& Mars Talk Cars -
Your Car Questions from a Male & Female Perspective
& Mars, aka Jessica Levy and Roger Kwapich, are renaissance technicians who
answer regularly answer questions from male and female motorists for the Car Care
Dear Venus and Mars,
owner's manual suggests replacing my timing belt every 60,000 miles. My wife pointed
out that the car is running fine; there don't seem to be any problems. Why should
I pay for a new belt and pay for someone to install it if it's OK?
View from Venus
whole idea behind preventive maintenance is to avert major problems with your
vehicle. Following the maintenance schedule in your owner's manual is the "safest"
way to go. Both you and your wife should realize that over time and mileage, timing
belts tend to wear and stretch. When a belt breaks the damage to the engine can
be substantial. By replacing the belt before it gets too worn you can prevent
costly damage. If you have an extended warranty on your engine, not following
the suggested maintenance schedule may void the warranty.
that would be a fine mess; you choose to leave the old belt on the car to save
money. The belt breaks and destroys the engine to the point where it needs a new
one. The warranty is void because you didn't replace the belt per the schedule,
and you are stuck with a whopping bill. In this situation, you are probably better
off following the maintenance schedule. Here is another scenario: your owner's
manual suggests replacing all filters at a specific time. There aren't many miles
on your vehicle, so you wonder if these replacements are necessary. You may want
to have a trusted technician check over the car to see what it really needs. Filters
tend to last different lengths of time depending on driving patterns and the area
is another suggestion: some shops have an inspection that covers all major points
of your vehicle so you have a good feel for what needs to be done. This type of
inspection can give you a heads up on preventive maintenance items and repairs.
An example is the Car Care Council's Certified Inspection. Check them out on the
web at www.certifiedinspection.org.
View from Mars
like to compare preventive maintenance to the habit of filling your fuel tank.
You have 2 choices: 1) You put fuel in the tank while there is still fuel left
or 2) you run the engine until the tank is dry (wherever that may be) and then
you go searching for gas. Which scenario would you choose?
So the answer to your question is, change the belt before it breaks or in this
case, at 60,000 miles. People now pay an average of $24,000 for a new car, yet,
some motorists absolutely refuse to take good care of them. Until consumers come
to a point where they really trust their repair shops and technicians, they will
continue to have more automotive problems than are necessary. The best way for
you and your wife to protect your investment is to maintain it, inside and out,
from oil changes to filters, belts to hoses, car washes to interior scrubs. Taking
care of your car is the best way to make sure that your car will take care of
Venus & Mars, aka Jessica Levy and Roger Kwapich, are renaissance technicians who answer questions from male and female motorists for the Car Care Council.
Question of the Month:
Dear Venus and Mars:
As an auto shop instructor I tell my students one big reason for problems with customers is poor communications between the service advisor and the vehicle owner. Any ideas youd care to pass on?
The View From Venus
I applaud you for addressing this issue. As an ex-auto shop instructor, I know how important it is to understand a customers description of car symptoms.
Consider this for a class project; have your students create a questionnaire for use by owners before taking their vehicles in for diagnosis and repairs. I dont suggest a motorist become a diagnostician but at least provide some basic facts to help isolate an elusive problem more quickly. Everyone benefits.
The View From Mars
Bingo! You are absolutely correct. Lets take it one more step. There are generally no less than three people involved in repairing a vehicle: the customer, the service writer and the technician. If any of the three lose (or dont get) the facts, the likelihood of repairing the vehicle right the first time are stymied. So heres how to avoid that problem.
The vehicle owner must write a note with the symptoms. Dont try to commit these to memory in order to tell the service writer in person. Distractions can result in an incomplete and/or inaccurate repair order.
Heres a list of things that can happen when you take your car in for repair that hinder getting all the facts!
Youre having a bad hair day
Youre running late
Your ride is early and waiting
The service writer is buried with customers
The phone is ringing, breaking your conversation
You forget some important facts
The service writer is a poor typist and it seems hell never get it right
The kids are screaming for a soda
The serviced writer seems to be having a bad hair day
The customer rambles on about the trip he took and the sites, but fail to give the service writer any usable information (but we know the weather was great).
So the bottom line is this:
Set the appointment
Write out a list of services and problems
Ask the service writer if he/she understands by reviewing the list with you
Attach the list to the service order
This should help to get the vehicle fixed right the first time.
In line with Venus thoughts, this could be as much driver education as tech education. Motorists should become more aware of the circumstances under which intermittent symptoms occur, when and how they show up. Once I have basic vehicle information recorded, here are some of the questions I might want to ask an owner.
How long has it been since it was serviced?
What was done?
When and how did you first notice it?
Do you recall circumstances of weather, temperature, time of day? Does it happen when moving or when parked? Under load, at certain speeds? On smooth vs. rough roads?
How often does it occur?
Do you notice it in any particular gear?
When the engine is cold vs. warmed up?
Have you noticed noises, odors or leaks? Had to add fluids?
Do any warning lights turn on?
We recommend that a car owner should take detailed notes about an intermittent problem that he/she may not be able to demonstrate when in our shop. It can save time and money.
by the Car Care Council