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The Power of Listening

 The Power of Listening

If it matters to the customer, it should matter to the business.

 

Organizations should listen carefully to what their customers say in order to better meet their needs; it’s a win-win.

 

Listening is a simple concept… or is it? Actually, no matter how much businesses might recognize the importance of understanding their customers, many fail to listen to “us” (as consumers) directly. Sure, many companies will put together surveys to collect data and “listen” in that way. However, collecting feedback in that manner is not the only or the most important way to listen. By going beyond an obsession with surveying for feedback and instead listening actively and broadly, avoiding “leakage,” and implementing other tactics, companies can be more effective.

 

Why customer surveys do & don’t work

 

Having a systematized way to collect feedback may be one-size-fits-all and in a different category from listening during a conversation, but these responses do help businesses. Six reasons that companies should poll customers and listen to their feedback, according to Client Heartbeat, are:

 

  • Useful in development of a product or service, shaping it to meet customer needs;
  • Helps you to know how satisfied your customers are;
  • Gives you guidance to craft a more powerful customer experience;
  • Helps create better retention (keeping rather than losing customers) through better information about their frustrations;
  • Offers insights so that the organization can ground its decision-making in data rather than guesswork; and
  • The business can find out who its “brand ambassadors” (customer advocates) really are.

 

Now, those arguments for customer surveys seem compelling. But many point-of-sale surveys are poorly constructed, according to a study by Interaction Metrics (which notably, like Client Heartbeat, is a survey company). The 2016 analysis assessed the surveys used by 51 major US-based retail corporations, rating 15 different aspects of them. The average result out of 100 possible points was an abysmal 43! The most interesting specific finding, revealing a primary reason that companies are so bad at these surveys, was that they tend to be manipulative: “32% of all questions led customers to give answers that companies want to hear,” noted Interaction Metrics.

 

Surveys are used to generate “customer-experience metrics.” Customers want to be heard of course, but the term customer-experience metrics should already raise eyebrows in terms of treating customers like they are numbers. Even if these metrics are not a replacement for strong individual listening, businesses can have difficulty with them. Many companies have a hard time determining how customer metrics relate to their activities. Plus, it can be difficult for businesses to get their staff excited about metrics since they are so impersonal and often fail to give insight into sudden shifts in customer sentiment.

 

Businesses often cannot decide whether they should focus more on metrics that have to do with customer relationships or sales. (We choose the former.)

 

These metrics can also be skewed because the people who complete it will not necessarily give a business a good sense of its average customer. In Forbes, Todd Hixon suggests that the subset of customers who answer surveys can be an issue, suggesting that respondents are:

 

  1. People who are not highly active;
  2. Older customers; and
  3. People who are irritated and want to vent.

 

Hixon also says that key demographics including millennials and mobile users are probably not represented well.

 

Beyond issues with the information collected, the process of applying feedback from customers is difficult for businesses too. According to management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, one of the primary reasons that businesses fail with listening in this way is that they “don’t have the culture to loop customer feedback through the front line to improve behavior or connect it to innovation.”

 

The importance of listening actively & broadly

 

To explore the topic of active and broad listening, here is the reasoning behind each element of that effort:

 

  • Why listen? You can find evidence of the sound value of listening within the business world in the classic organizational management text The One Minute Manager. This book, published in 1982 and authored by Spencer Johnson and Kenneth Blanchard, suggested that the #1 way to create engagement among personnel is to set aside time to listen to them. While this book is about employees rather than customers, its high valuation of listening is on-point as it notes that it’s a way for managers to relate with people individually and make sure that they know their work is appreciated.
  • Why listen actively? If surveying customers can be viewed as a rudimentary and flawed effort at listening, active listening is a way to refine this skill. This technique is helpful in therapy sessions, and it is helpful in business as well. When we listen actively, we do not focus on throwing in our own opinion or solutions (unless requested) but instead repeat back what we think we have heard. This practice is an effort at clarification; if what the listener repeats back is at all flawed, the speaker can correct the message.
  • Why listen broadly? It’s not just about how we listen, but who we listen to – and our attitudes impact the extent to which we are willing to hear someone’s point-of-view. Being open to people means that you can keep revising your understanding of the world, explains therapist Rena Pollak via healthy psychotherapy network org. Pollak notes that it is important to remain flexible because our ingrained perspectives are often based on biased perspectives, misinformation, and control, such as when our parents instill in us their own insecurities, telling us that all women are liars or that we will not achieve our dreams.

 

Leakage: why listening cannot be faked

 

If you are trying to put on the front that you are paying attention to what someone is saying, but you really aren’t, you may leak out indications that you do not care, says Jeff Thompson, PhD, in Psychology Today. Thompson writes that “leakage, or unintended non-verbal communication” cues that give away when we are not listening are self-touching, eye-rolling, fidgeting, failing to make eye contact, and paralanguage or back-channel communication – the last of which Thompson summarizes as “huffing or audible noises and that teeth-sucking noise.” Seriously.

 

How companies & people can listen more effectively

 

Beyond being open to various speakers and listening actively, here are three additional steps you can take to improve the way that you listen:

 

  1. Be prepared. If you are underprepared, you will be more focused on understanding the basics than on deep problem-solving.
  2. Listen with both mind and body. Our bodies actually help to determine the way that we think, according to the notion of embodied cognition. Move your body so that it is positioned toward the speaker, nod, and look into their eyes.
  3. Self-monitor. Pay attention to yourself and ask yourself if you are listening in the moment. Also pay attention to whether you are conveying to the other person that you are listening – since their perception is ultimately the deciding factor in your ability to make them feel heard.

 

An honest boulder auto mechanic

 

Are you interested in working with a car mechanic that values listening to you? At Independent Motors, we believe great service starts with open, honest communication, in what we say and how well we listen. See our beliefs.

The Most and Least Expensive Cars to Maintain

The Most and Least Expensive Cars to Maintain

The amount of money that we car owners in the United States spend on our vehicles is somewhat shocking. In 2016, the typical American consumer spent $3634 on the purchase of new or used cars. For fuel and motor oil, they additionally shelled out $1909; and for insurance on the vehicle, they spent another $1149. Maintenance and repairs per year averaged $849 per person. Rounding out the total were $886 of charges for rental, leasing, licensing, and financing, along with miscellaneous costs. Add that all up, and your total annual price tag is $8427.

 

How do those figures relate to the experience of an individual family in Boulder? We can get a fair estimate by combining federal and local numbers. Bureau of Transportation Statistics data shows us that the typical household in the US has 1.9 cars. That suggests that a single household would have $1613 in car maintenance and repair expenses annually. Total household car costs nationwide, on average, can be assumed to be $16,011.  The income in Boulder in 2015 was $72,009, per the public data resource Department of Numbers. After taxes, the amount was about $61,000, according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator for Boulder Metro. What all this means is that auto maintenance and repair accounts for 2.6% of post-tax earnings in Boulder, while overall car costs calculate at 26.2% of that amount.

 

Many people try to prepare for maintenance well in advance by using those costs to determine what car they purchase in the first place. It has previously been more difciult to figure out the ongoing cost of a car. However, recently, online sources have found ways to figure out cost. Using these tools, experts are able to determine sounder estimates for the average annual cost of maintenance and repairs for various cars.

 

With that in mind, here are some of the best and worst choices you can make in a car in terms of maintenance cost. Then, to put things in perspective for the average car owner, we will look at the typical (and exorbitant) costs of owning three different makes of supercar.

 

Hyundai leads all carmakers as budget-friendly

 

A study featured in Ratchet+Wrench analyzed the cost of typical maintenance and repair needs for some of the most prevalent car models in the nation.

 

With car maintenance cost data from throughout the US, the researchers looked at over three dozen 2010 model-year cars related to four typical mechanic needs: oil change, brake pad replacement, alternator, and water pump.

 

The winner among all carmakers was Hyundai, which actually both had the lowest average repair cost and the best fuel-efficiency, on average.

 

On the other side, the Mitsubishi Lancer and Volkswagen Jetta are particularly troubling in terms of their long-term expense. With both of those cars, the total cost of the repairs that were assessed was higher with those models than with all sports utility vehicles and the majority of luxury cars included.

 

One car category that is low-cost for maintenance and repairs is SUVs, particularly the Ford Explorer and Mazda CX-7.

 

While European luxury cars are typically considered the costliest cars to own, the model in pole position (for the most-expensive derby) of ongoing cost is the American-made Lincoln MKZ.

 

The 20 most affordable vehicles to maintain & repair

 

Here are the 20 lowest costs to keep a car in proper working order, with the associated model and its category, from lowest to highest. (Note: These figures should not be confused with annual cost, since these numbers are instead comparing the costs of the 4 jobs, as described above.)

 

#20. $1244 – Toyota Camry (compact)

#19. $1213 – Subaru Legacy (midsize)

#18. $1191 – Subaru Impreza (compact)

#17. $1190 – Kia Forte (compact)

#16. $1188 – Hyundai Sonata (midsize)

#15. $1179 – Hyundai Santa Fe (SUV)

#14. $1120 – Honda Civic (compact)

#13. $1093 – Ford Fusion (midsize)

#12. $1088 – Hyundai Elantra (compact)

#11. $1068 – Mazda3 (compact)

#10. $1064 – Ford Focus (compact)

#9. $1060 – Honda Accord (midsize)

#8. $1052 – Ford Explorer (SUV)

#7. $1026 – Mazda6 (midsize)

#6. $988 – Mazda CX-7 (SUV)

#5. $986 – Nissan Altima (midsize)

#4. $931 – Nissan Sentra (compact)

#3. $784 – Toyota Prius (hybrid)

#2. $768 – Ford Fusion Hybrid (hybrid)

#1. $673 – Nissan Altima Hybrid (hybrid)

 

The 20 costliest cars to maintain & repair

 

This list shows the most expensive cars for maintenance, based on those four maintenance jobs. Again, we will go in ascending order, although this time with increases leading up to the most expensive one. The 20 are:

 

#20. $1454 – Kia Optima (midsize)

#19. $1469 – Kia Sportage (SUV)

#17. (tie) $1480 – Toyota 4runner (SUV)

#17. (tie) $1480 – Honda Pilot (SUV)

#16. $1503 – Nissan Murano (SUV)

#15. $1537 – Acura TL (luxury)

#14. $1578 – Chrysler 300 (luxury)

#13. $1600 – Volvo S80 (luxury)

#12. $1603 – GMC Acadia (SUV)

#11. $1604 – Chevrolet Equinox (SUV)

#10. $1633 – Chevrolet Malibu (midsize)

#9. $1725 – Infiniti G37 (luxury)

#8. $1931 – Mitsubishi Lancer (compact)

#7. $1960 – Mercedes Benz C300 (luxury)

#6. $1965 – BMW 328i (luxury)

#5. $2087 – Volkswagen Passat (midsize)

#4. $2114 – Volkswagen Jetta (compact)

#3. $2234 – Lexus IS250 (luxury)

#2. $2259 – Audi A4 (luxury)

#1. $2649 – Lincoln MKZ (luxury)

 

Now that we’ve looked at this more typical cost scenario, let’s move on to the more fantastical world of the supercar.

 

Cost & frustrations of supercar maintenance

 

When you envy someone for owning a supercar, you might not realize what they have to pay just to keep it in working order. In other words, when you buy a car that costs as much as a house, you are not finished stroking large checks. Here are average costs for maintenance of the three top supercars, along with notes regarding common aggravations with each model, per Road & Track:

 

Supercar #1 – McLaren F1

 

The expense to keep a McLaren F1 operating is approximately $30,000, according to the carmaker. It is $8000 to get an oil change (fair enough). Typically you will only be able to get $3000 tires for the car in pairs, per the manufacturer’s policies.

 

You can get your car serviced at the factory if you want to wait six weeks for service and ship it to the United Kingdom (additional seven weeks by boat or 10 days by air).

 

Supercar #2 – Ferrari Enzo

 

Factory covers safeguard a $6000 carbon-ceramic motor so that it does not get damaged by oil or other fluids. A shop must buy a scissor lift (that will not support the LaFerrari, by the way) and $10,000 set of tools in order to work on the Enzo.

 

Since these cars are so incredibly expensive, documentation becomes important. You need to have all service records on hand at sale. You will otherwise have to lower the price.

 

Air filters and oil change must occur at 15,000 miles. The fuel filters, spark plugs, and timing chain can go 30,000 miles – but this maintenance is engine-out and very pricey.

 

Supercar #3 – Porsche Carrera GT

 

The same intervals apply, essentially, as with the Enzo. At 15,000, you do the oil change. There is an engine-out service at 30,000 miles to adjust the valves and perform other tweaks.

 

The cost of an oil change for this model is $3000. That is in part because you need to buy $1100 in ramps to get it over hoist arms. Plus, you have to buy $550 plates (aluminum, 3/4-inch) to bolt the car into position. Finally, you need two engine-oil filters. It will cost you $6800 if you strip the aluminum cover’s drain-plug hole.

 

Fair pricing & honesty with a local Boulder mechanic

 

Supercars are not how the rubber hits the road for most of us, of course. Regardless, ongoing maintenance is an expense that can be challenging for many Boulder families.

 

Are you concerned about the costs of ongoing car maintenance? You want to keep costs low, but you also deserve integrity. At Independent Motors, we charge fair prices and pay our crew fair wages, never falling back on gimmicky pricing or trying to sell you services you don’t need. See our History & Beliefs.

7 Principles of Great Customer Service

7 Principles of Great Customer Service

There is a reason that smart businesses value customer service, and it goes beyond good citizenship and a sense of responsibility to their local neighbors. Customer service improves your retention. A business is typically very concerned with being able to retain customers because it costs them 5-25 times more to acquire a new customer as it does to retain a current one, according to figures from Harvard Business Review contributing editor Amy E. Gallo. Businesses are certainly likely to see more churn if they have poor customer service. According to customer service industry research, 70% of customers leave because customer service was lacking.

 

What is good customer service, exactly, though? Let’s look at a list of principles that define high-quality customer-service, according to research on the subject.

 

Robots are not your customer service friend.

 

Robots can be fascinating to watch, but that doesn’t mean you want to have a conversation with one when you are trying to get a problem solved quickly. Make it clear to your customers that you are NOT a cyborg. Personality is all right as long as it reasonably professional. Of course, people want their problems resolved, and you want to help them. However, it is not just about speed. It can help increase rapport immensely to simply introduce small talk to the conversation – about sports perhaps, or the weather. Any friendly comments will help shift the sense of the interaction to broader topics, resulting in a more human connection.

 

Speed is fundamental.

 

The speed with which you respond to customer issues, often phrased as responsiveness, will have a huge impact on how well people rate their customer service experience. Researchers at Warwick University found that whether customers said they were satisfied or dissatisfied with a business interaction, the #1 factor determining their perspective was the speed of response.

 

The majority of US consumers (53%) responded to a 2013 survey that they spent 10-20 minutes on hold weekly, which equates to 13 hours per year.

 

According to live chat firm Userlike, key metrics for customer service – especially when it’s remote (phone, live chat, etc.) – include first response time, average response time, problem resolution time, and first contact resolution ratio. These figures are of course more important for businesses that process a lot of complicated customer service issues by phone — but any business, regardless of size, should be aware of them since they have such a strong impact on perception of service level.

 

It is worth stating the obvious: a business can respond much more quickly to problems when the staff is broadly knowledgeable and knows how to solve as many of them as possible. Not only will a competent and skilled employee typically not have to go ask for help but will be able to help you resolve your problem (assuming it’s not too granular) without having to ask you a laundry list of questions.

 

Focus on relationship-building.

 

A business that is serious about success wants to have solid, sustainable, long-lasting relationships with its customers (a cornerstone of retention – and the reason 90% of our auto repair is repeat business). Building relationships can be confusing since the business world can seem so functional and separated from personal concerns. A four-point plan that businesses can use to improve their relationships with clients includes:

 

  1. Welcoming them and starting a natural interaction with them.
  2. Listening to them and indicating that you understand what they need.
  3. Recognizing that only some people are going to want what you have to offer and building relationships with those who are receptive.
  4. Be helpful, even at the level of simply giving people information, such as informing them of an event they might find useful.

 

Ensure the quality of your services and products.

 

A business needs to understand its customers’ expectations – i.e., what they understand as incredible service within your industry. Thoroughly understanding what the expectations are of those you are servicing means listening carefully upfront (which has clear engagement benefits as well).

 

Not meeting expectations is a core way that a business will “achieve” poor customer service ratings (markers that are extremely effective at driving away customers). According to statistics highlighted by Teradata Applications chief marketing officer Lisa Arthur, failed customer care leads to skipped sales, refunds, and departures to competition, totaling $83 billion of annual losses for American businesses. Looked at another way, nearly 4 in 5 customers (78%) have stopped in the middle of buying something because they decided the customer service was not up to par. The source of those later numbers, a 2011 survey of 1000 US 18-and-older consumers, was not all negative though: it also revealed that nearly three-quarters of people (70%) will spend more (13% on average) with businesses that they believe have customer service that is exceptionally good.

 

The first step for achieving high-quality service is to simply clarify what exactly you mean in terms of quality; then, in order to deliver your understanding of quality consistently, encapsulate these expectations in service level agreements and standards. You can express these standards publicly through certifications to meet sets of parameters and privately within your internal policies.

 

Be certain fair expectations are met.

 

You must ultimately hold yourself responsible to your standards if you want them to have meaning. Impress the importance of these standards on your staff. Your personnel should know what the expectations are and how to meet performance expectations (essentially, meeting needs quickly), according to consultant Matthew Harrington. Solving any ways in which service is inconsistent should be a high priority for all employees and management.

 

Do not try to cover if you do not know an answer.

 

Probably everyone has been in a situation in which they have a know-it-all person at a business “answering” your questions without really answering them. Worse yet, you may have experienced someone giving you the wrong advice, which you applied and made the problem worse than it was before. A business should know that all employees are confident going to their supervisors or other colleagues if they don’t immediately know how to answer a customer correctly. It is perfectly acceptable service to go get the answer and come back to the client when you have it; the key thing, really, is communication, as indicated by Salesforce.

 

Be empathic.

 

Especially since Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is such an advocate of compassionate capitalism, it is no surprise to see Salesforce also suggesting that a business should step into the shoes of its customers. It would be in the best interest of businesses to get a handle on this notion of empathy since Salesforce notes that it is a way to differentiate yourself from your rivals. Empathy will not go unnoticed; your customers will sense the concern and caring coming from your staff – and this tone should be central. “A company cannot be successful with a culture of apathy,” explained Salesforce. “Your service agents especially must master the lost art of empathy to deliver effective customer service.”

 

Conclusion

 

Do you want great customer service for your auto repair? At Independent Motors, we treat our customers the way that we want to be treated: fairly and honestly. That’s why 90% of the auto repair we do is repeat business. See our philosophy and meet our staff.

Look Out! How Can Auto Shops Deceive You?

How Mechanics Can Deceive You

It was shortly before the holidays in 2016, and a St. Louis woman had a dent on her car. She met a man at a service station who said he could help her. To gain her confidence, he said he was a mobile mechanic with two decades of experience. He offered convenience too, saying he could fix her car in the parking lot while she was working. Rather than actually repairing the bumper damage and scratches on the car, reports the Better Business Bureau, he further damaged the car and drove away.

 

Organizations such as the Better Business Bureau can help you learn about scams and find top-rated repair shops. However, this mobile car repair scam story is just one drop in the vast sea of complaints that car owners make about dealers and mechanics. The truism that people are not always honest with car owners starts right at the point of sale and extends throughout the life of the car. Automotive trouble is the #1 consumer complaint, according to the North American Consumer Protection Investigators and the Consumer Federation of America. The findings, released on July 27, included false advertising, deceptive sales practices, shoddy repair work, unfair lease terms, and towing issues.

 

Let’s zero in on those deceptive practices related to repair shops. Here are some of the most common methods mechanics use to mislead car owners:

 

Highway bandits. A highway bandit may work for a service station or own one. These individuals take advantage of car owners who stop for water or air. Various types of strategies are used to try to get the owner of the car to pay something to the fraudster. The con-artist might drip oil beneath a vehicle and then suggest that it is coming from a leak on your car. They might slash the tire, or they might slice a fan belt or water hose. Then the highway bandit will instill fear, creating a sense of danger so that they can sell you on the notion that you won’t be safe unless they fix this thing that’s supposedly wrong with your car (and now perhaps really is because of their malicious actions).

 

Overcharging. It’s a typical scenario for a mechanic to diagnose an issue with a car, make a repair, and the issue remains. When they get the car back into the shop, they then make a different diagnosis and perform a second repair to fix the second perceived problem. Finally, the mechanic is able to repair the actual real core problem, and the car owner get to pay for all the repairs along this process of discovery. Clearly, a customer should not be charged for a bunch of repairs if only one was really needed. In fact, it is unlawful to charge people for repairs that do not fix the intended problem (i.e., the issue for which the person initially brought in the car). In fact, it can be the subject of a lawsuit and a criminal investigation.

 

Going for a joyride. Joyriding in clients’ vehicles is, unfortunately, something that occurs often in the industry, according to Steve Lehto in Jalopnik. Lehto, who is an attorney, noted that he has represented people multiple times whose cars were joyridden by auto shops. Stories also come out in the press at times related to victims of the same offense. Dash cameras are making it clear how often this actually does occur. One thing you want to know is that you probably will not be able to get any money back for this kind of incident unless the person actually does physical damage to your vehicle.

 

Estimate fraud. You always want to get a repair estimate in writing. You might get a completely fair quote when you drop off the car, but then it is inflated incredibly when you go to get it. You may think it is legal to do a bunch of additional work because it is understandable that a mechanic would find something wrong under the hood once the project is underway. Mechanics sometimes leave amounts blank, in fact, when they sign repair authorizations from clients. Once the person leaves, they fill in inflated prices and services.

 

Repair of the weird. In order to save money, a mechanic will sometimes do work poorly, whether rapidly or strangely. The nonprofit Coalition Against Insurance Fraud tells the story of a mechanic who connected auto parts together using only bailing wire. The mechanic might also not do anything to the car whatsoever.

 

Used or counterfeit parts. You might get charged for a new part, but what actually gets put into your car is either used or counterfeit. When you’re out driving, the used or counterfeit part might give out. Clearly, it is not what you thought you were buying. You are at risk when a mechanic puts a lower-grade part into your car. Now, that said, you can get away with used parts in some cases, depending on the repair job. However, the key here is that the proposed work and bill match the work that was done. In this scam, the company is charging for new and installing old.

 

Maintenance hooks. When auto shops commit fraud, they will often have an ad in the paper or elsewhere for a really low-priced maintenance service. Once you are in for the special deal, reports Fraud Guides, then suddenly you are being turned into a high-paying customer. An oil change quickly becomes a big and unnecessary part replacement.

 

Transmission flush. A scheduled transmission fluid flush is not a bad idea. However, you don’t need to do a flush if you have not been paying attention to those intervals. The collected debris that starts to accrue within aging fluid “becomes the friction material in an aging clutch pack,” notes Consumer Reports. Doing a flush of the fluid in that event could mean that you ruin your transmission.

 

Replacing the brakes. Many times, new pads are needed for your brakes, or you might need to clean and turn your rotors. Those adjustments are relatively inexpensive. However, a deceptive mechanic will try to convince you that you need to make other replacements as well – such as the combination of pads, rotors, and calipers.

 

Model-wide diagnosis. A huckster mechanic might look at your car and, without having even looked under your hood, say that cars of your model that hit a certain mileage typically need a certain type of part. Now, clearly, there are many times when you should replace a part at a certain point. That information is in your owner’s manual; check it to make sure any recommendations for maintenance intervals are legitimate.

 

Stealing out of your car. Lehto mentions that he has heard of many different types of things being stolen from cars while they are entrusted to auto shops, including wallets and even change from the ashtray. Stereos have been taken out of vehicles by fraudulent repair shops. Performance components sometimes get removed from engines.

 

Conclusion

 

As you can see, there are many different ways in which a car shop can steal from you or deceive you. All car owners want to know that their vehicles are in good hands when they bring them in for repairs. At Independent Motors, we believe great service starts with open, honest communication. See our beliefs.

Top 12 Mistakes of Auto Maintenance

Top 12 Mistakes of Auto Maintenance

With 16 cents of every US household dollar going toward transportation, you owe it to yourself to be careful that you spend wisely and do not make any car maintenance mistakes. Here, we look at 12 of the most common errors that are made by car owners.

 

Getting from point A to point B may sound simple, but it is certainly costly. In fact, 2016 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveal that transportation accounted for an average of $9,049 out of the $57,311 in costs incurred by each consumer unit. In other words, transportation represented nearly 16 cents out of every dollar (15.79%) spent by each household or financially independent individual. Of that $9,049 figure, $3,634 went toward buying cars; $1,909 went toward oil and fuel; and $2,884 went toward other expenses, such as maintenance and repairs.

 

Since transportation expenses are such a substantial chunk of a typical budget, it is important to make sure that this money is being spent in the correct ways. Plus, maintenance is about preserving your car – so avoiding common mistakes will allow you to spend less on automotive purchases by extending the life of your vehicle.

 

CarMD: 10 top car maintenance errors

 

Let’s countdown, in David Letterman fashion, the top ten most common car maintenance mistakes provided by CarMD in its annual analysis of car data from mechanics and car owners, the 2017 Vehicle Health Index (released in April). Then we will go through a couple other common problems not listed in that study.

 

#10. Attempting to perform the maintenance oneself. The more sophisticated technologies of newer models often require professional expertise for proper care, per CarMD.

 

#9. Foregoing original equipment manufacturer (OEM) components. Generic parts are inexpensive upfront but can have a greater risk of failure.

 

#8. Choosing a mechanic that is inept to service the car. We know that it can be tricky to vet mechanics if you are unfamiliar with car repair. However, you can look for strong reviews and credentials to guide your choice.

 

#7. Not switching the fuel and air filters on a regular basis. In Mandi Woodruff’s analysis of this list in Business Insider, she noted that the failure to replace an air filter is a particularly key point since dirty filters can have a domino effect, leading to failed oxygen sensors. The failure of an O2 sensor can, in turn, lead to fuel inefficiency (i.e. higher costs at the pump) and possibly the need for a new catalytic converter.

 

#6. Staying on the road after the car begins to overheat. An important thing to ask yourself in life is, “What is the worst thing that could happen?” In the case of staying on the road after your car begins to overheat, you could end up with expensive problems such as a cracked or warped head; blown head gasket; cracked engine block; or engine bearing damage.

 

#5. Not paying attention to the levels of fluids. Beyond oil, be sure to regularly check transmission, brake, and coolant levels.

 

#4. Skipping gauges of the tire pressure. Your tires will gradually lose their pressure as time passes. When there is not enough air in them (whether you can see it yet or not), your fuel-efficiency gets worse. More gas means car ownership costs you more each year; plus, you will have to switch out the tires more quickly. You should be able to stay on top of tire pressure well by checking once a month.

 

#3. Neglecting to get the oil changed at carmaker-recommended mileage intervals. There is a reason that there is so much talk about the need to get oil changes before road trips and on a regular basis. The CarMD report, referencing the survey of mechanics that made up part of its study, said that oil changes are at the top of the list as the “most damaging car maintenance item that their customers neglect that they wish they could change.” When the oil is not changed regularly, it gets dirtier – which could eventually cause engine failure. Now, you don’t need to overdo it with oil changes. Rather than simply changing oil every 3000 miles, use the specifications from you owner’s manual.

 

#2. Failing to respond when the “check engine” light appears. Why do you need to worry about that “check engine” light? For the same basic reason as you want to pay attention to the air filter: you could end up with a broken sensor and a misfiring engine. Again, if the oxygen sensor goes down, so could lose your catalytic converter – which is one of the most expensive repairs you can encounter.

 

#1. Delaying maintenance beyond the owner’s manual schedule. There are many reasons why people do not keep up with a routine car maintenance schedule, especially when the replacement of a part is involved. According to automotive market research firm IMR, the top two reasons for not performing maintenance are that the car owner could not find time (33%) or that they did not have funds for it (31%). Other reasons are that failing to get the repair was not impacting their ability to drive (14%); they would soon be selling the car (4%); the person could not be without the car (3%); their mechanic did not immediately have the part (2%); and they were getting a second opinion (1%) – while 14% gave other explanations for their delays.  Almost all vehicle owners (91%) see themselves getting the work conducted eventually. Unfortunately, it can be incredibly costly to delay these tasks (as discussed in our article “Skipping Car Maintenance Can Be Expensive”). The nonprofit Car Care Council lists the top maintenance issues to protect yourself and your investment are oil and other fluid checks; filter, hose, belt, and tire replacements; and air conditioning checks.

 

2 other mistakes people often make with car maintenance

 

Beyond those mistakes provided in the CarMD report, here are a couple of additional maintenance mistakes to avoid if you want to make the best use out of your car maintenance budget:

 

Failing to replace burned-out lights. Putting new lightbulbs in your car is fairly simple and affordable. You will know if your headlights or high beams go out pretty quickly when you drive at night. However, other lights such as taillights and brake lights may not be immediately apparent. Check them occasionally. If one of your lights burns out, it is straightforward to replace it using your owner’s manual. If you do not want to do it yourself, you can have a mechanic that charges fairly do it for you. Make the switch one way or another, because when lights go out, you increase your likelihood of getting pulled over by the police or getting into an accident.

 

Trying to jumpstart the car incorrectly. Jumpstarting the car is a task that people often find themselves performing without necessarily feeling confident doing it. Actually, before you even get started, be certain that you are safely out of the roadway. You also should not be smoking, and you should be wearing eye protection. The cars obviously have to be close (assuming you’re jumping from another car and not from a portable jumpstarter), but you do not want them to be touching.

 

Conclusion

 

Are you currently delaying maintenance or otherwise concerned that you are doing the right things at the rights times? Preserve the life of your car by speaking with an honest auto shop today. At Independent Motors, we charge fair prices and pay our crew fair wages, keeping everyone happy. Meet our staff.

Terrible News: The Most Expensive Car Repairs

The Most Expensive Car Repairs

“I have terrible news.” You have probably heard these words, or similar ones, from a mechanic. They are unpleasant words for anyone who doesn’t want to spend all their money on their vehicle – and the amount we spend on our cars each year is astounding. Let’s quickly look at the statistics on yearly transportation expenses in the United States, then review 5 of the biggest car repair expenses you can encounter.

 

Household transportation costs down to $9049

 

You may never have felt compelled to leaf through the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data. However, it is one way to find out about prevalence of certain behaviors and how we compare – for instance, in terms of the amount of money we spend on our cars. The BLS’s 2016 Consumer Expenditures data shows that the average total expenditures for 2016 per household was $57,311, which was a 2.4 percent rise over 2015. Six of the eight major categories that delineate consumer spending increased: cash contributions (+ 14.4%); personal insurance and pensions (+ 7.6%); healthcare (+ 6.2%); housing and food (+ 2.6%); and entertainment (+ 2.5%). Thankfully, some costs did fall last year – apparel and related services (- 2.3%), and transportation (- 4.8%).

 

Related: “Skipping Car Maintenance Can Be Expensive”

 

Transportation is divided into vehicle purchases; fuel and motor oil; and a miscellaneous “other” category that includes costs such as repairs, maintenance, insurance, finance charges, licenses, leases, and rentals. The main reason that transportation spending went down was because the first category, purchases, was down significantly: 9.1%. Not only were people not spending as much buying cars, but they also were not spending as much fueling them, with gasoline and motor oil spending dropping 8.7%. (Fuel and motor oil costs, notably, have been dropping each year since 2012.) The second largest spending category within transportation is the miscellaneous category that includes repair and maintenance. That spending number was actually up 4.6%.

 

Here are the raw numbers for the transportation section of the BLS data from 2014-2016, with total amount and percent growth (if you really want to get in deep):

 

  • Total transportation spending: 2014 – $9,073; 2015 – $9,503 (+ 4.7%); 2016 – $9,035 (- 4.8%);
  • Car purchases: 2014 – $3,301; 2015 – $3,997 (+ 21.1%); 2016 –  $3,634 (- 9.1%).
  • Fuel and motor oil: 2014 – $2,468; 2015 – $2,090 (- 15.3%); 2016 – $1,909 (- 8.7%).
  • “Other” (repairs, maintenance, etc.): 2014 – $2,723; 2015 – $2,756 (+ 1.2%); 2016 – $2,884 (+ 4.6%).

 

As the site for NPR’s Car Talk notes, there are a few things that you really DO NOT want to hear from your mechanic. These things of course correspond to some really nasty repair bills.

 

Here are a few of those nightmare repair situations – those things you don’t want to hear (but sometimes have to in order to get your car back on the road):

 

“Your transmission is shot.”

 

9 out of every 10 times someone has their transmission go down, it is because the car owner simply did not change the transmission fluid, according to Auto Service Online (per Australian car service site Canstar). Many car owners do not get their fluids change as often as they should; typically, this should happen every two or three years.

 

Related: “The 10 Most Common Car Repairs”

 

Neglecting to change the fluids is not the only reason you might need a transmission replacement, though: these failures can also result from poor driving practices, whether that means pushing excessively hard on the shifter with an automatic car or “riding the clutch” with a manual model.

 

Price tag: If a person does not carefully monitor and change out the transmission fluid at those regular intervals, the eventual replacement (depending on your model) will typically be more than $2000 (sometime much more).

 

“We are retiring your catalytic converter.”

 

One of the most important tools on your car related to environmental sustainability is the catalytic converter. Generally one of these parts will last the entire life of an automobile. However, often a collision will hurt the “cat” (and it does not have nine lives…). Your catalytic converter can also go south if your engine is burning excess oil or if you use fuel additives that are unhealthy to the car. One thing about this expense is that you could save some money from making the replacement yourself; however, according to auto repair guide Haynes Manuals, “most of the cost is in the part, which contains precious metals like gold, palladium, and rhodium.”

 

Price tag: Depending on your model, the cost to replace a catalytic converter will often exceed $3000. Haynes Manuals suggests that, on average, 85% of a catalytic converter repair bill is the part itself, with labor only accounting for 15%.

 

“Your head gasket blew it.”

 

The head gasket must be in proper operational order if you want to protect your engine. That is because it is responsible for preventing oil and coolant leakage into the engine, which can lead to overheating. If your head gasket is giving out, you will often start to see white smoke, leaked coolant, or oil discoloration. Regardless the signs you see, the engine will not last long under these conditions.

 

Price tag: It will not cost you too much money for a gasket; however, the process to replace it can be expensive – so the labor bill can get high. The head gasket is a direct flip of a catalytic converter bill, actually; Haynes shows that the part is typically just 15% of the bill. Often the cost that will arise from a blown head gasket is greater than $1500, depending on the model.

 

“We must change your alternator.”

 

The alternator is a component that lasts a long time – usually around 50,000 to 100,000 miles. However, like other car parts, it experiences wear-and-tear that can lead to failure. Similar to the way that a blown head gasket can lead to engine trouble, a downed alternator feeds into bigger problems: it shuts off your vehicle’s electrical system.

 

Price tag: These parts are expensive – as with the catalytic converter, you won’t save significantly by doing the work yourself since labor is a small portion of the complete bill. The part takes up an average 83% of the total bill for an alternator replacement. Depending on the specifics, repair often costs more than $500.

 

“Your timing belt is out of time.”

 

To understand why a timing belt will fail, it helps to look to the concept of the interference engine, which is the modern design replacement for the non-interference engine. The newer variety allows the valves to open more widely and into the path of the piston as it rises. This design allows for better ventilation of the engine, resulting in greater power and more impressive fuel-efficiency. You will sail smoothly with your interference engine until something goes awry with the timing. Think about it: when the valves open, your piston is down. When the piston is up, the valves are closed and will not get in the piston’s way. “If your timing belt breaks or jumps a notch on an interference engine,” noted Car Talk, “the piston smashes the valves, and you need a valve job… at least.”

 

Price tag: Replacing the timing belt can often cost you more than $1500, depending on the specifics of your model. The part itself typically accounts for about 52% of the total repair cost.

 

Honest, independent Boulder mechanic

 

The above are examples of huge expenses that can result from car ownership; no matter how big a repair or maintenance job you need, though, you want to be able to trust that your mechanic is being straightforward.

 

Are you looking for an honest mechanic in Boulder? At Independent Motors, 90% of the auto repair we do is repeat business. See our beliefs.

How Can We Build an Even Stronger Local Community?

Building a Strong Local Community

It only makes sense for all of us in Boulder to put effort into building an even stronger local community. What does that mean though? How can we really make our community stronger? Let’s look to the experts for their thoughts on this topic.

 

  • 3-part connection between sustainability & community
  • 3 goals to strengthen community
  • 3 keys to community strength
  • 3 things businesses can do for community impact
  • Supporting local & independent business

 

3-part connection between sustainability & community

 

One aspect of building community is the notion of sustainability. According to urban planning and design firm PlaceMakers, there is a “triple bottom line of profits, planet, and people” involved with it. People are the aspect of the trio that tends to get ignored, argues the firm. In term of the planet, environmental concerns support an entire industry. In terms of the economy, it should remain fairly stable in a market because businesses fundamentally want it to be stable (at least relatively stable, since we also know that disruption creates opportunities).

 

However, the core concern is the people, notes PlaceMakers, because the social connection is ultimately the driver for the economic growth and protection of the environment. In other words, the group advocates that we first move toward one another and deepen our connection, then shift to focusing more on building our financial resources and developing lasting and dedicated environmental sustainability programs.

 

Whether you agree with all that or not, it does illustrate how working to build stronger interpersonal connections can help in impacting other areas as well.

 

3 goals to strengthen community

 

We can learn more about the notion of strengthening community by looking at people who are trying to help those on the lower end of the economic spectrum. Now let’s look at a few goals, presented by the Guardian Public Leaders Network, that help in planning to build community effectively, from executives at nonprofit British housing associations:

 

#1 – Solving joblessness – Do you know anyone who doesn’t have a job, or are you unemployed or partially employed? It is wrong-headed as a community to assume that people who are jobless are ultimately responsible for their predicament, noted Erika Rushton, neighborhood director for Plus Dane Group. Lack of jobs “is under-employment and we should take collective responsibility for creating employment,” she said.

 

#2 – Making connections – Paul Taylor, innovation coach at Bromford Lab (a spinoff of the housing association Bromford) said that a strong community is all about interweaving and building connections. It is critical, in order to strengthen a community, that you find people with certain skills and goals, then link them with others who have the same interests or can help them become even better at what they do and more powerfully poised for success.

 

#3 – Talking face-to-face – It is easy to get obsessed with social media, even locally. To build community relationships, talk to people at their homes, in stores, in the park, or at the school, suggested Fintan Tynan, resident empowerment management for Poplar Harca.

 

3 keys to community strength

 

Let’s go back to the advice from PlaceMakers. These are three of the primary keys that the organization associates with a strong local community:

 

#1 – Great leadership – You need trust within your community if you want it to be infused with the confidence that fosters growth. That starts with competent leadership. What you need to see is city hall and other people within the community talking with one another; looking at the different angles and input; and taking action based on that deeper understanding of the situation. Leadership breeds cultural collaboration, advises PlaceMakers.

 

#2 – Fostering walkability – There is a reason the traditional city had a center. PlaceMakers points out that, incredibly, many best practices that build community are currently illegal in municipalities throughout the country (leading into their argument for form-based code). As possible, the walkability of a neighborhood such as Whittier should be emulated. Whittier, established in 1859, is a historic district and has some of the oldest homes in Boulder. The walkability in Whittier helps build community because everyone is walking to the Pearl Street Mall, the Boulder farmer’s market, the CU campus, parks, schools, restaurants, and retail stores.

 

#3 – Programs – Street fairs, carnivals, farmer’s markets, and public concerts are all chances for people in the community to meet one another. The local government does not necessarily have to initiate these types of programs. After all, it is not just about gatherings in the downtown area. You also want to have these types of engaging activities at the levels of the neighborhood and even the block. Grass-roots events can sometimes be particularly meaningful and interesting. Nationally, an example is Porchfest – which takes place in Ithaca, New York, every year. Bands perform on residents’ porches and in their front yards. Here are some happenings in downtown Boulder, from Downtown Boulder Partnership (DBP), as an example of some community-building events going on in the area.

 

3 things businesses can do for community impact

 

First, when we think about how businesses can be helpful to the community, one place to get advice is the website of self-help book The ONE Thing. Here are three ideas for businesses to make an impact, from authors Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan:

 

#1 – Knowledge-sharing – You may not have enough money to be able to pay for significant community development projects at this point. However, you could have skills that would be of incredible help to your local community. One really compelling story nationally along those lines is PENCIL, which is a nonprofit that helps businesspeople to meet with students, teachers, and principals. The end result of PENCIL, based in New York City, has been incredibly positive, according to the authors. In fact, 9 in 10 principals at participating schools said that their involvement with the organization had advanced the school or the test results of its students within the past twelve months. Simply be involving itself with a school, a business can make a massive impact on its community because students go on to college and eventually employment. You can think about how your or your staff’s core skills could potentially work toward the betterment of charities and other groups in the Boulder area.

 

#2 – Put together or sponsor a charity event – If we want to do something meaningful in the community and also make a positive impression on our neighbors, it is wise to think about how we can help charities. It is time-consuming and complex to set up an event that integrates numerous parties, but the process will help you get better networked. There can be a domino-effect that results in these efforts, say the authors. In a very simple sense, you only have to set it up once and can then repeat many of the same processes at the recurrence of the annual event.

 

#3 – Donate what you can – You may have some things lying around the office that are more clutter than they are useful. While you may not have use for it, it’s entirely possible that a local nonprofit (or the people it serves) might. A particularly good time for companies to think about donating is when they’re moving.

 

Supporting local & independent business

 

Are you wanting to help build a stronger local community? One way to do that is to support businesses that are also highly invested in the community – independent, locally owned and operated ones.

 

At Independent Motors, we care about the local community here in Boulder. And our employees are experts at what they do, which gives us the confidence to go out and earn your trust. See our beliefs.

Skipping Car Maintenance Can Be Expensive

The Importance of Not Skipping Car Maintenance

We can probably all agree that checking tire pressure, replacing wiper blades, and changing oil are important things for car owners to do on a regular basis. It may be challenging for you to fit these preventive maintenance tasks into your weekly schedule; however, simply performing these regular checks is a very intelligent investment given the amount of money it keeps in your pocket long-term, according to the nonprofit Car Care Council.

 

Illinois-based automotive market research firm IMR (Industrial Marketing Research) determined that one-third of drivers delay regular maintenance of their cars because they are too busy. Two groups that tend to put off these car upkeep tasks disproportionately are people who own older cars and millennials, the study found.

 

Car Care Council executive director Rich White, an expert at the value of preventive maintenance, advised that “car owners can preserve the trade-in value and save money by addressing small issues before they become more complicated, expensive repairs.” White added that these tasks help to make your car safer for you and other occupants

 

To focus specifically on the money, there are various ways in which car ownership can become more expensive when maintenance is avoided: loss of part of the life of the car, having to pay for costlier breakdowns, and the potential expense of an accident caused by lack of maintenance.

 

What exactly are we talking about, though? Before we get into the costs of failure to maintain a car, let’s look at what is typically considered the scope of maintenance.

 

What is the scope of regular maintenance?

 

Maintenance may initially sound like a vague concept, but the tasks and timeframes are highly standardized, based on professional expertise at how to really take care of these machines. Routine car maintenance tasks include checking the tire pressure and condition; verifying the functioning of the exterior lights; checking levels of all fluids; monitoring the car’s belts and hoses; confirming that the cables and battery are in proper working order; assessing the chassis lubrication; and looking at wear-and-tear on the wiper blades.

 

It can help to review a standard car maintenance schedule to see the checks that you should be performing on a regular basis. You can look at the manual for your car to get specific details related to your model.

 

How expensive is it to lose 50,000 miles of car?

 

Incredibly, 84% of cars inspected during the nonprofit Car Care Council’s Car Care Months during 2014 were in need of some form of maintenance or repair. This figure is evidence of something that you may know to be the case personally: often, when people are tight on funds, one of the first things to be delayed is car maintenance.

 

Edmunds.com senior consumer advice editor Philip Reed said that failing to perform regular maintenance will typically remove 50,000 miles off the life of a car that would typically go 200,000 miles – meaning its life would be reduced to 150,000. How do we understand that 50,000-mile toll as a financial value though? What is 50,000 miles worth?

 

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the average annual number of miles logged across all American drivers is 13,476 per year. Assuming you drive that amount, it would take you 3.71 years to drive those extra 50,000 miles. How much is 3.71 years of vehicle? A simple way to calculate that is by using the average cumulative vehicle payment over that course of time. The average monthly car loan for a new car is $394, according to 2015 figures from Experian. Over 3.71 years, subtracting the relatively minor maintenance costs, you save $17,540.88 when considering the greater longevity of the car.

 

How much do repairs cost if you don’t maintain your car?

 

Lost drive time on the car is just one way to look at the costs, though. Another additional potential cost is the repairs that you may incur if you do not get regular maintenance. Here’s what are standardly considered necessary elements of car maintenance that could become costly if they are avoided. Listed are the costs of routine maintenance for each item, along with the estimated expense of neglecting each task (according to 2014 figures from AutoMD.com featured in Bankrate).

 

(The number at the left is if the maintenance item is performed, while the number at the right is the effective cost if it is not performed.)

 

Routine oil changes – $120 (year of oil changes) vs. $4000 (engine replacement)

 

You keep your engine “healthy,” lubricated and clean, by changing its oil. This substance is critical because it helps remove some of the friction that causes engine breakdown. Oil should typically be changed every four months or 5000 miles.

 

Tire rotation – $50 (tire rotation once every 7500 miles) vs. $350-700 (tire replacement)

 

In order to get wear to distribute evenly across your tires, you want to switch out the front and rear tires. Similar to flipping the mattress on your bed, tires should generally be rotated once every 7500 miles.

 

Timing belt replacement – $600 (belt replacement) vs. $2500 (engine repair)

 

Putting in a new timing belt at the interval recommended by your car manual is important because if that part stops working, the engine will also fail and your car will decelerate until you’re at a stop. In that situation, you hopefully will get out only having to replace the belt. You may end up with expensive damage to your engine.

 

Brake inspection – $150-375 (pad or shoe replacement) vs. $300-600 (rotor or drum replacement)

 

You should expect your brake disc pads and shoes to deteriorate and require replacement. Getting a brake check once per year will help you fix the problem since it is obviously critical to your safety. If you do not get work performed routinely on your brakes, you could need a more expensive part replacement of a rotor or disc.

 

PCV valve replacement – $25 (replacement every 30,000 miles) vs. $100-1000 (engine seals or valve cover replacement)

 

The positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) system makes sure that the crankcase pressure remains within certain parameters. It also fights against accrual of sludge and stops leakage of engine oil through ventilation of blow-by gases.

 

Plug and filter replacement – $100+ (plug and filter replacement) vs. $335-700+ (upgrades to comply with emissions standards)

 

Car maintenance can give you confidence that you can consistently pass an emissions test. Maintenance of the engine involves cleaning and replacement of the filters and spark plugs.

 

Total cost – $1000 vs. $8000

 

Routine maintenance averages $1000 per year, while the alternative is spending 8 times that cost in eventual repairs. The total toll of this difference is $7000.

 

What is the impact of skipped car maintenance on accidents?

 

The tab is getting big, just taking into account the costs associated with lost car life ($17,540.88) and repairs that result from failure to perform maintenance (another $7000) totaling more than $24,000.

 

There are additional expenses, though. The final part of the true cost of failing to maintain your car is that, disturbingly, many accidents are caused by lack of maintenance. In fact, according to 2004 research from the Maryland-based Car Care Council, the total cost of all these accidents, combined, is $2 billion annually.

 

Of course, car accidents are not just about financial cost but the incredible lost quality of life to those who are injured on the road. In this way, regular car maintenance is actually both a safety issue for your own family and a civic concern.

 

A strong car maintenance relationship

 

Are you convinced that skipping car maintenance is not the best choice? To move forward confidently, you want to know that a mechanic will treat you fairly. At Independent Motors, we charge fair prices and pay our crew fair wages – because we want your business for the long haul. Meet our staff.

A Brief Guide to Preventive Car Maintenance

A Brief Guide to Preventive Car Maintenance

Car owners are hesitant to believe what they hear from mechanics in general, but once they form a relationship, they feel extremely trusting at that one-on-one level. To demonstrate that first point about consumers being wary of car repair facilities, a AAA poll released in December found that two-thirds of drivers in the US doubt the straightforwardness of auto mechanics, often because they have been subjected to excessive bills or coaxed into purchasing frivolous services. More positively, the same poll showed that nearly the same percentage of respondents, 64%, have chosen a specific mechanic that they do believe is honest.

 

It is good that so many people have found mechanics they trust. However, AAA’s managing director of automotive engineering and repair, John Nielsen, points out how sizable that unsure portion of drivers is: “One-third of US drivers — 75 million motorists in total — have yet to find a trusted repair facility,” he reports.

 

The above data matches up relatively well with findings from a previous Consumer Reports survey, published in 2011. The earlier poll actually revealed significantly stronger confidence, with only 17% answering that they were unsure if they would get work performed fairly at their current shop.

 

Regardless what else we can make of these numbers, it is certainly true that many people do not feel confident when mechanics make recommendations. That means that legitimate maintenance concerns can often go ignored, leading to faster deterioration of the car.

 

The fact is that you should not trust everything you hear from a mechanic that you have not properly vetted. It helps to know a bit about basic maintenance yourself so that you can have a better sense whether what the technician is suggesting is a typical, routine concern. Here is a mini-guide on preventive maintenance for your car:

 

How do you know what needs work? Let’s look at a poll from mechanics of the maintenance problems that are most common. Then we will go through a maintenance schedule, as well as some related advice, so that you have the information you need to handle simple maintenance tasks yourself if desired.

 

Survey reveals most common gaps in car maintenance

 

The nonprofit Car Care Council asked repair shops for the percentage of cars they serviced that had various service issues. The results reveal aspects of an automobile that often do not get sufficient attention:

 

  • 89% of cars needed some kind of fix or service.
  • 27% of vehicles had dirty or low windshield washer fluid.
  • 25% had contaminated or insufficient engine oil.
  • 18% were in need of a belt replacement.
  • 18% had air filters that needed to be cleaned or replaced.
  • 17% had low coolant.
  • 16% had windshield wipers that required replacement.
  • 13% had insufficient or dirty brake fluid.

 

The key point from those findings is really the top one – that the vast majority of cars go without maintenance or fixes that could prolong the life of this important investment.

 

Standard car maintenance schedule

 

How should you go about routine checks to maintain your car properly? Here is a relatively standard timeline to check if refills or replacements are needed – falling into basic intervals at which you want to assess each item and see if you need to make adjustments:

 

Often – The parts of your car that will need your attention most regularly are the tires (their condition and air pressure); exterior lights (turn signals, headlights, taillights, additional brake lights, etc.); levels of windshield washer fluid and engine oil; and dashboard warning lights. (These are just checks of course – your tires will typically last about 30,000 to 45,000 miles, for example.)

 

Every 30,000 miles or 3 months – At this point, beyond the above elements, check two other fluids – power steering and automatic transmission; the engine air filter and exhaust; belts and hoses; and battery and cables. (Typically, a battery will be able to last about five years, while your serpentine belt, timing belt, and hoses will usually need replacement every 60K to 120K miles depending on the year and model.)

 

Every 60,000 miles or 6 months – Once you hit this interval, you want to add two additional checks –  the chassis lubrication and condition of your wiper blades. (These blades can often go 12 months, depending on quality and impact of the weather.)

 

Every year – Finally, there are a few things that will only need checking once per year, generally. Those are the antifreeze and cabin air filter, as well as the steering, suspension, and wheel alignment.

 

Key tips to maintain your car

 

Here are a few important, central tips for maintenance related to the above tasks:

 

Conduct a periodic inspection. Related to the “often” category, the elements of the car that you want to check “often” should be reviewed about once per week. For safety, you want to make sure that the lights are functioning correctly. Checking your tire inflation level is simpler if you purchase a “good quality” tire air pressure gauge and store it in your glove compartment. Keeping your tires at the right pressure levels will help them last longer and improves fuel efficiency. When you assess pressure, also check your tread – using either the tire’s built-in wear indicator bars or a quarter. (To use a quarter, adjust it so that George Washington’s head is facing you but upside-down. Put the top of the head into the groove on the tire. Can you still see the top portion of his head? It is time to get your tires replaced.)

 

The second time will give you a correct oil reading. You want to know if your car is high or low on oil, because either one can be problematic for your engine – so checking oil should be a weekly or at least biweekly event. It’s simple and fast. First, you need to be parked somewhere that is relatively level to gauge the fluid correctly. Also, the car should be cool rather than fresh off the road. Find the dipstick, remove it, and wipe it off on a rag. Now reinsert the clean stick until it is all the way in its original position. Take it out a second time. You can now see the oil level correctly. Why is it necessary to take the stick out twice? Car Maintenance Bibles notes that “[t]he first time you pull the dipstick out, it will have oil all over it and it will be difficult to tell where the level is.” Once it is clean, though, you can get the correct reading.

 

Pay close attention to your serpentine and timing belts. Looking at the quarterly check, it is key to keep an eye on the belts. Your manual will give you numbers for how long the parts can be expected to last. Although that mileage for when a belt should typically be replaced will be helpful, you still want to watch them to see if they need to be switched out. You do not want to just let them fail. That would leave you on the side of the road. Plus, a belt that is not functioning well can lead to failure of other parts – sometimes creating costly repairs.

 

Do you need maintenance on your car, or do you want to form a relationship with a Boulder auto repair shop that is honest and community-minded? At Independent Motors, our master technicians and highly experienced staff are experts at what they do, giving us the confidence to earn your trust. See our beliefs.

What Are the Ethics of Car Repair?

The Ethics of Car Repair

The ethical relationship is about trust.

Trade and professional associations serve an important function within numerous industries. It’s a networking and business development space; but also a platform for accountability, continuing education, mentoring, and direct access to experts.

 

Any organization can be a context in which corruption becomes systematized, so these entities are imperfect. There is a lot of diversity among associations – ranging from ones that have more scientific or knowledge-seeking emphases (e.g., Botanical Society of America, American Sociological Association, American Psychological Association) to ones that are more specifically based on exchanging business practices and ideas (Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, Diving Equipment and Marketing Association, and Specialty Wine Retailers Association, etc.).

 

The best of these types of bodies make developing ethics and accountability central to their missions. A great example from the field of car repair is the American Service Association (ASA). Let’s go through some of the objectives or action items listed within the ASA’s Code of Ethics.

 

Related: Why Care About Your Customers?

 

To be clear, these ethical parameters are to some extent simply an expansion of, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”; and these bodies do not hold the trademark on polite, conscientious, professional, friendly, and forthright behavior. Our shop doesn’t even belong to this group, or the one mentioned in the below section (a technician certification program). However, it’s helpful as a framework to discuss what matters to us.

 

  • 15 action items from ASA’s Code of Ethics
  • 8 statements from the ASE-Certified Technician’s Code of Ethics
  • FAQ: Customer gains from an ethical auto mechanic
  • Your own ethical mechanic

 

15 action items from ASA’s Code of Ethics

 

Here are the ethical objectives – really vows or agreed on terms – presented by the ASA:

 

  1. To perform car repair at a reasonable price that is not inflated.
  2. To only get parts and other supplies from vendors with established credibility.
  3. To hire the most proficient mechanics available. (For an independent shop such as ours, that means a technician who can be trusted to make the right decision for repair of a broad range of brands – Audi, Ford, Honda, Jeep, Lexus, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen, etc.).
  4. To provide an invoice that labels all parts and labor transparently, indicating when the components are second-hand or refurbished. Any part that is taken out of the car should be made available for customer inspection as requested.
  5. To deliver services based on an ethos of responsibility to each individual relationship.
  6. To suggest changes that should be made and any maintenance that might be helpful – advising the customer, on the basis of their best interests, what represents a less urgent preventive step and what would resolve any current issues.
  7. To give a repair estimate to the customer. (We will add that the estimate should be an accurate gauge of the outcome you expect for the job.)
  8. To post or provide copies of all service and part warranties.
  9. To get full authorization from customers for any actions taken on the car.
  10. To make the customer aware as quickly as possible whenever there are delays and work cannot be performed within the timeframe initially established.
  11. To store all customer service paperwork for a minimum of 12 months.
  12. To be extremely conscientiousness and aware of the fact that the automobile is the property of the customer and should be handled with care.
  13. To establish a smooth process through which you justly resolve complaints made by those who entrust you with their business.
  14. To be accommodating with any consumer complaint entities that act as third-party advocates of any frustrated (and perhaps legitimately, though unintentionally, wronged) customers.
  15. To meet and exceed the most stringent auto repair industry standards and consumer expectations for business practices, perpetually reviewing and revising in order to remove all inappropriate, inept, or fraudulent activity.

 

8 statements from the ASE-Certified Technician’s Code of Ethics

 

Everyone can probably agree that the above guidelines suggest strong integrity from a car mechanic shop. However, beyond the level of the organization, it is interesting to discuss car mechanic ethics at the level of the individual technician. The National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence’s ASE-Certified Technician’s Code of Ethics focuses in that direction. Here are the 8 statements that are accepted and affirmed by those who sign the code:

 

  1. To proceed with excellence in all automotive service tasks.
  2. To continue to become increasingly educated on the field, staying abreast of innovations – and becoming more highly skilled and knowledgeable as you go.
  3. To limit any materials used to manufacturer-approved ones.
  4. To limit any suggestions made to customers, only advising repair and maintenance work that their car truly needs.
  5. To show the same care for the automobile as you would if it belonged to you.
  6. To try to rectify whatever accidental errors by another technician might occur in a manner that is not aimed at hurting their credibility.
  7. To abide by a core principle of service integrity – which entails striving for a win-win-win to meet the best interests of all parties: car owner, auto repair shop, and you as the individual mechanic or technician.

 

FAQ: Customer gains from an ethical auto mechanic

 

The above gives you a sense of the basic auto repair shop and technician ethics. Beyond just looking at the parameters, it helps to get a sense of why they are important for the customer. Here are answers to frequently asked questions on the topic:

 

  • Q: How do ethics impact car mechanic parts and labor?

 

A: Strong mechanics will either have signed a code of conduct or have a personal standard that they will perform repairs through proven methods and with components that have credibility through their production by a brand/firm that also embraces high standards. Consumers expect that when a repair or replacement of vehicle parts is conducted, the price will fairly reflect the amount of work performed without any price inflation.

 

Many car owners do not have the skills or environment in which to perform complex service tasks on their cars – and sometimes opt to save time and leverage professional care for simple maintenance activities that protect their automobiles. Anyone who has these needs should be able to confidently go to a mechanic, expecting an ethical framework that does not involve either swindling or price-gouging.

 

  • Q: What is an ethical approach to auto repair knowledge?

A: It is unethical to perform service on someone else’s property as a trusted professional when you have not been properly trained. It does not absolutely require a specific degree to become a car mechanic. However, you can get degrees on the topic, such as an associate’s degree in automotive service tech. You can alternately get other training or certificates that demonstrate your aptitude. Certification can be sought in niche areas, such as manual drive train or electrical systems.

 

Those who do not have these third-party credentials may have an extensive background instead. These credentials should not be understood as necessary for the car repair field of course; it is optional for a firm to establish credibility and officially demonstrate expertise in this manner.

 

  • Q: How does a mechanic approach customer service ethically?

 

A: You want to give reliable estimates; test-drive each car before and after service; and otherwise deliver impeccable and robust customer service. You need a system for systematically handling customer complaints. You must safeguard each car, taking every precaution to make sure it is not mistreated or damaged while in your care.

 

Your own ethical mechanic

 

Are you looking for ethically grounded, honest auto repair in Boulder? At Independent Motors, 90% of the work we do is repeat business. See our beliefs.