On Time Oil Change – A Must! | Grease Monkey

LWMMarchApril2015small_Page_33When you operate a quick lube you have a unique opportunity to see how people are treating their vehicles.I have noticed a large percentage of automobile owners are going way beyond the standard oil change intervals for their vehicle. The gold standard of three months or 3,000 miles is going
away since many vehicles require longer standard intervals.

I still routinely see vehicles coming in that are 2,000 or more miles overdue for service. While this may not seem like a terrible thing to the average driver, it is absolutely devastating to a car and the ultimate consequence in engine failure. A five-year old car that is 8,000 miles beyond a recommended oil change is dead at 90,000 miles.

The there are other consequences that drivers will have to pay for because they are tardy on oil changes, like engine oil leaks. All engines have about a dozen rubber seals between the engine block and other components. If oil levels get low or the acidity level of the oil gets high due to lack of servicing, the seals dry out get brittle and start to crack. When the seal cracks the vehicle starts to leak.

One side of me is not really complaining:repairs can run from $130 to $1,500 depending on the location of the leak and type of vehicle. Another side of me is dying. According to EPA estimates, 193 million gallons of petroleum products leak from vehicles every year. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill was considered one of the worst environmental disasters at an estimated 220 million gallons.

Here a few things to keep in mind when having your oil changed:
• Low quality products produce low quality results. There isn’t a quality oil and filter combination that can be put on any car for $19.99.
• The jury is still out on extended oil change intervals. It will take about 10 years to get sense of the impacts on vehicle longevity and performance.
• There is no recipe for guaranteed results other than following the manufacturer’s recommendations.

There is more to a “quick lube” than an oil change. If I look at a car today and see that there are about 5,000 miles left on the brakes I will advise you to have us recheck brakes at your next oil service.

More often than not, I see that car 7,000 miles later and the brakes are metal to metal and it needs an oil change. Trained mechanics will see this while doing a routine oil change that can avoid breakdowns and more costly future repairs. Consider an oil change similar to routine physical at the doctor.

By: The Car Guy, Matt O’Donnell
Grease Monkey
HT Auto Care

Women’s Car Maintenance | HT Auto Care| Grease Monkey

LWMJanFeb2015-smallfinal_Page_35Every woman should know a little something about her car BEFORE dropping it off. In the event you know nothing about your car, here’s a quick lesson from the Car Guy.

Every car is different. No two cars are identical. Even if it comes from the same dealer and its make and model are exactly the same the cars are not identical. Each has its own nuances.

READ and Review the Manual. YES… Everything you need to know is written in the manual. Of course I am not suggesting that you read it from cover to cover BUT, taking a look to see what is in there is a great way to learn about your car. Be certain that you are using a manual that is specific to YOUR car and not a manual for another year or model.

Check the fluids – regularly – oil is NOT the only fluid you need to be concerned with.

Check the list below frequently:

  • Anti Freeze: Colored fluid usually green) found in your radiator.
  • Transmission: The mechanical gear system in your car.
  • Brake Fluid: A type of fluid used in your car.
  • Steering Fluid: It transmits the power in the power steering in your car.
  • Washer Fluid: It cleans your windshield.

Stay calm in the event of an emergency: learning a little something about your car in advance will help you ride cautiously (no pun intended).

Finally, when your car is serviced (routine or emergency) ask questions – lots of them. The more you know, the better you will feel especially when you dropping your car off to the Car Guy.

By The Car Guy Matt O’Donnell
Honest Tom’s Auto Care

$19.99 Oil Change, Really? – Grease Monkey and Honest Tom

ht auto sterlingRecently I was asked to speak in front of a group of local business people. I asked them what topic was most important to them, the overwhelming sentiment, how to not get ripped off. 

Most experts would speak to the virtues of finding a shop you can trust, doing research, online reviews, etc.

No one is addressing the real question. Why is automotive repair so expensive? There is a simple answer, the cost of a $20 oil change. I call it socialized oil changes.

I presented them with a simple choice. Which has better value a $39 oil change with a $5 off coupon or a $20 oil change coupon? Every one picked the $20 coupon and the more expensive one was a rip off.

Let’s look a little deeper into this and find out how wrong they are!

1. Oil & filters are not free to shops they cost money
2. Employees need to get paid.
3. Advertising is expensive.
4. Landlords/mortgages need to get paid

Let’s say the oil & filter only costs a shop $12. A $20.00 model leaves $8 profit. At a 1000 cars a month that would leave $8,000 to pay the last three items, it might cover one! $40 for an oil change would make $28,000 covering expenses. That’s $240,000 a year that needs to be made up.

The $20 model makes the consumer a sales lead which NEEDS to be converted into a bigger sale. Covering not only the initial loss and covering all the expenses of all the leads that did not convert to a bigger sale. A lead that can be analyzed charted and graphed, essentially a math problem. Eventually, based on certain parameters, adjusted for by elevating labor rates and parts profit. On the 1000 car a month model, a 20% across the board increase to cover the loss.

That’s right, that $20 you just saved, likely added 20% to your repair bill!

“But they give me a discount on the bigger work!”

Don’t worry that’s accounted for as well.

All vehicles will need to be maintained or repaired at some point.

When that happens every $20 loss comes crashing back on the consumer. The consumer now pays for every person that fixes their own car, never does maintenance, or has “a friend” fix their car! Socialized oil changes!

The $20 model is everywhere, there is no escaping it, and shops have adjusted how they do business to compensate. Asking for a $40 oil change at a place that does $20 oil changes won’t save you. It’s too late.

A shop with $35 oil changes may or may not be honest. But at least they are not overcoming such a huge statistical loss.

My advice, treat a $20.00 oil change like an adjustable rate mortgage, be prepared for a huge balloon payment!

BTW, I don’t do $20 oil changes.

By Matt O’Donnell, Co-owner of HT Auto Care in Sterling, VA

Spring Car Maintenance Madness Rules – HT Auto Care

ht autoAs we head into Spring of 2014, the impending warmer days are welcomed as well as the feeling of rushing around! Before you know it, March Madness is upon us and life is in full swing.

Today it takes talent, planning and a measure of luck to balance home, career and life. An essential element in keeping that juggling act going is having reliable transportation. Losing a car for even half a day would be disastrous for many people. It is never a good time to discover a problem with you vehicle. However with a little planning, it is possible to prevent some common problems.

If you think your vehicle has a problem, trust your instincts. Have a professional check it out. Ignoring problems in life does not make them go away and the same is true for your vehicle.

A few good rules to follow:

  • Red warning lights mean pull over.
  • Yellow warning lights mean get the car checked out as soon as possible.

Engine overheating is the number one cause of engine failure; any overheating is bad and should be checked before it gets worse. If the temperature gauge goes all the way to the top pull over and get it towed. If your car starts smoking for some reason never open the hood, wait until it stops smoking and never take a radiator cap off a hot vehicle. The cap is under pressure and could burst hot coolant fluid on you if opened while it’s hot.

What do you do when your vehicle won’t start?

The most common reason is a dead battery. Car batteries are not too dissimilar to cell phone batteries. Phone batteries weaken over time and the length of charge lessens as time goes on. The average life of a car battery is 3 ½ to 5 years. Once your vehicle is about 4 years old have a shop test the battery. Ironically, a new battery is just about as expensive as a tow!

Check your vehicle’s oil level. Every owner’s manual states to check the oil level every time gas up. Most people don’t do that nor have the time to check it that often. The message here is to check from time to time, especially for older vehicles. What you need to look at is the proper level of oil on the indicator on the oil stick and if the oil.

The second leading cause of engine failure is lack of oil. With newer vehicles that have extended oil drain intervals (anything over 3000 miles) checking is more important than ever. I can’t tell you how many newer cars have come into the shop with the low oil pressure warning indicator on way before the oil change was due.

If your vehicle has any oil leaks they need to be addressed. Not only for the longevity of your engine but for the longevity of the planet. Check you tire pressure once a month as directed by the owner’s manual.

The changing weather, especially cold weather, affects tire pressure. Improper pressure will shorten the life of your tires, lessen fuel mileage and lessen the comfort of your drive! Inflate tires to the pressure listed on the door jamb of your vehicle. Not the maximum pressure number found on the tire.

Only use “liquid flat tire repair in a can” products when you are in a desperate situation. If you have to drive on a flat tire, it is likely that rim will damage the tire beyond repair and will need to be replaced. Take care if attempting to change a tire on the side of the road. Pedestrians have been struck, be careful.

To save time and money we recommend:

  • Keep a set of jumper cables, a tire pressure gauge and your owner’s man- ual in your vehicle.
  • Know how to change a flat tire.
  • Check your oil regularly and keep a spare quart in your vehicle.

If you would like to know how to properly jump start a car, check air pres- sure or check your vehicles oil level, stop by one of the shops. Valuable lessons await you.

Safe driving!

– Matt O’Donnell, Co-Owner HT Auto Care and Grease Monkey, Sterling, VA

Be My Value, Let Me Count the Ways – HT Auto Care

ht auto sterlingWhat is a fair price? The true answer is, “Whatever you feel a fair price is!” Regardless of amount if you feel you are getting value from the service, then it is a fair price for you. If you don’t know where to begin with a fair price the next logical step is to investigate what others are paying for a similar service or item.

Most savvy consumers will pick up the phone and start calling around for estimates. The only problem with that is that it is like price shopping restaurants. You may end up trying to compare a 5 star restaurant to a fast food place. Even worse you may get 5 star prices on what really is fast food.

I have a favorite burger spot; I’ve been eating there since there were only three locations before they turned into a nationwide chain. I love ‘em, it’s a great burger spot, they use fresh ingredients and it tastes awesome! I have never seen anyone in line start screaming they were getting ripped off because they could get a burger off the dollar menu down the street.

We all know there is a difference in the two burgers but we are willing to pay more because we know how the better one tastes and we also know that the dollar menu is priced to still make a profit for the quality food served.

Unfortunately this is a more accurate comparison to automotive repair than we would like to think. For a typical vehicle there are almost as many choices for brake pads and oil filters as there are hamburgers places. Oil filters and brakes do have their dollar value equivalent. Since your vehicle can’t tell you what it tastes like, how are you, the consumer, to know? It makes an apples to apples comparison very difficult.

What Should You Do?

Get estimates! If you want to know what the going price is to repair brakes on your car, you should investigate by calling around and asking the auto service center:

• What is your labor rate?
• Do you offer both Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and aftermarket parts?
• Can you give me a ball park over the phone to make this repair?

Keep in mind that a vehicle in fair or poor condition could cost more to perform a repair due to excessive wear or neglect from surrounding parts. Also keep in mind that the person you are speaking to on the phone has not seen your vehicle. If you call in asking to get a price on brake pad replacement and it turns out the repair really should be to have the rotors replaced, the estimate has now changed. The best way to offer a good estimate is to have a mechanic inspect the vehicle.

Expensive labor rate does not correlate with expertise. The same goes for very low labor rates and the level of service you will receive. Cheap parts can also mean shorter life span of their performance. Here are some questions you need to ask yourself: Are you on a budget? Do you plan to keep the vehicle for a long time? Are you selling soon? Tell your auto service manager what your plans are for the vehicle are and build your budget together based on that information you have given!

In an industry filled with many slips and slides always buyer beware . There are many good shops out there that are honest and provide great value, however there are just as many that are not. No shop should be exempt from scrutiny, independent, national chain or dealership. Nothing is the same between any two shops regardless of their affiliation.


• Compare prices.
• Ask questions about the quality of parts used.
• Ask yourself… with all of this information at hand…

The answer is up to you and we are the experts here to help, with a smile and fair price – always. Safe driving!

Matt O’Donnell
Co-owner of both HT Auto Care and the Grease Monkey in Sterling, VA

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