Crystal Lake Auto Repair & Tire (815) 356-0440 123 E Virginia Rd
Crystal Lake, IL 60014
Barrington Auto Repair & Tire (847) 381-0454 417 W. Main Street
Barrington, IL 60010
Fox River Grove Auto Repair & Tire (847) 639-4552 416 Northwest Highway
Fox River Grove, IL 60021


  • What you should know about winter tires

    Posted on 16, January, 2018

    Winter snows have already started in the Chicago area and careful driving is more important than ever.

    Do your tires stand up to the challenge?

    Most drivers today use all-season tires, which do give a smoother, quieter ride than winter

    tires, also called snow tires. But if you do a lot of driving in heavy snow and ice, a winter tire may be a better choice for you. 

    Winter tires are manufactured to specifically for cold driving conditions below 45 degrees. Their tread is made to grip the road better with more grooves than all-season tires. The tread is shaped to channel snow, ice and slush away from the tire, giving you more traction and making your vehicle less likely to slide. You’ll also be able to stop better when you put on the brakes.

    Winter tire treads are designed to operate when the temperature drops below 45 degrees.  Winter tires also help cars with ABS brakes to grip the road better because ABS brakes do not improve traction.

    It’s important to have all four winter tires at the same time so you don’t lose traction. If you do choose to use the all-season tires already on your car this winter instead, make sure you have sufficient tread. You can do this by placing a quarter upside down into your tire tread. If you can see the top of Washington’s head, you don’t have enough tread to keep you from sliding in winter weather conditions. It’s time to replace worn tires because tires need plenty of tread to grip the road - at least 4/32 of an inch.

    If you do install winter tires, however, don’t forget to have your mechanic switch them out with your all-season tires in the spring. 

    Tagged: Brakes , Tires
  • Should I put money down when buying a car?

    Posted on 05, January, 2018

    Traditionally, buying a car meant putting 20 percent down. However, the cost of new vehicles has risen dramatically over the years. In fact, according to automotive resource Edmunds, car buyers today put only about 12 percent down.

    But should you put any money down at all when buying a vehicle? Putting as much as possible down on a new or used vehicle has important advantages. It makes your monthly payments smaller, and, if you’re buying new, it can offset the depreciation that takes place when you drive off the lot, adds Edmunds. - a full 20 percent in the first year alone. If you put down very little or no down payment at all, you’ll owe more on your car than it’s worth, you’ll have higher monthly payments and higher finance charges.

    Simply put, it’s better to put money down when buying a car, but your down payment should be one you can reasonably afford. Depending on the condition of your current car, your trade-in can be your down payment, or at least part of it.

    If you’re buying used, know that used cars don’t depreciate as fast as new ones, but if you buy from a dealership the price has likely been jacked up. According to Edmunds down payments on used cars bought from a private party are around 12 percent of the selling price, so if you buy from a dealership, you should negotiate, and hold onto the car for at least two years so you don’t lose money.

    It is possible to buy with zero percent down, but you have to have stellar credit to be approved to do so. If it isn’t stellar, making a larger down payment will give you a better chance of getting your car loan approved. 

    Tagged: Douglas Q&A
  • Timing is Everything For Timing Belts

    Posted on 31, July, 2017

    ​Q. I have a Nissan Maxima and was told I should replace my timing belt and water pump. I have owned the car since it had about 42,000 miles on it and have been good about keeping the oil changed. Other than tires and brakes it has not needed much service. It has 122,000 miles on it now and runs fantastic; I don't understand why I need to spend $800 to have this work done when I am not having any problems?

    A. I am glad to hear that you have had such good luck with your Maxima. My advice would be to replace the timing belt if you want to keep having good luck. If you wait until you need one (the belt breaks) you most likely will be spending over $2,000 to do the belt and repair the bent valves.

    A timing belt is made out of rubber and over time it deteriorates to the point where it can break. Most manufacturers have a maintenance interval ranging from 60,000 miles to 105,000 miles. Your Nissan is overdue; how overdue depends on the year of the car. The reason you will want to replace the water pump at the same time is to save money. You have to take the timing belt off to replace the water pump so it makes perfect sense to do it while the belt is already off. You are saving almost all the labor and your water pump will most likely not make it until the next timing belt interval.

    We have a car in the shop right now that had this happen. The timing belt broke and when it did, the engine crashed and damaged all of the intake valves. It is an expensive repair and could have been avoided with a little bit of preventive maintenance.

    It is a good thing you have been good with your oil changes but there is more to good maintenance than just changing the oil. I would encourage you to take a look at the owners manual and see what other services should have been done along the way. The big mileage intervals on your Accord will most likely be at 60K, 90K and 105,000 miles.

    I am quite sure Nissan calls for the transmission fluid, engine coolant and brake fluid to be changed somewhere in those intervals. In addition, the spark plugs should be replaced and the valves adjusted. Your Nissan has been good to you and there is no reason why you can't drive it to 200,000 miles or more, but you will need to step up a little on the maintenance. When you do the math you will find that in the long run it is really inexpensive.

    Q. When I'm driving and it's cold outside, I feel cold air on the left side of my head while the heat is on almost at the highest speed. When I turn it down a little, I still feel the cold air on the left side of my head. What do you think the problem is? It's a 2006 Pontiac G6 GT Coupe with 44,000 miles. It does not have dual zone heating, and warm air is not coming out of the vents.

    A. The first thing you want to take note of is the temperature gauge on the dash. If your engine is not heating up to operating temperature then not only will you have poor heat, but you will be using more fuel than you should be.

    Generally on a newer car like this when the engine is not heating up properly you will have a "check engine" light on and a code stored. If the engine is getting up to operating temperature and you don't have proper heat then there must be something wrong with the heating system in the dash.

    Some possibilities are a bad control head, blend doors stuck or broken, plugged heater core or a bad heater control valve. If the air is switching properly between the different modes on the dash and you are just experiencing a temperature problem then I would focus first on the last two items. I expect an experienced technician would get to the bottom of this fairly quickly.

    Tagged: Timing Belts
  • Having Steering Wheel Issues?

    Posted on 27, July, 2017

    ​Q. When I turn my steering wheel right or left it makes noises. What could that problem be? I had it worked on last summer and a steering arm was replaced, but the noise is back again and very irritating. This happens intermittently, but more often than not. The temperature can be hot or cold; it does not seem to matter.

    When I drive down the road I hear this noise around the wheel area. It is very noticeable. Last summer I had the bushings replaced and the noise is back again and very irritating. I feel I am taken to the cleaners by mechanics and would appreciate your help. Suggestions?

    A. I am not sure if you are talking about two different noises or the same noise, but it sounds like you have a dried-out ball joint or tie rod end. These are steering and suspension components that used to be greaseable but in most cases today they do not have fittings that can be greased. You will have to have someone isolate which one it is and most likely it will have to be replaced.

    Occasionally a steering column will make noise and the sound is actually on the inside of the car, but if it's coming from the outside, I would focus on a seized steering or suspension component.

    I would also encourage you to get some recommendations from a co-worker or friend for a good shop where you can start building a relationship. Believe it or not, there are some good shops in our area that are committed to doing a really good job for their customers at a fair price. Once you have that trust relationship, you won't have to live with the feeling of "being taken to the cleaners."

    If you can't find a shop that way, check with your chamber of commerce or the Better Business Bureau. They can help you locate a company that has a good reputation.


  • Best Car Advice Comes From Shop Owners

    Posted on 20, July, 2017

    I've had a lot of calls lately from my clients either looking to buy or sell a car or truck.

    Have you considered speaking to your repair shop when you are in the market to purchase a replacement vehicle or sell your existing one? It's a great place to go for either of these transactions.

    When you are looking to buy, your shop may not only know of a client who is looking to sell, but you will be able to buy with confidence knowing no one will know the car or truck better than those at the shop who serviced it. They will have records for when various services were performed and would most likely pass any service guarantees on to you as the new owner.

    When you are looking to sell your car, no one knows it better than your shop and staff may just have a buyer looking for a car like yours. Everybody wins and the new owner can drive away with confidence.

    I always encourage my clients who are purchasing a replacement vehicle, if they don't know anything about it, to bring it in for a pre-purchase inspection. Worst case, it can save you from making a really bad decision and, best case, you will have an idea of the maintenance that needs to be done over the next couple years.

    Either way, the investment of time and money to have a thorough inspection is well worth it.

    Don't put off repairs

    When your car is leaking antifreeze, don't put off getting it repaired. We had a client who just tried to deal with a leak by adding coolant here and there to put off spending a few hundred dollars to repair the leak. The problem is that he got caught a few times running low and overheated the engine.

    The engine overheated so bad one time that the head gasket let go and now we need to not only do the work that he put off but he needs to spend a couple thousand on major engine work.

    The moral of the story is, don't put off known problems … they are not going to just magically get better and could lead to a much larger expense. This goes for any part of the car.

    For example, if you hear a brake noise, don't ignore it. By letting it go, you could have to replace a brake rotor instead of just the brake pads. If you ignore a misfiring spark plug, you could actually damage a catalytic converter.

    Sometimes it is hard to part with the cash to get stuff repaired but think of it this way -- you have made a substantial investment to buy your car, so keeping the car maintained protects that investment.