Blog - Pawlik Automotive Repair, Vancouver BC

Ford Vans vs Chevy Vans: Round 2

So the debate about which van is better just took another turn, in Chevy’s favour.

Had a 2007 Ford E150 van in the shop today for a maintenance service and front brakes.

While doing a routine “shaking of the wheels,” I found excessive play coming from the front right wheel: the culprit, a loose upper ball joint. Ball joints commonly wear out on these Fords, often at very low mileages. This van has about 50,000 kilometers on it: not old by any means.

Sure Chevy ball joints wear out, just not this soon. So there¹s a plus for the Chev Van!

Who’s Working on Your Car?

Do you know the quality of the work that is being done on your vehicle?

Who's Working on Your Car?
We had a client today with a Toyota Camry who had chosen to go to another shop to get some brake work done because our quote seemed too high.

After the work was done she had numerous vibration problems which started right after their work. She returned 3 times but they could not rectify her concern.

While looking at the vehicle I noted that the wheels had been bolted on too tight, so tight in fact that metal fillings were flying out as I removed the wheel nuts. We always use Accutorque sockets when tightening wheels. These sockets are specific to certain makes of vehicles and prevent wheel bolts from being overtorqued.

accutorque sockets

Colour coded accutorque sockets, designed to precisely torque down your wheel nuts

When wheel bolts are over-torqued it causes many problems: warped brake rotors, and damaged wheels, wheel studs and nuts. It can also cause the inconvenience of a wheel that is impossible to remove by the side of the road.
ruined wheel nuts

Ruined wheel nuts from over-torque

The lesson here: be sure that the shop that is servicing your vehicle is doing a good quality job because often, you get what you pay for.

1984 Volvo 244: still running strong

Those old Volvos are great. One of our best clients drives a 1984 Volvo 244. Yes it’s a plain car but certainly one that is well built. There are not many cars around that are still worth having at that age but this is certainly one of them. So what is it about this car?
1984 Volvo 244: still running strong
First off, the major components of the vehicle: the engine, transmission and rear differential are very durable. After 330,000 kilometers this vehicle still has these original components and they work great.

Second, this car is fairly simple: it’s most complex feature is electronic fuel injection.

Third, overall this was a very well built car.

And fourth, any part needed for the car is still readily available.

When you think of some of the cars built in the early 1980’s there was no love lost as they wore out and went to the crusher but others were pushed off to an early death by lack of parts.

Ford Van vs. Chev Van

Who makes a better van, Ford or Chev? (Venturing into religious fervor territory fearlessly…!)

While it’s hard to give an absolute concrete opinion, as far as brakes go the Ford is far superior.

Ford Van vs. Chev Van

Better Brakes

One of our best clients has a fleet of 15 vans ranging from the late 1990s to brand new. Most are Fords but a few are Chevys. All day long these vans are loaded to capacity and the brakes work hard!

The big difference in the brakes is that the 3/4 Ton Chevy van’s brake pads are small; so small in fact that they are really suited for a mid sized car. The Ford’s pads are a truck sized pad and they last.

Ford Van vs. Chev Van

Small Brakes

With the miniscule Chevy pads our client is lucky if the brakes last 20,000 kilometers before the pads wear out. In terms of the brakes I’d say that “Built Ford Tough” is probably true, at least compared to a Chevy Van.

1981 Corvette Tune up

It’s great to do an old school tune up again.

Had a 1981 Corvette in the shop today.

Interesting to delve into the old technology: 350 Chevy V8, GM HEI ignition, a feedback carburetor and hideaway headlights. At one time we worked on so many of these types of vehicles. While new technology is far superior, it is great to work on an “antique.”

We’d love to see more of them.

1981 Corvette

Dealer Service

Is Dealer Service your best choice?

Unfortunately, over and over I am reminded that they don’t always do a great job.

Even though I’ve been an independent mechanic and shop owner all of my adult life I still hear this notion, like many people, that the dealer is the best place to get your car serviced.

They may be more expensive but they will always do what’s best for the car, do fine quality work and they are experts because they service their own brand.

Behind the nice appearance of their facility and people, the shuttle service and the washed car… the overall work on the vehicle is often not that great!

Case in point: we had a new client today with a 2002 Volvo XC90. The vehicle has 130,000 kilometers on the clock and until today had always been dealer serviced.

While the engine oil had certainly been replaced we found a number of very dirty fluids, especially the transmission. This fluid is normally a clear bright red colour, however on this vehicle it was as black as old engine oil: clearly long overdue for service.

Dealer Service

Clean Oil vs Dirty Oil

We advised the client and they wisely did the fluid flush. Why do dealers neglect these important fluid replacements when they are so glaringly needed??

So often we see this on dealer serviced cars: critical fluids not replaced.

The cynic in me has to ask… “Is it because they don’t really care about the longevity of your car?” After all if the transmission blows up, that makes you a perfect candidate for the sales department and a new car.

Good news about the HST

With the HST now implemented in BC here’s some good news: Car repair and maintenance isn’t going to cost you a dollar more – even with HST.

That’s because car repairs for the past 10 or so years have been subject to PST and GST on labour and parts. You’ve already been paying the full pop.

I know that this really isn’t great news but at least it is one thing that won’t be costing you more. If you own a business the HST now becomes a 12% input tax credit as opposed to the 5% of the GST.

Happy Motoring!

How Safe is the Car You’re Driving?

Do you know how safe the car that you are driving is?

Picture this scenario: Your car is in a body shop for a couple of months being restored and a very kind friend lends you their ‘spare’ car.

Sounds like a fabulous arrangement doesn’t it? Well maybe the arrangement is not so fabulous if that friend’s car has serious safety defects that are unknown to you and the car owner.

Often we drive our cars and they seem to run fine, so an assumption is made that all is good. There may however, be one or more components that are about to fail, possibly leading to a catastrophic accident.

Can this be prevented? Absolutely: by having a routine safety inspection done once per year. Many parts on a car can be worn and fail suddenly without warning but will be noticed during a safety inspection.

This scenario was recently inspired by a true story: our client brought in a vehicle for a level one maintenance service (oil & filter service and minor inspection) that a very kind friend had lent him for a couple of months.

While inspecting under the car we noted seriously cracked front brake hoses: something that neither the car owner or current driver was aware of. Cracked brake hoses give no warning of an impending failure. When they fail they usual burst suddenly, leaving you with little or no brakes.

There are many other components that also give no warning: loose steering parts are example. The good news is that their condition can be easily confirmed during a safety inspection.

The whole point of this story is: if a vehicle is being driven, you need to be certain that it is a safe car. This applies to both the owner and the driver. There are legal liabilities, not to mention moral obligations and the possible ruining of a friendship should an accident occur or a part breaks that was just about to fail due to old age.

Be sure that if you own a car or are driving a friend’s car that it is safe. An annual safety inspection is not expensive and will make sure that you know that you have a safe car.

Depreciation: Frighteningly Expensive and Not Considered

Few car owners think of the cost of depreciation when they buy a vehicle. When you truly look at it, sometimes it can be astounding.

Here’s an extreme example of a higher end luxury car where depreciation can be outrageous. Our example car is a 2006 BMW 645I, a very nice sporty luxury car with a base price of $99,000. This same car can be bought used, with only 45,000 kilometers on the odometer for $37,500. That’s a drop of $61,500 in only 4 years!

Put another way… the previous owner paid $1.36 for every kilometer that he or she drove or approximately $15,000 per year in depreciation.

That is an insane amount of money to burn away and yet few people consider it. I know that this is an extreme example but it is a very important financial consideration and one that I bring up as an auto service professional. We hear some folks whining about the cost of auto repairs and yet I have never had a client spend even close to $15,000 dollars in a year on vehicle repairs and if they did, they would not be spending that again in the next year or the year following.

Now lets consider buying this car used. It’s a real bargain at this price and I would imagine that 5 years later, if well taken care of, it will still be worth $10,000 minimum. This next owner will only lose $27,500 to depreciation. Per kilometer, assuming that only 45,000 kilometers are driven, that costs only $.61 per kilometer or $6900 per year in depreciation.

Half price!

Now this car, as it ages will no doubt need some repairs, but I would be hard pressed to imagine even a $10,000 dollar expense on this type of car. But, if we were to add $10,000 to the $27,500 of depreciation we have $37,500 total cost and per kilometer $.83. That is still a substantially lower cost.

Perhaps the downside is that the used car owner doesn’t have the prestige and cachet that comes with driving that beautiful new BMW; but he or she still has a fabulous vehicle and one that will be very reliable. The second owner will also have a huge amount of extra cash available to spend on other things or to wisely invest and make more money.

This is an extreme example of depreciation but it applies across the board with any vehicle.

Also not considered in this equation are financing costs and that adds further to the expense of the vehicle. Naturally this is much higher with the high price of the new vehicle. So next time that you are faced with a large auto repair bill – consider that compared to depreciation it may not be all that high.

Proper Tire Inflation

Did you know that keeping your tires properly inflated saves you money on fuel, optimizes your safety and maximizes your tire life?

Did you also know that it is easy to check your own tire pressures?

Finally, did you know that you must use a tire guage to properly set tire pressures?
Proper Tire Inflation
Yes, properly inflated tires save money on gas. When tires are under inflated, rolling resistance increases and that causes your engine to burn more fuel. Additionally, under inflated tires are dangerous because they run hotter and in extreme circumstances can blow out. Under or over inflated tires will cause the treads to wear unevenly and this shortens tire life.

Inspecting your tire pressures once a month can easily rectify all of this. You must use a tire guage and not your eyes. Why? Because most tires, when properly inflated have bulging sidewalls and look slightly flat.

Here’s how to do it right:

First, find the proper inflation for your vehicle. This is usually found on a tag in the driver’s or passenger’s door jam but may be found on your glove box door or fuel door.

Second, check your tires when cold: when your vehicle has been stopped for at least three hours or has not been driven more than 2 km.

In some circumstances using other than the vehicle recommended pressures is better. Examples are: 1) in the case of some SUV vehicles that have low manufacturer recommended pressures designed to give a soft ride and 2) if high performance or off-road tires are installed which require different pressures.

For the SUV concern, some have 26PSI as the recommended fill and I would not do less that 30PSI. It will slightly roughen the ride but add a margin of safety. For the high performance or off-road tires, these manufacturers will have their own recommendations. Find out what they are and use that pressure.

So there you have it, a simple to do, routine service with the benefit of saving you money and increasing your safety.

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