: auto air conditioning, intermittent auto a/c problems, broken a/c, car a/c works sometimes

Columbia MD Brake Service - What Every Driver Should Know

Posted by Brian England on Tue, Jul 01, 2014

Proper brake maintenance is essential to automobile safety.  In the video below, I review some key tips on brake maintenance, but the bottom line is to be sure your brakes undergo a thorough examination every year.

Interested in learning more about brakes, check out our brake service page.


Tags: brake service, brake repairs, columbia md brake maintenance

Protect Yourself - Choose the Right Auto Repair Shop - An Infographic

Posted by Brian England on Fri, Jun 27, 2014

Last week, the office of consumer affairs in Howard County, MD put out an informational piece describing four ways to protect yourself when choosing an auto repair shop.  It included 1) asking friends or neighbors, 2) trying out the shop first, 3) asking for a written estimate, and 4) provided a phone # to call in case of a complaint.  

We thought we would go a step further and develop an infographic that provides additional tips to help you to protect yourself when choosing an auto repair shop.

Please share it.  It's best to be informed when it comes to any service you're choosing!

Choose the Right Auto Shop Infographic

Tags: auto repair shop, protect, certifications, infographic

The Auto Shop Road Test – Why Your Mileage is Different at Pick-up

Posted by Brian England on Tue, Jun 10, 2014

When you bring your car in for servicing at British American Auto Care we road test your car.   We test it before we bring it into the shop for servicing (AM Road Testing) and after the repair or maintenance work has been completed (PM Road Testing).  That's why your mileage won't be exactly the same as when you dropped your car off.  Of course, we aren't just taking your car out for a spin.  This step is a critical part of your cars sevicing.  Here's what we look for and why.

Road Test in Columbia MD

AM Road Testing
One of the most important tasks our auto technician performs before bringing your vehicle into the workshop for servicing is the pre-service road test. Every car serviced by our technicians has a road test except when we are replacing a bulb.

Why is the Road Test So Important?
The primary reason we do an AM road test is to establish a base line.  We need to understand several things about your car like: how does the vehicle steer, brake, react over bumps, shift, sound, smell, perform... the list goes on and on! There are also the electrical items: wipers, air conditioning, gauges and warning lights. In understanding what's going on with a vehicle, there is nothing like actually experiencing it.  What sounds to you like a loud click, may sound different to your auto technician. Actually driving the car is the best way to get at this baseline.  

The technician keeps all these items from the road test in his mind while he is performing the service on your car so that he can provide you with an accurate report on your vehicle's condition. This baseline report is performed  and saved every time you come in for maintenance.  It doesn't matter if it is the smallest $38 - 3750 mile oil change service or the larger three year 30,000 mile service.

PM road testing
After completing the service or repair we take your car back on the road again to test it. The technician keeps in mind the AM road test in order to determine if anything has changed. Has that wheel bearing noise gone away after changing the bearing? Are there any noises now that were covered up by that loud humming wheel bearing? Is everything 100%?

Final PM road test by our service advisers.
Importantly, the PM road test performed by the auto technician is not the final PM test! It is now up to the office staff, specifically the service advisers, to test the vehicle and make sure all the customer's concerns have been addressed, and the vehicle is performing well.

Once this final test has been completed the car is backed into a parking spot.  At this point we look around the vehicle to make sure the car is as clean or cleaner than when it came in. Finally, we take a look around the engine compartment and check under the car to make sure there are not any oil drips.

Now, with that final road test and inspection completed, your vehicle is ready for you to pick it up.

Tags: auto shop, road test, servicing, road testing

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