Sunnyboy’s Repair Secrets—Case #2173

027_case2173Over his tenure at Hi-Tech, Sunnyboy developed a nose for various car issues. His knowledge gained from working with John, a 45-year mechanic, has also helped him develop a sixth sense for troubleshooting. Recently Sunnyboy worked case #2173, solving a terrible problem for our customer.

It was a rainy day that kept most people inside hoping for sunshine. The cool fall breeze whistled as the shop front door opened. Sunnyboy’s head lifted. He knew it was a dame in trouble. Not that her perfume gave her away, but he picked up on the smell of transmission fluid that permeated her car from a leak. The smell had clung to her clothes, tipping off the smart canine.

He bounced up from his bed located under the counter behind John and hustled to the gate. With a quick wag of his tail, the woman approached.

“Hey, Sunnyboy,” she said in a soft, high pitched voice. “Can you help me figure out what’s wrong with my car.”

The dog jumped around and barked two sharp yips and a woof.

“He said your transmission fluid is leaking and needs to be checked,” commented John with confidence.

“Transmission fluid?” she questioned. “Is that the red stuff I saw under my car?”

Sunnyboy barked once at an ear piercing volume.

“Sunnyboy just confirmed it,” stated John in a matter of fact fashion.

“Well then Sunnyboy, do you think you can fix it for me?” the woman asked the dog as she patted his head.

Sunnyboy nodded his head, turned to head into the garage and barked twice.

Corey, a well rounded and technically savvy mechanic, immediately ran into the parking lot, hopped into the woman’s SUV and pulled it into the shop.

Sunnyboy gave a glance and a wink to the woman who quietly took a seat in the waiting area.

John made small talk with her as the team in the garage congregated at the car.

“Woof, Rough!” barked Sunnyboy.

Jim, the lead mechanic, immediately pulled out a flashlight, while Corey raised the lift overhead. The light flashed across the transmission fluid lines until Jim spotted the leak.

“The leak is at the crimp of the metal and rubber lines. We’ll need to replace the entire run,” said Jim.

Corey jumped on the phone. “This is Hi-Tech. We need an oem line for a GMC SUV. Thanks.”

Sunnyboy barked.

“I’ve got it Sunny,” said Jim as he pulled the old line. “Hey, replacing the full line was the right call. This one has several cracks ready to give way.”

Sunnyboy nodded and headed back up front.

“We’ll know in a couple minutes what’s required on your transmission,” said John to the professional woman reading the magazine with Sunnyboy’s picture on the cover.

Just then the door swung open and Sunnyboy walked over to John.

“What’s it look like big dog?” asked John.

“Woof, woof, arf,” stated Sunnyboy without concern.

John turned to his customer with an update.

“Okay, ma’am, you’ll need a full transmission line replaced. We’ve ordered the product and should have your car ready within two hours,” said John. “And, the best part is that my records show you had a line problem that we fixed 23 months ago, which means this one is fully covered under our two year warranty at no cost to you.”

“Thank you, John. I knew Sunnyboy would see to my car’s care,” said the woman as she stood. “Can I get a ride back to work?”

“Certainly,” John said.

Sunnyboy yanked his bed on an angle like a recliner and then closed his eyes. He was always able to take perfectly timed naps as needed. A couple hours later he jumped up and ran into the garage.

Corey was pulling the SUV out of the bay.

“Just finished, Sunnyboy,” said Jim. “It went as expected.”

“Woof, arf, bowwow,” said Sunnyboy.

“Just doing what you asked for,” said Jim.

Sunnyboy headed into the office. Moments later Jim zipped up his coat as he left the garage. “I’m dropping off the GMC SUV,” he shouted.

“Already to go. The paperwork is in the vehicle,” John shouted back.

Twenty minutes later Sunnyboy barked. John turned to the computer and pulled up the Yelp site. He grabbed the microphone for the intercom and made an announcement.

“Congratulations guys, we’ve just got another five star rating!”

Sunnyboy walked over to the door with pride bursting through his chest. He was pleased that his team was quick and effective. And, he couldn’t help but notice that the sun was peaking through the dissipating clouds, so he turned to John and gave him a nod.

John turned to the intercom mic with a smile on his face. “We need a dog walker up front.”

Sunnyboy nodded his head. It was time for a little, but well deserved break. After all, case #2173 was effective and generated another five star rating.

Copyright © 2016 Hi-Tech automotive Specialists, Inc.
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Maintenance Schedule Infographic


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Book Signing at Auto Shop

steele_blue_bookcover_vfk_5_25x8_bw_300Hi-Tech Automotive Specialists on Fullerton Avenue in Addison is proud of its Sales Manager, CJ Powers, who released his first novel worldwide on September 11th.

“CJ is the second one of our team to get published in the past two years,” said owner John Hickey. “His crime novel is exciting and it takes place right here in Chicago.”

The novel is titled “STEELE BLUE: The Forgotten Crime” and is based on CJ’s childhood memories. “Every night dad came home for dinner and shared his true life experiences as a cop on the force,” said Powers. “I drew elements from him and his cop friends’ careers when I developed the storyline.”

To celebrate their local author/employee’s achievement, Hi-Tech is inviting the public to their auto repair shop on October 7th from 1pm – 3pm for a book signing. “While I’ve never heard of a book signing at a auto mechanic shop, I think the idea is as cool as CJ’s new book,” said Hickey.

The story is about Diaz, a notorious dealer that’s expanding his cherry meth distribution in Chicago, who desires undercover Detective Steele as his life partner. Fighting to keep her cover intact with plans to bring down the drug kingpin, Cassie spends extra time with Diaz, blurring the lines between justice and her growing love for him.

Realizing her precarious situation, Cassie sees to her son’s safety and works hard to regain her memory from the night of the opera house fire—the night Diaz lost his first love. Feeling slighted, Diaz hunts down everyone involved in the death of his “Carmen.”

Racing against the clock, Cassie tries to find balance between her motherly duties, her infiltration as the kingpin’s girl, and her role as the officer tasked to close the case. Cassie is forced to face her fears in discovering the missing piece of her memory that will bring Diaz down. But will it alter her future?

“CJ also writes a blog on creativity with readers in 144 countries,” said Hickey. “His creativity is what gave our shop a voice in the community.”

“When I first met John, he wanted to focus his brand and get it before the community,” said Powers. “The more creative we got, the more new people stopped in to meet our family of mechanics, and our mascot who’s featured racing a car in our new monthly poster. You’ll have to see it to believe it!”

“I hope the book takes off,” said Hickey. “I’d love to see CJ flourish beyond his wildest dream. I can picture the headline now—Humble auto shop employee becomes world famous author.” The book is available on and Kindle.

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Maintenance vs. Repair

Car Overheating

When asked, owners share that they bought a new car so they wouldn’t have to deal with “fixing it” for a couple years. Unfortunately, those buyers have no clue what it takes to keep a car healthy for a dozen years with little cost. The first point of understanding must bring clarity to the differences between maintenance and repairs.


An automotive repair is required when a part or system of parts stop functioning in the way it was designed to operate or perform. In the common vernacular we might say the item is “broken,” which may or may not be actually true. The real question is whether or not the part interrupts or slows drivability or performance.

According to the state of Illinois’ 2015 report, the average car requires $2,599 of repairs or fixes annually. The vast majority of these repairs were due to the car not being regularly maintained. For instance, if you don’t regularly check and change your oil, the car will wear out the rings and bearings, which can eventually give way to a very costly repair, a complete engine overhaul or replacement.


Maintenance is always scheduled based on the manufacturer’s recommendations. By following the schedule religiously, the driver will extend the life of his or her car. These costs are all planned to prevent anything from breaking. The average cost of maintenance according to AAA’s 2015 report is $792 annually.

By spending a little bit of money every time the manufacturer of the car recommends an oil change, the odds of the engine fussing or breaking drops significantly. In other words, the more of the $792 of annual spend that is actually spent in preventative maintenance, greatly reduces the $2,599 annual spend on repairs or fixes.


At Hi-Tech we’ve noticed that our customers who are adamant about maintenance spend on average $724 for preventative services. Their annual repair bill drops to an average unexpected spend of $560. The customers who spend about $360 on preventative maintenance spend about $1,350 in annual repairs. And, those who do not have us maintain their vehicles regularly tend to see annual repair bills exceeding $2,200.

By spending a little bit every month according to the manufacturer’s maintenance plan saves the average person about $2,000 a year. It also extends the life of their car from eight years to twelve, which is just the right amount of time for children to grow up and use the well-maintained aging car for their high school and college years.

Shop owner John Hickey is also religious about following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance for his own vehicle. His ’97 Tahoe has 245,000 miles on it and is good for another 4-5 years before he has to consider any pricey repairs. The shop truck has 189,000 miles, which he estimates will be around for 5-7 more years—all because of preventative maintenance.

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The Magic Behind Wheel Alignment

017_Car_JeansMost people can tell when their car pulls to the right or left. What they can’t tell is whether it’s due to alignment issues, worn tires or a combination. Wheels require proper alignment on the X, Y and Z axis for the tires to wear properly. If the alignment is off, it can destroy the tires. The three axis are called Camber, Caster and Toe-in.


The camber can be seen when looking at the front of the vehicle. The ideal camber is at 0° or straight up. If the camber is positive the top of the tire is angled away from the car. If the camber is negative the tire is angled toward the car. When the camber is off, the tire shows an angle of wear or a slope across the top of the tire to one side or the other. This uneven wear will cause the car to pull.


Like a shopping cart on a pivotal wheel, front tires require the ability to turn on a pivot while staying connected to the suspension system. Caster is the angle of that pivot. If the top of the pivot leans toward the back of the car it is a positive pivot. Leaning toward the front of the car is considered negative.

The ideal is not straight up at 0°, as most would suppose. A positive caster of 2°-5° helps non-professional drivers by returning the steering wheel back to center after the turn. Racecars use a negative caster to make sure the wheel doesn’t return until the driver manually moves it back.


The distance between the front and back of two parallel tires is the Toe-in measurement. If the front of the tires point inward like a person standing pigeon-toed instead of in parallel, its called a toe-in. If the front of the tires point outward, it’s called toe-out. Again, the ideal is 0° or parallel tires.


One additional consideration is the Thrust Angle or the position of the front tire relative to its back tire. This measurement became significant with the evolution of four-wheel drive vehicles. The alignment keeps the front and associated rear tire in parallel.


All alignments start and end with a test drive. The front end and steering linkage is checked for wear before any alignment work can be done. Tires in good shape simplify the alignment work.

If alignments were put off and the tires are now excessively worn, the process will correct the alignment, but in the case of a camber worn tire, the tire will now only partially touch the street.

Some people get concerned when their alignment job didn’t turn out “perfect,” when it actually did. Consideration must be given to the effects of tires with unequal air pressure, pre-worn tires, power steering problems, and brake issues. All of the mentioned parts can give the illusion that the wheels are out of alignment when they are spot on.


But, sometimes it’s not an illusion. There are standards in how roads are built that most municipalities and states follow. This includes what’s known as the road crown, which is up to a 7° curvature in the road for drainage purposes. When a car is aligned, it’s not typically aligned to a flat surface, but to the average degree of road crown in the area.

Without that consideration, “perfectly” aligned cars in the right lane would always pull to the left. When in the left lane of a four-lane highway, the car would pull in the opposite direction. On a six-lane highway, the driver will always feel some tension on the steering wheel regardless of the lane due to the crowning affect.

Trusting the technician to mechanically align the wheels according to best practices is important. The standards allow each wheel to be “within tolerance” up to 3/16th from center. That allows the tires to be off halfway between a ¼ inch and a ½ inch, which can cause excessive wear of the tires and the hardware that holds everything in place. Sharp mechanics use a zero tolerance to make sure the tires are spot on.

Making sure wheel alignments become a part of regular maintenance is critical to a healthy car. How often an alignment is necessary comes from the manufacturer’s recommendations and the number of curbs and potholes the driver tends to hit. The key is making sure the alignment happens often enough that the tires wear evenly.

© 2016 Hi-Tech Automotive Specialists, Inc.
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DO’s and DON’Ts of Transmissions

pexels-photo-100647Transmissions have a finite life span, yet most people do little to maintain their transmission. Even when manufacturers suggest changing the fluid every 30-40,000 miles, few people make it happen. Worse yet are the little things people should avoid doing that shorten the life of a transmission.

Here are a few insights…

DO follow your manufacturers recommended service interval. The property of the fluid breaks down over time. The fluid will eventually turn to a varnish and lose its ability to lubricate. Stay in front of this issue by checking your fluid levels regularly.

A typical transmission service involves removing the transmission oil pan, cleaning and inspecting the pan for the presence of metal shavings, replacing the pan gasket and filling with clean fresh fluid.

DON’T keep your gas pedal on the floor when going up a long, steep incline. This is especially true when carrying a great load than normal or towing a trailer. Traveling up a steep hill puts a lot of stress on a transmission, which turns to heat, which can overheat your transmission.

Check your owner’s manual to make sure you don’t exceed the tow weight limit. This is critical in hilly areas. The heat of driving through the desert can also play a role in how fast the transmission heats up.

DON’T switch to the latest fluid. Synthetics take longer to breakdown than organic fluids from heat and are therefore pushed by many repair companies. However, most people are unaware that there are almost two-dozen types of transmission fluid to choose from and the only one to be used is recommended in the auto manual. This will avoid many secondary problems.

DON’T replace a dead transmission with a rebuilt one. Instead replace it with a remanufactured one, which are better than the original. Remanufactured transmissions receive the benefit of additional lessons learned. The update kits also include smoother shifting and longer lasting parts. The quality is high enough that Hi-Tech puts its extended warranty on the product.

DO come to a complete stop before backing up. Shifting into drive from reverse or visa versa before the car comes to a complete stop can chip, crack or break gears and severely damage the transmission. These types of repairs are costly because the transmission must be removed from the vehicle and disassembled.

DO set your emergency brake when parking on an incline. Set the emergency brake before shifting the transmission into park. This puts the car’s weight on the brake rather than on the transmission.

However, using the brake after several years of non-use might cause a new problem. The brake line is similar to a bike brake line in that the center core is pulled inside of a shell to set the brake, but if it hasn’t been used for years, it may not slide back to its starting position if rust blocks the line. Rusted lines are easily replaced, so its more important to make sure your car doesn’t roll back and hit someone else’s car than being worried about it not popping back to its starting position.

DON’T spin your wheels when stuck in snow. Shifting back and forth between drive and reverse to rock out of a slick area only increases the heat. In fact, it only takes a few minutes of unrestricted spinning to burn out a transmission. All too often people think they’re getting close to freeing their car so they extend past the five minute mark, only to find out the transmission dies 2-3 days later.

DO consider an external transmission cooler. Consider installing a cooler if you regularly drive in the desert, pull lots of loads or drive in mountainous conditions.

The end result of following these insights will be a longer lasting transmission.

Copyright © 2016 Hi-Tech Automotive Specialists, Inc.


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End of Summer Car Care Tips

Legs_CarKids getting back to school signals the end of summer and the time to winterize your car. Breakdowns in bad weather are dangerous and can be avoided with the following preventative maintenance tips:

The manufacturer publishes its recommended service schedule in the owner’s manual. Some list two schedules of preventative maintenance: normal; and, severe. The severe schedule is no longer based on the road warrior of yesteryear, but on the driver placing the greatest amount of stress on a car in urban and suburban stop-n-go traffic.

Any form of drivability issues (hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc.) should be corrected before the eminent cold weather makes all existing problems worse. The most common are the replacement of filters, removing moisture from fuel, etc.

In addition, anytime dashboard or warning lights go on it’s important to have it checked out immediately. While some lights alert you of a growing problem, others light for imminent catastrophe that will lead to thousands of dollars in repair work unless the car is pulled over and stopped. Reviewing your lights with a mechanic can save you money.

Moisture in the fuel can freeze during super cold days and can be prevented. Years ago the recommendation was to add a deicer to the tank once a month, but with today’s ethanol gas mixtures and discount gasoline, this pattern creates multiple problems and costly repairs. Instead, using BP or Shell gasoline, which has a winter blend already in the gasoline, will protect the fuel from freezing.

Every vehicle has a recommended amount of mileage between oil and filter changes. Many repair shops encourage car owners to follow the guidelines to extend the life of the vehicle. However, a few repair shops try to advance the process, which is never needed unless the vehicle experiences a lot of stop-n-go driving or dirty roads.

The frequency of flushing and refilling the cooling system is recommended in the owner’s manual. The level, condition and concentration of coolant (typically a 50/50 mixture of anti-freeze and distilled water) should be checked periodically. Also, inspecting the coolant reservoir will give insights to the condition and flow of the system.

The tightness and condition of drive belts, tensioner, clamps and hoses play an important role in the system’s performance and should only be checked by a certified mechanic. Don’t ever find yourself removing the radiator cap without first allowing the radiator to cool down completely.

There is nothing like having a heater/defroster that doesn’t work during the winter. Passenger comfort and drivability is critical to the ongoing operations of a car. It is prudent to check this system before winter is upon us.

Rubber-clad blades and windshield washer solvent are the two best tools to protect the drivability of a car in the winter. The blades are designed to fight ice buildup and the solvent makes sure the windshield is clear of debris during the winter. Stocking up on the fluid in advance and purchasing new blades will start the season off well, but don’t forget to make sure an ice-scraper can be found in your car.

All too often people buy batteries that are the wrong size for their car’s activities in the winter. Most people size their battery based on summer use, forgetting that 2-3 times more charge is required to start the same vehicle in the winter. Certified mechanics have access to professional equipment that can help right size the battery based on the vehicle and location it’s operated within.

Interstate batteries are sized based on all start conditions and are good for about five years. Discounted batteries, which save the car owner $20-$30, are good for one and a half to two years.

Also, mechanics can scrape away corrosion from the posts and cable connections to increase the flow of energy. Maintaining the proper levels of acid and fluid levels are paramount to making sure the battery will get you through the winter. However, some batteries do not allow access or maintenance to the battery.

Inspecting all lights and bulbs is a must. Road grime and natural weathering of the lenses can diminish the reach of the light beam. The replacement of weaker bulbs is done best prior to the winter weather. Consideration should also be given to replacing the headlight pods, as the yellowing of the pods tend to diminish the effectiveness of the bulbs. The added brightness is worth the approximate $100 price carried by most cars. SilverStar lights by Sylvania also increase the beam’s reach.

Not only is the system performance important to the state’s licensing process, but it’s also important to make sure no leaks exist. Small holes can fill the cab with exhaust fumes that can be deadly. A mechanic with a lift can easily accomplish the inspection of the system and floorboards for small leaks.

Worn tires can turn into nightmares during first snowfalls. Making sure the tires are examined for tread life, uneven wearing, cupping, and cracks will protect the vehicle’s precious cargo. Tire pressure should be checked monthly when the car has cooled down. To get an extended life out of the tires, a mechanic can rotate the tires regularly and check the spare that is forgotten more times than not. A jack of some form should also be present in the car at all times.

Carrying a winter kit in the car is prudent regardless of the severe weather that can come up quickly. The kit should include blankets, a small shovel, sand or kitty liter, flashlight and high-energy bars. It can also include gloves, boots, flares, tire chains, and a cell phone. Strobe flashers are a great tool for alerting oncoming drivers of your roadside issues and are well worth the added ten-dollar expense.

The winterization process allows every driver to prepare for the winter and check everything that is most likely to go wrong had it not been addressed. This provides much greater safety and peace of mind for those on the way to grandmother’s house for hot cider and chocolate cookies.

Copyright © 2016 Hi-Tech Automotive Specialists, Inc.
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