Vintage Engine Work




What should be included in an estimate?


* Always get and keep a signed written cost estimate for the work to be performed. Make sure the estimate specifically identifies the condition to be repaired, the parts needed and the anticipated labor charge.


* Make sure the estimate states that the shop will contact you for approval before performing any work exceeding a specified amount of time and money. Your state may require this; check with your state Attorney General's office to determine your rights.


* Some shops charge a flat rate for labor on auto repairs. This published rate is based on an independent or manufacturer's estimate of the time required to complete repairs. Other shops charge on the basis of the actual time the technician worked on the repair. Before having any work performed, ask which cost method the shop uses.


When should you get a second opinion?


* Even though you bring in your car with a specific problem, additional repairs may be recommended. If you are uncertain whether the work needs to be done, you may want to consult your owner's manual or get a second opinion.


* On expensive or complicated repairs, or if you have questions about suggested repair work, get a second opinion or estimate.


* Ask if there will be a diagnostic charge if you decide to have the work performed elsewhere. Many repair shops charge for diagnostic time.


* Shops that do only diagnostic work and do not sell parts or repairs may be able to give you an objective opinion about which repairs are necessary.


After your repair is done, what do you need?


* After repairs are finished, get a completed repair order describing the work done. This should list each repair, all parts supplied, the cost of each part, labor charges and the vehicle's odometer reading when the vehicle entered the shop and when the repair order was prepared. Your state may require that the shop provide this; check with your state Attorney General's office or local consumer protection agency.


* Get back all replaced parts. Your state may require this; check with your state Attorney General's office or local consumer protection agency.

What should you know about the parts to be repaired or replaced on your vehicle?


Parts are classified as:


* New auto parts - These parts are generally made to original manufacturer's specifications, either by the vehicle manufacturer or an independent company. Your state may require repair shops to tell you if non-original equipment will be used in the repair. Prices and quality of these parts can vary widely.


* Remanufactured, rebuilt and reconditioned parts - These terms generally mean the same thing: parts have been restored to a sound working condition. Many manufacturers offer a warranty covering replacement parts, but not the labor to install them.


* Salvage parts - These are used parts taken from another vehicle without alteration. Salvage parts may be the only source for certain items, though their reliability is seldom guaranteed.




What are the consequences of postponing maintenance?


* Since many parts of your vehicle are inter-related, ignoring maintenance can lead to failure of other parts or an entire system. Neglecting even simple preventive maintenance, such as changing the oil or checking the coolant, can lead to poor fuel economy, unreliability, or costly breakdowns, and could invalidate your warranty.


What maintenance guidelines should you follow to avoid costly repairs?


* The best way to keep a vehicle in good condition is to follow the manufacturer's maintenance schedule in your owner's manual for your type of driving. If you do not have an owner's manual, contact the manufacturer to obtain one or to get a recommended maintenance schedule.


* Some repair shops create their own maintenance schedules, which call for more frequent servicing than the manufacturer's recommendations. Compare shop maintenance schedules with those recommended in your owner's manual. Ask the repair shop to explain - and make sure you understand - why it recommends service beyond the recommended schedule.




What warranties and service contracts apply to vehicle repairs?


* There is no such thing as a "standard warranty" on repairs. Make sure you understand what is covered under your warranty and get it in writing.


* Check with the Federal Trade Commission or your state or local consumer protection agency for information about your warranty rights.


* Warranties may be subject to limitations, including time, mileage, deductibles, businesses authorized to perform warranty work or special procedures required to obtain reimbursement. Make sure you understand these limitations.


* Compare warranty policies when selecting a repair shop.


* Many vehicle dealers and others sell optional contracts, called service contracts, issued by vehicle manufacturers or independent companies. Not all service contracts are the same; prices vary and are usually negotiable. To help decide whether to purchase a service contract, consider the following:


- The cost of the service contract.
- The repairs to be covered.
- Coverage of the service contract and whether it overlaps that provided by any other warranty.
- The deductible.
- Where the repairs are to be performed.
- Procedures required to file a claim, such as getting prior authorization for specific repairs or meeting required vehicle maintenance schedules.
- Whether repair costs are paid directly by the company to the repair shop or whether you will have to pay first and get reimbursed.
- The reputation of the service contract company, which can be checked with your state Attorney General's office or the local consumer protection agency.


How do you resolve a dispute regarding billing, quality of repairs or warranties?


* Be prepared to take action if something goes wrong. Keep records of all transactions. Write down your experiences, dates, times, expenses and the names of people you dealt with. Keep copies of all written materials you receive, such as bills and estimates.


* If there is a dispute over a repair or charge, first try to settle the problem with the shop manager or owner. Some businesses have programs for handling disputes. You may then want to seek help from your state Attorney General's office or local consumer protection agency. These groups also can tell you if low-cost alternative dispute resolution programs are available in your community. In addition, you may want to consider filing a claim with a local small claims court, where you do not need a lawyer to represent you.


* Many states have laws regulating how a repair shop operates, spelling out each party's obligations. You may wish to contact your state Attorney General's office or consumer protection agency for specific information about your rights and options for recourse.




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The more you know about your vehicle, the more likely it is you can head off problems.

Many common vehicle problems can be spotted by using your senses. You may learn

a lot by inspecting the area around your vehicle, listening for strange noises, sensing

a difference in the way your vehicle handles, or even noting unusual odors.



Identifying the cause of a puddle of fluid under your vehicle may save you serious trouble down the road. Small stains or an occasional drop may be of little concern. But wet spots deserve attention and bigger puddles should be checked immediately by the nearest service station.

Fluids can be identified by their color and consistency:

* Yellowish green, pastel blue or florescent orange colors indicate an overheated engine or an antifreeze leak caused by a bad hose, water pump or leaking radiator.

* Dark brown or black oily fluid means the engine is leaking oil. The leak could be caused by a bad seal or gasket.

* A red oily spot indicates a transmission or power-steering fluid leak.

* A puddle of clear water is usually no problem. It may be normal condensation from your vehicle air conditioner.


Some problems can be detected simply by following your nose. Consider these causes if you smell something unusual about your vehicle:

* Burned toast or a light, sharp odor often signals an electrical short and burning insulation. To be safe, try not to drive the vehicle until the problem is diagnosed.

* Rotten eggs or a continuous burning-sulphur smell usually indicates a problem in the catalytic converter or other emission control devices. Do not delay diagnosis and repair.

* A thick acrid odor usually means burning oil. Look for signs of a leak.

* If you smell gasoline vapors after a failed start, you may have flooded the engine. Wait a few minutes before trying again. If you constantly smell gas, you probably have a leak in the fuel system. This is a potentially dangerous problem that should be repaired immediately.

* Burning resin or an acrid chemical odor may signal overheated brakes or clutch. Check the parking brake. Stop and allow the brakes to cool after repeated hard braking on mountain roads. Light smoke coming from a wheel indicates a stuck brake. The vehicle should be towed for repair.

* A sweet, steamy odor indicates a coolant leak. If the temperature gauge or warning light does not indicate overheating, drive carefully to the nearest service station, keeping an eye on your gauge. If the odor is accompanied by a hot, metallic scent and steam from under the hood, your engine has overheated. Pull over immediately. Continued driving could cause severe engine damage. The vehicle should be towed for repair.


Squeaks, squeals, rattles, rumbles and other sounds can provide valuable clues about problems and maintenance needs. Here are a number of the more common noises and what they may mean:

Squeal - A shrill, sharp noise, usually related to engine speed.

* Loose or worn power steering, fan or air conditioning belt.

Click - A slight sharp noise, related to either engine speed or vehicle speed.

* Loose wheel cover.
* Loose or bent fan blade.
* Stuck valve lifter or low engine oil.

Screech - A high-pitched, piercing metallic sound, usually occurs while the vehicle is in motion.

* It is caused by brake wear indicators to alert the driver that brake maintenance is needed.

Rumble - A low-pitched rhythmic sound.

* Defective exhaust pipe, converter or muffler.
* Worn universal joint or other drive-line component.

Ping - A high-pitched metallic tapping sound, related to engine speed.

* Usually caused by fuel with a lower octane rating than recommended. Check your owner's manual for the proper octane rating. You may want to switch to a different gas octane or gas station. If the problem persists, engine ignition timing could be the culprit.

Heavy Knock - A rhythmic pounding sound.

* Worn crankshaft or connecting rod bearings.
* Loose transmission torque converter.

Clunk - A random thumping sound.

* Loose shock absorber or other suspension component.
* Loose exhaust pipe or muffler.


Difficult handling, a rough ride, vibration and poor performance are the kinds of symptoms you can feel. When the driving experience doesn't feel quite right, look for:


* Wandering of difficulty steering in a straight line can be caused by misaligned front wheels and/or worn steering components such as the idler arm or ball joints.
* Pulling, the vehicle's tendency to steer to the left or right, can be caused by something as simple as under-inflated tires, or as serious as a damaged or misaligned front end.

Ride and Handling

* Worn shock absorbers or other suspension components can contribute to poor cornering characteristics. Also check for proper tire inflation.
* While there is no hard and fast rule about when to replace shock absorbers or struts, try this test: bounce the vehicle up and down hard at each wheel and then let go. See how many times the vehicle bounces. Weak shocks will allow the vehicle to bounce twice or more.
* Springs do not normally wear out and do not need replacement unless one corner of the vehicle is lower than the others. Overloading your vehicle can damage your springs.
* Tires always should be balanced properly. An unbalanced or improperly balanced tire will cause the vehicle to vibrate and may prematurely wear steering and suspension components.


The following symptoms indicate problems with your brakes. Diagnosis and repair should be scheduled.

* The vehicle pulls to the left or right when the brakes are applied.
* The brake pedal sinks to the floor when braking pressure is maintained.
* Scraping or grinding is heard or felt during braking.
* The "brake" light on the instrument panel is lit.


All of the following symptoms indicate problems with your engine. Diagnosis and repair are needed.
* Difficulty starting the engine.
* Rough idling or stalling.
* Poor acceleration.
* Poor fuel economy.
* Excessive oil use (more than one quart between changes).
* The "check engine" light on the instrument panel is lit.


Poor transmission performance may come from actual component failure or a simple disconnected hose or plugged filter. Make sure the technician checks the simple items first; transmission repairs are normally expensive. Some of the most common symptoms of transmission problems are:

* Abrupt or hard shifts between gears.
* Delayed or no response when shifting from neutral to drive or reverse.
* Failure to shift during normal acceleration.
* Slippage during acceleration. The engine speeds up, but the vehicle does not respond.


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Sometimes problems may require a simple repair, not a major overhaul. Here are a few common repair tips:

Alternator -

Loose wiring can make your alternator appear defective. Make sure the technician checks for loose connections and performs an output test before replacing it.

Battery -

Corroded or loose battery terminals can make the battery appear dead or defective. Make sure the technician cleans the terminals and tests battery function before replacing it.

Starter -

What appears to be a defective starter may actually be a dead battery or poor connection. Ask your technician to check all connections and test the battery before repairing the starter.

Muffler -

A loud rumbling noise under your vehicle indicates the need for a new muffler or exhaust pipe. Quality replacement parts obviously cost more. Low-priced parts are seldom a good buy unless you keep the vehicle less than a year. Make sure you understand exactly what the warranty covers, because many exhaust system warranties have serious exceptions and limitations.

Tune-up -

The old-fashioned "tune-up" may not apply to your vehicle. Fewer parts need to be replaced on newer vehicles other than belts, spark plugs, hoses and filters. Follow recommendations in your owner's manual.


Matthew Means 714-870-5996