Low Beams vs High Beams: When to Use Your Headlights

guide to headlights canada

Your vehicle’s headlights let you see and be seen.  But making sure your lights are on and working is only half the battle. Weather, location, brightness and time of day all have an effect on safety and visibility, and how you use your lights will greatly affect how effective they function.

In Canada, headlights come with three settings – daytime, low beam and high beam. Each mode offers its own set of pros and cons depending on environmental conditions, so knowing when to switch between them can help make your car ride safer. Read More

8 Simple Tips for Looking After Your Vehicle this Winter

Winterizing your car

Winter’s just around the corner here in Victoria, and while the west (wet?) coast may escape a traditional Canadian winter, BC drivers aren’t exempt from the hazards of cold weather. Whether it’s a struggling engine or a surprise ice patch, dropping temperatures mean extra challenges for car owners everywhere.

Fortunately some simple care can go a long way in keeping your vehicle running smoothly this winter. Here are some of our favourite cold weather maintenance tips for cars! Read More

How to Talk to Your Elderly Parents About Driving

One of the most difficult conversations we can have with our elderly parents is about driving.  Cars bring us independence in daily life, and the thought of having to give that up is frightening.  However the prospect of seeing our loved ones in an accident can be equally upsetting.  If you’ve recently become concerned about the driving habits of a parent or think it may be time for them give up driving altogether, here are some ways to bring up the topic before the unthinkable happens.

elderly drivers

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7 Ways to Get Your Car Ready for Fall

For most people, autumn’s arrival means digging out the wool sweaters, scarves and warm, sugary pumpkin-based drinks.  At Searles, we like to prep for fall in our way – usually by putting on our extra-warm our coveralls and giving our vehicles a head to toe inspection.

Car Tips for Fall

Cooler temperatures, fading daylight and wet roads can all impact driving habits, so it’s important to give your vehicle the proper seasonal upkeep it needs to ensure your safety on the road.  Read on for our fall maintenance tips! Read More

7 Mistakes to Avoid on Your BC Driver’s Test

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.


  1. 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.

Driving Test

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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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?

distracted driving

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.


  1. 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.

stop sign

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!


  1. 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.


  1. 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!


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The True Costs of Owning a Car

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 $$$:

The Vehicle


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.

 How to Spot a Lemon at the Used Car Lot

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)


Source: GasBuddy 


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 Maintenance

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.



Is Your Car Trying to Tell You Something?

decode car noises

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?

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Searles Presents: How NOT to Drive in Winter Weather

winter driving stuck in ditch

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…

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Top 5 Reasons Your Car Breaks Down in Autumn and How to Avoid Them

autumn car repair victoria

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.

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How to Spot a Lemon at the Used Car Lot

How to Spot a Lemon at the Used Car Lot

Most blogs about how to spot a lemon at a used car lot recommend you do homework before you start car shopping. In other words, they say you ought to research the makes and models you might be interested in, and check:

  • that they are known to be reliable
  • that there are no known safety or operational issues with any particular year
  • that recalls have been kept to a minimum or are non-existent
  • that friends and family don’t have anything bad to say

While researching makes and models is an important step in the car buying process, it wouldn’t exactly help prevent you from ending up with a lemon. Why? Let’s take a look: Read More