Frequently Asked Questions

Bob's Tips


Why does my brake pedal vibrate when I'm slowing down from freeway speeds?

The most common cause is excessive warping of the brake rotor. This is caused by improper tightening of the wheels or wheel hubs that are not properly cleaned when the rotors are installed after a brake job or tire rotation, or it could be a bad hub. The problem does not show up right away, it can take a few hundred miles of driving, or getting the brakes hot enough for the vibration to show up.

To solve this problem, the mechanic must first determine if the rotors are warped, the hubs are dirty, or if it a bad hub. The rotors can be machined if there is enough material on the rotor to machine it properly without going below minimum thickness required for a safe rotor, or the rotor must be replaced. If the hub is the problem it must be cleaned properly, the rotor reinstalled, and the smoothness and straightness (run out) rechecked.

How often do I need to change my oil?

Non-synthetic oil should be changed every 3,000 miles, and synthetic oil every 5,000 miles. Oil gets contaminated from combustion gases that leak by the pistons and valves. These gases get recycled back to the intake and get burned again when the oil gets hot. It is important to know that in-town driving will shorten the life of the oil and cause a faster build up of intake deposits.

What is the tire pressure of my tires?

You should always set the tire pressure by the tire manufacturer's pressure specs. They can be found on the side of the tire. To realize better mileage, tire wear, and handling, run the pressure at the maximum pressure. You need to remember car makers do not make tires. The tire manufacturers are the experts and should be your source for pressure information. Car makers are more concerned with the best ride not the best mileage, wear, or handling. Additionally, the pressure car makers recommend is for the tires that they install at the factory.

How often do I check the anti-freeze? Does it need to be changed?

You should check the anti-freeze and the oil at least every other gas fill-up on newer cars and every fill-up on older high-mileage cars.

How long do spark plugs last?

This depends on the type of spark plugs that are in your car. Older cars (15-20 years old) are more likely to have standard plugs and they last 12,000-15,000 miles, newer models up to the year 2000 are platinum tipped and will last 30,000 miles. Some 2000 and newer have iridium tipped plugs and will go 90,000 to 100,000 miles.

Why are your oil changes more expensive than oil change only shops?

Unfortunately you get what you pay for. Import Doctors use only the best quality parts OEM (original equipment manufacturer) or better. We are highly trained and ASE certified technicians. We deliver on the most professional and quality oil change service. We find many cars serviced at the "fast food" oil changers have loose oil filters and drain plugs, as well as under or over filled crankcases. With Import Doctors you can be confident that your oil change will be performed correctly, and there will be no surprise repairs caused by improper work.

What is the difference between timing belts and timing chains?

Timing belts are rubber-toothed belts that drive the camshaft on overhead camshaft engines (most common type manufactured today). They need to be replaced as a maintenance item (refer to owner's manual for mileage details). Timing chains can be found on both overhead cam engines and non-overhead cam engines; they are not a maintenance item and may go 200,000 miles or more before needing to be replaced.

Why should I have you perform a pre-purchase inspection on a car before I buy it?

When buying a pre-owned car it is imperative that you know what you are getting yourself into. You want to make sure that you don't get more than you bargained for. We provide a thorough inspection both inside and out. We check for body damage that may be covered with bondo and paint. We also insure that the vehicle is sound mechanically by checking the engine, drivetrain, belts, and hoses. We also do a comprehensive safety check including the brakes and looking for suspension damage and wear. You do not want surprises after you have bought the car. We can't see everything but we can see a lot. An additional benefit of having a professional inspection is that you will be armed with additional information when negotiating a sale price.

If you do my scheduled services will my manufacturer or dealer warranty be intact?

Yes, we can do all of your regular maintenance and service, keeping your factor warranty intact. However, the dealer must perform factory warranty and recall work. Only the dealer will complete this work at no expense to you. Import Doctors can perform any other work you may need. It makes sense you use the dealer when they are paying for the work, or it is "free" work.

Should I service my transmission, even though it is supposed to have a �Lifetime� fluid?

In these times of a down economy, preventative maintenance is being put on hold by many people trying to stretch a paycheck. I totally understand, but in this case, do not agree this is the best choice. One dollar spent on maintenance today may well save you ten dollars tomorrow. Many manufacturers are trying to show lower annual maintenance costs by using what they call �Lifetime� fluids. I always ask who�s �Lifetime�, the transmission�s �Lifetime�? We are seeing a high number of transmission failures on high-end European cars that could have been prevented with regular transmission services, every 30,000 miles. With the cost of transmission replacement in excess of $5,000, the service seems like money well spent, even with the higher costs of some transmission fluids! You should expect to get well over 100,000 miles on your investment, but at our shop we are seeing transmission failures at mileage as low as 70,000 miles, and that is not good. Obviously, that �Lifetime� fluid seems to have a shorter life than one would expect. I strongly suggest regularly servicing your transmission to prolong its life, save money, and give you and your family peace of mind!

Bob's Tips

To Flush or Not to Flush

I receive many questions from my customers about the need to replace their brake fluid! Is it really necessary, and if it is not replaced, what are the consequences?

Brake fluid is one of the most important and most neglected fluids in your car! It seems no one pays any attention to the brake fluid, unless there is a brake component failure. Most car manufacturers in their maintenance schedule state "inspect and replace as needed"!

Brake fluid is "hygroscopic", which means that it attracts moisture. The moisture can get in from the hoses, seals, and cap. The system can absorb 2% of its volume in as little as 12 months in humid areas. Moisture contamination will cause corrosion in the calipers, wheel cylinders, master cylinder, and ABS components. With the price of replacing these components, having a brake flush is a great way to insure against these expensive repairs. We recommend flushing the fluid when it reaches 3% of moisture contamination.

Fall Maintenance Checklist

When "Back to School" time comes around, check all vehicles after any road trips or the long hot summer to safeguard against any breakdowns for you or your driving child!

Check the following items:

1) Windshield Washer
2) Wiper Blades
3) All Hoses
4) Check your Coolant's freeze point!
5) Tire Wear
6) Belts and Battery

Have a fun and safe Fall!

Should I jump-start my car if the battery is dead?

You need to be very careful when jump-starting a car that has a dead battery. Make sure that the cables are installed with positive (red) to positive, then negative (black) to negative. After cables are attached, start the car that is supplying the jump. Let the car run about 5 minutes before you try and start the car that is dead. After the car with the dead battery starts, remove the negative cables first, then the positive cables. Drive the car for about 20 minutes to charge the battery. Make sure nothing had been left on, like lights or interior lights, if nothing was left on, then have the charging system tested and the battery checked for a draw. WARNING: if your car is a late model Mercedes Benz or BMW (1995 or newer), I do not recommend that you jump-start them, or even have the towing company do it! These cars have so many control modules that can be damaged by a voltage surge. It is not worth taking a chance. We have had to replace quite a few damaged modules due to jump-starts, and it can be very expensive!

Should I run high octane gas in my car if the manufacturer recommends it?

If your car is a high performance car, then yes you should run a high octane gasoline in your vehicle. But, if not a high performance vehicle, you may not need a higher grade of fuel. Most all late model cars have knock sensors that listen for detonation (pinging). If a knock sensor senses this, it signals the engine control module which will change the timing or richen the fuel mixture to stop the pinging.

NOTE: This may effect fuel economy. Track your mileage, then try a lower grade fuel, and see if your mileage drops. If your car is older (before 1995) it may not have the ability to compensate for pinging, and you could cause serious engine damage if the engine pings excessively!

*Happy New Year*!

Don't find yourself on the side of the road! Preventative maintenance helps prevents costly repairs and break downs!


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