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Why are dealerships so expensive? Are they ever worth it?

Q: Tom, when should I go to my car manufacturer’s dealership for repair? Is it ever worth the money?

A: The easy answer is if your car is under warranty, go to the dealership, if your warranty has expired, take it to a private shop. You should also take your vehicle to the dealership for any recalls and service bulletins.

In general you will pay much more for your repair at a dealership. You will get a mechanic trained to work specifically on your type of car, but unless you have a rare and complicated problem, a competent mechanic at a local garage will likely give you the same parts and service for up to 40% below what you would pay at a dealership. Some people feel that they need to take their cars to dealerships for factory maintenance. The requirements for factory maintenance are published online and can be performed by any auto repair shop.

I think the most important thing in auto repair is the customer-mechanic relationship. You are less likely to get to know the mechanics at a dealership, and they are less likely to get to know you and vehicle. On the other hand, a dealership represents a multi-million dollar corporation, so they go to great lengths to make sure their service is consistent and reliable. You need to do some research on a private shop before you take your car there because they could be way over-priced, unreliable, or just plain rude.

Alicia's Mitsubishi

Q: I have a 2001 mitsibushi galant es. when ever i hit 45 or 50 mph it jerks and sometimes when i park it just cuts off. what could be the problem??

A: Thanks for the submission Alicia. There are a few components that can cause a similar problem. One of them is a transmission issue, a part of the transmission called the torque converter is designed to “lock up” at highway speeds to help out with fuel economy. If the converter gets stuck locked on it can cause the car to stall when coming to a stop. The other main cause that comes to mind is a faulty EGR valve. This component is designed to reduce emissions when the engine is under a load, but if the EGR sticks in the open position at the wrong time it can cause a jerking condition, and or stalling concern. Is the check engine light on? If so this could narrow it down easily. The best bet in this situation is to have a technician drive the car and perform some basic diagnostic tests. Let me know what fixes it. Good Luck!

Battery/Starter Problem

Q: I own a 1990 Buick Century, 6cyl. I bought a new battery and 2 battery cables. When I attempted to connect the cables to the battery, the engine cranked-like it was trying to start- as if I turned the ignition key. What’s wrong? – RT

A: It sounds to me like you need to check your connections. If your cable from the battery to the starter is installed incorrectly then the starter could be powered whenever the battery is connected instead of just when the key is turned. I know that if one of the cables connecting to the starter is at all touching the other terminal on the starter it will cause this problem.

My axle boot is torn

Q: My right front outer CV axle boot is torn. The car rides fine right now. How long do you recommend I go before replacing the boot/axle?

A: The purpose of the boot on a CV axle is to retain the grease that lubricates the axle joint. When the boot tears the grease is thrown out of the joint while driving. The axle will not last long without the proper lubrication. There is no way to tell for sure how long it will last, however there is a way to tell when it absolutely must be replaced. If it starts making a clicking noise when turning it is on its last leg and needs to be replaced asap.

Service Area

Q: Tom, what areas are most of your customers from?

A: Most people try to find an auto repair shop within 15 miles of their house. That includes West Goshen Township, East Goshen Township, East Bradford Township, Exton, Downingtown, Malvern, West Chester University, Bradford, Marshall Square, including zip codes 19380, 19381, 19382, 19383, 19341, and 19335. I also have a lot of customers from the Havertown PA where I grew up and still live today. I find that people are willing to drive a little further to an auto repair shop when they find an auto mechanic that they trust.

Question from Larry

Q: I have 2003 Pontiac Vibe that makes a low, high pitched noise. It only happens when the car is warmed up, not when cold. If I shift from D to Neutral, it stops. Any ideas on what to check for?

A: If its only noisy in drive it could be transmission related. Does it make a difference if the car is moving or standing still? Does it make noise in reverse? Email me @ tom@tommysautomotive.com

Oil Changes

Q: How often should I change my oil?

A: You should change your oil at least every five months or 5,000 miles. I personally recommend every three months or 3,000 miles for typical city/local driving conditions in this area.

Problem Solved

Q: Tom, the Flux Capacitor in my delorean can’t modulate the 21 gigawatts of energy I need to transmogrify the time / space continuum. So far all attempts to locate a flux capacitor have proved fruitless, hence why I haven’t been able to time travel. They’ve got them in the future, but I can’t
get there to get one.

A: I dont know a great deal about flux capacitors as my machine does not use one. You could try getting in contact with Marty McFly, his delorean time machine is based on Flux capaitation and he maybe able to supply you with one.