Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Big Three Bail Out?

Sorry. Normally I try to write funny articles. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything funny about us tax payers having to bail out the big three auto makers.

As a person who has spent much of my life working with automobiles, I have a unique perspective on why Ford, G.M. and Chrysler are failing.

I will only address the failure as it relates to the quality of their vehicles.

Between 1971 and 2003 these companies produced inferior to outright junk that was passed off to the public as a motor vehicle!
When I opened my shop in 1989, if you got one hundred thousand miles out of your American built vehicle you had done good.

The main V8 motor Chevy used was first put into production in 1955 and they used it up until 2002. That’s forty seven years of using the same old design!

Toyota and Lexus would never do that! Every five to seven years they pull out a clean sheet of paper and completely redesign their motors. Even if the motor was a winner, they re-engineer it to make it even better.

The expense is huge to have to re-tool the factory every five to seven years but it has paid off. While the big three refused to spend money on developing a good product, Toyota and Lexus where seeking perfection.

It is no wonder Toyota has become the #1 auto maker in the world.

As long as routine maintenance is done, these cars seem to just keep going.

We have quite a few customers with over three hundred thousand miles on their vehicles, and they have the original motors and transmissions.

There is an old saying which is very appropriate for this tax payer sponsored bail-out “Don’t throw good money after bad”.

For the big three to show a profit and stay in business they need to follow the business model of Toyota.

Make product quality their main priority and build cars that the public wants to buy.

I hope you found this article interesting. I am Ken Levine, the owner of Ken’s Quality Auto Repair in Thousand Oaks, where we specialize in Lexus and Toyota vehicles. If you have any car questions please e-mail me at kq@verizon.net, visit www.kensqualityauto.com or call 805-494-4344

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Unsafe At Walking Speed

Last week after work my wife and I were going to go out for a date night. (A very rare occurrence when you have two small children) My wife had swapped vehicles with her mother, who was babysitting our children. I hopped in the driver’s seat and did not go more than 10 feet before I realized that something in the steering of my mother in-law’s Lexus ES300 was drastically wrong, the steering wheel started shaking violently as the vehicle started to move forward.

My wife said she had not noticed anything wrong with the car. “What?!?” I exclaimed. The car was not safe to drive at anything over walking speed. Upon returning the car that night to my mother in-law, she too said she felt no problem.
An inspection revealed that the front tire was coming apart and could have led to a blow-out that might have caused a serious accident.
The next day, my father brought his Toyota Corolla in for front brakes. When driving the vehicle, Phil, the shop foreman noticed that the Air bag light was on, he asked my father how long the light had been on. “Oh a couple of months”.

Am I in the twilight zone? Two potentially serious car problems that could have caused serious harm or death were either not noticed or ignored.

This got me thinking about how safe are your vehicles?

Most automotive repair shops do not road test your car when you bring it in for an oil and filter change. Because of this the shop has no way of knowing of any drivability problems your vehicle might be having. It is best to let your mechanic know if you have any dash warning lights on or your vehicle is not riding the way it should so it can get a proper road test.

You and your family’s safety are extremely important to the staff at Ken’s Quality Auto Repair.

Don’t panic if you see any of my family members driving down the road. Their cars are safe and road worthy again!

I hope this article helps you. I am Ken Levine, the owner of Ken’s Quality Auto Repair in Thousand Oaks, where we specialize in Lexus and Toyota vehicles. If you have any car questions please e-mail me at kq@verizon.net, visit www.kensqualityauto.com or call 805-494-4344

Friday, June 6, 2008

Indiana Jones and The Last Collectible:

Grab your hat and bull whip! Your going to need it!

The hinges creek as you pry open the garage door. Nobody has ventured into that dark pit known as your garage in a long time. You can barely make out the form under all the boxes and junk that is piled on it, hiding the object of your desire from 20 plus years ago. There, covered in all its cob web glory is your old car.
Before you can get close, you twist your ankle tripping over a booby-trap, in the form of your child’s bike, that was lying on the ground. You bang your knee on the bumper as you try to move junk off your buried treasury. A mouse scurries away but thankfully, no snakes! After what seems like hours of digging, the car is ready to be driven out of the garage.

What are you going to do with this antique?

The first step is to determine if your vehicle really is a collectible. Old muscle cars built before 1970 are definitely collectible. A Yugo or AMC Gremlin with a quarter of a million miles on it is not. If that first car of yours turns out not to be a valuable classic, you will have to do some digging to find out the value of it. Look at Kelly Blue Book, Auto Trader and the Recycler Online to get a general idea of the value of your vehicle. Once you determine a price, make sure that you are up for entering the treacherous waters of selling a used vehicle.
· Selling an old car can be a hassle. The seller (you) is responsible to get the vehicle smog certified.
· People will call at all hours telling you they cannot live without buying your old car and then they never show up or call after you have spent half the day waiting for them.
· Be careful about letting people test drive your vehicle. You are responsible if they crash it on the test drive! (I’ve had a couple of scary drivers take my car for a test run.)
· After negotiating a price for your prized Ford Pinto accept only cash or a certified bank check that you verify is good, never ever accept a personal check.
· Get a photocopy of their drivers license. If they do not have a license, do not sell the car to them! Even if you fill out a release of liability form and that person does not register the vehicle in their name, you will be sent the $300.00 ticket when they run a red light and a camera records it. (I learned this lesson the hard way!)
· Instead of selling it, maybe that not-quite-collectible car could make a good starter car for that child of yours that leaves there bike lying around unused. As long as they are not embarrassed to be seen in a vehicle that was considered old before they were born, hand over the keys. What is the worst thing Junior can do to the car?
· One last option is to donate the car to charity or worthy cause. They will usually come pick it up at your house, as long as you have the DMV title.

Congratulations!!! You have navigated your way through the hazardous maze of selling a used car and come out alive. You are a true adventurer.

I hope this article helps you. I am Ken Levine, the owner of Ken’s Quality Auto Repair in Thousand Oaks, where we specialize in Lexus and Toyota vehicles. If you have any car questions please e-mail me at kq@verizon.net, visit www.kensqualityauto.com or call 805-494-4344

Thursday, March 13, 2008

When lightning met Sally

Sometimes when you catch sight of your true love it grips your heart like a good set of tires grips the road.
That’s how it was for Sally and Me. When I saw those sleek low profile black wall tires of hers, I knew she was the car for me! She, well, sorta, kinda, fell for me in that court room, as she was trying to get me incarcerated.
When I’m not racing in the Piston Cup series, my favorite thing is for Sally and I to go for a little race. I mean drive through the same tight windy roads where we fell in love with each other.

If you’re like me, falling in love can leave you a little weak in the side walls.
When that feeling comes over me I TURN to my friend Luigi who runs the world famous tire shop Casa Della Tire right here in Radiator Springs. Luigi is so passionate about tires and he knows exactly which tire is needed for any situation. Why, if it wasn’t for Luigi and his dependable tire buster Guido being in my pit crew I would not have, almost, won the Piston Cup.

Give us your SPIN on the matter Luigi; “Tires and brakes are the most important part of your car, from a safety stand point. Since Luigi only sells tires, that’s what I’ll be talking about. To get the most out of your tires the air pressure should be checked on a regular basis, Luigi likes to recommend checking it monthly. The correct air pressure recommendation appears in your owner’s manual, the sticker on the doorjamb or glove compartment door. Use an accurate gauge to check the tire pressure. If the valve stem has a little green cap, then that the tire is filled with nitrogen. If the air pressure is low you will need to go back to a tire store to have nitrogen added.
Nitrogen helps your tires last longer and may help your vehicle get better fuel mileage.

Your vehicle tires should be rotated every 5,000 miles. The rear tires are brought to the front and the front tires are crossed before they are installed on the rear of the vehicle.
Luigi says nothing shows your tires love like keeping them filled with air and rotated.

This next step is a little tricky. You are going to need to get on your hands and knees and look at the tread of the tire. What you are looking for is that the very inside of the tire tread matches the very outside of the tread if one side is worn down more than the other, that indicates that the vehicle is out of alignment and its wrecking your beautiful tires, which Luigi thinks is criminal.
Rub your hand across the tread, it should feel concave and smooth, if it has cupping in it, that indicates your shocks or struts are worn out or your tires are out of balance. At this point the tires might be wrecked. You better get to Luigi’s Casa Della Tires pronto.
If the tire tread feels feathered, that means the steering angle called toe is out of specifications, and the vehicle is out of alignment.
Any bubbles or tread separation is a very dangerous condition, call Mater to install your spare or tow you to a tire store."

Thanks for the information Luigi. I have to ROLL! I am so going to take my favorite Porsche out to dinner. Ka-chow!

Next week we are going to help you get a winning pit crew. It is also the last episode in our “Cars” trilogy.

I hope this article helps you. I am Ken Levine, the owner of Ken’s Quality Auto Repair in Thousand Oaks, where we specialize in Lexus and Toyota vehicles. If you have any car questions please e-mail me at kq@verizon.net, visit http://www.kensqualityauto.com/ or call 805-494-4344

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Rev up your motor with Lightning McQueen

Do you ever feel like you are not firing on all cylinders? Well, between me and you, I have to admit that I occasionally have that problem. It’s embarrassing because “I’m a precision instrument of speed and aerodynamics. I Am A Very Famous Race Car.”
When that feeling comes over me, I turn to my new friends from Radiator Springs to help me get passed the low power blues and back in the race of my life.
My best buddy, Mater, is always there to lend a helping hand, but when I need maximum power, I have him go fetch Dr. Hudson, Doctor of internal combustion, who just happens to be a wizard at tweaking engines to produce the best fuel mileage and lots of horse power.
You don’t become a three time winner of the prestigious Piston Cup without having a couple of tricks up your fender. I am going to have Doc fill us in.

“I hate to admit it, but these new fangled vehicles are superior to us older (more mature) models. They can go 4 times longer between tune-ups and use fewer parts, thanks to the use of on-board computers that precisely control the electronic fuel injection system.
In my day you were lucky to get 15,000 miles on a set of plugs. Today’s vehicles use precious metal in their spark plugs, either iridium or platinum, and they can last up to 120,000 miles before they need to be replaced. These motors usually have individual ignition coils which produce very high electrical voltage, but they make it harder for the technicians to gain access to the spark plugs.
A lot of clean air is needed inside the engine to mix with the gasoline. This air /fuel mixture is then ignited by an electrical spark from the spark plug. It is the job of the air filter to remove any dirt or contaminants from the air. The air filter should be replaced every 30,000 miles, or sooner, if the vehicle is driven in a dusty environment, like Radiator Springs.
The fuel injectors are made to such tight tolerances that even a little speck of dirt could wreak havoc on an injector. That’s why it’s so important to replace the fuel filter between 90,000 and 100,000 miles.
The last part of the tune-up is to connect a diagnostic computer to the vehicle’s computer and run a series of tests to check that the sensors on the motor are within factory specifications, and reset the maintenance light. That’s the business end of a tune-up, but what does that mean to you drivers? How about restoring the chirp in your tires and lowering tail pipe emissions which will help you get through that dreaded smog test. Ya’ll will be floating like a Cadillac, stinging like a Beemer. Aw, Shucks, I almost forgot, it will give you improved gas mileage, which now a days is huge, considering when I was a young hot-rod, premium was 20 cents a gallon!

There you have it. Whether you’re the rookie of the year, Lightning McQueen, who’s trying to win the Piston Cup or you’re just racing to get to work on time, you need your vehicle to run like a highly tuned racing machine.

“Remember it’s not just a race, it’s the Piston Cup.”

Stay TUNED until next week when romance is in the air.

I hope this article helps you. I am Ken Levine, the owner of Ken’s Quality Auto Repair in Thousand Oaks, where we specialize in Lexus and Toyota vehicles. If you have any car questions please e-mail me at kq@verizon.net, visit www.kensqualityauto.com or call 805-494-4344

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Skidding into the Taillight Zone:

When you are in your car, do you hear noises that nobody else hears? If so, you might be stuck in an alternate automotive dimension, known as the Taillight Zone, where noises are not what they seem to be.

It’s been a long day at work. The only thing on your mind as you put your car keys in the ignition is getting home, eating dinner and relaxing. You turn the key, just like you have done hundreds of times in the past, yet today is different. A loud high pitched squealing sound jars you back to the reality of you and your vehicle sitting in the company parking lot. You immediately shut the motor off and look around hoping that horrid noise was coming from somebody else’s car. You gingerly turn the key and the motor literally starts screaming at you. You shut the car off and call for a tow truck. An hour goes by before the tow truck pulls into the parking lot and out hops a rather large man with the name ‘Bubba’ on his shirt. Your vehicle is hooked up to the tow truck and you two are off to the auto repair shop. You get to the auto shop just as the technician is about to leave for the evening. You tell him your story as Bubba unloads the car. The technician wanders over to the vehicle and turns the key. The motor starts right up without that horrid sound. What the heck is going on? After several tries the car is still starting up normally. The tow truck driver is looking at you as if you’re crazy, while you’re paying him. “Really, it was making a loud noise,” you exclaim. You decide to drive the car home. By the time you arrive home your dinner is cold and you are too up-tight to relax, so it’s off to bed.

It’s a beautiful day as you walk out to your car. The drama of last night has been all but forgotten as you turn the ignition key. Screeching comes from somewhere under the hood. The towing company is called again, and the car is headed back to the auto shop. You call your boss and explain why you’re going to be late to work. Upon arrival at the auto shop, last nights scene is re-played as the technician starts up the vehicle with no problems. Argh! Either your car is trying to push you over the edge, or you have entered that dreaded parallel universe, known as the Taillight Zone. Two days later, the auto repair shop calls you with the news that, after many tries, the technician was finally able to duplicate the noise. It turns out that the water pump bearings make a loud noise only on very cold start-ups, after the vehicle has not been used for over 8 hours. The technician replaces the water pump and the noise is gone.
Congratulations! You have successfully accelerated out of the Taillight Zone.

To be able to properly diagnose a noise from a vehicle, it is important to duplicate the exact conditions under which the noise occurs. If the noise is usually heard after the vehicle has been sitting all day or night, or when left outside in the cold, the same condition needs to be replicated by the technician. If perhaps it only happens when driving 65 mph on the freeway, the technician will have to take a test drive on the freeway to be able to duplicate the noise. Sometimes, there is more than one noise coming from a vehicle. To avoid having the technician spend a lot of time tracking down and repairing a different noise, it is best to either show the technician or take him for a test drive to make sure he hears the same noise you do.
Noises can be tricky to hear and isolate. Be prepared to leave you vehicle for a couple of days.

We have a special edition coming your way with Lightning McQueen and the whole gang from Radiator Springs.

I hope this article helps you. I am Ken Levine the owner of Ken’s Quality Auto Repair in Thousand Oaks, where we specialize in Lexus and Toyota vehicles. If you have any car questions, please e-mail me at kq@verizon.net, visit www.kensqualityauto.com or call 805-494-4344

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mr. T predicts pain…If you skip that oil change.

I pity the fool that does not maintain his or her vehicle. Not changing your oil and filter will beat up your car’s motor as quickly as I beat up that chump, Rocky Balboa, in our first fight.

I have learned a lot after being the boxing heavy weight champion of the world and my five tours of duty with the A-team. Heck, they even made toys in my image and a breakfast cereal.

So listen UP!! I am giving you sound advice when I tell you that a vehicle is nothing more than a mechanical object that will fall apart if simple maintenance guide lines are not followed.

The motor oil in your car is the life blood of the engine, just like our blood is to us. A thin film of oil keeps metal parts from rubbing together and getting damaged. Heck, if while driving your car, it ran out of oil or lost oil pressure, the motor would be severely damaged in just a few minutes.

The first thing you should do is plan what mileage and time intervals your vehicle’s oil and filter should be changed. Most people are not aware that the stop and start driving they do while sitting on that giant parking lot known as the 101 and 405 freeways, or the short distance driving to pick up and drop off the kids at school is considered severe duty driving by the vehicle manufacturer. This severe driving can cause the motor oil to break down, sludging the inside of the motor with black tarry goop. I personally have my vehicle’s oil and filter changed every 5,000 miles, or six months, whichever comes first.

The next step of the plan is to decide which type of oil and filter I want to use on my ride. The best oil filter is the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) but there are other high quality brands. Avoid the cheapy ones. They can internally come apart or leak. I also have my auto mechanic install a new gasket on the drain plug, so there will not be any of those pesky little oil drops that can mess up my driveway. I make sure that I only use the weight of oil (viscosity) that the motor was designed for. If the wrong weight oil is used it can cause poor fuel mileage or turn on the check-engine light. If I want to pamper my car, I’ll spring for the best oil, which is synthetic. It offers superior protection over conventional motor oil, but the intervals for changing it are the same.

The last part of the plan is to have a competent automotive shop do the oil change. They have vehicle hoists that lift your car up, so the mechanic can perform at least a 25 point inspection, where brakes and tires are inspected and vital fluids are checked and topped up if needed.
Even though I do not advise it, if you have a hankering to change your own oil and filter, make sure you take the old oil and filter to a collection center. It is hazardous waste and can damage our beautiful environment.

“I love it when a plan comes together.”

My mama taught me not to be a fool by neglecting to get my oil and filter changed. You can bet that when I pick my Mom up, my car will not be breaking down with her in it. “That’s treating her right.”
(Check out my song, “Treat your mother right” on You-Tube.)

If you hear noises that nobody else hears, you might be stuck in an alternate dimension known as the Taillight Zone. Next week we will help you escape the Zone.

I hope this article helps you. I am Ken Levine, the owner of Ken’s Quality Auto Repair in Thousand Oaks, where we specialize in Lexus and Toyota vehicles. If you have any car questions, please e-mail me at kq@verizon.net, visit http://www.kensqualityauto.com/ or call 805-494-4344