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The Mechanic Doctor - Resources for Amateur and Pro Auto Mechanics

For the amateur handyman who loves learning about cars, hearing the sound of an engine starting to break down can mean a challenge in their immediate future. But to the novice, one wrong clunk can send them into a spiral of anxiety. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do for your car before you have to take it to the mechanic. Understanding a bit about car mechanics can save you money, bail you out of dangerous situations (think car broken down in a desolate area), and give you more leverage when you take your ride to the shop.

Identify the Problem

The first step with any malfunction is to identify where the system failed. Usually, this means determining if the problem is in the electrical department or the hardware department. Use your car manual to run a quick diagnostics test.

  • Does the car turn on – Asking yourself the basic questions can help narrow down your problem. If the vehicle doesn’t start, it could be a blown battery, a faulty starter, or the ignition switch itself.
  • Test the battery – Batteries at the end of their life will read less than what they’re supposed to. A quick test with a voltmeter can tell you if your battery is still functioning or not.
  • Check the oil – If you hear any clunking sounds while driving or if your car keeps overheating, this could be a result of low oil. When checking the oil, make sure your car’s engine has cooled down and you’re on flat ground.
  • Change the air filter – If you hear unusual sounds from the engine and black smoke keeps exiting your exhaust, then it might be time to change your air filter.
  • Use a code reader – For less than a hundred bucks, you can get yourself a handheld code reader that plugs into your car’s computer. Cheaper versions will generate the code and allow you to search online for what it means. Newer ones will identify what and where the problem is.
Quick Fix or Costly Repair

If you’ve identified the problem, great! If not, head over to your local mechanic to see if they can run a diagnosis for you. Don’t have them repair the car just yet. There are some quick fixes that you can do at home to avoid expensive fees.

Here are some common quick fixes that can be done by ordering parts online and watching YouTube tutorials:

  • Changing spark plugs
  • Replacing brake pads
  • Oil and battery change
  • Headlights and taillights
Not Worth Fixing? Sell the Car!

If the repairs are astronomical and you’d rather invest that money into a new car, the option to sell is always on the table. If you’re not sure how to sell a car, have no fear, it’s easier than you think. The main steps go as follows:

  • Collect the necessary paperwork including title and car history report
  • Clean your car inside and out
  • Set an asking price
  • List your car online
  • Set up a test drive
  • Sell the car

If you don’t know how much to sell your car for, check online with a car valuation company. There are plenty of great resources that will rate your car against the market. Or see how much it’s worth to trade in. Further, dealerships will often give you a sizeable discount on a new vehicle if you’re trading in your old one.

When to Visit a Mechanic

The best advice for car owners is if you’re not confident, don’t try to fix it. If someone’s appendix explodes, you don’t start performing surgery just because it’s going to be cheaper than sending them to a hospital. Neither should you tear apart your car’s engine in order to avoid paying the mechanic’s fee. If your car isn’t running properly and you’re worried that one day you’re going to be stranded on the side of the freeway, it’s time to visit the mechanic.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Wait to Fix It

When your car starts breaking down, it can feel like the ground beneath your feet is crumbling. Strange noises and weird jerks make you wonder which day in the future will be spent on the side of the road with a smoking car. The anticipation of this event can cause anxiety, so try not to procrastinate any longer than you have to. Otherwise, you’ll be cursing at yourself while you wait for a tow truck to pick you up.

The post What to Do When Your Car Starts Breaking Down appeared first on The Mechanic Doctor.

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The Mechanic Doctor - Resources for Amateur and Pro Auto Mechanics

Profitability is a touchy subject in any business. A lot of people ask just how profitable is the auto repair industry in the age of YouTube and information for all. 

The answer, as most business owners will attest, is so buried in the murky waters of operations and disclosure that on an individual level it is hard to say. In an up economy, shops can make money hand over fist or can fall flat on their faces.

As a service writer, I have my finger on the pulse of my shop’s ability to turn a profit. I am going to go out on a limb and say that my job function is even more important in the profitability structure than the guys who turn wrenches.

I know that every mechanic reading this just did an audible breath intake, got all up in their sass, snapped their fingers and hollered, “Oh no, he didn’t.”

Rest assured, I am not so big of a narcissist to think that mechanics aren’t a key resource in the profitability of my shop. They are the means of production and are responsible for providing the service customers actually pay for. That being said, you can take steps to insulate your shop against poor performance from a mechanic.

The money you might gain or lose from a mechanic is nothing compared to the money you gain or lose with a service writer.

Through my career, I have been in a number of roles. I started specifically in automotive as a tire salesman. I wasn’t a service writer; I was sales. It was my job to get a customer to open their wallet and not much more.

I was also straight commission which means that my paycheck was directly tied to how profitable I was. Suddenly, I became a financial officer for the company. I didn’t get a fancy title or any corporate perks. It happened by default.

If I hadn’t done that, my paychecks would have been at the mercy of whatever screw-up happened to come along behind me.

Unacceptable.

Money in the bank

Sales is as important to a shop as actually doing the work. It is a mechanism to put cash in the till. It doesn’t matter if your monthly revenue is $10,000 or $1,000,000. Closing sales and turning wrenches doesn’t put money in the bank, only in the register.

Never forget that money in the register can still leave it before it gets to your bank account. You have bills to pay after all. Financial types call it overhead. I call it opportunity.

Here is the secret to profitability from my standpoint: the money isn’t made when you sell. The money is made when you buy.

This is where I am in my zone. It is what I get up every morning to do. I have a knack for exploiting margin. It is a game I thoroughly enjoy playing. (For the uninitiated, margin is the spread between what you buy something for and what you sell it for. Net profit.)

In the notoriously low margin tire industry, I had quarterly margin percentages in the mid to high 50s. It is not only possible but easy with the right tools, the right mentality, and effective leadership.

Labor is as close to straight profit as you will get unless someone just leaves a pile of cash on your counter for no reason. Parts are going to be all over the place. Tires could be 25% while a light bulb could be 90% or more.

Every part I estimate has a certain percentage of mark-up. For the sake of easy math, I will say the mark-up is 50%. If I pay $30 for a tie rod I am going to sell it for $45. 

I can try to squeeze an extra 3% to 5% out of the customer but could get push back from the customer price shopping the competition.

Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate…

On almost every part I sell I try and negotiate the price I pay for it lower. If I can get the parts house to discount that part 5% I can pass those savings along to the customer and be their hero or leave the sale price alone and be my boss’s hero.

When I have suggested in the past that my co-workers do this a lot of them have said they feel like an asshole asking for a discount. I don’t mind doing this. One person’s asshole is another person’s a$$hole.

I firmly believe you catch more flies with honey so I walk a fine line between squeezing my suppliers and making their life hell.

I ask for discounts so often that the employees I call know my voice. I have most of them so well trained that they don’t even give me the list price. They will try to discount right out of the gate.

I don’t do much arm twisting, though. I usually start off by asking for a general discount on the part I want and if it isn’t good enough I will ask for a specific price.

Once, a co-worker needed two identical parts to make a sale. One parts store had the parts for $X but a competitor had the same part (same part number) for 40% less.

It was obviously a mistake but my co-worker had sold the estimate using this lower price. Once he realized his mistake, it was too late. We still needed that second part and the other parts houses weren’t budging.

I picked up the phone to the store we did the most business with and told them I was going to fax them a competitors invoice that they were going to match. It took some convincing but they finally sold me the part for less than they paid for it.

I am not saying that you can or should play hardball with your suppliers on a regular basis but it does come in handy in a pinch. I repaid the favor by putting through several orders at list price and gave them a large order I was planning on giving a different shop.

All parts houses can price match their competitors and some are more lax with this policy than others. The most reliable part with the highest discount which I can get delivered to me is the one I will go with ninety-nine percent of the time. 

It is also worth noting that it doesn’t hurt to develop friendly relationships with the people on the other end of the phone. If all you ever present yourself as is an asshole you will get less that ideal results. 

Everyone likes a good horror story, sometimes being friendly is as simple as texting over a picture of an exploded battery or an oil pan with bearing pieces in it.

In the end…

At the end of the day, I have an understanding with my suppliers. When I call to do some arm twisting its nothing personal. I want a discounted part and they want that sale. As long as we can find a comfortable middle ground both sides will end the day with money in their pockets.

Author’s Bio

JJ is a Service Advisor in a full-service shop. He brings a solid understanding of complex systems down to earth for customers who are shy about dealing with the automotive industry.

A teacher at heart, he believes that customers are most satisfied when they understand the issue and the path forward. This results in customers making purchasing decisions from a position of power instead of fear and reluctance. He also enjoys quiet activities like non-traditional board games, reading, YouTube, sarcasm and collecting pre-loved cars the rest of us call ugly junk.

The post Service Advisor Talk | Margin, Margin Everywhere! appeared first on The Mechanic Doctor.

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The Mechanic Doctor - Resources for Amateur and Pro Auto Mechanics

Take a moment to remember the first time you drove a car. Did your palms sweat or could you feel your heartbeat? For many car enthusiasts, their first memory behind the wheel sparks a love for the open road. This encourages some to become automobile experts and start a career in the industry. Whether you work with vehicles or not, the term “classic car” is used loosely by many people—often making true car classifications misunderstood. The Department of Motor Vehicles (everyone’s favorite place) classifies cars differently from state to state, while car collector clubs often have their own classification of what constitutes a “classic.”

Regardless, most “old” vehicles are broken down into three main categories: classic, antique, and vintage. Still confused? CarRentals created this classic car infographic that breaks down what this terminology means, vehicle eras and price points of collector vehicles to help you better understand classic car values. For example, classic cars most commonly referred to as vehicles between 20 and 40 years old. This means cars people considered “classic” are ever changing, which in turn creates fluctuation in value.

While some classic cars increase in price year over year, that doesn’t mean you have to be a millionaire to enjoy favorite pastimes of the open road. In fact, there are classic cars you can purchase for five thousand dollars like a 1975-81 Triumph TR7, 1983-86 Ford Mustang 5.0 or a 1990 Volkswagen Corrado—allowing many new and seasoned collectors to keep their love for the open road alive without breaking the bank.

Next time you find yourself looking to purchase a hobby automobile, spend some time learning about classics and their values. For beginners car collectors, this infographic is a great place to start and an experience to share with family or friends.

The post Car Infographic of the Week | <br> Classic Cars Values 101 appeared first on The Mechanic Doctor.

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The Mechanic Doctor - Resources for Amateur and Pro Auto Mechanics

For any and all Harley owners, there are certain practical skills for the maintenance of your bike that are crucial to be familiar with.

Generally, these relate to the most important parts of your bike. A regular check up on certain components at certain times will help you keep your Harley running smoothly and avoid any serious headaches. Here are our top things to check in your Harley health check.

Tires

Your tires are extremely important when it comes to your Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Sadly, it gets quite often overlooked. Rubber from the tires is what separates you from the actual asphalt. Check the tires for punctures, glass, nails and any other debris. These can equal to a blowout or low pressure in the near future leading to important tire damage and expensive repairs. Cracking means that the tires are old. Check the tire pressure as well while the tires are cool to the touch.

Engine Oil

Change the engine oil based on the manufacturer’s recommendation. Contaminants can get into the engine oil as you ride along. This creates issues down the line as it leads to unwanted wear of very expensive internal parts on your motorcycle. If the bike is used for local traffic only, and not long rides, moisture can build up within the motorcycle engine and cause the oil to become diluted. This lessens the ability for the oil to lubricate, cool and clean out the motorcycle. If the motorcycle is used exclusively for short rides, the oil should then be flushed and replaced at least three times a year.

Air Filter

Making sure that the engine has a lot of fresh air is essential to its operation in order for it to run at peak performance. When a motorcycle filter is not at its best, it can choke off the motorcycle’s air supply, which in turn, lessens the power of the engine. Damaged filters can also allow particles to enter straight into the combustion chambers. Paper filters are disposable and not expensive, but may not be the best in removing air particulates. A foam filter can be reused after it has been cleaned. They are also not that expensive, but this kind of filters lessen the air flow, and this is especially true as they get dirty. Cotton filters, also called “wet” filters, is the most expensive kind but they are by far the most efficient ones. They can also be reused after they have been cleaned and re-oiled correctly. They may even last longer than the engine. Cleaning filters can be a mess though, as you have to use a special kind of fluid to get it working at it’s best. Check your bike’s air filter every time you check your oil and replace or clean it as soon as it starts looking dirty.

Battery

With proper maintenance, a standard Harley-Davidson battery should last you around 2 years. We recommend a thorough inspection and testing of your battery every year to ensure it’s up to scratch. If you spot any leakages from the battery, take it to your mechanic right away. A neat trick to ensure your battery lasts as long as it can is to keep it fully charged at all time, especially if you won’t be riding for a while. That being said, you do want to avoid overcharging your battery and using a smart charger will help you with that. It’s also important to ensure your battery doesn’t freeze during the storage period in winter. If this does happen, it can crack and acid can spill out.

Clutch

Getting to know your clutch can be a bit of a testing learning experience. The clutch allows you to change gears and will undoubtedly be used a lot over the years. Over time, the clutch cable will loosen. A clutch cable adjustment should be a part of every service that you have done on the bike. This should involve keeping the cable lubricated and ensuring it is properly engaged by the clutch.

Chains and Belts

Check your chain belt! If you have a belt drive, make sure it’s inspected so that the tension is correct. The time you spend applying lube on your chain is time well spent. Don’t use WD-40, however. Even though many may see it as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to the chains and belts maintenance, it’s not. Clean the chains with a very mild degreaser like diluted Simple Green when you wash your motorcycle. Make sure the chain is completely dry and use a can of compressed air that’s used for keyboards or a blow gun to remove any debris. Instead of gear oil, use a lube product designed specifically for chains. Take a small, quick ride to warm up the chain to make the lube easier to apply. Lube the chain every 500 miles.

Brakes

Over time, brake fluid absorbs moisture. When this happens, the brake system will become less effective. It’s important to replace the brake fluid every two years, but better yet, every year. Motorcycle brake fluid can be found in the back of the motorcycle, and on the handlebars as well. Check your brake pads. Are they thin? Then it’s time to replace the brakes. Regarding brake pad thickness, make sure that they don’t go right down to the metal, as this can damage the brake discs and they will need to be replaced.

Last Words

These are the essentials to keep your bike running smoothly and without any stressful, expensive issues. That being said, there is plenty more you can and should do to keep your Harley-Davidson in mint condition. This includes maintaining the bike’s paint, chrome, metal and steel components by using an appropriate soap, wax and grease remover and other similar products. By using the correct products, your bike will gain a protective coating and be far more resistant to scratching and weather damage. If you need any more help, get in touch with our Harley-Davidson experts today to learn more about how to properly look after your bike.

This article has been written by Harley Heaven, a leading, certified supplier of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

The post Harley-Davidson Maintenance Essentials appeared first on The Mechanic Doctor.

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The Mechanic Doctor - Resources for Amateur and Pro Auto Mechanics

British car owners care about their cars. UK motorists spend an aggregate £21bn per year on servicing and repairing their vehicles, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders; per capita, we spend about 12% more than the global average to fix our beloved four-wheeled friends. It’s interesting then that the repair margins of UK body shops are the lowest in Europe, and that this lack of profitability has brought to the steady closure of about a fifth of repair shops over the past decade. In this article, we analyze the key reasons behind the chronic lack in the profitability of fixing cars, and if / how the surge in demand for electric vehicles (214,000 registrations in 2019 vs. 3,500 in 2013) will impact the repair industry.

Why are repair margins low?

Technology in cars has moved at lightning speed over the past decade. ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) has greatly improved the safety of our cars – proximity sensors, automotive radar, and other technologies help prevent and avoid dangerous situations, but they’re also really hard to fix. Cars are becoming more and more like super-computers: automotive semiconductor sales have grown three-fold since the 2000s, fuelled by vehicle electrification and increased connectivity (to support, for example, shared mobility services and insurance telematics). It’s really exciting to think that what used to be a simple metal box to get us from A to B is turning into an extremely powerful and connected piece of technological marvel. Until you get into an accident, of course.

Back in 2014, the average body shop in the UK would make about £30 pre-tax profit for every repair, the situation has gotten better since then (remember one fifth of the body shops have closed) – in 2018 (latest available industry data) the pre-tax profit margin had improved to about 6% (or about £100 per job). The first reason behind this chronic lack in profitability is purely linked to the changing nature of what your fixing: what used to be just a question of repairing cracked panels with filler and straightening bent sheet metal has turned into a game of “Where’s Waldo” to find and fix the latest broken sensor.

70% of body repairs are paid for by insurers, so it instinctively makes sense to point the finger at the insurance industry if body shops can’t make proper investments to keep up with technology. Insurers in the UK, however, have lost money on insuring cars over the past decade, according to the association of British insurers. So, if neither insurers nor body shops are making money on insuring and fixing cars – where are our premiums going? The second reason for lack of profitability is linked to the sheer number of middle-men that are involved in handling insurance claims. Claims managers, law firms, brokers all play a part in getting your car back on the road, and they all get a cut of the repair.

If repair shops are dependent on what they fix and on who is involved in the process of why/how would electric vehicles have an impact?

Enter the Electric Car

On average electric cars have about 20 moving parts vs. 2,000 for petrol vehicles, intuitively this seems like a game changer: 100 times fewer moving parts equals 100 times less hassle and cost, right? Not exactly. First of all, if the parts are significantly more expensive (and they are) just having fewer moving parts doesn’t necessarily mean fewer maintenance costs (especially if you’re talking about collision damage). Secondly, part availability is of the essence if you consider the holistic cost of a claim (i.e. the repair cost plus the opportunity and direct cost of a car not being on the road).

There are about 214,000 electric cars registered in the UK (out of 37.9 million) which means that, although there are significantly fewer parts that need to be stocked (simplistically 100 times less) the inventory is statistically going to move a lot slower for electric vehicles than for ordinary cars (about 200 times slower).

So parts for electric vehicles are, generally speaking, more expensive and less readily available (at least in the short term) than for traditional vehicles, which translates into cars sitting for longer in the garage (at a cost entirely borne by the repairer) and higher working capital requirements to finance the more expensive replacement parts. When you factor in the increased investment required to repair electric vehicles you can see how the situation doesn’t look great for the already slim repairer margins.

What about the payer? Insuring Electric Vehicles is not straightforward. The fact that Tesla is looking into providing insurance services is really a testament to how the insurance industry is not ready to face the challenges of assessing and pricing the risk of a super-computer with four wheels.

It looks like the current state of things is not really fit for purpose then: garages are running on tight margins as is, don’t have the resources or the scale necessary to fund the necessary investments to fix electric cars, and the insurers who are ultimately paying for the repairs are not equipped to insure the vehicles at reasonable premiums.

What next?

It’s time for the repair industry to take a hard look at where things are going and realize that the only way to increase their margins to meet investment requirements is to increase their scale. To a certain extent, this is already happening, with groups increasing in size and independent shops aggregating under networks. Online aggregators are also increasingly playing a role with companies like whocanfixmycar.com and clickmechanic.com raising institutional money to connect consumers directly to portfolios of garages for maintenance.

As technology in cars increases, garages will need to specialize in order to achieve the necessary economies of scale to make repairs viable. The most effective way for them to specialize and for the fleet industry to have access to sustainable, affordable and quick repairs is through an online claims aggregator. Aggregating claims online allows customers to benefit from wholesale prices (by “pooling” their claims) while enabling garages to choose which repair work they want to specialize and invest in.

About the Author

An investment banker turned entrepreneur, Stefano Sironi is the founder of Axioma and has been on a mission to simplify car repairs since 2016, when he was head of corporate development at the world’s largest insurance telematics company. He is a keynote speaker, LinkedIn influencer and writer. You can follow him on LinkedIn to keep up to date with all the repair industry trends.

The post Here’s Why Electric Cars Are Going to Hurt the Repair Industry appeared first on The Mechanic Doctor.

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The Mechanic Doctor - Resources for Amateur and Pro Auto Mechanics

Although OBD scanners may look like the kind of advanced devices that only a professional mechanic knows how to use, they can, in fact, be used by the average car owner too. There are so many OBD scanners available on the market today that you’ll surely find something to meet your needs and budget, but the question is: should you buy one?

With so many other devices and improvements that you could spend your money on, why should you purchase an OBD scanner when your mechanic already has one? As you’ll see below, this handy little gizmo can save you from a lot of trouble and make car malfunctions a little less stressful.

What is an OBD scanner?

Modern cars have-on board computers that detect faults and communicate them via lights in your dash. For example, if there is a problem with your engine, the check engine light comes on. However, you don’t know what specifically is wrong with the engine, which is where an OBD scanner comes in. What the OBD2 (On-Board Diagnostics) scanner does is that once connected, it prompts an error code that lets the mechanic know what the problem is.

If you’ve ever stood by your mechanic as they fixed your car, you’ve probably seen them use an OBD2 scan tool and wondered if you should buy one of these handy little gizmos yourself. The short answer is yes, OBD scanners can make a vehicle owner’s life easier but, as always, there are some factors that should influence your decision.

An OBD2 scan tool can help you diagnose the problem before you get to a mechanic

Unless you’re an amateur mechanic or you have some background motor knowledge, chances are you only have a vague idea what’s wrong with your car when taking it to a mechanic, if any at all. Thanks to an OBD scanner, you can find out.

These code readers are very easy to use. All you need to do is connect them to the dashboard and they will prompt a code that stands for a specific car malfunction. Then you can either look up that code online or, if the scanner is advanced enough, it will display an explanation of what that code means.

As a word of caution here, not all scanners display manufacturer-specific information. Some codes are very general and only tell you the diagnostic, not the cause of the problem, so unless you’re a mechanic, the code might not mean a lot to you. For example, if you’re using a PC and get an error like Error 4050 (0xFD2): The version of the supplied content information is not supported, you may have a general idea of what’s going on, but unless you’re an IT specialist, you won’t know how to fix it. The same goes for car diagnostic codes. You can connect your OBD scanner and get code P0305, which means there was an engine misfire, but you still need to go to a mechanic to understand why this occurred. Sometimes, the issue is cheap and quick to fix, but if the damage is too extensive you may need to replace larger more expensive parts. In which case you can leverage an auto wrecker to seek low-cost spare parts to replace the damaged ones, or worse case dispose of the entire vehicle with a wrecker that provides a car removal service.

Are OBD scanners universal?

Before purchasing an OBD scanner, you might want to know whether it will only work for your current vehicle or if you can use it on another one in the future. Fortunately, OBD scanners are a one-time investment, because generally speaking, they are universal.

Older cars, made before 1996, use OBD1 technology, whereas all modern cars made after 1996, use OBD2. Therefore, the only thing you need to know is the manufacturing year of your car, purchase the corresponding scanner and it will work for all vehicles in that category. Although it is possible to convert your car from OBD1 to OBD2, the effort isn’t really worth it. However, if you have several cars of different ages, you can invest in a modern advanced scanner that can perform diagnostics both on OBD1 and OBD2.

Depending on your preferences and budget, you can get OBD scanners that display only generic codes and scanners with huge databases that include both generic and manufacturer-specific codes and then display their meaning. It’s all up to you and how much research you want to make prior to taking your car to the mechanic.

But can it save you money?

OBD scanners aren’t that expensive, to begin with. For example, a mid-range Bluetooth OBD2 scan tool from BAFX Products currently retails at about $50. And, for the price, it packs quite a punch. Think of the following scenario: you are driving down the highway, hundreds of miles away from home and a dash light suddenly comes on. You don’t know what it means and how serious it is, so normally you’d look for the nearest repair shop to have it checked. However, if you have an OBD scanner, you can quickly find out what prompted the error, look it up online, and know whether it can wait until you get home or if you need to see a mechanic immediately. Needless to say, car shops can really inflate their check-up fees, so simply by having your own OBD scanner and knowing the error code, you are saving a lot of money.

Another advantage of having an OBD scanner is that you can always use to confirm whether your mechanic diagnosed the problem correctly or get a second opinion. Especially when changing your mechanic or going to a car shop you know nothing about, an OBD scanner can make the difference between quick and seamless repairs and a complete disaster.

Bottom line

If you’re a passionate car owner who wants to know what’s wrong with their vehicle before seeing the mechanic, OBD scanners are nifty little gizmos that quickly pay for themselves. There are many great options to choose from on the market, so you can always start with an entry-level device and, if you love using it, you can upgrade to an advanced model with extra features.

The post Why You Need to Get an OBD2 Scan Tool appeared first on The Mechanic Doctor.

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The Mechanic Doctor Blog by The Mechanic Doctor - 3w ago

The Mechanic Doctor - Resources for Amateur and Pro Auto Mechanics

When it comes to car repairs, every serious car owner wants the best care possible, which is why many of us bring our babies to the best garages and shops whenever we notice something slightly amiss. While that is something you want to encourage for moderate-to-serious repairs and/or preventive maintenance, is it the best option for small, miscellaneous repairs?

It turns out, not so much.

You see, many of the small repairs like fixing lights, chipped windshields, replacing batteries, etc., can all be done at home. Yes, it requires a little bit of knowledge and time, but apart from that and tools you most likely already have at home, D.I.Y-ing these small repairs might just save you big bucks in the future. Of course, it won’t hurt to consult with your local mechanic first, especially if it’s a trusted grease monkey that you’ve worked with for a long time!

Some of the repairs we’ve listed down here might require you to purchase a couple of tools online, but we promise that these are cheap tools that, frankly, you might need in the future anyway. For newbie car owners, take this as an opportunity to learn more about properly caring for your new machine. Trust us, this is the kind of troubleshooting knowledge you’ll need in the future.

Here are some quick tips for small car repairs:

Changing Your Spark Plugs

Let’s start off with the easiest repair you can do: changing your spark plugs. This is a pretty rare problem for modern cars because of their extended-life spark plugs that maintain a precise gap all the way up to 100,000 miles (although a wise person would check it every 30,000 miles or so).

Faulty spark plugs are usually a problem for older models that might not be equipped with modern spark plugs. If your engine isn’t starting properly or is misfiring, your acceleration is slowing down, or you notice that your fuel economy is starting to suffer, then you might need to replace your spark plug. Here’s a quick and illustrated guide to what goes inside a spark plug.

To replace it, bust out your trusty ol’ tool box and look for a spark plug wrench. If you don’t have one, get one. Spark plug wrenches are one of those buy-once-use-forever kind of tools: they’re dirt cheap (usually below $10) and they’re all kinds of useful. Spark plug replacements from authorized shops or mechanics can be in the $100 to $300 range, but if you do it yourself, you’ll be paying around $30 for a set of tools and spark plug replacements.

Take note, however, that V6 engines might be a little more complicated than your standard V4, as the former might require a little bit of engine disassembly. Consult your mechanic if you have a V6.

Fixing a Chipped Windshield

Probably a new car owner’s worst nightmare, chipped windshields might seem like a major repair that’s going to cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to fix. But the reality is so different from what you’d expect. In fact, they even sell windshield kits for less than $20, or even below $8!

Even professional windshield repair shops like Newmarket Auto Glass in Canada, suggest doing minor chips on your own. That’s because repairing windshield chips can be broken down into 3 steps:

  1. Clear chip of loose debris
  2. Apply sealant
  3. Apply resin

The whole thing will take up no more than an hour, and you’ll be preventing a much more expensive repair in the future. Imagine fixing your car’s windshield for less price than a night at the movies!

TAKE NOTE: this applies for CHIPPED windshields. If you have a big crack on yours, take it to a professional garage immediately.

Replace a Headlight or Taillight

If there’s one thing new car owners need to get used to doing is regular walkarounds of your vehicle. Routine visual inspections of your car might seem vain, but it’s actually a pretty effective (albeit basic) form of preventive maintenance. One of the first things a visual inspection will reveal, other than dings and scratches, is the condition of your head or tail lights. Aside from being essential for, you know, seeing things on the road and letting other drivers know when you’re braking or turning, properly functioning lights also keep you out of trouble: depending on your state, malfunctioning headlights or taillights can incur tickets with pretty heavy fines.

If you notice that one of your lights isn’t working, replace them immediately. Halogen bulbs cost, on average, around $15-$20, with more “premium” models costing around $50. If you replace them at home, that’s all you’ll be spending, plus a few minutes of your time. Take it to a shop, and you’re looking at an average repair rate of around $100 an hour. Big oof!

An important thing to note, though, is that you get the same kind of bulb as your previous one. Also, when handling the new bulb, try not to touch the glass, as the grease from your fingers can make your bulbs burn out faster. Always wear safety gloves!

Change the Battery

Your battery powers pretty much every electrical component of your car, from keeping your wireless car chargers juiced up to powering your air-conditioning. When your battery dies, your car will just stop working. Although it’s an essential component, replacing a dead battery couldn’t be simpler: in fact, it’s so simple that it’s surprising how many people still go to a professional shop to get it replaced!

Car batteries usually last around 6 years, depending on how you use up your charge. Of course, it’s always best to replace your battery well before it loses all of its juice. This is a safety issue as much as it is a practical one: you don’t want to lose power in the middle of nowhere.

Usually, professional shops will charge around $200 to replace a dead battery. This might seem reasonable, but consider that a new battery costs just about $80, and you’ll see why spending 200 bucks for something you can do for more than half the price at home makes more sense!

Remember: if you’re replacing your battery at home, always remove wires in the right order. When removing the cables, always remove the black NEGATIVE cable first. Once you’ve installed the new battery, replace the black NEGATIVE cable last. This ensures that you don’t short circuit your new battery by accidentally grounding the positive terminal.

The post Quick Tips for Small Repairs appeared first on The Mechanic Doctor.

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The Mechanic Doctor - Resources for Amateur and Pro Auto Mechanics

The other day I went to a local trade show. As I wandered the stalls, I thought of a game: ask every approach why I should do business with them. A good seventy percent said the same thing:

“Because I’m awesome.”

It always floors me when the first thing people say is that they are awesome. At what? Are you only awesome at saying you are awesome? Why can you not name a specific example?

Don’t sell yourself short

If my shop can do it, we are professional specialists. If you want tires, we are tire specialists. If you want exhaust work, we are specialists at that too! Don’t even get me started on oil changes. I have more oil change guys than Quickie Zippy Skippy Lube and they do a much better job.

In fact, if you come in for an oil change and our healthy car check shows your car needs additional service, we don’t send you to another specialist as Quickie does. All of that can be done in house for your convenience.

The same is true for you, personally, inside your shop. This is the “why should I hire you” interview answer. Why should you hire me? Because I’m awesome… and someone with an actual answer just got the job.

When I started at my most recent shop I had a strong background in tires so I was the tire specialist. Now, there are a number of tire specialists.

My awesome has moved on in other ways: I came from a tire shop where I had a 56% average gross profit over my last quarter. Now, I have made my ability to squeeze blood from the bottom line, my awesome.

Tomorrow, my awesome might be my ability to leverage technology to streamline operations on the front end. Whatever presents itself, my awesome is to build a new habit and stack it on top of my other successful habits.

Confidence is the key

On stage (in front of customers) is not the time to figure out the answer behind your being awesome. You should lead with your left hook specifically and use every other opportunity to drive that point home.

I know customers have a hard time finding a quality diesel technician. Any time I find a customer with a diesel issue, I lead the conversation by saying I have three diesel techs on staff. If they have a tire question, I lead with my own background in tires.

In other words, I pump them so full of experience they become comfortable that whatever presents itself, my guys and I can handle it. We are a one-stop shop.

Last words

Your customers want to have confidence in you and your abilities. They want to rest assured their time and money is well spent and being vague and cagey isn’t going to get them there.

At the end of the day, everyone should have at least one thing they do well. I don’t care if everyone else can say that they do the exact same thing. Say it anyway. Being awesome is just not enough.

Talk is cheap and service is expensive. If you can’t do the cheap thing right how can you expect a customer to trust you with the expensive part?

Author’s Bio

JJ is a Service Advisor in a full-service shop. He brings a solid understanding of complex systems down to earth for customers who are shy about dealing with the automotive industry.

A teacher at heart, he believes that customers are most satisfied when they understand the issue and the path forward. This results in customers making purchasing decisions from a position of power instead of fear and reluctance. He also enjoys quiet activities like non-traditional board games, reading, YouTube, sarcasm and collecting pre-loved cars the rest of us call ugly junk.

The post Service Advisor Talk | Awesome Is Not Enough appeared first on The Mechanic Doctor.

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The Mechanic Doctor - Resources for Amateur and Pro Auto Mechanics

With new automotive tech and IoT becoming widely spread a little more every year, unsuspected security breaches are exposed and car hacking is becoming a real thing now more than ever. Car thieves and hackers can now use technology to take control of various functions and tech features to either steal personal information, unlock the doors or start the vehicle.

This week’s infographic outlines the most common practices used by car hackers to access unprotected entry points and what you can do to prevent your identity, your car or its content from being stolen.

Hope you like it!

The original article can be found here.

The post Car Infographic of the Week | <br> How Cars Get Hacked [Animated] appeared first on The Mechanic Doctor.

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The Mechanic Doctor - Resources for Amateur and Pro Auto Mechanics

The road that leads to perfection can sometimes be fraught with pitfalls. Every new Ford Mustang model release is subject to its lot of critics and controversies. Some people love it while others simply think it’s nothing but blasphemy.

But this year’s GT350 seems to reach consensus amongst pony car fans. Indeed, the 5.2-liter, flat-plane crank V8, with its 526 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque, seems to please everyone.

For 2019, the Shelby GT350 receives some modifications to increase its performance both on the track and outside: aerodynamics, acceleration, braking and support force have all been improved.

But, until now, we were still waiting to see it in action before making up our mind and decide whether the new Mustang was a success or another failure like so many of its predecessor.

Anyway, here’s a pretty neat review of the long-awaited 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 by Justin Dugan from AmericanMuscle who had the privilege of testing the beast on the M1 Concourse racetrack.

If like me, you were left half-hearted and somewhat deceived by Ford’s recent attempts to bring back the Mustang of better days, I think you might be pleasantly surprised by this one!

Give this video a watch and let me know what you think of the new and improved race-driven Mustang afterward.

Official 2019 Shelby GT350 Track Review | What's New For The 2019 GT350 Mustang? - Hot Lap - YouTube

See original article here.

The post The 2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Finally Reviewed [Video] appeared first on The Mechanic Doctor.

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