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Free Code Scan vs Diagnosis with a Scan Tool

November 16th, 2011

Many shops and even some auto parts stores will read codes for free if your “check engine light” is on. Sound great, but it’s important to understand that code retrivial is just the first step in finding the real problem. Not having all the information or jumping to conclusions based on codes could be costly. Here are two examples:

Today I had a 2007 Toyota Tacoma come in. The customer had a friend scan for codes and it had a P2714, shift solenoid stuck on. When he came to a sudden stop, it would slip on take off. When he went around a turn it would slip. He cleared the code and it came back. At this point the customer was thinking he needed to replace the soleniods, have valve body work done, or maybe even a rebuilt transmission. None of the above. He was two quarts low on fluid. A simple transmission service took care of the problem.

Another customer recently read the codes that indicated bad shift solenoids on his Chevy S10. After spending the money and his own time installing shift solenoids and new fluid, he still had the same problem. Like him, we scanned for codes first, but then we looked at how the transmission was operating, By doing some detective work, we found the computer wires were coming apart. His old solenoids were fine. He wasted money and time by trying to do his own diagnosis based on the codes he read.

When a shop charges for diagnosis time, they are looking to find out how serious your problem is. Using their equipement, doing research and using the knowledge they have accumulated over many years allows them to give you the best recommendations. Paying for an hour or two of diagnosis time can end up saving you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Communicating with the Service Advisor

November 16th, 2011

Customers will often use phrases that they understand, and, which they assume everyone else does as well.

  • It happens once in awhile
  • It doesn’t run like it use to.
  • It doesn’t sound/feel right.
  • It works ok most of the time.
  • It’s slipping.
  • I’m not getting the same mileage as before.

These are vague statements which may mean something to you, but don’t really give much of a starting point for the tech to look at.The more specific you are with the problem, the better service you’re going to receive.

Imagine asking someone to come over to your house, but you don’t give them your address or how to get there. Chances are they will never find your house. unless they make the effort to seek additional information. To fill in the blank spaces. When you drop off your vehicle for repair, you need to fill in the spaces the best you can. Here are just a few examples of stating the problem a little better.

  • I notice the problem when I first start the car.
  • The problem happens when I’ve driven for 5 miles.
  • Before the car shifted smoothly, but now it jerks going into gear.
  • My fuel economy use to be 20mpg but now it’s 15mpg.
  • The noise gets louder with speed.
  • When it makes the 2nd shift the engine revs up real high.
  • When it’s cold, it won’t shift into the highest gear.

You don’t need to be a mechanic to notice things. You just need to observe and take notes. Making notes and handing them to the service advisor will go a long way to saving you money and time.

Is My Dipstick Missing?

November 16th, 2011

For several years now, some of the car manufactures have done away with installing a transmission dipstick or filler tube.If you own a late model Ford Explorer of Ranger, some BMW.s Cadillac Catera, or Isuzu Rodeo, the vehicle needs to be up on a lift, running to check the fluid level. Some Chrysler and Mercedes have the dip stick tube, but you have to purchase the dipstick as a separate tool.

So, if you go to check the fluid level on your transmission and can’t find the dipstick, you’re not crazy. You may not have one. At Summit Transmissions, we have the knowledge and tools to check these transmissions out. Give us a call, and we can schedule an appointment to do a free transmission check.

What If The Auto Repair Industry Was Ran Like Medical Insurance Companies?

June 29th, 2011

Often, in the automotive repair industry, people feel that the time we take to diagnosis a problem should be free or at least waived if repairs are done. That the time we spend should be on us, the shop. Well how about we become like the medical insurance industry. Would that be OK with you? Think about it.

Just like the medical insurance industry’s, we’ll send you a bill every month for $200 or more. You’ll pay that amount whether you need repairs or not. If however you have a problem with your transmission, you’ll of course need to pay a co-pay of $50.00 before we do anything. Then we will cover up to 80% of your bill. Oh, and we’ll need to do lot’s of test. Each test will require another co-pay, and you will need to pay it whether we find a problem or not. Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? What, you don’t like that idea?

Each month we try and educate you, the consumer, on how our industry works and how to keep from paying more than they should. The above scenario should frighten you, but that’s exactly how the medical industry works. You prepay for your repairs to you body. Ever if you never get sick, you pay. And the less you need to see the doctor, the happier you are. You are thrilled to pay money not to have repairs done. Yet, if we ask for $100.00 to find out what’s wrong with your car, some customer think we are being greedy.

Last week we had several examples of why paying for diagnosis can save consumers money.

A 2004 Dodge Durango which had only 3rd gear had a computer problem. We saved her about $2000.00. An older Ford was towed in because the van would only go 15mph. Diagnosis found that he needed a vacuum modulator and hoses. Not a transmission like he thought. A 97 Chevy Cavalier came in with very harsh shifts. Some other company did Mickey Mouse body repair and the wires to the computer were broken. Some were just stuck in and silicone put on top. All of these vehicle took a technicians time to figure out the problem, sometimes tracing wire harness down, sometimes making phone calls to get additional information and sometimes just having to take things apart to see what is broken.

You may not want to pay for diagnosis, but by understanding it’s purpose, you will also understand that your objection to paying for it may cost you much more in the end. Parts thrown at a problem may sometimes work, but most of the time, cost you more. However, if it’s easier for you, we can do it the way your medical insurance company does it now. When would you like us to start billing you? :)

Understanding the problems with installing customer provided parts.

October 11th, 2010

It seems like a good idea. You buy the parts and have some shop install them. You save a little money, and they still make a little. What’s the problem?

  1. Let’s start with liability. Most shops carry a garage keepers policy that protects the shop if they install parts that fail and causes an accident or death. That policy does not cover customer provided parts. So for a few bucks, the shop has his you know what on the line if something goes wrong. It’s not worth it.
  2. When you own a repair business, you need to make profit on both parts and labor. That profit helps pay the bills, and if something does go wrong, allows the shop to cover the warranty. When you provide your own parts, you are taking that profit away, which means he needs to make it up by charging you more per hour labor rate.
  3. Most shops want a good relationship with their customers. Nothing can damage a business faster than an angry customer. Nothing makes a customer angry faster than when you tell him that you have to charge him again because the parts don’t fit, or are defective or are cheap substandard parts.
  4. You thought you got a good deal on a used transmission. Forty five days later that used transmission is junk. It’s pass the warranty with the junkyard, and you need someone to blame. You go yell at the shop that installed it. He did nothing wrong, but you need someone to point the finger at.
  5. You bought some brake pads off the Internet and the shop installed it. The pads came flying off and you caused a major pileup on the freeway. All the lawyers eyes turn to the shop that last worked on your car. Again, not worth it.

I hope this helps you. If you really want to save money, have the shop do the whole job and let them be responsible for the warranty. In the long run, it’s the smart way to go.

Is your vehicle worth fixing?

October 11th, 2010

So you’ve taken your car or truck into the shop and after they’ve checked it out, the manager comes over to you with an estimate for repairs. You look at the bill, look at your car, and then look back at the bill. You turn to the manager and say” that’s more than the car’s worth”. “I’ll buy another car”. Not so fast. Yea, the bill is expensive, but maybe fixing your car or truck is the least expensive option.

Let’s start by asking a few good questions. How old is your car or truck? How many miles on the odometer and what kind of miles? Highway, or stop and go? How is the body and paint? How are the tires? What kind of money have you spent on the vehicle recently? You’ll need to look at all these factors before you say “no way” to getting it fixed.

Let’s say for example your vehicle that is less than 10 years old, you’ve maintain it pretty good and you just put tires and brakes on it. The interior is in good shape, maybe except for it’s dirty, but OK otherwise. The outside has some small dings, but the paint still shines, if you took the time to wax it. And you only have 112,000 on the engine, most of it on the freeway. Overall, it’s been a pretty good car. You can’t replace the car for what it will cost you for a transmission rebuild. Don’t pay attention to the Blue Book value. Your not a used car lot. You need to figure replacement cost. You need to figure that to buy something to replace this vehicle, and have something reliable, you need to spend at least $5000 or more, depending on the type of vehicle you own. Don’t forget registration fees, taxes, and all the other expenses when you buy a used car. What sounded like a cheap alternative suddenly becomes expensive. And if you have to finance it, there goes more money.

At Summit Transmissions we will always try and give you the best advice. I have told numerous customers “it;s time to go car shopping” but in many cases, it made more sense to fix their vehicle. Yes, we would all like to have so much money that if we got a flat tire, we would just buy a new car rather than fix the tire. That would be great, but the reality is that most of us need to watch every dime, and most of the time, fixing what you already have is a whole lot cheaper than buying someone else’s problems. Remember that the newest of something wears off pretty fast, but the payments seem to last forever.

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

December 2nd, 2009

We’ve all heard the expression “Penny wise and Pound Foolish’ I know that when financial times are rough and you’re confronted with a major car repair such as needing a transmission, it’s hard to think past “How much money can I afford right now?” However, stepping back and evaluating the options might be the most economical thing you can do and save you lots of money in the long run. Maybe even in the short run.

I’ve worked with many customer who set a firm spending limit, rather that looking at the options for the best value. One customer wanted to install a used transmission from a junkyard, rather than having us do a complete rebuild, less solenoids. The savings would have been only $200.00 and she would have had only a 30 day warranty instead of a one year warranty with our rebuild. And, if there was a problem with the used transmissions, she then would’ve paid additional labor to install another one. One of my customer went through 7 transmissions before getting one that lasted 45 days. Luckily she reconsidered and had us do the work.

Some customers will decline work which, if done in combination with the transmission work, could save them hundreds. Rear main engine oil seals, which can cost $500 or more to replace, are easy to do with the trans out. You might just pay for parts only when it comes to replacing most transmissions mounts.

It’s always a good idea to ask the mechanic or manager what could be done in conjunction with the orginal repairs. Replacing you belts and water pump while having the timing belt replaced is a good example of how to save money.

I won’t condone someone selling you work that’s not needed but it’s sometimes a fine line. If your rear engine seal is not leaking, but you have 150,000 miles on the engine, it would be wrong for me not to recommend replacing it. I will always tell my customers the condition of the part I am recommending and why I’m suggesting the replacement. At least then, the customer has the information they need to make an inform decision. In the end, that’s what we all want. The correct information to make a good decision.

Worst Case Senario

November 19th, 2009

So many customers will ask for “Worse Case Scenario” or “Ball Park Figures”. It’s easy to understand that they are looking for some kind of price. Naturally we want the best deal, especially when times are tough. Unfortunately, most shop owners have a tendency to answer that question all too quickly, hoping that their instant price quote gets them the job.

But what if you found out that the instant price quote could cost you a lot more $$$. Let me explain. First, there is no single symptom when it comes to automatic transmission problems. Many customers will use the word “slipping “to describe late shifts or delays. Some will say it makes a noise. Today’s modern transmissions rely on a ton of computer sensors that tell it what to do. A bad sensor such as an input sensor, Throttle Position Sensor or Output sensor can cause a transmission to go nuts. It’s a lot cheaper to install a sensor.

But lets say your transmission is bad, and you chose that shop that had the best price. You may feel good unless you know what goes on behind the scene. If the service adviser has given you a price already, sight unseen, without knowing what is wrong, what happens when he takes it apart. First, let’s say it just needs a repair instead of a rebuild. What’s the chances of him telling you that? Not much. He has to make up for the losses on all the other bad quotes he gave. What if the trans needs more that what he quoted. Well he can call and do an up-sale, so that price quote was worthless then. Right? Or he can just put some of those bad parts back in and hope the transmission will last out the warranty. Or like some shops, when the transmission goes bad, those parts suddenly are not covered under their warranty.

It’s easy to make up prices over the phone, but a professional shop will always ask you to bring the vehicle in. They will always do an evaluation first, and then discuss with you the problem and what needs to be done next. Honest shops wish to make sure they only sell what is needed, and do a good job for you. Honest shops educate the customer, rather than playing them for a sucker. If you want to get the best price, search out a professional shop that has a good reputation. You’ll find out that in the end, they will give you the best value for your money, and you may save more money with them than the so called cheapest price place.

True Stories ( Why you should choose Summit Transmissions)

November 17th, 2009

Dodge Durango

Many shops around San Diego use us, knowing that we’re not only honest with them, but we also treat their customers with the same intergrity. One shop this week sent us a Dodge Durango that had to be towed in. The shop was sure that the transmission needed a complete overhaul. He prepared the customer for the worse, but told her that we would take it apart first to make sure of the damage. When we dismantled the transmission, we found the torque converter was bad. We called the shop with three different options. Repair with no electrical, repair with electrical and a full rebuild. Since the customer wanted to keep the vehicle for a long time, she decided to have a complete rebuild. The truck had over 100 k on it. However, the shop was able to give her choices. If she went to the dealer or he decided to install a dealer unit, there would not have been any choices.

Frequently Asked Questions

November 17th, 2009

Q What’s the difference between having a flush done and a transmission service?

A Most transmissions come with a removable pan and only by removing the pan can you first, get to the filter to change or clean it and second, to see if there is any abnormal metal or friction material in the pan. When you have a flush done, it means that the pan will not be removed, therefore the filter can not be changed or clean and if there is abnormal wear, you won’t know it. Also, since ATF is very high in detergents, changing all the fluid may cause drivability problems if your transmission has an internal problem already.

Q I just want to go to the shop with the best price to fix my transmission. Why do some shops give prices over the phone and some don’t?

A Sometimes that price you got over the phone can cost you a whole lot more. I can give you hundreds of true stories to illistrate my point, but here is just one. Customer called from Riverside (150 miles away) to get a price for his Jetta which had 1st and Reverse only. He called and was quoted prices of $4000, $3800 and a used transmission for $2800. When he called, I insisted that we check the car out first. He knew we had a great reputation and decided to tow it to our shop. His cost was only $85.00 to fix his car. If I would have given him a price, he most likely would have settled for the $2800 job and been happy not knowing any better.

Many times, components can cause a transmission to not shift properly or slip. You need to trust a professional shop to first diagnose the problem, before blurting out some numbers. Also, since most customers don’t know what parts are in a transmission, you also won’t be able to tell if the shop did a good quality job or not. That’s why you need to seek a quality shop with an outstanding reputation rather than the cheapest place you can find.


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