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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.

De-coding vs. Diagnostics

Posted on 01/17/2017

There is no end of Auto parts stores willing to DE-CODE your Check Engine Light fro FREE with a slant toward selling more parts.  Many will say "de-code" is "diagnosis". It is not! All vehicles sold in the United States after 1994 were required to have a vehicle information port (OBDII port).  This port enables anyone with a device to read trouble codes stored in the computer. This might include the primary computer or ECU(electronic control unit), the BCM(body control module), the TCM(transmission control module), and others.  Each of these units can store a multitude of codes. Some codes are related and some are indicating other switches and sensors throughout the electronic control systems. Most are connected to a dash warning light, CEL(check engine light), SES(service engine soon), and in some cases a symbol that resembles an icon or action. Other warning lights in the dash may include SRS(safety restraint system), TCS(traction control system), ABS(anti-lock brake system) and others.

Perhaps this will provide a better understanding of why shops charge separately for diagnosis vs de-coding. Understandably some customers are at odds when it comes to diagnosis charges. Some feel that diagnosis is unwarranted; that we should just find the problem(for free) and charge only for the repair. That would most certainly be the case if the problem were staring us in the face like a flat tire;but rarely is that the case.Most customers understand with computers running everything from can openers to drones that a thorough diagnosis will lead to a complete and proper repair. If we take a video and show the technician working on a problem, pin testing connectors, viewing information on the scan tool, more pin testing, checking under the hood or the dash, then observing a DVOM(digital volt/ohm meter) and running more tests based on the codes that were retrieved when the de-code was performed, I think most watching might have a better appreciation for the amount of involvement and time needed to reach the proper diagnosis. Many problems are identified within the first hour of time spent on the vehicle. For example: rodents chewing thru wires is becoming more frequent due to peanut oil being used in the production of auto wiring. Often electrical/electronic system issues are more difficult to locate and thus require more time. The skill level of the technician cannot be understated in finding issues in the least amount of time. In some instances, when the problem is found, it requires replacement of a component such as a switch, sensor, or module. These can often be hidden in the interior of the vehicle,or inside the transmission, or engine. Often replacement of a part means the system will need to be reprogrammed. This is something the customer may be unaware of when it comes to charges, especially when sorting out information from misinformed sources. I find it interesting when a customer says: "I have a friend who knows all about cars and they said....." Understandably customers want to be helpful. We are always interested in information that may lead us to a solution quickly, however once you have committed your car to a shop that you trust, please give them the benefit of the doubt when they advise you on what it will take to fix your car.

Most highly skilled shops are dedicated to their trade and deeply concerned about the customer and their vehicle. We are one of those shops.

Keep the wheels turning. tp

When 'Do-it-yourself' isn't such a good idea

Posted on 04/11/2016

5 Tips for how to know when “not” to fix it yourself

1) You find too many varying opinions on internet forums on what will fix the problem you are having

2) The same applies to the various ways to “fix” the problem on the web (YouTube) 

3) You decide to fix the problem yourself anyway without professional assistance and                                                   something that was not mentioned in the forum, or any of the videos, goes terribly wrong

4) The information and/or parts that the forums mention will “fix” the problem don’t

5) You have discovered after all your effort, the amount of $$ the forums suggest you will save by “fixing” the problem yourself is not going to be realized and you will require professional assistance anyway

There are far more tips related to this subject and just as many that would take you in the entirely opposite direction.  Depending on your skill-set, what you have to ask yourself is simple: Do I feel lucky?  What most shops including us are fully aware of is that you may be able to save money if not time repairing certain issues on your vehicle yourself? Even we utilize information available on the internet to source solutions to the myriad of problems vehicles come in with in an effort to save time and in-turn save the customer money. Much of the difference is that we have been trained and are continually training to discern when the solution referenced via the web is, or is not related to the problem. There is a saying that goes something like this: “A man who defends himself (in court) has a fool for a client”. Those are pretty strong words, but when you think about it, it makes sense. “Do you really want to push water uphill?” I wonder how many people have successfully operated on themselves to save on the cost of surgery and lived to tell about it. What I am saying is the level of experience in any given field of expertise is important to the outcome.

If you’re confident in what you are about to undertake and feel competent to do so; If you have the right tools for the job and the time, then by-all-means move forward. But if your research leads to more questions than answers you care to read about, you would probably be better off leaving the repairs to a shop you trust. Ask yourself another question. What will it cost me if I attempt the repair in the way of time, money, aggravation and safety if my efforts fail, and who will be responsible? If you deal with a shop you trust that has been in business for many years that have good reviews and they stand behind their service and repairs, you will be much happier in the long run. A professional shop like ours is not always the least expensive option, but if they offer the best quality repairs and service done in a reasonable turnaround time, for the best value they can offer that is fair to both themselves and the customer, then a customer would be hard-pressed not to have that shop service their car.

Keep the wheels turnin’   tp

March 2016

Posted on 03/01/2016

It's March 2016, and the blizzard of January(if that is what you want to call it) is a distant memory for those of us on the East coast, as least so far.  The Holidays of 2015 are behind us and we are all looking forward to a year full of political maneuvering (NOT!)  Well it is a Presidential election year, so we'd better get used to it.

What we are really looking forward to is a year that is more fun, more prosperous, and more enjoyable, with less headaches, health issues, and stress.  Yes, we could all use more of this!

It will be anybody's guess how the year will shape us financially.  I don't do much in the stock market, but all indications are it's getting off to a very rocky start. Some might wonder how this affects a small business like ours, or anybody else's, but it does.  We all feel the tightening and constriction of an economy posed to affect the bottom line.  And after the "Great Recession" of 2007-2008(which is still lingering today) many of us still aren't sure or comfortable with what's ahead.

Nonetheless we are celebrating our 34th year in business right here in Virginia Beach.  We are now in the largest of the three locations we have owned and happy to be part of the Holland Road community. We have great neighbors all around us, and while the road expansion is quite the headache at the moment, it too will soon be a thing of the past.  Once it is complete we suspect good things to follow.

While we here at Japanese Auto Masters are not able to predict with any certainty how 2016 will shape up, one thing you can be sure of is that we will continue to service, maintain, and repair your vehicles with the utmost honest, integrity, and quality we can muster.  Our customers expect the best value for the time they invest in us an dthe money they invest in their vehicles, and we intend to deliver on those expectations each and every time a customer entrusts their vehicles to us.

I hope you will take the time to drop us a line to let us know how we are doing and ways you feel we may be better able to serve you and enhance your experience here at Japanese Auto Masters.

Sincerely Tommy Potter

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