Mistakes To Avoid

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Your car battery has many demands placed on it it needs to provide a lot of power to start your engine and then to power all the electrical systems plus things like seat heaters and stereos, on top of having to charge all of our gadgets like cell phones, computers and more.

On short trips, your car alternator doesn’t have time to fully recharge your battery, leaving it with only a partial charge. The uncharged parts of the lead plates in your battery “die” after a period of time and can never again retain a charge. This is why 70% of batteries don’t make it past 48 months.

One mistake to avoid is deeply depleting your battery, or running it down to almost nothing. Things like running your headlights or watching a DVD without the engine running take the charge in your battery down very low, and it may take weeks of normal city driving to get the level of charge back up to a normal range. During that time, the uncharged parts of the lead plates are dying. A car battery can only take about 10 of these deep depletion cycles before the battery is no good – so you can see how even once can take a big toll!

So avoid deeply depleting your battery and even consider charging your battery with a battery charger every few months to help it last as long as possible.


With fuel costs as high as they are, it’s natural to want to save money by improving your car’s fuel economy. You can find lots of claims on how to make your gas dollar go further – some are legit, some are questionable and others are downright fraudulent.

Before spending your hard-earned money on the latest gas-saving fad, do some research. If it defies the laws of physics, it’s probably too good to be true. There aren’t any magic pills or devices that drastically improve fuel economy. Do-it-yourself engine modifications can cause damage, compromise your safety and may even be illegal.

Stick with tried-and-true fuel-saving maintenance services: have your engine oil and transmission fluid replaced on schedule, keep your tires properly inflated, and have a fuel system cleaning done as recommended. Reduce cargo weight by removing unneeded items from your vehicle. These simple things can have a great impact on your fuel economy.

How you drive can also help you save gas: Avoid rapid starts, obey the speed limits and use your cruise control when it’s safe.

And you can always consult with your technician to see what you can do to further improve your fuel economy.


Onboard computers monitor a myriad of sensors and engine functions. If something is out of whack, the computer stores a trouble code and turns on the Check Engine Light. Now there are hundreds of possible trouble codes and causes and just one Check Engine Light, so when the light comes on you really don’t have any idea what might be wrong. That takes some diagnostic work.

If your Check Engine Light is flashing, it means something is wrong that can lead to immediate damage. You should not drive at highway speeds, tow a trailer or haul heavy loads when your Check Engine Light is flashing. Bring your car in to your service centre as soon as possible.

A constantly illuminated Check Engine Light is less serious – you have a few days to get into the shop. For example, one of the most frequent reasons for a Check Engine Light is a loose gas cap. After the cap is tightened, the computer will keep an eye on things for a couple of days, realizes the problem is gone and will turn the light off.

When you take your vehicle in for a Check Engine Light diagnosis, your technician will retrieve the trouble code(s) from the vehicle’s computer. The trouble code will suggest which systems are out of spec and give him a starting place for finding out what is wrong and how it should be repaired. This could be a quick process or it could be more extensive, depending on the problem.

Ignoring the Check Engine Light is to ignore a problem. You wouldn’t ignore health symptoms like a fever or pain – you would get to a health care professional to find out what’s wrong and how to treat it. When your Check Engine Light is on, get into your service centre to take care of the underlying problem.


Modern vehicles are so reliable, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking new cars are almost maintenance-free. Of course that’s not the case, but some maintenance items have taken on a new meaning. For example, the term “Tune-Up” once referred to specific things like replacing points and spark plugs, setting ignition timing, and adjusting the carburetor. With today’s fuel-injection and electronic ignition, most of those items aren’t even on the list any more.

These days a “Tune Up” is associated with the recommended services scheduled at major intervals like 24,000, 48,000 and 96,000 kilometres. Recommendations at these major intervals go beyond basic fluid changes to include inspections of important systems. Age and kilometres take their toll on things like brakes, steering, battery, alignment, suspension and driveline. A thorough inspection at these “Tune Up” intervals can uncover parts that have failed or are near the end of their useful life – before they cause damage, expense and inconvenience.

Don’t slip into the bad habit of only requesting fluid changes. When a major interval comes along, ask your service center to do everything on the manufacturer’s list. If everything’s OK – great! If they find something, you can get it taken care of before it gets worse.


All gasoline is not created equal and there are gas quality differences. But in times of high gas prices, it’s really tempting to save a dollar or two by bargain shopping. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you know what you’re getting.

First, never save money by using gas that has a lower octane rating than the one recommended by your manufacturer. That can actually lead to engine damage.

Next, the government’s gas standards mandate a minimum level of detergent in gasoline. Detergent protects against the build-up of gum and varnish in the fuel system, helps keep fuel injectors clean and efficient, and prevents and removes carbon deposits on the valves and in the combustion chamber.

Now, some brands of gasoline have many times the amount of detergent required by law. This means that they keep the fuel and combustion systems cleaner and running more efficiently. That translates into better performance, better fuel economy, fewer required fuel system cleanings and longer-lasting fuel injectors.

The extra few dollars spent at the pump buying quality fuel prevents some big dollar outlays in the future – and you enjoy the savings from better fuel economy as you go.

A little research will help you determine which retailers have the fuel that’s best for both your vehicles and the long-term benefit for your wallet.


Your vehicle requires a variety of fluids and it’s important that you use the proper fluids in each system. This has become increasingly important as automotive technology advances, requiring special automotive fluid formulations to keep pace.

The first level of care should be to always use the proper fluid in each system: motor oil goes in the motor, transmission fluid goes in the transmission, coolant/antifreeze goes in the cooling system and so forth. Even though some of these fluids may look similar, pouring in the wrong fluid can cause very expensive damage.

The next level of care is to use the proper type of fluid for your specific car. Your manufacturer will have specific recommendations for fluids that meet their engineering specifications. Here are two examples:

  • Motor oil

    • Grade: This is expressed in terms like 5W-20 or 10W-40. The engine design dictates the chemical properties required for proper engine protection.

    • Type: Conventional, Synthetic Blend or Full Synthetic. Always use at least the type your manufacturer recommends. It’s OK to upgrade – but never get a lower grade than recommended.

  • Coolant/Antifreeze

    • Type: There are now numerous types of coolant, each with a different colour so that they aren’t confused. Installing the wrong fluid can damage your cooling system and may even void your cooling system warranty.

Transmission, power steering, differential and brake fluids all also have specific manufacturer recommendations. Before installing your own fluids, be certain you have the correct fluid for each vehicle you own.


Many of us were taught to use a higher octane fuel when we wanted to “treat” ourselves to a little extra power. With modern computer-controlled engines, choosing among regular, mid-grade and premium gasoline is more complicated than that.

The octane rating is expressed by a number like 85, 87, 89, or 92. The higher the number, the more resistant the fuel is to premature detonation. As the fuel and air is compressed in the engine, it can explode before it is supposed to, which isn’t good. Your vehicle manufacturer has a recommendation for the proper octane rating to work with the way your engine is designed. This number is indicated on a sticker by your gas cap.

General Rules:

  • Never use a lower octane rating than recommended by your manufacturer. This can lead to engine damage over time.

  • Using gas with a higher octane rating than recommended in most modern vehicles will not deliver any significant advantage in terms of performance or fuel economy. Simply put – it isn’t worth the extra money.

  • Some engines, usually in high-end luxury and performance cars, are designed to work with two octane levels. The manufacturer will state a horsepower output for each of the two ratings. They accomplish this with additional sensors and computer controls that aren’t found in most vehicles.

Manufacturers are building more and more high-compression-ratio and turbocharged engines that require high-octane rated fuel to deliver the power and durability that was engineered into the engine. Bottom line: saving a few pennies on a litre of gas can turn into a big expense down the road.


The old saying, “Pay twice as much and buy half as many” is true for a lot of things. For instance, a high-quality pair of shoes will last longer and look better than cheap knock-offs. Sometimes the extra money just buys more enjoyment – think steak vs. hamburger.

The Price vs. Quality quandary carries into how you care for your car.

Here are some examples:

  • Tires: Top-tier tires will last longer and perform better than bottom-tier tires.

  • Replacement auto parts: Quality car parts will meet or exceed your vehicle manufacturer’s specifications. Bargain parts may not last as long or perform up to the standards engineered into your vehicle.

  • Fuel: Top-tier gasoline contains more detergents than the minimum required by law. This helps keep your fuel system clean and running efficiently.

  • Engine oil and other fluids: The increasing replacement intervals for oil and other fluid change are based on continuing to use the same quality and grade of fluids that originally came in the vehicle when it was new. If you downgrade to oil and fluids with less detergent and anticorrosion additives, you would need to change your fluids more often to maintain the same level of protection.

When it comes to car care, go with the best quality you can afford. Your NAPA AUTOPRO technician can help you build a plan for keeping your overall cost of vehicle operation low, while at the same time preserving performance and safety.