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My check engine light went on and the mechanic wants to
charge an hour of labor for the diagnostic. I need to save
that money for the actual problem - whatever it is - does
anyone know somewhere/someone that will do the diagnostic
for free? preferably close to Alameda/Oakland.
You don't say what kind of car you have -- and I'm not sure
if what I'm about to recommend applies to all cars -- but I
know that with my Honda Accord, when the 'check engine
light' goes on, it usually means that the gas cap has not
been sufficiently tightened after getting gas! I would check
that first before paying anyone for a 'diagnostic'. Take
your gas cap off and after closing it, let it 'screech'
about 3 more turns. The light doesn't go off right away, but
may take as many as 3-4 times of starting the engine (I
don't do this all at once -- just the natural times I start
my car). Cross your fingers that's all it is. Honda owner
I recommend XYZ Motors on 30th& Broadway in Oakland. They
did a free diagnostic when the check engine light came on in
our old car, then advised us where to buy the needed part
online for hundreds of dollars less. We then had them
install the part, for much less than it would have been at
the dealer. We went back again after the dealer quoted us
$1800 to repair the A/C in our 2nd car. They were able to
fix everything for less than $400. I can't recommend these
guys highly enough! Their number is (510) 835-8882. terri
Looking for a car mechanic who can assess a used car before
I buy. Someone thorough, honest, reliable,
customer-oriented. If he/she is good I will likely continue
to use him/her for repairs in the future. Thank you.
I REALLY like our mechanic, Daniel Santos at RC Imports on
Fairmount in El Cerrito. We've been going to Daniel for years
with an old, old Acura, and we trust on his honest opinions for
assuring safety while also giving us the best value.
He also recently helped us evaluate a used car for a friend. If
an item could fall into the ''deferred maintenance'' column, he'll
let us know. But if there's a potentially dangerous condition,
he won't compromise.
Best of all, RC Imports is right next to El Cerrito Plaza BART for
handy drop-offs and commuting. Call 526-8084. Highly
I would go go Henry's Service--1321 Gilman Street, Albany, CA
94706, (510) 524-2072. This is a family business and they are
excellent at what they do and extremely honest. I have been
going to them for 5 years after someone recommended them and
won't go to anyone else. There has been a few times that I
took my car in for minor issues and I had to insist that they
actually charge me for their time. Now that is rare these
John Wozniak at Fairmount Auto on Fairmount St. just north of El Cerrito Plaza.
He's been caring for our cars for 5+ years and has never steered us wrong.
When we wanted to buy a used car, we took it to him to look over. He was very
thorough and found a minor problem that enabled us to talk the seller down
$300. He told us ''99% of the used cars people bring me to look over are no
good but you should buy this one, it's in great shape and a bargain.'' He was
right. Two years later the car is still doing great, zero problems. I think he
would tell you honestly if the car you want to buy is a lemon. The seller was
also impressed with his look-over and was going to start to take her other car
to him too! I can't recall the exact price for the look-over, but it was very
thorough and somewhere around $100. Worth the price. Also, we've found that
as regular customers, John goes above and beyond for us. Great service.
I would like some advices from someone who knows a lot about car maintenance,
and how frequently I should bring my cars to the services.
I own two Toyota cars (1999 Rav 4, manual stick, and 2007 Sienna, auto.)
Lately I have been receiving the fliers from my Toyota service centers to tell
me that it is time for 5,000 mile service, (or every 6 months.)
Having services done every 5,000 miles seem too frequent to me, as I also do oil
change every 3,000 to 4,000 miles. I don't remember it was recommended to do so
so frequently in the past. My understanding was to do the check up every 10,000
miles or so. However, I am not so knowledgeable about car maintenance, so I am
worried if I am not taking care of my cars well, or if there is anything
changing about auto maintenance recommendation.
Could you educate me what would be a sufficient way to maintain my car, and how
often I should bring my cars to the services?
If you don't still have it, track down the recommended maintenance manual that
came with the cars. You might be able to find it on the internet, or the
dealership might be able to give you one. I have been following this manual
instead of what is suggested by the mainteance or oil change shop - in fact, I
started having my car maintained by the dealership because I got tired of the
oil change shop pressuring me to agree to all kinds of services that I did not
feel were absolutely necessary. I was just in the dealership shop yesterday,
and had to have a lot of work done - as recommended by the manuel - because
our car is high mileage - BUT I noticed that for the next 15,000 miles, the
maintenance manuel only recommends an oil change and tire rotation every 5,000
miles (and having all fluid levels checked). So I guess from my ''experience'',
no, you don't need maintenance every 5,000 miles, usually just an oil change
and tire rotation. OHH and the oil change shop also told me an oil change HAD
to be done every 3,000 miles - apparently not. I feel much more comfortable
walking into shop with the manuel and saying ''this is what I NEED done''. It
definately takes the pressure off.
The every 5,000 mile service IS for an oil change! (and they check a few things)
So if you are getting your oil changes elsewhere, just bring the car in every
Or stop getting the oil changes somewhere else and bring it in to the dealer
Happy Toyota owner
Hi Mike - My husband, Sal Abbate, is a mechanic and suggests using the Car Care
Council's service schedule. You can find it here:
http://www.carcare.org/consumers/service-schedule. Cars are often a person's
second largest expenditure (after housing) so it makes sense to keep them up.
Sal says that many larger issues can be avoided by making sure that your cars
fluids are properly filled, tires are at the correct pressure, and belts are in
good shape and not allowed to break. Auto On The Go is hosting a Car Care
Seminar on January 30 - you might be interested in it. Register at
www.autoonthego.com. Hope this helps!
I work at a service station. For cars that are driven hard there is no telling
how often they need to be brought in. They could have skipped the recommended
maintenance but the risk of a breakdown increased. Some of those hard-driven
cars needed the recommended service and some didn't. Many of those drivers spent
a lot of money and still didn't have peace of mind. There was always something
else that could break down.
None of the gently driven cars needed anything at that schedule. The driver
could have skipped that and saved a lot of money. With our cars this is what we
practice: oil changes every 5K or so (not 3-4K !), check the tires with a good
tire gauge, check the fluid levels, and take them in only if they present a
problem of some kind, or need something obvious, i.e., tires, brakes. But we do
drive them gently. They have gone for 45-65K without need of repair. There is no
magic to it: driving sensibly and calmly will give you impressive savings on
maintenance and fuel costs.
Shop around and also try an indep mechanic. If you leave it up to the dealer
they will want you to visit every 5K for the rest of the car's life. A lot of
money is made on that. Especially for new cars there is no reason to bring it in
every 5-10K, or even 20K. Why buy a newer car if it needs that much care? The
dealer where I work uses this as a way of getting people addicted
Don't forget to register with toyota to be notified of recalls which should be
of no cost to you, and done at the dealer.
The best shop is the one that tells you to skip some things thereby saving
money. After shopping around over the years, we found one (Oceanworks in
Berkeley) but I am sure there are other shops out there.
frugal service advisor
This is a second time I am buying a used car. THe first time I have not
used a mechanic since the car I bought was from a friend. I really dont
want to experience again for having so many problems buying a used car. So
my husband told me to find a mechanic that can take a look at the car
before buying it. Has anybody done this before? Can you please give me a
recommendations / information in buying a used car? I considered myself
new to the area - good recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
Yes, mechanics do this all the time. We live in Berkeley but bought a
used car in Hayward where we didn't know any mechanics. I found one
near the place that was selling the car through the CSAA website.
(www.csaa.com, I think.) You don't need to be a AAA member to use the
In our particular case we were looking at a salvaged vehicle and wanted
a mechanic who was very local so they'd be familiar with all the tricks
that car rebuilders may try in order to cut corners.
Happy used car owner
I am responding to the person looking for a good mechanic to check out a
used car for them. I go to
Berkeley Motor Works on San Pablo Ave near
Solano Ave. The repair shop is run by a husband and wife team that are
very helpful, friendly and knowledgeable. The mechanics are well trained
and have performed car inspections in the past for costumers. They have
always given me great service without an outrageous bill in the end.
They also do the little extras that make doing business there a pleasure
like vacuuming my car out before returning it to me.
I need to give my not-oft driven Geo Prism at good tune up! It's 14
years old, so I don't want to spend too much money but would like
recommendations on solid auto repair shops in
Call Bridgeway in Berkeley (by Claremont Hotel) - (510)
549-0234. My family has been taking cars there for literally
decades and Steve has never steered us wrong. Between my
extended family we must currently take about six cars there. He
will always give you solid advice and you wont' spend any more
than necessary. Don't be overly cheap or you won't have a safe
car. You can read his reviews online and you'll hear the same
Fan of Steve!
I love Precision People's Car Repair in Berkeley (just off San
Pablo near Gilman/REI). Ken never made me feel stupid for not
understanding cars, he was fair in his fees, didn't do unnecessary
repairs, and really cared about quality. Very good guy, good
hires, good place to take a car.
this page was last updated: Sep 9, 2012
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