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Back to School Auto Maintenance Tips - What does that mean to you?

Posted on 07/27/2017

It feels like summer just  started, but back to school is just around the corner.  Are you, or someone you know, going to begin shuffling children between school and school activities? Are you yourself taking night classes, or someone in your household going off to college? Here are a few tidbits to consider:

  1. Probably the most important item you can do is maintain your vehicle. Keep in mind that just because your vehicle passes its safety inspection(Virginia State Inspection), that doesn't mean it's properly maintained. Several maintenance items include: brake fluid, transmission fluid, engine coolant(antifreeze), power steering fluid, differential and transfer case fluids, windshield wiper fluid, and in some cases other fluids. Pay attention to your owner's manual and have the scheduled maintenance performed in a timely manner and your car will reward you for it.
  2. When was the last time your vehicle had a DMA(digital maintenance advisory) performed? This is a good way to determine what maintenance might be required now, what can wait, and what repairs may be necessary soon. This thorough maintenance advisory will include checking all the major function items on your vehicle; the tires, suspension and steering parts, battery, brakes, exhaust, wiper blades, fluid levels and conditions, lights, engine and cabin filters, oil level and condition, as well as potential structural damage from rust or corrosion. Vehicles that have spent a good portion of their time in the northern states can have these rust and corrosion issues.
  3. What is your instrument panel telling you? Is your check engine light on? Is your tire pressure light on?  Are any other warning lights on? Some people elect to ignore these warning lights until the vehicle fails to operate altogether. There are many reasons people ignore the warning lights, but mostly the fear is it will cost too much to repair the items that will keep the light off.  The question you should be asking is; how much will it ultimately cost in repairs if I ignore the lights and more importantly, will it affect my safety? Also note any unusual or peculiar noises, vibrations, or rattles and have them checked our before they become serious problems.
  4. Does your vehicle have basic safety equipment? Is there adequate air in the spare tire? Is the jack and all the tools necessary there to change a flat tire(including the wheel lock)? How about a working flashlight with spare batteries? A few other items to consider are an easily accessible first-aid safety kit, jumper cables, cotton gloves, a basic tool kit, and a fire extinguisher. Depending on the climate you find yourself in, a blanket, ice scraper and snow shovel may also be helpful.  Hopefully you will never need some of these items, however you may save another motorists life if you do.
  5. Is  the interior of your car organized? If you've ever been unfortunate to come upon a bad vehicle accident, you've probably noticed items that belong secured in the vehicle all over the road. In many cases significant injury was caused to occupants, or worse, as a result of some loose item in the vehicle hitting them during the accident. Auto parts stores and online shops sell a variety of items to help keep the interior of your vehicle organized, use them.
  6. Do you know if your vehicle has safety equipment? Familiarize yourself and your occupants, including children, with your vehicle; where the jack and spare tire are located as well as the fire extinguisher and first-aid kit. Show them where the 4-way flasher button is located.

Safety on the road is everyone's responsibility.  Making sure 'your' care is safe is the first step toward a smooth Back to School transition.  Please allow us to help make your Safety and Security a reality as you travel.

How Long is a Labor Hour (BrakeandFrontend magazine June 2017 by Scott Weaver)

Posted on 07/03/2017

Did you ever try to define a labor hour? I’m not talking about time ticking away on a clock. I’m referring to the actual time spent on a repair vs. the labor guide’s suggested time.Any tech will tell you that a labor hour can stretch to half a day if a lot of research is involved. Conversely, it can last 15 minutes if you know what you’re doing. Most labor guides typically don’t take into account how much research, diagnosis and equipment setup is neededf or a given job — not to mention the time it takes to recover your 10 mm socket that just fell down into the engine compartment. Even with all of the technically advanced diagnostic tools professional mechanics have at their disposal, there are still people who can’t understand why diagnostic time should be included in the labor estimate, even though it’s not part of the R&R for the component. On the other hand, there are the stopwatch aficionados who count the seconds of every repair and are bound to argue over any labor time discrepancies on their invoice. They use “time” as the only determining factor for the cost of a repair.For instance, let’s say the book time said one hour, and everyone involved agreed upon the charges, but the tech got the job done in 25 minutes. The argument has always been that the cost of the job should be no more than the time it took to do it. Should the mechanic be penalized for doing his job proficiently and having completed it early? Where does it say he should give the job to the customer at some discounted rate because he can beat the book time? That doesn’t seem right at all. But, what if the same job that was quoted for an hour has taken four hours to complete? Who pays for the time difference now?  In a sense, a labor hour isn’t an hour at all. It’s an arbitrary amount of time that may or may not be exactly 60 minutes. If it was as accurate as some people believe, then theoretically you should get an estimate for that hour’s labor, pull up to the repair shop, and walk out in exactly 60 minutes with the job completed. Not one second sooner or a second later. Good luck with that one. Like most trades, techs get paid by the hour. However, it’s not like you punch a clock in the morning, work all day, and then collect a 40-hour paycheck at the end of the week. Most mechanics work on flag time. Realistically, let’s call it what it really is — piece work, with the “piece” being the car. Very few mechanics are offered hourly pay and a guaranteed 40-hour workweek; although, there are some places that use a combination of both flag time and hourly pay. More times than not, a mechanic ends up eating a whole lot of labor time problem solving. Whether there are rusted bolts, bad connections, illusive intermittent problems or poor information from the get-go, something is going to use up time that eventually won’t go toward a paycheck. Any time money and people are involved, and you’re dealing with something that’s so widely misunderstood as the modern car, it’s up to the repair professionals to educate consumers on what’s involved in a repair. Customers also need to understand that this is a business based on suggested labor hours and not a time clock. In the end, there needs to be a reasonable amount of leeway when it comes to labor guide estimates from both sides of the counter. In the real world, no two jobs are the same.

(written by Scott Weaver BrakeandFrontend magazine) June 2017

Freedom is never Free

Posted on 05/16/2017

Memorial Day is fast approaching. Many of us are looking forward to the official beginning of summer and the first three-day weekend off in a while. But how many of us really stop to think about why or how we are able to enjoy our time off and do pretty much whatever we like and go wherever we please within this great country? 

For those who are serving or who have served in the military in the past, there is a distinct understanding and appreciation for all who’ve served before them, especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice; their lives for our freedom. For those of us who have never served, but are the children of those who have, we have a responsibility to remind our children and grandchildren as well as others what this day is truly about. Whether you visit the grave site of a departed veteran, or a war memorial, or museum this Memorial Day, remember; This would not be possible if we as a country had laid idly by and allowed those who sought to oppress our freedoms to do so. Never is war easy. Never is war neat and organized. Never is war the answer to end all future wars.

Sometimes there is no other way to prevent someone from taking that which isn’t theirs to take. It is at times like these that we must fight, first in passionate words in the hope our adversary will find mutual grounds on which to agree. But if words fail to find their mark or we are hit with an unexpected attack such as Pearl Harbor, or more recently The World Trade Center, what message would it send the Free world had we done nothing. We have been titled the Greatest Nation in the Free World by those whose countries our brave Service Men and Women fought to free from Dictators and Communist rule. We don’t shy away from the fight. We don’t want it and we don’t promote it. If the alternative means giving up the freedoms that our fathers and fore fathers fought to have, hold and endure; our brave service members will always do what they are called to do. Too many US military members serving in nearly every country in the world, have given their lives that we may have the freedoms we do today.

The very least we can do for them this Memorial Day is remember with great honor those who have gone before us whether they passed in battle or not, so we may continue to enjoy the freedom to pursue Life in all the ways we can, Liberty to choose our direction, and the pursuit of Happiness in whatever ways we might.  

Mother's Day 2017

Posted on 05/12/2017

This Sunday is Mother’s Day once again. Most of us who were fortunate enough to grow up in a family environment never realized what it meant to grow up without a mother and thus, unknowingly, tended to take our mothers love and nurturing for granted. Thankfully most of us were raised to become self-sufficient productive members of society.  To lead a good life accepting the good and the not-so-good along the way. This didn’t happen by accident. The values we know today were the values instilled in us by our parents and generally most notably by our mother- if you happen to be from the baby-boomer generation. In me and my wife’s case, our fathers were military and, in many instances, deployed a large part of our childhood.  Therefore, our mothers played the greater part of our child rearing into adulthood. Not enough can be said about the values instilled in us as a result of our mother’s influence and we are thankful for that each and every day.

Our daughters are both successful each in their own way, and are mothers themselves. The values that were instilled in them as they were raised has helped them become the successful women they are today. Values that were surely passed down from our mothers with some additions along the way. Both daughters tend to remain close to one another and their mother even when they live miles apart. This is the bond that ties, and their mother is the central figure in their lives. 

This Mother’s Day, like every Mother’s Day, should be special. Put away the remote, put away the “me” time and make the Day special for mom. Isn’t that really what this Day is for? Show appreciation for things both big and small that helped shape who you are today and be thankful for your mom or mother figure who was there along the way. I know I am.

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