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Winter Tire Options

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive Vancouver and we're talking cars. How're you doing this morning Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: So winter is coming in Vancouver. Believe it or not, it's getting cold. We know the snow will come. What kind of tire options should I be looking at for my vehicle?

Bernie: Well, there's a few ways you can go. I mean, Vancouver, if you're not familiar with our climate, it's pretty temperate. I mean it does go below freezing sometimes. A few years ago we had snow on the ground for about a month which is highly unusual. Often we won't have any snow or there'll be one snow fall and usually when that one snow falls happens and it happens before the new year, everyone's lined up in front of the tire shops. It's front page news and it's exciting because everyone waited to the last minute because they didn't think it was going to snow. So Vancouver's funny that way. You go to any other places in Canada, people have already had their snow tires on far a long time and they're prepared for winter because they know what going to happen. So Vancouver, there's a few different snow tire options. I mean, you can not put snow tires on and that might restrict when you drive your car or you can go with a couple of different options. There are all weather tires and there are full winter tires. The full snow tires, I like to call them, it has the snowflake or the M+ S emblems on the side of the tire.

Mark: So what's the difference between an all season tire and an actual winter tire or snow tire?

Bernie: Well all season tires are meant, they call them all season so, you think well great, they're good for snow and they're good for everything but I think they used to be sold like that but as time has gone by, you know, we've realized that they're really not that good in the snow. They're good for rain. They're good for, they're basically three season tires. But once snow hits, they're not that good. The rubber compounds are harder and firmer. Softer rubber is better in snow and icy conditions and that's what snow tires have. Also, all weather tires, they have a combination between a soft rubber and a durable rubber. So you have the best of both worlds. So those are really a four season type of tire.

And I was going to talk a little bit of history on snow tires because you know, for people like us who have a fair bit of grey on our heads and you know beyond 50 years old, we kind of remember the days when cars, a lot of cars, were rear wheel drive or front wheel drive only. Now there's a lot of all wheel drive but in the traditional days of rear wheel drive, you know, people who did put snow tires on would just put them on the rear driving wheels and they'd leave their regular tires on the front. That was kind of the traditional thing to do or maybe put some chains on the back and it was all about getting traction so we could move forward in the snow. And not a lot of consideration was given to how does the car actually handle.

But nowadays, of course, we always use four tires on the vehicle because tire technology is really improved to the point where you can actually get much better handling and much safer handling with having four tires. Also with ABS brakes now which every car has, you get better stopping ability because you have evenness. So the key is to having same rubber compounds all the way around, the car will stop better as well.

Mark: So just to make the point again. You don't just put snow tires on the driving wheels.

Bernie: No. I mean there might be places. If you're somewhere in the deep north where there's you know, a crazy amount of snow and there's to a lot of people on the road, maybe you'd do that. But I think that really, I can't imagine anyone doing that. At least where we are it's always all four wheels. So yeah, that's an ancient practise.

Mark: So with that point clarified, what kind of options do I have as far as snow tires or all seasons?

Bernie: Yeah, so I mentioned the idea of you could just leave you all season tires on. If you're only driving, let's say for Vancouver, you're only driving around the city you know, you could just leave your all season tires on. You might find though, that when it snows out, depending on on the kind of car you have, you may not be going anywhere in a hurry. So that's something. If you're willing to just say, "Hey you know what, if it snows I'm going to park my car". Fine. But if you're going to do any driving that you know you're going to be driving if it snows and it very likely will. Or you're going to be going over any roads that require snow tires and there's a lot of them around this area. You know, highways leading out of town or if you live anywhere outside of Vancouver which a lot of people do and you're in a mountainous area with snow. Well you're going to need to, you should have some winter or snow tires on the car. A, you may get fined and B, you simply may not go anywhere. So that leaves you two options. All weather tires which I'd mentioned a little earlier which are like a four season type of tire. You don't have to take them off the car. You can leave them on year round. Or pure snow tires which you would change seasonally. You put the snow tires on obviously in the winter. Take them off and use your all season or summer type tires in the summer.

Mark: Ok, so if I go with a winter tire option, I need to switch them over every winter season and back in the spring. Is it better to get dedicated rims for those tires or is switching them back and forth ok?

Bernie: Well you can switch them back and forth certainly, but I think dedicated rims are really a great way to go. The initial investment of course, is heftier. You have to buy a set of rims and a lot of people opt for the sort of steel wheels which look kind of, in my opinion, a little ugly, so if you're willing your car to look ugly for a few months. You can always buy a fancier wheel too if you want, but I mean, it's a lot better, the initial investment is more money but down the road it's cheaper because you pay much less money for mounting and balancing your tires. Plus it's not so hard on your rims. I mean every time you take a tire on and off a rim, you're rebalancing it. You're causing wear to the tires and to the rim. So over time, it really does pay off. As I say, it's an investment but it's the better way to go.

Mark: So is there any reason why you would just go with winter tires and just keep them on instead of switching between the seasons?

Bernie: Well no, you would never do that. If you leave your winter tires on during the summer, the rubber compounds are very soft and they can start wearing really funny. Now I've seen the odd person do it and sometimes they get away with it and I've had some other people with cars where you know, by the time July hits, the tire treads are worn in the wonkiest patterns because you know, the heat off the road just basically destroys the tire. So if you have winter tires, you need to change them but this is where all weather tires come in. So the all weather tires are basically, as I was saying earlier, that it's a combination tire that has good handling in the snow. They're actually rated as a snow tire. They have the mountain and the snowflake emblem on them. So they're a legal snow tire and they handle well in the snow but they also have, the rubber compound is such that it can handle the heat as well. So it's a really awesome compromise and the thing about that that's great is you don't have to mount and dismount them. You buy them one time. You don't worry about storing your tires anywhere. So that's a really good option to consider as well.

Mark: Any disadvantages to those kinds of tires?

Bernie: Well they're not as good in the snow and they're not as good for durability. So that's the disadvantage. And so they're going to wear out faster than a traditional all season titre but you know, so you're paying a little bit more money but you're also saving a lot in the interim. So it really depends on what you want to get out of your car but I think all weather is a really good option. I've used them on cars I've owned myself. I think it's a really good way to go.

Mark: So how do I know when my snow tires are worn out?

Bernie: Well I mean, typically tires there are wear bars on tires and once the tread is worn down to that wear bar, the tire is legally worn out. You don't want to go that far because typically tires will, they start toy lose their handling ability way before you get down to that point. I mean, usually the tire tread, say is like at the 30-40% range you'll notice the deterioration in handling. The car will slip and slide a lot easier and with a snow tire that's even more pronounced. So good tread depth is key for snow tires. So you do want to have them at at least 40% I would say for optimum snow handling. You can have the tires measured as you go by but I'd say like you know, when the treads are down like 4 or 5 millimetres you're pretty much, and they start at like 10 or even a little thicker. When they get down to around that, you probably want to think about chaining them. You might get a little more out of them but that's kind of, again I'm talking about for optimum handling.

Mark: What about studded tires? Is that still a thing?

Bernie: Yeah studs are still available. Certainly somewhere like Vancouver, I think studded tires would be a horrible thing to have because 99% of the winter is on a dry paved road. So you have to listen to that clacking sound of studded tires and it's actually hard on the roads.There are legal requirements here and in most jurisdictions that studded tires have to be removed by a certain date. But if you live somewhere where there's continuous snow and ice on the road, studded tires are not a bad option, because you won't really notice the stud. Certainly if there's ice those certainly provide the ultimate grip.

Mark: Any final thoughts?

Bernie: You know, it's just about assessing the driving conditions, where you're going to be driving, what you're going to be doing with your car, can you afford to leave it. If you want the ultimate, of course in handling and flexibility, put the snow tires on. I mean, you can always count on getting wherever you go. It's a bit of an investment as I said with rims, but that's really the best way to go.

Mark: And always remember that getting going is the easy part in snow, stoping is the bit more sporty.

Bernie: Yeah exactly and one thing we actually hadn't, you know we just said final thoughts, but actually a couple of things just to get back into the conversation again.Handling with snow tires is much better, like with four snow tires. It also helps you go around corners and braking, but of course, you need to be cautious when you drive in snow. If I can just say a final thought, drive with caution. Especially, going up hill is one thing, and accelerating is one thing, but when it comes to stopping I mean that's when you can really lose it. So be very cautions when you drive, going around corners. You never know when sometimes the road can be, have really good traction and all of a sudden, it just turns into a slushy ice pit and you can really lose it really fast. So it's just really really good to be cautious driving in the snow. It's happened to me before. It's scary.

Mark: When your car turns into a bob sleigh, it tends to tighten a few things on your body.

Bernie: Yes it does that for sure.

Mark: So there you go. If you need some information on your tires, you want to check out your options. You need replacements or change overs for tires, you want to get an inspections on your car, the guys to call are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. Check out the website, pawlikautomotive.com. Hundreds of articles on there. YouTube channel Pawlik Auto Repair. Hundreds of videos on there. And thanks so much for watching and listening to the podcast. We really appreciate it. Thanks Bernie

Bernie: Thanks Mark. Thanks for watching and listening. Happy and safe winter driving to you.

When Does It Make Sense To Own A Diesel?

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver and we're talking cars. How are you doing this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: So one question that we've encountered quite a bit is basically people buying diesels when it's the wrong vehicle for the use case. So when does it make sense to have a diesel?

Bernie: Well, I think there's a couple of criteria that it makes sense to have a diesel. I'm thinking about some of those wrong things. I've had a number of people in the past who've bought like a... I'm just going to say Ford, I'm not picking on Ford, but they bought some Ford diesels that had been less than reliable. After spending thousands of dollars month after month to fix one thing after another, the thrill and the concept and the idea of having a... I'm going to say a, macho diesel, just wears off really fast and I see them coming back with a Ford F-150 gas powered, something a lot more sensible and what they need. We've also had a number of clients who own European vehicles, Mercedes in particular, where the the engines get carboned up or stuff happens, very expensive repairs and really, a diesel wasn't the right vehicle for them.

So when does it make sense? It makes sense to me for a couple of reasons. If you're going to buy a truck, it makes sense to buy diesel if you're hauling heavy loads frequently that's either in the truck or trailering them. If you're buying a car, it makes sense of you're driving long distances, but not short little start and stop distances. So those are really the main criteria to me of when it makes sense.

Mark: So why is that?

Bernie: Well, diesels need to warm up. They need to run hot and they take a while to warm up even with modern technology and they try to warm it up faster, a diesel takes a long time to warm up. Generally, the mass of a diesel engine, the actual engine block, is much more robust than it is on a gasoline engine because compression in a diesel is very high. The engine has to, it's a combustion, sorry... A compression ignition engine. So it has to compress the fuel, which will then explode at a certain pressure and temperature, but that requires a much more robust built engine. They're heavier, they're bigger and so they require a lot more energy to warm up.

When they're not warmed up, with modern emission controls on vehicles, which are required and they make a big difference in terms of the air that we breathe and the quality of the diesel engine, you can hear it from 10 blocks away and it's much more pleasant to drive because you actually really can't hear the engine rattling away. With all those items in place, it sends a lot of soot and particles back through the engine, they recirculate and things tend to plug up unless the engine's really hot. Then it tends to work really well. Also, a lot of modern emission equipment, like particulate filters require the engine to reach a certain temperature and highway driving is good for them because that tends to burn off the particles.

Mark: So the filters actually heat up and disperse the particles, burn them, and then re-burn them again so that they're coming out of the tailpipe more clean.

Bernie: Exactly. Exactly. They call it a filter. It's not really a filter. It's more like a storage. It's like a storage trap and then things are burned off at a later time.

Mark: One of the things that people do, I know for a fact, is take off all the emission equipment. Does that solve the problem?

Bernie: Well, it certainly solves a problem, a lot of problems in terms of carbon buildup and things plugging. It solves it for you personally, but it doesn't really solve it for the general public. Diesel soot is a known carcinogen. It's very bad. They're very tiny little particles that get in the lungs. A lot of people die from it. They don't drop dead. It's not like having been shot by a gun, you're not going to die instantly. It's a slow process, but it's a big thing. As annoying as a lot of these things are, and I can see why people remove them because the solution of not having it makes a big difference.

There's a lot of diesel trucks that used to get fantastic fuel economy. They put the emission equipment on, the fuel economy drops by 30% or 40%, you remove it, you're back way up to having an economical vehicle. But really, what makes our air in our cities good to breathe is all these emission equipment, even on gasoline engines. I always think that whenever I see an old car drive by and I can smell the stench of the exhaust, I go, "Man, I can't believe when I grew up that all cars were like that." We've done a fantastic job in terms of making gasoline powered cars really, really clean, still lots of CO2, but that doesn't smell and stink and cause at least the ground level pollution that we're used to.

It does make a big difference. Things can be removed, but it's better not to. My whole idea with this podcast is consider before you buy a diesel. Do you really need one? Because they do cost an awful lot more money to fix too. I often think all the money you save on fuel, you're just going to end up spending in ours or someone else's repair shop fixing things. So it's an important thing to look at. Consider is this the right vehicle for you because for some people, a diesel absolutely makes a lot of sense.

Mark: I guess there's a couple of other issues there. Diesel particulate in terms of it's detriment to human health is measured in parts per billion, which is incredibly small. Something over 20 parts per billion. Anything over that is detrimental to human health and there's tons of research on this now. There's literally diesel engine's soot is accounting for millions of deaths worldwide every year. This is not speculation. This is a fact. They can show it when cities like London, for instance, banned diesels from the downtown area, their air quality goes up pretty drastically, but it's also illegal isn't it? If you take that stuff off it is.

Bernie: It is. Yeah. It is illegal to do it, whether you're going to have a cop knocking on your door, probably not. Lots of people do it and I don't. We live in Vancouver, Canada, so they're not so many stringent standards. I don't know. I know California, you actually have to have your vehicle emission tested. Around here, you don't. We used to have it. We got rid of it. The air still seems pretty clean, but you can be a lot looser with your standards around here now. Honestly, does it really matter if you live out in some small town or in the middle of nowhere and your diesel puts out some particular? Not really, but every tight thing where you get more concentrated and lots more trucks and people around, it makes a huge difference really fast.

Mark: So there you go. If you're going to buy a diesel, what's your use case? Are you hauling a lot of heavy loads? Are you traveling long distances? A hundred kilometres, 150 kilometres kind of round trip every day, then maybe a diesel makes sense. Other than that, driving around town in your big 4x4 and not ever using it to haul stuff, probably not the best use case. It's costing you a lot of money. Is that a fair assessment?

Bernie: Absolutely. One thing, we actually didn't delve into too much there was car. We did just touch on it briefly, but I think a lot of salespeople do a disservice to their customers by selling them a diesel vehicle when they're really, again, they should be asking, "How much driving you do at this vehicle." This is something you've got to ask yourself if you're going to buy a diesel car or a SUV, I'm thinking like a Mercedes type of thing. There's a lot of ML320s and 350 diesels around. There's just a lot of them in our area. So many people don't buy them for what they need them for. They really should be buying the gasoline version. I think the salespeople really do a disservice by not asking, "What's your usage?" They're just, "Oh yeah, we've got this diesel. It's got great fuel economy," and people just buy it. Then a few years later, the engine's toast or things are plugged up and they're spending thousands of dollars to fix things they wouldn't have had to do. So just something to look at.

Mark: It's not an around town vehicle unless you're hauling stuff basically.

Bernie: Exactly, exactly.

Mark: Go electric. Anyways-

Bernie: Yeah, that's becoming an option if you just need short commutes, electric might be a-

Mark: Far better option.

Bernie: Yeah.

Mark: So there you go. Pawlik Automotive. If you want honest truth about your vehicle and what kind of vehicle to buy, maybe give Bernie a call: (604) 327-7112. He's looking dismayed. I've just offered free advice, but he will. They're friendly. They'll help you out. Quick conversation will ease your mind about buying the right car. Pawlik Automotive, you can reach them, again at: (604) 327-7112. Again, that's for booking appointments. They're busy. You got to call and book ahead. They're 21 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver and PawlikAutomotive.com is the website. Check out lots of articles and videos on there about all makes and models of vehicles and repairs of them all. And of course, thanks so much for watching and listening. We appreciate it. Click the subscribe button on your favourite podcast app. We appreciate it and thanks, Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks, Mark. And thanks for watching. We really appreciate it.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It!

Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, and we're talking cars. How you doing this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: In our business, a lot of times when people want a new website, I will tell them, because I know the numbers, "You know what? If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Your website is doing really good, and we're risking everything if we go into the unknown with something that, just because it makes you feel a little better, it doesn't really work better." So why wouldn't I just fix my car as things break?

Bernie: It's a good question. There's that saying that's been out there for a long time, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," which is true in a large part. But the one thing with a car is, we want to count on it and it is a machine that has a lot of moving parts, a lot of functional pieces that do wear out and do break. The idea behind doing maintenance the way we like to do it at a Pawlik Automotive, is to look at your whole car, and just determine what condition components are in, so we can fix them before they break.

I mean, the thing about, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," chances are you wouldn't want to fly on an airplane with an aircraft company that had that maintenance procedure, because if an engine quits halfway through a flight, that's not a good thing. That's why they have scheduled maintenance, and that's why cars do as well.

Mark: So, you're not just treating symptoms, you're looking for causes? Is that a fair way of describing it?

Bernie: Absolutely. I mean, I guess we can break this into two things. Maybe we can talk about just routine inspections first, versus diagnosing actual problems.

With a routine inspection, we have a number of points, items, that we look at and we inspect, from your brakes to your wheels, tires, steering and suspension, exhaust system, cooling system. There's a lot to look at on a car, engine conditions, spark plugs, if it's gasoline powered engine. I mean, electric cars are going to be a whole lot simpler, because there's a lot of things that don't need to be done, but there's still things that are going to wear out.

So, there's things to inspect and look at and just verify that they're in good working order. If they're not, for instance, if, say, there's a control arm bushing that's cracked and worn, it might not be need to be replaced today, but maybe six months down the road, or a year, it'll need to be replaced, before it starts wearing your tires in a funny way. From our inspections and checklists, we can determine, "Do you need to actually fix something now? What are the consequences of not fixing it? What items will it prevent damage to, down the road?"

Mark: So, you're sort of positioning this as, you're the experts as far as knowing what to replace when, and what's really safe. Because there could be a time where that control arm bushing or ... causes tire wear. And, when you really need your tires to stop, because they've worn funny, they don't. That could be very dangerous.

Bernie: Absolutely. The other thing, too, is to be sensitive to people's budgets. I mean, the thing, using the analogy of an airplane, I mean, there's a certain point where, on the life of an airplane, an airline might go, "You know what, there's too much maintenance costs in this plane. We're going to ... It's time to get rid of it" Sell it, whatever they do with old airplanes and, buy a new one. We can determine the same thing, depending on the owner. But also with cars, the nice thing is, they don't fall from the sky, that if you have a certain component ...I'm thinking of a customer we had a while ago with a Honda CRV, and it's been a really reliable car. We did an inspection. There's probably $5,000 worth of items on the vehicle that would bring it back up to perfection. One of them was a power steering rack, is about, I think, about $1,200 repair. She's going, "Wow, well I don't want to spend money on that." It's like, "There's no problem." It's like, "It's got a leak. Here's where you can top the fluid up. Just keep an eye on it." It might take a year before it leaks down enough to even need more fluid. So, while it would make the vehicle perfect to fix it, it's not necessarily needed right away. So, we can work with that.

Mark: In your view, as a shop owner with 38 years of experience doing this, 20 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by your customers, you position yourself as a trusted advisor, of letting people know exactly what's going on with their vehicles, so they don't really have to be an expert in the car, and you can tell them what's next that needs to be replaced now, or in the future, or to keep an eye on.

Bernie: Exactly. I think people are really counting on us for that. What I see in a lot of other shops, maybe, where service advisers are not that well-educated, or maybe they're, maybe it's a more flat rate pay bay shop, where if something's wrong, the technician gets paid to fix something. There might be some incentives to do things and just not really looking in the customer's best interests of going, "Hey, you know, you could leave this."

By the same token, I mean, if there's something really dangerous we'll say, "Hey, you shouldn't drive this car." The odd person will choose to drive it anyways. But it's, "You have a ball joint that's really loose, and about to pop apart." It's a little disconcerting letting people go.

But that's, yeah, that's exactly what we do, is give advice on that kind of thing and prioritize things. I mean, of course, safety issues are the highest priority. Then, maintenance items would be a little lower, if you have a couple of thousand dollars worth of safety items that really need to be done. We get a lot of car ... people who come to our shop who haven't, they've kind of neglected their cars for a while, or haven't had it serviced and we look at it and go, "There's a lot of things that could be done on this car."

Depending on their budget, sometimes people want to do everything, sometimes people want to do nothing, or maybe there's a hybrid solution. The safety concerns, of course is the first thing, and then followed by things like, the transmission fluid needs to be serviced and flushed. That can be left as a lower priority, because it's not going to cause your car to, something to break and a safety issue.

Mark: So, maintenance is not necessarily going to prevent all catastrophic repair or all catastrophic failures. Is that fair?

Bernie: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I mean, good, even good maintenance, things will happen. I like the analogy of thinking, there are people around who smoke, drink, eat nothing but french fries, and they live to a hundred years old. But generally speaking, that's a very rare thing. There's also people who live very healthy. They're physically fit. They eat right. They do all the right things, and they drop dead at, like, 40 years old from a heart attack. You never know sometimes.

The thing with a car, it's kind of like that. You can do really good maintenance, and all of a sudden there's some congenital defect in the engine, and something just breaks. But that's not very common, and the key ... It's like the human body thing, too. It's like, generally speaking, if you take care of yourself, take care of your car, it'll last way longer, and have less problems.

Mark: So there you go. If you want a more reliable vehicle and you want regular maintenance done on your vehicle, from a provider who you can trust, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at (604) 327-7112, to book your appointment. You have to book ahead. They're busy. Or, check out the website pawlikautomotive.com. Our YouTube channel is Pawlik Auto Repair, hundreds of videos on there and all makes and models and types of repairs and maintenance. And of course, thank you for listening to the podcast. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks, Mark. Thanks for watching.

Winter Driving Tips, Don’t Burn Out Your Wiper Motor!

Mark: Hi. It's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive podcast, and we're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience and 19 times winner of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. And we're talking cars. How you doing this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: So, we actually have a little bit of snow here in Vancouver, which has freaked everybody right out and that's a hit and miss affair. We don't always get snow. You have a bit of a tip for us around windshield wipers.

Bernie: I do. Yeah, so here's a little preventative tip. To prevent more serious damage like windshield wiper motor, wrecking your wiper motor, your wiper arms and linkage, or your ... I mean, on the cheap side, the wiper blades. It just occurred to me, as Mark said, we don't get winter here very often, so we tend to be a little lackadaisical with our operating of our cars, at least some of us. I know there's, I have a few people in my family, my wife, my kids, even myself sometimes, we tend to drive home and just leave the windshield wipers on because it'll probably be raining the next day or we just kind of forget and don't really think of the fact that perhaps it's going to freeze overnight or there's going to be three inches of snow on the window. When you go to turn on your, when you go to start your car, the wiper motor's already, the wiper's already switched on and your windshield wipers could be frozen to your windshield or trying to move three or four inches of wet snow, which is really hard on them.

My tip is, make sure you shut your wipers off, and that includes front and rear, when you shut your car off at night. Whenever you actually park your car, you should make sure your wipers are off. It's easy to forget about it in this climate because we don't have to deal with it very often. I'm sure there's some people watching this podcast going, "Duh, I do that already," because a lot of people are smarter in winter than we are around Vancouver and areas like this. Just a tip if you're not in the habit of doing it, save yourself some money.

I'll just share a couple of photos. There's basically a ... what that ... what we're looking at is a windshield and these are some wiper blades buried underneath. Again, like I'm saying, you don't know whether these are frozen to the window or whether you're about to be moving a bunch of snow. So if the wipers are switched on, of course that's a, that is, that can cause some problems.

Again, here's a rear wiper blade. Now this one you can see is actually frozen onto the ... this is a Suburban. It actually has a little pedestal that holds the wiper blade in place down at the bottom of the window. This piece is actually frozen to the pedestal. Again, that's going to cause an issue. Here, the vehicle, this is kind of bit of a worn out switch, but an example of how I found the vehicle. The wipers are actually turned on, even before the car, you know, the car was left overnight. That, again, is something that's going to cause a problem.

Mark: So what sort of damage do you see from this?

Bernie: On the simple side, the easiest damage would be a ripped wiper blade, which is cheap and easy to fix. More often, it'll wreck wiper motors, or cause linkage to either bend or break, or sometimes just the nut that holds the linkage to the wiper arm will be forced loose and just needs to be tightened and realigned. That's kind of the simplest scenario. Quite frequently, we replace wiper motors and it seems like a lot of rear ones tend to, we tend to replace them quite frequently, I think because people forget about the rear wiper. It's in the back, they don't think about and leave it on, it's frozen to the window, and burns it up.

Mark: So what sort of cost are we talking about?

Bernie: Well, wiper blades can be ten dollars a piece on the easy side of it. Readjusting linkage could be $30 to $50. Once you start getting into the realm of motors, though, you're getting into several hundred dollars. It could be even into a thousand dollars on some cars. So that's the kind of damage you definitely want to prevent.

Mark: A thousand dollars. So, besides making sure your switches are off, do you have any other recommendations for wiper longevity in winter?

Bernie: Yeah, so absolutely. So not only make sure the switches are off, but the other key thing is when it's cold out, and this doesn't necessarily mean there's snow on the window, but if there's frost and it's frozen, make sure your wiper blades are not stuck to your window. This is another thing that happens and it's simple. Just go around, grab each wiper blade, front and rear if you have rear wiper blades. Just grab it and make sure it physically moves off the window and that'll prevent a lot of damage because something we see a lot of too. It doesn't have to be snow. It can be ice.

One thing with snow, it's not such a big deal to use your wipers as a snow brush where you have dry powdery snow, but a lot of the snow we get around Vancouver can be heavy and wet and that can be really difficult for wipers to move. You really want to brush off any thick accumulations. You know, half an inch is no big deal, but when you start getting into three or four inches, that's tough.

Mark: And of course, clearing the top of your car Vancouver, which is almost like a rite of passage for people not to do. Have a foot of snow on top of their car.

Bernie: Yeah.

Mark: Which is extremely dangerous.

Bernie: Yeah. It is, and you know, the other thing too and brushing off your hood as well, because a lot of times you get snow blowing up on your hood and that creates blind spots and often wipers get all kind of gummed up. You know, having your window washers free as well is another tip I can give. You know, a lot of times washer nozzles are located on the hood. Well, they're not going to do any good if they're buried under three inches of snow. So again, you know, keep that area clear and clean because that'll help you. It keeps things safe and helps you get from one end of the journey to the other in one piece.

Mark: Well, there you go. If you need some service on your wipers, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to book ahead because they're busy. Or check out their website, pawlikautomotive.com. Of course, the YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair. Hundreds of videos on there about all makes and models of cars and repairs. And of course, thank you so much for watching the podcast. We appreciate it. Thank you, Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks, Mark.

Why We Don’t Give Over The Phone Estimates

Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast. We're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, Vancouver's best auto service experience, 19-time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver, as voted by their customers. And we're talking cars. How are we doing this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: So your company, as a policy, basically doesn't really give over the phone estimates. Is there a reason why.

Why Don't You Give Me A Price Over The Phone?

Bernie: So, yes, we rarely give over the phone estimates, and there's a few reasons why. Largely, we want to make sure that when you come into our shop that you get what you expect. If we tell you it's $200 to do a certain job, you come and it's $400, or it needs a whole bunch more work, that really sets a stage for not a great relationship, and probably some disappointment on your behalf.

The thing about estimating car work is it's pretty complicated. Even if you think, oh, I know it's this one part, often there's a lot more involved. I can think of a couple of examples. Recently we had a client who had a Mazda 3, called us up and said I need an alternator replaced in my vehicle, very sure that it was the alternator. Now, we didn't actually do an over the phone estimate for him. He brought the vehicle in. We looked at it, and found that the battery terminal was loose. Now, had we told him it was $600, for example, to do the alternator, I mean of course, he would have been very pleasantly surprised that the bill was under $100.

But oftentimes when someone would call and say, "Hey, I need an alternator," and we say it's $600, and we get the vehicle in the door, and by the way that's just a round, off the top of my head guessed price, we may find that there's belts that are worn out. There are bolts that are seized. A number of other things, some things we don't even know until we take it apart. But, generally speaking, we don't know what you're really going to need until we look at the vehicle, until we actually start taking things apart.

Mark: So you're just trying to create a good customer service experience by setting proper expectations prior to actually seeing the vehicle.

An Accurate Price

Bernie: Exactly. Another example we frequently get people asking, "I need front brakes in my car. How much is it?" Well, our normal response is, "We need to do a brake inspection first to see what you need." There are so many things that can affect brakes. I mean, normally, it's just brake pads and rotors, but often the calipers can be seized. Sometimes if the vehicle's older, it'll be brake hoses. Does the brake fluid need to be flushed? There's a variety of things, so we really want to make sure we do the right service, and with the right quality parts. Again, knowing who you are, what your expectations are as a client is important, but we need to know what the vehicle actually needs. It's truly a waste of everyone's time to make an estimate over the phone if we don't really know exactly what you need.

Mark: This sounds almost like you're caring more about the relationship with your customer rather than just, wham, bam, here's our price, $29.95 for an oil change.

A Correct Diagnosis

Bernie: Exactly. Thank you, Mark, for mentioning that. That's exactly right. We really care to establish a relationship with you based on honesty, trust, and that we're going to do the right thing for your car. That takes a bit of a process. Again, a feel between whether we're the right shop for you, whether you're the right client for us, and whether we're going to do the car service the way you want. That involves a bit of a dialogue, a conversation as to how long are you going to keep your car, what you're going to do with your vehicle.

I guess we could just stick brakes on, and we could give you an idea of the price, but really that doesn't serve you well in terms of what are your driving needs? Maybe you need a better grade of brake pad or something. We tend to look at the whole vehicle to kind of give you a big picture of what you need. So, yeah, the relationship is really what we're looking at.

Mark: Cars have gotten just a touch more complicated these days. I'm sure there's opportunities where somebody might say, "Well, I need a new X," and there's five other things that might be wrong up or downstream from that particular part that they're referring to.

Each Vehicle Is Unique

Bernie: Absolutely. I mean, cars are extremely complex. I'm thinking, again, of a couple of things where people might call and say, "I need an oxygen sensor replaced," because there's a certain trouble code in their vehicle. Without us diagnosing it and rally looking at it in detail, it's hard to know for sure that it is in fact the oxygen sensor, a wiring problem or something else. I mean, most of the time it could well be the oxygen sensor but, again, without doing a proper diagnosis it's hard to know for certain.

Another area I'm thinking, I had a client recently who called, how much is a thermostat on a particular BMW? Well, it's a lot more complicated than that. Often with BMW's there's plastic hoses, pipes. Do we need antifreeze, are the belts worn? It's a little more complicated than just changing the thermostat, and every car's different. It isn't the same thing every time. There's a variety of things that need to be changed. So, yes, the complexity makes a big difference.

Mark: And the complexity of how the car's actually been driven and maintained in previously also makes a huge difference, I'm sure.

Bernie: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I was thinking, back in the days, you know, when cars needed tuneups. A lot of shops would advertise a $69.95 tuneup for a four cylinder engine. Well, you knew you were going to need four spark plugs, and it was going to take ... They're all kind of the same. There wasn't a lot of variety, but nowadays, I mean, every car's different. There's a different amount of time to change the spark plugs. The types of spark plugs vary. I mean, a tuneup is not really a service you need any more, but there are different tuneup items that can be needed. So, again, it's all kind of customized.

Mark: And each manufacturer builds their vehicle in a different way, and their computer systems are different, etc., etc. Is that right?

Bernie: Exactly, and sometimes if you replace a particular part, especially if it has any electronic component, it'll need to be reprogrammed to the vehicle. This is happening more and more with newer vehicles. It's not just plug and play any more. Things are getting more and more complex.

Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for some service on your vehicle in Vancouver, and you want honest guys who are going to look after you for a long time, the guys to see in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604 ... Bernie, you do it.

Bernie: 327-7112. You can also watch our podcast. I know you know the addresses better than I do, but just search Pawlik Automotive on the internet. You'll find our podcasts, our videos, there's tons of them out there. Thank you, Mark. Thank you for watching.

Mark: Thank you Bernie.

Car Code Readers

Mark: Hi, it’s Mark from Top Local, we’re here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, Vancouver’s best auto service experience. Eighteen time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver and fixing and repairing, maintaining vehicles in Vancouver for 38 years. How’re you doing Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: So, we’ve been seeing a lot of ads about, or I certainly have, about car computer code readers and I just wanted to ask you are they, any good?

Bernie: Well the answer is yes they are and I would want to ask you why you’d want to buy one. I mean, I’ve seen a lot of these ads too. There are anything from a simple plug in and you read a code to a device that plugs in, connects with your Smart phone and it’s supposed to liberate you from coming to see your auto mechanic because you can figure everything out yourself. Those are kind of the spectrum of what’s promised and what you can do. And I guess my first question to you is why would you want o have one of those things?

Mark: Well, let’s just make something up, so my check engine lamp is on and so this thing is supposed to let me, like you said, check the computer and tell me what’s going on. So…

Bernie: Yeah, exactly, well ok, so absolutely. So you can get a device and it’ll plug in and it’ll tell you there’s a code P0135, and great, so you’ve got some information and I mean, does that liberate you from having to go see an auto mechanic? Well at least it gives you some information and you can walk in with some level of intelligence saying, hey I’ve had a look at this. You know, what worries me when I see products like this sold with the idea that you’re not going to have to see a mechanic or you’re going to save all this money because you can diagnose it yourself or you’re going to avoid getting ripped off, I just you know, I just don’t see a lot of that. I mean we fix cars all day long. We don’t rip people off. I mean, there are places that do, but I’d say that’s probably quite rare. There’s a number of, I mean, I see work orders all the time from other shops, you know dealerships, independent shops, they usually have a description of the code so when there’s a code there, people don’t generally make stuff up. It’s what’s there. Now of course, I’m all for the idea of empowering yourself as a consumer or a car owner and if at least you get a little bit of information that kind of helps you in at least knowing that what people are telling you is correct, but just knowing a code in and of itself doesn’t really give you a lot more information than there is troubled code there.

Mark: Ok, playing the skeptical card, aren’t you saying this, kind of denigrating these devices perhaps a little bit just to protect your business?

Bernie: No not at all. I mean, I think it’s actually good as a consumer to have one, and the odd time, I mean as a shop, sometimes we get someone comes in, my check engine light is on. The car runs perfectly well, we scan it and there’s a trouble code there for something and it’s pretty clear that it would cost a lot of money to diagnose something that might be a very marginal problem and I can explain in a few minutes just a little more how these diagnostic systems work. But sometimes, it’s kind of a marginal problem and probably take a lot of time to diagnose, it’d almost be better to shut the light off and see if the issue comes back because sometimes a little minor fault will occur, it’ll cause the light to come on, it an stay on for a long time and we can spend, I’ll just use dollars, we could spend a few hundred dollars of your money trying to figure out something and never really get to the source of it. So if you’re able to switch the light off yourself and see it it comes back on again, it’s probably a pretty good thing. So yeah, so I mean, I’m not opposed to it, it’s a good idea. You know if you walk in with the information, that’s great. The same if you walk into a doctor’s office, well I’ve got a pain in my abdomen and I think it might be my appendix, that’s great, but the doctor’s going to do his own tests and for us that’s the step we need to do next. Yeah, I just use this P0135, by the way that code means a Bank 1 oxygen sensor heater circuit. Now does that mean that the oxygen sensor’s bad? I mean, do you even know what an oxygen sensor is? So the question is, you know, how much do you want to learn about cars? If you like doing that kind of stuff, hey great, this is a definite thing you need to have. If you don’t want to learn about cars, you may not want to have it.

Mark: And people, I think, there’s sort of in the advertising, the feeling I was left with was that if I have this information, I’ll be able to fix it myself. Do you think that’s actually the case?

Bernie: Well no but what I can tell you is that sometimes, so I’ll just talk about a little bit of diagnostic code. So when the check engine light comes on in your car, it comes on because the vehicle computer has detected a fault and they’re mostly emission related things. They’re not necessarily, people worry oh, my check engine light is on, it must be low on oil. Well sometimes that can be the case, but 99% of times it’s not. It’s usually a fault of the vehicles emission system. It’s actually an emissions self diagnostic system. So the light comes on, there’s something, the vehicle is theoretically putting out more pollutants to the atmosphere than it’s supposed to and you need to fix it. There’s a variety of things that’ll happen. So there’ll be a trouble code stored, and there are hundreds of them, from anywhere from an engine misfire, so if your engine’s running rough to fuel leakage, that can be as simple as a loose gas cap and everything in between, transmission malfunction. So a trouble code will set now as I mentioned this P0135 oxygen sensor heater circuit, I mentioned this code, it’s an oxygen sensor that monitors your exhaust system and fine tunes your fuel injection system to deliver the optimum amount of fuel. Now the heater allows the oxygen sensor to warm up quicker but just because it has a code, it’s a heater circuit fault that means there would be anything from anywhere from the computer to the oxygen sensor, any wire in between. So you know, we’ve seen these particular things where the fault is the oxygen sensor. Most of the time it is but, a lot of the time it’s a broken wire, could be a blown fuse, it could be a bad computer. So in and of itself knowing a code doesn’t mean you’ve solved the problem. You could go buy a sensor or you could try putting it in, not an easy job mind you, but it depends on what level of a person you are, but at least you know if you have that code, you can go in with some information. Did I answer the question there? I sometimes feel like I drift off.

Mark: Well it’s complicated. Basically what I get of that is guess what, cars are more and more computerized and the days of being able to climb into the engine bay of your Ford F150 and work on the six cylinder motor with plenty of space around you are long gone and it’s pretty complicated now.

Bernie: Yeah, they really are and they’re getting more and more complicated. But as I said, I mean you know, if having one of these could theoretically save you some money if you’re a little bit handy, guess you know, get some information you could look into it. It could certainly help if not, at the very least be educated. But I think you know, it brings to a larger question, you know the thing of being ripped off by a mechanic, why are going to someone you feel ripped off by. You need to have some conversations, you know go around and find someone you can trust. And I mean, I have issues in my life finding people I can trust to manage my money. You know it’s like my trust and so sometimes you work through these things but if you find a mechanic in a shop you can trust, so much the better. If you have one of these devices, you know and the shop doesn’t want to work with you or listen to you, well maybe that’s not a person you want to trust.  

Mark: So there you go. Should I buy one of these?

Bernie: Should you buy one of these, well you know it’s, for some of these devices, they’re like $50. Yeah sure, why not I mean 50 bucks is not a lot of money. You could at least have some information, you know if your check engine light is on, with most of these devices you can clear the code. See if it comes back on. If it comes back on right away, sometimes it takes a couple of drive cycles for it to come back on, comes back on, well you know, hey I got a problem it needs to be looked at. And you can also, sorry I’m getting a little long winded here, I guess the other things to know, the severity of the code. Some things, you know it’s pretty important to fix it right away, especially if the check engine light is blinking. That’s, you’ve got to fix it right away but most other things are little subtle problems that you may not need to fix right away. So if you knew what the code was, you might at least know, do I have to rush into get it fixed or can I wait a week or two.

Mark: There you go. If you’re looking for repairs for your vehicle in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to get maintenance and repairs done on your vehicle or to get your code reader information explained to you. You can check them out at their website pawlikautomotive.com or on our YouTube channel, Pawlik Automotive Repair. Thanks Bernie

Bernie: Thanks Mark

Pawlik Automotive Level 1 Maintenance Service

Hi, I’m Bernie Pawlik, I’m the owner of Pawlik Automotive, I’m talking about our level one maintenance service. This is our basic maintenance service. It’s an engine oil and filter change, along with a thorough maintenance inspection.

So what we include with this service is of course, changing your engine oil and filter, we use high quality motor oil applicable to your vehicle, regular oil or synthetic depending on what the vehicle requires or what you would like to have done, we also change the oil filter with a very high quality filter. We will inspect the air filter on most vehicles as long as it’s straight forward and simple. Some vehicles involves a lot of dismantling and we won’t include that but we do for any other vehicle that’s straight forward, so that’s most vehicles. We also include an inspection which I’ll go ver in a couple of minutes but basically we look under your hood, we look under your vehicle with a visual inspection, we also do all our oil changes on two post hoists so the advantage of that is that the wheels all come up off the ground and they’re free and we can spin the wheels and we can wiggle the wheels just to see if there are any immediate safety concerns. That’s something that a lot of shops, if you’re having your oil change done in a pit type of lube shop or if you’re having it done on a four post hoist, you won’t get that advantage. So that’s one of the things that we do. So I’ll just go over the inspection with you. We look at a variety of items - windshield, windshield wipers, horn, all your exterior lights, any dash warning lights that might be on, of course, we inspect the engine oil level and condition if we’re doing an oil change. The oil is going to be new, we look for oil leaks at the top of the engine as well as underneath, we look for coolant leaks, transmission fluid level and conditions inspected, battery and terminals are visually inspected, we also fill up your washer fluid and look for any driveline area fluid leaks. Additionally we also set your oil service reminder. We inspect tire pressures and adjust their pressures to factory specifications, we measure tire treads, we inspect the drive shaft axle seals and joints, brake fluid is looked at, power steering fluid if it’s applicable, the belt condition is inspected and the tension of the belt is inspected. We also inspect your air filter in most cases unless they’re a very difficult to remove air filter which is an additional service, PCV valve and breather system is looked at, clutch fluid if applicable. We visually inspect your hoses and all your differential and drivetrain fluids are also looked at.

So you can see this is a very thorough service. We’d be happy to book you in for an appointment, our phone number is 604-327-7112. Thank you.

8 Tips For Getting Your Car Safely Through This Winter.

Winter has arrived: are you prepared for what’s ahead? Do you know what needs to be done to make sure that you and your vehicle make it through to spring?

Here’s a helpful list:

1st Be sure that maintenance services are up to date (oil changes, inspections and previously recommended services that are due)

2nd Be sure that your wiper blades are in great condition.

3rd Be sure that your engine’s antifreeze protection is good for colder temperatures than you will be driving in.

4th Be sure that your washer fluid has antifreeze protection

5th If you use snow tires have them installed in November (or sooner if you live in early snowfall country). If you don’t use snow tires this is a good time of year to replace marginal all season tires.

6th Be sure that your battery is in good condition.

7th Be sure that your air conditioning is functioning well (it helps to very quickly defog your windshield and increases your visibility)

8th Be certain to have an emergency kit if you are planning a trip. This kit includes warm blankets and/or sleeping bag; a candle and matches; water and couple days worth of snacks.

Following these suggestions will help you and your car survive whatever type of winter that might be thrown at us.

Winter driving at its finest. Are you prepared?

Is Premium Gas Worth The Extra Cost?

In mid October the CBC ran a story about premium gasoline and how, for most cars it was a waste of money (http://goo.gl/G5qR4). They went so far as claiming that its use caused higher levels of pollution from the tailpipe than regular fuel. While I agree almost entirely with the statement that it is a waste of money if your car does not require premium I found the claims of excessive pollution to be dubious. I admit that I did not watch the TV program, however while looking at the website article the picture of the technical expert with his gas analyzer set off alarm bells for me.

I had some discussions with those in the know about auto emission testing and they confirmed my thoughts: that it is very unlikely that using premium fuel when the manufacturer does not recommend it is going to cause any noticeable increase in tailpipe emissions. The gas analyzer shown in the picture is a piece of equipment similar to one that we own at our shop and while it is highly precise it is not capable of reading the very low emission levels that modern vehicles put out with enough detail to make such a conclusion. Modern vehicles have very sophisticated electronics, sensors, computers and catalytic converters which control emission levels and the simple use of premium fuel verses regular fuel cannot be detected by this type of gas analyzer. My recommendations are: 1) Don’t worry about the pollution increases as they are negligible to none-existent. 2) If your manufacturer doesn’t recommend premium, save your money and use regular. 3) If you own a premium fuel recommended vehicle as I do you can run it on regular if the engine performs well and doesn’t knock and ping: mine works great.

Premium fuel (91 octane) at 14 cents more per liter is usually not worth the extra cost over regular fuel (87 octane).


Why Brake Fluid Leaks Are Dangerous

Your car’s brakes rely on brake fluid to transmit the force that your foot applies to the brake pedal to each wheel’s brake. Occasionally a brake system will develop a leak and if left unchecked for long enough this can cause some serious safety concerns. Fortunately modern cars have a warning light which illuminates on your dash when the fluid level drops too low.

Recently we serviced a vehicle with the dash warning lamp on. We inspected the fluid and found the level very low. Upon performing a brake inspection we found the left brake caliper leaking, and further inspection revealed something more interesting and potentially very dangerous: the inner brake pad soaked in fluid was disintegrating. This could have crumbled apart upon hard braking and caused a serious inability to stop. Fortunately we caught this in time, repaired it and made the car safe. While it is normal for your brake fluid level to drop over a long period of time you should have your brakes inspected at least yearly to be sure that the system is safe.

Brake pad damaged by excessive brake fluid soaking: arrows point to the disintegrating pad material

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