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("Your View: Car repairs a constant source of woe,")

Glenn Giammalvo works at
Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales in New Bedford.

In regards to Allan J. Duarte's op-ed ("Your View: Car repairs a constant source of woe," July 16, 2013), I'd like to shed a little light on the subject from the other side of the counter.

Growing up in a family buisness servicing cars, I've seen it all, the good, the bad and the ugly. Now I will admit there will always be dishonest people in any industry, just turn on your TV and you will see what I mean. But most of the problems with auto repairs come from lack of information and understanding.

The auto manufacturers don't want to educate the consumers as to how complex their cars have become because people would be to afraid to purchase them. They even go out of their way to hide technology to keep the customer inside their comfort zone. For example, in older cars a spinning speedometer cable connected to the transmission turned a bar magnet in a small tin cup, which was in turn connected to the speedometer needle, making it rise the faster the car went. Some new cars still show a needle display on the speedometer because drivers are familiar with that, but the needle is controlled by a computer and can rise without the tires even moving.

Regarding check-engine lights, this is s subject that information rules and misinformation abounds. On late-model cars, the check-engine light, and most of the other lights for that matter, come on when the computer finds something wrong. Now it may be just a loose gas cap or a failing catalytic converter but only an educated technician taking the time to run specific tests can tell for sure. Many parts stores will pull trouble codes for free, but they only show the triggered fault, not the cause. For instance, the code may say "inactive oxygen sensor," a sensor that monitors exhaust oxygen content, but the cause may be a simple vacuum leak and not a failed sensor.

Mr Duarte also made reference to driveing for years with the check -engine light on. That's a disater waiting to happen (not to mention proof of our state's failed inspection program; no car should be able to get a passing inspection sticker with an emmission fault present.)

Late-model cars also run tests on themselves (self-test moniters) while you drive, but with one fault code present some tests cannot be run. For example, if a car has a failed oxygen sensor code, the car's onboard computer cannot run self tests on its catalytic converter. This means someone could look at the car, and diagnose and replace a failed oxygen sensor, and a week later the check-engine light would be back on for a failed catalytic converter because now the computer can run that self test. Surprise, surprise! Owner neglect is not the technician's fault.

My recommendation to everyone is this: You don't have to understand all the computer systems in your car; power train control modules and engine control modules are not your concern. What is important is that you take the time to explain your needs and make sure you have a clear understanding of what the service facility is going to do when you leave your car in their care. For large repairs or complex issues, get a second opinion, but remember cheaper is not always the better deal, and beware of anything that is free. As my Dad would often say, "The cheese offered in the mouse trap was always free."

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