Chosen as the BEST independent auto repair facility in the United States by Robert Bosch of Germany!         Chosen as the Auto Repair (non-Dealership) in Ann Arbor & Washtenaw county!

Sign up for our Email Newsletter with ways to save money on Auto Repair, specials and car Tips! Just click below:

Please add me to Your News Letter List!

Your Auto Repair Questions Answered!



Looking for an answer to an automotive question? We would be happy to email you an answer (and possibly add it here). Questions about how much does ... cost or direct diagnosis questions will probably get a "A professional mechanic needs to evaluate your car", but possibly not. Send Jim an email!

1) "Is P.A.T. the best auto repair shop in Ann Arbor?"

2) "The mechanics at P.A.T. are so much more professional and caring than at other shops, do you train them this way?"

3) "I have a warning lamp on, What should I do?"

4) "My Air Conditioning stopped working, and a friend said it just needed a recharge. How much does it cost to recharge it?"

5) "I have my car in another shop and they told me what it needed and how much it would cost. Do you think that's right? How much would you charge for that?"

6) "I called for a ball park estimate, and was told you had to see my car, what a rip, you just want to take my money!"

7) "My mechanic told me what was wrong with my car, but he can't do the repairs, will you?"

8) "It seems like every time I come in, you find something wrong with my car! What's going on?"

9) "I found the parts to fix my car on the internet lots cheaper than PAT, will you use them?"

10) "I have a warranty contract on my car, can you work with them?"

11) "I can't get my car fixed correctly under the manufacturer's warranty, can you do the repairs?"

12) "The service advisor at the dealer told me the dealer was the only ones who could read codes from my car. Is that true?"

13) "I'm really looking forward to getting a car with 4 wheel drive (I guess they call it All Wheel Drive), it's the best, right?"

14) "My car won't start, I was told I needed a battery. How much for a battery?"

15) "The guy at a tire store tried to sell me Nitrogen to inflate my tires, why?"

16) "I'm trying to decide what to do with my car. How can you tell if the engine is OK?"

17) "I see that you work on Mercedes and Porsches, I just have an old Honda, will it get a lower quality work?"

18)"My car does ______, what'dya think it is?"

19)"Do you think I can do that repair?"

20)"My car runs funny after the battery went dead (or the battery was replaced, or after a repair or ...)"

21)"A friend took his car to a shop in Ann Arbor that only charges $45 per hour, why are all the other shops so much more?"

22)"I had a check engine light come on, when I took it in the mechanic said I needed a Cat and an O2 sensor, Huh?"

23)"Why has auto repair gotten so expensive? It seems that in the last ten years it has skyrocketed"

24)"How can I tell if my Oil Pan Leaks, oil pump is bad, water pump is bad, what specific gravity is if my Catalytic Converter is bad and ....."

25)"You Say that sludge clogs engine passageways, just what is this Sludge stuff?"

26)"A Website I was on diagnosis's car problems, why do I have to pay you to diagnosis my problem?"

27)"I got an estimate for a timing belt that was lots cheaper than what you told me, what gives?"

28)"I just got new tires at a tire store, and saved lots of money, but today all my tires are flat."

29)"How can I tell if I need my fuel injectors cleaned?"

30)"How long should it take to do an alignment?"

31)"I found a Mobile Mechanic who will come to me, sounds like a good deal."

32)"What's going on with these Toyota Recalls? Is my car safe?"



"Is P.A.T. the best auto repair shop in Ann Arbor?"

P.A.T. has always tried to DO the best auto repair possible. P.A.T. is the oldest, continuously family owned independent auto repair in Ann Arbor, P.A.T. has repaired over 92,500 vehicles, P.A.T. has been in business since 1978, P.A.T. was chosen by the Robert Bosch Corp of Germany as the best auto repair facility in North America.

We feel that our customers are the ones who make the decision whether we are the best.

"The mechanics at P.A.T. are so much more professional and caring than at other shops, do you train them this way?"

Working on vehicles is now not only physically demanding it is also mentally challenging, on the order of, well, rocket science. Vehicles today have more computing power than the Apollo series rockets.

We value our employees and have found that quality people will 'step up' if treated as valuable people. We ask our mechanics to interact with their customers, this has positive benefits for both mechanics and vehicle owners. Most shops and all dealerships put a 'service advisor' (labor sales person) in the middle which not only raises the cost of vehicle repair but causes mis-communication. P.A.T. also pays it's mechanics a salary rather than a commission (also called flat-rate pay) because we want our mechanics to concentrate on providing a professional repair rather than on 'making a quick buck'.

"I have a warning lamp on, What should I do?"

Vehicles today have many warning lamps, some are just advisory, some mean danger. To make things even tougher for us, every make & model has their warning lamps in different positions on the dash. The first thing to do is check your owners manual, ascertain which lamp is on and what it means, then call our service manager. With the knowledge of which specific lamp is on he can advise you on how the lamp can be turned off (some need to have us hook our computer up to your car), and on whether your vehicle is safe to drive

"My Air Conditioning stopped working, and a friend said it just needed a recharge. How much does it cost to recharge it?"

A vehicle's air conditioning system holds 2-6 pounds of a chemical. To 'recharge' an air conditioning system means to refill the air conditioning system with this chemical. The reason a vehicle may need to be refilled is if the chemical has leaked out, and the air condition system no longer has this chemical in it. Under normal circumstances this chemical will not leak out, if it has leaked out then something has broken.

Air conditioning systems stop working for many reasons, from expensive to cheap, the ONLY way to know what is wrong and to give you a quote to fix it, is to inspect your vehicle. We may find the problem in 10 minutes, or we may have to spend 1 hour or more just to find out what it needs, and just like a doctor's office, we will have to charge you for the tests we have to run on your car.

Can't we just recharge it? The probability that the chemical will leak out quickly is high and it is harmful to the environment, we are ethically opposed to simply dumping this chemical into the atmosphere.

"I have my car in another shop and they told me what it needed and how much it would cost. Do you think that's right? How much would you charge for that?"

P.A.T. is happy to provide a second opinion on a repair, however, we need to see your car. When you have your car in a shop and they give you a diagnosis and a quote for a repair, they have had the opportunity to see your car and run tests on it. Is their diagnosis correct? Are they using untrained mechanics? Are they using poor quality parts?

We suggest going to a repair facility that will do proper and professional repairs. In Ann Arbor, the cost of doing the same repair properly and professionally will vary at different shops by very little. The important words here are PROPERLY and PROFESSIONALLY

"I called for a ball park estimate, and was told you had to see my car, what a rip, you just want to take my money!"

Many people think there is a computer program that tells us exactly how much to charge for all repairs, there isn't. With every make & model of vehicle different not only in repair procedures but also in the parts needed, to build an estimate takes time. Someone has to pay for time spent building an estimate, when 'Phone Shoppers' (those who call around with no intent on buying anything) call this wasted effort becomes part of our cost of doing business and our real customers pay for the time. We simply ask that those who incur costs pay for them. It is also a fact of auto repair that many parts decisions are based on a wheel size or an option or.... so we really do need to see your car. We also see a lot of mis diagnosed repairs, so an estimate on the wrong repair is futile.

PAT is more than happy to counsel people who have been bringing they vehicles to us for service, on the cost of repairs, on options and help with repair prioritization. We are also happy to provide a quote for repairs on cars that we have in our shop. A quote is an offer to do a repair for a certain amount of money, an estimate can be off by hundreds of dollars.

"My mechanic told me what was wrong with my car, but he can't do the repairs, will you?"

P.A.T. is willing and able to do all repairs (except collision work & painting), and any diagnosis to your vehicle. The question for you is, do you want us to do whatever 'your mechanic', has told you to have done? Or may we do our own diagnosis (for which you will be required to pay)?

The reason we would like to do our own diagnosis, is that we don't know the skill level of your mechanic, and consequently cannot provide a guarantee that the repairs will solve your underlying problem.

Professional mechanics who can diagnosis a problem, are able to do the repairs.

"It seems like every time I come in, you find something wrong with my car! What's going on?"

It is a fact of car ownership that the more a vehicle is driven, the more it will break (in Michigan it is also a fact that vehicle's which aren't driven also break!) We're sorry that your car is always breaking! At P.A.T. our professional philosophy is that you, the owner/driver of the car should be apprised of anything that is not right with the car's functioning. This is not a 'sell job', because no one at PAT is paid a commission on sales. We are available to prioritize the needs of your vehicle, and explain, in as much detail as you want, the possible outcome of repairing or not repairing.

When it comes to getting another vehicle, keep in mind that some makes/models are 'genetically' predisposed to certain failures, and/or predisposed to more failures that other makes/models.

"I found the parts to fix my car on the internet lots cheaper than PAT, will you use them?"

PAT firmly discourages customers bringing in parts they have acquired on the internet (or anywhere else). The reasons for this are very simple:

  1. PAT makes a profit on the parts we sell, a modest profit when compared to other types of retail. Parts that are purchased elsewhere deprive us of making a living and jeopardize our ability to be here the next time you need work done to your vehicle.

  2. PAT cannot provide a warranty of any kind on repairs done with parts obtained elsewhere. When we obtain parts for your vehicle we get parts that we know will be correct for your vehicle and that will last.
That's why we can offer a limited warranty. Internet parts sellers have no need to make sure the parts you purchase are the correct ones for your need, and don't care if they last or not. When internet parts fail, 'Who ya gonna call?'.

"I have a warranty contract on my car, can you work with them?"

Yes, we can work with your warranty company. Keep in mind that warranty companies are really 'car repair insurance companies' and don't really want to spend their money on your car. Most warranty companies will pay for some things needed in a repair, but usually not ALL things needed for a professional repair. For example, they may pay for a seal that failed but not the $200 worth of parts damaged when the seal failed. To have your vehicle repaired properly and professionally under a warranty contract, you may have to pay for some of the repair.

"I can't get my car fixed correctly under the manufacturer's warranty, can you do the repairs?"

PAT can do any repair to your vehicle, even those under new car warranty. However we have to charge for repairs that would otherwise be warranty because PAT doesn't get reimbursed from the manufacturer. It is interesting to note that we have seen an increase in the number of otherwise warranty repairs that customers are paying us to perform. To understand this phenomenon you only have to know how new car warranty repairs work. The majority of auto mechanics, in dealerships, mass merchandisers and independent shops are paid commission (not at PAT). Commission means that cutting corners, not doing all the repairs necessary puts more money in a mechanics pocket. Auto manufacturers have never paid what it really takes to do warranty repairs properly, let alone what a commission (also called flat-rate) mechanic can make on customer pay work. So, which mechanic at a dealership gets the warranty work? The newbie, the apprentice, the one who is paid hourly, but doesn't know anything yet.

"The service advisor at the dealer told me the dealer was the only ones who could read codes from my car. Is that true?"

Keep in mind that 'service advisors' are only sales people, they make money by selling you work on your car and usually have no technical background.

Any repair facility with the correct equipment can read the codes from your car. P.A.T. not only has the proper equipment to read codes and reset your cars computer variables, as a Bosch Service Center AND an AC Delco Service Center we have the backing of the manufacturers who designed and built the computers in your car. Independent shops without technical backing from a major automotive manufacturer are simply lost when attempting to repair today's vehicles.



"I'm really looking forward to getting a car with 4 wheel drive (I guess they call it All Wheel Drive), it's the best, right?"

Well, not really. 4 Wheel Drive, puts power from the transmission to all 4 wheels which helps your car go in a straight line through mud and snow. However 4 wheel drive, does NOT help you stop. To stop in any slippery conditions, ABS (Antilock Braking System) brakes help to stop where 4 wheel drive (and all wheel drive) doesn't. When turning with 4 wheel Drive (or all wheel drive) you now have power going to the rear wheels, just like rear wheel drive, and just like rear wheel drive the back end of your car will slide to the outside of the corner!

Optimum going, stopping and turning in snowy and icy conditions (like we have in Michigan) is achieved through the use of the latest in snow & ice tires. These tires were pioneered by the Bridgestone Blizzack tires, and completely out perform any 4 or all wheel drive, stopping, turning and going. 4 Wheel drive is best for off road use, it does however pump up the auto manufacturer's profits.

"My car won't start, I was told I needed a battery. How much for a battery?"

Your car's battery may very well need replacement, however is the battery the cause of your car not starting, or simply a symptom of another problem? Many national brand shops are quick to condemn the battery for the quick sale when an in-depth analysis reveals a parasitic drain, alternator malfunction or other problem. Batteries also need to be sized and installed correctly. Batteries go dead for a reason, and 'jumping' a dead battery is often a death sentence for your vehicle's many computers. Let us do a through electrical check, you don't need your car not to start again!

"The guy at a tire store tried to sell me Nitrogen to inflate my tires, why?"

The tire guy was trying to inflate his profit. Save your money! A recent GM technical bulletin states that GM does not oppose the use of nitrogen in tires, but that the realized benefits of inflating tires with purified nitrogen are expected to be minimal.
The nitrogen content in the air is 78%, in nitrogen tire systems it is 95%. To take advantage of this 17% more nitrogen, a vacuum must be pulled on your tire and you must always refill it with nitrogen, any air added to the tire dilutes the tire contents.
The most critical aspect in all of the advertised benefits of using nitrogen is keeping the correct tire pressure in your tires. Nitrogen will not eliminate loss of tire pressure. Check your tire pressure weekly! P.A.T encourages our customers to stop by and let us set their tire pressure.

"I'm trying to decide what to do with my car. How can you tell if the engine is OK?"

If your vehicle has never been overheated or run low on oil (both of which will take years and miles off the life of an engine), the best way for you to know if the engine is still solid is to look at how much oil the engine consumes between oil changes (again, if you want to keep the car, change the oil every 3000 miles). Some manufacturers say it's OK for an engine to 'use' (consume or burn, same thing) 1 quart in 1000 miles, however We feel that is right on the edge of you need a new engine. Your engine should use some oil, but 1 quart every 3000 - 4000 miles is really ok, 1 quart every 2000 miles, something is starting to go bad. The best thing to do is discuss this with your mechanic (or our service manager), in person is always best.

"I see that you work on Mercedes and Porsches, I just have an old Honda, will it get a lower quality work?"

We repair vehicles to the level that the owner of that vehicle wants. The old 'Daily Driver' car is often more important to the owner than an expensive Porsche. While we never do lower quality work, we will always spend as much time with a car as the owner has authorized us to.

"My car does ______, what'dya think it is?"

We are often asked to guess over the phone what some problem a person's car has, and how much it will cost to fix. We know that on Car Talk with Tom and Ray, they can diagnosis over the radio! Please keep in mind that while Tom and Ray are familiar with cars, their show really is entertainment.

If you call a doctor and say "I have a headache, what'dya think it is?" it would be unprofessional for the doctor to say "It's nothing" because you might have a brain aneurism. We can often guess what's going on with a vehicle, however, if it turns out that our guess didn't take into consideration that the vehicle was just 'repaired' by 'Joe's Fix-It place', we're asked 'I thought you said it was _____."

Our response to these kinds of questions (and the only professional one) is "We need to see your car."

"Do you think I can do that repair?"

Sometimes the owner of a car wants to know if we think they can fix something on their car, or if their spouse, brother, sister, father or friend can. We understand the desire to save money on car repairs, we also understand the desire and satisfaction that comes from working on your own car.

Here are some points to keep in mind:


We would encourage anyone who wants the satisfaction of working on their own car to give it a try. If you, or your family depends on the vehicle, think twice about it.

"My car runs funny after the battery went dead (or the battery was replaced, or after a repair or ...)"

Most automotive engine management computers are 'adaptive' which means that as parts wear and age, the computer makes adjustments to timing, fuel trim etc, to keep the vehicle's performance and pollution output within specs. Sometimes when a repair is made to a worn part, or when the battery is replaced, the computer needs to 'Relearn' the new strategy. This may happen in a few minutes or over a number of miles.

"A friend took his car to a shop in Ann Arbor that only charges $45 per hour, why are all the other shops so much more?"

When a business charges 'by the hour' besides the $45 per hour is the number of hours charged for. If one shop charges $90 per hour and does a repair that they calculate at one hour the total labor charge is ... $90. The shop your friend went to at $45 per hour if they calculate the same job at 2 hours, the total labor charge is ... $90.

"I had a check engine light come on, when I took it in the mechanic said I needed a Cat and an O2 sensor, Huh?"

The two most important pollution control devices currently are the Catalytic Converter (hence the name 'Cat') and the Oxygen Sensor (pioneered by Bosch).

The Catalytic Converter has actually been around for a number of years, however the current ones are much more efficient. The Catalytic Converter though heat and a chemical process, converts certain pollutants into relatively harmless gases. The Oxygen Sensor (also called the Oxy sensor or O2 sensor) senses the amount of oxygen in the exhaust, relays that information to the vehicle's engine management computer, which then adjusts the fuel mixture. Vehicles today have an O2 Sensor before the Cat and after the Cat, the after cat sensor verifies that the cat is working correctly, if not, the computer turns on the check engine light.

"Why has auto repair gotten so expensive? It seems that in the last ten years it has skyrocketed"

The biggest impact on auto repair cost has been the computerization of all vehicle systems. With a purely mechanical part, a mechanic can visually see a malfunction. With vehicle computers, sensors and other electronic devices, a mechanic has to use a computer to 'see' a vehicle's computer malfunction. Vehicle diagnostic programs and a diagnostic computer are expensive and the intelligence needed for vehicle computer diagnostics is a higher level than mechanical diagnostics hence expensive repairs.

"How can I tell if my Oil Pan Leaks, oil pump is bad, water pump is bad, what specific gravity is if my Catalytic Converter is bad and ....."

We have gotten a lot of questions on how to diagnose a worn or broken component on a vehicle. Auto repair is a 'experiential' occupation, in otherwords, figuring out what is good/bad takes experience. What may look good, may very well be bad or be going bad, this is why we recommend having a family auto mechanic just like a family doctor or family attorney. P.A.T.'s customers often stop by to ask questions or to have bulbs/wiper blades replaced. Consultation and the replacement of bulbs, and wiper blades are always free for our customers.

"You Say that sludge clogs engine passageways, just what is this Sludge stuff?"

There are three fluids that are found inside engines, Gasoline, Oil and Coolant (antifreeze). While these three fluids are meant to be kept separate from each other, the seals, gaskets and piston rings that are supposed to do that, expand and contract with the heating and cooling of the engine, get brittle with age and simply can't do a perfect job. While the Oil manufacturers claim that their oil will not deteriorate and breakdown for thousands of miles, the oil will get contaminated, hence the fact that every engine in every car and truck has an oil filter. But the oil filer is not capable of filtering out all the oil impurities.

Notice the color of oil just after an oil change, it's a light amber color, and you can see through it. Check the color after a couple thousand miles, it will be black and you cant' see though it anymore, the stuff that made it black is the car 'cholesterol'. If left to bake (yes bake, because the engine gets hot, just like an oven) this car cholesterol becomes sludge and clogs the engine passageways.

"A Website I was on diagnosis's car problems, why do I have to pay you to diagnosis my problem?"

We have to be accountable to our customers. An online question and answer website has no accountability, the value of their diagnosis is what you paid for it, nothing. What a website diagnosis and any book diagnostic trouble tree doesn't take into account is what the car has been through, like accidents, cheap repairs, no maintenance, poor oil changes etc.

We recently had a Chrysler LeBaron which had a strange noise on braking, quick diagnosis would be "Needs front brakes", quick estimate $180-$250, that wouldn't account for the fact that some shop replaced the left wheel hub (the part that holds the brakes) with the wrong (used) part. Repair cost? Around $1,000.

"I got an estimate for a timing belt that was lots cheaper than what you told me, what gives?"

Most timing belts (also called Cam Belts) are recommended around 90,000 miles. Labor to remove the covers and other engine parts, replace the timing belt then put everything back together, can be 5-8 hours. Timing belts have tensioners and pulleys, quite often the water pump is driven by the timing belt, there are seals right there as is the thermostat. All of these components have the same miles on them as the timing belt. No mechanic can guarantee that these components won't fail the day after, or the month after the timing belt is replaced, are you willing to assume the risk of these parts, which might cause you to pay the 5-8 hours labor again? P.A.T.'s desire is to repair your vehicle properly and professionally. Cheap repairs like cheap wine leaves a nasty taste.

"I just got new tires at a tire store, and saved lots of money, but today all my tires are flat."

Wheel Rims need to be cleaned and sealed before new tires are mounted. Steel rims rust right where the tire bead sits, alloy rims (the fancy looking wheels) don't rust but they do build up a corrosion that needs to be removed. When P.A.T. mounts a new tire, we install a new valve stem (where the air is put in) then we inspect and if necessary, wire wheel the bead area on the rim to remove the rust and corrosion build up. Then we apply a product called Liquid Rubber to the bead area to seal the air in. It takes time to properly prepare a wheel for a new tire, we do not want you to be inconvenienced by flat tires.

"How can I tell if I need my fuel injectors cleaned?"

If you are experiencing a performance problem or a starting problem you may need your injectors cleaned. However, performance problems and starting problems can also be caused by a multitude of other issues. The complexity of modern computer controlled engine management systems require computer diagnostics, special tools and experience, that is why we continue to recommend regular maintenance and a family auto mechanic that you go to for everything on your vehicle.

"How long should it take to do an alignment?"

An alignment (or any repair) should take as long as takes to do it correctly. While we have a set labor charge for a front end alignment, that labor charge is based upon our experienced front end technician working on a properly maintained vehicle on our equipment. If our trainee technician is doing an alignment, while the labor charge is the same, we expect the alignment to take twice as long. If your vehicle's tie rod ends are seized and can't be turned, the alignment may take twice as long, and you will be apprized of the problem and be charged accordingly.

"I found a Mobile Mechanic who will come to me, sounds like a good deal."

Over the years there have been people who will come to your home or place of work to do oil changes, wash your car, do an inspection and some have said they will do any repairs. We have seen them come and go. The problem with most auto repair functions is that to do a job properly, profitably and comfortably, you need to raise the vehicle at least six feet off the ground, have adequate hand tools, test equipment, special tools, computer and interet access, replacement parts for that specific vehicle, nuts, bolts and other fasteners, a bathroom, ability to wash your hands and most important, co-workers to help, bounce questions off and be there in an emergency (auto repair can be dangerous). Repairing automobiles out of a van or trailer seldom produces professional results.

What's going on with these Toyota Recalls? Is my car safe?"

You may have a Toyota and are concerned with the recall concerning the accelerator pedal, or you may just wonder what is going on. We have noticed for some time now the cheapening of crital components such as the accelerator pedals, and not only in Toyotas. There are some components which when made of plastic have no impact on their function, accelerator pedals aren't one of them. All the auto manufacturers have lost their way in producing quality vehicles, hopefully this Toyota accelerator screw-up will make them 1) Not give bonuses to their engineers who simply make changes, which are not improvements in quality. and 2) Understand how things work, plastic is not as strong as steel or even aluminum, DUH.



Comments We've Heard from Customers



"I went there because the shop was so dirty I figured they must be honest."

This person came to us because the 'dirty' shop couldn't fix their car. As a psychology major, I have always puzzled over this comment. I guess it's an updated 'Noble Savage' theory.



"I've been all over town, spent lots of money, and nobody can fix my car. I've heard you can fix cars right but are expensive."

We've heard this comment now and again over the last 28 years, all we can say is 'You get what you pay for'. Maybe we're priced right and the 'cheap' shops are priced, well, too cheap to hire real mechanics!