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Don't Disregard Your Check Engine Lamp

Check Engine Lamp

Do not underestimate the value of your check engine lamp even if your car runs perfectly well. Disregarding your check engine lamp can add great inconvenience to your life.

Let’s face it, sometimes spending money on car repairs is not your first choice (or even your second or third choice). It’s often one of those “have to” purchases.

Frequently it’s tempting to make choices about what to repair based on how the car runs. And so it goes with your car’s check engine light: that’s the amber lamp that illuminates on your dash that either says “check engine” or shows an outline of an engine. Its main function is to alert you to a concern with your engine management system and/or an engine concern that causes excessive exhaust emissions. Many times your vehicle will run perfectly well and herein lies the temptation to ignore the lamp.

A check engine lamp

Let’s look at the consequences of ignoring your check engine lamp:

1) If your engine is running poorly and the lamp is on, ignoring this will very likely cost you more money in repairs down the road. A rough running or misfiring engine will usually destroy your catalytic converter(s) which can cost thousands to replace.

2) Even if your engine is running well it may not be running as intended and could be using more fuel, costing you more to drive. Your vehicle’s powertrain computer is designed to compensate for malfunctions and keep it running as close to normal as possible. Often you can’t feel the problem but something is happening that will cost you more either in fuel or premature wear down the road.

3) If you live in the Vancouver Area and your vehicle is seven years or older then it must be tested at AirCare every 2 years. If your vehicle is 1998 and newer the entire test involves interrogating your vehicle’s powertrain computer for defects. If your check engine lamp is on YOU WILL FAIL the test and waste money for the inspection.

The best plan of attack when your check engine lamp comes on it to have it looked at. A basic inspection will retrieve the stored trouble code and from there a technician can discuss a proper diagnostic and repair plan.

On the simple end of the scale he/she may find your gas cap was loose and tightening it solves the concern. On the more complex end of the spectrum several levels of diagnosis may be required to find the cause and repair the concern. Either way it is important to know why the light is on and what effects it may be having on your vehicle.

AirCare Quality Repair Award Winner

AirCare Award certificate

I am pleased to announce that our shop has won an AirCare Quality Repair Award. Very few technicians receive these awards and I am honoured to have met the criteria. To win this award a technician must perform a set number of repairs per year and have a passing average of 95%.

Our shop average over the past 12 months is 100%!

When you bring your vehicle to Pawlik Automotive you can count on receiving the finest AirCare repairs and service in Vancouver with a commitment to fixing your car properly: doing so not only keeps your vehicle running at its best, but also keeps our air clean.

Bernie Pawlik's AirCare Quality Repair Award, received July 4, 2011

Comprehensive Inspections Save You Money

Comprehensive inspections save money

We love doing inspections and maintenance services on vehicles because we often find a concern as it is starting and can advise the client to repair it before it becomes a more costly repair. Case in point was a recent service on a 1994 Ford F250 pick up.

While performing a comprehensive inspection we came upon this rear axle seal just starting to leak. Fortunately we caught it before it had leaked gear oil onto the brake shoes and destroyed them. Our client wisely chose to repair the seal immediately and by doing so he saved several hundred dollars in brake work. Paying for an inspection saved our client money!

The leaking axle seal, caught before the leak soaked the brake shoes

Range Rover Air Suspension Repairs

Range Rover air suspension parts

Among the many luxuries of the Range Rover is its air suspension system which is immensely useful for allowing this truck to ride low and safely at high speeds, and yet with the push of a button to gain a few inches of ground clearance for slow speeds on rough roads. Over the years we have serviced air suspension systems on many vehicles including Subaru, Lincoln, Cadillac and Range Rover. Undoubtly, air suspension adds complexity to a vehicle and with that complexity comes more repairs. Often these repairs are very costly with the air spring or strut costing into a thousand dollars per corner and the compressor assembly in the hundreds to thousand dollar range.

Recently we came across a refreshingly inexpensive air suspension repair on a 2006 Range Rover HSE. An air suspension failure warning appeared on the dash and the system became inoperative: stuck in the high ground clearance position. With scan tool attached we found a trouble code indicating a blockage in the air suspension exhaust system. Further diagnose found the cause of the concern: a plugged air compressor muffler. With the muffler plugged, the system could not vent the air from the springs and lower the vehicle!

The newly designed muffler on left and the old plugged up unit on the right

The muffler’s function is to quieten the air flowing in and out of the compressor and over time this one had plugged. After replacing the muffler along with an updated dryer assembly to prevent future failures, the system functioned normally. Diagnosing the Range Rover is a real treat when compared to many of the older generation air suspension systems. The Range Rover features a comprehensive series of trouble codes to help pin point areas of concern along with excellent scan tool data readings of all components. This is in contrast to systems found 10 to 20 years ago on Subaru, Lincoln & Cadillac which had no scan tool data and perhaps a few basic trouble codes.

Is air suspension worthwhile? I can answer it this way: yes it costs more to repair but it is unbeatable for giving a vehicle the versatility to ride level under all load conditions and if so designed, to give a vehicle like the Range Rover the best of both worlds: a comfortable to drive city/highway cruiser and a serious, high clearance off-road vehicle.

Yes, We Service Land Rover (And Range Rover Too)

Range Rover Land Rover

Land Rover has established a reputation as a fabulously reliable go anywhere vehicle. For decades they have been found at all corners of the globe driving on hard pavement or just as easily, where no road exists! We service Land Rover and the very luxurious Range Rover at Pawlik Automotive with care, expertise and the latest diagnostic equipment.

For many years British vehicles had a horrible reputation as being unreliable and older Land Rovers were not without fault. That however has changed: these vehicles are very well built, are extremely reliable and best of all, parts are readily available. We look forward to taking care of your Land Rover or Range Rover with our expert care and service.

The Luxurious 2006 Range Rover HSE and the Rugged 1995 Land Rover Discovery

Extending The Life Of Your Transmission

Automatic transmission maintenance

Many European cars clearly state that their automatic transmissions are filled for life and that replacing the fluid is never required. This is a very bold claim and I believe one that is incorrect!

Transmissions have hundreds of moving parts some of which are friction materials such as clutch discs. All of these parts wear and contaminate the transmission’s fluid. While the fluid may well be designed to handle the heat of the transmission forever, the contamination remains inside.

Recently we had a client with a 2000 BMW X5 whose transmission suddenly started malfunctioning in a serious way. The vehicle had 180,000 kilometers which is not a very high mileage for many vehicles.

To be fair, these particular transmissions do have concerns that will cause premature failures. However routinely renewing the fluid with an automatic transmission flush throughout this vehicle’s life, about every 50,000 kilometers would have added some life to this transmission… if not prevented this early death.

In this case the manufacturer got what it wanted: the sale of another vehicle as our client chose not to repair the vehicle and bought a new one.

Inside a ZF Automatic transmission as used in BMW vehicles

How Much To Fix An Electrical Short In My Car?

Blown Fuse electrical problem

This is a frequently asked question that applies to electrical shorts as well as a myriad of other automotive concerns. While many people want to know “how much” before they commit to a repair, it varies from difficult to impossible to give an accurate estimate until a thorough inspection is done.

Electrical shorts are a special case as it is impossible to know where the problem may reside until it is found. The procedure involves starting at one end of the circuit and moving to the other; somewhere along the way the cause will be found.

A blown fuse; often caused by a short circuit

Another question that we are frequently asked is “how much to do front brakes?” While brake prices are more predictable than an electrical short, there are still many variables. Is it just the pads that are worn out, or are the rotors also worn, and are the calipers sticking or seized? The best way to address this and all other automotive concerns is by inspection where components can be specifically examined and their condition determined.

The best way to have your car repairs estimated is to be on a regular maintenance program where a comprehensive inspection is part of the service. With this service a shop can inform you of all the good and all the worn items and how long they will last. From here you can get an estimate of costs and when the services are required.

Giving You The Straight Goods On Your Vehicle

Auto Inspection report

”In all my years this is the most thorough inspection anyone has done on my truck.”
Auto Inspection report
This comment came from a new client as I explained the findings of our comprehensive inspection on his 1994 Ford F250 Diesel Pick up. For a man in his seventies who had owned this vehicle and others for many years I took this as a great compliment and a testament to the thoroughness of the service that we offer at Pawlik Automotive.

We look at cars and trucks in a complete way and strive to educate you about your whole vehicle so that you can make good choices about how to care for it. Our car inspections are very thorough and help save you money.

A tale of two headlights

Volvo easy replacement headlamp

Working on all makes and models of cars and trucks gives us exposure to what is well designed for easy servicing and what is not. Here’s an interesting comparison of the good and bad as far as headlamps are concerned: a 2003 Mercedes SL500 versus a 2007 Volvo XC90. Both vehicles feature xenon headlamps in moulded light assemblies, but there the similarity ends.

The Mercedes headlamp assembly is bolted into place and requires a couple of hours to replace while the Volvo light assembly is held in with 2 metal pins and can be removed in 2 minutes. This makes changing bulbs so much easier.

In fairness to the Mercedes the headlamp assemblies have access ports to change the bulbs but it is much more time consuming and less enjoyable to replace than the Volvo’s bulbs. When something is clearly well designed for servicing it makes you wonder why all manufacturers don’t adopt the simple ideas; because the simple ideas usually save you money when it comes to repairs.

The Mercedes SL500 headlamp, firmly bolted into place

The Volvo Headlamp with the simple to remove pins

Is Car Repair Really Expensive?

Pawlik Car Repair

“Why is car repair so expensive?” This is a question that I occasionally get asked and I will answer this with two further questions: One: Why do you think that it is expensive? Two: What are you basing that statement on?

Defining car repair as being expense is really a value judgment and it requires looking at all the aspects of car ownership to put the price of repairs into perspective. If you truly believe that car repairs are too expensive then it is likely that our industry has not shown you the value of what we offer and what goes into maintaining and repairing your car.
Pawlik Car Repair
Owning a car involves the cost of buying the car, maintaining and repairing the car, fuel costs and insurance. There is a financial balance between buying a car and the cost of repairs and maintenance. As a car ages repair costs rise while buying costs are gone. With a new car the buying costs are high and the repair costs are low. It is always important to remember that balance. If repair and maintenance costs are lower than purchase costs (monthly payments) then keeping an older car running and in good repair often makes financial sense.

Let’s now look at what goes into car repair: first, auto repair is a highly skilled trade. Next to your doctor, there may be few jobs that require the knowledge and skill of an auto service technician. While there are specialists, a technician working in a general repair shop must not only be a skilled mechanic but must also be a plumber, electrician, electronics technician, diagnostics expert, fabricator & welder. Every new model year and make of car introduces new technology that must be learned. For all these skills the average auto technician is actually paid less than a plumber!

An auto repair shop is an expensive business to operate: there are many tools required and while some last many years other items such as diagnostic scan tools require expensive and constant upgrading. While a carpenter may be able to buy all of their tools for a lifetime career in one shot, the auto service technician and shop are always required to purchase new tools to keep up with the changes that the manufacturers make.

With every repair there are parts required, diagnostic labour is often needed and repair labour to disassemble and reassemble whatever item is being repaired.

While I could go on with more details, I would ask you to have a dialogue with us whenever the “why is it so expensive” question comes up so that we can explain the value of what we offer.

Mostly it boils down to this: When you compare the cost of your car repairs over a year or two period you’ll likely find that it is substantially lower than making monthly payments on a new car. If that holds true for you, then is car repair really that expensive?

Let's Discuss Your Vehicle...

In order to provide an estimate, a diagnosis is the next step!