Auto Focus

Keep your old clunker or buy a new car?

March 17, 2011 // 0 Comments

by BELLA VISTA AUTO SERVICE It may clang and bang, but your old car may be the best bargain around. Almost any car can be nursed to 250,000 miles without endangering your life, and even a new engine is cheaper than all but the cheapest used cars. “Those repair bills are really adding up.” Do the math. Does the cost of repairs exceed the cost of a new car? A typical new car is $21,000, and about $350 a month for five years after 20% down. A rebuilt transmission might run $1,500, a huge outlay in one chunk, but far less than the $4,200 a year you’d spend on new-car payments alone. If you can’t afford repairs twice a year, it’s unlikely you can afford a new-car payment every month. The average sales tax that you would pay when buying a new car would more than cover the cost of most major repairs you would need in a year’s time. “I’m nervous driving an older car.” Maybe little things are beginning to go: a new thermostat one month, a starter the next. You might simply get road service insurance and carry a cell phone, and remember that even new cars aren’t immune to mechanical failure. The upside of frequent breakdowns is that you’ll get to know mechanics quite well. Find one you like, become a loyal customer, and the next time he fixes your car, ask him to take a few minutes to see what else will need repair soon. Never skimp on maintenance. Pay special attention to the things that will cost you a fortune if they break. That means regular oil changes, tire rotations, and transmission service, even if the car is running fine. Timing belt replacement, for example, seems costly at around $600, and replacing one for no other reason than the odometer has turned 90,000 miles might seem wasteful. But let one break and you’ll find that repairing bent valves could cost you four times that. Remember, a new car is no longer new when it is driven off the lot. Bella Vista Auto Service believes the best time to own your vehicle is when it’s paid for. Let your local mechanic help you maximize the life of your vehicle.  

Auto Focus — June 17, 2010

June 17, 2010 // 0 Comments

Take time for trailer safety Land offers towing tips as boating, camping seasons begin  Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land reminds Michigan residents to ensure they are towing their trailers safely as they get their campers or boats ready for a trip. “Michigan summers are made for fun getaways to your favorite lake or campsite with a boat or camper in tow,” Land said. “You can help keep your vacation carefree by properly securing your trailer so it’s ready to hit the road.” Land reminds people that the law requires trailers or pop-up campers weighing 3,000 pounds or less to have two reflectors, one on each side, as well as safety chains that connect the tow vehicle to the trailer. The chains should be loose enough to allow sharp turns but not drag on the road. Additionally, before people head out, Land advises them to: check tire pressure on the trailer and tow vehicle;   ensure the wiring is loose enough to make turns without disconnecting or touching the ground;  verify their vehicle and hitch setup is able to pull the size of trailer they have; check all turn signals, and running, hazard and brake lights to see if they’re in working order; make sure all items on the trailer are properly secured; position side- and rear-view mirrors for good visibility; raise the trailer jack, tongue support and any stabilizers and lock in place. “Make sure your vacation memories are about summer fun, and not roadside repairs or worse,” Land said. “Take a few extra minutes before you leave to look over your trailer so you and your loved ones reach your destination safely. When you’re on the road, use extra caution and allow more stopping time and distance between vehicles.” Once on the road, people should: give themselves a much greater stopping distance than they would need without the trailer; signal well in advance when passing a slower vehicle and allow extra distance to clear the vehicle; use the automatic gear setting that the vehicle manufacturer recommends for pulling a trailer; avoid sudden starts or stops that can cause skidding, sliding or jackknifing; make wider turns at corners so the trailer doesn’t hit the curb; have another person assist when backing up the vehicle and […]

Auto Focus — February 18, 2010

February 18, 2010 // 0 Comments

Don’t change my tires without an electronics degree! by JON STELLEMA There’s one thing that never changes; that is Change itself. The horseless carriage compared to your modern automobile has morphed into a technological, 3,000-pound computer on wheels. And, yes, even the tires are now computerized! Well, monitoring the pressure in your tires is handled by your vehicle computer. Inside each wheel of vehicles produced since January 2007 is a tire pressure monitor that sends information to the vehicle’s computer, and the computer can know if the tire pressure is okay or not. Amazing, isn’t it? From my point of view as an auto technician for more than 40 years and an auto repair business owner, it is one more technology to learn and buy the essential equipment to service the system. Even if you rotate the tires to a different position on the car, each wheel must be reprogrammed to let the computer know in which position that each tire is currently located. The tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), in part, was birthed in the 1990s out of the problems the Ford Motor Company had with their Explorer model and the Firestone Tire Company tires. Due to low tire pressure, the tires would overheat, delaminate and blow out, causing many fatal rollover accidents. The government has taken matters another step further by legislating shelf life for tires. A tire could be in a supplier’s business for long periods of time before being sold, sometimes years. The rubber compounds by nature will deteriorate or evaporate with age. The most obvious of this conundrum is travel trailers and motor homes seen with covers over the tires while parked for an extended period of time. The sun will dry rot the rubber. This is, of course, going to affect the cost of new tires. Much of the base materials used to construct a tire have risen lately. We have recently seen a wholesale cost jump of 10% to 12%. An outdated tire cannot be sold, so they will either be destroyed or shipped overseas. For the time being, we will have to put up with another amber warning light on our instrument panels. Jon Stellema is an eight-time national finalist for the ASE Auto Technician of the Year. […]