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WRAL TV 5 Vehicle Maintenance Report
Skimp on car
maintenance? Bad idea
Articles and resources to help you maintain your investment
ADVICE ON FINDING A GOOD
Your car, truck or van is the
second costliest purchase you will ever make -- out ranked only by your home.
And it's also likely that you're discouraged by the thought of maintaining your
vehicle. Today's vehicles seem too complex for your own backyard tinkering, and
finding a good repair facility with competent mechanics seems more difficult
than it should be.
Fortunately there's a group that can help take much of the guesswork out of
finding a competent mechanic. The independent, nonprofit National Institute for
Automotive Service Excellence, better known as ASE, is dedicated to improving
automotive service and repair by testing and certifying the competence of
individual mechanics, or "technicians," to use today's terminology.
ASE is the only automotive certification group that is both national in scope
and industry-wide. It is self-supporting, with a forty-member, volunteer board
of directors drawn from all segments of the automotive service industry, as well
as representatives from education, government and consumer groups.
ASE means Good News for Consumers
ASE-certified technicians have proven their
competency to you, to their employers, and to themselves by passing national,
standardized exams. Because ASE's program is voluntary, technicians who have
paid in time and money to earn ASE certification can be counted on to have a
strong sense of pride in their profession. Moreover, prior to taking ASE exams,
many mechanics attend training classes or study after work to increase their
knowledge, another plus for consumers.
ASE certifies only the individual technician, not the repair shop itself, but it
stands to reason that employers and managers who encourage their technicians to
earn ASE's national credentials will be concerned about all aspects of their
The Nuts and Bolts of ASE Certification
Twice a year some 100,000 technicians sit for ASE
certification exams at over 600 locations. The exams are administered in the
field by ACT, the same organization that offers college entrance and other
The exams, which stress real-world diagnostic and repair problems, are designed
by representatives from the automotive service and repair industry, vocational
educators, and ASE's own in-house technical specialists.
There are eight automobile exams: Engine Repair, Engine Performance,
Electrical/Electronic Systems, Brakes, Heating and Air Conditioning, Suspension
and Steering, Manual Drive Train and Axles, and Automatic Transmissions. There
are also tests for collision repair/refinish technicians, engine machinists,
parts specialists, and medium/heavy truck technicians.
The exams are no cinch to pass; on average, one out of three test takers fail
any given exam. But those who pass and fulfill the work experience requirement
earn the title of ASE-certified Automobile Technician, while those who pass all
eight auto exams earn Master Auto Technician status.
Every ASE technician is issued credentials listing his (or her) exact areas of
certification and an appropriate shoulder insignia.
Nor does it end there: certification is not for life; ASE requires its
technicians to recertify every five years to keep up with technology and to stay
How to Find an ASE Certified Technician
ASE-certified technicians can be found at every
type of repair facility: new car dealerships, independent garages, service
stations, tire dealers, special shops, and major franchises. There are about
375,000 ASE technicians at work across the nation. Repair facilities with one or
more ASE-certified technicians are entitled to display the blue and white ASE
sign and post their certified technicians' credentials in the customer service
Choosing the Right Technician
As with physicians, auto technicians specialize.
Because ASE offers certification in all major technical areas of auto repair and
service, it's wise to ask the shop owner or service manager specifically for a
technician who is certified in the appropriate area, say, brakes, engine repair,
or air conditioning. The technicians are issued pocket-sized credential cards
listing their exact areas of certification. For free information about ASE
technician certification, send a business-sized, self-addressed, stamped
envelope to: ASE Consumer Brochure, Dept. CCC-F95, P.O. Box 347, Herndon, VA
HOW TO FIND A
GOOD QUALITY COLLISION REPAIR SHOP
The vehicles on the roads today are very sophisticated and hi-tech pieces of
machinery that we all rely on in our daily lives. Whether it is a passenger car,
light truck or sport utility vehicle makes no difference when it comes to the
level of technology that goes into making the vehicle function and appear as
today’s vehicles do. They are built better and last longer than the cars of the
past, which results in a price tag to match. In fact, the purchase of an
automobile today is likely the second highest investment the average consumer
will make in a lifetime. Therefore, the choice of who will make the repairs to
your vehicle should it get damaged is really a decision of who will best protect
a major investment as well as who is best qualified to work on your hi-tech
investment. Since your vehicle is also likely to carry you and possibly your
entire family down a major highway at 65 or 70 miles an hour reconstructing your
vehicle after an accident should be a major concern and should not be taken
lightly. Your safety, as well as that of a family member may be at risk if the
wrong decision is made, as well as the potential of diminishing the retail value
of your vehicle by having mismatched paint, telltale signs of the repair or
continuing and reoccurring problems that you will have to live with as long as
you own the vehicle.
Many consumers think that their insurance company is best suited to advise them
when an accident occurs and that it is best to let them make most or all the
decisions related to who and how the vehicle will be repaired when involved in
an accident. Although the insurer does and should play a major part in the
process, one must remember that the insurer is the one that will be footing all
of or the large part of the final bill. Insurance companies are in business to
make money and for the most part, will look to get the vehicle repaired as
quickly as possible and at the most economical price possible and therefore
automatically have a conflict in whose interest they should be protected first.
As such, vehicle owners that allow the insurer take control of the decision
making process of who will repair their vehicle and how their vehicle will be
repaired could wind up on the short end of the deal. Based on the foregoing, the
owner of a damaged vehicle should always stay involved in the curtail decision
making process and look to find a well qualified repair facility that they can
trust to protect their investment, reconstruct the structural integrity of their
vehicle and deliver a properly repaired vehicle with a guarantee that they stand
behind in writing.
TRAINING AND CERTIFICATION
Look for legitimate Training Certificates including, but not limited to I-CAR or
I-CAR Gold Class Certified and ASE or other Technician Training or Certification
With the complicated and technical systems incorporated into the modern vehicles
on the roads today, training is an absolute must. Collision repair facilities
that fail to hire trained technicians or require that their technicians attend
continuous training classes are bound to have problems and run into
complications that they simply will not have the skills required for resolving
the problems. Although there are many training originations that provide
training classes related to the collision repair industry, the most common is
known as I-CAR. The most Common testing origination is known as ASE.
When the technicians are ASE-Certified, it means that they have passed a
voluntary competency test or tests offered by the National Institute for
Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). When the technicians are I-CAR trained, it
means they have attended a course or a series of courses offered by the
Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) to help to upgrade
their repair skills and obtain the knowledge and skills required to repair the
modern vehicles of today. Shops with highly trained personnel are proud to
display these and other certificates or diplomas in their customer waiting area.
I-CAR Gold Class Professional® Shops have a very high level of the most
up-to-date equipment, training, knowledge, and they are known to thoroughly
understand the latest technology to repair your vehicle properly.
Consumers should always look for or ask the repair facility to see proof that
the technicians that will be repairing their vehicle are trained and/or
certified before agreeing to have their vehicle repaired at the facility.
TRADE ASSOCIATION AFFILIATION - Look for Trade Association Affiliation
such as Independent Garage Owners of NC (IGONC) , the Alliance of Automotive
Service Providers, the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), the
Better Business Bureau or your local chamber of commerce.
When a shop is a member of the Independent Garage Owners of NC (IGONC) they have
agreed to uphold the association’s strict Code of Ethics. This code sets the
standards for professionalism in the automotive repair industry. In addition,
consumers may wish to check out a shop’s affiliation with consumer organizations
such as the Better Business Bureau or the Chamber of Commerce.
Collision Shops that belong to and participate in trade associations such as the
IGONC are the shops that are committed to making the industry better and doing
the right thing. Members of trade associations rely on the association to keep
them aware of new rules, regulations and general provisions that legitimate shop
owners need to know. More often than not, legitimate shops will also likely
support and align themselves with originations such as the Better Business
Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce.
YEARS IN BUSINESS COUNTS
Consumers should consider how long a shop has been in business when deciding who
will make their repairs.
The longer the length of time a shop has been in business is a good indication
that they may be around in the future to take care of any problems you may have.
Shops that hire seasoned technicians are showing obvious signs that they are
committed to performing quality repairs. Ask how many years experience the
shop’s technicians have. New collision shops often open up and fail within a
relatively short period of time due to the complexity of the business. A shop
that has weathered the storm and remained in business for a fairly long period
of time is not likely to fail. Consumers should look for a quality collision
shop that has been in business long enough to build a good reputation for
providing quality repairs.
LOOK FOR GUARANTEED REPAIRS AND QUALITY PARTS
Consumers should look for a written warranty.
These days quality collision repair shops all have a warranty or guarantee on
all their parts, workmanship and paint. Request a copy of the shops "Written
Warranty" including labor, materials, parts and paint. Inquire about the type of
collision parts that will be used in the repair of your vehicle. OEM Parts are
parts manufactured by the Original Manufacturer of the vehicle. After Market
Parts are parts made by someone other than the original manufacturer of the
vehicle. After market parts are questionable at best. If a shop installs
aftermarket collision parts on your vehicle, the factory warranty may be
considered void, and you may have to chase down the aftermarket parts company if
you have a problem. Consumers should look into the history of after market parts
and understand the ramifications that after market parts could have on the
warranty of the vehicle, the short comings of after market parts and the
diminished value the vehicle may suffer from the use of after market parts.
Consumers should always look for a quality collision shop that uses quality
parts and that issues a written warranty of not less than one year on
workmanship and parts and in most cases three to five years on the paint.
PAST CUSTOMER TESTIMONIALS
Look for a good track record
Quality collision shops that perform exceptional services are proud of their
hard earned reputation. Many quality collision shops will post letters from
satisfied customers for potential customers to see. A bulletin board with such
letters is a good sign that the shop has a track record of performing quality
repairs. Consumers should take the time to read testimonials and investigate the
shop thoroughly when deciding who will best protect their major investment.
THE PROPER EQUIPMENT IS A MUST
Look for a collision shop with the right equipment
Most people know little about the collision repair process or the equipment that
is required to perform quality repairs. Shops can only perform quality repairs
if they have invested in quality equipment. The frame equipment and paint booth
are basically the biggest equipment investments collision shops make. Although
there are many, the top names to look for in frame machines are Chief EZ-Liner
and Car-O-Liner, both are excellent for unibody repairs. A laser measuring
system or equivalent is also very important with the ability to printout the
measurements. Quality collision shops have made the investment in this type of
equipment and will be glad to inform their customers of the investment. There
are also a lot of paint booth companies that produce quality paint booths. Some
of the top names are Well Built, Garmat, Blowtherm, Spraybake, and Nova Verta.
The brand or name is not the issue. The point is that the shop should have a
quality booth to perform the refinishing in. Consumers should also be aware that
the best equipment in the world is only as good as the people who use it.
Consumers should always look for a well equipped shop with the modern equipment
required to perform quality repairs.
The key to getting through the red tape
An auto accident is probably one of the most stressful events that a consumer
could encounter in his or her normal daily activities. One of the first problems
a consumer faces when their vehicle is damaged to the point it can not be driven
is substitute transportation. Top quality collision shops will be able to assist
consumers is obtaining a rental replacement vehicle quickly. Most all quality
collision shops have pre-arranged agreements with rental companies who will also
pick up the customer or deliver a car to the shop or the customer’s home.
Quality collision shops will also help the customer in selecting a rental car
company that will provide a rental replacement vehicle at a reasonable price and
provide good service to their customers. One of the biggest companies is
Enterprise Rent A Car.
The next issue is getting a claim reported and the maize of paperwork that is
likely to follow. Collision shops deal with the claim reporting process and
claim settlement process every day. It is no secret that dealing with insurance
companies in relation to auto accidents is also stressful. This is especially
true if you one has never had the unfortunate opportunity to do so in the past.
Without the knowledge of what to do first or how to deal with all the aspects of
an auto accident and the claim settlement, one could find the experience most
unpleasant. A quality collision shop will be more than happy to assist their
customers in dealing with these issues.
Once the customer is assured of assistance with the rental vehicle and claim
assistance the issues of the repairs has to be dealt with. Many or most
consumers feel that a damaged vehicle will never be the same after a somewhat
serious collision. To a certain extent, the feelings may be justified. The
consumer may have had a bad experience with an unqualified shop in the past.
However, if the proper steps are taken after an accident and the vehicle is
repaired by a high quality shop, the differences can be held to a minimum. No
one can make the accident disappear, but automobiles can be repaired back to
factory specks if the proper repair procedures are followed, the proper parts
are utilized for the repair, and the repairs are performed by a well trained
qualified technician utilizing the most modern repair technology and equipment.
A top quality collision shop will be willing to relieve some of the stress by
assuring the customer that your shop is qualified to do the best job possible as
well as assist with the entire claim settlement process. Consumers should choose
a collision shop that is willing to assist the customer with all the issues and
prove to the consumer that the technicians are qualified and that the shop is
PROFESSIONALISM AND CLEANLINESS COUNTS
A sloppy shop may be a reflection of the work habits of the facility
Consumers should take notice of how neat and clean the parking lot is when they
first arrive at a collision shop. Look to see if the office is neat, clean and
well organized as well as the appearance of the actual shop work area. This
should give the consumer an idea of how well your vehicle will be taken care of
and how well your claim will be handled when it is at the shop.
Consumers should notice if vehicles around the shop are comparable with theirs
as far as year and value. Certain shops will only attempt to repair older model
vehicles less expensive vehicles or their reputation may prevent consumers with
later model more expensive vehicles from doing business with the shop. If the
type of vehicles the company is repairing and the way the vehicles are being
handled by the staff and technicians does not impress you, the repairs that you
receive will not likely impress you either.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VALUE AND PRICE
Price is what you pay - Value is what you get. Learn and know the difference
If you have a nice vehicle that you want repaired to the highest degree
possible, you should definitely not look for a low price. With the cost of an
automobile being the second largest investment a consumer will make in a
lifetime, protecting the investment is of great importance. The lowest estimate
does not mean the best deal. When a consumer chooses the lowest price over the
quality and value of the repairs the decision can come with other cost that can
not be recuperated, such as diminished value. Vehicles that show telltale signs
of the repair or the vehicle is simply never right after the repairs, the retail
value of the vehicle can plummet. The cost to re-repair a poorly repaired
vehicle can cost much more than the cost to repair it properly in the first
place. The problems or safety issues that a consumer can face when a vehicle is
not repaired properly can result in more stress and anguish than the savings
achieved. Consumers should always be willing to pay a fair price for the value
that is received when it comes to collision repairs.
Helpful Guidelines For
• Try to move the car completely off the road;
• Never stand near the edge of the highway while checking the car;
• At night, turn on flashers to signal your need for help. During the day, raise
the hood and tie a white cloth to the antenna or door handle;
• Set out flares;
• While you wait for help to arrive, stay inside your car with the windows up
and the doors locked. Never accept a ride home from a passing motorist; and
• Carry a cellular phone or carry a cardboard sign for your windshield.
Preprinted signs that say "Call Police for Help" are available at auto parts
Drive Sensibly -Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking)
Observe the Speed Limit
Lose Weight-Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your vehicle, especially heavy
Properly Maintain your vehicle
- Keep engine "tuned"
- Inflate tires to proper level
- Use recommended weight of motor oil
- switch to synthetic motor oil
for more tips or to check the rating of your vehicle visit
Auto Warranties, Routine Maintenance, and Repairs:
Is Using the Dealer a Must?
If you own a car, you know how important it is to keep up
with routine maintenance and repairs. But can a dealer refuse to
honor the warranty that came with your new car if someone else
does the routine maintenance or repairs?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer
protection agency, says no. In fact, it's illegal for a dealer
to deny your warranty coverage simply because you had routine
maintenance or repairs performed by someone else. Routine
maintenance often includes oil changes, tire rotations, belt
replacement, fluid checks and flushes, new brake pads, and
inspections. Maintenance schedules vary by vehicle make, model
and year; the best source of information about routine scheduled
maintenance is your owner's manual.
What is a warranty?
A warranty is a promise, often made by a manufacturer, to
stand behind its product or to fix certain defects or
malfunctions over a period of time. The warranty pays for any
covered repairs or part replacements during the warranty period.
Do I have to use the dealer for repairs and maintenance
to keep my warranty in effect?
No. An independent mechanic, a retail chain shop, or even you
yourself can do routine maintenance and repairs on your vehicle.
In fact, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which is enforced by
the FTC, makes it illegal for manufacturers or dealers to claim
that your warranty is void or to deny coverage under your
warranty simply because someone other than the dealer did the
work. That said, there may be certain situations where a repair
may not be covered. For example, if you or your mechanic
replaced a belt improperly and your engine is damaged as a
result, your manufacturer or dealer may deny responsibility for
fixing the engine under the warranty. However, according to the
FTC, the manufacturer or dealer must be able to demonstrate that
it was the improper belt replacement — rather than some other
defect — that caused the damage to your engine. The warranty
would still be in effect for other parts of your car.
Will using 'aftermarket' parts void my warranty?
No. An 'aftermarket' part is a part made by a company other
than the vehicle manufacturer or the original equipment
manufacturer. Simply using an aftermarket part does not void
your warranty. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act makes it illegal
for companies to void your warranty or deny coverage under the
warranty simply because you used an aftermarket part. Still, if
it turns out that the aftermarket part was itself defective or
wasn't installed correctly, and it causes damage to another part
that is covered under the warranty, the manufacturer or dealer
has the right to deny coverage for that part and charge you for
any repairs. The FTC says the manufacturer or dealer must show
that the aftermarket equipment caused the need for repairs
before denying warranty coverage.
Tips To Avoid Warranty Issues
Here's how to get the most out of your vehicle's warranty:
- Read your warranty. Often bundled with
your owner's manual, the warranty gives a general
description and specific details about your coverage. If you
have misplaced your owner's manual, look for it online.
Check the "Owners" section of your manufacturer's website.
- Be aware of your warranty period. If
problems arise that are covered under the warranty, get them
checked out before the warranty expires.
- Service your car at regular intervals.
This is a good idea in any case. But for the sake of keeping
your warranty intact, follow the manufacturer's recommended
service schedule. Details are in your owner's manual.
- Keep all service records and receipts,
regardless of who performs the service. This
includes oil changes, tire rotations, belt replacement, new
brake pads, and inspections. Create a file to keep track of
repairs; it will come in handy if you have to use your
warranty. If you ever have a warranty claim and it appears
that you did not maintain your vehicle, your claim could be
- Complain. If you think a dealer's
service advisor denied your warranty claim unfairly, ask to
speak with a supervisor. If you still aren't satisfied,
contact the manufacturer or go to another dealer. You also
may wish to file a complaint with your state Attorney
General, local consumer protection office, local Better
Business Bureau, or the FTC.
For More Information
Visit ftc.gov for free
information on buying, financing, leasing, renting and
The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair
business practices in the marketplace and to provide information
to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a
or get free
information on consumer issues, visit
ftc.gov or call toll-free,
1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Watch a
How to File a Complaint, at
ftc.gov/video to learn
more. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the
Consumer Sentinel Network,
a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds
of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and