RepairPal Blog:

 Mechanic's Corner

Advice from experts concerning automotive parts, repairs, and services

I have worked in the California Smog and Emissions Testing program for over 22 years. I have worked in the Gold Shield Program, which helps to certify Gross Polluter vehicles (vehicles that fail their Emissions Inspection by a wide margin) since 1995.  Sometimes the Gold Shield Shops and Technicians that do this work do not get paid for all the time and work they put in when they are bringing an older vehicle, that may have high mileage, back into spec so it can pass an Emissions Test.  That said, there is a feeling of satisfaction in knowing that you are cleaning the air and helping someone who usually does not have a lot of money.

This is the latest in a series of blog posts that our Honda expert, Robert Isbell, is writing for RepairPal. Robert has worked at Honda dealerships for over 22 years as a technician, shop foreman and service manager. He has developed and led new owner clinics that educate new owners about their cars and he will be contributing to  our blog to educate our visitors about the methods for getting the most out of your service experience. Missed the preceding post? Click here.

The issue of trust and Automotive Repair Shops has been in the news for years.  I live in the SF Bay Area and about every 6 months one of the major, network-affiliated TV stations will do an undercover sting-like "expose" about Auto Repair Shops "ripping off" the public. AutoNation conducted a poll and found that for over 70% of the consumers called the number one complaint was a lack of trust in the process of having their vehicle serviced and repaired.  

This is the third in a series of blog posts that our Honda expert, Robert Isbell, is writing for RepairPal. Robert has worked at Honda dealerships for over 22 years as a technician, shop foreman and service manager. He has developed and led new owner clinics that educate new owners about their cars and he will be contributing to  our blog to educate our visitors about the methods for getting the most out of your service experience. Missed the preceding post? Click here.

This is the second in a series of blog posts that our Honda expert, Robert Isbell, is writing for RepairPal. Robert has worked at Honda dealerships for over 22 years as a technician, shop foreman and service manager. He has developed and led new owner clinics that educate new owners about their cars and he will be contributing to our blog to educate our visitors about the methods for getting the most out of your service experience. If you missed the preceding post about finding a shop, click here.

As of January 2, 2008 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is being sued by The State of California in the hope of overturning a denial for a waiver under The Clean Air Act to set stricter Emission Control standards.  There are potentially another 13-15 States ready to join California in this lawsuit.  What this means is that the Automakers, who are struggling to stay alive, will have to make several different Emission Control Systems for new vehicles so that they can be sold to the States that have adopted the new California Standards or the Federal Standards. For many years, there have been Federally Certified Emission Control vehicles and California Certified Emission Control vehicles.  In the 1980s there were some real differences in these Emission Controls, but as time has passed, the Federal Vehicles became much less common and the real differences in their Emission Control Systems are basically zero. (For more, see our Check Engine Light article.)

This is the first in a series of blog posts that our Honda expert, Robert Isbell, will be writing for RepairPal. Robert has worked at Honda dealerships for over 22 years as a technician, shop foreman and service manager. He has developed and led new owner clinics that educate new owners about their cars and he will be contributing to our blog to educate our visitors about the methods for getting the most out of your service experience. What you should do before you make your first service appointment

What's a Wheel Alignment and When Do I Need One?When we notice our vehicle begins to pull to the right or left while in motion, things are no doubt starting to get out of whack – or for a better term - "out of alignment."  To correct the problem, a wheel alignment requires attention from a certified mechanic who will perform the necessary maintenance and see to it that all the wheels are parallel and the rubber can once again firmly meet the road.

About 1-2 times per week I am put in the position of having to explain why a vehicle has poor braking performance when the brakes were just serviced or repaired 1-2 weeks ago by another shop.  Typically the brakes are noisy--either squeaking or making a bothersome rubbing sound when applied.  Often the problem has to do with a vibration or pulsation when the brakes are applied, especially when slowing down to exit from a freeway.  Sometimes it has to do with the pedal being too soft and the brakes not having enough stopping force. All the above concerns often have to do with poor quality brake parts.  In the late 1980s, the manufacturers had to stop using asbestos in any brake parts.  Of course this was a good thing for the peoples' health, but the factories have had a hard time coming up with brake pads and shoes that stop vehicles without a lot of loud squeaking or rubbing sounds.  I was working at two different dealerships at the time asbestos disappeared, and every other week we would get another shipment of brake pads or shoes that were supposed to "work". The point here is that it hasn't been easy for the some of the best engineers to develop a workable brake pad or shoe that stops without squeaking or grinding.

Every week when I explain to a customer what a diagnostic inspection has revealed about their vehicle and what needs to be replaced and/or repaired in order for the vehicle to run or operate properly, I always recommend factory quality parts in the estimate. I don't do this because the business I work for makes more money on factory parts (or original equipment manufacturer -- "OEM," for short), because I get a potential bonus for selling these parts, or even because they save the customer money.  In fact, using factory quality parts probably missing on all three counts, and selling a universal aftermarket parts probably would do all three.  There are a couple of useful things customers should know about factory quality parts and auto repair.