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Ethics of Automotive Repair in Anchorage

Posted August 31, 2010 2:00 AM



We're going to be talking about the ethics of automotive repair. It seems like news outlets really like hit-and-run reporting; they hit everyone from groceries stores to retail to physicians. And the Anchorage automotive service and repair industry hasn't been given a pass either.

Unfortunately, every profession in Anchorage has some bad actors that hurt the reputation of everyone else. On the automotive side, industry associations and professional licensing organizations are very committed to high ethical standards.

Yet some people remain uncomfortable with Anchorage automotive service and repair. It may start with the fact that our vehicles are a big investment and we rely on them for so much in our lives. That alone guarantees our attention. And how well we understand the recommendations really impacts our comfort level.

If we understand what's recommended and the benefits of taking care of the work – and the pitfalls of putting it off – we'll have more trust in the recommendation. So communication is key. It's like going to the doctor; If she's using medical jargon and takes a lot of basic medical knowledge for granted, we have a hard time following her train of thought. It can be like that with your Anchorage service advisor too. He's so familiar with all things automotive, he may forget you don't know a PCV from an EGT.

If you don't understand what your doctor's talking about: ask some questions. If you don't understand what your Anchorage automotive advisor's talking about: ask some questions.

Let's go back to those ethical standards; when we hear a repair recommendation, we always ask ourselves, "Is this really necessary?" Well, here's the industry standard:

If a technician tells you that a repair or replacement is required it must meet the following criteria:

  1. The part no longer performs its intended purpose
  2. The part does not meet a design specification
  3. The part is missing

For example, it you take your car in for a grinding noise when you step on the brakes, you may just think you need new brake pads. After the inspection, the technician at L and M Motors Inc says that you have a cracked rotor and need to replace it.

If you tried to get him to simply put new pads on, he would say that if you didn't want to replace the rotor; L and M Motors Inc would ethically have to refuse the repair.

To just put pads on a cracked rotor would have been very wrong. The brakes could've failed at anytime and needed to be repaired – not just have a band-aid slapped on them.

Now, looking at something not so serious, the technician may suggest repair or replacement if:

  1. The part is close to the end of its useful life – just above discard specifications or likely to fail soon
  2. To address a customer need or request – like for better ride or increased performance
  3. To comply with maintenance recommended by the vehicle's manufacturer
  4. Based on the technician's informed experience

Of course, the technician has the burden of making ethical recommendations and properly educating their customers. For the customer, if you are uncomfortable with a recommendation, ask some questions. More information is always a good thing.

L and M Motors Inc
400 W 53rd Ave
Anchorage, AK 99518
907-563-4994



The Fallacy of Cheap Tires

Posted August 24, 2010 3:00 AM

Do you ever shop for shoes in one of our Elmendorf Afb area shoe stores?
When buying a running shoe, is quality important?
Does durability matter as long as the shoes look fabulous?
Would you rather have one pair of long lasting shoes or two pair of lower quality shoes at the same price?

Is the warranty important when buying tires?
When you choose new tires in Anchorage, what's the most important factor for you?

Give us a call at L and M Motors Inc at 907-563-4994 for tire recommendations.

You know, buying tires in Anchorage is a big deal. It's a big ticket item so you know you'll be spending a lot. You're not only concerned about the price, but you want to know that it'll be a long time before you need to buy new tires again.

And of course there's the safety aspect as well. The tires do a lot of work – they carry the weight of the vehicle and you and your passengers. They need to be up to the task. You want to be sure they hold the road and provide good traction. If you carry heavy loads or tow a trailer, the tires need a high load rating to be up for the job.

As a tire professional, I think it's important that people understand the effect of price on a tire's performance and durability. When I was a kid, my dad had a saying, "Pay twice as much and buy half as many."

Dad applied that to a lot of things. He thought that one high quality suit would last longer and look better than two cheap suits. The saying really seems to hold true when it comes to shoes and boots, too.

I buy high-quality work shoes because I spend a lot of time on my feet. They're more comfortable, have important safety features like steel toes and non-slip soles and they last at least twice as long as cheap shoes. I feel I get very good value for my money.

I apply the same thinking to tires. The major tire brands that you're familiar with are known as Tier 1 tires. These tires are well-engineered and very high quality. Comparable tires are usually in the same price range from brand to brand.

Stepping down in price you come to private label tires. Some large tire store chains carry tires with the chain's own brand. It's important to know that most private label tires are built by the same Tier 1 brands that you are familiar with, so they are a quality product. You can ask your tire professional who makes their private brand.

The lowest priced tires on the market are Tier 3 tires. These tend to be imported from China or South America. Since you get what you pay for, you can't expect a Tier 3 tire to deliver the same performance and durability as the others.

So let's say you need new tires. You've determined the features you need. So you have several options, including price options. Now, you've probably heard the term 'it's a 40,000 mile/64,000 km tire' or 'it's a 60,000 mile/97,000 km tire'. Simply put, the manufacturer warrantees the tire for 'X' number of miles/kilometers. If that's important to you, look for the warranty.

What's the difference in the tires with higher mileage warranties? It's the rubber compounds and the amount of tread material. As you might expect, you'll pay more for the longer-lasting tire.

Now the cheapest tires you can find won't have a manufacturer's mileage warranty, or if it does, it'll be relatively low. That brings us back to dad's saying; if you buy the cheapest Tier 3 tire you can, you will likely go through two sets in the time it would take to wear out one set of good quality tires. And the good tires won't cost twice as much, so you'll end up paying more per mile/km driven with the cheap tires.

Hey, I realize that sometimes the budget will only allow for a Tier 3 tire. I make them available for my customers who need them because I would rather see them driving with safe, new tires than pushing their old tires beyond their safety limits. But at L and M Motors Inc, we always counsel our customers to buy as much tire as they can afford, because it will be much less expensive in the long run.

Your tires are the only parts of your vehicle that touch the road. You're only as safe as your tires are well built.

Buy value – not price.

L and M Motors Inc
400 W 53rd Ave
Anchorage, AK 99518
907-563-4994
http://l-and-m-motors-inc.autotipsvideo.com



Stop It! You Need Good Brakes

Posted August 13, 2010 10:00 AM

Good brakes are obviously very important. If you've ever had your brakes go out while you're driving around the Anchorage area, you'll know how terrifying it can be. Today we'll focus on how to tell when you have a brake problem and how to make good repair choices.

Often, the first indication that something's wrong with the brakes is an unusual sound. It could be a squeal, chatter or grinding sound.

Some brake pads have a little piece of metal embedded in them that will make a squeal or chirping sound when the brake pads have been worn down to the point that they need to be replaced. It's an early warning indicator.

When you hear that sound, schedule an appointment at L and M Motors Inc soon.

Now a chattering sound is more urgent. That usually indicates that something is loose. It could be a brake pad or even the brake calipers. If one of those parts falls off, you could have some serious trouble stopping the vehicle. It would be a good idea to park it until you can get into the shop.

A grinding noise usually means that the brake pad is completely worn away and the metal parts of the brake are rubbing directly on the metal brake rotor. That means the rotor is being damaged and will need some work. More on that later.

Another warning sign is that your brake pedal may feel soft and spongy – or it may even feel very hard to push in. Both could mean trouble. And of course, you may get a dashboard brake warning light.

Now when it comes time to replace your brake pads, you have a choice to make. You can get the same pads that came standard on your vehicle. You can expect the same performance and durability as with the pads that came on the car from the factory.

Now you can also get a budget brake pad. Sometimes Anchorage drivers insist on lower cost pads. That's OK if the budget demands it, but you need to be aware of the tradeoffs. Lower grade pads are usually noisier, so you'll have to live with more noise when you apply the brakes. They also tend to generate a lot more brake dust, you know, that black dust that accumulates on your wheels. And they probably won't last as long either. In our opinion, that's a lot of compromise for just a few dollars in savings.

You can also choose to buy premium brakes pads at L and M Motors Inc. These perform at higher specifications than the factory pads. You can expect quieter operation, less brake dust and better stopping power.

Now, getting back to the rotors. The rotors are the discs that the brake pads clamp down on to stop the vehicle. If you've been driving with completely worn brake pads, you've scratched grooves into the rotors. If the grooves aren't too deep, the rotor can be resurfaced. A thin layer of metal is cut off the surface of the rotor to make it smooth again.

Now, if the grooves are too deep or if the rotor has already be resurfaced before, there may not be enough material to resurface and still have a rotor that's thick enough to safely stop the vehicle. In that case, the rotor will have to be replaced.

Something that's often overlooked is the brake fluid. Your manufacturer has a recommended schedule for evacuating the old brake fluid, cleaning the system and refilling it with fresh brake fluid. This is really important to brake performance.

So here's the bottom line: if you suspect, inspect. If you notice any of these warning signs, have your brakes inspected at L and M Motors Inc in Anchorage. Your service advisor can help you make the repair decision that's right for you.

L and M Motors Inc
400 W 53rd Ave
Anchorage, AK 99518
907-563-4994



Deciphering the L and M Motors Inc Menu Board

Posted August 4, 2010 1:00 AM

Let's talk about deciphering the auto service menu board. Anchorage, AK, service centers like L and M Motors Inc have a board that lists the routine services they provide. But some people don't know what these services really are unless they ask. Let's go down a typical list, in alphabetical order, starting with air conditioning service.

Feel free at any time to give L and M Motors Inc a call at 907-563-4994 to learn of the many services we offer, or stop by our Anchorage, AK auto center at 400 W 53rd Ave, 99518.

First remember that all of these services are recommended by vehicle manufacturers. They set how often or at how many miles/kilometers the service should be done.

Air conditioning service involves purging the old refrigerant and capturing it for proper disposal. Then fresh refrigerant is installed. The fresh refrigerant will lubricate the system and will also help it cool better.

Alignment. Service centers like L and M Motors Inc make sure all four wheels are lined up and track with each other. This reduces tire and suspension wear and improves safety and handling.

Battery service. Service centers like L and M Motors Inc inspect the battery for corrosion, leaks or damage. Test the battery's ability to hold a charge. If the battery's still strong, clean it up. If not, replace it.

Brake service. This could be two things. A brake inspection to see if the brakes are working well mechanically and to see if the pads are still safe. If not, replace the pads and make any repairs that might be in order.

The other thing is to evacuate the brake fluid, clean out the system and replace it with fresh fluid. This is important, but often overlooked.

Cabin air filter. The cabin air filter is the filter that cleans the air that comes into the passenger compartment. It works like the filter on your furnace at home. It gets dirty and needs to be changed often.

Cooling system. This is the cooling system for your engine. Replace the old coolant with fresh to protect your radiator and other cooling system components from corrosion.

Differential service. Every vehicle has at least one differential. They don't require service very often, so people don't think of them much. The differential transfers power from the drive train to your wheels. Drain the old fluid and add fresh lubricant.

Engine air filter. This filters the air that's burned in the engine. It also gets dirty and needs to be replaced often.

Fuel filter. This filter cleans the fuel before it gets to the engine. Like the other filters, it too gets clogged and needs to be replaced in order to maintain good flow.

Give us a call.

L and M Motors Inc
400 W 53rd Ave
Anchorage, AK 99518
907-563-4994





Breathe Deep With Your Cabin Air Filter

Posted August 3, 2010 12:00 PM

Bad air quality while you're driving around Anchorage is nothing to sneeze at. But seriously, more and more vehicles these days come equipped with a cabin air filter. Since they're fairly new on the scene, a lot of folks don't know about them yet.

These filters clean the air in the passenger compartment, or cabin, of your car or truck. They do the same job as the furnace filter you have at home. They can filter out particles as small as three microns. By contrast, a grain of sand is about 200 microns.

So your cabin air filter can clean out dust, pollution, pollen and spores to keep the air in your car nice and clean. And just like your furnace filter, they need to be replaced when they get dirty. Check your owner's manual or ask your service advisor at L and M Motors Inc, but they typically need to be replaced at around 12,000 to 15,000 miles (19,000-24,000 kilometers).

The filter is usually either under the hood or under the dashboard. Some are a little tricky to get to, so you'll want to have L and M Motors Inc take care of replacing them.

As we said, many people don't realize they have a cabin air filter and go to their shop complaining about a funky smell in the ventilation system. It turned out to be a cabin air filter that was long overdue for replacement – really dirty and starting to smell. A quick replacement and they were on their way and smelling fine.

Anchorage residents who are allergy sensitive can really benefit from a cabin air filter, as it keeps allergens to a minimum. If you're one of them, you'll want to stay on top of your filter replacement schedule.

Of course if you do a lot of driving around the Anchorage area in dusty or polluted conditions, you'll need to change your cabin air filter more often.

L and M Motors Inc
400 W 53rd Ave
Anchorage, AK 99518
907-563-4994



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