New Jersey Most Expensive State for Car Repairs

June 12, 2013—New Jersey is the most expense state and Vermont is the cheapest when it comes to car repairs, according to a new report.

The average total diagnostics-and-repair bill in New Jersey was $393, according to the report, which analyzed more than 160,000 check engine-related repairs made on model year 1996-2012 vehicles in 2012.

Rounding out the top five most expensive U.S. states for auto repair were District of Columbia, California, North Carolina and Maryland.

Overall, repair costs across the nation related to a vehicles’ check-engine lights averaged $367.84, a 10 percent increase.

CarMD said the vehicle owners’ procrastination in having repairs made as a major reason for the increases as delayed repairs become more expensive as problems worsen.

The report also cited Hurricane Sandy as the reason why New Jersey car owners doubled the number of trips they made for repairs, initially for flood damage. New Jersey drivers saw a nearly 21 percent increase in labor rates and a roughly 8 percent increase in parts costs.

The most affordable state for auto repair is Vermont, at $269.72. The state also had the lowest labor and parts costs, at $153.82 and $115.90, respectively.

The District of Columbia saw the largest overall increase in repair costs, up 20 percent, while Wyoming had the greatest drop in average repair costs, down 17 percent.

Ratchet and Wrench, June 2013



Through Sharon’s Eyes

We had the wonderful experience of serving a lovely couple from Knoxville, TN, who broke down in Burlington (it wasn’t nearly so wonderful an encounter for them!)  Sharon and Bill spend much of their free time traveling and Sharon wrote a very sweet bit about us in her travel blog.  Check out the blog at: Below is the part about us, but check out the rest as well.  It makes one appreciate home to see it through the eyes of appreciative travelers!

I cannot leave the subject of our Kia misfortune without thanking Girlington Garage.  When we realized something was very wrong with the car, I immediately researched the area for AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities.   AAA was one of my clients during my days in CorporateWorld and I know for a fact, that the stringent criteria for obtaining and keeping this designation is TOUGH!  A facility has worked hard for it and must continue to work hard to KEEP it.  Girlington was the only garage listed in the Burlington area with the AAA Approved designation. What fun to read EVERY WORD of their website and learn that the garage is female-owned.   But who cares who owns it with reviews like it has?   And I cannot use enough superlatives to adequately describe our experience with them from start to finish.  Yes, it cost us a lot of money we were not anxious to spend, but not once did we feel taken advantage of because we were a long way from home.  In fact, Demeny (owner) made every effort to explain to us ways in which she felt we MIGHT be able to make it home, but it was going to involve careful monitoring and daily steps to take.  We felt so good about the garage, we authorized the repairs and even let them go ahead and take care of a couple of things that should’ve been done during our pre-trip maintenance check prior to leaving.  There was NOTHING the garage or anyone we dealt with that wasn’t done courteously, promptly and at no time, were we ever not kept involved in the process.  People, this is customer service! Since it isn’t likely I’ll be able to use their services again, I truly hope by giving them a shout-out here, someone else might benefit down the road.  We wish Demeny and her staff the very best and have no doubt Girlington Garage will continue to prosper.

Thanks so much, Sharon, and you and Bill stop by next time you are in Vermont!


What to look for in a used car

We often get asked what should one look for in a used car.  It depends, of course, on what you want but most folks are looking for something relatively inexpensive and yet dependable.  With that in mind, we usually recommend a solid, reputable import like Subaru, Toyota or Honda.  This type of car tends to be well built and parts for future repairs (inevitable in a used car!) will be available and less expensive than European or higher end cars.

The first step is figuring out how much you want to spend and what you can expect to get for that much money.  Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds are great for checking the approximate value of used cars.

Once you find what you are looking for have it checked by us or any other independent shop.  Even if you are buying a “certified” car from a dealer, have it checked by a neutral party.  No one can predict what will happen when you drive it off the lot, but even an hour spent by a professional can tell you a lot about the structure of the car, what might need work soon and perhaps how it has been cared for.



Yea for Ernesto!

Ernesto, an ASE Advanced Master Technician moved here from Los Angeles to work for us!  During the winter he gave up working on luxury performance cars in Beverly Hills for the likes of Joaquin Phoenix to tackle our homegrown Vermont rust.  He has about 30 years experience and has countless specialty certifications.  He  is enjoying being our go-to guy for difficult diagnostics and electrical problems.  Until he came along we occasionally had to send these problems to the dealers.  He also handles all our high performance cars.  And his wife and kids are really happy to be closer to Grandma here in Vermont!


The Onion Problem

You take your car to your garage and, after being charged a hefty sum for diagnosis, you are told it is likely that your doohickey is shorted out. You need your car so you agree to replace the doohickey. After a few hours or, longer in some cases, you pick up your car. You drive it for a while and the same symptom is still present! Your mechanic must be a hack or a thief, right?

Not necessarily. Cars are complex systems, with each part connected in some way to every other part.  More often than we would like, problems are like onions, with the first layer needing to be pealed away before we can assess the second, or sometimes the third layer. . It’s not that what you have had done didn’t need doing but that the deeper problem –or problems – can’t be diagnosed until the upper layer is dealt with. It is not unusual for several components of one system to fail at the same time, or around the same time. All are the same age and mileage and have been through the same workout as the other components in the system. Also, when one begins to fail, it puts stress on the other parts of the system so that there can be a domino effect. It is not surprising that they would all fail together.

If possible, your shop has warned you this might be the case, but often we have no way of knowing ahead of time. And there is nothing we hate more than having you come back for another expensive repair soon after leaving the shop. We know you are upset and feeling distrustful. But hopefully you have built up a relationship with your shop. Just as you put your faith in us, we also put our faith in you. I can’t tell you how rewarding it is when a customer who has been through one of these onion problems understands and comes back without resentment. . When that happens they earn our loyalty like very few other customers do. We know that they trust us and we will do most anything to keep that trust. It is incredibly valuable to us.


Why do I need new rotors?

Changing a brake rotorYou have just been told your brakes need to be replaced. Can’t you just replace the pads? Sometimes, sure, but often the rotors need replacing as well. Brakes work by the caliper pressing the pad into the rotor (or drum, but that’s another story). The key to safe, effective braking is perfect contact between the pad and rotor.
If we have recommended replacement, the rotors are either warped or rusted or grooved from the old pads. New pads need a nice, smooth surface to press against. Turning rotors takes the tech more time (costing you more money) and you end up with a thinner rotor. A thinner rotor doesn’t dispel heat efficiently so is likely to warp. So if your rotors are worn, we recommend replacing, rather than turning them.