Tip of The Month:

What Is a VIN?

Assigned by automakers, a vehicle identification number (VIN) is a combination of 17 characters (numbers and letters) assigned to a car or truck during production. Like a Social Security number for your car, a vehicle’s VIN number provides important information, such as the location of its original build and the type of engine. As of 1981 all vehicles have a VIN with 17 characters.

A VIN can normally be found:

  • Beneath the windshield on the driver’s side of the vehicle.
  • In the engine bay on the firewall.
  • On a sticker or metal plate on the driver‘s side doorjamb.

Breaking Down a VIN

Each of a VIN’s 17 characters designates unique information about your vehicle. Here’s what the numbers and letters will tell you:

Tip of The Month:

****A recent study shows that after ONLY 4000 miles, there is 19x the carbon deposits when using NON Tier 1 gas.****

Detergents & Your Fuel System


1980’s, fuel injectors were replacing carburetors

1995, the EPA enacted minimum requirements for gasoline detergent levels (these have not changed in 20 years)

2004, several automakers created a recommendation for refiners to use additives and detergent levels in all grades of gasoline.  These recommendations were implemented and are known to us as “Top Tier” gasoline.  TOP TIER gasoline certification is voluntary!  A list of retailers and more details can be found at

Today, modern engines have higher compression ratios, leaner fuel mixtures and tighter tolerances.  Direct Injection is the new hot word in fuel systems.  If you have a car with direct injection (DI), I highly recommend ONLY using top tier gas.  This does not mean “premium”.  Many people seek to find the cheapest gas available.  If you are not using “top tier” gas, consider fuel system cleaners at regular service intervals to help alleviate fuel system and carbon build-up.

Happy  Gassing!

*some info taken from Maintenance Matters/July 2015

     *deposits on top of a piston at 6454 miles

Tip of The Month:

What relation is there between your car battery and the MPGs?

A recent article I read describes how ensuring that you buy the correct battery for your car is not only important, but directly related to your gas mileage.  In order to save a few dollars, you purchase a battery with lower cranking amps (CCA).  Now the vehicle’s charging system must work harder, which draws more horsepower.  If you think that buying a larger CCA battery is better, think again.  The battery can become severely discharged and cause the vehicle’s charging system to again, work harder and draw more horsepower.  An electronic-laden overload makes for a sad vehicle.  Make sure you have a battery with the proper power rating.  This can reduce the horsepower needed and result in slightly better fuel mileage.

Proper testing of your battery is necessary too.  At SouthBay Auto, we recommend having your battery tested once per year, preferably before the cold season, when batteries are most prone to fail. Request one at your next oil change!

Happy Cranking!

*info taken from IB Current, Fall 2014

Tip of The Month:

Filling tires with nitrogen:  Why we say NO

Honda’s recent Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) states that when it comes to filling automobile tires, they (Honda) recommend only using dry, compressed air. At SouthBay Auto Service, we agree.  There’s been a lot of hype over nitrogen, and we aren’t buying it!  Automobiles are subjected to an entirely different set of conditions than the aircraft/vehicles that have been using nitrogen for years.  Think about these points:

“Nitrogen generators produce nitrogen gas from ambient air, but it’s something less than 100 percent pure.   To get just that same level of purity into a tire, you’d have to deflate and fill it several times to purge the remaining air.  And if you don’t do that, the purity level drops even more.  Compressed air is already about 78 percent nitrogen.”

“Although tires filled with nitrogen leak more slowly over time than those with compressed air, they still leak.  If you can’t find a place that offers nitrogen, your only option is to fill with compressed air, which, as we’ve said, drops the nitrogen purity.”

“Nitrogen doesn’t offer any better protection than compressed air against cuts and punctures from road hazards.  So no matter what you fill the tires with, you’ve still got to check their condition and pressures at least once a month, as we clearly state in the owner’s manual.  And on vehicles with TPMS, filling tires with nitrogen won’t reduce the frequency of the low tire pressure indicator coming on in cold weather.”

“Tires filled with compressed air and properly maintained offer the same fuel efficiency and performance as those filled with nitrogen.”

*Honda TSB/Nov 2012

Tip of The Month:

Look Beyond Sticker Price….

It’s easy to be lured by a low price tag only to discover, too late, that a cheaper car may actually cost more in the long run because it’s pricey to service or gulps gasoline. True Cost to Own reveals all the anticipated expenses of owning and operating a new vehicle on the market over a five-year stretch, including depreciation, fuel, insurance, maintenance, interest payments, and taxes.  Plug in a make, model, and year, and you’ll get a reliable tool for comparing the total cost of different cars – one more way to ensure you make the right choice.  (this article came from Parents magazine, July 2014)

At SouthBay Auto Service, we help with your car buying decisions too.  We offer a very thorough pre-purchase inspection.  We can also do most anything the dealer can do.  See us for your car service needs.

Tip of The Month:

Taking the pulse of your car……

Oil changes serve as mini check-ups for your car.  In the past, you would stop into see your favorite auto tech and let his/her professional eyes give your investment a once-over, looking for potential problems.  Today, however, with the use of full synthetic oils and/or manufacturer’s recommendations of pushing out oil change intervals to 5,000 -10,000 miles, preventative maintenance tends to take a back seat.  So with less time in front of the professionals, little problems can grow into big and expensive ones.  This can cause frustration and and even safety issues.  It’s really going to be up to you, the car owners, to keep a well maintained car on the road.

It’s been calculated that for every dollar spent in preventative maintenance, you will save $7 in emergency repairs.  Once a month, do a safety check.  Take the car for a drive.  No kids, no radio, no a/c.  Listen for unusual noises, such as squeeks, humming, buzzing, etc.  Also, keep track of your gas mileage.  Dips can signify something not working properly.  Newer cars have “dummy lights”, but for those of us who drive older cars, we need to be attentive to our tire pressure and fluid levels.

*Make sure you keep the tires properly inflated, rotated and the car aligned.

*Check your oil level.  Even new cars can leak or burn oil.  If you are going 5,000 + miles between oil changes and losing oil, this could be detrimental to your engine.

*Check other fluids.  To ensure that things are running at their best, all fluids should be properly maintained.

*Check your lights. Headlights (low and high), Tail lights, Brake lights, Turn signals.

*Check the exterior cleanliness and integrity.  Wash car, minimum, of once per month and wax every 6 months.  Bird droppings, bugs, etc, are horrible for the paint.  Also, reclaimed water is terrible at leaving permanent water spots and potentially eating through the paint.   Fix dings and scratches that reach the metal to prevent rusting.

At SouthBay Auto Service, we take pride in every job we do, even the basic oil changes.  With your oil change appointment, your car will receive premium synthetic blend oil (full synthetic available upon request or as required), and a high quality filter.  Our techs check and top off all fluids; check wiper blades and exterior lights; check and set tire pressure.  We can rotate and balance tires as well as alignments (at an additional charge).   Let us help you love your investment!

Preventative maintenance is the key!

(Some info taken from The Costco Connection, April 2014)

Tip of The Month:

Darn Battery!!

In a hurry, ready to go, and the car won’t start!!!  More often than not, it’s a dead battery.  If you are like me, you may miss the signs of a slow starting vehicle.  You may get days of warning.  You may not get any warning.  Frustrating none the less when you want to go somewhere.  It’s also been our experience that with the Florida heat, even really good batteries may only last 3 years.  So be prepared.

At SouthBay Auto Service we sell Interstate (brand) batteries because we believe they are the most reliable battery on the market.  They carry a great replacement warranty and we can handle that here.   If you are out and need assistance, you can call 1-800-CRANK IT and they will come to you.  We stock the most common sizes and can generally get any other within a day.  Also, there is no charge for installation on most vehicles.

Happy Starting!

Tip of The Month:

Let’s put the stop on brake myths!

Grinding, squeaking, pulsating, clunking, no stopping power…these are words we hear when someone needs brakes.   Brakes are one of those things that many people think they can do themselves.  My dad always worked on our cars at home in the backyard.  Easy, right?  Since being in the business with my husband, I see that there are good brake jobs and bad brake jobs.   Even many service facilities still do “backyard brake jobs”.  Be aware of what’s out there.

At SouthBay Auto Service, we take our time.  We only use quality brake pads and shoes that we know will not create a comeback for us.  Whenever possible, brake rotors are machined.  If not possible (meaning they are too thin), we recommend replacing them with quality brake rotors.  All hardware is cleaned and properly lubed (or replaced).  Working clean is another important step that we do.  If you aren’t careful dirt, grease and oils can come in contact with the linings and cause premature breakdown or noise complaints.

So if you are looking for inexpensive, it’s out there.  But remember you get what you pay for!  Call us today for your next brake inspection and let us do it right!


Tip of The Month:


We hear from customers that they just aren’t getting the same gas mileage that they use to.  One possibility is their tire pressure.  All too often, tires are run low on air.  In newer cars, there is a TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system).   This light will come on when you have lost 5-7psi.  If the pressure has been reduced due to colder temperatures, the light will usually reset itself after driving for awhile.  If the light remains on, there could be a more serious issue.  If tires are over inflated, the light is unaffected.  A difference of only 10psi can affect your gas mileage up to 2 mpg!  This is becoming more of concern with rising gas prices.

I googled highway fuel economy vs tire pressure and there were so many sites that popped up.  They all had the same basic information.  Manually checking your tire pressure on a regular basis is good practice.  One tip I saw was to do it every time you wash your vehicle (of course for some that may not help!).  Bottom line is don’t just rely on a TPMS.

Safety is yet another reason to maintain proper air pressure in your tires.  Tires are under the weight of the vehicle.  Since they get extremely hot, tires that are improperly inflated (high or low) can result in improper wear or even  a blowout.  “NHTSA has said the new tire pressure monitors should alert drivers when their tire pressure drops below 30 percent. At that point, the load bearing capacity of a car has dropped significantly.” (  This means that if you are riding on improperly inflated tires that just adding weight of 1 person can make the difference in safety.

I have a printout, I believe from the NHTSA website that lists four overall conclusion from a study done.  The first one states:

“There are strong reasons to encourage vehicle operators to maintain proper tire inflation pressure.  It will not only lead to fuel economy benefits, but may also contribute to longer tire life and improved overall safety. (this was communication from Tracey Norberg of the RMA to Kenneth Koyama of the CEC, 11/4/02)  However, the effect is short-lived without constant diligence by the vehicle operator.”

Another thought to consider.  What is your oil change interval?  If you are under a dealer maintenance plan they may say 10,000 miles.  Are you checking the tire pressure in between visits?  Some dealers ask that you return at 5,000 miles for an inspection and rotation.  We have seen cases where these services are not being performed.  Also, if you go in for a discounted or quick oil change, many times those added services like topping off fluids and checking air pressure are disregarded.  Be proactive!  Ask about the services that are being performed and take care of your car in between regular visits to your auto service facility.

Tip of The Month:


Do you know the difference between a manufacturer’ s warranty, extended warranty, maintenance plan and scheduled maintenance?   We hear a lot of people using these terms incorrectly.   These services are good to have, but you really need to understand them in order to gain the benefits.

A manufacturer’s warranty is the protection offered by the manufacturer of the vehicle (i.e., Honda, Toyota, Ford, etc.).  It is typically 3 years/36,000 miles.  In some cases, 10 years/100,000 miles.     Power train warranties are typically a bit longer.  This is one of those good selling points.  Check your owner’s manual for the details.  Also, we have discovered that a longer warranty is a great selling point but can cost more in the long run.  Read the fine print!  These warranties generally require you to do maintenance prematurely in order to keep the warranty active.

Just a funny side note, these warranties have also been the joke of a recent auto commercial in which the potential buyers are asking if the car being shown to them is reliable.  The salesperson responds with something like well you can RELY on the warranty! 🙂

An extended warranty is protection that you purchase.  This is generally pushed anytime you purchase a used car because “anything can happen and you want to be covered”.  Depending on the car, these are often times not worth the purchase price (of the warranty).  Buy a certified used car or have a pre-purchase inspection done.  This will not be a fortune-telling of all things to come but will give you a good idea of things you may be facing in the near future.  In my opinion, it is better to be prepared for upcoming repairs or at least have the choice to walk away.  Remember – not ALL extended warranty companies are the same and not ALL repairs are covered.  The extended warranties are not like manufacturer’s warranties.  They will NOT cover everything that goes wrong.

Maintenance plans are becoming more popular as the economy still suffers.  It is a great incentive to buy a new car when they offer you 2 years of “FREE” maintenance.   Please know that “free” is rarely free.  That cost could be in there somewhere in which case you are financing it.   In some cases, it could be the manufacturer’s way of getting you into the habit of maintenance.  That’s not a bad thing.  But consider this example: many manufacturer’s have changed their oil change intervals to 10,000 miles  but require you to use full synthetic oil.  When you go in at your 5,000 mile service it is only a tire rotation.   Just know what you are getting.  It may not cover everything that will come up.

Lastly, scheduled maintenance.  This is what the manufacturer recommends that you do to protect your investment.   We use automotive software that is constantly updated.   Our system shows what the dealer does.  We don’t push these services but will often recommend them in order to keep you vehicle in top shape.  However, with experience, we have gained our own insight into the vehicles as well.  We may offer our opinion to adjust what we feel is necessary.

Please note that for manufacturer warranty issues and service contract work that you must return to the dealer.  However, we can work with the extended warranty companies as well as perform all of your scheduled maintenance at our shop.   Also, unless the manufacturer says that your model requires full synthetic oil, there is no harm in using a conventional or synthetic blend oil when you have to pay for your services.

Hope this clears up any confusion that you may have had.

Happy driving!!!!

Tip of The Month:


Last month I talked about the importance of reading your owner’s manual.  This month I want to continue that thought with the purchase of your vehicle.  We’ve all heard the phrase “buyer beware” but are we really being AWARE?  Maybe I have been too naive over my years, but since being in business I have learned some hard lessons in life.   I tend to think the best of people and wonder how someone can sleep at night knowing that they have taken advantage of so many people throughout the day.   Here’ s the scenario, you’ve just decided on your new purchase and a 6 page “fine print” contract is pushed across the desk.  It’s difficult to think about trying to read that!  Often times I’ve even said “Can’t you just tell me what’s in here?”.  Unfortunately for me, not everyone out there has a kind heart or a conscience.   If you don’t read all of the contract, get someone that will, such as Pre-Paid Legal.  (I’m not being paid by them, but have their services and have confidence in their product).  Or be willing to take the chance that you have an honest salesperson.

Get to know your vehicle.  Most any new vehicles have lots of standards that use to be options and then so many more options that could make your head spin.  Computers drive nearly everything we own now-a-days.  Do you know how to work all those gadgets and doo-dads?  See if the seller offers any training classes.  I know that may sound silly, much like my talk on reading your owner’s manual, it’s something to consider.  We have been told that Lexus offers a free “school” with the purchase of their new vehicles.

Know the difference between a manufacturer’ s warranty, extended warranty, service contract and scheduled maintenance.   We hear a lot of people using these terms incorrectly.  More on this next month!

Happy Buying!!!

Tip of The Month:

What’s that book called an “Owner’s Manual”?

I’m just going to get a bit personal…I bought my car brand new in February 2005.  7 years later I decided to read my owner’s manual.  Many of you may chuckle at that statement, because you think I’m a nerd or realize that you’ve never looked at yours either.  For me, an owner’s manual was never something I needed to read.  I am married to a 25 year ASE Master Technician and I’ve been driving for quite sometime.  A car is a car, right?  I don’t have anything fancy.  No navigation system, no push button starting, no display screen that controls everything in the car.  It’s the basics, get in the car, seat belts, start, radio, etc.  I have an automatic so even the transmission knows what to do.  AND if I have any questions, my husband is on speed dial!

Seriously, how many of you have read your owner’s manual?  If you haven’t, dig it out and give yourself some time to skim through it.  I found that even though the majority of it was common sense, there were things that I didn’t know.  Besides some of the humorous pictures, there are safety tips and little gadgets that are “hidden”.   The types of lights that come on unexpectantly and whether to freak out over them.  We get phone calls from concerned clients that their check engine light is on.  It turns out that the car is telling them it’s due for service.  There is a difference between “Maintenance Required” and “Service Engine Soon”.  The latter is a picture of an engine in some cars.

It may sound corny but look at it as a relationship.  Your purchase price is only the initial investment.  Take the time to get to know your car.  Your car will have likes and dislikes.  These will be described in the owner’s manual.  You may hear parent’s joking that their children didn’t come with an owner’s manual.  Even after the first one, we realize that all children are different and it would be helpful to have that inside knowledge.  Look at your car the same way.  Mmmmmm….some of us have even named them.

Happy driving!!!!

Tip of The Month


Do those words sound familiar?  I’m sure at some point you have had to price tires for your vehicle and it can be such a daunting task.  You think you will get the best deal by going to a tire place.  You may get the cheapest price but are you getting the best tires for your car?  For your driving habits?  For YOUR needs?  Be aware that many shops have contracts with a certain manufacturers.  They may receive special incentives for selling so many of one brand.  They may have a high inventory of a brand and want to blow them out!  Right.  How long have they been sitting in storage?  Climate controlled storage?  Tires have date codes and a general rule of thumb is not to install a tire more than 2-3 years old.  How have the tires been handled?  Excessive tossing and bouncing can compromise the integrity of the steel belts.

Remember that tires aren’t always inexpensive.  There are many factors that contribute to the cost of tires, such as the price of oil.   Other things such as size, demand, availability (by manufacturer) can cause prices to fluctuate as well.

When looking for new tires, here are some things that the service writer should be asking you:

What are your driving behaviors?    What do you expect from your tires?  Are you looking for a long term or short term tire?  Is a warranty and road hazard a must with your purchase?

At SouthBay Auto Service, we take pride in covering all the bases to make sure that you are getting the best tire for your car.  We aren’t a tire store.  We offer tires as a convenience to our clients.  After mounting, we balance every tire before it is installed on a car.   Also, we feel that it is good practice to align a vehicle when you invest in new tires, so we offer a 1/2 price alignment with the purchase of 4.  When giving estimates, we like to offer several options for you to choose from.  Once you decide, we can typically get tires the next day.

In case you are wondering what happens to the old tires?  They are sent to a local recycling facility.

Happy Travelling!

Tip of The Month:

Honesty does the trick!

Are you familiar with the  saying “it’s the old bait and switch technique”?  What is that exactly?  Well, it’s when you think you are getting a great deal when actually you are taking a hit somewhere else.   How does that relate to our industry?    Let’s say you get a coupon for a $14.99 oil change.  You go into place A to get the oil changed.  What kind of oil are they using?  Is it right for your car?  Is it a quality filter?  Are they topping off your fluids?  Putting air in your tires?  A discounted oil change is really a losing proposition for the shop.   So you are past all that.  It’s just an oil change and in this economic slum, you need a good deal.  However, while your car is in the back, the service writer approaches and says  that you NEED belts, fluid changes, even brakes!  Ok, I’ll cut some slack , maybe some of it is needed.  Have you been doing regular maintenance?  Ask them if they can prioritize the work for you.  If you are told that you must do this today, be leery.  Remember, they are being pressured to make a sale and recoup that lost money on the oil change that brought you there.

Read the fine print, or at least just the estimate.  What are they really charging you for?  We have seen some competitor’s estimates that read ‘a charge of $20 for writing estimate will be applied to the final invoice if work performed’.  Then there are the “packages” with free inspections, but charges for installation of wiper blades.   If you see a shop supplies fee or a haz-mat fee, these are legal and allowed by the state.  These can be a flat fee or a percentage of the final cost.

If you are business savvy, you know that materials aren’t free (nor inexpensive) and labor is worth something too.  It takes a profit to run a business.  As long as pricing is fair and you leave a shop feeling that you have received a good service, then it should all be worth it.

I’m a savvy shopper.  I like a good deal.  But I too have learned that nothing in life is free, and if it is then it’s probably too good to be true.  I was also taught that you get what you pay for.  I don’t want to say that every place or person in the auto repair business is out to take advantage of people.  BUT what I can say, is that at SouthBay Auto Service, we strive for excellence in EVERY job.  We are honest and fair and we don’t use tactics, specials or coupons to get you in the door.  We believe in serving you and servicing your vehicle the way we would take care of our own family.  We prioritize recommendations and try to educate you so that you walk away feeling comfortable about spending $30 or $1500.

Tip of The Month:

Why should I pay for a pre-purchase inspection?

We have seen many cases of buyer’s remorse over used cars.  That first visit in for service and the recommendations start adding up.  “Well, I wasn’t aware of that!” or “They didn’t tell me that!” or “But I got such a great deal on the car!”  At SouthBay Auto Service, we offer a minor and a major pre-purchase inspection of any vehicle that you are considering buying.  We can review the car bumper to bumper and give you peace of mind before you make that next big decision.  Isn’t it worth it to have some buying power rather than feeling buying sour later?

Tip of The Month:

Why do I pay a diagnostic fee at SouthBay Auto Service?

At SouthBay Auto Service, we pride ourselves in being able to solve those car mysteries.  Michael and Daniel have a long standing history of properly analyzing what is not going right with a vehicle.  Time and care is taken to accurately diagnose each symptom reported about your vehicle.  To do this kind of in-depth diagnosis requires time and let’s face it, time is money.   Honestly, would you want to get a guess for free or pay a little bit to know the real problem and solution?  For an honest evaluation and service you can trust, give us a call.

Tip of The Month:

What’s with Nitrogen?

No matter what kind of car you drive, whether its a 20 year old compact or a brand new luxury car, proper selection and installation of its tires directly affects how it handles.

Service Information:
Surf any automobile tire-related website, you’ll see something mentioned about nitrogen inflation.  There have been a number of inquires concerning this practice.  When it comes to inflating automobile tires, dry compressed air – which is 80% nitrogen already is the best choice. The benefits of using nitrogen don’t appear to outweigh those of using compressed air.  This practice isn’t anything new; its been around a long time.  It’s been commonly used on aerospace vehicles, commercial and military aircraft, military vehicles, race cars and even heavy off-road construction equipment.  Automobile tires, on the other hand, are subjected to an entirely different set of conditions.