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SEI News

SEI Automotive CenterSEI Automotive Center is now a Smog Test & Repair Station - We are now able to Test, Smog and Repair vehicles for Smog Certification.

Gross Polluters ~ Regular Smog ~ Bi Annual ~ Change of Ownership

Call for Info or visit the web site www.smogcheck.ca.gov

We are able to do most Vehicles and RV's!

Do I Really Need A Smog Check?

Not all vehicles must get a Smog Check. Additionally, some vehicles only need a Smog Check when they are being sold or being registered in California after previously being registered in another state. Whether or not a vehicle needs a Smog Check depends on the type of vehicle, the model-year, and the area in which the vehicle is registered.

Some vehicles are exempt from the Smog Check program

Legislation enacted during 2004 made several changes in motor vehicle Smog Check exemptions that will become effective next year. Following is a summary of the revised exemptions and the effective date of each change:

Beginning January 1, 2005, vehicles 6 or less model year old will be exempt from the biennial Smog Check inspection requirement. For vehicles with registration renewals due in the 2005 calendar year, this exemption includes model year 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Beginning January 1, 2005, vehicles 4 or less model year old will be exempt from the Smog Check inspection requirement upon change of ownership and transfer of title transactions with DMV. In 2005, this exemption includes model year 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Beginning April 1, 2005, the 30-year rolling exemption will be repealed. Instead, vehicles 1975 model-year and older will be exempt. Therefore, 1976 model-year and newer vehicles will continue to be subject to biennial inspection indefinitely.

Beginning April 1, 2005, vehicles being initially registered in California that were previously registered in another state will be exempt if the vehicle is a 1975 and older model-year vehicle. Newer vehicles, the first 6 model years, are not exempted upon initial registration in California. These vehicles are required to undergo a Smog Check Inspection.

SEI Automotive Center has the latest in Diagnostic Equipment to Maintain and Repair your Auto or Truck which is updated quarterly to inform us of the latest information for your vehicles. We use OEM replacement parts for both Import and Domestic Vehicles.

SEI Automotive Center now offering:

  • Diesel Smog & Repairs
    • Diagnostics & Repair
    • Plus any updates or upgrades needed for Smog Inspection
  • Hybrid
    • Diagnostics & Repair

SEI Automotive Center Specializes in the Factory Scheduled Maintenance Service Intervals for your vehicles, which would be the 30,000, 60,000, 90,000 & 100,000 mile Manufacture Maintenance Services. We have been recently approved to accept and perform repairs through extended Vehicle Warranty contracts in which you purchased with your vehicle.

Important information regarding maintenance services and repairs for your vehicle. Unless the repairs are incorporated into your vehicle payment, you do not have to pay the high price of dealer repairs or maintenance for your vehicle. All you need to do is keep records of the services done to your vehicle for warranty purposes, at SEI Automotive Center we keep records for a minimum of 3 years for you, this can be used for any factory warranty claims you may have. SEI Automotive Center has the factory scheduled vehicle maintenance information for your vehicle, which is updated every quarter. All repairs also carry a year warranty.

Our Mechanics are ASE Certified for services and repairs.

Engine Check

Don't hit the panic button, but don't disregard it, either.
By Joe Gutierrez

It's a small rectangle hidden among the gauges clustered on the instrument panel behind the steering wheel. It flashes briefly when you turn the ignition on—along with other system checks like anti-lock brakes—to let you know the system is ready to perform its prescribed job.

After briefly flashing at start-up indicating all is well, it is blank and dormant as you drive happily on your way. Then one day, inexplicably, it glows yellow and warns, "Check Engine."

What do you check and why? The engine shows no obvious signs of anything except running down the road in quite contentment.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board established regulations requiring on-board diagnostics systems on cars and light-duty trucks (pickups, vans and SUVs) beginning with the 1994 model year. All '96 and newer cars and trucks have a powerful computer which uses second-generation on-board diagnostics, or OBDII, technology.

The purpose of the OBDII system is to ensure proper emission-control system operation for the vehicle's lifetime by monitoring emission related components and systems for deterioration and malfunction.

When the OBDII system determines that an emission problem exists, the computer illuminates the dashboard light indicating "Service Engine Soon" or "Check Engine" or displays an engine symbol. This light, usually yellow in color, serves to inform the driver that a problem has been detected and vehicle service is needed.

Warning Signs

OBDII assesses engine misfire situations, the most severe of which indicates the possibility that the catalytic converter is in danger of overheating. When this occurs, the yellow "check engine" light will blink on and off.

Don't hit the panic button and stop the car when the yellow message starts flashing. However, it is important to reduce the speed of the vehicle. The vehicle should not be driven long distances with the light flashing.

The system is also continuously checking information from the engine and transmission sensors against data stored in its memory. When one of hundreds of faults is found, the check engine light comes on and stays on. This can mean many things, from an oxygen sensor malfunction to a fouled spark plug.

The continuous light tells the driver that something is amiss, and to bring the vehicle in for service. This is not an emergency situation and it isn't necessary to immediately bring the car to the dealership. However, don't drive for more than a few days with the light on.

A not uncommon cause for the light to illuminate is a loose gas cap. Check to make sure it is tightened properly, and if that's the cause, the dashboard light will go out after several trips.

If the problem that caused the light to come on disappears after a few trips— perhaps a fouled spark plug has cleared—the OBDII computer will turn the light off. This is not an indication of a faulty system. In fact, the system is doing its job to verify that a problem existed and was caused by a temporary problem, which has gone away. Your car needs no special attention unless the light comes on again.

The glitches that activate the "check engine" light are often nothing a driver can readily detect, but that doesn't mean everything is working properly. There can be a condition that wastes fuel, shortens engine life or could lead to expensive repairs if left unaddressed. And, since the condition is usually emission related, the level of pollutants coming from the tailpipe can soar.

So, if the check engine light comes on, don't hit the panic button, but don't disregard it, either.

Car Noise
By Joe Gutierrez

Those clunks, clanks, squeaks, and rattles say a lot about a vehicle's health.

While most of us have seen talking cars in movies and cartoons, few of us really believe that cars can talk. OK, there have been a few production cars that told us the "door is ajar" and "the lights are on," but as a general rule cars don't speak. They do, however, have their own "language"—rattles, clunks, squeaks, and mechanical noises. When your car starts "speaking," you need to listen.

  • Buzzing: Vibration of a loose fascia, vent, knob or wiring connector rattling against ductwork usually causes this bee-like noise. Debris in the ductwork also causes buzzing. High-pitched buzzing from under the vehicle usually means the heat shield on the catalytic converter is loose.

  • Clicking: A metallic-sounding clicking noise that becomes more frequent as the throttle is applied may be caused by bent or loose fan blade hitting the radiator or protective shroud. This is especially true on older vehicles with metal fan blades.

  • Clunking or thumping: A heavy, metallic sounding noise that usually happens as the vehicle is put into gear. On rear-wheel drive vehicles it can indicate a failing universal joint on the drive shaft. Also, check for loose items stored in the trunk.

  • Grating or grinding: Metallic grating or grinding sounds occurring when the brakes are applied means worn brake pads or shoes. Good brakes are vital to vehicle safety. Get them repaired right away.

  • Growling: On older vehicles, a growling sound coming from under the dash means a worn speedometer cable. In the engine, it can mean the crankshaft bearings are worn. Growling sounds may also be an indication of rear end problems.

  • Hissing: If it sounds like air escaping, it probably is. Check the tires for a puncture or loose valve stem. Escaping steam from a blown radiator hose also hisses. When checking for steam, open the hood carefully. Steams burns can be nasty.

  • Knocking: A metallic knocking sound like a hammer hitting a metal door could mean worn piston rod bearings, allowing the piston rod to knock against the inside of the engine, destroying it in minutes.

  • Pinging: If the engine makes noises that sound like loose gravel in a tin can, you probably have pre-ignition, a condition caused by improper timing or by using the wrong octane fuel.

  • Rattles: These can be caused by anything from a loose jack handle in the trunk to a broken or loose shock. Check for loose items before seeing the mechanic.

  • Squeaks: Most squeaks are in the suspension system and are caused by a combination of road dirt and a lack of lubrication. Pressure washes the suspension and get a lube job. Spraying door seals with a Teflon lubricant will usually cure squeaking doors.

  • Squealing or screeching: A loose drive belt can cause a high-pitched squeal under the hood. If the sound happens as the brakes are applied, the wear indicators are telling you the pads are worn.

  • Tapping or ticking: A light metallic tapping or ticking sound may mean that the valves aren't getting proper lubrication or need adjustment.

  • Whirring: A whirring, whirling sound may be an indication of pending automatic transmission trouble.

  • Whistle: Caused by disturbed airflow around the vehicle, whistles can be difficult to pinpoint. Anything from a loose molding, antenna, mirror, roof rack or slightly open window can cause a whistle.

By Joe Gutierrez

There are nearly a dozen liquids that can leak out of your car. Only one type of leak is desirable and one other is of minor importance. Leakage of other fluids, however, can lead to an expensive breakdown if not corrected.

Some leaks affect driving safety. Gases leaking from the exhaust system can let deadly carbon monoxide enter the passenger compartment. Air leaking out of a tire can create a serious handling problem. Of the liquid leaks, fuel and brake fluid are the most serious, windshield-washer solution the least.

A puddle of clear water under your vehicle on a warm day is probably condensation from the air conditioner — the only desirable liquid that vehicles produce. If no condensation is formed, the air conditioner is not dehumidifying the air inside the car.

Leaks make themselves known in various ways. Oil leaks can slowly coat the outside of an engine. Or perhaps you've noticed a spot or puddle on the garage floor or frequently used parking space.

A frustrating thing about fluid leaks is they do not always show up in obvious places. Sometimes brake fluid or oil will run along the outside of a pipe or body flange to drip at a point several feet away from the source.

Fluid in Motion

When you see the telltale signs of a leak, don't ignore it. The first thing you should do is identify the type of fluid so you can identify the source. If you are lucky, simply tightening a clamp may yield a permanent repair.

If you're not sure what liquid is leaking, first check all fluids in the car to see if any are obviously low. If this fluid check doesn't reveal anything, place a large piece of cardboard on the ground and park the car over it. Some leaks are only apparent when the engine is operating, so run the motor for several minutes, revving it occasionally.

After letting the car sit overnight, carefully inspect any spots that have appeared. Familiarize yourself with these common types of fluids and what (if anything) to do about them.

Black or dark-brown slippery fluid most likely is motor oil. A few drops once in a while is OK, but if your car starts to leave puddles, have it checked out. Oil leaks are most often found under the front of the vehicle under the engine, but can occur the length of the vehicle.

Clear, oily liquid with a pungent odor is usually brake fluid that shows up around the wheels. Consult your mechanic immediately — it could lead to brake failure.

Pink, red or clear drops may be either automatic transmission fluid (ATF) or power steering fluid. ATF will leak under the front seats; power steering fluid leaks are under the front of the engine compartment. Check both reservoirs and refill them as necessary. If such leaks are a regular occurrence, see your mechanic.

Green, yellowish or redish spots with a faint, sweet smell indicates that antifreeze is leaking from the cooling system and is usually found under the front center of the car. Check the coolant level in the overflow tank immediately, and have the system checked for leaks. Too little coolant causes overheating and serious engine damage.

Heavy, light tan or black oily liquid is a sign that gear oil is leaking from the steering gearbox, manual transmission, axle or differential. Because of the various types of components, gear oil can appear anywhere under a vehicle. Delaying repairs will become expensive.

A dark stain on the shock absorber body gives this away as shock absorber fluid. This fluid usually does not appear under a vehicle. The shock needs to be replaced. (Shock absorbers are best replaced in pairs.)

Thin fluid that smells like gasoline probably is. It can leak from the tank (generally in the rear of the car), from a fuel line that runs from the tank to the engine, or from the engine itself. This leak needs to be repaired immediately. Fuel leaks are a leading cause of car fires.

Light oil that smells like home heating oil is diesel fuel and should be treated like a gasoline leak above.

Blue or pink tinted water points to a leak of windshield washer solution and will be found in a broad area under the engine compartment. It many not seem important, but when you need the streaks on the windshield cleaned on a dark rainy night, you will most likely wish you had taken care of this.

A clear fluid that smells like rotten eggs is probably sulfuric acid leaking from the battery and can appear in a number of locations under a vehicle. Sulfuric acid is corrosive and poisonous; if it touches skin, wash it off immediately and flush with water immediately. Have the battery replaced at once.

Clear water is just condensation from the air conditioner that drips under the front of engine. Don't worry about it.

Cooling System

Simple checks can prevent overheating.
By Joe Gutierrez

Although most people generally welcome the warm days of summer, it can mean disaster for your car. Warm-weather driving places an extra strain on the cooling system and unless it is operating at peak efficiency, that extra stress can mean overheating.

Just because your vehicle isn't experiencing overheating problems now doesn't mean the cooling system is OK. Cooling system components — radiator, radiator cap, coolant, recovery tank, hoses, clamps and drive belts — receive a lot of wear and tear. According to Nick Gulli, marketing manager of replacement products for Goodyear's Engineered Products business, overheating can occur at any time of year, especially during warmer weather.

"Overheating caused by a faulty fan belt or a broken radiator hose can give motorists problems in the fall and winter, though summertime sees the most problems," says Gulli.

"Almost nine out of 10 radiator hose and fan belt failures create an emergency situation," adds Gulli. "They frequently happen far enough away from home that they increase both the cost and inconvenience of repairs, as well as ruin a family vacation."

Under the weather

Drive belts, fan belts and hoses are vital parts of the cooling system, transferring engine power to the alternator, air conditioning compressor, radiator fan (on older vehicles), water pump and other items. When a belt failure occurs, power cannot be transferred to these components; the resulting battery discharge and/or overheating can leave you stranded.

Hoses transport thousands of gallons of hot, pressurized coolant through the radiator every hour and serve as shock absorbers between the engine and the cooling system connections, preventing them from possible damage. When a hose fails, boiling coolant bursts through the fissure and without this vital cooling, the engine overheats.

So why do hoses and belts fail more often than other components? Heat. Under-hood temperatures during summer driving often exceed 280 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat from within the cooling system and under the hood breaks down the coolant, hoses and belts, putting a strain on the water pump and clogging radiator and engine passages with impurities and debris that cause corrosion. When enough degradation occurs, any additional stress -- such as low speed, high rpm driving (as when towing uphill) -- may cause overheating that can result in major engine damage.

Check it out

To avoid expensive and troublesome repairs, Goodyear and Gulli suggest taking your vehicle to a qualified service center and have the cooling system checked for potential problems. Apart from inspecting the belts and hoses for wear and tear, the technician will check the coolant for acidity and its ability to withstand low temperatures without freezing, as well as the integrity of the overflow tank. He will also check the thermostat and pressure test the system to make sure it is in good working order.

Have the belts and hoses checked every six months or so. While you can take the vehicle in for these checks, it's easy to do at home. No tools are required. With the vehicle parked and the engine off, simply lift the hood and check the hoses for cracks, bulges, splits, hardness or sponginess. Give them a squeeze between your thumb and forefinger. They should feel firm and pliant. Any hose that feels hard, brittle, spongy, mushy or looks swollen should be replaced, as should rusted, sprung or distorted clamps holding them in place.

Drive belts generally last longer than hoses, but they don't last forever. Check for chunking, splits, cracks, or fraying and have them replaced every 40,000 miles or two years, regardless of appearance. The two-year rule is important because many of the new-composition drive belts don't show any signs of wear until they fail.

Have the tension checked when the belts are inspected. Incorrect tension is the main cause of belt failure. A loose belt will slip, become glazed, and won't drive the water pump or alternator. You could end up with an overheated car and a dead battery.

Belts that are too tight usually crack on the underside and eventually break. Tight belts put extra stress on the water pump, alternator, and air conditioning compressor, causing them to wear prematurely. To check belt tension, simply push down on the belt with your thumb. (Make sure the engine is off.) The belt should flex about 3/4 of an inch. If it moves less or more than this, get it adjusted.

Coolant, a mixture of ethylene glycol and water, breaks down with age, picking up impurities and becoming diluted. Have it changed every two years or 24,000 miles to ensure it is in good condition. If you do the job yourself, take care not to spill any. Coolant is toxic and will pollute the water table. Take used coolant to a recycling center.

Cool tips

Here are a few additional tips to help keep your car and your temper cool:

  1. Keep a spare drive belt, gallon of coolant, stop leak and vinyl tape in the trunk for emergencies.
  2. If the car is running hot, turn off the air conditioner, open the windows and turn on the heater. It may be uncomfortable, but it will help cool the engine.
  3. Turn off the air conditioning when climbing long hills, especially if towing.
  4. Get the engine steam-cleaned. Baked-on grease and dirt keep engine heat in, making the cooling system work harder.

Treading on Tires
You can learn a lot about your tires, if you know how to read the code.
by Joe Gutierrez

If your vehicle is new or you always let the tire dealer tell you what tires to buy, you may not think reading a tire is important. After all, a set can last as long as 80,000 miles or six years, so by the time your current treads need replacing, you may no longer even own the vehicle they are mounted on. However, you could be away on a trip, get a blowout and need to buy a replacement tire. If this happens, you need to be sure that the replacement tire is the right one, even though it may not be the same brand as the other tires on the vehicle.

Another reason being able to read a tire is important is if you've just purchased a used car or truck. Unless you are able to read a sidewall, how will you know if the previous owner installed the correct tires?

Reading the sidewall

The numbers and letters on the tire's sidewall list the brand name and model, tire size, maximum load rating, maximum inflation level, whether the tire is a radial or bias design, and whether it is a tube or tubeless tire. They also tell tire ply composition and materials used, the U.S. Department of Transportation safety code, tread wear indicator, traction and temperature grade, date of manufacture and give a safety warning. These codes are standardized under the Uniform Tire Quality Grading (UTQG) system. All brands and types of tires are marked in the same way.

Look at your tires and you'll notice that the manufacturer's name and tire model (such as "Goodyear Eagle GT Plus 4"), along with a number designation that denotes tire size appear in large letters. A typical sidewall, for example, might have P205/60R15 89H molded into the surface. In this example, the "P" means the tire is designed for use on passenger cars (though it might also be used on some light trucks). The "205" is the width of the tire in millimeters, the "60" refers to the ratio of the tire's height to width, and "15" is the diameter of the tire in inches. The "R" means that the tire is a radial. The "89" is the load rating. A load rating of "89" means the tire is rated to carry a maximum of 1279 pounds. The "H" is the vehicle's speed rating (up to 130 mph).

If the size marking on your tire begins with "LT" instead of a "P", it means that the tire is rated for use on light trucks (pickups, vans, sport utilities) and a "B" or "D" in place of the "R" tells you the tire has belted bias or diagonal bias construction. Although all passenger and light-truck tires installed as original equipment are radials, many trailer and specialized-use tires are of bias or diagonal bias design.


The treadwear code is a three-digit number, such as "TREADWEAR 100." It is a comparative rating that indicates expected tread life. The base rating on passenger tires is 100, which translates to an expected tread life of 30,000 miles. Treadwear numbers go up in increments of 10, with each increase indicating an increase in tread life over the base rating. A tire with a treadwear rating of 150, for example, means it should have a 50 percent longer tread life, or 45,000 miles and a treadwear rating of 220, means the expected tread life is about 80,000 miles. Just because a tire has a specific treadwear rating, you may not actually get the rated mileage out of the tire. Actual tire wear will vary, depending upon vehicle type, driving conditions, maintenance, climate, road type, and driving habits.

On the newer tires, the letters "TWI" are imprinted at various locations around the sidewall, below the edge of the tread. This indicates the location of the Tread Wear Indicator bars that run across the tread pattern to indicate when the tread has worn down to unsafe levels. When these bars show, buy new tires.

Traction rating

A tire's gripping ability is rated as "AA," "A," "B," or "C," with "AA" being the highest. These letters represent the tire's ability to stop on wet pavement as measured under controlled conditions on a test track. A tire rated as "AA" has superior wet braking traction (usually reserved for specially-designed rain tires). An "A" grade signifies that the tire has excellent wet braking traction, "B" is the middle performance standard, and "C" is the lowest traction grade. Because a tire has a "B" or a "C" grade doesn't mean it has poor traction. What it really means is that you should pay attention to the type of weather and road conditions in your area. If you live in Arizona, for example, a C-rated tire may provide excellent traction for weather and road conditions that are usually dry. In the rainy Pacific Northwest, however, a tire with an "A" or "AA" rating may be a better choice.

Speed rating

The tires on your vehicle will be marked with an "S", "T", "H", "V", or "Z." These symbols indicate a tire's speed capability based upon laboratory tests under ideal conditions. While the speed rating is a good indicator of the speeds at which the tire is safe to operate, the ratings become invalid if the tire is underinflated, worn, damaged or overloaded.

Most economy cars and sedans have tires rated at "S" or "T" (up to 112 mph). Performance sedans and sports cars have tires rated "H" (up to 130 mph), "V" (up to 149 mph), or "Z" (150 mph and over), depending upon the vehicle's capability. Just because a tire is rated at a certain speed, however, doesn't mean you can drive safely at that speed. A sports car fitted with "Z"-rated tires, for example, cannot be safely driven at the speed for which the tire is rated because our roads aren't in good enough condition. In addition, traffic volume, weather, vehicle condition, driver ability and a maximum speed limit of 70 mph, make driving this fast foolhardy.

Load rating

The amount of weight a tire can safely carry is its load rating. Passenger car tires have a number rating between 65 (639 lbs.) and 104 (1,984 lbs.), with most passenger tires rated between 75 and 100. Knowing how to read load ratings isn't that important because the maximum load rating, in pounds, is stamped in small letters on the sidewall near the edge of the wheel rim.

Light-truck tires are rated differently and may not have a load index or speed rating in the size designation. Instead, letters like "M+S" (mud and snow) or A/T (all-terrain) indicate the tire's intended use at the end of the size listing. This is because truck tires are designed for load-carrying ability, rather than high-speed performance. Load index is listed alphabetically, from "A" to "E," with "E" being highest. A compact pickup may have "A"-rated tires because it isn't designed as a vehicle that regularly carries heavy loads, while a full-size Suburban with a Class IV hitch is designed to haul heavy loads and will probably have "E"-rated tires.

DOT Standard Safety Code

Every tire has a Department of Transportation Standard Safety Code Number. A typical number might read "DOT MA L9 ABC 0301," with "DOT" standing for Department of Transportation. "MA" is the manufacturer's plant and code number. "L9" is the tire size code number (P215/65R15). "ABC" is a manufacturer optional code that identifies the tire and "0301" is the date of manufacture, in this case the 3rd week of 2001. (Tires manufactured before January 2000 use a three-digit date code.)

California Vehicles Face Serious Damage From Smoke and Ash

Friday May 2, 2008

The potential danger to people and property caused by the fires raging in California actually extends further than you might think. Examples include the potential damage to cars, trucks, drivers and passengers caused by smoke and soot in the air. SEI Automotive Center offers these tips to help protect your engine and, more importantly, yourself and your passengers.

Cabin Filters:

  • Harmful substances inside a vehicle can be up to six times more concentrated than in the air outside.
  • Most vehicles are equipped with a cabin filter in the heating and air conditioning system, which, if clean, will trap close to 100 percent of airborne contaminants before they enter the interior passenger cabin of your vehicle.
  • A cabin filter can become dirty over time, reducing its ability to filter the air you breathe. If you haven't replaced your cabin filter recently, you may want to do so now to help prevent the harmful smoke and soot from getting inside your vehicle. This is especially important for anyone suffering from any form of breathing disorder.

Air Filters:

  • Every time you drive, your air filter prevents dirt and other damaging particles from entering your vehicle's engine.
  • A dirty air filter can restrict airflow, which contributes to decreased acceleration and horsepower, as well as reduced overall performance.
  • If you don't remember when you last changed your vehicle's air filter, replacing it now may help prevent bigger engine problems down the road.

About SEI Automotive Center:

As of August 25, 2007, SEI Automotive Center sells auto and light truck parts, chemicals and accessories through it’s location in Upland.

Keeping your Vehicle vs. Buying a New Vehicle

By keeping your car for 15 years, or 225,000 miles of driving, you could save nearly $31,000, according to Consumer Reports magazine. That's compared to the cost of buying an identical model every five years, which is roughly the rate at which most car owners trade in their vehicles.

In its annual national auto survey, the magazine found 6,769 readers who had logged more than 200,000 miles on their cars. Their cars included a 1990 Lexus LS400 with 332,000 miles and a 1994 Ford Ranger pick-up that had gone 488,000 miles.

Calculating the costs involved in buying a new Honda Civic EX every five years for 15 years - including depreciation, taxes, fees and insurance - the magazine estimated it would cost $20,500 more than it would have cost to simply maintain one car for the same period.

Added to that, the magazine factored in $10,300 in interest that could have been earned on that money, assuming a five percent interest rate and a three percent inflation rate, over that time.

The magazine found similar savings with other models.

To have much hope of making it to 200,000 miles, a car has to be well maintained, of course. The magazine recommends several steps to help your car see it through.

Follow the maintenance guide in your owner's manual and make needed repairs promptly.
Use only the recommended types of fluids, including oil and transmission fluids.
Check under the hood regularly. Listen for strange sounds, sniff for odd smells and look for fraying or bulges in pipes or belts. Also, get a vehicle service manual. They're available at most auto parts stores or your dealership.
Clean the car carefully inside and out. This not only helps the car's appearance but can prevent premature rust. Vacuuming the inside also prevents premature carpet wear from sand and grit.
Buy a safe, reliable car. Buying a car with the latest safety equipment makes it more likely you'll feel as safe in your aging car as a newer model.

SEI Automotive Center recommends several cars that have the best shot at reaching the 200,000 mile mark and a few that, according to its data, aren't likely to make it.

All the cars in the magazine's "Good bets" list are manufactured by Honda and Toyota . (One extreme example was not enough to get the Ford Ranger onto the list.) The "Bad bets" are a mixture of European models and two Nissans.

Tips to Avoid Auto Repair Rip-Offs

How to fix your car fast without hassles, surprises or added expense.

Your car dies, it’s out of warranty and you need to get it fixed ASAP. So you have it towed to a shop close to your home and bum a ride to work. Later the mechanic calls to tell you that you need a new timing belt and how much the repair will cost. And since you’re having that done, he says that you might as well replace the water pump since it’s starting to leak, and you should really think about having the brakes done too. Plus you’re due for an oil change.

Once you have an estimate — and you get over the sticker shock — you tell him to go ahead and do the work, since you’ve already gone through the trouble of having the car towed in. But you can’t help but wonder if the mechanic is being straight with you or if he’s just looking for an opportunity to make a few bucks off your vulnerability and lack of knowledge about cars.

It doesn’t help that most people typically need their car repaired right away, and getting other estimates can be a hassle — or maybe impossible if you can’t drive around to different shops. But there are easy ways you can protect yourself from being taken advantage of and even save yourself some time, trouble and money. And while the majority of mechanics out there are reputable, there are always a few bad apples in the bunch. As with almost any business transaction, it’s your responsibility to make sure you get the best deal and service.

Here are some tips to help you from getting ripped off when getting your car repaired:

Get It in Writing

Before a shop begins work on your car, make sure you understand exactly what’s being done, what’s included and how much it will cost. While the shop may want some wiggle room in an estimate in case something unexpected comes up, for many repairs (especially routine maintenance), the shop should know what it will cost and be able to put it in writing. And make sure the quote includes everything needed for the job, says Austin Davis, author of the e-book What Your Mechanic Doesn’t Want You to Know. "If you need a new water pump and you get a quote of $250, ask if that includes filling the radiator with antifreeze afterwards," he says. "Always ask how much it’s going to be for the complete job, including any extras."

Don’t Be Oversold

Most shops will tell you if you need other work done on your vehicle — it’s their job. The best ones will give you options rather than pressuring you into doing it all at once and hitting you with a huge bill. Also beware of shops that give you a long list of repairs when you brought the car in for only one thing, says John Neilson, director of AAA’s Approved Auto Repair Network. "Anytime you feel they’re trying to sell you something you don’t need," Neilson says, "you’ll want to get a second opinion."

Get on a Schedule

One way to avoid being oversold on service — and perhaps avoiding costly repairs in the first place — is to stick with the car manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. "It helps if you plan your maintenance rather than waiting to fix something when it breaks," Neilson says. "It’s usually cheaper and less traumatic."

Follow Recommendations

Speaking of scheduled maintenance, while the old rule of thumb was to change the engine oil every 3,000 miles, in many cars today it can be 5,000, or even 10,000 miles between oil changes "If anybody recommends you do anything other than what the manufacturer recommends, I’d be concerned," Neilson notes. "That holds true for any number of fluids in the car, whether it’s the rear end, transmission fluid or coolant. What I would do is bring out the owner’s manual and say, ‘Here’s what the manufacturer says. Why are you telling me differently?’ I can think of a couple of cases where there might be an explanation, but by and large it’s going to be an indication that they are trying to sell you more than you really need."

Communicate Clearly

Davis says many misunderstandings between car owners and mechanics come down to miscommunication. "I tell people there are a lot of really good mechanics out there," he says. "But they may not communicate well or be the best businessmen." According to Davis, "the number-one reason people feel they got scammed is because the mechanic fixed the wrong problem, and not the problem they came in for." So make sure the mechanic understands what you need done, and that he explains what he will be doing on your car.

Go for a Drive

One way to avoid the previous scenario, especially if the repair is something that comes and goes or involves a noise at a certain speed, is to have the mechanic go for a ride so he can accurately assess the problem. "A good mechanic will get in the car with a customer and say, ‘Show me the noise so I can properly fix it,’" Davis says. "And if they’re not going to take the time to go around the block, they are probably going to waste your time and theirs."

Get to Know Your Mechanic

AAA’s Neilson feels that the best way to keep from getting scammed is to find a shop you trust and take your car there instead of using a different shop every time. "I think where people are most vulnerable is when they go to a shop that they’ve never been to, and unfortunately most people do that when it is more than just an oil change or tire rotation." In establishing a relationship with a shop Neilson suggests going there for oil changes, tire rotations and other routine services. "Then when it comes time for a larger repair job," he says, "you feel more comfortable."

Avoid Tow Troubles

Another advantage of establishing a relationship with a mechanic is if you get stranded, he may work with a towing company that can get your vehicle to the shop. "It can be a real pain when you don’t have the towing company and the repair shop lined up when you’re involved in an accident or your car breaks down and you need to make a split-second decision on where to go," Davis says. A good shop will usually work with a particular towing service, he adds. "They can pick up the car and bill the shop for service, so you don’t need cash on the spot." Plus, the towing service may be able to secure your car at the shop. "That way, if it’s after hours your car isn’t sitting out on the street waiting for the shop to open," Davis adds.

Try Them Out

Unfortunately, the best shop may not be the one that’s most convenient. "You usually end up getting burned because you went to some shop down the street because it was convenient and you didn’t know where else to take it," says Davis. AAA’s Neilson says that if you are using a shop because it’s convenient, you should try them out with a small job. "Maybe get an oil change first," he says. "Do they treat you well? Is the place clean? Do they have certified mechanics?"

Look for Signs

Neilson also recommends using one of over 8,000 repair shops in the U.S. that are AAA approved. "Since 1976 we’ve been identifying repair shops and inspecting them on a quarterly basis — checking their customer satisfaction, their training records and so on so we can identify quality shops for our members," he says. "They’ll have a sign that says AAA-approved auto repair."

Get a Guarantee

A good mechanic should stand behind his work, so ask for a guarantee. "And get the guarantee in writing and find out what it covers," says Davis. It also may be worth paying a little extra at a dealership for large jobs, such as a transmission overhaul, so that no matter where you are the work is covered. "That way if you’re on vacation you can go to any, say, Ford dealership and the work may be covered under the warranty," Davis adds.

If you do run into problems with a shop, try to work it out with them first, since most honest mechanics will try to make it right. If that doesn’t work, you can report the shop to the Better Business Bureau, and if you’re a AAA member and the shop is AAA approved, the association will step in on your behalf. "We have ASE Master Technicians who will go in and look at what happened," Neilson says. "And if the shop did something wrong, they will make them step up to the plate and do what’s right."

SEI Automotive Center August Service Special

Oil Service, Lube, Oil Filter, up to 5 Quarts of Motor Oil - $39.95 (for most vehicles inquire within)

Or get 10% off any Repairs or Service over $150.00 just inform cashier of "Web Special" for this month

Smog Special

Receive $5.00 off smog inspection with any service performed to your vehicle.

Back to School Special

Students show school ID and receive~10% off any Repair. Oil service for Students $35.95 plus tax includes FREE safety inspection.


Green StationThe Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) has cultivated a partnership with the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the agency that regulates the use and recycling of hazardous waste products. This new partnership has given us the opportunity to promote DTSC's voluntary program by which auto repair facilities may become recognized as a "Green Station" if a station meets the DTSC's requirements.
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