The Only Constant Is Change

We get a lot of phone calls asking what the “standard” price is for different services. With the way automotive technology is progressing, there’s no longer such a thing as “standard” pricing, because each make and model has different requirements.

Take, for instance, an oil change on a 2008 Honda Civic. This model has three engine options, and each REQUIRES a different engine oil:

1.3 LTR — 3.5 quarts of 0w/20 oil
1.8 LTR — 4 quarts of 5w/20 oil
2.0 LTR — 4.5 quarts of 5w/30 oil

In the older vehicle models, there could have been said to exist a standard for oil changes, because at that time there were fewer differences in engine design and fewer varieties of oil viscosity in existence. Now, however, manufacturers are designing engines with extremely tight tolerances, and oil (the CORRECT oil) is a critical factor in the functionality of engines. In the case of the Civic, each engine was designed to use a different oil, so there is a reason why the manufacturer lists each oil specifically for each option (both on the engine’s oil cap, as well as in parts catalogs). Not to mention, each oil costs a different amount because of the differences in chemical makeup and refining processes, so there really is no such thing as a standard price for an oil change anymore. Using the wrong oil can literally mean the difference between a well-running, long-lasting engine and one that develops premature internal wear.

The same concept applies to other procedures. For instance, tune ups can vary drastically depending on vehicle model. It used to be that a tune up (done properly, that is) consisted of replacing spark plugs, spark plug wires, distributor cap and rotor, air filter, fuel filter, and pcv valve (or, go further back to the time of points and condensers!). Newer models, however, often come with only spark plugs, coil boots, and an air filter as far as tune up / ignition system components go. Of course, you’d think fewer parts meant a less costly tune up. Not necessarily the case. Whereas the older models often came with basic resistor spark plugs that were incredibly affordable, the newer models often come with platinum or iridium spark plugs, which are quite a bit more expensive, so that increased cost often makes up the difference for the savings of fewer overall components that need replacing in a proper tune up procedure.

Then there is the transmission service. A lot of newer model vehicles REQUIRE synthetic transmission fluid rather than the basic Dextron Mercon III ATF (Automatic Transmission Fluid) that we’ve all grown accustomed to over the years. To further compound matters, many of the newest models don’t even come with a transmission dipstick, since the system is sealed — the theory being that the fluid is “lifetime” and will never have to be changed (since most of these vehicles have not yet attained excessive mileage, it’ll be interesting to see in the next few years just how long these transmissions actually last, whether they really do last “lifetime” as the manufacturers say they will, or if they’ll break down prematurely because the fluid breaks down internally and causes early internal transmission component wear). Some of these sealed systems we’ve been able to flush, but not service (meaning, there’s no pan gasket and filter to change). When we have been able to flush them, they often require synthetic ATF. Not to mention, each model — when serviceable — is designed to hold a different amount of ATF, so there really is no “standard” pricing when it comes to transmission services.

The biggest changes we’re seeing in the industry has to do with computerized systems. Computer controls and system voltage is ESSENTIAL to how a vehicle runs, and these days more and more vehicle systems are coming under control of the computer — or, I should say, computers, since newer models have dozens of on-board computer modules, each controlling a different system and constantly in communication with one another (a veritable web of circuits and wiring that have to be traced whenever a computer / electrical / emissions problem occurs). The latest development we’ve heard about is the newest Volkswagen and Audi models that literally require a computer update just to change a headlight bulb. No longer will a driver be able to change a light bulb him- or herself. They will have to go to the dealer or an independent shop equipped with the proper diagnostic scanners in order to do the procedure. The system literally will not command the new bulb “on” without telling the computer that the new bulb has been installed (essentially a reprogram or reflash of the computer). This is the way automobiles are going.

At Lyons Auto Repair, we are constantly keeping up-to-date on the latest automotive technologies and system requirements so we can provide the right service with the right parts and procedures to insure vehicles last for years to come. Information is the name of the game anymore, and with all the particular requirements that vary from vehicle to vehicle, it’s essential that all the right criteria are met.