Questions Asked And Answered:

Do I have to take my car to the dealer?

Even if your vehicle is still under warranty, you are not required to go to the dealer for your regular maintenance. Federal Law prohibits new car dealers from implying or denying warranty service because routine scheduled maintenance was performed at an independent repair facility.
Magnusen – Moss Act (1975)
Title 15 – Chapter 50 – Section 2301-2312 US Federal Code

What is a AAA approved shop?

The Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA) regularly inspects approved facilities to ensure that they have certified technicians on staff, quality parts that meet or exceed OEM specs, clean and comfortable facilities, and the highest AAA member service satisfaction. AAA facilities also offer 24 month, 24,000 mile repair guarantee with courtesy inspections during every visit.

What is a star station?

STAR stations are Smog Check stations that meet higher performance standards by the Bureau of Automotive Repair. Some STAR stations are licensed to perform only tests, while others are licensed to perform both tests and repairs. BJ’s Automotive is a fully certified, test and repair station.

State law requires that a percentage of vehicles have their Smog Check Inspections performed at a STAR station. If your DMV renewal notice states your vehicle requires a Smog Check at a STAR station, you must take your vehicle to a STAR station for an inspection.

How often should I change my oil?

Standard, conventional oil should be changed every 3,000 – 4,000 miles. Fully synthetic oil can be changed every 5,000 – 7,000 miles. Some vehicle manufacturers state their vehicles can go several thousand miles more than this, but we recommend that your vehicle be inspected more regularly than this to avoid costly repairs. Staying to the 3000 and 5000 mile oil change intervals will keep your vehicle running at peak performance for years to come.

How can I save money on fuel?

With fuel prices headed up again, the thousands of crossover and SUV buyers are now turning to fuel saving techniques to try and save a little money on their vehicle.

Use the manufacturer’s suggested fuel octane. Most vehicles only require 82 octane. Using 87 or 91 octane in these vehicles doesn’t help your engine or gas milage in any way. At the other end of the spectrum, if your vehicle requires higher octane gas and you switch to lower octane, you’ll see a dip in performance and fuel milage. Bottom line, follow the recommendations of the manufacturer and you could save around $5.00 per tank.

Don’t let the vehicle idle in the driveway to “warm up”. Unless your vehicle is older than the internet, it’s actually more efficient to just start the vehicle and get moving. Idling for two minutes will get your vehicle up to operating temperature most of the time, but so will driving down the road for 30 seconds, and doing so will not harm the vehicle.

Drive at a consistent speed. Picking a speed while traveling on a highway is much more efficient than jumping between lanes and constantly accelerating/decelerating. Pick a lane, pick a speed you’re comfortable with, and stay there. You’ll see an immediate increase in fuel economy.

Maintenance is key. Changing your oil at the regularly scheduled intervals, keep your tires to the proper pressures, opt into the induction cleaning service, find a mechanic you trust and keep the vehicle fluids fresh. All these practices reduce friction in the engine and on the vehicle’s components. Friction is the enemy of efficiency.

Keep a record of your fill ups. None of this matters if you don’t know what’s working and what isn’t. When you fill your car or truck up at the gas station, take a quick note in your smart phone or on a pad of paper you keep in your car. The numbers you’re looking for are the total gallons filled (found on the gas pump) and the trip tracker (under the speedometer). Fill the car until the pump shuts itself off. Reset the trip tracker at every fill up. Some quick math (formula below) can tell you the miles per gallon you achieved on this tank of gas, or just give those numbers to your mechanic and they’ll let you know how your new habits are benefiting your vehicle.

Miles Traveled Gallons of Fuel Purchased (to the decimal)= MPG
342.5 mile trip divided by 10.424 gallons purchased = 32.8 Miles Per Gallon
250 mile trip divided by 8.753 gallons purchased = 28.5 Miles Per Gallon

Do I have to go to the dealer?

There are a few things that you do have to take your vehicle to the dealer for, recalls being the most common, followed by warranty work. For everything else, federal law prohibits dealerships from implying or denying warranty service because routine maintenance was performed at an independent repair facility. It’s called the Magnusen – Moss Act (1975). So while it may sound appealing to have your vehicle worked on by “factory trained technicians”, it is by no means mandatory for any vehicle.

Should I repair my car or just buy a new/used one?

Some things to consider when your mechanic calls you with news that your vehicle needs a significant repair:

The true cost of ownership for a new vehicle, first and foremost should be looked at. For example, a 2016 Honda Civic, base model, costs over $3,000 in insurance, maintenance, taxes/fees, and financing costs in the first year alone. has a great calculator that shows what the first few years of owning a car will cost besides what’s agreed upon at the dealership.

If this number is less than what your mechanic needs to get your car safe to drive again, and you’re able to find a car you like with the features you want, then consider trading your vehicle in for something new. If you’re looking at used vehicles, see if your mechanic offers a pre-purchase inspection. They run anywhere from $50.00-$200.00 depending on the vehicle, and can save you hundreds of dollars by finding issues before you commit to an unknown vehicle.

If your mechanic is asking for less than the cost of buying a different car, consider how much longer you planned on keeping it before you heard the “bad news”. Most modern cars can travel well over 150,000 miles if they are properly maintained by a trained technician. Ask your mechanic, “If I do these repairs, how much longer will I be able to keep my vehicle?”. While you should expect a vague answer, you’ll be armed with more information to help you make a decision.

What if I can’t afford to repair my vehicle?

Many auto repair shops now offer simple financing plans for when your situation requires a little help in getting your car back on the road. The “best” plan is strictly a matter of opinion, but seeing 6 months, deferred interest financing is not uncommon. Just pay the plan off before those 6 months are up, or all the interest that they would have charged will be added to your total owed. Just ask to see the fine print before you decide to take this avenue.

What is a STAR station smog and why do I need one?

The STAR program started in 2013 and creates standards for CA Smog stations and their employed inspectors. STAR certified stations need to meet program eligibility requirements annually.

Why do you have to visit a STAR station? Straight from the BAR website:
Some vehicles require a Smog Check at a STAR station. This includes vehicles that fail Smog Check due to excessively high emissions levels. It also includes vehicles, based on Smog Check history and other data, with the greatest likelihood of failing their next inspection. The BAR also provides this tool to find stations near you.

How often do I need to change my ________________?

Vehicles require some maintenance beyond the standard oil changes and tires:

+ Oil change every 3,000 miles (5,000 for synthetic)
+ Rotate tires every 5,000 miles
+ Air filter every 15,000 miles (sooner if you drive anywhere dusty)
+ Fresh air service kit every 30,000 miles
+ Wheel balancing and alignment once per year
+ Fuel induction service every 30,000 miles
+ Brake fluid service every 30,000 miles
+ Power steering service every 30,000 miles
+ Transmission fluid service every 30,000 miles
+ Cooling system service every 30,000 miles
+ Replace timing belt/water pump every 90,000
+ Shocks/struts every 90,000 miles
+ Spark plugs and tune up every 30,000-120,000 (depends on vehicle)

Check with your mechanic for vehicle specific mileage intervals.

How much does regular maintenance cost?

Every vehicle will be different here and it depends on how much you drive. Most vehicles in Southern CA travel 15,000 miles a year. Use the chart above and consult with your mechanic to put together an estimate of what your vehicle will need this coming year and plan ahead. Most services can be spaced out so they don’t all land on the same day.

Should I change both bulbs if only one burns out?

There is no mechanical reason to change both bulbs at once. Buying light bulbs two at a time can save you a little money, and your mechanic may help you out on labor if he’s able to do them both on the same day. If one bulb has failed, the other one isn’t far behind in most cases.

How long do bulbs usually last?

This depends on use, just like bulbs in your home. For some cars, one year is normal, but up to five years is not unheard of.

How long do windshield wipers last?

In California, even higher quality wipers may last for only one rainy season. The blades sit in the sun drying out for months at a time which reduces their lifespan. Expect low cost blades to last three months in the sun before they begin to streak. Parking in the shade or indoors can slow down the degradation of the wiper blades. There are aftermarket wipes and cleaners that may prolong the life a few weeks, but in our experience, they aren’t worth the money.

Why does my new car cost more to maintain than my 80’s ______________

New cars tend to cost more because of the safety and convenience features we’ve come to expect. Jumping in your car, pushing a button and driving off moments later is a luxury we take for granted. While maintenance can cost more, the cars also last for two to three times longer than the “classics”. Traveling 200,000 miles without replacing the entire engine use to be the stuff of legends and long haul diesel trucks. With modern, well maintained vehicles, this is normal and even expected.

Does using the A/C use more fuel?

Not directly, but turning on the A/C takes some of the power away from the engine to run an accessory. In stop and go traffic or in town, the effect can be up to a 10% loss in fuel economy. It’s much more economical to use your windows in these situations. Above 55 MPH, keeping your windows shut and the A/C on is much more efficient (and comfortable), as long as your A/C system is functioning properly.

Should I buy “premium” fuel?

Only if the manufacturer requires it. High octane gas has no effect on vehicle performance unless the designer of the engine prepared for it. Turbo and supercharged engines often require higher octane (premium) fuel to function properly. If there is any doubt, check your owner’s manual or ask your trusted mechanic.

Can I clean my battery terminals at home?

Absolutely, here’s what you’ll need to do so:
+ Correct size wrench to properly remove the cables from the battery
+ Eye protection, hand protection, wire brush, baking soda, tap water, protective spray, and Youtube.

There are dozens of tutorials online for how to do this. We’ll let you pick your favorite and see if you’re up to the task. Your mechanic will also happily do the service for you for a reasonable price. Occasionally the corrosion can get out of hand and damage the cables so taking care of the issue soon should be a priority.

Does it matter where I buy gas?

In our experience, buying discount gas may save you a few dollars per fillup. Unfortunately in the long run, the lower quality fuel without detergents can cause premature carbon buildup in the throttle body and on your valves. More frequent fuel induction cleanings can solve this, but avoiding offbrand fuel is the better choice in the long run.

Can I clean my battery terminals at home?

Absolutely, here’s what you’ll need to do so:
+ Correct size wrench to properly remove the cables from the battery
+ Eye protection, hand protection, wire brush, baking soda, tap water, protective spray, and Youtube.

There are dozens of tutorials online for how to do this. We’ll let you pick your favorite and see if you’re up to the task. Your mechanic will also happily do the service for you for a reasonable price. Occasionally the corrosion can get out of hand and damage the cables so taking care of the issue soon should be a priority.

How long do spark plugs last?

Modern spark plugs come in many shapes and sizes, and even metal compounds. Some only last around 30,000 miles, while higher end plugs can last up to 120,000 miles. Ask your mechanic when you’ll need a tune up and plan ahead.

What should I have checked before a long trip?

Some issues can’t be avoided or planned for, but a thorough checkup by your trusted mechanic can help to alleviate some stress on your drive. If you’d rather check the vehicle over yourself, there are a few things you can do to verify the condition of the car. Check the level of your tires with a flashlight, and check the whole tire side to side. Some alignment issues can hide tire wear unless you get down low and look carefully. Check the due date on your next service from your local mechanic. There’s nothing worse than driving half way there and finding you’re overdue for an oil change. Check the wiper fluid and all your lights inside and out. Finally, check the oil level and top off your fuel.

How can I find a trustworthy mechanic?

The old stereotype of the dishonest mechanic is largely extinct with the onset of yelp and other review sites. Low quality shops just can’t survive in today’s climate for very long so you’re safer than ever before just walking into a shop and shaking the owner’s hand. Verify that the mechanic you choose has been in business for a year or three. Make sure they have certifications from ASE or another automotive sanctioning body. Check them out on review sites. Ask them how current their certifications are. Ask them what the last tool they bought was. Find out if they are AAA certified and recommended. Start a conversation! If they’re evasive, maybe check those reviews a bit more closely.

Should I pay for a diagnosis?

That depends on the problem you’re experiencing. If you have a flat tire, there is very little need to diagnose the issue. If your vehicle is running rough, not starting, has an engine light on, or just doesn’t feel right, a professional mechanic can save you hundreds by finding the problem. Replacing parts blindly can in some rare cases fix the problem, but should be avoided.

Diagnosis by a licensed and certified technician often requires the use of tools and computer systems that you can’t find just anywhere, along with some amount of time, which is why most of them require a small charge for diagnosis.

If you find a shop that doesn’t charge for diagnosis, verify with them that the issue will be researched by a certified technician and you will be contacted before the work is done to the vehicle. Some shops will take their best guess, and replace the suspected problem part, then retest the vehicle. This can keep costs down by bypassing the diagnosis charge, but if they guess wrong, you the customer are often on the hook for the parts they replaced, and sometimes even the labor to put your old parts back together.

Copyright © BJ's Automotive Simi Valley Auto Repair
2010 Donville Ave, Simi Valley, CA 93065 Phone: (805)527-7741