You think a lot about our car’s engine, but how often do you think about what stops it?
Using the brake is second nature to any seasoned driver, but until you have to pull an emergency stop, it’s easy to overlook just how often your vehicle’s most important safety system is being engaged.
Like anything in your vehicle, brakes need maintenance. Brake pads thin over time, making them less effective. By keeping your brakes up to date can help you avoid costly repairs in the long run – not to mention collisions.
The good news is that even if you have never so much as looked under your car before, there are a few key indicators to let you know when it’s time to get your brakes looked at
1. Strange Noises
Turn that radio down! A high-pitched squeal or grinding noise is often the first sign your brake pads are in need of an adjustment or replacement.
Brake pads come equipped with a wear indicator – a metal plate designed to scratch the brake disc once the pads have worn down beyond a minimum thickness. Accompanying this is a tell-tale screeching sound designed to get the driver’s attention. (In some cases, it’s purposely designed to sound like nails on a chalkboard, so good luck ignoring it for very long.)
Hear grinding? Now things are a bit more serious – that’s the sound of metal on metal. When this happens, it means the brake pad’s fiction material has completely worn away, and the brake pad’s backing plate is now grinding directly on the rotor. Not only does this make stopping less effective (read: safe), but you will more than likely have to replace your rotors as well.
Keep an inexpensive job from becoming an expensive one. Get your brake pads replaced as soon as your hear a high pitched squeal. And if you hear grinding, pull over and make an appointment to bring your vehicle in immediately!
2. Brake Warning Lights
Keep an eye on your dashboard! There are any number of reasons a brake warning light can turn on – including worn brake pads, a burnt out brake light bulb, low brake fluid, or one of those embarrassing moments where you started driving with e-brake on.
While some brakes rely on a mechanical wear indicator (as mentioned above), certain brake pads come equipped with an electrical sensor that signal when a brake pad’s wear level has been exceeded. In this case, a designated Brake Pad Warning Light will appear on the dashboard.
3. Brake Pedal Resistance
Brake fluid plays an important role in the function and maintenance of your brakes. Each time the brake pedal is pressed, fluid transfers the force of your foot on the pedal to the brake pads. The more worn down the pads, the more fluid required to generate the necessary force to stop or slow-down.
Likewise, low brake fluid will impact the ability of your brakes to respond to inputs on the pedal. It’s important to get your brake fluid levels checked regularly!
If you’re brake pedal is hitting the floor every time you stop, it may signal worn brake pads or an issue with the hydraulic system – such as air in the brake line, or a brake fluid leak. In this case, it’s best to bring your vehicle to a professional.
If your steering wheel or brake pedal vibrates while braking, your brake rotors may be the source. Warped rotors reduce the efficiency of brake pads, wearing them down faster. If you have noticed strange tremors while driving, it’s a good idea to make an appointment to get your brakes examined.
Occasionally, vibrating can be a sign of misaligned wheels, which can lead to serious (and expensive) problems down the road. Fortunately, Searles is currently running a Spring & Summer Maintenance Promotion that includes a tire rotation and comprehensive multi-point visual inspection.
Does it feels like a ghost is taking the wheel every time you hit the brakes? When a vehicle veers to one side while stopping there’s a good chance something is wrong with the brake system. Pulling can happen for a number of reasons, including stuck brake calipers, a collapsed brake hose or uneven brake pads.
It should be noted that pulling can also come as a result of worn tires, poor alignment or a problem in the vehicles suspension.
Whatever the reason, if you notice your car pulling, be sure to take your vehicle to a repair shop immediately.
At Searle’s Auto Repair, your safety is our goal. You can rest assured that all brake repairs and services will be performed by highly trained professionals who use only quality parts. All of our work is backed by our Peace of Mind Warranty.
Give us a call at 1-250-475-2000 or schedule an appointment online.
DIY (do it yourself) has always been a popular mindset when it comes to the automotive industry, and for good reason. Paying a professional for car repairs can be awfully expensive. Opting to do your own vehicle repairs is tempting because it saves you money, gives you a feeling of satisfaction, and gives you the rewarding feeling of independence.
We at Searles always encourage people to take an active interest in how their vehicles operate and to tinker with their vehicles as much as possible without endangering themselves in the process, without voiding their warranties, and without causing problems (i.e., accidents!) for other drivers down the road.
There are many things the average car owner can do to take care of on their own car or truck, beyond just taking it into the shop for regular maintenance. Things like washing, waxing, vacuuming, and protecting their interior is a good start (ha!). For the more adventurous types, things like swapping out headlights, replacing dead batteries, switching out worn out wiper blades, and repairing chipped paint are rewarding steps to take as well.
Still, the more hands-on, tinkering types are also keenly interested in doing their own oil changes, changing their own air and fuel filters, and rotating their tires—provided they have the right equipment, or know someone who does. In addition, out of necessity, many drivers don’t flinch at the thought of changing their own flat ties. (See 10 Steps to Change a Flat Tire )
All this DIY is done to save money, learn more about your vehicle as time goes on, and gain a better understanding of cars in general. We applaud you if you’re partaking in any of these tasks in your garage!
DIY automotive repair has never been easier, in theory, because of today’s wide range of easily accessible and affordable car parts, as well as all the helpful instructions out there on blogs (current blog is a fine example 😉 and instructional online videos. Of course, car manuals are still of considerable use as well (and their guidelines should always be followed!).
However, while there are many things a car owner can pull off on their own, there are many larger projects that are a lot more involved and require skilled, certified mechanics who have right tools, know-how, and safety equipment to get the job done. Calling in the pros mean also means you’ll get insured work.
The following are, in our opinion, the top five types of car and truck repairs that require the help from a professional auto mechanic.
Transmission Repair and Maintenance
Transmissions are tricky beasts. If your friend tells you his transmission is acting up, the story is usually met with sympathy. Regular transmission maintenance will cut down on future mechanical repairs and also allow you to drive as safely and economically as possible, but sometimes, things need outright replacing.
Take a new clutch, for instance. A clutch is a wearable part that will need to be repaired and replaced during the lifespan of your car or truck. Located deep within your car’s hood, replacing a worn-out clutch is a time-consuming job that requires many steps and a few test drives to ensure everything is working properly once the vehicle is put back together.
Mufflers / Exhaust System
A muffler is only one piece, albeit the biggest, of a car’s exhaust puzzle, so when a driver suspects there is a problem with their car’s exhaust system, their first thought is to assume muffler replacement. This is where DIY can go wrong; oftentimes the muffler can be repaired or sealed. In other times, it’s another part like the exhaust manifolds, exhaust studs, exhaust headers, exhaust pipes, catalytic converters, or oxygen sensors that are creating the problem.
In this case, a DIY fix can be more expensive than taking the car to a auto mechanic would have been. Another reason to avoid DIY exhaust system repair on your vehicle is how tough the area is to access without the right tools. You could hurt yourself if you’re not careful and don’t quite know what you’re looking at.
Fortunately, until August 1, 2017, Searles is running some special promotions on exhaust repairs. For example, if you purchase both a qualifying muffler or welded assembly, AND a qualifying catalytic converter, you get an $80 MasterCard Card by mail.
A vehicle’s brake system will require a lot of TLC throughout the vehicle’s life. Things like brake master cylinders, brake pads, brake rotors, brake calipers, wheel cylinders, brake shoes, brake drums, emergency brakes, and brake lines are wearable parts that fortunately don’t take too much time to replace, or cost too much.
The trick to brakes is more than just not installing parts the right way, but in repairing the brakes on each wheel at the right times so the car brakes evenly and safely every time. Due to the low cost of a brake job, and the cheap parts, having a professional auto mechanic handle your next brake job is recommended. It’s worth the peace of mind and the time you’ll save.
A car’s suspension system is made up of many small working parts such as ball joints, kingpins, control arms, radius arms, sway bars, sway bar bushings, sway bar links, shocks, struts, lift kits, lowering kits, coil springs, and leaf springs. Where to begin? Fortunately, a suspension system doesn’t need as much attention as other parts of a vehicle, but the odd time there will be something that needs to be replaced or finetuned. A vehicle’s suspension system can be intricately designed and there’s not as much literature out there on how to do this type of repair on your own. Also, you’d need access to a hoist to pull off this type of job.
Thinking you’re in need of some new struts? Until August 1, 2017, take advantage of this exclusive offer from Searles: Purchase two qualifying NAPA Quick-Strut Replacement Assemblies and get a $75 MasterCard Card by mail.
Heating & Cooling Systems
There’s a lot going on inside your vehicle that regulates the temperature of the running parts. Things like radiators, water pumps, hoses, heater cores, thermostats, radiator fan clutches, electric radiator fans, block heaters, frost plugs, blower fan motors, heater boxes, and heater controls, are all parts that are best left to a professional to find, source, diagnose, and repair. The reason these systems top the list of repairs NOT to try on your own is because of the difficulty in accessing some of these parts.
In fact, many advanced car repairs require the pieces under the hood to be dismantled. The dismantling part is easy, but it’s the putting back together part that can prove to be the hard part.
Additional Vehicle Problems that Require a Mechanic
The above vehicle repairs are all auto issues that you absolutely need to bring the car into an auto mechanic for. However, there are many more that deserve an honourable mention:
- Engine trouble: timing belts
- Fluid leakage and fluid flushes
- Severe auto body damage
- Windshield repair and replacement
- Electrical problems that effect things like power windows and power locks
- Ignition troubles
- Power steering problems
- Air-conditioning systems
- Back-up camera and other computer/sensory malfunctions
Book a Peace of Mind Spring Vehicle Inspection
If you hear or smell something suspicious coming from your vehicle, or if some things have just flat out stopped working and you aren’t sure you want to try and tackle it on your own, bring your vehicle to us at Searles Auto Repair in Victoria, BC. The Searles Spring Maintenance Package is an affordable way to have your car inspected from bumper to bumper.
Give us a call at 1-250-475-2000 or schedule an appointment online.
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The team of auto mechanics at Searles sees a lot of cars come in with N’s on their bumpers, so we figured it was time to write a post geared towards new drivers.
The reason a lot of new drivers keep their N for longer than they are required to is sometimes financial, sometimes not having the time, but in a lot of cases it’s due to nerves about having to take another road test. The key is to relax enough so you don’t end up making these top seven mistakes that are commonly made on driver’s licensing tests across British Columbia.
- Not Being Prepared
Feeling prepared for any sort of test is usually the first key to success. ICBC lists common things you can do to prepare for your road test appointment, including what to bring. To complete a road test you need to bring with you: an acceptable form of ID, the fee for your road test, valid insurance and registration documents, and a safe vehicle.
So, what does ICBC mean by “safe vehicle”? There are many things the road test personnel will be looking for before your road test begins, and it is your job to make sure your vehicle is in road-ready condition by checking to see that:
- The windshield and windows are clean and aren’t cracked or illegally tinted.
- There are no random dash warning lights indicating any problems.
- Seatbelts are in good working order and not frayed.
- Brake lights, signal lights, and headlights are working and not badly cracked.
- Vehicle is properly insured.
- There are no unsafe or illegal vehicle modifications that have been done.
- The horn is working.
- Tires are in good shape, properly inflated, and the right type for the season.
- Your car is clean inside and nothing is blocking your views or otherwise rolling around and distracting you.
In addition, make sure you have enough gas in the tank! If you’re in doubt about any of the points above, book an appointment with an auto mechanic who can inspect your vehicle first and make any necessary repairs for you before your test.
- Rolling Stops
It should come as no surprise that one of the most common mistakes people make on their BC road test is not coming to a complete stop at stop signs. Over time, drivers tend to develop the habit of not stopping completely at a stop sign, and just scanning the intersection and rolling through. The same is true for making right-hand turns at traffic lights. In both cases, you must come to a full stop, behind the line.
You should be able to feel it in your body that the vehicle has completely stopped for a second. However, you also need to avoid braking too hard, because hard braking is only acceptable in emergency situations. In all other situations, use the minimal amount of brakes to get the job done. This is where being familiar with the vehicle you are completing your test in will be of great benefit.
- Bad Lane Changes
Lane changes make many new drivers anxious. It takes practice out there, as well as following the checklist: look in your rear-view mirror, signal your intention to change lanes, check each of your mirrors again, shoulder check for blind spots, and maintain your speed as you change lanes.
So, where do people go wrong on this one? Road markings! You can only change lanes if the road markings allow you to do so. Don’t cross a solid white line or a solid double yellow lines. Review the rules in your manual.
Another area where people go wrong during lane changes is changing while passing through an intersection. Whether you are going straight or making a turn, stay in your marked lane so as not to wildly confuse other drivers.
- Distracted Driving
It’s common-sense to not have your cell phone in sight during your road test, but we needed to put this on our list anyway. Make sure the volume of your phone is off and that your stereo is also turned off. You want to be relaxed, but not too relaxed. Keep both hands on the wheel at all times and when turning, use the “hand over hand” method. Did we mention you should try and stay calm?
Another thing you can do to show you are not distracted and therefore are highly focussed at the task at hand is to should check your mirrors often. In fact, check them more often than you normally would while driving. Check rear-view and side mirrors so that you always know where other vehicles are in relation to you. The constant checks show your focus and help you react faster to dangers and make smoother land changes and turns. Don’t be afraid to over exaggerate the checking of your mirrors.
- Flustered at Four-Way Stops
Four-way stops are always an issue for drivers, no matter how many years of experience they have behind the wheel. The rule is, when you come to an intersection with four stop signs, be confident you know what to do if there are other cars waiting.
Also, make eye contact with the other drivers if you can, or watch their wheels for clues. Just because you know when it’s YOUR turn, doesn’t mean the other people at the intersection know and follow the same rules. Some people will go for it, so even if it’s your turn, only go when it’s clear. The rule is that if two cars arrive at an intersection at the same time, the car to the right goes first. Be mindful of pedestrians and always signal!
- Driving Too Slow or Fast
During your BC road test, it is important to appear confident. This means driving considerably below the speed limit is a no go. It can cause unsafe conditions and enrage other people around you. Likewise, there are times when it is better if you drive under the speed limit.
For example, if there is rain, fog, an accident, traffic congestion, a SCHOOL ZONE, or a construction zone, slow down and give people plenty of room. When maintaining a consistent speed on the road, also be sure to stay several car lengths behind the vehicles in front of you. No one likes a tailgater.
- Bombing During Parallel Parking
Along with four-way stops and lane changes, parallel parking is another aspect of driving that makes people nervous. Fortunately, driver inspectors know this, so it is not a deal breaker if your parallel park job is not perfect.
If you are asked to do this on your test, the main thing to avoid is running over the curb or hitting other cars. A gentle bump of the curb is OK, but forcefully running it over is not. Again, always signal your intentions, and take your time and make as many adjustments as you need.
Whether you’re a new driver or have been behind the wheel for decades, optimizing your experience on the roads is what we do best here at Searles, which is why we were voted Best Automotive Service (Independent) in 2016 by readers of the Victoria News.
Give us a call at 250-475-2000 or book an appointment online for your next inspection or service. Spring is in the air, and so why not give your car a little spring cleaning as well? We do detailing!
When you first got your driver’s license, your mom and dad probably warned you that driving is expensive. It’s a huge cost that many teens incur before they have even moved out of the house.
Before the reality of learning how to cook for themselves and doing their own laundry kicks in, the cost of owning a vehicle usually hits teenagers right in the bank account before they are even done high school.
Whether it meant paying back our parents for gas money, or saving up cash from our part-time jobs in order to buy a clunker, cars became expensive as soon as we learned how to drive them. Most of us justify the costs because the convenience of owning our own cars is simply unbeatable in many places, Victoria being one of them.
Flash forward to a couple of decades later and vehicle costs really start to add up! Here is a closer look at the true cost of owning a vehicle these days, and a few suggestions on where you can save $$$:
If you don’t have enough money to buy a car or truck outright upfront, you’ll be faced with having to finance or lease a vehicle, the cost of which can get insane if you’re not buying something within your budget.
Whether you are leasing or financing, monthly car payments can climb as high as $800 and beyond for something really fancy. However, with so many dealerships offering incentives, it’s likely you’re paying less than that per month, let’s say somewhere in the ballpark of $400.
Average Annual Spend: $3,600 ($400 per month)
Ways to Save:
- Go to the bank and see if you can qualify for a personal line of credit, and then look for a good deal on a private sale. Don’t forget to read our post How to Spot a Lemon at the Used Car Lot
- Never overspend, even if the salesperson tries to offer you the world.
- Look for 0% financing offers on new models, but read the fine print carefully.
- Keep saving up instead of having to borrow money from the bank.
- Try and buy a car or truck with a higher resale value.
Basic Auto Insurance
British Columbians pay a lot for auto Insurance, and premiums across Canada are on the rise as roads become more crowded and driver’s become increasingly distracted. While ICBC may provide annual safe driver’s discounts, for many of us the savings are being offset every year by rising insurance costs.
Average Annual Spend: $1,717 ($143 per month)
Source: Insurance Business
Ways to Save:
- Shop around. Aside from basic auto insurance, there are private insurance companies that offer all the extras like collision and comprehensive coverage for cheaper rates than ICBC offers.
Gasoline is another expense that will likely set you back about as much as insurance, especially on Vancouver Island where the rates are known to climb quite often. Whether you have a diesel engine or just pump regular gas every time, you’re looking at spending around $150 a month on gasoline, give or take a commute or two.
Average Annual Spend: $1,942 ($162 per month)
License Plates & Registration
These aren’t considered monthly fees but they should be rolled into the overall cost of car ownership just the same. In BC, you’re required to have a front and a rear license plate; the set costs $18. After that, the registration fee is simply the cost of basic insurance.
You can buy new plates as often as you want, and if you’re willing to pay extra for fancier plates, that’s always an option, too.
Regular vehicle maintenance costs might feel like they add up fast, but maintaining your vehicle regularly helps you save money in the long run. After all, a few oil changes a year is nothing compared to having to replace an entire engine long before it dies of old age.
It’s not everyone’s favourite thing to spend money on, but things like brake checks, fluid flushes, battery replacements, air filter replacements, oil changes, timing belts, and tire rotations are a reality vehicle owners must face.
The recommended number of oil changes you should get for your car or truck is four (one per season), depending on how much you drive.
If you had your oil changed and always bundled it with other services, you can expect to pay between $300 and $1,500 a year on vehicle maintenance. Keep in mind this is for cars that are younger than 5-10 years old.
Average Annual Spend: $300-$1,500
Ways to Save:
- The cost of seasonal vehicle maintenance can be brought down if you bundle the services as often as possible. Most mechanics offer seasonal maintenance packages that ease the financial burden of routine maintenance. There is still time to book a Searles Seasonal Winter Service Special. (Offer expires February 28, 2017)
Emergency Repairs and Big Ticket Items
Emergency car repairs are a bit tougher to budget for. Emergency vehicle repairs includes things like paying for insurance deductibles (upwards of $500) and other major parts that need replacing, such as your clutch, radiator, fuel pump, or tires.
Since these types of major repairs are hopefully not going to come up every year (fingers-crossed!), why not put aside a couple hundred dollars here and there to save up for your next roadside emergency?
Ways to Save:
- Always have major repair work done by a reputable automotive mechanic that you trust. Make sure their work is all done under warranty
Driver’s Licensing Fees
In BC, all drivers are required to renew their driver’s licenses every five years at a current cost of $75. Often cited as a cash grab, the licensing renewal process allows the provincial government to have your current photo ID on file and issue a card with all of the latest security features – it doesn’t require you to take the test again once you have a full license.
While this fee isn’t necessary adding up to your car ownership, it IS what allows you to drive it, so we added it on this list just for the heck of it.
Driving Car Costs Calculator
Every driver is unique, so based on these averages alone, it’s hard to know where you stand. In this case, the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) Driving Costs Calculator is a handy tool if you’re curious about your actual costs.
The calculator provides two options you can use to better understand the complete cost of operating a vehicle. The first option allows you to check how much money it takes on average to drive a certain type of vehicle. The second option digs even deeper and shows you the approximate costs for a specific make and model.
What Does It All Add Up to?
It’s a lot of math here, so we’ll just end things by pointing out that the CAA and Globe Drive have compiled their research and have determined that the average annual cost of car ownership is $10,456.
These findings are based on running a 2013 Toyota Camry 18,000 km a year, with the cost of gas at $1.23/litre. In this example, the CAA has included a few things we didn’t cover here, such as vehicle depreciation and financing fees, which don’t affect every driver.
Choose an Auto Mechanic That Gives Back
If all of this all sounds a little overwhelming, there are ways you can reduce the costs of car ownership. For example, Victoria has a car-sharing program, or why not try carpooling with a co-worker a couple of times a week? Other ways to save include walking more, biking more, taking the bus, and switching to a fuel-efficient vehicle.
But, if you find yourself having to pay full pull for your car or truck every year, one of the ways to feel a bit better about the amount it costs to get your car serviced is to choose a locally owned family business to take care of all of your automotive needs.
At Searles Auto Repair, we like to stay connected to our community which is why we support a broad range of community initiatives through donations, sponsorships, and employee volunteer activities.
If you have any questions or concerns about your car’s maintenance and service requirements, come see us at Searles Auto Repair in Victoria, BC.
Our friendly experts are always here to help! You can also give us a call at 1-250-475-2000 or schedule an appointment online to get your car ready for spring.
Happy New Year, everyone! Now that the holidays are officially a wrap, it’s time to get back to the daily grind, and for some of you, the daily commute. If one of your resolutions for 2017 was to stay on top of your vehicle’s maintenance schedule a little bit better, this post ought to help out with that.
Whether you drive a used car or a new car, it will wear down as time passes.
If your car is suddenly making a new noise, it’s probably trying to tell you something. Don’t ignore this new noise as it could end up costing you more in the long run. Instead, listen carefully to it, what exactly does this noise sound like?
Here one day, gone the next. That is almost every Vancouver Islander’s attitude when it comes to snow and ice on the roads. It’s no wonder why drivers all blame each other for “not knowing how to drive in this crap.” Unfortunately, the City of Victoria also gets needlessly blamed for not responding fast enough…
If you’re anything like the team here at Searles Auto Repair, you tend to deny winter is coming and delay pulling out the winter boots for as long as possible. “It’s still not dipping below zero out there! I’m good,” you might catch yourself saying some mornings.
Now that we are well into Fall, Thanksgiving 2016 is all but a distant memory and Halloween has now arrived. While these dates on the calendar give us plenty of reasons to celebrate the onslaught of fall, they also make it all too easy for us to avoid the looming task of switching to our winter tires before the weather truly turns nasty.
Let’s face it, the majority of teenage drivers on the road aren’t driving anything too fancy. Their first rides are usually something a little older, whether that’s their parents’ thoughtful hand-me down vehicle, or their older sibling’s beat-up old ride.