Archive | Case Studies

Good News – Mini Cooper Timing Chain Warranty Extension, Recall & Reimbursement

If you own a 2007-2010 Mini Cooper S over 30,000 miles on the odometer, you’ve likely paid to have the timing chain system, or perhaps even the engine, repaired or replaced.

The Beloved Mini Cooper!

The Beloved Mini Cooper!

Background
On the 2007-2010 Minis, the timing chain, an important internal part, and it’s associated drive system, have been failing at a very high rate. Timing chains, with proper care, generally last for the life of the engine. Failure of the chain leads to engine running and drivability problems, and can result in severe internal engine damage.

As the largest independent Mini Cooper Service facility in Maine it has been our opinion, and is now apparently also the opinion of the courts, that this premature failure is a design defect. In our experience, this is often brought on by the very extended oil change intervals of 15,000 miles (which is why we strongly advise oil changes on Minis at 5,000 to 7,500 miles).

As Promised
If you’re an AMC customer, you might recall we suggested you hold onto your service and repair paperwork, as we had been following this problem very closely, and saw help on the horizon for Mini owners.

Good News
Mini has recognized the problem (after a class action lawsuit) and extended the warranty on the part to 7 years or 100,000 miles! So if a problem occurs in the future, you are covered. Please review the scans of the letter which are attached to this post.

What’s Covered
So far it appears that the settlement covers only the “N14” engine used in the “S” models, and not the “N12” engine used in the other cars.

Note that in our experience the “N12” engine timing chains fail just as often, perhaps more so, than the “S” models. We feel that Mini should step up the plate and offer to help these folks too.

Not Yet Replaced?
As an AMC customer, we have kept an eye on this problem in the past, and will continue to check every time your car is in for service. If we note a timing chain issue, we will contact Mini on your behalf, verify warranty coverage, and make arrangements for the work to be carried out, at no cost to you, yep, that’s just what we do, we wear the white hats. wink emoticon

Already Paid
If you’ve already paid to have this work done, you simply contact Mini with a copy of the service order to the phone number or email on the letter for reimbursement.

Contact
Mini Customer Relations can be contacted at 1-866-ASK-MINI or Mini.Assistance@askmini.com regarding details and possible eligibility for reimbursement.

Read More
If you want read more on the Mini Cooper timing chain issue, or any other common issues with vehicles we service, be sure to check the “Mini Timing Chain 101” on our “Case Studies” page – http://atlanticmotorcar.com/case-studies

Your Advocate, On Your Side
At AMC, because we are independent and locally owned, we are YOUR advocate, and our team makes a point of checking recalls and service campaigns from the manufacturer on every visit, and keeping our customers up to date.

Questions
If you have any questions, or need a copy of your service history, please do not hesitate to contact us directly. (207) 882-9969.

Thank you,
Bruce and team

The Measure Of A Workshop – Or How To Find A New Home For Your Car

To Start
For sometime now I’ve been involved with other shops, either in a consulting, or in an industry 20 Group. Over the years I’ve developed a set of criteria that I’ve shared with friends and family about how to properly evaluate where to obtain high quality, ethical auto service. These apply if your auto is an Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Saab, Volvo or VW.

Some of these items may seem basic, even commonsense, but all too often folks make the decision of where to take the car under duress, you want to have an ongoing relationship with shop before problems occur, indeed a good shop will save you money by preventing problems whenever possible. After one’s home, the car usually 2nd largest expense most folks face. Determining who and where you bring your car for service can be one of the most important decisions you can make. The level of service can either positively or negatively affect both your pocketbook, and the value of your car.

Hourly Labor Rate
While this generally the first question most people ask, its really not a good way to properly evaluate a shop, but is often used as most folks don’t know what else to ask. Cost is understandably an important factor, but the most expensive and disappointing service you can buy is the wrong or poor service on your car. While a shop with a low labor rate may seem a bargain, it will often be undercapitalized and not able to properly equip its workshop, buy needed diagnostic equipment, or provide training for its staff. Undercapitalized shops are likewise usually not able to hire and retain top talent. Likewise an undercapitalized shop will be much less likely to reach into their own pockets to help with goodwill for its customers. What you want is a “fair” labor rate, one that is reasonable to you, and allows the shop to stay in business.

Overall Facility
When evaluating a service facility be cautious not to repeat the reasons you left the new car dealer. While a clean and modern facility is important, you want to avoid the frills and flourishes that have nothing to do with

AMC Workshop

AMC Workshop

servicing your auto, and only serve to raise the cost of the repair. Glass palaces with gold plated facets are known in the industry as “Taj Garages”, and you don’t want to be the one paying for the owner’s mortgage and ego. If the facility looks like a new car dealer on the outside, you’re going to find the same cost structure on the inside.

Perception is often reality, look at the facility from the outside; does it look clean and safe? Does it look like the ownership takes pride in the business, if they don’t take care of their own property, do you think they will care for yours? How are you greeted at the service counter? Does the staff seem to welcome you? Look around at the waiting room, most progressive shops will now have WiFi Internet in the waiting area, ideally there may even be a desk and computer for you to work from while your car is being serviced.

Loaner Cars & Shuttle Service
Does the facility provide loaner cars or alternative transportation arrangements? Do they offer pickup and delivery valet service, or after hours drop off and pickup of your car? In short, are they thinking about your convenience?

Customer Cars
AMC CustomerWhile you are looking at the outside property, take a look at cars in the prospective shop’s parking lot. Are they the same model as yours? Ideally you want a shop that specializes in your car type, we’ll talk more about that later. Are the cars waiting for service about the same type, Audi, BMW, Volvo, and vintage as yours or older? A parking lot with late model cars generally means that the workshop is keeping current on technology, and is likely properly equipped to service your car. Take a critical look at the condition of the customer cars, this is almost as important as their age. Do the cars look well maintained; or are they damaged, dented, held together with duck tape? If it looks like a car you’d be uncomfortable parking next to, then this may not be the right place for your car. If the cars in the parking lot look attractive, then the shop is doing a good job making their customer’s cars last.

Specialization
Ask if the prospective shop is familiar with your type of car, not just if they have worked on them, but if they specialize in it. Ideally you want a shop that specializes in your car type; they will have the tools, parts and experience to handle your service promptly and efficiently. It works in the medical profession, and it’s doubly true when you are dealing with more than just two models. Remember the phrase – “Jack of all trades, master of none?” – most of today’s cars are far too complicated to be handled professionally by a general repair shop, you don’t want someone learning how to fix your car – on your dime. You’ll find a specialist will save you money, provide a better outcome, for they know what to look for, and have often developed service procedures to quickly handle the common problems.

Workshop Cleanliness
Are you allowed inside the workshop? A professional organization will eagerly offer to give you a tour of the facility; after all they are proud to show off what they have built. Don’t rely on website photos, they may not even be of the facility you were visiting, and it is all too easy to make even the dirtiest look pretty in photos/videos, so ask to walk inside the workshop. Can you walk from one side to the other without getting greasy? Are there used parts piled up, is the floor clean and painted, remember, what’s on the workshop floor will end up on the floor of your car. Over the years I’ve noted that the higher skilled technicians simply won’t work in a dirty environment for any length of time. The cleanliness and order of the workshop is perhaps the best indication you can get as to the service philosophy of the ownership and technicians.

Staff
While you are in the workshop, take a look at the staff, perhaps more intangible, but important nevertheless, look at the folks who will be working on your car. Do they look happy, are they working as a team, do they seem to enjoy where they are and what they do? Do they smile, can you speak with them, and does the service advisor bring you out to the shop and introduce you to the person who will be working on your car? Today’s cars are complicated, the best shops work as teams.

Our BMW ISTA Diagnostic cart, note Fronius Battery Stabilizer on side of cart. We simply wheel the cart up to the car, connect, and diagnose or program!

Our BMW ISTA Diagnostic cart, note Fronius Battery Stabilizer on side of cart. We simply wheel the cart up to the car, connect, and diagnose or program!

Information Technology
Computers, often-specialized computers, are need to service almost every late model car now. Ask to see diagnostic equipment specific to your car, if you have a BMW, ask to see the BMW computer, a Mercedes, the MB DAS system, a Volvo, the VIDA computer. Such computers and diagnostic tools represent a major expense; properly equipped shops will love to show them off.

Ask about factory service information, does the workshop use online service manuals, the paper service books have been largely obsolete for nearly a decade. Ask about factory service bulletins, does the shop require technicians to check for bulletins, which may apply to your car during service, do they regularly share such bulletins with you. Ideally you should a minimum of one computer per technician in the workshop, this may be a mix of laptops and desk computers.

Training
Ask if the shop has a regular training program, do all the people who might be working on your car go…or just a few? Where do they train – hint local parts vendor training only helps them sell that company’s parts, training should be high level training, often done off site. Ask what is their training budget for each tech – you are entitled to know, these are the people working on your car, and if they are not trained, they are learning at your expense.

Look for certifications for technicians, not all shops display these on the wall, so you may need to ask. You should see a minimum of ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) an independent certification body, but check also for other training certificates, and check that it is current – auto technology changes fast.

Service Philosophy
This is a question for the shop owner, ask him or her about their service philosophy. You want a shop geared toward Maintenance rather than Repair. Odd sounding perhaps, so let’s talk about those two terms, often interchanged and not clearly understood. Maintenance means “maintaining” your car, servicing it before it “breaks down”. All manufacturers, from Audi to Volvo have service schedules. Repair on the other hand is done after a failure has occurred. Maintenance is almost always less expensive than repair, it is far easier and less costly to maintain rather than replace. For example, it is less costly to paint your house every 5 years than replace all the wood every 10 years.

A well-maintained car is safe, reliable and has a much higher resale. An ideal shop will have safety and reliability as their two top values. Ask if they follow the factory maintenance schedule, and then ask them to show you the actual schedule for your car. The factory schedule is the minimum care that a manufacturer has determined a car needs to be safe and reliable, often in harsh climates more frequent, or different services are required.

Customer Care
smiling-girlThe best service facilities want to have an ongoing relationship with you and your car. Ask about their after-service follow up – do you receive a call after service, thank you cards for referrals, does it seem like they appreciate you as an individual? Do they provide free service reminders for when you car should be serviced in the future?

Quality control, today’s cars are sometimes a real challenge to service, every shop should have a quality control program, and you the customer should not be the quality control department. Ask about quality checking, how many times is your car checked over before being released from service, which does the quality checks, it should be more than just the technician who serviced your car.

Can you freely speak with owner, is the owner on premieres? Ask about the shop’s relationship with local new car dealers if warranty problem or recall occurs. The best shops will maintain an ongoing relationship with the service department of the new car dealer, assuring you that if a warranty problem does occur, it will be handled promptly. The best shops will arrange and handle the warranty service process for you, working with the dealer to resolve the concern.

Community
The best businesses are generally actively involved in their local community, and not just there for a fast buck. As the staff about their community involvement, or giveback. Are the owners or staff involved with local non-profits, on boards of community organization, etc? While this shouldn’t be not a major focal point, especially for a new business, but it will tell you a bit more about the philosophy of the ownership.

Online Reviews
The internet has empowers the consumer like nothing before, it’s your friend here as well. Look for online reviews written by the shop’s customers, the best are DemandForce and then Google. Read their customer’s words, you can often learn a great deal reading between the lines. No shop is perfect, and mistakes do happen from time to time, what you want to look for is how the workshop worked with the customer to resolve the issue. A string of negative reviews, or worse, few or no reviews, should prompt you to reconsider your choice.

Other
Does the company own its own building, in certain metro areas this may not be feasible, or if the business is young this may not be the case, but it does give you some idea if the business is financially secure.

About Us
At Atlantic Motorcar we are sometimes asked what makes us different, better or a superior choice to your current service facility. Simply stated, because we provide the overall lowest cost in auto service, preventing problems rather than just repairing them. We use better methods to give you the highest quality service. In short, we care about you, and your car. We don’t just say that, we measure it! We consistently rank in the upper 3% of Customer Satisfaction Surveys from Customerlink. We are conveniently located on U.S. Route 1 in Maine’s midcoast, and offer complimentary loaner cars as well as valet pickup and delivery service from Falmouth to Camden.

We have over 25 years of experience servicing Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Mini, Porsche, and Volvo. We utilize all of the latest technology and factory computerized diagnostic systems. Our service staff is trained on even the very latest models and systems. As Maine’s Bosch Authorized Service Center (since 1989) we have both the experience and training to repair and service these fine automobiles. Our facility offers comprehensive service for your car, and we are not limited in our capabilities.

Please take a few moments to let us know how we can help you! (207) 882-9969 or on the web at AtlanticMotorcar.com.

Most Respectfully,
Bruce J. Howes

Mercedes CLK and SLK – Power Top Problem and Repair Service

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 2.29.48 PM

Mercedes with the Vario Top

History
The classic Mercedes SL chassis (aside from being Bruce’s favorite car ever) also know as the SL300, SL500, SLK, and CLK has to be one of the most amazing cars from a electromechanical technology standpoint. First released in 1989 (129 chassis) and are still in current production. The R129 replaced the R107 SL-Class in 1989 and was in its turn replaced by the R230 in 2003 (US). The R129 was produced as a two-door roadster with an automated (electro-hydraulic) textile tonneau cover. All R129s came standard with an detachable hardtop that could fitted by folding the canvas roof down and manually attaching it. 

Vario 2 Mercedes Cylinder

Vario 2 Mercedes Cylinder

The Problem
The technology which makes these cars cool, is unfortunately the technology which can be their undoing. With some of the earlier cars nearly a quarter century of use, the top hydraulics have become one of the weak points in an otherwise rock solid auto. Still, I can’t imagine that Mercedes ever anticipated that these hydraulic systems would still be functioning some 10-20 years later, and it’s only a testimony to their superb German engineering that most still are.

How Not To Fix
You’ll see a number of “snake oil” repairs out there for this problem, additives to “swell” the seals, “new” seals to try to install in your old cylinders (problem is the rams are also often worn, which new seals do not correct), techniques to try and “tighten down” the cylinder caps, you name it. None are a lasting fix, few even begin to provide any even short term correction, and ALL ultimately cost you much more in the end, when the very expensive pump motor fails, or the hydralic fluid leaks and ruins your car’s interior.

IMG_0150

Service Kit – Vario 2 Hydraulic Cylinders

The Fix
This is the main cause of failure of the soft top of these cars. The hydraulic seals inside the cylinders are made of material that is not very durable and degrade over the years in the mineral fluid independently whether you use the soft top a lot or do not use it at all. The hydraulic seals usually simply disintegrate. No stop leak is able to fix the problem as sometimes sections of the seal crack away creating a very large, and expensive damage to the interior of the car. The only correct and lasting repair is to replace the cylinders, which usually entails all of them so the problem does not repeat.

Atlantic Motorcar has deverloped some very specific procedures and tooling, combined with our expect technicians, to make this very challenging service last another quarter century!

How We Can Help
At Atlantic Motorcar we’ve deverloped some very specific procedures and tooling, combined with our expect technicians, to make this otherwise onerous repair a snap. Well, maybe not a “snap”, hard to call a day + of labor a snap, let’s just say that we make it flow very, very smoothly.

All told, the power hydraulic system on the 170 is compromised of number individual cylinders that do everything from unlatching the top, to moving the convertible top out of the way, and folding securely in the boot. If the soft top of your beloved SLK roadster, or for that matter W129 or 124 Cabriolet, is not working any more or is very slow, chances are that the hydraulic cylinders that operate the top are leaking.

Finally
Questions, or if we can be of help in any way with service on your Mini Cooper, BMW, or other European (and now Japanese) import, please contact us. Our team of Service Specialists are here to help, for even the newest autos! (207) 882-9969.

Knowing, not just “doing”, that’s the Atlantic Motorcar Center way of life.
Thanks!

Warmly,
The Atlantic Motorcar Center Service Team

 

 

BMW Sunroof Repair and Reseal – Wind, Water Leak and Noise

Problem

Correction and repair of water and wind leaks.

Correction and repair of water and wind leaks.

This BMW 5 series presented with a concern of sunroof wind noise, and a possible water leak or entry. A quick inspection of the existing seal showed that it had become compressed, not an unusual occurrence for a tubular rubber product after time, much like an engine’s gaskets can get hardened and leak, so the rubber seal on the sunroof, installed back when the car was first manufactured, needed service.

Correction
The Atlantic Motorcar Center has developed a very through service and replacement process for the BMW models affected with this problem. And it is a matter not so much as of “if”, but rather as “when”. BMW offers a service part, referenced in a Technical Service Bulletin, for correction of this problem. The only problem is your local dealer is unlikely to be aware of it, when we first called to check status of the part, the parts person had no idea of what were referring to. Thankfully our extensive contacts allowed us to source, locate and order the update kits, and we now stock these for most of the models affected with this problem.

Prevent
On these seals, we suggest inspection yearly, and consider replacement at the 5 Year, or 60,000 mile interval. Failure in the form of leakage, usually occurs very soon after the car hits this milage or age mark. There is a better and revised seal available, which we use in our service procedure.

Correction and repair of water and wind leaks.

Correction and repair of water and wind leaks.

When replacing any sunroof system part for a leak or wind noise concern, it is very important to check and clean the sunroof drains at the same time, the BMW drains are often found clogged, or at the very least, partially plugged from dirt, leaves and other debris. As you can see from the photos, it is a bit of a process to access the seal, so be sure to always check and clean the sunroof drains at the same time.

Final
Not a simple repair, yes, but one, if done correctly, will last several years. That’s our goal with BMW, and other autos here, fix it right the first time, and prevent problems from happening in the first place. 30 years of service experience have well taught us that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Be cured, once and for all, and give us a call, we’re happy to answer any service questions you might have on your BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Lexus, Volvo or Volkswagen.

Earning your trust, every time you turn the car…that’s what we do…every day…for the last 30 years. Click here see what our happy customers have to say about us and our service at AMC Customer Reviews.

If you have questions, or if we can be of further assistance, just call us at (207) 882-969, we’d love to meet you, and your car!

Warmly,
Bruce and the AMC Service Team

 

2012 BMW N20 Engine – Oil Filter Housing Update Kit

The Problem
2012-bmw-328i-engine-twinpower
2012 BMW with the N20 engine presented with an apparent coolant and oil intermix fault, in other words, the normally green antifreeze was black with oil, and antifreeze had gotten into the engine oil.

Testing confirmed that coolant was being contaminated with engine oil, and the engine oil was noted to have a white foamy mixture on the dipstick and fill cap. Tech diagnosed as a defective engine oil filter housing, the original housing was plastic, BMW has since released an update kit which is constructed of aluminum.

Repair
Tech replaced oil filter housing with update kit, engine oil and filter were drained and replaced until the engine oil was free from contamination. Engine was then test run to verify no internal damage. As the vehicle was new to us, and was towed in, testing of the pre-failure condition was not possible.

With the engine oil clear and clean, the next step was to deal with the contamination in the cooling system. Using several containers of solvent, the cooling system was flushed out until the water ran clear, then drained, refilled and protected with the proper coolant. Finally, an extensive road test and engine run test were carried out, to verify completion of the repair.

In Closing
Questions, or if we can be of help in any way with service on your Mini Cooper, BMW, or other European (and now Japanese) import, please contact us. Our team of Service Specialists are here to help, for even the newest autos! (207) 882-9969.

Knowing, not just “doing”, that’s the Atlantic Motorcar Center way of life.
Thanks!

Warmly,
The Atlantic Motorcar Center Service Team

BMW Water Pump Failure – How, Why, and What To Prevent

What

This BMW 540 has was diagnosed with a defective engine coolant pump. Symptoms were overheating and damaged drive belt system. Disassembly of the front cover and removal of the water pump allowed for inspection of the pump.

How
The mode of failure with this pump appears to be simple age and miles, likely exasperated by a lack of coolant changes. The bearing failed on the pump, allowing the plastic impeller to contact the aluminum housing, you can see the growing on the surface. Finally the plastic impeller itself failed, the vehicle overheated, and came to a stop. As the water pump impeller is made from a plastic material, the plastic becomes brittle with age and extended immersion in the hot engine coolant, sometimes simply cracks apart, even without a bearing failure. The defective pump, and pieces of the failed impeller, are on the left side of the photo, the new pump on the right.

Prevent
On these water pumps, we suggest replacement at the 80,000 mile interval. Failure usually occurs very soon after the car hits this milage mark. There is a better pump available, we use one with a metal, rather than plastic impeller. When replacing any cooling system part for an overheating concern, it is very important to replace the engine thermostat at the same time, the thermostats are almost certainly damaged from the overheating, and it inexpensive insurance to do so. As you can see from the photos, it is a bit of a process to access the pump, so be sure to always replace the drive belt and tensioner at the same time.

Aside from protecting from freezing, antifreeze also contains lubricants for the water pump bearing, as well as corrosion inhibitors, unfortunately both of these fade with time, and must be renewed with a coolant flush. As this car is an aluminum alloy engine, it is always a good policy to flush the cooling system at least every three years, and to use a quality antifreeze with corrosion inhibiters.

Final
Not a simple repair, yes, but one, if done correctly, will last another 100,000 miles. That’s our goal with BMW, and other autos here, fix it right the first time, and prevent problems from happening in the first place. 30 years of service experience have well taught us that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Be cured, once and for all, and give us a call, we’re happy to answer any service questions you might have on your BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Lexus, Volvo or Volkswagen.

Earning your trust, every time you turn the car…that’s what we do…every day…for the last 30 years. Click here see what our happy customers have to say about us and our service at AMC Customer Reviews.

If you have questions, or if we can be of further assistance, just call us at (207) 882-969, we’d love to meet you, and your car!

Warmly,
Bruce and the AMC Service Team

 

Mini Cooper Timing Chain Service

– Mini Cooper Timing Chain Service –

New kit installed

New kit installed

Big Nick hard at work doing a timing chain update in a newer Mini Cooper.
Be it a Cooper, Cooper S, or Clubman, we see this nearly weekly on the Mini Coopers in our area. You can read all about Mini timing chains at our Mini Timing Chain 101 page – http://tinyurl.com/Happy-Mini

Fortunately this was caught BEFORE it failed and damaged the engine. When looking at the R56 Mini Coopers (2007 and newer) , we’d always advise checking to see if the timing chain has been updated to the newer kit.

If you have questions, or need Mini service, we’d be delighted to assist you, just call our service team at (207) 882-9969.

Thanks!
– Bruce with the AMC Service Team

BMW Service Engine Clogged Breather System – Oil Consumption Use

BMW Service Valve Cover

BMW Service Valve Cover –
Note sludge or clogging in ventilation port

BMW Service with N52 Engine – This vehicle came from another shop with an uncorrected engine oil leak and high oil use. Consumption was on the order of 1 quart per 100 miles, yes, you read that right.

We started by finding the incorrect engine oil fill cap had been installed by the previous facility, causing an oil leak on the top of the engine, but that was only one problem. The real culprit was a problem with the crankcase ventilation system. Using our special BMW service diagnostic tool, we confirmed a severely clogged engine breather box, on this engine located in the camshaft cover. Not an easy job as this engine has “Valvetronic”, but one that needed to be handled. In the past, we’ve found these breather failures are much more common in colder weather.

On the earlier BMW service, the ventilation or breather system, sometimes called the oil trap, was replaceable. On the later cars it is now part of the camshaft cover, sometimes called the valve cover, and cleaning a clogged breather is next to impossible, replacement usually being the only proper correction.

In the photos below, you’ll note the large camshaft cover assembly that must be replaced for clogging. Such clogging has become an issue with the later breather systems. The build up of this material prevents the crankcase ventilation system from functioning correctly, and will lead to an increase in crankcase pressure, external oil leakage. In severe cases it can build up enough pressure to damage engine seals, including the rear main seal. Any problem with multiple engine oil leaks must first be dealt with by inspecting and servicing the crankcase ventilation system.

If you car has the symptoms noted above, you might want to give us a call, BEFORE the failure occurs. The update cost is minimal compared to the damage which can result. Our goal at Atlantic Motorcar’s BMW service, to provide the lowest possible cost by preventing problems first, rather than just repairing them.

Precautions
Here is how you can take some simple precautionary steps:

  1. If you have no choice but to make short trips, try and take your vehicle on the freeway at least once per week, as this will help burn off condensation.
  2. Avoid excessive idling or allowing the car to warm up.
  3. Keep Your vehicle garaged at night, if possible, when the temps are very low.
  4. Change your engine oil every 5,000-7,000 miles, always using full synthetic.
    We strongly advise not to follow BMW’s 12,000-15,000 mile oil change intervals, we have an expression here, “Oil is cheaper than metal”, keep your engine oil clean, and change on a frequent basis and your BMW will serve you well.

    Feel free to call or stop by find out more on how we can help you get your car back to the condition you both deserve! Earning your trust, every time you turn the car…that’s what we do…every day…for the last 30 years.

    Click here see what our happy customers have to say about us and our service at AMC Customer Reviews.
    If you have questions, or if we can be of further assistance, just call us at (207) 882-969, we’d love to meet you, and your car!

    Warmly,
    Bruce and the AMC Service Team

Mini Cooper – Engine Problem – Carbon Deposits On Intake Valves

Problem occurs with both "S" and non "S" models

Problem occurs with both “S” and non “S” models

Carbon Deposits On Intake Valves
As the largest Mini Cooper service specialists in Maine, at the Atlantic Motorcar Center we’ve noted a significant increase in late model Mini Coopers with cold start or cold running problems, even to the point of stalling, or Check Engine warning lights coming on.

We’ve found that many of these Mini Cooper direct injection engines suffer from an excessive carbon build up on the back of the engine intake valves.  The carbon build up can cause drivability issues such as stumbling, flat spots and lack of power, poor throttle response, or in extreme cases, internal engine damage.  In addition, Mini Cooper engine carbon build-up on the intake valves is commonly associated with an inconsistent idle and in some cases, a direct injection engine will not idle at all when cold.

The Cause
Due to stricter federal emission requirements, most manufacturers have switched to an fully closed emission control system that cycles the crankcase fumes back into the cylinders to be burned off. Also, oil from lubricating the valve guides can drip down the valve stem, and deposit on the back of the intake valves.

Carbon Coated Intake Valve

Carbon Coated Intake Valve

As you can see from the photos below, carbon build-up around intake valves in a Mini Cooper engine is a sticky coating of oil and fuel constituents, we’ve noted that this issue seems to be worse on the 2007 and newer models, but we have seen in as well on the earlier cars. Once formed, these deposits continue to grow, further coating the intake valves and has an extremely negative effect on engine performance.

Great idea for emissions, but certain driving styles lead to a rapid onset of this issue. Vehicles that aren’t driven for extended (20mins or so) periods at full operating temp are more prone to the issue. I.e. cold start and a 15 min drive to work then shut off until leaving work. The more often run and stopped away from full op temp the faster this issue develops. There seems to be no difference in manuals or autos.

The Fix
The Atlantic Motorcar Center has developed a very through cleaning process for Mini Cooper (and other models) with direct injection engines.  Our process safely removes the carbon build up and is significantly quicker and less expensive than removing cylinder heads and subsequently cleaning the valves (a common dealer suggestion).

Our process involves minimally invasive mechanical service work, and some special tools, which allow us to directly access, inspect and learn the intake valves.  The process removes all of the carbon build up and consistently returns good engine performance.  To de-carbon a Mini Cooper engine takes less than a day and the results are excellent – improved cold start operation, immediate throttle response and power return. Best of all, we can carry out this entire process for a fraction of the cost of other alternatives, and you’ll love the results, our 5 Star Service Rating speaks for itself.

How To Prevent Carbon Deposits On Intake Valves
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so here is what you can do to help prevent this from occurring with your beloved Mini, BMW or other vehicle. How fast the intake valves get dirty does not seem to be a function of fuel quality. Rather, it appears to be influenced most by driving habits, and how often the engine oil is changed. Oil vapors and combustion byproducts that are drawn back into the intake manifold through the crankcase ventilation system seem to contribute most to carbon deposits on the intake valves.111

At the Atlantic Motorcar Center, our advice is to change your oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles if you only do short trip stop-and-go city driving, or change your oil every 5,000 to 7,500 miles if you do mostly highway driving. If you want to minimize carbon buildup on the intake valves, don’t push your oil change intervals to 7500 miles or longer unless you are using a high quality full synthetic oil (which usually has less volatility than conventional motor oil).

We also recommend the monthly use of a fuel additive, like Lubromoly, or Chevron Techron, while these cars are direct injection, and as such the fuel does not inject onto the back of the valve, but rather in the cylinder itself, we’ve noted that cars using these products experience considerably less carbon buildup.

Finally
Questions, or if we can be of help in any way with service on your Mini Cooper, BMW, or other European (and now Japanese) import, please contact us. Our team of Service Specialists are here to help, for even the newest autos! (207) 882-9969.

Knowing, not just “doing”, that’s the Atlantic Motorcar Center way of life.
Thanks!

Warmly,
The Atlantic Motorcar Center Service Team

 

Mercedes SL Hydraulic Power Top Repair

The Car
IMG_0151The classic Mercedes 129 chassis (aside from being Bruce’s favorite car ever) also know as the SL300 and SL500, has to be one of the most amazing cars from a electromechanical technology standpoint. First released in 1989 and were in current production through 2002. The R129 replaced the R107 SL-Class in 1989 and was in its turn replaced by the R230 in 2003 (US). The R129 was produced as a two-door roadster with an automated (electro-hydraulic) textile tonneau cover. All R129s came standard with an detachable hardtop that could fitted by folding the canvas roof down and manually attaching it. 

The Problem
The technology which makes these cars cool, is unfortunately the technology which can be their undoing. With some of the earlier cars nearly a quarter century of use, the top hydraulics have become one of the weak points in an otherwise rock solid auto. Still, I can’t imagine that Mercedesever anticipated that these hydraulic systems would still be functioning some 25 years later, and it’s only a testimony to their superb German engineering that most still are.

How We Can Help
At Atlantic Motorcar we’ve deverloped some very specific procedures and tooling, combined with our expect technicians, to make this otherwise onerous repair a snap. Well, maybe not a “snap”, hard to call a day + of labor a snap, let’s just say that we make it flow very, very smoothly.

All told, the power hydraulic system on the 129 is compromised of 12 individual cylinders that do everything from unlatching the top, to moving the convertible top out of the way, and folding securely in the boot. If the soft top of your beloved SL roadster, or for that matter W124 Cabriolet, is not working any more or is very slow, chances are that the hydraulic cylinders that operate the top are leaking.

The Fix
This is the main cause of failure of the soft top of these cars. The hydraulic seals inside the cylinders are made of material that is not very durable and degrade over the years in the mineral fluid independently whether you use the soft top a lot or do not use it at all. The hydraulic seals usually simply disintegrate. No stop leak is able to fix the problem as sometimes sections of the seal crack away creating a very large, and expensive damage to the interior of the car. The only correct and lasting repair is to replace the cylinders, which usually entails all of them so the problem does not repeat.

Atlantic Motorcar has deverloped some very specific procedures and tooling, combined with our expect technicians, to make this very challenging service last another quarter century!

Finally
Questions, or if we can be of help in any way with service on your Mini Cooper, BMW, or other European (and now Japanese) import, please contact us. Our team of Service Specialists are here to help, for even the newest autos! (207) 882-9969.

Knowing, not just “doing”, that’s the Atlantic Motorcar Center way of life.
Thanks!

Warmly,
The Atlantic Motorcar Center Service Team