Car Counselor

King County Master Gardeners Clinics

Saturdays, April 3rd - September 25th

(with the exception of May 1 and 29, July 3, and Sept. 4),

10 a.m - 2 p.m.

Please stop by and “Ask a Master Gardener!”

Repeats every week until Sat Sep 25 2010 .


McLendon’s Hardware

10210 16th Ave. S.W

it’s been a while since I last checked in and I thought now was a good time to resume my writing after being sidelined with an injury. When last we talked, winter was getting going and we were getting our snow shovels out, ready for whatever nature threw at us. Well, while we watched flooding in Southern California, blizzards in the northeast and freezing temperatures in Florida that has us applying for bank loans to get a decent tomato, the northwest’s winter was…er…not very “winter-ish” (much to the chagrin of the many local skiers).

Now, we march into spring amid blooming junipers, cherry blossoms and pollens of every make and model from alders to willows. Unfortunately, with them they bring the watery eyes and runny noses that make us wish it would just get over with!

Now you’re probably wondering,”Hey, Car Counselor, what’s all this got to do with cars?!” Well, this brings me to this week’s tip: changing the cabin air filter in your vehicle.

Photo credit: 
Todd Ainsworth

Most vehicles made in the last 10-12 years (and some before) have cabin air filters in them. Their purpose is exactly what it sounds like – they are placed in the stream of air entering the vehicle for the HVAC system (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning) to filter impurities from the air you breathe.

It's been some time since my last column but I'm back behind the wheel and pulling out into traffic again.

I suspect many of you attended the Junction Car Show recently, as did I, and I was very impressed! The turnout was great, the weather was great, and the selection of cars on display was also wonderful.

In only it's second year, I see that West Seattle was very welcoming in hosting a car show like this, and with all of the sponsors involved, looks like it will likely grow next year. Being in the heart of the business district of West Seattle, I think it's a great way to show what the community has to offer and it is always nice to see the care and attention that all of the owners give to the vehicles they had on display.

The Car Counselor looks forward to next year, and with a little luck, maybe our show can outgrow the Greenwood show!

My next topic is, now that summer has finally ended, the month of October is national Car Care Month. It is a great time to have your car or truck checked out and serviced for the fall/winter season.


It has been quite a summer so far. More than 100 degrees, record stretches without rainfall, the hydros (congratulations, Kayleigh Perkins), the Blue Angels, West Seattle Street Fair -- whew!

Now, the ads are in the paper and on TV ... back to school sales. Going back to school often comes with something else -- driving.

I've seen quite a few student drivers this summer, and if your son or daughter is one of them, they may be getting a car soon (or at least borrowing yours).

One thing that may get overlooked with the lessons, the tests, the fretting, the pleading and, finally, the joy of getting the coveted driver's license, is the vehicle itself.

Not many high schools these days still offer a course in auto shop, and therefore not many kids understand what it means to take care of your “ride." Oh, they'll figure out how to put gas in it and how to work the stereo, but they also need to be taught how to check to oil and coolant, what the warning lights and gauges on the dash mean, and how to check the lights and other basic safety checks like tire inflation.

What do “bad brakes” feel like? How is the vehicle running?


This week, Scott in West Seattle asks: What are the differences in servicing a regular car and a hybrid?

Well, the Car Counselor would like to thank Scott for writing in and I welcome any questions from my readers to make me earn my keep here at the Herald!

My answer and opinion is this: Whether powered by a traditional power-plant, hybrid, electric, hydrogen, or whatever lies in store for us in the future, all of our vehicles need regular service.

As technology continues to advance and improve, some services become harder - such as spark plug replacement - and some get easier or are eliminated altogether – such as points and condenser in a pre-electronic ignition vehicle. Hybrids have a few very dangerous components and now anyone who services them will need additional special training to deal with the potentially deadly high-voltage batteries.

On the other hand, hybrids, like other regular ol' gasoline powered cars have an engine, brakes, a cooling system with hoses, tires, shocks, etc. In short, hybrids have most everything a “normal” car has, as well as new items that require technical know-how.


Elements of a hybrid car.

Well, the kids are mostly out of school now, or will be soon, so it got me to thinking about safety.

Sometimes the end of school is accompanied by some pranks. Some are classics like toilet-papering a house or soaping windows, and some also involve cars – which is why the Car Counselor is thinking about it now.

Some classic car pranks like letting the air out of one or more tires or shoe polish on the windshield are more annoying than harmful, but there are others like sugar in the gas tank or damage to the paint job with keys, knives, etc. that can lead to expensive repairs.

Being aware of your car's condition is always a good idea, but it is very easy to become complacent about it. This is what makes the point about the kids' pranks. Be aware of your car when you go out to start it in the morning. Take a minute to just walk around and size it up.

Do the tires all look evenly inflated or are any of them low? Keeping our tires properly inflated maximizes the life of the tire, provides the best handling and traction, and helps to get the best mileage you can.


Hello again readers. This week I'd like to talk about something you may have been thinking about recently while looking for lost sunglasses and checking the SPF of the sunblock. Just kidding, but with the unusually nice weather we've been having the last two weeks, some of you may have realized your car's air conditioning system my not be up to snuff.

Many times I have a customer come in to the shop and say they need the A/C system filled up. The air conditioning system, though, if it is working correctly does not require regular filling up. I would like to try and help you have a little better understanding of what it does and does not do, and some of the things we do when we service your vehicle.

In a perfect world, the A/C would just blow cold air when you wanted it to, and you would never have to think about it. Unfortunately, the world is not perfect and things happen to affect the performance of the system.


Hello readers. In this week's column I'd like to touch on a couple of topics I've been thinking about this past week.

First, I went last week out to Issaquah for the Spring Opener at the XXX Drive in. There were so many great cars to see, and whether they were restored classics or modified muscle cars, it was plain to see that great care and love were poured into these vehicles (along with countless hours of labor). It got me to thinking about how people connect with their vehicles.

We all are aware of the economy right now, and the trouble that car manufacturers are having, but anyone with enough growth-rings in their trunks like the ol' Car Counselor here can remember what an impact the automotive culture has had on America.

That “freedom of the road” you felt when you first got your license and your first car. The road trips that you took with your family that seems to have become a symbol of Americana. The roadside attractions, drive-ins, drive-thru's, and hot rods.


This week I’d like to dip into my metaphor bag again and talk about doctors.

Often times, one of the most challenging things we in the automotive industry face are effective communication with our customers. Not everyone is created equal when it comes to understanding technical issues, and, as most people do know, cars are rapidly becoming more and more technical.

It’s been my experience that most people would like to have some idea of what it is you are doing to their vehicles, but may be reluctant to try and find out. Likewise, many in the industry do not make a good enough attempt at finding a common ground in explaining things. When it all starts to sound like techno-speak mumbo-jumbo, we are not doing our job.

I like to talk to a customer and find out what they do for a living or hobby and try to make comparisons or come up with (wait for it…) metaphors. One of my favorites is doctors. Going to the doctor’s office is something nearly everyone has done, so it is a good place to find a common ground.

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