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DROP THE STOP LEAK & BACK AWAY!!

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

My blogs are usually written just after I see or experience something that makes me go “Dude….Seriously?” Recently a customer came in because their truck was running hot in traffic.  Makes sense that after checking the fans are working etc, no major leaks, but no flow through the radiator, that we needed to replace the radiator.  After taking out the radiator we found something that makes mechanics  shake their heads in disbelief.  The entire system was junked up with sludge caused by the use of “stop leak”.   As many of you know you can purchase this stuff at parts stores, who advertise it as a remedy for leaking radiators, head gaskets, heater cores, and so on.  Sure, instead of fixing a leaking gasket, this $18 can of stop leak will solve your problems. Naw man.

I guess to explain why this can cause more issues such as clogging all those parts it says it fixes, is to basically explain how the stuff works.  It will go through the entire cooling system highway and start building up (coagulating) in places where there is a leak and also places where there are no leaks.  Just like blood does in our body.  You skin you knee, blood “leaks” but then the blood’s platelets thicken the blood and the blood dries making a hardened surface, i.e. fixing the leak.  Now imagine if the blood did the same thing internally throughout your entire cardiovascular system. You’d have more strokes than (insert golf humor here).  Anyway, it works.  The stuff can often times stop a leak.  Im not saying it does not.  It’s the collateral damage that will come back to bite you later.  If you put it in your car to stop a radiator leak, the leak may stop.  Then the radiator gets clogged and you have to replace it anyway.  Then the heater core needs to be replaced because its clogged, then the water pump, and so on.

So just don’t. Or do..Whatever.  It’s your car.  Btw, heres a pic of a nice radiator that stop leak fixed.  – neil dewis

Rad_Jam1

Love Jags? Check this video out.

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Click here for Video: Jaguar legend Norman Dewis

To Buy or Not to Buy? Extended Warranty Tips

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

This is a question many of us face as we near the termination of the factory warranty or if we are buying a used vehicle.  There are different companies, some who will be pushed by the dealership who sold you the car because there are incentives that are given to the salesman at the dealership for selling these 3rd party contracts.

Some people choose to shop for their own warranty. I like this idea because it’s usually a more affordable than if you pay through the dealership. However, there are a lot of really sketchy companies and usually these outfits have a lot of bad reviews that can help you weed them out. Take your time and do your research. Once I was given authorization to do an $800 repair on a jaguar by a company. The next day when I submitted my payment request they were gone!

Having dealt with many contracts at our shop, I would recommend a top notch warranty company and only purchase it if you know that your vehicle is likely to cost a lot and probably break down more than the average car. In other words, if you drive a Lexus, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, don’t bother! Jaguar, Land Rover, Range Rover, Audi, go for it!   Not putting these cars down, they just seem to cost a bit more to maintain. I don’t think that’s a shocker.

The other part in considering a warranty is level of coverage.  Don’t waste your money on a mid or low level “power train” warranty.  The term Power-train refers to the internal engine components, transmission etc. It may cost several thousand dollars and they will only cover catastrophic failure. Well..I say “cover”, I promise you they will want to see every single oil change receipt, and even if the transmission fails, they still; may not cover it for one reason or another.  We have had a warranty company ask us to completely dismantle a bad transmission to the point of failure.  Once we determined it was internal bushings, they stated that it was due to wear and tear and would not cover it. Don’t be discouraged, the customer fought back but it was a big hassle.  If I were to purchase one, it would be the highest level, usually referred to as platinum coverage. The reason for this is the cost of general breakdowns is where you will see the warranty pay off. Repairs that involve air suspension, cooling systems, heating and air conditioning repairs, and so on. Because the coverage is tiered it should also cover the basic coverage such as engine and transmission failure.

Just remember most contracts never cover service items, or other parts such as emissions repairs, exhaust systems, catalytic convertors, brakes, belts, hoses, and other repairs that are designed to wear. I hope this helps!  – Neil D

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Helping Your Mechanic

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

When you show up at the shop with an issue with your ride, chances are the service writer will ask you several questions. At Road Britannia we do this to make sure we understand the complaint, as well as to make sure there aren’t multiple problems going on. Often times the driver has a hard time answering some of these. I thought it would be helpful to write a blog on some things you can do that will help ensure that your problem gets repaired right the first time.

Pay attention to things like noises, vibrations, warning lights, gauges, and even smells. If you know the answers to the following questions it will go a long way in solving your problem.

  1. Does it happen all the time or certain times like when you first drive the car in the morning?
  2. Does it happen when the car is sitting still, or when you are in motion. If it happens in motion, does it go away or get worse when you accelerate or brake?
  3. Has there been any indication of running hot?
  4. Are than any warning lights on, or have any come on that are not on at the moment? If warning lights are present and you aren’t sure what they are, snap a quick picture with your phone.
  5. Are there any liquids such as oil or coolant leaking from the vehicle? If so, from what location relative to the car?
  6. Has anyone done any recent work to the vehicle and has it been serviced properly?

I’d like to think everyone knows to periodically look down at the gauges to make sure the car isn’t running hot, or that there are no warning lights on. Having said that I know that doesn’t always happen. For example, if a car has been overheated, most people think it only ran hot for a few minutes, However, we ultimately find, because of the damage we see, that the car was obviously driven hot for much longer. Certain vehicles such as Land Rovers, and BMWs, have a lower tolerance for overheating. Keeping an eye on the gauges can often mean the difference between a quick hose replacement versus a new engine. Bottom line is that being aware can save you big bucks!cartoon cqr

How Long Will We Need Your Vehicle?

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Aside from the monetary cost of vehicle repairs, one of the most stressful parts of bringing your car into the shop is the time you must go without the vehicle until repairs are completed. We are well aware of this and strive to complete repairs not only at the lowest cost possible, but in the quickest time frame. We know how valuable your time is and want to ensure you get your vehicle back with as little stress as possible.

Many people want to know when their vehicle is going to be ready, before we even take a look at it. Unfortunately we can really never be 100% sure, but based on your concerns (and our current workflow) we can usually give you a rough estimate. Here are some example time frames based on type of repairs.

Brakes: Depending on whether it is just one set of pads or pads and rotors on all wheels, you can assume it will be anywhere from a couple hours to a full day.

Check Engine Light/Service Engine Light: Unfortunately the check engine light (cel) can come on for a large number of reasons, thus making it hard to give a great estimate. We usually assume at least a full day or more. Sometimes it can take a few days depending on the exact cause and repair needed.

Oil Change: Depending on the time of the day, it can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour (with an appointment), but you can usually wait in the office for take a walk around the block.

“Funny noise” or clunking: As with the check engine light, this is hard to estimate, because it can require test drives and long diagnostics to find the exact cause. Expect to leave your vehicle for a full day, but do not be surprised to get it back earlier.

Cooling issues: Depending on the exact problem, these can either be quick in and out fixes or long tedious adventures. We safely say expect to leave it at least a half day, but more likely a full day.

Suspension issues: Surprisingly, suspension repairs can usually be repaired in under a day, depending on what all has happened. For example, a new air strut on a Range Rover takes only 3 hours, while a electrical problem related to the suspension could require much more time.

These are just a few examples of how we estimate work time, however we are not perfect and are wrong sometimes. If you have any other questions, do not hesitate to give us a call!

“When do I need to replace brake rotors?”

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Video:  Customers often ask if they really need brake rotors when we are replacing brake pads. I explain to them why it is sometimes necessary but often times it is totally up to them, Land Rovers, Range Rovers, and especially LR3 seem to have a tendency to vibrate on the front end due to warpage of the brake rotors. This video blog was made by Neil Dewis, to help answer the question of wether or not to replace brake disc and allows the customer to inspect them his or her self.

Range Rover Air Suspension Versus Converting it to Coils

Monday, June 9th, 2014

If you have ever had the privilege to drive a vehicle that has electronic air suspension such as, Land Rovers, Range Rovers, Jaguars, Lr3, and Sports you would understand why a car designer would add this luxury to a high end brand. Most cars are held up by metal coil springs as shown in this picture.

spring

The concept of replacing this spring with a bellow that inflates with air was brought about with the intention of a much smoother ride. Makes sense to me. Being supported by an air strut seems a lot less ridged than a metal spring.

The air strut looks like this:

air-spring

There are several different types of air suspension systems, but to keep it simpler we will look at a 2004 Range Rover. The basic components of this systems include the Air Suspension pump (blows air into a reservoir)  the air struts on each wheel, a valve body to distribute air to the bags (struts), a computer to control all this, and sensors on each wheel to communicate the height back to the computer (ecu).  On this particular vehicle all these components could add up to over $6k dollars to replace.  Because of this many people inquire about getting rid of this type of suspension and converting it over to a coil type set up. The thought is that once it is converted there will be no more expense. That is great, it is, however, FALSE.  Road Britannia has done several conversions and thousands of air suspension repairs so we can tell you what works and what doesn’t.  Unless you have a p38 Range Rover, a rear suspension on a Discovery II, my advice is to not convert the suspension.  The main reason is cost.  The price of the kit and the labor for install is around 3k.  The ride is not the same. Of course the option of ride heights are now inactive.

The theory of never needing to mess with it again is wrong because the conversion requires the use of some of the old air strut pieces.  These pieces can break in time. The repair for this requires a new or used air strut and then remounting the coil spring onto the part.  Several hundred dollars later, you can be on your way.  The third reason I don’t like this is that not all the air suspension components will likely fail. Normally the front struts start leaking and need replacement by 80k miles and the pump will also fail around the same time, sometimes a bit longer. The rear bags rarely fail. We do see some height sensors and the occasional ecu (usually fried out because a repair shop went poking and prodding it).

All in all, the ride quality will diminish greatly with the coil conversion to the point I can’t in good conscience recommend it on that basis alone. I have customers who insisted on this conversion even after explaining this.  75% of them later regret it. Just wanted to share!

Service Engine Soon and Check Engine Lights

Monday, June 9th, 2014

These lights are virtually the same.  When they come on there is some sort of malfunction with the vehicle that needs to be checked a shop with up to date, factory type software.  We make sure to stay current on all our diagnostic equipment as well as training.

If the light is on, the vehicle will not pass the yearly inspection in most Georgia counties. Making sure it is dealt with in a timely matter is crucial to avoiding other problems that may be created by a domino affect.

Example:

Suzie brings her Range Rover because there is a service engine soon light on and the local emissions station told her it would not pass. She states the light has been on for several months.  We plug into the car with our Land Rover software and determine it has misfire codes caused by a faulty ignition coil as well as catalytic converter faults.  A misfire will cause raw, unburned fuel to enter the exhaust stream which if goes untreated, say for two months, can ruin the catalytic converters.   So instead of just an ignition coil replacement ($218) now Suzie’s needs a new catalytic converter as well which is an additional $1285.

This is just a simple of example of how something minor can lead to other issues.

After the repairs are completed, the car engine light is reset. However, the vehicle will still need to complete a drive cycle before it is “ready” for inspection. Below are step by step instructions on how to complete the drive cycle on most vehicles. I must say, that it is virtually impossible to get out on a road and complete a drive cycle “step by step” usually we just instruct folks to drive it as much as possible under different scenarios for the next few days. I listed this because people just really, really want to know!


How to Perform a Basic Drive Cycle

Step One: How to Prepare Your Vehicle

  • Have the fuel tank between 30 and 70 percent full. Some systems, especially the EVAP system, need to have a specific level of fuel in order for the tests to be trusted. If the fuel tank is near empty or completely full, many of the basic tests will not run at all.
  • The vehicle must also have a good alternator and a strong battery. If you have to occasionally jump-start your vehicle, all of the memory from the powertrain control module (PCM) is erased, which includes the data that accurately tracks the results from various stages of the Drive Cycle. Also, if the battery is weak or undercharged, some of the most important tests will never run.
  • The vehicle must sit overnight, or for at least eight hours, in an environment that is less than 90° F. The engine temperature needs to match the air temperature in order to establish an accurate baseline for the testing. If the outside temperature is over 90° F, the fuel is too volatile and the EVAP system won’t even try to run its tests, though some of the other emissions systems may run their tests.
  • The keys must be out of the ignition and all of the doors must be closed while the vehicle sits over night because many of the onboard computers “boot up” when the keys are in the ignition. Also, many of the onboard computers still run until all of the doors are closed after the vehicle is shut off and the keys are removed.

Step Two: The Cold Start

  • Start the vehicle and let it idle for two to three minutes in Park or Neutral. While it is idling, turn on the head lights, heater/defroster, and rear defroster for a three to five minute warm-up phase. Let the idle speed settle down to near the normal speed.
  • Next, put the vehicle in gear and drive through city streets at about 25 mph. Go up to about 35 to 40 mph a few times before slowing down to stop. Don’t roll through the stop; be sure the car is really stopped, just like you learned in driving school. Accelerate from each stop in a normal fashion—not overly conservative, but not like you are competing in a drag race either.

Step Three: A Short Freeway Trip

  • After the vehicle has been cold started and driven for a few miles on city streets, the next step is to take it on a short freeway trip.
  • Enter the freeway on-ramp and allow enough room with respect to other vehicles so that you can do a 1/2 to 3/4 throttle acceleration up to freeway speed.
  • When you have accelerated up to around 60 mph and have safely merged into the flow of traffic, stay in the slow lane and maintain a steady speed of 55 to 60 mph for a minimum of five miles. Please use the cruise control to help you maintain speed.
  • Find a nice, long off ramp to exit from the freeway. As you exit, take your foot off of the accelerator and let the vehicle coast down until it stops under its own power as you complete your exit from the freeway. Do not use the foot brake and do not shift gears until the very end of this “coast down” phase.

Step Four: More City Driving

  • After you have completed the freeway trip, drive through the city streets for a repeat of the second part of Step Two.
  • Go up to about 35 to 40 mph a few times and then maintain a city speed of 25 mph before slowing down to stop. Again, don’t roll through the stop and make sure to accelerate normally.
  • Pull in to a parking place and let the engine idle for one to two minutes and then shut it off.

Step Five: Have your Readiness Monitors Checked and Verified

  • Drive your vehicle to your regular shop and have them re-check your readiness monitors, present codes, and pending codes. They should do this as a courtesy and for free.
  • If all of your monitors are “ready” and there are no present or pending codes, then your vehicle has been properly repaired and is ready for an emissions inspection and for normal driving.