RepairPal Blog

For years I have taken it for granted that there had to be different grades of gasoline at the pump in order for your vehicle to run properly.  I used to drive a very high performance Camaro that required the highest octane fuel available because this vehicle had over 300 horsepower after it had been modified and Dynamometer tuned by a well known speed shop.  It was one of the original 1967 Z28 Camaros with the famous 302 cubic inch engine.  For years I have been filling up my vehicles with middle-grade, 89 octane fuel, even though it costs more than the basic 87 octane gasoline.  No more, and I will tell you why. I began following work from Bill Wattenburg, a well-known radio personality and scientist who has worked at the Lawrence Livermore Research Labs and at UC Berkeley teaching both Physics and Electrical Engineering.  He began speaking about the fact that the modern vehicles, especially the ones with Direct Ignition Systems and without Distributors, are required to pass a very stringent EPA-conducted test in order to be sold in the US.

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.

One of my favorite new products in the automotive industry is the new Ford Work Solutions. This unique system incorporates existing technologies to assist those who use their Ford Truck or Van as a work vehicle. Ford Work Solutions is available on 2009 Ford F-150, Super Duty, E-Series vans and the upcoming 2010 Ford Transit Connect. Ford Work Solutions includes 4 features:

It looks like Chrysler is getting remarried! This time it's to an Italian bride. Fiat will be taking a 35% stake in Chrysler in exchange for no cash or stock. The Italian automaker (also owner of Ferrari and Maserati) will help Chrysler develop smaller cars and revamp their production techniques with the latest technologies. Chrysler will gain access to Fiat's European distribution network while offering up the Chrysler distribution channel in the US to help reintroduce both Alfa Romeos and Fiats. Let's hope this marriage is better than Chrysler's last one to Daimler - that one ended in a bitter divorce after 10 years in 2007. For those who didn't figure it out, the above image is a what the Chrysler/Fiat baby will look like (2009 Dodge Ram 1500 and a Fiat Qubo).

We often hear complaints about loud, squeaking brakes, and customer often wonder what can be done and whether this indicates that anything is wrong. Most often, nothing is wrong.  Brakes work by rubbing metal against metal, and that is a recipe for squeaking.  One way to address this may be to use Ceramic Brake Pads.  Ceramic brake pads are marginally more expensive than traditional organic or metal pads, but they have a number of attractive qualities, including being quieter.

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.

We here at RepairPal have been receiving tons of feedback from you about the complexities that revolve around the automotive repair process. Many of you have commented on the difficulties involved with having to return to the shop several times to have a problem addressed, sometimes without a resolution. This often results in wasted time and money, and you may still have a vehicle with the original problem! What we at RepairPal will continue to do is to provide you with the tools necessary to increase your chances of resolving these difficult problems. While there are many automotive repair shops that strive to "Fix it Right the First Time", this is not always an easy task. Providing the service advisor, and thus the mechanic working on the car with the appropriate information is a major step toward resolving vehicle problems. One of the tools we will be providing over the coming months are questionnaire sheets that will ask you, the person experiencing the problem, about the symptoms related to the problem. When you can provide this valuable information from the start, your chances of a speedy, less costly resolution are greatly increased.

One of the hot topics about next week's Inauguration celebration in Washington D.C. is the incredible number of visitors - the city is clearly going to be packed.  What's interesting is that chauffeur services are also overwhelmed with requests for black Lincoln Town Cars.  Apparently this is the "IT" car for society's who's who of Washington D.C.  While I wouldn't be caught dead driving this beast of a car, it's remarkably inexpensive to maintain.  When I looked up an oil change on the RepairPrice estimator, it's just $22-$40 in the Washington D.C. area.  That's about a third of the price for the same service on my Audi. 

Today marks the launch of the Skycar Expedition.  The Skycar is, for the most part, a high-tech, flying dune buggy.  The 42 day, 3,600 mile Expedition starts in London and ends in the middle of the Sahara Desert, Timbuktu. There's an entire ground crew following the Skycar to keep it in tip-top shape.  I wonder what kind of repairs and maintenance this fancy dune buggy will need along the way -- there probably won't be any issues with the air conditioner or power windows.