Posted on February 25th, 2014
Vanna White Vists – Here our own Vanna White, also known as Rick Lee, one of our Senior Service Writers, models the new Timing Belt Teaching Tool.
Most newer cars us a rubber timing belt, which requires replacement at regular intervals. Failure of these belts can severely damage the engine, yet, it’s one of the most overlooked service items. Take a look on our “Case Studies” page - http://www.atlanticmotorcar.com/case-studies/?s=timing+belt
We’re delighted to add this to our “Show and Tell” process of informing our customers about the service needs of their autos…and Rick was happy to get in some “face time” with his spiffy new beard!
- Bruce and the AMC Service Team
Posted on January 16th, 2014
Top Ten Things To Do When Looking for a Pre-owned Car
Buying a used automobile can be a successful and satisfying experience if you are armed with enough knowledge to determine whether the asking price on a particular car is a good deal. You want to avoid getting stuck with someone else’s problems and discover too late that the purchase price is only the “tip of the iceberg”, when you find that your “new” car needs $2000.00 worth of repair and maintenance to make it safe and reliable transportation. The newer generation cars are considerably “higher tech” than the older ones and as such are much less user friendly to the do-it-yourself owner than ever before. As always, it pays to KNOW BEFORE YOU OWE.
1. When you are talking with a seller, ask about the car’s current condition. Specifically, if there is anything that needs repair or is not working properly. Pay particular attention when he or she answers the following question: Have you maintained the car well? If the answer is “Yep, I’ve changed the oil every 3,000 miles” or “It’s been a great car, I haven’t had to spend a dime on this car”, BEWARE! This throws up a red flag. Do not buy this car without having a Specialist carefully inspect it before purchase. Changing the oil regularly does not in itself constitute good maintenance on any car. Ask the seller for maintenance records for the last year. Since people often defer maintenance when they plan to sell a car, a lack of a maintenance records is a red flag.
2. Try to start the engine cold. There should be no sputtering or hesitation. Pay particular attention to knocking or tapping noises coming from within the engine. A light tapping noise from the top of the engine is fairly common on multi-valve engines that have not been started for 2-3 days or more, but this raises a red flag to look closer and determine whether oil changes have been performed on schedule.
3. When raising the hood, look for obvious oil leaks on the engine, particularly fresh oily and greasy deposits on the valve cover around the oil filler cap, multi-valve engines should not leak oil at all and this indicates the flame trap system has not been serviced frequently enough to prevent clogging of the system. This is easily the most commonly overlooked single service item that we see. When a quick oil change facility changes your oil, they don’t know to check the condition of the flame trap and consequently it eventually becomes clogged thereby pressurizing the crankcase and either blowing front and rear seals completely out or wearing them out prematurely. For example, rear seal replacement on an Volvo 850 is expensive, at 13 hours labor this job is in excess of $1000.00.
4. Check for paintwork and previous accident damage. In front, check to see whether paint is chipped off of the bolts and washers attaching the front fenders to the body and hood to the hood hinges. In the rear, open the trunk and look at the rearmost upper corners of the rear quarter panels next to the trunk lid, you should clearly see a half-moon shaped factory seam in this area. Its absence signals the presence of body filler and indicates the car has probably had significant rear body damage.
5. Turn the ignition key on to the second key position and check that all warning lights come on, particularly the check engine, ABS/TRACS and SRS lights. These should go out after starting the engine. If they do not or you see a flashing arrow in the instrument cluster or flashing lights on the transmission mode switch, BEWARE, any of these are potentially expensive fixes. Have these checked out by a Specialist who has the Factory Diagnostic Tool to read the associated fault codes.
6. Check all functions of the power seats. Any malfunction can be fixed, sometimes as simply as resetting the seat computer with the Diagnostic Tool.
7. Drive the car. It should accelerate and stop smoothly. The presence of a pulsation felt in the steering wheel or through the seat while braking indicates brake rotor warpage. Take a look at the tires, if they are a inexpensive brand which you do not recognize, changes are the other maintenance was skimped on as well.
8. While driving with the A/C on, monitor airflow from the center vents while accelerating. If the airflow stops and then reappears when you take your foot off the accelerator this indicates a failure of one or more vacuum damper motors of the A/C system in the dash.
9. Does the transmission shift smoothly from a stop on up to freeway speeds? Any malfunction is potentially expensive.
10. Once the car has passed all of these inspections, schedule a time to have a detailed pre-buy inspection performed by a Specialist. Have the Specialist run a CarFax to check vehicle history, mileage and accident status. All cars need at least some repair and it is not unusual to see a $500.00 list on a well-maintained car. You want to avoid the car with a $2,500.00 list as this indicates a history of neglect and a poor life expectancy for the car.
There you have it, 10 steps to help you select a good used car. I personally go through all of these steps and more when evaluating a potential purchase for our inventory and it will help you weed out the good from the bad and the “don’t waste your time” cars you are likely to run into.
Posted on January 16th, 2014
WE CAN SERVICE YOUR NEW CAR, EVEN IF IT IS STILL UNDER FACTORY WARRANTY.
The following was written to answer common questions asked regarding new cars under warranty. These are general questions and answers, we will be glad to answer specific questions on request.
1. Am I required to return my car to an authorized dealer for normal service work?
No – you may have normal maintenance service performed at Atlantic Motorcar.
2. Am I required to have the recommended maintenance work performed?
Yes – A condition of your warranty is maintain your car according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Failure to perform recommended maintenance operations might possibly jeopardize a warranty adjustment or repair by the manufacturer.
3. I have heard my warranty will be voided if anyone other than an authorized new car dealer services my car, is this true?
No – Atlantic Motorcar is qualified to perform the necessary required maintenance services to maintain your new car warranty.
4. Does Atlantic Motorcar use the recommended parts and lubricants to service my car?
Yes – we use only first quality parts and lubricants that meet manufacturers requirements and specifications.
5. Can Atlantic Motorcar stamp my maintenance book.
Yes, we can. We also retain all service records on computer for immediate access.
6. Can Atlantic Motorcar perform a manufacture’s warranty repair on my car at no charge to me?
Sometimes – If it is a Bosch component or system that has failed in the warranty period we will be able to perform the warranty at no cost to you. If it is a non-Bosch product then we will check and arrange for warranty service with the new car dealer. Speaking of warranties, does the new car dealer offer you a one year unlimited mileage warranty on all service and parts like Atlantic Motorcar?
7. Does Atlantic Motorcar really know my type of car?
Yes – the majority of our service staff are factory trained technicians who once worked at new car dealers. We also have access to an extensive database of service information, safety recalls, updates, etc. that pertain specifically to your car. Unlike the new car dealer were service is often a sideline to selling cars, service is Atlantic Motorcars’ only business. If you want to buy a new car see the dealer, if you want your car repaired correctly, the first time, see
8. What about pricing, are you competitive with new car dealers?
Yes – very much so. At a new car dealer the large and expensive cost of inventorying new cars figures very strongly into service pricing.
9. Do you offer the same range of services a new car dealer can?
Yes – perhaps more. With the possible exception of collision work, Atlantic Motorcar is a full service workshop.
10. Is Atlantic Motorcar convenient to do business with?
Yes – very much so. Atlantic Motorcar is obsessed with customer service satisfaction. We offer loaner cars, after hours pickup and drop-off and friendly personable service.
11. The new car dealer makes me wait a week for an appointment.
Not at Atlantic Motorcar, we pride ourselves on efficient service. You will wait no more than 2-3 days for a service appointment and many services can be performed same day while you wait.
12. I can never understand the bill the dealer gives me, and no one ever takes the time to explain it to me.
Not at Atlantic Motorcar. You will be given a clear computer generated invoice that lists every part and service that was performed on your car. The invoice will be personally explained to you by a knowledgeable and friendly employee who will answer any questions you may have.
Posted on January 16th, 2014
AMC Answer Series – Why Did This Happen to My Car?
It happens all too often. At least 2 to 3 times a week, vehicles are towed into Atlantic Motorcar for major repairs. Too frequently we find that these are vehicles that have been poorly maintained. Many times we are asked the same question, “Why did this happen to MY car?”
After examining the vehicle and explaining it was due to lack of maintenance, most people are quite surprised. Often I am told, the vehicle has been serviced somewhere, on a regular basis.
Are You Being Told The Truth?
Even though these folks have paid other service facilities to service the vehicle, many critical systems have been neglected. In our experience, the problem is often the difference in what is considered proper maintenance from one place to another. Vehicle manufacturers, in order to make new vehicles appear more attractive, have eliminated previously scheduled service intervals and greatly extended others. After all, they are in the business of selling NEW vehicles. It’s no secret that proper care is the key to longevity, be it man or machine. We think that you’ll agree that proper, professional care, is always the best value. Insert Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Volvo, VW or Saab here, all cars have service needs, and require regular maintenance for reliable, and cost efficient service.
Other times, its just the servicing facility does not fully inspect, or feel comfortable telling the customer exactly what needs to be serviced on the car. Sometimes certain facilities want to pick the “low hanging fruit”, thus they do the easy, highly profitable jobs, and let the challenging but necessary work slide. The trouble is, this approach costs you, the vehicle owner, both time and money. It may seem like you’re paying for service, when in the end what you are really paying for is “dis-service”.
As imported auto specialists, we know what should be done, based not just on scheduled service but also our own experience. As specialists, we see cars just like yours each day, and know the common problems which occur as a car ages, problems that a general repair shop, who see a car like yours only on occasion, just won’t notice. Most importantly, we know how to properly diagnose and repair the small problems, before they become expensive headaches.
Here’s An Example
A good example is the replacement of brake fluid. Once considered a necessary service every year, many manufacturers have eliminated the service entirely. Sure this may be fine to get the car out of new warranty or during the manufacturer’s “free” maintenance plan. However, if you are someone who plans to keep your car for more than 3 years, chances are you will experience a brake component failure. Replacing this critical fluid costs less than $130 and it protects critical safety components that are costly to replace. We find this fluid should be replaced every 30,000 miles under normal driving and more often in seasonal use vehicles.
Fuel filters are another forgotten item. Usually less than $60 to replace, they protect fuel injectors and fuel pumps, that can cost well over $1000 to replace. Engine coolant, air filter elements, differential fluid and even spark plugs are all too often overlooked, until it is too late. For example on late model Volvos, a $5.00 flame trap can cause an engine oil leak that can easily cost over $1000.00 to correct.
I’ll Let You In On A Secret
What should it cost to properly service my car? Great question, and one that is key to enjoying a reliable, trouble fee car for many years…or driving a rolling headache. I’ll let you in on a secret learned after working on imported cars for more than 25 years. If you follow this suggestion, you’ll save yourself thousands of dollars of grief, and countless hours of worry.
The secret, is this simple. For most cars, if the car owner sets aside $100 per month, they will have more than enough to cover the yearly operating costs for the car. Not just the scheduled maintenance, but all aspects of service. Yes, there are exceptions, and in some years it will be higher, some years lower, but after 25 years in the business, I’ve found this number is just about right. Another figure I use is 3-5% of the new car cost as a set aside for maintenance. Taking the higher percentage, the average car costing $30,000, the yearly operating expenses would be about $1,200 – $1,500. Add in the improved value trade in value of your car, the confidence and peace of mind that comes from driving a reliable auto, and the real cost of high quality service is priceless!
A Simple Truth
Like the old commercial, “Pay me now, or pay me later,” a lack of maintenance is a very poor gamble. At Atlantic Motorcar we begin with the factory recommended schedule for your vehicle. Each and every item is performed according to the book. From there, Atlantic Motorcar inspects and suggests other items our experience has taught us should be watched.
It is often the little things which mean a lot. Our process of using test strips to check the PH level and specific gravity on engine coolant is far more accurate than replacing coolant based on mileage or time. Brake fluid, all too often overlooked, is another simple service which, when neglected, can create large and expensive problems. By testing and replacing before damage is done, a substantial cost savings, not to mention downtime, may be realized.
A proper automatic transmission service, using a commercial power flush machine, allows Atlantic Motorcar to prevent problems, rather than waiting for a failure. An inspection of the control cables, linkage and seals of the transmission may save a transmission failure.
Our Goal For You and Your Car
Our goal is to save you money, not spend it. Which is why each and every car that we service gets a free Courtesy Maintenance Inspection during its first visit. Our goal is to let you know about the small problems, before they become big ones.
Right now we have number of customer cars with well over 200,000 miles, and several approaching 300,000! And these cars are not just limping along – most look and drive pretty much the way they came out of the showroom.
Proper maintenance is an investment in the life of your vehicle. Be sure it is properly performed, take it to Atlantic Motorcar…Extraordinary Service for Extraordinary Cars. (207) 882-9969
Posted on January 16th, 2014
Tech Tip – The Truth About Tires
A quick word about Tires.
Tires Are A Safety System
Tire are just as much as a safety system on your car as are the brakes. The vehicle manufacturer, be it BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Mini Cooper, Volvo, Lexus, it doesn’t matter who, designs the car around the tires, the “stickiness” of the tread, the handling and speed rating are all carefully considered.
Yet we see it time and again, someone spends a good deal of hard earned money for their car, then, when the tires wear out, they put on the cheapest tires. Such a decision comprises both the ride, handling and safety of the car! In fact, the wrong tires or improper installation, can even damage your car’s steering and suspension.
Worse yet, such tires are all too often mounted by lower skilled installers, damaging alloy rims, or even the wheel hub itself! If they are balanced, the equipment used is often out dated, or out of calibration! You drive off, with the steering wheel shaking, on your new set of tires…not a good outcome.
The Truth About Tire Price
We’ll let you in on a secret. You may not know it from all of the advertisements floating about, but the average of a quality tire sale nets the selling dealer perhaps $10-20 profit. Certainly not a big reward. However, by selling off brand, or so called “private label” tires, the unethical dealer can reap very large returns, sometimes doubling their normal profit. Who pays for this? You, the customer, in short tire life, poor installation, vibration in the steering wheel, suspension and steering part wear and damage.
We handle only quality tires, your safety is too important to us to compromise for money. The brands we handle have been carefully chosen, our experience has proven to us, they consistently perform better than any other brand we have tested. We are convinced these tires, installed by us, will provide the overall lowest cost per mile. Each and every tire we sell is Balanced and checked for RoadForce on the Hunter GSP-9700 system.
At Atlantic Motorcar our philosophy is to provide our clients the overall lowest service cost. Most people realize that quality always cost less when considered over time. That is the main reason people look for high quality products. Higher quality last longer and performs better.
Why “Cheap” Tires Cost More
Let’s consider tires, which is why we only sell quality brands like Michelin, Goodrich, and Continental. A good set of tires, properly mounted and balanced may cost $600. They last 60,000 miles, give excellent service and offer no problems. The cost is $0.01 per mile.
Another set cost $350 and they vibrate and ride badly. You take them to two different shops to have them balanced at $50 for each visit. In desperation you decide to live with the poor performance. After 35,000 miles they are worn out, but now the rack and pinion is leaking. The rack was damaged by the bad tires. The cost is $350 for the tires, $100 trying to make them work, $900 for damaged parts divided by 35,000 miles. That’s nearly four times the cost per mile of the good tires. This does not include the inconvenience or putting up with the poor performance for 35,000 miles.
When you think about it, cheap repairs and parts are just too expensive. It is always less expensive to do it right the first time.
This is the philosophy upon which the Atlantic Motorcar Center has built it’s reputation, stop in, say hello.
We think you will be pleasantly surprised.
Atlantic Motorcar…Extraordinary Service for Extraordinary Cars. (207) 882-9969
Posted on December 20th, 2013
The BMW E38, a classic German designed performance sedan and the matching BMW M73, matching German built V12 engine, two great tastes that tastes great together. Nothing quite says “autobahn cruiser” like a big German V12, and nothing is more comfortable for use driving than the E38 body.
The BMW M73 is a V12 SOHC piston engine which replaced the M70 and was produced from 1993-2002. Compared with its M70 predecessor, the M73 uses an aluminum engine block and cylinder heads. While most other engines in the BMW range had switched to DOHC and 4 valves per cylinder, the M73 used SOHC and 2 valves per cylinder, and two separate Bosch Motronic engine management systems, think of it as two BMW 6 cylinder engines joined together at the hip.
This BMW 750iL car presented with a rough running, engine misfire at idle and low speed during the warm up phase. The problem was not always present, and vanished as soon as the engine had been in operation for a few minutes. A number of maintenance items relating to the secondary ignition system were identified and corrected, and the final piece of the puzzle was the leaking intake manifold buffers. This was not an easy diagnosis, and could be confirmed with a teardown as it was not detectable under a normal “UV Smoke Test” of the intake system, but was lated discovered after a more extended and extensive version of that test protocol.
You’ll note the cracking in the rubber buffers, and the compression set loss of the sealing ring around each port. After 15 years or so, these items have simply reached the end of their useful lifespan, unfortunately they are located in the center of the engine, and this is not a chore for the easily discouraged, your want a BMW Service professional to tackle this repair. The Atlantic Motorcar BMW service team was up the task, and the buffers, sold as 4 sets of three, were installed and updated, and the engine reassembled. Despite the superlative design of these engines, the tolerances are rather tight, and even a small upset in fuel mixture, especially at the critical engine warm up phase, can lead to pronounced drivability problems.
Here in a photo essay, is the repair and service process, illustrating the wondrous design of the BMW V12, one of the most complex, yet elegant BMW designs we’ve been privileged to service at the Atlantic Motorcar Center in Maine.
Posted on December 12th, 2013
2) Not battery venting – explosion hazard.
During the diagnostic for a electrical fault on this BMW, we uncovered some problems why the car was towed in. First, the incorrect size and type of battery had been installed, “Duralast” is not a factory BMW battery, and these cars are very touchy on correct voltage and battery type.
Second, and perhaps more concerning, was that the battery venting pipe was never installed. A byproduct of battery charging is hydrogen gas, which is highly explosive – think Hindenburg. So a trunk or interior mounted battery must be of the non-venting type, or have a proper vent hose installed, otherwise hydrogen gas can build up inside the compartment, and potentially cause an explosion. Reference -http://www.battcon.com/PapersFinal2002/VaccaroPaper2002.pdf
In addition, the aftermarket battery only lasted about 2 years, and resulted in a problem requiring the vehicle be towed to our facility.
The electrical system in late-model Minis and BMWs is quite sophisticated, in that it tailors charging as closely as possible to both the type and age of the battery. The Engine Management computer also controls the alternator output. When replacing a battery, this computer needs to be informed if you’ve replaced the battery or updated the vehicle from a conventional Lead Acid battery to an Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) type; it charges the AGM differently than a traditional battery.
This process of updating the alternator-control computer is called Battery Registration. Ignoring the registration process after replacing a battery won’t necessarily trigger a Diagnostic Trouble Code or Malfunction Indicator Lamp (‘Check Engine’ or ‘Service Engine Soon’ light). However, be advised that skipping the battery registration process can dramatically shorten the life of a battery in these vehicles and- worse yet- damage components within the entire electrical system.
We have diagnosed some BMWs with failing batteries, some installed less than a year, simply due to failing to have the battery registered! The charging system often shortens the life of an unregistered battery by charging it too aggressively, especially when it is cold, and sometimes damaging other control units. At times, we have replaced an alternator that failed prematurely because battery registration was not performed when the vehicle’s battery was replaced.
Most late model cars are very dependent on a stable and properly operating electrical system, generic battery replacements, jump starting, or even weak batteries can wreak all kinds of havoc with your auto.
Questions, not sure, or want a second opinion?
Just call us, (207) 882-9969, we’re here to help!
Posted on December 4th, 2013
The Porsche Boxsters are great cars, but have a higher than average failure rate of the water pump, unfortunately this is very critical part on these engines, and aside from the loss of the alternator drive belt, overheating can rapidly damage the engine.
The pump is driven by the Poly-Ribbed Belt, which also drives the Alternator, the A/C and the Power Steering. In most cases, when the water pump fails, it’s the impeller which breaks due to pump’s bearing which eventually breaks.
When this happens generally the Poly-Ribbed Belt shreds or comes off the pulleys and or the engine looses its coolant. Should this occur, immediately stop the engine and have the vehicle towed. If the engine continues to run with no coolant, it may seize causing irreparable damage. Also, without the belt in place, the battery will be drained quickly, as the alternator won’t recharge.
When servicing the water pump, always replace the coolant thermostat at the same time, chances are its as old as the water pump, and those small impeller parts can end up caught inside.
At the Atlantic Motorcar Center, we use an updated pump on the car, offering you a full 2 Year Nationwide Warranty, twice what Porsche offers. This repair can be done in less than a day, and you are welcome to borrow one of our complimentary loaner cars.
Questions, just call us at (207) 882-9969, we’d be happy to arrange the service, and know that we’ll become your Porsche Service provider of choice.
Posted on October 30th, 2013
How would you like to save, oh, say a $1,000 or so from what the dealer and other shops charge to repair your BMW’s X Drive system?
The BMW X Drive system is technological marvel, but the simple fact is when a problem does occur it takes training and skills to properly service, so most shops throw out your old unit, and replace it with a new one, to the tune of $2,000 -$ 2,900.
The AMC team has devised a excellent system to diagnose and properly repair the BMW X Drive, be it in the sedans, coupes, AAV or SUV. And we warranty all work for 2 years, nationwide! Even better new, most repairs can be done the same day, while you use one of our complimentary loaner cars. Not right next door, take advantage of our Complementary Valet Service, we’ll pickup your car right at your home or office, from Falmouth to Camden.
That’s what we do, repair rather than replace, or if possible, prevent problems from even happening by correct and proper maintenance. That’s our commitment to you, as an AMC customer. Which is why we’ve become Maine’s largest and highest rated independent BMW Service Center…very simply, we care.
Posted on October 29th, 2013
The Measure Of A Workshop – Or How To Find A New Home For Your Car
For sometime now I’ve been involved with other shops, either in a consulting, or in an industry 20 Group. Over the years I’ve developed a set of criteria that I’ve shared with friends and family about how to properly evaluate where to obtain high quality, ethical auto service. These apply if your auto is an Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Saab, Volvo or VW.
Some of these items may seem basic, even commonsense, but all too often folks make the decision of where to take the car under duress, you want to have an ongoing relationship with shop before problems occur, indeed a good shop will save you money by preventing problems whenever possible. After one’s home, the car usually 2nd largest expense most folks face. Determining who and where you bring your car for service can be one of the most important decisions you can make. The level of service can either positively or negatively affect both your pocketbook, and the value of your car.
Hourly Labor Rate – While this generally the first question most people ask, its really not a good way to properly evaluate a shop, but is often used as most folks don’t know what else to ask. Cost is understandably an important factor, but the most expensive and disappointing service you can buy is the wrong or poor service on your car. While a shop with a low labor rate may seem a bargain, it will often be undercapitalized and not able to properly equip its workshop, buy needed diagnostic equipment, or provide training for its staff. Undercapitalized shops are likewise usually not able to hire and retain top talent. Likewise an undercapitalized shop will be much less likely to reach into their own pockets to help with goodwill for its customers. What you want is a “fair” labor rate, one that is reasonable to you, and allows the shop to stay in business.
Overall Facility – When evaluating a service facility be cautious not to repeat the reasons you left the new car dealer. While a clean and modern facility is important, you want to avoid the frills and flourishes that have nothing to do with servicing your auto, and only serve to raise the cost of the repair. Glass palaces with gold plated facets are known in the industry as “Taj Garages”, and you don’t want to be the one paying for the owner’s mortgage and ego. If the facility looks like a new car dealer on the outside, you’re going to find the same cost structure on the inside.
Perception is often reality, look at the facility from the outside; does it look clean and safe? Does it look like the ownership takes pride in the business, if they don’t take care of their own property, do you think they will care for yours? How are you greeted at the service counter? Does the staff seem to welcome you? Look around at the waiting room, most progressive shops will now have WiFi Internet in the waiting area, ideally there may even be a desk and computer for you to work from while your car is being serviced.
Loaner cars, does the facility provide loaner cars or alternative transportation arrangements? Do they offer pickup and delivery valet service, or after hours drop off and pickup of your car? In short, are they thinking about your convenience?
Customer Cars – While you are looking at the outside property, take a look at cars in the prospective shop’s parking lot. Are they the same model as yours? Ideally you want a shop that specializes in your car type, we’ll talk more about that later. Are the cars waiting for service about the same type, Audi, BMW, Volvo, and vintage as yours or older? A parking lot with late model cars generally means that the workshop is keeping current on technology, and is likely properly equipped to service your car. Take a critical look at the condition of the customer cars, this is almost as important as their age. Do the cars look well maintained; or are they damaged, dented, held together with duck tape? If it looks like a car you’d be uncomfortable parking next to, then this may not be the right place for your car. If the cars in the parking lot look attractive, then the shop is doing a good job making their customer’s cars last.
Specialization – Ask if the prospective shop is familiar with your type of car, not just if they have worked on them, but if they specialize in it. Ideally you want a shop that specializes in your car type; they will have the tools, parts and experience to handle your service promptly and efficiently. It works in the medical profession, and it’s doubly true when you are dealing with more than just two models. Remember the phrase – “Jack of all trades, master of none?” – most of today’s cars are far too complicated to be handled professionally by a general repair shop, you don’t want someone learning how to fix your car – on your dime. You’ll find a specialist will save you money, provide a better outcome, for they know what to look for, and have often developed service procedures to quickly handle the common problems.
Workshop Cleanliness – Are you allowed inside the workshop? A professional organization will eagerly offer to give you a tour of the facility; after all they are proud to show off what they have built. Don’t rely on website photos, they may not even be of the facility you were visiting, and it is all too easy to make even the dirtiest look pretty in photos/videos, so ask to walk inside the workshop. Can you walk from one side to the other without getting greasy? Are there used parts piled up, is the floor clean and painted, remember, what’s on the workshop floor will end up on the floor of your car. Over the years I’ve noted that the higher skilled technicians simply won’t work in a dirty environment for any length of time. The cleanliness and order of the workshop is perhaps the best indication you can get as to the service philosophy of the ownership and technicians.
Staff – While you are in the workshop, take a look at the staff, perhaps more intangible, but important nevertheless, look at the folks who will be working on your car. Do they look happy, are they working as a team, do they seem to enjoy where they are and what they do? Do they smile, can you speak with them, and does the service advisor bring you out to the shop and introduce you to the person who will be working on your car? Today’s cars are complicated, the best shops work as teams.
Information Technology – Computers, often-specialized computers, are need to service almost every late model car now. Ask to see diagnostic equipment specific to your car, if you have a BMW, ask to see the BMW computer, a Mercedes, the MB DAS system, a Volvo, the VIDA computer. Such computers and diagnostic tools represent a major expense; properly equipped shops will love to show them off.
Ask about factory service information, does the workshop use online service manuals, the paper service books have been largely obsolete for nearly a decade. Ask about factory service bulletins, does the shop require technicians to check for bulletins, which may apply to your car during service, do they regularly share such bulletins with you. Ideally you should a minimum of one computer per technician in the workshop, this may be a mix of laptops and desk computers.
Training – Ask if the shop has a regular training program, do all the people who might be working on your car go…or just a few? Where do they train – hint local parts vendor training only helps them sell that company’s parts, training should be high level training, often done off site. Ask what is their training budget for each tech – you are entitled to know, these are the people working on your car, and if they are not trained, they are learning at your expense.
Look for certifications for technicians, not all shops display these on the wall, so you may need to ask. You should see a minimum of ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) an independent certification body, but check also for other training certificates, and check that it is current – auto technology changes fast.
Service Philosophy – This is a question for the shop owner, ask him or her about their service philosophy. You want a shop geared toward Maintenance rather than Repair. Odd sounding perhaps, so let’s talk about those two terms, often interchanged and not clearly understood. Maintenance means “maintaining” your car, servicing it before it “breaks down”. All manufacturers, from Audi to Volvo have service schedules. Repair on the other hand is done after a failure has occurred. Maintenance is almost always less expensive than repair, it is far easier and less costly to maintain rather than replace. For example, it is less costly to paint your house every 5 years than replace all the wood every 10 years.
A well-maintained car is safe, reliable and has a much higher resale. An ideal shop will have safety and reliability as their two top values. Ask if they follow the factory maintenance schedule, and then ask them to show you the actual schedule for your car. The factory schedule is the minimum care that a manufacturer has determined a car needs to be safe and reliable, often in harsh climates more frequent, or different services are required.
Customer Care – The best service facilities want to have an ongoing relationship with you and your car. Ask about their after-service follow up – do you receive a call after service, thank you cards for referrals, does it seem like they appreciate you as an individual? Do they provide free service reminders for when you car should be serviced in the future?
Quality control, today’s cars are sometimes a real challenge to service, every shop should have a quality control program, and you the customer should not be the quality control department. Ask about quality checking, how many times is your car checked over before being released from service, which does the quality checks, it should be more than just the technician who serviced your car.
Can you freely speak with owner, is the owner on premieres? Ask about the shop’s relationship with local new car dealers if warranty problem or recall occurs. The best shops will maintain an ongoing relationship with the service department of the new car dealer, assuring you that if a warranty problem does occur, it will be handled promptly. The best shops will arrange and handle the warranty service process for you, working with the dealer to resolve the concern.
Community – The best businesses are generally actively involved in their local community, and not just there for a fast buck. As the staff about their community involvement, or giveback. Are the owners or staff involved with local non-profits, on boards of community organization, etc? While this shouldn’t be not a major focal point, especially for a new business, but it will tell you a bit more about the philosophy of the ownership.
Online Reviews – The internet has empowers the consumer like nothing before, it’s your friend here as well. Look for online reviews written by the shop’s customers, the best are DemandForce and then Google. Read their customer’s words, you can often learn a great deal reading between the lines. No shop is perfect, and mistakes do happen from time to time, what you want to look for is how the workshop worked with the customer to resolve the issue. A string of negative reviews, or worse, few or no reviews, should prompt you to reconsider your choice.
Other – Does the company own its own building, in certain metro areas this may not be feasible, or if the business is young this may not be the case, but it does give you some idea if the business is financially secure.
About Us – At Atlantic Motorcar we are sometimes asked what makes us different, better or a superior choice to your current service facility. Simply stated, because we provide the overall lowest cost in auto service, preventing problems rather than just repairing them. We use better methods to give you the highest quality service. In short, we care about you, and your car. We don’t just say that, we measure it! We consistently rank in the upper 3% of Customer Satisfaction Surveys from Customerlink. We are conveniently located on U.S. Route 1 in Maine’s midcoast, and offer complimentary loaner cars as well as valet pickup and delivery service from Falmouth to Camden.
We have over 25 years of experience servicing Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Mini, Porsche, and Volvo. We utilize all of the latest technology and factory computerized diagnostic systems. Our service staff is trained on even the very latest models and systems. As Maine’s Bosch Authorized Service Center (since 1989) we have both the experience and training to repair and service these fine automobiles. Our facility offers comprehensive service for your car, and we are not limited in our capabilities.
Please take a few moments to let us know how we can help you! (207) 882-9969 or on the web at AtlanticMotorcar.com.