Why Brakes squeak in the Spring.
It's my favorite time of year. Going outside without your jacket and boots on, putting away the snow shovels, dusting off your Red Sox hat, and going for your first drive of the season with the windows down, Finally!
Then you hear it, a noise. More precisely a squeaking noise. Now what could that be?!!
My first guess..., your brakes that have worn down. Now I am not implying that your brake pads wear more in the Spring. It's just the time of year when you hear it (If you live in Boston or another place that has cold Winter's). A lot of brake manufacturers install a metal tab that is attached to the brake pad. Once the friction material wears down to a certain point (Usually 2-3mm thick) the metal tab rubs against the rotor causing all the noise.
You can put the window back up, but it's still there and whats worse, now you can hear it all the time because your aware of it.
If it just started, you usually have 1,000 to 2,000 miles left before the pad material is completely worn down to metal, that noise is MUCH worse. The good news is that it's an easy fix, just replace your brakes.
When shopping for brakes, here are some things you might want to ask.
Price is important, but should not be the only factor. Finding the cheapest price may be an indication of what kind of technician is working on your vehicle and the quality of parts being used.
I would recommend buying the premium pads where ever possible. They last longer, do not make any noise, and create less dust that gets all over your wheels.
Find out if they are replacing or resurfacing the rotors? I have personally seen some places will resurface your brake rotors even if they are below specifiation (Too thin) to try and keep the cost down. This can cause noise, brake pulsation, and premature pad wear. Just say no, I want new rotors. It's just a better brake job!
I can't tell you how many times we redo a brake job that some other shop or dealership has done because price was the only thing that mattered to the customer initially. In the long run it cost significantly more becuase they paid for it twice.
- After the repair facility inspects your brakes, ask if the brake pads are wearing evenly. If the pad thickness is 2mm on the left side and 8mm on the right side, you have other problems. Possible caliper sticking, flexible brake hose collapsing internally, etc. If this is overlooked, you will be doing brakes again real soon.
Have you ever heard of a pad slap (Taking old pads out and putting new ones in)? Just replacing the brake pads without removing the rust from the caliper slides and hub or neglecting to resurface/replace the rotors will cause premature failure and pulsation when stepping on the brake pedal. Plus it could cause noise just like the one you are trying to get rid of. So if you hear those words, leave and try somewhere else.
If your vehicle has drum brakes in the rear, make sure they get adjusted. This will improve pedal height and allow all four wheels to stop the vehicle evenly. Otherwise the front brakes do too much of the work.
Ask for Good Parts
- Not all parts are the same. Like deciding whether to choose Kellogs Corn flakes (My choice) or the Store brand (My wifes choice), which hotel to stay in next time you go on vacation (Marriott or Red Roof), or buying shoes at The Walking Company versus Walmart. There are lots of options on brake parts. I usually choose the premium version for a lot of reasons. They last longer, stop better, don't make noise, and create less dust on your shiny rims. Saving money is good, but may not be wise when it could cost you more in the long run.
Lifetime Warranty - Be carefull on this one. Usually the pads have a lifetime warranty but the rotors, calipers, and labor do not. If you buy quality pads, they should last 30,000 miles at a minimum. If you buy lifetime pads they usually last 15,000 miles or less. Lifetime usually means you will replace them more often.
Make sure they guarentee the noise will be gone if the brakes are replaced. Ask what the actual thickness of the brake pads are which is usually given in milimeters. New pad thickness's are between 10-12mm, We recommend that they be replaced when they are 3mm or less.
Get rid of the squeak, roll all of the windows down, and enjoy your ride this Spring.
As an independent auto repairer, we face many challenges every day. Most of which we can control, except when it comes to interacting with the OEM's (Auto manufacturers).
We are constantly trying to deal with the latest obstacle that gets in the way for us to be able to do our jobs effectivly and efficiently. So what are these obstacles? I will tell you
- Hard to find or very expensive repair information on line
- Dealers that won't sell you the parts needed to fix the car. Some try and hide under the "It's a theft related part" meaning they won't sell me an ignition switch suggesting that I make a living steeling cars. Even though I am Bonded to be a Locksmith which makes me accountable. I recently was trying to fix a Mercedes and the rep at MB said he would not allow me to purchase a valve body for the transmission, but he would sell me the ignition switch, Go figure.
- Expensive factory scan tools
- Free service. When a new car is sold, some offer free service vouchers. An example is Chevy trucks will give you 12 free oil change coupons when you buy a new truck. Are they really free, or did the OE add it on to the price? How can I compete with free?
Now I do understand to some degree WHY they do this, to protect there dealer's. The overhead at a dealership is staggering. I have heard of $250,000 a month just to turn the key to get in. So yes that is a good reason to try and protect each dealer (Franchise).
As a consumer I want to go were I can get the best value. I am not suggesting value means cheapest either. Here is what I look for,
- Can I get in for service when I need to?
- Do I feel confident they can do what is needed on my car?
- Are they honest?
- Is it convenient?
- Are they looking out for my needs as well as their's.
- When a problem arises, how do they handle it?
Some dealers can do all of these things, and some cannot. For the ones that cannot, thats were I come in. If the playing field was level I would have an easier time, but when the OE's put up sophisticated road blocks, that's what I refer to as "Not Playing Nice". Most independent repair facilities are understaffed and do not have the time to be able to uncover what tricks the OE's are up to now.
In my opinion playing nice is another word for business ethics. If companies do the right thing for the consumer, it should come back to reward them. There are some companies that do play nice, Toyota is a great example of this. They sell their repair information and factory scan tools well below the industry average and I love their "Extended Care" warranty. Hyundai/Kia gives us the information for free, like them too.
Ironacally, these companies are also enjoying some of the best years in business even though globally we are in tough economic times. Maybe the American and European OE's will watch this and listen. Given the fact that the American people bailed out GM and Chrysler (For a second time) you would think they might learn from this.
We want companies to be ethical, get it!!!
If companies won't comply, what choice do we have but to support right to repair legislation of some kind. I have also played with NASTF, to be nice lets just say it needs work and probably more resources to function properly. The response time I have gotten from NASTF is completely unacceptable. I have the case numbers to support these claims.
I also believe initially that the threat of legislation has prompted some OEM's to offer more (Service information, scan tools, and parts), and believe me we definately have more than we did 10 years ago. But we also REQUIRE more than we did 10 years ago as well. When you have to go into the CEM (Central electronics module) on a Mercedes to reset the code for a burnt out headlight in order to get it to work, well...
Beware when buying tires for All-wheel drive vehicle. What you should know.
Recently we had a 2004 Chrysler Pacifica come into our shop for service. Two of the tires were worn beyond the safe point to drive, which is 2/32nds of an inch in tread depth (New is 10-12/32nds). The other two tires were measured at 7/32nds. The rule of thumb is to keep the difference in tread depth less than 3/32nds.
I know, this is confusing even for us sometimes. So, what did we do? We sold him two new tires that had a tread depth of 10-32nds affectively reducing the difference between the depths. It was a difference of 5/32nds, now it's 3/32nds. Well that turned out to be the wrong decision. When we replaced the tires, the model of tire that he had was no longer available, so we went with a similar but not exact match to the tread design.
The next day the customer was on a two hour trip, when his differential literally exploded. The differential is a component on all four-wheel drive vehicles that transfers the energy to each wheel from the engine/transmission. Once this happens, the vehicle will no longer move as was the case. Thank God no one was hurt.
So why did this happen?
Once the vehicle was towed in, the damage was obvious. We started assessing the vehicle,
- The tires were remeasured. Fronts were 7/32nds, rears were 10/32nds.
- We measured the circumference of each tire. Fronts were 91.5", the rears were 92.25". A 3/4" difference. Chrysler told us there should not be more than .25" difference. Uh Oh!
- Next we mounted the two original tires back on the vehicle and measured them. They were 90.25", a 1.25" difference. What?!?
So to be clear, by replacing the two tires we reduced the circumference differential by .75" and the tread depth by 2/32nds. This is supposed to be good. The speed rating was identical, but the tread design was different.
We concluded that the tread design was the culprit. We replaced the transfer case and installed two more tires to match. Car fixed.
So what should you do?
- Your tires all have to be the same brand and model. This can be a factor when you buy tires on special. If it's on special because it is being discontinued, Don't buy it!!! You may not be able to find one 6 months later if needed
- Rotate your tires every 5-6k miles especially if you drive an All-Wheel drive vehicle
- If you damage a tire beyond repair, and the tread depth is 5/32nds or half worn, then you can buy just one tire. There are services out there that will wear the replacement tire to any depth required, in this case it's 5/32nds
Let me have already made the mistake for you.
If you have run into this or a similar problem, please comment below. I would love to hear from you.
Brian Hohmann, owner of Accurate Automotive
Why does it cost so much to fix my car? In short, I don't really know. I do know how to arrive at the final price, it is a reflection of cost with required markups.
The cost of doing business goes up every year, and the prices charged reflect that increase. If we go back to the old days, I remember gas when it was .89 cents a gallon, we have seen this hover around $4.00 recently. Another example is my parents bought a house in Billerica for $30,000 in 1971, now it's value is $350,000.
So why is there so much difference in price between gas stations, auto service shops, and car dealerships? It all goes back to cost.
- What is the rent and property taxes for the location of the business?
- What kind of equipment do they own to fix your car? An example of this is buying a code reader for $50.00 or buying the Factory scan tool for $10,000, this tool helps diagnose the "Check engine light".
- What kind of Technicians do they employ? Inexpensive rookies or experienced veterans?
- What services do they provide? Loaner cars, service reminder post cards, extended hours of operation, and being opened on the weekends are just a few examples that not every shop provides.
- What kind of parts do they use, Factory or Aftermarket? While factory parts are not always necessary, a lot of the times there is a quality difference. Most of the time it really does mean "You get what you pay for"
The expense of owning and driving an automobile does not fall into the fun category. It's not fun to have to pay for a leaking radiator, or having to put new tires on your car. If you are to keep driving safely it is required. Believe me, I don't even like fixing my personal vehicle. I'd rather take my kids skiing.
Please remember when someone is giving you a price, they are using their cost for parts, labor, and overhead. If you do not agree or like their price, remember you are just asking for information. As a service provider I recognize that part of my job is to provide you with this information. What you do with this information is up to you. If you do not agree with this information, please be civil. We are not here because we are trying to rip you off, we only want to provide you with service, and the price given reflects our cost. So when you compare price please try to remember this. If the price at another shop sounds too good to be true, well...
Thanks for reading
Brian Hohmann, Owner of Accurate Automotive
Everybody googles, a LOT. I have read statistics that indicate around 3 billion times a DAY. You may ask how do I know this, simple, I googled it.
The information can be very helpful. I Google even when fixing cars. The information I read about is helpful. Here is where I recommend using caution. If you google a problem (Keyword) that your car is having, the answer you get does not mean their solution is going to fix YOUR car. It can be a good place to start, a lot of the time more information is required to identify the source of the problem.
For instance, I have customers who will have the local auto parts store read/scan their car because the check engine light was on. Sometimes the code retrieved was correctly read, sometimes it wasn't (Cheap scan tool was used). Then they go home or use their smart phone to google the code, whatever Google comes back with, is what they want to fix. They may purchase this part, either at a parts store or the dealership. Next they call around to see who will install this part. Some even want a guarantee that this part is going to fix their problem, even though the installing shop did not diagnose the problem.
This example is like going on WebMD.com, identifying the symptoms, then going to the Doctor to operate on what you tell him to operate on, or prescribe what you tell them to prescribe. Most of the time when I read WebMD, I find that I have LOTS of symptoms for LOTS of different diseases. I should be dead by now according to WebMD. How can they be wrong, it's on the internet?
Google may give you the information required to properly diagnose the concern. Somebody still has to interpret the information or prove your cars symptoms. Then make a recommendation based on the results. Thats were I come in. I am a trained technician with equipment, technical resources, and experience that beats google every day of the week when it comes to diagnosing and fixing my customers vehicles. So although Google does have it's place, you still can't beat hands on.
Brian Hohmann, Owner of Accurate Automotive
Every year the choices for getting your vehicle serviced by qualified technicians is shrinking. In 1987 the number of Auto Repair facilities in the town of Burlington was 21 shops with 166 service bays. Today, there is only one new facility in Burlington, Herb Chambers Audi/Porsche. The remaining facilities total 11 with about 113 service bays. These are mostly located at the three Herb Chambers dealerships and Sears Auto Center.
Why is this happening? In short, the newer cars are made better than older vehicles so they break down less often. The need to perform a yearly tune-up does not exist, Fuel injection replaced carburetors, most vehicles have all-season tires, so no need to put on the snow tires every winter. This has led to a decreased demand for the services that my fellow technicians and I provide.
So why do the auto makers build vehicles that are more reliable? I believe this is a complex question. A few reasons that come to mind are: To gain market share, the EPA required better fuel economy and tighter emissions standards, and the NTSB (Along with other agencies) have demanded safer cars for U.S. drivers. So thats good news for consumers.
As long as their building better cars and there is some place to go for service, GREAT!!! As a consumer myself, my concern is options or lack there of. Lack of options can mean, higher costs, extended times to get in for service, and the possibility of poorer quality of service overall. Having competition is GOOD for everybody involved. It supports the idea that if I provide a service at a reasonable cost, complete the job in a timely manner, with no mistakes, then it should be a safe assumption that this customer will return fo service.
I have another imperative requirment for my shop. Educating the consumer so that after all repairs are complete, they do not experience buyers remorse. I need to know that we did everything we could to help our customer make an informed decision that they will not regret later. I believe this is the missing quality that the larger repair facility's have not and will not address. My impression is that they are purely profit driven. Even if your at the dealership and the service adviser does not recommend repairing the vehicle, but gives you a number for someone in the sales department, it's still profit driven. The advantage for smaller shops is we are not tied to any brand. If we were in a similar situation, we could recommend more choices based on value to you, the consumer. Our only concern at this point it to make sure your needs are met.
How about qualifications? Aren't dealer technicians better? Yes...and No. The advantage dealer techs have over me is they only work on one type of vehicle. In theory, it "should" be safe to say that makes them better. In my experience - not always. When I was a dealer tech, I had access to the latest technology, training, and equipment. One problem that I experienced personally was that my diagnostic skills weakened. I didn't have to think. If I put in a part and it didn't work, I would just remove it and try something else. We could do this because our dealership also sold parts and would take back everything, not so in the aftermarket world.
As an independent technician/service provider, I have had to make a LOT of investments to be sure we are ready for what ever rolls in the door. At Accurate Automotive, I have purchased well over $200,000 in dealer level diagnostic tools; $150,000 in tire changing and wheel alignment equipment, and another $150,000 on a complex infrastructure so that we can operate as smoothly as possible and provide a great experience for my customers. To put those numbers into perspective, we are only a four bay facility. So that investment was $125,000 per bay. Times have definitely changed!!! After making this investment in equipment, we also had to find good training that is ongoing. And we did!! I am soooo glad we did this. It has allowed us to grow as a company, and personally grow as technicians. I know we are ready to meet any technical challenge that comes up.
This investment was not a guarantee we would succeed, but it was necessary to stay current. Thankfully it payed off for us. But not every repair facility has been so lucky or willing to make that commitment. I believe this is another reason there are fewer and fewer young people following this career path. I have seen plenty of statistics to back this up.
My reason for this article was to define who we are as a company and to assure you that Times are Changing, and thankfully so are we.
Brian Hohmann, owner of Accurate Automotive
Low Tire Light on AGAIN, why? It may only be 3-4 psi low, but thats all it take somtimes. It's good to know your tire pressures, especially if you have a 8-08 or newer vehicle because these have Direct TPMS.
What's TPMS? Tire Pressure Monitoring System. Each wheel has a sensor that is able to measure the actual pressure in each tire and send an RF signal to a receiver. This receiver alerts the driver either by a light or an actual pressure at a specific tire as indicated on the dash board.
Also don't forget the spare tire, if it's a full size, I bet it also has a sensor too.
You can find the required pressure for front and rear tires (sometimes they are different) located on a placard usually in the drivers side door jam.
Now it is important to know whether this is the warm or cold pressure that is required. The psi is usually 2-3 lbs. lower when cold. So if you have to drive to an air pumping station to fill up, and the tires are now warm, if you set it exactly to the required COLD pressure, they will be 2-3lbs. low in the morning.
I have had cars come in with an actual psi of 31, and the required was 33 and it turned the light on. After correcting the pressure, most cars will adjust automatically after the car is driven above 29 mph for a few minutes.
If the light still does not go out, check your owners manual, there may be a specific procedure. And if that doesn't help, go by your local repair shop and have them read the TPMS sensor pressures with a tool designed specifically for this. We have two tools, the Bartec and an OTC. If the sensor does not transmit a signal, the battery may have gone dead and complete sensor replacement will be required.
Hope this helps
Did you know that a used Aftermarket catalytic converter (or cat) is only worth 5% of the value of a used Factory (OEM) converter. So before you go though all the trouble of illegally cutting off that converter in the middle of the night, check to make sure you are steeling the real deal.
I would hate to see you get ripped off when you turn in the metal to the recyclers.
You may ask why is the aftermarket converter only worth 5 cents on the dollar compared to factory cats. Its all about the precious metals inside. There are three types, Rhodium, Platnium, and Palladium. The auto recyclers are able to extract these metals and reuse them. The more metal inside, the more value the cat has.
These metals are used to change the gas properties from an internal combustion engine into less harmful gases. The more precious metal the converter has, the better it performs. And by the way, the next time you are getting "cash for cats", keep in mind you have the state of California to thank for this. They are the ones that came out with the C.A.R.B. act. Without this, we would all be motoring along, poluting the air with straight pipes, instead of cats. So keep them on the Christmas card list, maybe they will come out with more expensive stuff to steal.
Hope this helps
Here is a link talking about our past trip to Haiti, and the upcoming one in April 2012 http://patch.com/A-pR0p
It's nice to be able to get a fixed monthly cost to own and drive your car. When you purchase that new vehicle and go into the finance office to determine how your going to afford that monthly payment, they always try and add in that extended warranty option.
Now if the warranty covered everything needed when the car broke, then it would be a no brainer, buy it. But guess what, they typically don't. Here are some examples:
1/Warranty companies may not be willing to pay the posted labor rate, sometimes by as much as half. There explanation is we will pay fair and reasonable costs, but they get to determine what's fair and reasonable. The customer is responsible for the difference, plus any applicable deductible.
2/Some companies will want to install used parts, let me say that again, they may want to install USED PARTS. If you read some contract's, it's in there I've looked.
3/Some require an inspection of needed repair after diagnosis by an independent adjuster (The independent adjuster topic is for another article). They have up to 48 hours to send somebody out to inspect the vehicle, and sometimes take up to another 24 hours to agree on repairs. Thats three days just to get permission to fix the vehicle. If your policy coverage has rental, the rental only covers time to actually fix the vehicle, the three days are on you, the policy holder.
4/The contract may only pay for listed parts covered. Lets say the brake caliper sticks and is a covered component, but when the caliper stuck on it damaged the brake pads and brake rotor, these are considered wear items and may not be covered even though the cause of premature failure was the caliper sticking. Not fair, even dealerships would cover this under there normal new car warranty.
Now the good. I have found some really good companies to deal with. When we call in the repair, I get a representative who allows me to do my job in every sense of the word, so long as you can back up everything needed, life is good.
A suggestion I would give you is if they would allow you to purchase the policy AFTER you buy the vehicle, or at least have someone else look over the actual policy to try and determine if it's a good one. Google the name of the company to start.
Or self insure. Put away $50.00 a month into an account If you buy the vehicle new or $100.00 if it is a used vehicle. This allows you more flexability.
I hope this helps, Good luck