Selecting a Shop for Car Care and Repair

August 9, 2010

As an automotive consumer advocate and a long time valley car talk show host, one of the questions that I’m asked most often is “how can I find a honest and reputable repair shop?”

Recently, I interviewed the Arizona Attorney General, Terry Goddard on my radio show and his statistics mirror those of the Phoenix area Better Business Bureau which show that some of the highest number of complaints that their offices receive concern automotive issues.

As a member of the BBB’s Auto Repair Advisory Committee, I can attest to the severity of the problems with some shops performing poor quality repairs, overcharging customers and inexperienced technicians performing the work.

It’s common for many folks to select a repair shop that is convenient to them or has a coupon. However, not all auto repair shops are created equal!

Before you need a repair performed, use the shop for simple maintenance items. Make sure that you are comfortable with the management and facility, the quality of their work and the price that they charge.

When having repairs performed:

  • Have the diagnostics performed first, then discuss your service options with the shop to insure a first time repair solution.
  • Request to have your old part(s) back for your inspection.
  • Use a charge card so that you can dispute the charge if the repair did not fix the issue.
  • Check their BBB rating and the number of complaints filed against them and how long they have been in business.
  • Check for online testimonials and complaints.
  • Get a written warranty.
  • Until you’ve found a trusted shop, a second written estimate that shows like quality parts and labor operations is a wise decision.

Independent shops typically charge about 34% less than dealerships (according to Consumer Reports) due to lower overhead costs and more flexibility with the parts they use.

If I can assist you in finding a quality shop near you, please email me through the Contact page at We have researched the majority of repair shops in town and are happy to provide you with this information!

Happy Motoring! 

Cary Lockwood of is an automotive consumer advocate,  and host of the “Calling All Cars” radio show heard in Phoenix on KXXT 1010 AM Fridays at 10:00 am. Cary serves on the Better Business Bureau’s Auto Repair Advisory Committee and has over 30 years in the auto industry. Ask Cary your automotive questions at


Synthetic Motor Oil-A Wise Choice for Car Owners

August 9, 2010

Caring for your car can be quite expensive and time consuming! Whether you’re the do-it-yourselfer for your car maintenance or you take it to a shop, I’ve got some great news that will save you time and money as well as getting a longer life out of your engine and increase your fuel economy!

 Synthetic motor oil was developed in 1969 and over the years, it was reformulated to the point where many auto manufacturers began using it as factory-fill in many production vehicles.

 Where we have been in the habit of changing our oil every 3 months or 3,000 miles, some vehicle manufacturers state that oil changes can be extended to intervals of up to 10,000 miles or more when using synthetic motor oil.

Synthetic motor oil studies find that these products have:

  • Improved mechanical friction reduction, increasing engine life and fuel economy.
  • Much better low and high temperature viscosity stability.
  • Enhanced chemical & shear stability
  • Greater resistance to oxidation, thermal breakdown and oil sludge formation.
  • Increased oil change intervals and less waste oil.
  • Quicker lubrication on cold starts which greatly reduces engine wear!

Personally, I run synthetic engine oil in all of my vehicles, from my older cars to my later model vehicles. I have found that the engine performance is far superior having run the synthetics. In fact, one friend of mine racked up over 450,000 miles on his construction truck, running synthetics from day one. When he sold the truck with 450,000 miles, the original engine was still running strong!

While synthetic engine oils are typicallly 2-3 times more expensive than the typical mineral based engine oils, being able to increase your oil change intervals and all of the other benefits that come with it, far outweigh using a conventional engine oil.

Synthetic oils reduces our demand on crude oil as well as our reliance on foreign oil producers.

In my book, synthetic engine oil is a great value for your budget, your vehicle, your time and the environment. An automotive maintenance grand slam!

Cary Lockwood of is an automotive consumer advocate,  Big Three engineering veteran and host of the “Calling All Cars” radio show heard in Phoenix on KXXT 1010 AM and KXEG 1280 AM. Cary serves on the Better Business Bureau’s Auto Repair Advisory Committee and has over 30 years in the auto industry. Ask Cary your automotive questions at

Extend Component Life with Timely Refueling

August 9, 2010

There are many systems on later model cars that will sometimes give you early warning signs, alerting you that a problem is looming on the horizon. If you pay attention to items like minor fluid leaks, odd noises or odors, it may save you from a costly breakdown.

 However, there are some vehicle components that will fail without much warning! One such component is the fuel pump. When it fails, your vehicle will not run. Therefore, I like to do whatever I can to maximize its durability.

 You can extend the life of your fuel pump by always maintaining at least a ¼ tank of gas. These tank mounted pumps are cooled by the surrounding gasoline and low fuel levels can overheat and overwork the pump, causing them to fail prematurely.

 Another tip to get over 100,000 miles out of the fuel pump is to replace your fuel filter more often. Modern fuel systems have filters that are very effective at protecting expensive fuel injectors, but when they begin to get restricted, they tax the pump excessively which can lead to early failure too! I replace my vehicle’s fuel filters at 20k mile intervals and I recently passed 100 k miles on my vehicle with the original pump. Unfortunately, some vehicles have non-serviceable filters. Some people call that progress. I call it planned obsolescence.  

 Given the fact that most fuel pumps are modular components that are serviced as assembly, they can run you more than $900 as well as leaving you stranded.

 A few more trips to the gas station doesn’t sound that bad after all (given the benefit). Besides, who can resist those giant fountain drinks at the mini-marts!

 If you have a car question or comment, please email me through the Contact page at

 Cary Lockwood of is an automotive consumer advocate,   and host of the “Calling All Cars” radio show heard in Phoenix on KXXT 1010 AM and KXEG 1280 AM. Cary has over 30 years in the auto industry.

August 9, 2010

You’re driving down the road and glance down at the instrument panel. A light is on… the image of an engine. Your mind fills with dread as you envision the pile of money it’ll cost to repair the problem.

 Actually, having that check engine or service engine soon (SES) light come on may not mean a major repair expense is in your future. It could be an indication of a minor problem, such as your gas cap seal is cracked. It could also be an indication of an emission system problem which can cause poor fuel economy or a driveability issue.

 When this SES light is on solid, it is not a panic situation, however you should take your vehicle in for service in a timely manner.

 Another point of interest is that it is a diagnostic aid for more than just engine functions. You can expect to see an illuminated SES light if a fault is detected from other vehicle systems such as the transmission or the charging system.

 When this light comes on, it sets a code in the vehicle computer, making it easier and less costly for a technician to diagnose the problem. Using a scanner, the code will provide data that indicates the particular system that is malfunctioning. Then, the technician will go about determining which part in that system is the culprit.

 Depending on the condition, your vehicle may not display a check engine light when there is a malfunction, making it more difficult to diagnose because a code was not set in the computer.

 If the SES light is flashing, it is a warning that your vehicle needs immediate attention. It could mean that your vehicle has a misfire condition that could damage your expensive catalytic converter. Shutting off your vehicle as quickly as possible may save you from a budget busting repair.

 Continuing to drive a short distance could cost you dearly when that SES light is flashing. A small tow charge is well worth the price.

 Happy Motoring!

 Cary Lockwood of is an automotive consumer advocate,  Big Three engineering veteran and host of the “Calling All Cars” radio show heard in Phoenix on KXXT 1010 AM and KXEG 1280 AM. Cary serves on the Better Business Bureau’s Auto Repair Advisory Committee and has over 30 years in the auto industry. Ask Cary your automotive questions at


August 9, 2010

  I don’t think your car will have an oppurtunity to drive through the pearly gates when it finally utters it’s last exhaust note but there are many items of value to have with you in case it attempts an early trip to the barb wire gated junk yard before your ready to let it go.

  Way before Nicholson and Freeman were in the movie about life goals before check out time,I’ve used a bucket full of stuff i keep in my car in case it attempts early vehicular suicide.

  Feel free to post this column on your refridgerator to help you fill up your own breakdown bucket.

 Normally , these articles are copywrited ,but since my editor is on vacation ,go ahead and copy the check list if it will help your friends and family. If someone mentions some kind of copywritten automotive guru protected work,tell them you have a permit. (use A.R.S.- B.L.2 cause that sounds real official)

  • well seasoned large bucket (mine has a handle and a history)                                          
  • Cell phone and car charger
  •  A towing service number in your wallet/phone
  •  jumper cables
  •  flashlight/fresh batteries
  •  a large bottle of drinking water   Warm water is still better than nothing.
  •  work gloves
  •  sunscreen
  •  sunglasses
  •  blanket/tarp
  •  small vehicle safety kit
  •  a can of fix a flat
  •  The complete jack/tire changing tools
  •  The lug lock key
  •  A windshield sun shade
  •  a sun shading hat

 Don’t forget to have an aired up spare tire that is easy to get to and not older than 7 years.

  Even if you only have to wait a short time for a tow truck,a half hour without some of these items can be pretty brutal.

  If you do happen to have an un-scheduled break down,(most seem to fit into that catagory) you’ll be so prepared that your deodorant won’t even work overtime.

  Two words that have always stayed with me since my boy scout days,be prepared ,will ultimately make a breakdown easier to cope with.

  Happy motoring !

My car needs a whatchamacallit?

August 9, 2010

Perhaps this has happened to you:

 You take your car in for service or repairs and the service writer tells you that you need to have a thingamajig replaced so that your car will function properly. You don’t understand a single word that he utters, your eyes glaze over as you nod your head affirmatively and then when you are presented with a quote for the repair, sticker shock sets in.

 You tell the shop that you’ll think about it and when you get home, you call your uncle Jake in Des Moines. You figure, heck…Jake knows a lot about cars! He replaced the distributor in his 1973 Chevy truck and it only took him a week to do it.

 Problem is Uncle Jake’s analysis and explanation is about as helpful as that service writer’s was!

 Vehicles have become incredibly complex. They are very sophisticated and ever-evolving. These days it takes a highly-trained technician to properly diagnose a vehicle problem.

 After working as a senior engineering technician with one of the Big Three automakers for over 20 years, owning an auto repair shop for 10 years and having a car talk radio show in the Valley for about 5 years, I understand how you might feel about auto care and repair.

 That’s why I am excited to announce that I will be writing columns for the Arizona Republic that I hope will help you understand your car better.

 In my columns, I will strive to bring you the kind of information that will make you feel much more comfortable the next time your vehicle needs service or repairs. I will also tell you about the latest in new car technologies, important recalls and pass along money-saving info about selling or buying a new or used vehicle.

 I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

 If there is ever an automotive topic that you’d like for me to address in my column or you have a car care question, you can always reach me through the “Contact Us” page at

 Cary Lockwood of is an automotive consumer advocate,  Big Three engineering veteran and host of the “Calling All Cars” radio show heard in Phoenix on KXXT 1010 AM and KXEG 1280 AM. Cary serves on the Better Business Bureau’s Auto Repair Advisory Committee and has over 30 years in the auto industry. Ask Cary your automotive questions at

Runaway Toyota Poised to Strike Again, Thanks to Local Dealership

April 20, 2010

Due to the recent downturn in the economy, it is quite obvious that many businesses are suffering (not to mention our neighbors, family and friends). Businesses have so many obligations…. their shareholders, their employees, their vendors, but what about their obligation to be ethical in their business practices?

Not so long ago, I believe that many business owners and executives did the right thing. They took the high road because they were ethical and they knew that taking short cuts (lying and cheating) would be their undoing in the long run. 

Today, we have banking institutions (like Goldman Sacs) that have come under fire because they have possibly conducted themselves in an unethical manner which may have caused harm to folks who purchased stocks from them.

We have also been a witness to many other instances where the consumer was enticed in to Ponzi schemes where many of them lost much, or all of their wealth.

You know, it’s one thing to lose the money that you have invested, but it’s another thing to lose your life (and perhaps the lives of others) because of the unethical practices of unscrupulous business owners.

Together, let’s examine a situation that I recently talked about on my radio show. I interviewed Irene Simonetti who was the owner of a 2010 Toyota RAV4 that she purchased in December 2009.  She thought very highly about the quality of Toyota vehicles and when she was notified about a recall concerning an unintended acceleration issue, Irene scheduled an appointment with the dealership and took her RAV4 in right away to get it fixed.

Irene had owned Toyota’s in the past and she purchased a new one because she was so comfortable with their great reputation and that they had been very dependable for her in the past. .

A couple of months after having the recall work performed which would have eliminated the risk of any runaway “unintended acceleration” issue, Irene was on her way to a doctors appointment when her RAV4 became unresponsive when she applied the brake as she exited the freeway at I-17 and the Carefree Highway. At a speed of 65 MPH. she was unable to get the vehicle to slow down as she approached the busy intersection at 7:45 AM on a Tuesday morning. Having operated a vehicle for 45+ years, her instincts were to put the vehicle in neutral and apply the brakes. The engine revved furiously and with both feet on the brake pedal, she was able to bring her car to a complete stop in the middle of an intersection without causing an accident.

As you can guess, Irene was very upset and quite worried after this event. She had her vehicle towed to a local Toyota dealership that day.

After a few days of the car being at the dealership, Irene and her husband Bob were told that the reason her vehicle had this runaway condition was due to the floor mat being jammed up against the accelerator pedal (which was not valid in this instance). This seems to be the standard dealership response that folks hear after encountering this runaway condition. Irene and Bob believed that this runaway condition would happen again with their RAV4 and they did not want to drive this vehicle again.

In need of transportation, Bob and Irene were referred to a local dealership after telling their story on TV. NOTE: This dealership has a relationship with the TV station and knew that it had experienced a runaway condition. The dealership made them an even trade in on another make of vehicle and Bob and Irene accepted the offer.

Business ethics (being what they are these days) we discovered that Irene’s RAV4 was up for sale at a sister dealership down the street.

Because Toyota has not determined the cause of the unintended acceleration issue on their vehicles OR any other Toyota or Lexus vehicle, we have to assume that this RAV4 is being resold to an unsuspecting buyer who may be faced with the same runaway condition that Irene experienced.

This time, will the new vehicle owner of the RAV4 injure others when the car goes in to runaway mode? As in past situations around the country, will people die after being involved in an accident with one of these cars? Is common sense uncommon now? Should we expect business people to do the right thing and keep these vehicles off the road until there is a real fix for the Toyota vehicles? Should Toyota be paying the dealers to keep these vehicles in storage until there is a real fix for this malfunction?

It’s a tragedy that this vehicle is sitting on a car dealerships lot and the dealer is waiting for someone to purchase it. Will it be a family of 5? Could it be your family that purchases this vehicle? It’s not just an isolated incident involving this one car at one dealership…it may be thousands of cars!

Whether it’s a private party or a dealership sale, and the seller has experienced a runaway condition or other serious malfunction, they should be legally obligated to present the car buyer with this information. If not, and this vehicle is in an accident because of this condition and people are injured or killed, should the seller face criminal penalties or manslaughter charges?

Please, everyone, remember that these cars are out there so stay alert and drive defensively!

 Cary Lockwood of is an automotive consumer advocate and the host of Your Auto Network’s Calling All Cars radio show on KXXT 1010 AM Phoenix and KXEG 1280 AM Phoenix. Cary is also on the Better Business Bureau’s Auto Repair Advisory Committee. Cary has over 30 years in the auto industry as an engineering technician at G.M. as well as being an auto repair shop owner for 10 years. You can download the radio show by going to You can also post your automotive questions through the contact page of the website.