Why you should never ignore a check engine light.

It is common place for people in our industry to say things like, ” That light is just on because of emissions, so just ignore it.” It is true that there are certain conditions that cause the check engine light to come on that won’t cause any drivability concerns.

It is not true, however that you should just ignore a check engine light. There are many instances where a customer comes in and says ,” Oh that light is just on for an oxygen sensor. It’s been on forever.”  That customer just ignores the fact that their vehicle is actually telling them that the oxygen sensor is in fact working, and isn’t seeing enough fuel in the engine and there is something seriously wrong leading to a costly repair.

When you ignore a check engine light,  you never know when there is a new problem that occurs.  Although emissions don’t seem to affect how some cars drive, it is important to address what is turing on the light. Failure to do so may allow another issue to cause serious problems that may prove more expensive in the long run.

So next time you have that pesky check engine light, let us help you figure out how to turn it off. This will help you avoid future costly repairs, and major failures that could leave you stranded.


At Smith Specialty Automotive in Olathe KS (66062) we install quality NAPA and Bosch replacement parts. Give us a call at 913.393.0700.


The Car Detectives

One might say the most challenging part of being an automotive service technician in Olathe is diagnosing a problem before it can be fixed.

Cars are made up of a bunch of complex systems. There usually could be a number of reasons for any given symptom. So it’s challenging to track down the actual cause of the problem. And it can be frustrating for the vehicle owner because it can take time and money to get to the bottom of a problem.

If it’s not something obvious, it’s easy for the customer to focus on the fixing and not the diagnosing.

Let us at Smith Specialty Automotive introduce you to something we’ll call ‘Customer Detective Work‘ – that is helping the technician find clues to what’s wrong.

We start with the detective basics: What, Where and When. Play along with me; You come in to Smith Specialty Automotive and your car is making a funny sound…

  • Where’s the sound? – ‘Around the right front wheel’.
  • What kind of sound? – ‘Kind of a clunk, clunk sound’.
  • When do you hear the sound? – ‘When I turn and accelerate.
  • Right and left? Forwards and back?’

You see where we’re going. You’re gathering additional information to help your technician at Smith Specialty Automotive know where to start. Based on your car and the tech’s experience, we’ll know where to look on you sedan and can start with the obvious suspects.

You can see how that would be more helpful than dropping the car off with a note that says “making a funny noise“.

When you think you need to bring your sedan in, make some notes about the problem it’s having. Rather than just saying “it’s leaking”, tell the tech the color of the fluid, and approximately where under the car you see the puddle.

Things like ‘the car is stalling or sputtering’ are often very hard to diagnose because they’re intermittent. They may not happen every time you drive and may not be happening when you actually bring the car in. So, it is a big help for you to describe what’s happening in as much detail as possible.

Your technician at Smith Specialty Automotive in Olathe will need to be able to duplicate the problem if possible so he needs to know details, like “It stalls after it’s been driven for about 20 minutes and I go over 50 miles an hour”.

If your technician at Smith Specialty Automotive can experience the problem personally, he’s better able to test, make a diagnosis and repair. And, then test to see if the repair solved the problem.

At Smith Specialty Automotive in Olathe KS (66062) we install quality NAPA and Bosch replacement parts. Give us a call at 913.393.0700.

Car Safety

I was driving my old half-million mile Ford Ranger yesterday on the highway when my tire just went flat. I didn’t hit anything, it just blew out. Didn’t have a spare and that’s the first time that truck has been on a tow truck in over 524,000 miles. We preach on the tire thing…your tires are the only thing between you and the road so don’t save money on tires, its not worth it for the long run. You only find out the consequences after its too late.

Its just an old truck and I don’t like putting money in it any more that you would, but it runs so well that I just keep fixing it. Well, the tread on the tire separated at 70mph, causing a sudden loss of air pressure, which could have been disastrous. Got it back to the shop and looked at the date code: about 8 years old.  Its been in the news some lately; every tire has a date code. If your tires are old, replace them. A couple years ago we wouldn’t even have thought about tire age as an issue, but I’ve seen it happen to other people, now it’s happened to me. Now I have a nice new set.

Don’t be a victim. Sitting on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck is inconvenient at best, and the tow bill would have paid for a tire. Feel free to come by anytime to have us check your tires for free.

– Dave Smith

Smith Specialty Automotive    http://smithspecialty.com

Your Car and the Environment

According to the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, regular vehicle maintenance and better driving habits are two simple ways any car owner can save $$ and the environment at the same time.

  • Keep the engine running at its peak performance—a misfiring spark plug can reduce fuel efficiency as much as 30 percent. Replace filters and fluids when needed. A well maintained engine pollutes less and uses less fuel. A neglected engine can cause costly repairs over time. (Its also more fun to drive when your car runs well)
  • We always dispose of engine fluids and batteries properly. A single quart of used motor oil can pollute thousands of gallons of water. Anti-freeze poured on the ground can poison wildlife and household pets. We accept fluids if you do your own work, or call your local government for information on proper disposal.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated and aligned. If your air pressure is low, you force the engine to work harder, and burn more gasoline. Tires that are misaligned also make your vehicle work harder, and wear out faster, which means more discards have to be scrapped, recycled, or sent to the landfill.
  • Find a good technician. Ask friends for recommendations. Check the reputation of the repair shop with your local consumer group. Check out the technicians’ credentials. ASE-certified auto technicians have passed one or more national exams in specialties such as engine performance and air conditioning. At Smith Specialty Automotive, our technicians have passed most or all of the certification tests. (Some technicians think it’s not important. We think that’s a good thing to be fully trained and certified)
  • Have your vehicle’s air conditioner serviced only by a technician qualified to handle and recycle refrigerants. All air conditioners contain ozone-depleting chemicals which could be released into the atmosphere through improper service. (Only the older R12 systems are regulated, mostly because Dow Chemical wants to make lots of money, but they will find a reason to ‘regulate’ R134a soon ‘cause their patent is up soon)
  • Avoid speeding and sudden accelerations, which uses more gas with extra wear on your vehicle’s engine, transmission, brakes and tires. Set the cruise control and anticipate traffic patterns ahead. (Mostly just take it easy when driving. Really hard to do for some of us)
  • Consolidate daily errands to eliminate unnecessary driving. When waiting for friends or family, shut off the engine. Avoid the drive-through at banks and fast food. Its unbelievable how much gas that wastes. Also, how ‘bout those people waiting for closer parking at Wal-Mart – just park already and walk a little farther. (OK, I’m done with my personal rant)
  • Remove excess items from the vehicle since less weight means better mileage. Remove that roof-top luggage carrier after vacations to reduce air drag. (?! who does that?)

While there is no single vehicle that’s ideal for every lifestyle, regular car care and gentler driving lets your maximize gas mileage for your Prius or Hummer. —saving you money and helping the environment.

Most of this article was written by the Car Care Council with comments by me. Come see us at Smith Specialty Automotive if you want your vehicle to run well for a long, long time. – Dave

http://smithspecialty.com 913-393-0700



Tire Monitoring Systems

Flats, blow outs, skids and longer stopping distances can all be the result of driving around on under-inflated tires. It’s hard to tell when a tire is under-inflated but at Smith Specialty Automotive, we check your tires every time you come in for service. The tire may not look low until it gets below 20 pounds – which is significantly under-inflated, risking loss of control, increasing tire wear and causing you to burn more fuel.

If your car was built since 2008, your vehicle is equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). This technology has been used by race car drivers for years and now the devices are mandated by the government. They are able to head off problems from under inflation by closely monitoring tire pressure.

The gov-ment estimated the net costs of the TPMS system itself to be between $27 and $100 per car, but maintaining the system, replacement of worn or broken parts increases the costs. The benefit is savings in fuel and tire wear, but also safer highways; estimated savings of between three and nine million dollars for every life saved. (Depending on who you are, I suppose)

At Smith Specialty Automotive in Olathe KS, we can service your Tire Monitoring System and keep you on the road.

Give us a call if you want your car to last forever. 913.393.0700

– Dave

Save Gas Now

Personal budget problems are returning as gas prices are rising again. The Car Care Council offers some simple and inexpensive vehicle maintenance tips. “You can’t control the price of gas, but you can control how much gas you burn by performing proper maintenance and how you drive. Performing simple and inexpensive maintenance can save more than $1,200 per year in gas costs,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. They offer these gas-saving tips:

  • Keep your car properly tuned to improve gas mileage by an average of 4 percent.
  • Keep tires properly inflated and improve gas mileage by 3 percent.
  • Replace dirty or clogged air filters and improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.
  • Replace dirty spark plugs, which can reduce mileage by two miles per gallon.
  • Change oil regularly and gain another mile per gallon.

Driving behavior also impacts fuel efficiency. The council offers these gas saving driving tips:

  • Observe the speed limit. Gas mileage decreases rapidly above 60 mph.
  • Avoid excessive idling. Idling gets zero miles per gallon. Warming up the vehicle for one or two minutes is sufficient.
  • Avoid quick starts and stops. Aggressive driving can lower gas mileage by 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent in the city.
  • Consolidate trips. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much gas as one longer multi-purpose trip.
  • Don’t haul unneeded items in the trunk. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk reduces fuel economy by 1 to 2 percent.

Wow. Add those up and you’re really starting to save $$. Come see us if you want help making your car last longer and save fuel  –  Dave

We Specialize in Your Satisfaction. http://smithspecialty.com

Fuel System Maintenance

Fuel system maintenance is important for fuel economy and to prevent problems in other systems which, if ignored, can be very costly. A fuel injector is an electronic valve that squirts fuel into your engine and is what most people think of when it comes to fuel, but it doesn’t work alone. Your engine control computer tells the fuel injector how much fuel to deliver as well as the precise time it should be delivered. Of course this happens thousands of times a minute, and if it gets clogged or dirty, the fuel spray pattern can distort which reduces efficiency, power and therefore, fuel economy. Other parts of the engine can also get dirty over time from fuel condensing on them, forming carbon deposits that are nearly impossible to remove without the proper treatment.

High temperatures under your hood and variations in fuel gas quality cause fuel injectors to become partially clogged, preventing them from delivering the proper amount of fuel at the correct pressure and carbon deposits can build up on the valves and in the cylinders, causing incomplete combustion and causes more fuel consumption. The carbon keeps the fuel from being used efficiently, keeping the fuel from reaching the cylinders because carbon absorbs the fuel instead of letting it flow by. This can cause misfiring and hard starts, especially before the engine is warmed up.

At Smith Specialty Automotive, we can perform a full fuel system service for you in which the intake manifold, fuel injectors, valves, combustion chambers and even the catalytic converters are cleaned so that they operate properly and deliver the right amount of fuel at the right time.

Proper maintenance of your fuel system means you will spend less on gas, enjoy strong performance and prevent costly repairs down the road.

We would like to be your auto repair shop. We work hard to make your visit great and keep your  car on the road forever. We Specialize in Your Satisfaction!

– Dave

http://smithspecialty.com  913-393-0700