Why do my brakes make a squealing noise sometimes when it’s cold?

If it is wet and cold outside, the brakes of a sitting car can oxidize. Rust can then form on the surfaces of the pads and rotors. If that happens, you might hear a squealing noise the first few times you step on the brakes. You essentially scrub the surfaces free of this rust when you apply the brakes. The noise should then disappear. If brake noise continues, contact us or bring it on by so we can hear the noise, check out your brakes and make an evaluation.

Can I change the size of the tires on my vehicle?

Your tires were carefully selected by the manufacturer for your car. You can check out the recommended “Tire and Loading Information” label on the door of your vehicle or listed in the owner’s manual. You can change sizes, but you must be very careful that your change does not interfere with safety features, such as anti-lock brakes. If you want to change tire size, we can help you determine which rim and tire size will work best for your car.

How often do I need to change the oil in my vehicle?

Don’t make assumptions based on past experience or the standard 3,000-miles/3 months refrain that you’ve heard for decades. Every vehicle is different, so it’s important to follow the recommendations listed in your owner’s manual. Many vehicles now have service reminders that monitor and alert drivers when they need to change their oil. These systems not only monitor miles but also analyze how hard a vehicle is being driven. We can also make sure you stay on schedule!

I’ve forgotten my car’s security code…. what do I do?

Suffering from too-many-passwords-to-remember syndrome? If you’ve gotten locked out of your vehicle’s security system and don’t have access to the manual (because it’s locked inside!), remember that most manuals are available online. If this doesn’t help you reset the code—you can usually contact the carmaker with the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) that is visible through the front windshield. Of course, we can always help you with this, or any type of car software or hardware issue—that’s just what we do as the premier European auto service shop in Seattle!

Should I tow my vehicle with all four wheels on the road?

This is a question RVers often ask as they look to haul a smaller vehicle behind their motorhome. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer cars that can be towed on all four wheels, usually called flat towing or “dinghy style.” Rear-wheel drive vehicles with a manual transmission or four-wheel drive and a manual transfer case that can be placed in neutral are the most likely vehicles you can flat-tow But front-wheel and all-wheel drive vehicles can be damaged because transmission pumps don’t operate when the vehicle isn’t running. Be very sure before flat-towing your car—you can inflict severe harm to your transmission if you do so.

How long should the original tires on my vehicle last?

There isn’t a set timeframe for how long original tires should last since tire wear is based on driving habits and road conditions. Of course, there is always the DIY method—but it’ll cost you a quarter. Place the quarter in the nearest groove so that George Washington’s head is upside down. If you can’t see the top of our first President’s head, you may need new tires. Bring your vehicle and we can help you determine what’s best for you and your car. Better yet, bring your car in regularly and we’ll help you keep track of this and other critical maintenance schedules.

Can I use 85 octane fuel in my vehicle?

The state of Washington sets regular octane at 87—the standard for most states. Nearby rocky mountain states such as Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado offer 85-octane. Check with your owner’s manual. You may have to upgrade to mid-grade in these places if 87-octane is the lowest recommended by your car maker.

Can I jump-start my car? 

On most cars, yes. Notice we said most cars. This even includes hybrids that often have two different batteries—a high voltage battery for the powertrain and a 12-volt battery to start the vehicle. Many hybrids feature dedicated jump-start terminals under the hood. We recommend becoming familiar with your where your battery is located and access to terminals before your car is disabled. Due to the sensitivity of on-board computers, some carmakers recommend not jump-starting some vehicles. Make sure you have a full understanding of this system before you get the cables out!

What is the minimum octane I can use in my vehicle?

Don’t want to skim through the entire owner’s manual? There should be a label inside the gas tank access door that states the minimum octane for your vehicle. Using a lower octane fuel can cause the engine to run poorly and even damage the emissions control system over time. In older vehicles, you will hear a knocking or pinging. Using higher octane fuel might actually lower performance since it is designed to compress more without pre-igniting for more power in engines designed for that fuel. Keep it simple—use the recommended fuel rating!

Can I get an on/off switch installed for my airbags?

Some smaller people and those with medical conditions, including having pacemakers, mastectomies, and back or neck surgeries, may be at more risk of injury than aid with airbag deployment. For these and other qualifying folks, shops can install switches for one or both airbags. You need to make a formal request to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). We can help you find out if a switch is available and install it for you.

What kind of child safety seat should I use in my car?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) solemnly notes that car crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 1-13. There are two critical components of this process. First, find an NHTSA approved seat that appropriately fits and secures your child. Next, make sure you properly secure it. Locate the lower anchors and tether anchors and check the NHTA tips for installing rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster seats.

Can I turn off my daytime running lights?

Please remember that your daytime running lights (DRL) are a proven safety feature. They make it easier for cars to see you at all times, especially right after dawn and before sunset. That said, if you are determined to turn your DRL off, many cars have that function on the headlight controls. Other cars can be modified, but in these cases, your DRL will not automatically turn on. We can talk you through the pros and cons and do the work for you on these vehicles if it is possible.

Why does my vehicle “burn” oil?

Engines rely on oil for effective lubrication and keeping internal parts cool. Exposing this liquid to high heat and friction, engines consume oil at different rates depending on their design. Engines often use more oil during break-in periods and then oil consumption usually stabilizes. We suggest checking the oil and other visible fluids at least once per month. If you see a noticeable change or something out of the ordinary, give us a call so we check it out.

How do I reset the oil service indicator light?

If you’ve taken the initiative to change your car’s oil and dropped off the old oil and filter at the proper facility—good job! Except, then you get back in your car and the oil change maintenance light is still glowing. What to do? It’s usually a pretty straightforward procedure to reset the oil service indicator manually, but you’ll need to check your owner’s manual since the operation varies depending on make and model.     

What factors will affect my vehicle’s MPG?

Many factors decrease your vehicle’s fuel economy. The biggest is aggressive driving, which includes speeding and rapid acceleration and braking. This can lower gas mileage by up to 40%! Other factors include excessive idling, cold weather driving, frequent short trips, and climbing hills. Cargo racks, especially loaded, and towing trailers also affect fuel efficiency. Blasting the air conditioner at Max can reduce mileage by up to 25%. If you want to optimize MPG, your mantra should be “Easy does it.”

I unlocked the vehicle with my fob, so why is it still locked?

Some cars have timers that note when you activate “unlock” on your fob. If you stop to check your phone or chat with someone and too much time passes before you open the door, the car relocks itself. This is a safeguard designed to prevent you from unintentionally clicking the fob as you walk away, leaving your vehicle unlocked and unsecured.  

Bummer! My keys are locked in the car! What do I do?

You’re in luck if it’s a newer car and you have a subscription that allows your carmaker or a security partner to open it remotely. If not, you’ll have to call a roadside assistance provider. Once inside, if the keys are locked in the trunk, there is often an emergency release in the passenger compartment, access through backseats, or another procedure outlined in your owner’s manual. Once you exhaust these possibilities, a locksmith is your last, and most expensive, option. We don’t recommend DIY videos that use wedges, pry bars, or coat hangers. Amateur “breaking and entering” will likely cost you more time and money than calling roadside assistance or even a locksmith!     

How do I unlock the doors when the key fob battery is dead or disabled?

These are the times when you can pat yourself on the back for paying for the technology subscription most carmakers offer. Simply open the app that comes with the subscription to enter, and even start your vehicle remotely. For those that are congratulating themselves every other day of the year for not paying for an unneeded subscription, many fobs have a mechanical key hidden within the fob. Check the owner’s manual (probably locked inside) or the internet to see if your fob contains one of these. You can often replace the battery by twisting a coin or screwdriver in a slot in the back of the fob, sliding out the battery and replacing it with a new one.       

Can I tow a trailer with a sedan?

Answer: It depends. Trailer ratings depend on more than just structural integrity. Braking capability must also be beefier. The Volvo S80 or S90 have towing capacities up to 3,900 pounds—that’s almost two tons! The S60 is no slouch either, rated at 3,500 pounds, which is more than most SUVs.  The Mercedes GLC coupe is similarly rated. Check your owner’s manual for their recommendations and give us a call. We can help you outline the costs, in maintenance and lifespan, of converting your sedan to a long-hauler!

How do I deactivate the anti-theft system once the alarm is triggered?

Hopefully, the simple method works. Hitting the unlock button should do the trick. Did you accidentally hit the Panic button? If so, hit it again. If that doesn’t work, try starting the car. This often resets the alarm. Still blaring? Check out the owner’s manual. Some cars require a series of steps to reset the computer. A last-ditch method to stop the blasting and restore sanity is to pull the fuse powering the alarm. Then give us a call, we specialize in diagnosing exactly these kinds of electrical/computer issues.

I have a warning light on. What does it mean?

Warning lights usually come in two different colors, red and orange. Red indicates safety or immediate mechanical circumstances requiring attention without delay. Conditions include an overheating engine, low oil pressure, airbag error, and braking or steering system problems. An orange light tells you that your on-board computer has detected a fault and you should address it as soon as you are able. These include a wide range of less serious, yet still important issues. These include emissions, braking, and suspension trouble. These warnings can sometimes be informational, such as low fuel levels or low levels in the windshield washer reservoir tank. Remember: Red means trouble ahead so bring your car in immediately! If it’s orange and you’re having trouble deciphering the message, give us a call as soon as you can.   

Should I maintain higher-than-recommended air pressure in my tires to get better fuel economy?

Short answer: No! Recommended inflation levels maximize handling, fuel economy, and tire lifespan. Driving with over-inflated tires can damage your car and be dangerous for you. They’re at greater risk of a blowout and more vulnerable to damage from road conditions. Not only that, but excessive pressure can lead to decreased traction and increased wear down the center of the tire. You can find the correct tire inflation level in your owner’s manual. Other possible places to find it include the label on the driver’s door edge or post, the glove box or fuel door. There are so many areas of your life to get creative—tire inflation is not one of them! 

I’m going on a road trip. How do I make sure the maps in my navigational system are current?

Miles of new streets are always being added. Road conditions change, addresses are added and deleted. Unless your navigational system includes automatic updates, you may have to pay for the updated maps. We can assist you if you are having trouble figuring out how to update the system.

I’m having trouble connecting my phone to my car via Bluetooth. What can I do?

First, try turning the phone Bluetooth off and then on again. Anything? If not, restart your phone. Still nothing? You may have to delete the device and add it again. If your phone is otherwise behaving properly and still not correctly connecting, it might be an issue with your vehicle. Sometimes it’s a quick and easy fix, but it can occasionally require more effort.

My yellow check engine light came on after a trip to a gas station. What do I do?

Since checking the gas cap costs no money and hardly any time—start there. Unlatch the fuel door and make sure the cap is in good condition. Are there any cracks that could be affecting performance? Next, make sure the cap is securely tightened. If you find you can secure it more tightly, driving the car might make the light turn off. For some vehicles, you may need to turn the engine on and off three times or disconnect and reconnect the battery. If none of this works, it might not be the gas cap. Bring it in so we can run a diagnostic test to let you know what’s up with your vehicle.

Are there restrictions on the length of trailer I can tow with my SUV?

It’s a great question since most restrictions are based on weight. The BMW X5 can stoutly tow up to 6,600 pounds if you choose the trailer brakes option, which you should if you’re towing something that big! That said, length is different and based on wheelbase since it’s all about leverage—the longer the vehicle the more it can counteract wind driving at highway speeds. Experts suggest that a twenty-foot trailer requires 110 inches of wheelbase and that you can add a foot of trailer for every 4 inches of wheelbase thereafter. The X5 comes in at 117 inches, giving you a limit of 21 feet. Check your owner’s manual or give us a call to make sure your vehicle is ready for the extra work!

What is a dual-clutch transmission?

A dual-clutch transmission (DCT), aka twin-clutch or double-clutch, is closely related to a manual transmission. It behaves as a manual transmission, uses separate clutches for odd and even gear sets, but operates automatically. There’s no clutch pedal though there are often paddles, buttons or gearshifts that allow the driver to take over shifting when desired. Volkswagen’s direct-shift gearbox (DSG) is available in most Volkswagen and Audi vehicles. Mercedes has their own versions, the AMG SpeedShift, as well. This type of transmission is expensive, but it eliminates shift-shock and the built-in inefficiencies of traditional manual driving, improving driver experience and fuel economy and emissions.

How do I get my e-vehicle charged in Seattle?

You probably know the benefits of e-cars, right? Zero emissions, fuel and maintenance savings, smooth and silent—EVs have a lot going for them. By committing to zero emissions by 2050, Seattle is one of the best places in the U.S. to own an electric vehicle. We have over 700 charging stations in the Emerald City, and also offers an at-home charging pilot program for high-end charges with no upfront cost and convenient monthly payments. There are fast charging stations at two locations with eight more proposed. Most euro-car manufacturers are offering plug-in hybrids, while only a handful sell e-cars, such as the BMW i3 and the Volkswagen up!

How do I reset my clock on my Mercedes? My Volkswagen?

For Mercedes, press the Syst button on the dash or select the System Menu on the main screen using the central controller. Then select Time. Next, select Set Time and a clock appears on the screen. Rotate the knob either way until you reach the correct time. Once you have found the right time, press the knob to confirm.

For Volkswagen, press Menu or Clock with the ignition on. Press the 0.0/Set button to advance to the correct hour. Then press Menu or Lock. Next, press the 0.0/Set button to advance to the correct minutes.

These are just two systems for newer cars. Check the owner’s manual or give us a call if you run into trouble with this or any electronic or mechanical issue.

What is Launch Control and how does it work?

Launch Control is a feature that is now nearly mandatory in high performing vehicles. It allows drivers to get their heart rates and cars up to top speed as quickly as possible by eliminating wheel spin and hop, maximizing power, weight transfer and traction. In most cars, once you select Launch Control mode, you hold down the brake and throttle for a specified period of time while the rev-counter hits a set level. When you let off the brake the throttle is activated to maximize acceleration. Make sure you are pointed straight ahead! Motor Trend’s top 10 cars with Launch Control include the Audi R8 5.2 FSI Quattro, BMW M3, Mercedes Benz SLS AMG, Porsche 911 Turbo and Cayman S.

Are break-in periods required on e-cars?

The powertrains of friction-based motors deliver better lifetime performance with moderate driving for the first 500-1000 miles. This hones the inside of cylinder walls and the outside of piston rings. You EV doesn’t have these and so doesn’t require an engine break-in period. It does, though, have two friction-based system, the brakes and tires, that are best eased into service. We recommend moderate driving for the first 500 miles so that brake surfaces have a chance to mate better, giving you more miles of quiet, smooth operation. The complex layering of rubber, cords, and belts in your tires can similarly benefit from smooth early driving.

What is Sport Mode? Does it work?

That “S” on the transmission selector stands for Sports Mode. When you select Sport Mode, the throttle is sharper and more quickly snaps to attention when you step on the accelerator. The engine is allowed to rev higher, the steering tightens, handling gets sharper, and traction control is muted or turned off completely. There is some controversy over the gimmicky nature of Sport Mode in some lower-priced vehicles, but HotCar notes that Volvo V60 Polestar, the Land Rover Range Rover Supercharged, and the Volkswagen Golf GTI have legitimate, high-end Sport Mode packages.

Can Adaptive Suspension improve ride and performance?

Adaptive or active suspension systems monitor the road beneath the wheels in real time and adjusts the shocks and springs to smooth out driving. Audi has developed Continuous Damping Control that adjusts hydraulic fluid and the solenoid valves in pistons to enhance driving. Volkswagen’s Dynamic Chassis Control allows you to adjust the running gear to comfort or sport, depending on preference. Mercedes-Benz adjusts the spring and damping at each wheel to improve ride quality.

Hey, where’s my battery?

You got nothing when you flipped the ignition. You went to the hood, but what the heck? Where’s the battery? Though the most common location for a battery is under the hood, it isn’t the only option. Placement is dependent on weight distribution, space, temperature, and many other factors. First, don’t give up so quickly. Often when batteries are placed elsewhere, there are connection points under the hood. You want to get out the owner’s manual or call us if you really can’t locate it. You might spend a good while trying to locate the battery for the Volkswagen Touareg, for example, since it’s under the driver’s seat.

What are the benefits of heated windshields?

When thin webs of tungsten wire layered in your windshield are activated, they raise the temperature of the glass. This can efficiently melt snow and ice and bring the temperature above freezing so ice doesn’t form from the melting water. This makes your wipers more effective and improves lifespan, since they don’t have to scrape across uneven ice. The other benefit is that you don’t have to run the AC or heater and blowers. This is better for gas mileage and comfort—when it’s already cold outside you don’t need more cold air and the loud sound of it blasting away at the inside of your windshield.

Is footwell lighting necessary?

Many luxury packages now offer ambient footwell lighting. Some drivers find it visually appealing, while others see it as a distraction. It can make arranging yourself at night inside a car slightly easier and is helpful when trying to find something you have dropped on the floor. For safety, you should of course pull over to locate a fallen item and the overhead light will work just as well. Our call? It’s not necessary but if it feels good to have your footwells light up, enjoy!