12 Must-Read Car Repair Tips to Find a Trustworthy Mechanic

Car breakdowns are never a good thing. But breakdowns in freezing temperatures and on icy roads are just plain dangerous.

This winter, make sure you and your family are protected when you take to the roads. Get your car checked out by a trusted repair shop as soon as possible.

To help you find the mechanic that’s right for you, check out these 12 car repair shop tips from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE):

1. Don’t Wait ‘Til It’s Too Late: Start shopping for a repair shop before you need one. That means now!

Deciphering Your Car’s “Check Engine” Light

<b>Deciphering Your Car’s “Check Engine” Light</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Many drivers don’t know what the “check engine” or “service engine soon” warning light on the instrument panel really means. Understanding the purpose of this light, and knowing what actions to take when it comes on, can help you nip problems in the bud — and possibly prevent major damage.

An illuminated “check engine” light is telling you the engine control computer has detected a problem that is causing the vehicle to produce excessive exhaust emissions. Sometimes the light will be accompanied by noticeable performance problems, such as an engine miss or hesitation, but other times the vehicle will appear to operate normally. Common failures that can trigger a “check engine” light include:

* Failed engine-control components such as an oxygen, coolant temperature, MAP (manifold absolute pressure) or airflow sensor.

* Engine misfires from faulty sparkplugs, sparkplug wires, ignition components, fuel injectors or other fuel system parts.

* Emission-control failures such as loose or cracked vacuum hoses, a loose or missing gas cap or a defective EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) valve.

How you should react to a “check engine” light depends on how the light behaves. If the light comes on for a little while and then goes out, you may have had a momentary problem in the system. The light goes out when the problem stops, but the computer could have stored a diagnostic trouble code in its memory. If the light does not recur, it can be ignored. However, if the light comes and goes intermittently, take the vehicle in for a checkup.

If the light comes on and stays on, the car has an ongoing problem. While that problem may not be severe, it will negatively impact your car’s performance, gas mileage and exhaust emissions. Take your vehicle to a repair shop as soon as possible for further diagnosis.

If the “check engine” light begins to flash on and off, a severe problem is causing the catalytic converter to overheat. This can destroy the converter and possibly even start a fire. If your repair shop is nearby, drive there immediately. If the shop is some distance away, shut off the car and call for assistance. Always have the cause of a flashing “check engine” light investigated right away to prevent damage to important components that can greatly increase the cost of repairs.

AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities can diagnose “check engine” light problems and provide a full range of vehicle maintenance and repair services. Approved Auto Repair shops meet AAA’s high standards for customer care and technical proficiency. To locate a shop near you, look for the AAA Approved Auto Repair logo or visit www.AAA.com/repair.

Are You Replacing Your Air Filter Too Often?

<b>Are You Replacing Your Air Filter Too Often?</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – For years, experts including the Environmental Protection Agency told motorists to change their car’s engine air filter frequently for maximum fuel economy. However, a recent study funded by the U.S. Department of Energy found that air filter condition has no significant effect on the fuel economy of modern fuel-injected engines.

Automakers used to recommended air filter replacement at regular mileage intervals, but that practice failed to take into account the wide variety of real-world driving conditions. Two months driving in a dusty rural environment can cause the same amount of air filter restriction as a full year of vehicle use in a relatively clean urban setting.

Today, most automakers recommend that the air filter be inspected regularly, but replaced only when needed. More frequent replacement wastes money without improving fuel economy.

How do you know when a filter needs replacement? Visible dirt on the filter surface is not a good indicator. Instead, remove the filter and hold it up to a 100 watt light bulb. If light passes easily through more than half of the filter, it can be returned to service.

The light test only works with conventional pleated paper air filters. Some cars have extended-life factory filters with dense filtering media that are highly effective but do not allow light to shine through. Replace these filters at the mileage interval specified by the manufacturer.

A few vehicles, primarily pickup trucks, have a filter service indicator on the air filter housing. Check the indicator at each oil change, and replace the filter when the indicator says it is time to do so.

For non-do-it-yourselfers, the certified technicians at more than 8,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America will be happy to help with air filter inspection and replacement, along with any other automotive maintenance and repair needs you may have. AAA Approved shops can be identified by the Approved Auto Repair sign, or by searching online at www.AAA.com/repair.

John Nielsen joined the AAA executive management team in 1998 as national director of the Approved Auto Repair network. Nielsen has 30 years of experience in the automotive industry. He has held an ASE Master Automotive Technician certification, authored the book “Making Sense of Car Care,” given testimony to the state and national legislatures, and now serves as Editor in Chief of AAA’s new car and truck reviews. He is a regular guest on radio and TV shows throughout the country.

Be Prepared When the Rubber Meets the Snow

<b>Be Prepared When the Rubber Meets the Snow</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Millions of motorists will be taking to the highways and byways for holiday travel, so the experts at the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) remind drivers to have their vehicle checked out before heading out. “Breakdowns in winter conditions can be especially dangerous,” notes Martin Lawson, ASE’s editorial director.

The following tips from ASE will help vehicle owners choose a good repair shop.

* Start shopping for a repair facility before you need one.

* Ask your friends and associates for their recommendations, and consult local consumer groups.

* Arrange for alternate transportation in advance so you will not feel forced to choose a shop based solely on location.

* Look for a neat, well-organized facility, with vehicles in the parking lot equal in value to your own and modern equipment in the service bays.

* Look for a courteous staff, with a service consultant or technicians willing to answer your questions.

* Look for policies regarding estimated repair costs, diagnostic fees, guarantees and acceptable methods of payment.

* Ask if the repair facility specializes or if it usually handles your type of repair work.

* Look for signs of professionalism in the customer service area such as civic, community, or customer service awards.

* Look for evidence of qualified technicians: trade school diplomas, certificates of advanced course work, and certification by ASE indicate the presence of professional, trained technicians.

* Look for the ASE sign. ASE was founded in 1972 to improve the quality of automotive service and repair through the voluntary testing and certification of automotive professionals. ASE-certified technicians wear blue and white ASE shoulder insignia and carry credentials listing their exact area(s) of certification, while their employers display the blue and white ASE sign.

* Be ready to describe any changes in your vehicle’s handling or performance or other issues. Do not be embarrassed to ask for simple definitions for any technical terms you find unfamiliar.

* Reward good service with repeat business and customer loyalty.

Visit www.ase.com for more information, including seasonal car-care tips.

Seniors: Good Communication Vital to Quality Auto Repairs

<b>Seniors: Good Communication Vital to Quality Auto Repairs</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – A poll of ASE-certified automotive technicians indicated that drivers over 60 are among the most conscientious when it comes to taking their vehicles in for routine maintenance and repair. The experts at the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) remind consumers that good communication between shop and customer can help make the repair process go smoothly.

“Professionally run repair establishments recognize the importance of two-way communications,” notes Martin Lawson, ASE’s editorial director. “Just as you would with your physician, be prepared to discuss your vehicle’s aches and pains once you are at the repair shop.”

The following tips from ASE should make the repair process go smoothly:

Don’t ignore what your vehicle is telling you.

Look for:

* Unusual sounds, odors, drips, leaks, smoke, warning lights, gauge readings.

* Changes in acceleration, engine performance, gas mileage, fluid levels.

* Worn tires, belts and hoses.

* Problems in handling, braking, steering, vibrations.

* Note when the problem occurs and whether it is constant or periodic.

Stay involved; communicate your findings:

* Be prepared to describe any symptoms. In larger shops, you’ll probably speak with a service consultant rather than with the technician directly.

* Carry a written list of the symptoms that you can give to the technician or service consultant.

* Do not be embarrassed to request simple definitions of technical terms.

* Ask to be called and apprised of the problem, course of action and costs before work begins.

* Before you leave, make a note of shop policies regarding labor rates, guarantees and acceptable methods of payment.

* Keep a record of all repairs and service.

ASE was founded to improve the quality of automotive service and repair through the voluntary testing and certification of automotive technicians. ASE-certified technicians can be found at every type of repair facility; certified technicians wear blue and white ASE shoulder insignia and carry credentials listing their exact area(s) of certification, while their employers display the blue and white ASE sign. For more information, including seasonal car care tips, visit www.ase.com.

Conserving Gasoline Is Always in Style

<b>Conserving Gasoline Is Always in Style</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Whether you are trying to stretch the family budget, help the environment, or lessen the nation’s dependence on imported oil, conserving gasoline can benefit most everyone.

“Using less gasoline is one of those rare win-win situations,” notes Martin Lawson, editorial director of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), an independent nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of automotive service and repair through the voluntary testing and certification of automotive technicians. “Families can benefit immediately while helping the environment in the long run.”

Whatever your motivation, here are some gas saving tips from the pros at the ASE:

Monitor tires. Under-inflated tires or poorly aligned wheels waste fuel by forcing the engine to work harder. (Let the tires cool down before checking the air pressure.) Out-of-line wheels, as evidenced by uneven tread wear, should be aligned by a professional.

Remove excess weight. Remove unnecessary items from the vehicle. Store only essentials in the trunk. Less weight means better mileage. Promptly remove rooftop cargo carriers to reduce air drag.

Consolidate trips and errands. Some trips may be unnecessary. Also, try to travel when traffic is light so you can avoid stop-and-go conditions.

Avoid excessive idling. Shut off the engine while waiting for friends and family.

Observe speed limits. Speeding decreases your miles per gallon.

Drive gently. Sudden accelerations guzzle gas. Anticipate traffic patterns ahead and adjust your speed gradually.

Use windows and air conditioning wisely. Your mileage should improve if you keep the windows closed at highway speeds, since air drag is reduced. This is true even with the air conditioning on — assuming that the system is in good working order. But turn the air conditioning off in stop-and-go traffic to save fuel.

Keep your engine “tuned up.” A well-maintained engine operates at peak efficiency, maximizing gas mileage. Follow the service schedules listed in the owner’s manual. Replace filters and fluids as recommended; have engine performance problems corrected at a repair facility. A well-maintained vehicle will last longer, too.

Given today’s high-tech engines, it’s wise to have this type of work done by auto technicians who are ASE-certified in engine performance. Repair shops that employ certified auto technicians display the blue and white ASE sign.

For more information, including seasonal car care advice, visit www.ase.com.

Make Damaged Wheels Look New Again

<b>Make Damaged Wheels Look New Again</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – What could be more embarrassing than riding around with scratched or damaged wheels? Except for a bad paint job, nothing can make your car or truck look less appealing or bring down its value more.

Regardless of where you drive, wheel damage is a common problem caused by a variety of culprits: curbside rash, stone nicks, road scuffs, potholes, pitting, corrosion, chemicals and weather. Fortunately, there is an easy answer to the problem, and you don’t have to buy a new wheel or take your vehicle to a restoration shop. You can fix your wheels yourself and save hundreds of dollars and hassles in the process.

A new, easy-to-use Wheel Restoration Kit has been developed by Permatex, an automotive repair products producer. The Wheel Restoration Kit helps you to fix the damaged surface on your wheels, and restores the original silver metallic finish and overall appearance. The kit comes with simple, step-by-step instructions and everything you need for a complete wheel restoration, including a premium, high-performance wheel paint. The finished repair is permanent and resistant to chemicals, brake dust, heat and chipping.

To help you make a professional quality repair, Permatex has also developed three bi-lingual online demonstration videos: “Dents and Grooves,” “Curbside Rashes, Scuffs and Scratches,” and “Corrosion, Rust and Minor Scratches.” Each video takes you through the repair process, step by step. The videos are available for free and can be viewed online at www.permatex.com.

Whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer or a professional mechanic, you can easily restore your wheels to “like new” condition, without the need of special tools or training. The kit works on all types of metal wheels including aluminum, alloy, steel and mixed metals.

You should be able to get Permatex’s Wheel Restoration Kit at leading auto parts stores for less than $25.00. If not, you can contact Permatex (877-376-2839, www.permatex.com) directly, and they will help you find a retailer near you.

Caution: This repair is not recommended for use on chrome wheels or plastic wheel covers and should not be used for structural wheel damage.

Auto Care Advice for College-Bound Students

<b>Auto Care Advice for College-Bound Students</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – There’s one more item for college-bound students to add to their checklists before heading off to campus this fall: Make sure your vehicle is in good working condition and that routine services have been performed to minimize the chance of a breakdown during the school year, note the experts at the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).

“Students who commute need reliable transportation day in and day out to make it to classes on time,” notes Martin Lawson, ASE’s editorial director, “while those who live on campus and use their cars less frequently could find themselves stranded in the satellite parking lot by a dead battery in cold weather.”

The following tips from ASE — the group that tests and certifies automotive technicians — should help students and their parents choose a repair facility.

– Start shopping for a repair facility before you need one.

– Arrange for transportation in advance so you will not feel forced to choose a shop based on its location.

– Look for a neat, well-organized facility, with vehicles in the parking lot equal in value to your own and modern equipment in the service bays.

– Look for a courteous staff, with a service consultant willing to answer all of your questions.

– Look for policies regarding estimated repair costs, diagnostic fees, guarantees, and acceptable methods of payment.

– Ask whether the repair facility specializes or usually handles your type of repair work.

– Look for signs of professionalism in the customer service area such as civic, community or customer service awards.

– Look for evidence of qualified technicians: trade school diplomas, certificates of advanced course work, and certification by ASE.

– Look for the ASE sign. It means that one or more of the technicians have earned nationally recognized certifications.

For more information, visit www.ase.com.

Needed: More Automotive Technicians

<b>Needed: More Automotive Technicians</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Despite unemployment rates that have reached highs not seen since the ’80s, some industries are still hiring. With new-car sales dropping, qualified automotive maintenance and repair industry workers are in high demand.

Why? Americans are choosing not to buy new vehicles but, instead, are driving their old ones longer. “Consumers are maintaining their vehicles longer than in the past,” says a study conducted by R.L. Polk & Co. “The average length of time that owners held onto a new car or truck in 2008 was more than four and a half years (56.3 months).”

As vehicles age, they need preventative maintenance and repairs, creating more business for automotive repair shops. To meet this demand, Bridgestone Retail Operations, LLC, which owns and operates automotive service providers like Firestone Complete Auto Care, opened 42 new stores in 2008 and plans to continue to open new stores throughout 2009. Each new store creates about 12 jobs.

As the need for automotive maintenance and repair grows, the need for qualified employees increases. Managers, sales team members, tire specialists and technicians are all necessary to run a successful automotive service center. Many large-scale employers offer competitive benefits and on-the-job training.

Today’s automotive service centers are nothing like the repair shops of the past. Within the last decade, vehicles have become so technologically advanced that the average car owner can no longer do his or her own maintenance. As a result, repair shops have also made drastic changes.

Automotive technicians need to be able to identify and diagnose automotive problems quickly and accurately and be technologically savvy. Job seekers with an interest in technology and problem-solving might find lucrative careers in automotive service. Automotive repair shops need sales professionals, managers and technicians.

Summer Conditions Stress Out Autos

<b>Summer Conditions Stress Out Autos</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Whoever said, “It’s summertime, and the living is easy,” hasn’t looked under the hood of an automobile. Stop-and-go traffic, dusty roads and air conditioners running full blast put extra stress on automotive systems.

“In today’s tough economy, motorists may be tempted to put off automotive maintenance, but neglect will cause your vehicle to wear out sooner, burn more gasoline and pollute more than a regularly serviced car,” notes Martin Lawson, editorial director of National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), an independent nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of automotive service and repair through the voluntary testing and certification of automotive technicians. “What’s worse, a minor problem can become an expensive headache if neglected.”

ASE offers the following tips to help you choose an automotive repair facility:

– Start shopping for a repair facility before you need one.

– Arrange for alternate transportation in advance so you will not feel forced to choose a shop based solely on location.

– Look for a neat, well-organized facility, with vehicles in the parking lot equal in value to your own and modern equipment in the service bays.

– Look for a courteous staff, with a service consultant or technicians willing to answer your questions.

– Look for policies regarding estimated repair costs, diagnostic fees, guarantees, and acceptable methods of payment.

– Ask whether the repair facility specializes or whether it usually handles your type of repair work.

– Look for signs of professionalism in the customer service area such as civic, community, or customer service awards.

– Look for evidence of qualified technicians: Trade school diplomas, certificates of advanced course work, and certification by ASE indicate the presence of professional, trained technicians. ASE-certified technicians wear blue and white ASE shoulder insignia and carry credentials listing their exact areas of certification.

– Look for the ASE sign. Employers of ASE-certified technicians often display the blue and white ASE sign. Facilities with a high percentage of ASE-certified professionals may also be members of the Blue Seal of Excellence Recognition Program.

– Reward good service with repeat business and customer loyalty.

For more information, including seasonal car care tips, visit www.ase.com.