Monthly Archives: June 2018

Avoid the Nightmares: How to Find the Best Car Repair Shop

By Alex Perdikis

You’re driving along and all of a sudden you hear it — a clunking noise coming from under the hood. What was it? Maybe it was just a one-time thing. Nope. There it goes again. It isn’t stopping. It’s getting worse. Something’s wrong with your car. Visions of conman mechanics and seedy repair shops suddenly flash through your brain.

What can you do to avoid the nightmare and find a reputable mechanic in a sea of unknowns?  Follow these steps to find the right shop for the job.

Who Do You Know?

The old standby still serves — ask your family and friends for recommendations. Find out who they dealt with and ask about their experience.

Word-of-mouth can be a bit deceiving, however. Recommendations can help you narrow choices down, but it pays to do a bit more research. And there’s always the possibility that family and friends will have nothing but recommendations about who not to go to.

Move the Hunt Online

It’s so much easier to find reputable professionals now than it was in the days before internet searches and reviews. You have a host of resources available to you now.

With so many resources available, it’s hard to know where to start. Follow these steps to get a workable list of nearby repair shops to investigate:

  • Google first: Start with a general search that includes your town, county, region or ZIP code and the words “auto repair” or “car repair.” Now you have a list of possibilities within your area.
  • Read reviews: If Google reviews are available, you’ll see them right away. Read them. Don’t limit yourself to Google reviews, however. Yelp is considered the standard when it comes to reviews. Again, use specific regional search words to find reviews for repair shops closest to you.
  • Explore Angie’s List: This is another great resource for finding reputable repair shops. Angie’s List screens reviews to ensure authenticity, so you’re not likely to find fake reviews.
  • Google a different way: Enter the name of the shop you’re considering with the word “review” after it in Google and see what comes up. You’ll see additional reviews that aren’t on the main sites. It’s a good idea to check them out.
  • Get help from insurance company: If you’re looking for repair and body shops after an accident check with your insurance company. Insurers typically rely on an approved network of direct repair membership programs.

About Those Reviews…

Mistakes happen. Misunderstandings occur. Repair shops are run by people after all. In other words, expect to read a negative review or two. But don’t discount a shop because of one negative review.

What’s more important than a negative review is how the shop owner handled it. Did the owner respond and try to mitigate the problem? You can learn a lot, not by a mistake that was made, but by what the shop owner or manager did to try to fix things.

Check ‘Em Out

By this time, you should have a shortlist of car repair shops to consider. Before you go traipsing off to the nearest location, make sure it meets a couple of additional conditions.

Is the shop certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), the Automotive Service Association (ASA) and/or the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-Car)? It should have one or more industry certifications to be considered.

Also check the Better Business Bureau online listing. You can see what types of complaints were reported and if they’ve been resolved.

Testing, Testing

If you don’t have a major repair to worry about, take the time to give the shop a tryout with a minor repair or routine maintenance. You’ll get a feel for a shop’s efficiency, competency and customer service.

“Also take into account operating hours and location. If a shop is only open when you’re at work, even if it’s nearby, it may not work for you.” — Alex Perdikis


The “Before You Leave Your Car” Checklist

You think you’ve found the perfect shop. Use the following checklist before you leave your car for repairs:

  1. Warranty. What kind of guarantee does the shop offer on its work? How long does the warranty last? What is your recourse if something goes wrong? Get it in writing.
  2. Parts. Does the shop only use original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts or aftermarket parts? OEM parts are more expensive, but this should be your call. Expect to pay more if you require OEM replacement parts.
  3. Estimate. Get a detailed estimate before any work is done. Look the estimate over carefully and ask about anything that’s unclear. If the estimate itself or parts of it are not detailed enough for you, ask that any clarifications be done in writing.
  4. Extra Work. Don’t leave your car unless you have a written guarantee that you will be notified and must approve of additional work not on the estimate before the shop can continue.

Stay in contact with the shop during the repair phase. Treat staff with respect and remember, most shop owners and managers are looking to build an ongoing relationship with you and your car. If you’ve done your research and stay on top of it, you can find a shop you can use with confidence.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

Save Money With These DIY Car Maintenance Tips

By Alex Perdikis

Let’s face it, cars aren’t cheap. They’re not cheap to buy, they’re not cheap to run and they’re not cheap to maintain. What if you could save money, though? You can save if you take care of routine maintenance yourself.

Follow these money-saving DIY car maintenance tips to keep your vehicle in top condition and more of that hard-earned money in your wallet.

A Little TLC, Please

Taking care of your car saves money, yes, but there are so many other benefits. Making sure your car is in top driving condition also improves safety, enhances performance and reliability, and keeps the air you breathe cleaner on top of saving you from costly repairs.

The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics estimates that the average annual cost to operate a vehicle after purchase is approximately $4,200. Failure to take care of routine maintenance can cost many thousands of dollars more and sometimes more than the car itself is worth.

Expensive repairs can often be avoided if you keep your car in top condition from the start.

Where’s The Owner’s Manual?

That’s right that little book you haven’t looked at since you bought your car is a treasure trove of maintenance information. You’ll find everything you need to know about your car’s needs, including the type of oil to use and when to change it, recommended tire pressure and the little things, such as which replacement signal and headlight bulbs to purchase.

If you bought a used vehicle and didn’t get a manual, search online for a downloadable version. If all else fails, contact the manufacturer and purchase a manual. Your car’s maintenance is too important to guess.

Now that you have the manufacturer’s recommendations, follow them.

“Automakers recommend timetables and specific products for a reason. Failure to follow those recommendations or skimping to get by often results in expensive consequences.” — Alex Perdikis

Get to Work

Some of what follows involves taking stock of your vehicle’s condition and some is more hands-on. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Inspect your car. Not only is a visual inspection great for discovering problems, but it also familiarizes you with the vehicle’s different parts and functions. If something looks different now than it did before, you’ll see it and address the issue, if necessary.
  2. Get to know your warning lights. Newer cars use a series of computerized warning and sensor systems to sound the alarm about problems. You need to learn what they mean. Again, your owner’s manual is a valuable resource, but here are some of the most common light indicators and what they mean:
  • Engine light: OK, you have a problem. But what is it? You’re not going to know unless you have a way to read the onboard diagnostic (OBD) codes. To do that, you’ll either need an OBD scanner tool or take it to a mechanic to read it for you. Scanner tools are affordable and if you really want to get into DIY maintenance, purchase one.
  • Service engine: Often this light signifies it’s time to change the oil or perform some other maintenance task. Check the manual for precise meaning.
  • Electrical fault: Oh-oh, something’s wrong here. If the light stays on, you could have an alternator issue or some other problem. See a mechanic.
  • ABS warning light: If this light comes on, do not mess around. Get to the repair shop. Finding and fixing an anti-lock brake system problem is not a job for amateurs. The safety of you and your family is at risk.
  • Oil warning: Stop the car as soon as it’s safe if this light comes on. Keep driving and you’re likely to do irreparable damage to your car’s motor. Again, this is a job for professionals.
  • Coolant warning: Your car is overheating. Pull over and open the hood. Don’t attempt to remove the radiator cap when the engine is still hot unless you want to end up in the hospital. Wait until the engine cools.
  1. It’s tire time. Tire pressure has an impact on the way your car drives and rides as well as its fuel efficiency. Check your owner’s manual for the proper tire pressure. Available for purchase tire pressure gadgets include those that simply check pressure or more expensive systems that monitor and send you a notification if one or more tires needs air. Check tire pressure weekly and maintain as required.

Check your treads. If you’ve purchased tires in recent years, you’ll most likely have integrated tread wear bars that indicate whether or not your treads are still deep enough for driving.

A quick and dirty way to check tread depth is the penny test. Stand Lincoln on his head within a groove. If you can see Lincoln’s head in its entirety, it’s time to buy new tires.

Also have your tires rotated and aligned professionally. Check your owner’s manual for how often you need to do this or, use the rule of thumb advice of every 5,000 miles.

  1. Check the fluids. Change the oil as recommended by the manufacturer. Check your coolant and brake fluid levels and replace as needed.
  2. Pay attention to your air filter. Yes, you should use your owner’s manual as a guide here, but when it comes to your car’s air filter, diligence is the better option. A clogged air filter substantially reduces gas mileage, reduces its power and, in the worst case, it causes engine misfires.

The way you drive and the roads you travel directly impact how much debris is caught in your air filter. If you drive dirt roads or in stop-and-go traffic every day, you’ll have to replace your air filter more often. Give yours a visual check and change it even if it’s not time according to the manual.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

6 Tips for Starting Your Very Own Car Collection

By Alex Perdikis

If the sight of Jay Leno’s car collection makes you sigh and think, “What if?” then you probably think collecting cars is but a dream. But, you don’t need a ton of money to start collecting cars. Most people begin with one. And while a single car may not be a collection, two is.

Here’s the good news — you don’t have to be Jeno Leno or have his financial resources to start collecting cars yourself. You can do it on a limited budget if you follow these six tips to get started. Before you know it, you’ll proudly be able to say, “I am a car collector!”

  1. Answer This Question: Why?

Ask yourself why you want to collect cars. Is it simply because you love cars? Do you think of car collecting as an investment? Figure it out before you start buying.

  1. Narrow It Down

You can’t jump into collecting without narrowing down the choices. A lot of people already know where they want to start. They love muscle cars. Or, maybe it’s a brand they love, such as Chevy, Ford or Dodge. Maybe it’s a time period they’re interested in — cars from the 1960s or the 1930s perhaps.

If you know where to start, great. If not, narrow down your choices to one or two.

  1. What’s the Budget?

You can’t go into a hobby like car collecting without spending some money. Work the numbers and come up with a figure.

This is also the time to decide if you want to purchase an already restored car or a project. If you’re handy and want the experience of restoring the car yourself, you can certainly save money at the start. But, you’ll have to have the tools, the budget for parts and the workspace to restore your treasure.

Of course, restoring a car is a process. You won’t have to pay for all of the pieces you need upfront. That’s why a project car is the way most first-time collectors start.

Whatever you do, don’t borrow money to get started. Save and spend only when you have the cash in hand. Collecting cars is not worth the risk if you have to go into debt to do it.

  1. Where Ya Gonna Put It?

You need a place to put your car. Do you already have space? Will you also need a work area? Figure out the space you need and how to get it (if you don’t already have it).

  1. Research and Study

You know what you’re looking for and you have available space for your first purchase. Now it’s study time.

“Nothing prepares you better for that first purchase than knowing the market, particularly the market in your region.” — Alex Perdikis

One of the best ways to become familiar with the market is by joining local collector clubs.

A local collector club gives you access to knowledgeable people. They can help you learn about prices, where to get parts and with technical advice.

Look through want ads and the local shoppers to see what’s going on with the market. Attend estate and auctions. Talk with local collectors. Learn everything you can about what’s happening in the local car collecting marketplace.

  1. Ready to Buy? Look for Deals

Again, you’ll want to peruse want ads, attend auctions and estate sales, speak with other collectors and police auctions. But, you’ll want to think out of the box as well.

For example, writer Michael Mraz discovered a 1935 Mercedes-Benz 500K in a South Central L.A. junkyard. The “Roadster Limousine” was a gift for European race car driver Rudi Caracciola and has resided in an unmarked salvage yard building for years. The car could be worth as much as $10 million if sold at auction.

And, that’s not all. The Mercedes-Benz 500K sits among other rare European car classics, such as an ISO Grifo Spyder, a Mercedes Gullwing and several Lamborghini Miuras. As of 2012, the massive vintage car collection still sits in a junkyard building.

Jay Leno advises collectors to be open to the “weird” stuff. He relates the story of how he received a letter from a woman in her 90s. She and her husband had married in a 1951 Hornet. It was the only car the couple ever owned.

After the woman’s husband died, the Hornet sat in the garage. Intrigued, Jay inspected the Hornet. He found the body in great shape, but the Hornet had 260,000 miles on it and was in poor shape mechanically. He bought it anyway because he loved the story behind it.  

Collectors have found hidden treasures in barns, fields and tucked away in garages. Keep your eyes, mind and options open for unexpected discoveries. You may not find the next multimillion dollar classic. But, if you find the collector car you love, it’s worth millions to you.

Don’t buy a car simply because it’s the right make and model. If the car is beyond restoring, don’t go for it no matter how tempting. Instead, talk to people and get the word out about what you’re looking for. Be patient and ready when the right car comes along.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

Cars on Film: Legendary Superstars and Iconic Moments

By Alex Perdikis

America’s love affair with cars isn’t limited to road trips and car shows. It’s also part of its culture. Cars not only play pivotal roles in film and television, sometimes a car is the main character.

Here are some of the most famous cars on film, as well as a few scenes where automobiles played an essential role.

The Batmobile

The Batmobile first appeared in comic book form in 1939, but the 1960s TV series, “Batman” brought the futuristic ride into the homes of families everywhere. Adam West starred as Batman in the campy series which is fun to watch even now.

Adam West’s Batmobile was a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car. Models, feature and the overall look changed as high-budget Batman films became popular. In fact, in the “Dark Night” films, the vehicle is more of a cross between a tank and Lamborghini. Never called “Batmobile” in these later films, there’s no question that’s exactly what it is.

Don’t Ever Make a 1958 Plymouth Fury Mad!

If you are a film aficionado, you can’t help but feel a little bit of fear when you picture a blood red 1958 Plymouth Fury. It was the 1980s when the film “Christine,” based on a Stephen King novel was released.

Bullied teen Arnie finds a wrecked ’58 Fury, names it “Christine” and restores it to its former glory. Unbeknownst to Arnie, Christine has a mind of her own. And when Arnie seems to be falling for a classmate, Christine shows no mercy.

Will Ferrell, NASCAR & a 1969 Chevelle

“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” stars Will Ferrell as No. 1 NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby. Of course, Ricky’s struggle to stay on top after a challenge from French Formula One driver Jean Girard is the comedic story here. But the ’69 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu steals the show.

Back to the Future and Back Again

Yes, Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd are the human stars of the “Back to the Future” films. But, a DeLorean shares the limelight. The DeLorean DMC-12 boasted an automatic transmission, those cool wing doors and to top it off, it was also a time machine.

“The DeLorean was a hit in the film but not so much with the public. It’s motor didn’t fit the promise of the flashy exterior and it was more expensive than sports cars of the time.” — Alex Perdikis

Those challenges along with a sluggish economy spelled doom for the DeLorean as a car for the masses.

The DeLorean is making a modest comeback mostly due to a small but active cult following. A relatively new company, the DeLorean Motor Company specializes in repairs and restorations.

James Bond and Cool Rides

James Bond always has a cool ride, but two stand out from the rest. Sean Connery drove the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 in both “Goldfinger” and “Thunderball. To add to the Aston Martin’s already impressive features, the special effects team added machine guns, an injector seat, ram bumper, oil slick applicator and smoke screen.

Roger Moore’s ride in “The Spy Who Loved Me” was a ’76 Lotus Esprit Series I. What made this one a classic? It could be that moment when Moore’s Bond drives straight into the water and the car sprouts fins and props. After Bond arrives on the beach, the car turns back into, well, a car again.

Car Chases and Harrowing Moments on Film

Sometimes film magic isn’t just about a great looking car with bells and whistles you can only dream about, but how it impacts a scene. Remember these remarkable car chases and dramatic moments on film?

  • Steve McQueen’s “Bullitt” car chase is a classic that, even though it’s been surpassed several times over, deserves its place in history. It’s Mustang versus Charger on the streets of San Francisco.
  • Picture this  — Gene Hackman, an escaping hit man on an elevated train and a 1971 Pontiac LeMans. The chase scene in “The French Connection” is unforgettable.
  • The fast and furious Dodge Charger became an icon on the small screen in “The Dukes of Hazzard,” but it was “The Fast and Furious” film franchise that made the car legendary. The race at the end of the first film pitting the racing machine Charger and driver Vin Diesel against Paul Walker in a Supra is spectacular
  • Two women and a car drive into infamy. What starts out as a road trip for two best friends and a 1966 Ford Thunderbird turns into a tale of murder, a run from the law and self-discovery. The Thunderbird is almost as important as the two main characters and at the end of the film, shares its fate with them as well.
  • What could be more destructive than a Hummer on the streets of San Francisco? Sean Connery finds out in “The Rock,” co-starring Nicholas Cage. For what it’s worth, Cage driving a Ferrari wreaks nearly as much havoc as the Hummer.

There are also cars designed for the stars or stories they represent, such as the Monkeemobile, Munster Koach  and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. One thing’s sure: Cars have an important place in our culture and that won’t likely change.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.