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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Estimates; How Helpful Are They?

When your vehicle starts making worrisome noises or begins to run strange, you know its time to bring it in. How much it will cost, however, is a completely different story. Often times we have customers calling us for estimates on their vehicle before they have brought it- price shoppers calling around town to compare prices. This often proves quite difficult as we haven't actually looked at the vehicle to confirm what the problem actually is.

This is where the problem lies. When looking for a automotive repair shop you can't choose solely based on what they estimate the price of the repair will be. Over-the-phone estimates are often very vague figures that may not actually reflect the total cost of the repair. Many shops will "spitball" a figure that sounds appealing over the phone, only to upgrade that cost once you actually go in. In our experience, its better to find a reliable and trustworthy shop to take the vehicle in first and then get your estimate together. This will prove to be a much more precise number and give you a better idea of what to expect. 

Here at Auto House of Clovis, we do perform over-the-phone estimates to the best of our abilities based on the issue the customer is experiencing, however, as stated above, we don't recommend this method. Once we inspect the vehicle and discover the issue, we contact the customer right away to communicate to them what is going on, how much the estimated cost will be (including tax), and how long we will have the vehicle. Our estimates are valid for a full 30 days to guarantee that you get the best price possible for your services. 

So remember, if you need an estimate, calling around town may not be your best option as these numbers will be quite vague and will not reflect the actually severity of your vehicle.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Safety First

When it comes to the safety of your vehicle, we often take for granted the abilities and convenience that our vehicle provides. It isn't until we're broken down on a busy free way in 100 degree weather that we understand the importance of maintaining instead of repairing.

Maintaining your vehicle can prevent many costly repairs later. Squeaky brakes, electrical problems, coolant leak; all minor fixes to prevent a complete brake system overhaul, a rear-ended crash, or an engine overheating. Every vehicle comes equipped with an owner's manual that explains what maintenance needs to be completed and when to keep the car running in prime condition. Your automotive shop should keep the vehicle's records on file so you don't have to hassle with old paperwork. But remember, a scheduled service is different from an oil change.

So why not get more bang for your buck? At Auto House of Clovis, all of our oil changes are complete with a complementary 25 point safety inspection. In this inspection, our technician takes the care and time to inspect 25 areas to ensure vehicle safety. These areas include brake life, tire wear, hose connections, light operations, and so on. Once the inspection is completed, you get a copy of the report and an added piece of mind of knowing that your vehicle is safe for you and your passengers.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Diagnostic Fee: Why?

Anyone who has stepped into an automotive shop for a service has known the trickery that can be diagnostic fees. Diagnostic testing is a necessary and vital step in the automotive repair process, but that doesn't mean you should have to pay extra for it. Running diagnostics can take anywhere from a half an hour to two hours. During this time, the mechanic is to 'diagnose' the problem and how it can be repaired. Most shops (in California mostly) will charge for the initial diagnostic PLUS the labor that the repair actually requires. Yuck.

We choose to operate differently. We offer a free diagnostic if the recommended repair is performed the same day. So you could save $42-$168 off your bill and complete the repair in just a couple hours.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Buyer Beware

There is one customer question that should make every automotive mechanic cringe: Can I supply my own parts and fluids? Yikes. In the ears of a skilled mechanic that repair becomes risky business- literally.

Automotive repair is not an easily taught and understood subject which is why it is important for your mechanic to explain in detail the problem, labor involved, and parts available to repair the vehicle. We know that times are tough and money is tight which is why we work all the angles to try to get you the best deal possible. We often have customers who want to supply their own parts in the hopes to save money but that's not always the wisest option for the following reasons.  

For a corporation like ourselves, we have established strong relationships with reputable part distributors whom we have come to trust with quality products. All of these distributors have reliable warranties on the parts they distribute separate from our shop warranty giving you two full coverage warranties for the repair completed. If you choose to supply your own parts, you deny this warranty coverage from the parts manufacturer and our shop warranty diminishes to 'bare bones' as we do not warranty customer supplied parts. We cannot warranty this service because of legality reasons. First, we have no idea where this part was purchased from, if it is used or new, if its the correct part, if it will fix the problem, or if its stolen (in extreme cases). And secondly, if the customer authorizes the repair with the supplied part, we cannot guarantee that the supplied part will fix the problem or not cause more internal damage to the vehicle. Our standard warranty is 12 months or 12,000 miles post service for anything that may happen in defect with the part. By supplying your own part, you fore go this insurance and run the risk of having to pay later if the part doesn't fix the problem and causes more damage instead. 

Think of it this way, if you supply all the toppings you want on your pizza to a pizza parlor and your pizza is far from appeasing once you eat it, you can't blame the pizza parlor because they just made it with what you supplied.       

Save yourself from paying more later and skip on buying your own parts. It's risky, for both you and the mechanic.    

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Those Pesky Check Engine Lights

Nearly every vehicle on the road (excluding some of those older models) has a check engine light or some sort of service warning light to let the driver know something internally isn't processing correctly. These lights are most often found in the dash along with the other warning lights. We recommend that you study your owner's manual if you are ever unsure of what a light or symbol means because it will assign severity of the issue. If the check engine light does come on, you should take it over to a local mechanic as soon as possible for the following reasons:

What does the check engine light mean?
- Most vehicles have internal computers that act as the nervous system of the vehicle. These computers send signals throughout the car (not just the dash) to make sure everything is in working order. When the light comes on, hundreds of error codes are sent to the computers and neglecting them can lead to severe internal damage. These errors can range from misfires to gas caps being off so although the engine light could be something simple, it could also be something harmful or something effecting your gas mileage.

How do you diagnose the check engine light code?
There are two ways to diagnose what error codes have been stored in your vehicles computer. First and foremost we strongly recommend you take the vehicle to a licensed automotive repair facility with the proper equipment and training. The equipment neccessary to scan your vehicles computer accurately can range from $50-$300. Of course, the highest priced equipment gives the clearest readings and stays current with upgrades and manufacturer changes. These efficient scanners can bring up an error code within 10 minutes. The second option, however we strongly disadvise, is to scan the vehicles computer yourself using a simplified scanner. This smaller scanner will give you an error code, but then you must do extensive research to see what the code translates into.
What We Do: We start of by scanning the computer to get a diagnostic code. Our scanners have touch screen and wireless capabilities as well as an extensive update and informational hard drive. The technician enters the vehicle specifics and the computer translates the codes into English, detects where the source of the code is and any other miscellanous error codes that the computer may be receiving. On average there are about 25 error codes that can be processed in a vehicle ranging from irrelevant things to bigger problems.

So it just gets scanned, fixed, and then I'm on the road?
Not exactly. The scanner equipment only detects and translates error codes, not clear them from the system so the vehicle needs to be driven for the error sensor to clear and turn the light off. For example, if say an error code came up for the gas cap being off (a common code) and you put the gas cap back on, the car will recognize the problem has been fixed and will give the computer the 'OK' to turn the engine light off but the car has to be in motion to do so. There also aren't always new parts involved in the process of check engine light repair as well. Sometimes a little adjustment is needed here or a little tweaking there because not all codes are detremental to safe operation. It is possible to have to keep driving the vehicle to get the code to clear and have to keep rescanning the system to see what the vehicle is reading.

What if it's the computer?
The check engine light will also come on if the vehicle's computer has worn out or is not operating properly. This can be easily identified by scanning the computer. However, the replacement cost of a new computer is quite expensive for the part alone, so you may want to discuss your options with the mechanic.

Monday, October 15, 2012

How To Choose the Right Mechanic

The automotive repair industry like any other is a competitive field filled with professionals and novices. But as a customer, how do you know where to begin or who to trust? Your vehicle is one of the largest investments you will make in your lifetime so finding a mechanic you trust is just half the battle. We have provided a guide on how to choose your repair facility:

1) Address the severity of the issue. By this we mean, is the problem just an annoying sound or are your brakes literally on fire? If the problem isn't severe or immediately life threatening, take the time to really explore your facility options in town. However, if your engine overheated in 100 degree weather on a free way you need to make the closest choice available.

What we do: If you have an emergency situation that needs immediate attention we can give you the telephone number of a trusted towing company to bring it to our shop. You do not need to be present for us to take in the vehicle. Just give us a call prior to the vehicle arriving so we can accomodate you as soon as it arrives.

2) Do your research. The internet is a valuable tool for anyone looking for a service or product. Look up local automotive repair facilities and their online reviews. You should judge your shop by location, reputation, years in business, staff helpfulness, and qualifications and specialties. Keep in mind that some services (transmission repairs, smog tests, tire alignments, etc.) are specialty shops not related to automotive repair facilities. Ask friends, family, and co-workers for their suggestions on an automotive repair facility as their opinions are more powerful than online reviews. Personal referrals offer an unbiased approach to a company and someone's unfiltered opinion. Social media and advertising is important for any business and can offer different perspectives into what a shop is all about. A business should be as transparent as possible with it's customers.

What we do: We provide an interactive website for new and potential customers to explore our services and information. We also have a Facebook page that has albums of photos of our shop area as well as all of our technicians and service writers. We have public reviews on Google+, Merchant Circle, Yelp, and City Search written by our customers for a second opinion on our services. If you would like an estimate, we are more than happy to accomodate your request via phone, text, or e-mail services.

3) Know what to ask. Your automotive mechanic should be upfront and personal with you since your vehicle is a personal matter. You should never be intimidated to ask a mechanic what exactly was repaired on your vehicle. Always ask about what warranty the shop offers for their services and parts and how willing they are to accommodate you if the problem persists. Be sure to ask about the manufacturer's warranty as well as there may be services covered by the dealer. Ask what the labor rate is and an estimate on what the services will be before they are performed so you know what to expect. Inquire about the estimated time to repair the vehicle, if it needs to be kept overnight, and what the shops hours are in case of an emergency. If your vehicle is left overnight, ask what the security procedures are if something should happen or what security measures the shop takes to protect your vehicle. Read the small print of the estimate carefully before you sign it to be sure of the liabilities and responsibilities the shop claims if something should happen to your car.

What we do: Our Master Technician and owner, Darryl Lowitz handles all quality control and release of vehicles as well as diagnostics on specialty jobs. He speaks to every customer about their vehicle, what's going on, and price budget. We strive to bridge the communication gap between customer and mechanic because your vehicle is a vital part of everyday living. We have a 12 month 12,000 mile warranty on our services and are available Monday through Friday from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm. We offer Early Bird & Nite Owl after hours drop-off service that allows you to leave the vehicle overnight or early morning with the key locked away securely until opening. Our building has a 24 hour alarm system and our side gates have security panels, padlocks, and other burglary detardants.  

4) Understand that not everything is a quick fix. This is especially the case with check engine lights. When your check engine light comes on, there are hundreds of codes that are transferred to the vehicle's computer system. In order to find the correct code, our systems reset the program and the car must be driven until the light stays off for a constant amount of time. This can be from 10 minutes to 10 days  Other issues like "it's a strange noise" are difficult to diagnose and take time to investigate and drive the car to duplicate the issue. Be very specific or offer to take the mechanic for a drive to duplicate the problem as driving styles differ.

What we do: For most check engine lights, we charge a small diagnostic fee to scan the computers and ask the customer to return if they light comes back on instead of us keeping the vehicle. This allows the customer to continue driving the vehicle and get on with their day. If the light comes on again, just bring it back and we'll take another look free of charge. Check engine lights are a complicated diagnostic, and any shop that is worth it's salt knows it's not always an overnight fix. Most repairs are completed within one business day to ensure that our customers are back on the road as soon as possible.

5) Ask about qualifications. Are the mechanics ASE or Master certified? Did they attend training classes or have degrees? Make sure that your mechanic is qualified to be addressing the issues of your vehicle. Most vehicles are equipped with a complex system of computers, much like the brain of the vehicle. If an automotive repair facility doesn't have the proper equipment to scan the computer (it's a pretty expensive piece of equipment) they can't diagnose the car properly and that could end up costing you a lot of time and money.

What we do: Darryl Lowitz is ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certified and Master Certified. We also have mechanics that have Bachelors of Science degrees in Automotive Technology from Fresno State University and technical training with Ford and Chevy diagnostics. We have a combined automotive experience over 50 years in this field and our knowledge expands every day with weekly seminars and training classes for new breeds of vehicle such as the hybrid or electric cars.

All of these tips are designed to give you peace of mind when choosing an automotive repair facility.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Cheat Sheet

Coolant or antifreeze? Oil or lube? Do you know what your fluids are? Truth is, many people are unsure about which fluids go where and what exactly they do which could be detremental if one ever gets stranded. It is always good to know the difference in your fluids because knowledge can make all the difference in emergency situations.

Oil: Motor oil is derived from crude oil and mixed with specially formulated additives to lubricate the engine and reduce friction of the moving parts. Which brand to use? It depends on buyer preference, price set, performance standard, and engine size. The various types of motor oil can be difficult to maneuver and choose, which is why we recommend asking a automotive specialist based on your vehicle.

Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF): Obviously, automatic and manual transmission are different so they require different lubrication as well. With an automatic, the fluid level will rarely be low as this is a sealed system requiring little maintenance. If your fluid is low, you may have a leak in the system or a crack somewhere. Clean and "healthy" ATF should be very dark almost black. If you see stains in your driveway of a reddish color, call an automotive specialist as soon as possible. A manual transmission is a little more labor intensive and requires additional autmotive knowledge.

Coolant: AKA Antifreeze. Many people confuse the two for seperate things, but they are both used to cool the engine compartment. Most common colors of coolant are green and red, but can vary based on manufacturer. Coolant works to keep the engine from overheating with a 50/50 mixture of water and coolant. This specially formulated fluid keeps heat from the engine and transfers it to the radiator to prevent the engine from overheating. Coolant is extremely toxic to humans and animals alike. If you plan on keeping your own supply around, keep it in a secured and locked cabinet.

Power Steering Fluid: This fluid makes manuevering the vehicle much easier. If this is low, you will notice right away as your steering wheel will be difficult to bring back to "center" after a turn. The fluid is usually red and can sometimes be interchanged with ATF.

Brake Fluid: A vital part of stopping your car, the brake fluid transfers pressure from the internal pedal to the external pads. You will know when you need to fill your brake fluid because your pedal will begin to get "mushy" and sink closer to the floor than normal.

We advise our customers to have these fluids checked and filled by a automotive repair professional as some of these fluids are toxic and need to be recycled and handled properly. If you are experiencing any of these problems, call today to make an appointment at 559-292-2028.