Case Studies

Why Did This Happen to My Car? – Prevention vs. Repair

AMC Answer Series – Why Did This Happen to My Car?

The Question
It happens all too often. At least 2 to 3 times a week, vehicles are towed into Atlantic Motorcar for major repairs. Too frequently we find that these are vehicles that have been poorly maintained. Many times we are asked the same question, “Why did this happen to MY car?”

After examining the vehicle and explaining it was due to lack of maintenance, most people are quite surprised. Often I am told, the vehicle has been serviced somewhere, on a regular basis.

Are You Being Told The Truth?
Even though these folks have paid other service facilities to service the vehicle, many critical systems have been neglected. In our experience, the problem is often the difference in what is considered proper maintenance from one place to another. Vehicle manufacturers, in order to make new vehicles appear more attractive, have eliminated previously scheduled service intervals and greatly extended others. After all, they are in the business of selling NEW vehicles. It’s no secret that proper care is the key to longevity, be it man or machine. We think that you’ll agree that proper, professional care, is always the best value. Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, Volvo, VW or Land Rover here, all cars have service needs, and require regular maintenance for reliable, and cost efficient service.

Other times, its just the servicing facility does not fully inspect, or feel comfortable telling the customer exactly what needs to be serviced on the car. Sometimes certain facilities want to pick the “low hanging fruit”, thus they do the easy, highly profitable jobs, and let the challenging but necessary work slide. The trouble is, this approach costs you, the vehicle owner, both time and money. It may seem like you’re paying for service, when in the end what you are really paying for is “dis-service”.

As imported auto specialists, we know what should be done, based not just on scheduled service but also our own experience. As specialists, we see cars just like yours each day, and know the common problems which occur as a car ages, problems that a general repair shop, who see a car like yours only on occasion, just won’t notice. Most importantly, we know how to properly diagnose and repair the small problems, before they become expensive headaches.

Here’s An Example
A good example is the replacement of brake fluid. Once considered a necessary service every year, many manufacturers have eliminated the service entirely. Sure this may be fine to get the car out of new warranty or during the manufacturer’s “free” maintenance plan. However, if you are someone who plans to keep your car for more than 3 years, chances are you will experience a brake component failure. Replacing this critical fluid costs less than $160 and it protects critical safety components that are costly to replace. We find this fluid should be replaced every 30,000 miles under normal driving and more often in seasonal use vehicles.

Fuel filters are another forgotten item. Usually less than $100 to replace, they protect fuel injectors and fuel pumps, that can cost well over $1000 to replace. Engine coolant, air filter elements, differential fluid and even spark plugs are all too often overlooked, until it is too late. For example on late model Volvos, a $5.00 flame trap can cause an engine oil leak that can easily cost over $1000.00 to correct.

I’ll Let You In On A Secret
What should it cost to properly service my car? Great question, and one that is key to enjoying a reliable, trouble fee car for many years…or driving a rolling headache. I’ll let you in on a secret learned after working on imported cars for more than 25 years. If you follow this suggestion, you’ll save yourself thousands of dollars of grief, and countless hours of worry.

The secret, is this simple. For most cars, if the car owner sets aside $100 per month, they will have more than enough to cover the yearly operating costs for the car. Not just the scheduled maintenance, but all aspects of service. Yes, there are exceptions, and in some years it will be higher, some years lower, but after 25 years in the business, I’ve found this number is just about right. Another figure I use is 3-5% of the new car cost as a set aside for maintenance. Taking the higher percentage, the average car costing $30,000, the yearly operating expenses would be about $1,200 – $1,500. Add in the improved value trade in value of your car, the confidence and peace of mind that comes from driving a reliable auto, and the real cost of high quality service is priceless!

A Simple Truth
Like the old commercial, “Pay me now, or pay me later,” a lack of maintenance is a very poor gamble. At Atlantic Motorcar we begin with the factory recommended schedule for your vehicle. Each and every item is performed according to the book. From there, Atlantic Motorcar inspects and suggests other items our experience has taught us should be watched.

It is often the little things which mean a lot. Our process of using test strips to check the PH level and specific gravity on engine coolant is far more accurate than replacing coolant based on mileage or time. Brake fluid, all too often overlooked, is another simple service which, when neglected, can create large and expensive problems. By testing and replacing before damage is done, a substantial cost savings, not to mention downtime, may be realized.

A proper automatic transmission service, using a commercial power flush machine, allows Atlantic Motorcar to prevent problems, rather than waiting for a failure. An inspection of the control cables, linkage and seals of the transmission may save a transmission failure.

Our Goal For You and Your Car
Our goal is to save you money, not spend it. Which is why each and every car that we service gets a free Courtesy Maintenance Inspection during its first visit. Our goal is to let you know about the small problems, before they become big ones. Right now we have number of customer cars with well over 200,000 miles, and several approaching 300,000! And these cars are not just limping along – most look and drive pretty much the way they came out of the showroom.

Proper maintenance is an investment in the life of your vehicle. Be sure it is properly performed, take it to Atlantic Motorcar…Extraordinary Service for Extraordinary Cars. (207) 882-9969



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